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 at Rome around the turn of the third century, between Hippolytus and Gaius, 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
The chapter then turns to Gaius, who 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 he really did reject the Gospel of John. However, Eusebius does provide a quotation from his which is usually understood as attributing 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 Gaius is being referred to) did attribute Revelation to Cerinthus, and he notes that some in the church had previously examined and rejected it.
Dionysius himself fell short of rejecting Revelation outright, 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. But this was probably not significant, as many reported (as Jerome notes) that they belonged to the same John. The chapter notes evidence that they 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
Next, there is a discussion of the Alogoi, the group said to have rejected John’s Gospel and Revelation, which have by some scholars been identified with Gaius and his party. According to Epiphanius (c. 315–403), the Alogoi attributed both the Gospel and Revelation of John to Cerinthus. The similarity to Dionysius’s charge raises the question of whether the Alogoi were the party of Gaius.
The chapter also points out that 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, and it addresses attempts at minimizing their importance or even denying their existence.
The Ligorio Statue and a Syriac Catalogue
Next, attention is drawn to the Ligorio Statue and a Syriac catalogue which seem to attribute to Hippolytus a book written in defence of the Gospel and Revelation of John, showing that Gaius likely 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. As with the Alogoi, 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 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 argues 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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