Biblical scholars, including those who are Evangelical Christians, generally agree in viewing the sayings of Jesus in the fourth Gospel (the Gospel of John) with greater suspicion than sayings in the other three Gospels

The fourth Gospel, John

Why are Jesusʼ sayings and doings in the Gospel of John viewed with greater suspicion that those in the synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke? Because…

  1. The Gospel of John, starts with the authorʼs claims ABOUT Jesus. Its lengthy theological introduction contains the words and praises of the author, not Jesus. And you find words and phrases similar to the authorʼs put into the mouths of John the Baptist and Jesus in the first few chapters. Not high evidence favoring their authenticity. More likely the authorʼs own creation, including the dialogues of the Baptist and Jesus in chapters 2-3.

  2. Scholars suspect that Jesus never said “Ye must be born again,” and with plenty of good reasons for doing so. See here.

  3. The story of the anointing of Jesus by Mary, sister of Lazarus, as well as the tale of Lazarusʼ resurrection are tales that seem to have arisen via combining earlier Gospel tales about individual women who anointed Jesus, where they lived, how they anointed Jesus, and then adding a figure from a Lukan parable, a beggar, named “Lazarus,” turning him into a wealthy person with “two sisters” (taken from Luke who never mentions “Lazarus” as an historical person). You can easily see how the fourth Gospel writer could have plucked all the information for his tale from Mark and Luke, reusing information from their Gospels to create a new tale about Jesus, indeed a new marvelous miracle never heard before. See here.

  4. Nor does the Gospel of John hesitate to have plenty of characters recognize Jesus as the Messiah right in its first chapter. Compare the synoptic gospels, especially in Mark (1:11, 25, 34, 441 9:9, etc.), where Jesus refrains from announcing his Messiahship in public, and Peter is the lone apostle to mention it out loud, and only later in the story. In fact in Matthew multitudes hail Jesus merely as a prophet (Matthew 21:10). But in GJohn Jesus is recognized by his disciples as the Messiah right in chapter one as soon as they hear about him, and the Baptist declares Jesusʼ whole mission in a nutshell, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” from the very beginning of his ministry. Jesus spends all of his other discourses talking about himself (John 1:16,29-34,41,45,49,51; 2:11,18; 3:13-30; 4:25-26,42; 5:18-47; 6:25-69; 7:28-29; 9:37; 10:25-26,30-36). He doesnʼt teach the people in parables about the kingdom of God, heʼs constantly talking about himself.

  5. Note also how Matthew 11:2-6 and Luke 7:18-23 agree that John the Baptist wavers in faith in Jesus as Messiah; but in the Fourth Gospel (1:16, 29-34 and 3:27-30) thereʼs no mention of such wavering. John the Baptist recognizes Jesus as Messiah from first to last—even calling him “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” soon after his baptism.

  6. The Synoptics date Jesusʼ crucifixion on the day of the Passover (Matthew 26:171 Mark 14:12, Luke 22:7), whereas John places it on the day before the Passover, and at a different hour of the day (John 13:1,29; 18:28; 19:14,31,42). Scholars suspect that the reason for changing the day and hour of Jesusʼ death in the last written Gospel was to suit the theological notion of its author that Jesus was “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” putting such an announcement into the mouth of John the Baptist—and wishing to bring it up again at the moment of Jesusʼ death. Therefore he altered Jesusʼ day and hour of execution so it would coincide with the day and hour the “Passover lambs” were being slain. (Unfortunately, having altered the day (and hour) to try and make a theological point, the Johnnine author never concerned himself with the fact that Passover lambs were not slain for “sin.” The animal in the Hebrew Bible that did have the “sins of the people” placed on it was not a lamb at all, but a goat—neither was the goat slain but kept alive in order to carry away the sins of the people into the wilderness, i.e., the “scape goat.”)

  7. And though the account of Jesusʼ baptism in one of the earlier Gospels, Mark 1:9 (cf. 1:4 and 10:18), leaves open the suspicion that John the Baptist was greater than Jesus and that Jesus was sinful, the fourth Gospel (John 1:29-34 and 3:26) eliminates such suspicions.

