Summarized from Chapter 5 of The Identity of John the Evangelist: Revision and Reinterpretation in Early Christian Sources (Lanham: Lexington/Fortress Academic, 2020) by Dean Furlong, PhD.
This chapter examines the dispute over the Johannine writings between Hippolytus and Gaius in Rome around the turn of the third century, and it suggests that it was in the context of this dispute that Hippolytus identified the Evangelist with the Zebedean John (as discussed in Chapter 4), in order to boost the Evangelist’s authority.
Orthodox Suspicion of the Fourth Gospel
John’s Gospel appears to have questioned by some in the Roman church of the second century. The chapter notes Justin Martyr’s subdued use of John’s Gospel compared to his use of the Synoptics, and it points out that Irenaeus knew of a group in the church that rejected it altogether. Furthermore, it notes the disproportionate amount of space given to describing John’s Gospel compared to Luke’s in the Muratorian Canon may indicate some apologetic intent.
Gaius and Revelation
Gaius is identified by later writers as the leader of the party at Rome that rejected John’s Gospel and Revelation. Eusebius’s notice of Gaius is silent concerning this, leading many to question whether Gaius really did reject the Gospel of John. However, Eusebius does provide a quotation in which Gaius seems to have attributed the book of Revelation to the heretic Cerinthus.
Clearer evidence for this attribution is found in a work by Dionysius of Alexandria (as quoted by Eusebius) in the mid third century, in which he claims that an earlier tradition (the chapter suggests that the reference is to Gaius) attributed Revelation to Cerinthus. He also notes that some in the church had previously examined and rejected it, showing that the earlier opposition to the book had come from within the Christian community.
Dionysius himself fell short of outrightly rejecting Revelation, but he did suggest that another John might have written it, and that there may have been two Johns at Ephesus, noting that there were two memorials associated with the name of John in the city. This was probably not significant, as many reported (as Jerome notes) that they belonged to the same John. The two memorials might have been John’s original resting place and the basilica church to which his remains may have later been taken.
The Alogoi’s Rejection of the Gospel and Revelation of John
According to Epiphanius (c. 315–403), a group he calls the Alogoi attributed both the Gospel and Revelation of John to Cerinthus. The existence of the Alogoi is problematic for the traditional view that the Johannine works were associated with John the son of Zebedee from an early period. As a result, some have minimized their significance, or have denied their existence. The chapter challenges these attempts and argues that the Alogoi are to be identified with Gaius and with the group referred to by Dionysius.
The Ligorio Statue and a Syriac Catalogue
The Ligorio Statue and a Syriac catalogue bot seem to attribute to Hippolytus a book written in defence of the Gospel and Revelation of John, suggesting that his opponent Gaius did reject both, notwithstanding Eusebius’s silence concerning his rejecting of John’s Gospel.
The Fragments of Bar Salibi
Lastly, there is discussion of the fragments of bar Salibi (d. 1171) which were discovered in the nineteenth century and which contain answers to Gaius attributed to Hippolytus of Rome. Hippolytus states that Gaius rejected the Gospel and Revelation of John and attributed them to Cerinthus, strengthening the thesis of a link between Gaius and the Alogoi.
In another work, a commentary on the Gospel of John, bar Salibi notes that Gaius raised the issue of the apparent contradictions between John’s Gospel and the Synoptics with respect to the impossibility of fitting the forty days following Jesus’s baptism into John’s account, just as Epiphanius’s Alogoi did. The solutions of bar Salibi’s Hippolytus and Epiphanius differ, however, and the chapter provides evidence that Epiphanius was taking into account Origen’s discussion of the apparent contradiction which, he argues, was probably itself responding to Hippolytus.
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