Within the Gospel of John lies a tremendous amount of texts that offer an element of controversy or irregularities. With some of the issues that are presented by these controversies, the question can be posed if the Gospel of John was authored by one or by a few different people. Looking at the scriptures and the placement of these things, it would appear that one wrote one thing and one wrote another and they all came together later. These texts or scriptures pose a problem to many readers of this gospel because they do not correspond either chronologically or topically and at times it appears that the narration seems to flow in a manner that is not consistent.
The aporia for this particular assignment is the controversy of John 21. Does the same author as chapters 1-20 author this particular chapter, and if so, where did the controversy stem? By viewing commentaries by D.A. Carson, W. Hall Harris III and Leon Morris, we can bring evidence that this chapter along with chapters 1-20 were indeed authored by the same person, yet the time when it was written was at a much later date which would give way to the controversy.
Commentary 1~ D.A. Carson
Carson offers and approach to the matter at hand in this manner. He states that the chapter in question was indeed written by the same author that wrote chapters 1 through 20, along with the fact that it was written with the rest of the Gospel of John. This particular chapter offered a balance if you will within the book of John by offering explanations of things that may have been left unanswered during the previous chapters. Carson gives four items to be considered when discussing the authorship of this particular chapter. He first item he mentions is the observation by Bultmann who noticed there were a great amount of words in this particular chapter that are have a striking resemblance to the verbiage in the Gospel of John. Carson reviews the words from the previous chapters in John and notices that they words in chapters 1-20 like the words in chapter 21 offer a unusual usage pattern.
The next item that Carson highlights is the fact that there are scholars who have shown concern that they feel as if chapter 20 of this Gospel was the conclusion, and chapter 21 must have been added later, because everything that needed to be said was concluded in the last verses of chapter 20.
The third items that Carson sheds light on is that he sees this particular chapter as the proverbial icing on the cake in the sense that it adds to the chapters that it adds to the gospel itself by tying up any thing that was currently left undone.
The last item that Carson speaks on to help authenticate the authorship of this Gospel is by stating “there is not textual evidence that the book was ever published without John 21.” With the information that was presented by Carson, he concludes that it does not matter if the chapter 21 was added at a later date, it was still penned by the same author as in the previous chapters.
Commentary 2 ~ W. Hall Harris III
Harris III, though his opinion is one of a conservative nature, his views are similar to that of Carson. Harris states that if chapter 21 was added at a later time to this particular Gospel by another author, it would had to have been added early enough because “no current Greek manuscript lacks the last chapter, and there is no serious evidence in the manuscripts tradition for later additions.” One thing about Harris is that he does not focus on similarities nor differences within the style of writings in this particular chapter, because he feels that it does not hold merit either way in proving or disproving authorship of this particular Gospel. Harris quoted another author to say, “these linguistic and stylistic considerations, when weighed against the undoubted resemblances between the first 20 chapters and chapter 21, it offers no sufficient information that would lead one to believe that chapter 21 was written by any other author.”
Harris contends that most scholars, do not make the decision for or against the identity of the authorship based on the stylistic or linguistic evidence, but rather, that argument is made on the basis of the content or logical argument flow. Harris uses the knowledge of other scholars regarding chapter 21 of the Gospel of John. He highlights another scholar when viewing the idea if chapter 21 was just an addendum to the Gospel of John or is it an item of necessity. He quotes S. Smalley to say this, “Smalley demonstrates that chapter 21 is not as much of an addendum as some believe, and that it does in fact provide a necessary conclusion to the Fourth Gospel, which does not merely end with the confession by Thomas, but offer a repetitive emphasis that the disciples will continue the witness of Jesus even after He has ascended to His Father, in addition to carrying out the mission and the mandate that He gave to go out to the world.”
Commentary 3 ~ Leon Morris
Morris, like all the others, also offers and opinion in regards to the authorship of John 21. Morris contends that if there were not any controversy within the earlier chapters, scholars would believe one author wrote the entire Gospel of John or that another author penned chapter 2. It is interesting to note that there is no real decisiveness either way when it comes to this particular Gospel, that either it was written by the author of the entire book or someone different wrote this one. Morris and Carson agree that if any additions to the gospel account would had to have been added very early due to the fact that none of the traditional writings have been located without the 21st chapter included.
All three commentaries were most insightful when it came to this particular topic, that it was discovered that Harris and Carson were more in depth with their view than Morris. One thing that is good to note that all three do argue that chapter 21 is important to the relationship of the entire Gospel of John, and instead of it being an addendum, it appears to be a conclusion, even though the argument can be made that chapter 20 appears to be the conclusion. The commentaries offered more evidence for the authorship of chapter 21 being the same author as the previous chapters as opposed to it being a different author altogether. Though the authors of the commentaries seem to agree regarding the authorship of chapter 21, it is also interesting to see that there will still be a level of controversy surrounding this particular passage, wondering if the question is really, Why would the author pen another chapter when the book already appeared to be complete?
All of these commentators have various similarities in their approach to this topic, but it was Carson and Morris that pointed out that the Gospel of John has never been seen without the 21st chapter included. Carson and Harris both contend that chapter 21 is not an addendum to the Gospel of John but stands to compliment the entire Gospel.
While there are many reasons to wonder if chapter 21 is a part of the original book of John, there has not been any conclusive evidence that this chapter is not. When searching the evidence, there is more evidence that stands to prove the authenticity of the authorship of this chapter as the same author of the previous chapters. Linguistics within the previous chapters shows similarities in the linguistics of chapter 21, and as previously stated by the commentators, in order for another author to have penned chapter 21, they would have had to write it early on due to the fact that there is no evidence of chapter 21 not being included in any finding in the Gospel of John.
Though many feel as if the conclusion of John should have ended at chapter 20, chapter 21 has proven to be an intricate part of the Gospel. John brings to a conclusion all of the Gospel of John by Jesus showing Himself to His disciples and by restoring Peter, and item that had not clearly been indicated before this time. Chapter 21 was an end to an book that exemplified the love of Jesus and the intimate relationship that He desires to have with us. John ended this particular Gospel reaffirming the work of Jesus Christ beyond His resurrection, not necessarily through Him, but through those who were called of Him.
Gary M. Burge, Interpreting the Gospel of John, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1992), Carson, The Gospel According To John, 665
W. Hall Harris III, Commentary on the Gospel of John, (Biblical Studies Press, 2006) Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1995)