  8. Jesusʼ concern for Israel as depicted in the earlier gospel, Matthew 10:5-6 and 15:24 is unknown to the Jesus in John 5:45-471 8:31-47. Instead, more than sixty times the word(s) “Jews” and/or “The Jews,” are used in GJohn to depict Jesusʼ enemies, even by Jesus himself. (Since Jesus himself was a “Jew” the repeated use of such a broad term makes greater sense if it was not spoken by the historical Jesus, but was a phrase that began cropping up more often after a rift had continued to grow wider between Christian communities and “The Jews.”)

  9. In the synoptic Gospels Jesus is under the Law (Matthew 5:17-20) and observes the Passover Meal (Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:12; Luke 22:7), whereas Jesus in John is not under the Law and therefore does not partake in the Passover Meal (John 13:1). Accordingly, Johnʼs Jesus refers to “your Law” (John 8:17; 10:34; cf. 7:19; 18:31) and “their Law” (15:25).

  10. Preaching about the coming kingdom was central to the synoptics and mentioned 17 times in GMark, starting with Mark 1:15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Matthew changes it to “kingdom of heaven”) Matthew and Luke mention “kingdom of heaven/God” and/or “kingdom” 30 times or more, each). But “kingdom of God” only appears twice in the fourth Gospel and “kingdom” two times. Thatʼs because the fourth Gospel is a later creation and has distanced itself from the apocalyptic Jesus and is busy trying to institutionalize Christianity and Christian sacramental views.

  11. Jesus of the synoptic gospels is a charismatic healer-exorcist and end-time Suffering Servant who speaks as though a Son of Man will soon arrive to inaugurate the final judgment and bring on the supernatural kingdom of God (Matthew 10:23; Mark 10:18), whereas in the Fourth Gospel Jesus is the Logos incarnate on earth, a God-Man who exorcises no demons but who proclaims a sacramental, mystical, physical, churchly, doctrine of redemption. Itʼs a later version of Jesus. Itʼs a later “sacramental” tale, because baptism and the Lordʼs Supper (“you must eat my flesh and drink my blood or you have NO life within you”) are aligned with the message about the necessity of a “new birth;” itʼs “mystical” because these sacraments produce “union” with God and Christ (“we shall be one”); itʼs “physical” because these sacraments are physical means that produce a physical effect, the glorification of the flesh to make the flesh capable of resurrection; itʼs “churchly” because these sacraments must be administered by the church, for only in the church can the Spirit unite with the elements to produce salvation and/or ensure the resurrection of the flesh.

  12. In the synoptic Gospels Jesus spoke openly during the day to whomever asked him “how to inherit eternal life,” and placed commands of obedience, such as honoring oneʼs parents, and not stealing from other people, or even giving away oneʼs money to the poor, high on the list of “how to inherit eternal life.” Only in the fourth Gospel does Jesus answer how to inherit eternal life based on the singular necessity of being “born again,” and that singular message was not even taught in public but to a single person “at night,” yet everyone who doubts it is “damned already.” The fourth Gospel more so than the earlier three teaches that one must “believe” or, be “damned.” “Eat the flesh and drink the blood,” or you “have no life within you.” It does not say people will be judged according to their “works” as in Matthew, instead the fourth Gospel states, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

  13. The fourth Gospel is filled with “anti-language” according to social scientists. It is not a gospel about “loving oneʼs neighbor/enemies,” neither of which are commanded nor even mentioned in the fourth Gospel, but instead it is about focusing on loving fellow believers and maintaining oneʼs indoctrination, or in the idiom of cults, “love bombing,” and maintaining in-group thinking, while everyone else can go to hell. See here.

To reiterate points 2) and 3) above, there are plenty of reasons to doubt that John 3 is something the historical Jesus said. See here. And there are plenty of reasons to doubt that the Gospel of Johnʼs tale about the raising of Lazarus (and Jesusʼ anointing by a “sister” of “Lazarus”) is something that happened. See here.

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