1. When I read the Fourth Gospel (at the times of my best reading) I get a strong intuitive endorsement of its coherent overall truth (excepting a few verses).
I do not get this coherent witness from any other section of the Bible; but instead variable amounts of partial endorsement balanced by variable amounts of intuitive rejection.
(This feeling about the special quality of the Fourth Gospel goes back about forty years, to long before I was a Christian but tried reading the Bible to discover what it said.)
2. This means that I take the Fourth Gospel as true; and read it as such; and this makes clear that the original Gospel was written to be read by people who knew the author, and knew the author's identity and history.
The first readers were pretty much 'handed' a copy of the Gospel by its author (or a scribe who took it from dictation - or whatever).
The Fourth Gospel (Chapters 1-20) makes it clear that it was written soon after Jesus's ascension - when such events were fresh in the author's mind. Except where otherwise indicated, the Fourth Gospel is either an eye-witness account or came directly from Jesus.
(Chapter 21 was added considerably later, after the death of Peter; and after the church had moved in a different direction from that envisaged by Jesus in the Fourth Gospel, under Peter's direction.)
3. From the internal evidence of the Gospel, the author of the Fourth was Lazarus; and he had, by the end, a very special relationship to Jesus:
- Best friend to Jesus - whom Jesus loved from before he commenced his ministry; Lazarus initially a disciple of John (the Baptist)
- Disciple of Jesus, in the inner group; his most-loved disciple
- Brother in Law to Jesus (who married his sister Mary 'Magdalene' of Bethany)
- Adopted brother of Jesus (via the instruction given Lazarus from Jesus on the cross, to take Jesus's mother as his own)
- The first Man to be resurrected*; then an immortal prophet in his own right
- The first and only eye-witness chronicler of Jesus's ministry, death, resurrection, ascension
(Each of the above 'evidences' also needs to be tested by intuitive prayer and meditation; to ensure they have been understood and until stable clarity is attained.)
The Fourth Gospel is our only Primary Source about Jesus; no other Bible sources even claims to be primary.
I further believe that, because of this primacy, the Fourth Gospel has (by divine intervention) been preserved adequately and almost completely down to our time (in the English Authorised/ King James version) - and this miraculous translation and preservation can be seen by its almost absolute coherence (such that the added or changed parts stand out from the whole); and also by its unique beauty and profundity.
If this primacy of the Fourth Gospel is accepted; it should make a significant difference to our core understanding of Christianity as compared with the usual ways of understanding that have arisen since the Fourth Gospel; and which have come down to us via the various churches that arose after the Gospel was first written.
*Note added: The author of the Fourth Gospel goes out of his way to state that Jesus loved Lazarus - just after Lazarus is first name (11:1) saying (11:5) Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister [Mary], and Lazarus. In 11:35-6 we get "Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!" It strikes me now that this love for Lazarus is linked to him being the first resurrected Man; since in this Gospel, love is mutual; and it is those who love Jesus who are resurrected to life eternal. Perhaps, then, Lazarus was the first and only person who loved Jesus to die, after Jesus became divine and commenced his ministry and before Jesus himself died. Lazarus was, therefore, the only person 'eligible' for resurrection during the period when Jesus was divine and dwelling upon earth. This would explain why Lazarus was resurrected, and why no other people were resurrected, during those three years of Jesus's mortal life.
I believe Raymond E. Brown agreed with you. Moreover, John contains the only self-consistent itinerary of Jesus' movements and the only accurate description of Jewish and Roman legal practices of the time.
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