Bauckham, Richard. “Chapter 14, The Gospel of John as Eyewitness Testimony” Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony.” Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2006, pp. 358-383.
The Gospel of John claims to be written by an eyewitness. Bauckham observes that most historical scholars understood the claim to say the text was written by “the disciple Jesus loved” (Bauckham 2006, 358). Recent scholarship has questioned this idea, saying it is possible that the word “to write” can also mean “cause to write.” Bauckham grants that the verg graphein can easily include dedication, but that the understanding is that the person who dictates also claims responsibility for the message (Bauckham 2006, 359). However, Bauckham illustrates the view being re-tooled to say that the claim of authorship in John 21:24-25 cannot mean more than that the “beloved disciple” had some spiritual connection with the ideas (Bauckham 2006, 360). He observes that this reinterpretation has no supporting evidence. Graphein is never clearly used for a more distant connection than that of dictating a text to a scribe (Bauckham 2006, 361). Bauckham goes on to say that “John 21:24 means that the Beloved Disciple composed the Gospel, whether or not he wielded the pen” (Bauckham 2006, 362).
The end of John’s Gospel has an interesting structure. Bauckham sees it as a purposeful construction, with 20:30-31 and 21:24-25 bracketing the text indicating it as an epilogue (Bauckham 2006, 364). This balances the prologue of 1:1-18. Bauckham further notes that the prologue contains 496 syllables, while the epilogue contains 496 words. He describes in brief the interest which the number 496 may have borne, then also observes the difference between syllables and words, “because the Prologue is a poetic composition whereas the Epilogue is a narrative” (Bauckham 2006, 365). Furthermore, he observes that 20:30-31 and 21:24-25 each consist of 43 words, which express parallel ideas. The conclusion as a whole also has two stages, which show parallelism in ideas. Bauckham takes this to indicate the difference between the temporal works described and the eschatological events yet to come, while still emphasizing the eyewitness nature of the Beloved Disciple and the ongoing presence of Christ (Bauckham 2006, 368).
Bauckham considers various interpretations of the word “we” where John 21:24 says, “we know” the testimony is true. Of all the possibilities, he considers the most likely to be a reference by the author to himself. The plural usage is explained by Bauckham. “Ancient writers of Greek seem to have slipped easily from first person plural to first person singular or vice versa when speaking of themselves” (Bauckham 2006, 370).
Bauckham goes on to describe the use of the first person plural to indicate authoritative testimony. In 1923 Adolf von Harnack identified the first person plural in John’s writings to be used as a claim to authority (Bauckham 2006, 371). This idea has been expanded by a few authors but has not been developed to a great extent. Bauckham identifies the different ways “we” can be used (other than to identify plurality), then he considers the usage in several Johannine passages. In sum, he finds that the “we” is normally substituted for “I” when the speaker is asserting the authoritative nature of his testimony (Bauckham 2006, 372-381 passim). Bauckham closes the chapter by observing that John’s quote of Isaiah 53:1 (John 12:38) uses the text, containing the first person plural, as a statement of authoritative testimony (Bauckham 2006, 383).