Let’s investigate this together like detectives using scriptural evidences, shall we?
First of all we know that the author referred to himself as, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”
John 20:24 “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who WROTE THEM DOWN.”
So what we need to do is track down this “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”
1. Firstly, we know the DISCIPLE whom Jesus loved was one of the apostles. Agreed? That’s easy.
2. Who were the apostles?
Matthew 10 tells us:
Simon Peter & his brother Andrew
James son of Zebedee, and his brother John;
Philip and Bartholomew
Thomas and Matthew the tax collector
James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;
Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot
So now we know it must be one of these 12. So far so good?
3. The disciple whom Jesus loved was an eyewitness and was with Jesus. He was at the Last Supper of Jesus. he heard, saw and touched Jesus and was sitting next to Jesus!
“One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him.” John 13:23
4. This same disciple was also at the cross and Jesus entrusted to him to take care of his mother.
“Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby.” John 19:26
Let’s recap what we have so far.
The disciple that Jesus loved, who is the author of the gospel, was one of the 12 apostles and was an eyewitness of Jesus.
Let’s move on…
5. In John 21:2, it says Peter went fishing with 6 other disciples; these names are given Nathanael, Thomas, James, John & 2 others.
We know that the disciple whom Jesus loved was one of them because he is mentioned in John 21:7.
Now we know that the disciple is one of these.
You want to take a guess?
6. Can we narrow it down? Sure. Throughout the gospels, we can see that there were 3 disciples who were the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples and his
most trusted – Peter, James & John. (Matt 17:1, Mark 5:37, Luke 8:51)
It is therefore most likely one of these 3.
7. Maybe it is Peter?
It cant be Peter because in John 21:20
“Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them.”
8. So now we can conclude it is either James or John, the sons of Zebedee!
9. But James was martyred by Herod in 44 AD. He could not have written this gospel which most scholars have dated at around 90-95 AD.
10. That only leaves John the son of Zebedee, as the disciple whom Jesus loved!
In John 21:22, Jesus answers Peter’s question he asked about the disciple whom Jesus loved.
And then, the next verse identifies that this disciple is the writer: “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and WHO WROTE THEM DOWN. We know that his testimony is true.”
Meaning that the disciple whom Jesus loved was the one who wrote this gospel.
You may ask why didn’t he just identify himself? None of the gospel writers named themselves because the gospel was not about them. It was all about Jesus.
The writer of the gospel of John was so enamored with the love of Christ for him that he was moved to refer to himself only as the disciple whom Jesus loved. Humble to not even give his own name.
There are external evidences as well.
Early church fathers like Irenaeus and Tertullian identified John as the author.
Irenaeus makes a general statement of the origins of the four gospels including the Gospel of John in his Against Heresies (3.1.1).
“Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.”
Who was Irenaeus? Ireneaues lived around 150 AD.
Irenaues learnt from Polycarp.
Who was Polycarp?
Polycarp was a direct disciple of John!
Learn more: http://jesusevidences.com/originntgospels/authorshippublicationgospeljohn.php