Bauckham, Richard. “Chapter 16, Papias on John." Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony.” Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2006, pp. 412-437.
Bauckham clarifies what he has suggested in prior chapters, that the "Beloved Discipole" may well be seen as a disciple who is not one of the Twelve, not John the son of Zebedee (Bauckham 2006, 412). Bauckham does not go into great detail of his views. However, he notes that the Synoptic Gospels come from what is an authoritative tradition (Bauckham 2006, 4313). The Gospel of John does not list the Twelve and does not speak of the inner circle of Jesus' disciples, recognized in the Synoptics as Peter, James, and John. The cast of characters is rather different, suggesting a significantly different perspective (Bauckham 2006, 414).
It is important to Bauckham to seek an identity of the author because ot the historical fact that the Fourth Gospel was very early associated with the name of John (Bauckham 2006, 415). Yet the name John was very common in Palestine at the time when the Gospel would have first circulated. It is not immediately clear that John, son of Zebedee, is the person associated with the Gospel. Bauckham contends that the evidence ascribed to Papias, whose actual statements are not preserved, may well point to a different individual, "John the Elder" (Bauckham 2006, 416).
Papias' list of disciples introduces the first six "in the order in which these characters first appear in the Gospel of John" Bauckham 2006, 416).417). He does not identify the anonymous disciple from John 1:35-39 as John. He may, however, be identifying the two anonymous disciples as Aristion and John the Elder Bauckham 2006, 416).419). This suggests that John the Elder is not a son of Zebedee. The question remains whether John the son of Zebedee died at an early time or survived much longer than the other disciples Bauckham 2006, 416).420). Bauckham notes that Irenaeus refers to "elders" as "the generation of Asiatic Christian leaders who had not themselves been disciples of Jesus but had known those who were" Bauckham 2006, 416).421). If this is the case, it is quite possible that Papias would have used "John the Elder" as a means of distinguishing him from "John son of Zebedee."
Bauckham does consider it interesting that Papias created lists of disciples from the narrative in John's Gospel. This indicates a high regard for that particular Gospel account Bauckham 2006, 416).423). We do not have any specific statements about John's Gospel in Papias, but he does seem to make his comments on Matthew and Mark with a presupposition they are compared to something else, presumably John. Bauckham observes that there was an apparent difference of opinion between Papias and Eusebius, who endorsed Papias' idea that Revelation was written by "John the Elder" but did not quote Papias about the Gospel. Bauckham's suggestion is that Eusebius wanted to affirm the Gospel as written by (the reliable) "son of Zebedee" and Revelation by (the unreliable) "John the Elder" Bauckham 2006, 416).425).
The Muratorian Canon preserves some comments on John's Gospel. Bauckham finds it to say, as does Papias, that the order of events is carefully arranged and that it is an eyewitness account Bauckham 2006, 416).427). Bauckham considers this statement of the Muratorian Canon to be dependeont on Papias Bauckham 2006, 416).428). Of note is the statement that John was urged to write by "fellow disciples and bishops" including Andrew, "one of the apostles." Bauckham considers it significant that John is not denoted here as an apostle Bauckham 2006, 416).429). However, Papias rarely uses the word "apostle."
The question remains open. It is entirely possible that the son of Zebedee long outlived other apostles. It is also possible that some other John may have been the Beloved Disciple.
Bauckham adds an appendix to this chapter, discussing the possibility that Papias is Eusebius' source for Hist. Eccl. 3:24.5-13. It is clear here that Eusebius is using some sort of source material, but Eusebius does not identify his source. He also does not make the distinction between source material and his own comments clear Bauckham 2006, 416).433). In any case, the idea of Eusebius' dependence on Papias for this is inconclusive and does not further our understanding of the nature of eyewitness testimony in any concrete manner Bauckham 2006, 416).436-437).