Catholic commentaries on the Gospel of St. John. The preeminence of this Gospel.
Discussion of who wrote this Gospel -- Who was the beloved disciple?
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Catholic Commentary on the Gospel of St John
Following the great saints and Catholic theologians
Session 1 – Who wrote this Gospel? Who was St John?
Although it is doubted by many of the heretics of the modern day, and even by some Catholics, there can be no doubt that this book was written by St. John the Beloved, the Apostle who wrote also three letters bearing his name and the book of the Apocalypse (Revelation).
John 21:24 (speaking of the beloved disciple) – “This is that disciple who giveth testimony of these things, and hath written these things; and we know that his testimony is true.”
John 19:35 (at the foot of the Cross after the side of Christ has been pierced) – “And he that saw it, hath given testimony, and his testimony is true. And he knoweth that he saith true; that you also may believe.”
The Disciple whom Jesus loved – This phrase is used only in St. John’s Gospel.
John 13:23 (last Supper), 19:26 (foot of the Cross), 20:2 (empty tomb), 21:7 (sea of Tiberius), 21:20 (along the shore of the sea)
This disciple and St Peter are close – John 1:41 (St. Andrew and the other disciple bring Peter to Jesus),13:24 (at the Last Supper), 18:15 (in the court of Caiaphas), 20:2-8 (the empty tomb), 21:7 (sea of Tiberius), 21:20-24 (along the shore of the sea)
Sts. Peter and John in Acts – Acts 3 (healing of lame beggar), Acts 4 (before the Sanhedrin), Acts 8:14ff (sent to Samaria)
Notice also that St. John the Apostle is never named in the Gospel. All this evidence leads us to conclude that the beloved disciple is St. John, which means that John is the author of this Gospel.
What about the “Johannine community” of which the modernists speak? A community of believers who wrote the Gospel together as a group, rather than a single individual who was an Apostle.
We reply that a community of believers was involved, hear the account of St. Jerome: “Last was John, the Apostle and Evangelist, whom Jesus loved the best, who lay on the Lord’s bosom, and drank of the purest streams of His doctrines. When he was in Asia, at a time when the seeds of the heresies of Cerinthus, Ebion and the rest, who denied that Christ had come in the flesh, those whom in his Epistle he calls Antichrists, and whom the Apostle Paul frequently refutes, he was constrained by well nigh all the bishops who were at that time in Asia, and by the deputies of many other Churches, to write of the deep things of the Divinity of our Saviour, and to ‘break through,’ as it were, to the Word of God by a kind of happy temerity. Whence also we are told in ecclesiastical history that when he was urged by the brethren to write, he agreed to do so, on condition that they should all fast, and pray to God in common. When the fast was ended, being filled with the power of revelation, he burst forth with the preface coming straight from above, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.” (Commentary on Matthew) Others add that St. John’s beginning to write was preceded by lightnings and thunderings, as though he had been another Moses, who thus received the Law of God. (cf. Exodus 19)
Who was St. John? He is the brother of James the Greater. He is also the son Zebedee and Salome, making him the nephew of St. James the Less and Jude Thaddeus, and the grandson of St. Cleophas (Alphaeus). This makes him to be a distant relative of Jesus, since he is the son of the Lord’s cousin Salome. All this is the general consensus of the Fathers and great saints.
St. John suffered an interior martyrdom greater than all the other Apostles:
Fr. Cornelius a’ Lapide writes of the “martyrdom” of St. John – (cf. Mark 10:35-40, especially verses 38-39, “And Jesus said to them: You know not what you ask. Can you drink of the chalice that I drink of: or be baptized with the baptism wherewith I am baptized? But they said to him: We can. And Jesus saith to them: You shall indeed drink of the chalice that I drink of: and with the baptism wherewith I am baptized, you shall be baptized.”)
“S. John also drank of this cup when he was plunged by Domitian, at Rome, before the Latin Gate, into a cauldron of boiling oil, and came forth renewed in strength; so that by a new miracle he was a martyr by living rather by dying.
“Again, not only Prochorus, S. John’s disciple, in his Life of S. John (the truth of which is rightly suspected by Baronius), but also S. Isidore declares that S. John really drank the cup of poison, but that he also drank it without harm; whence also he is generally represented in pictures holding a cup. And, lastly, we may say that the whole life of S. John was a continual martyrdom, for he lived a very long time after all the Apostles, to the year of our Lord 101; and this long absence from Christ, his beloved—after Whom he was continually longing—was a lengthened martyrdom to him, as it was also to the Blessed Virgin, to whom he had been given as a son by Christ on the Cross.
“Again, S. John underwent a special martyrdom while he stood with the Blessed Virgin by the Cross on Mount Calvary, and beheld Christ—his Life, Whom he loved more than his own life—suffering the bitter pains of the Cross for three hours.”
Again, Fr. Cornelius a Lapide writes of the virtues of St. John:
“S. John alone was counted worthy to win the laurels of all saints. For he is in very deed a theologian, or rather the prince of theologians. The same is an apostle, a prophet and an evangelist. The same is a priest, a bishop, a high priest, a virgin, and a martyr. That S. John always remained a virgin is asserted by all the ancient writers, expressly by Tertullian (Lib. de monogam.) and S. Jerome (Lib. 1 contra. Jovin.). To him therefore as a virgin Christ from His cross commended His Virgin Mother. For “blessed are the clean in heart, for they shall see God,” as the Truth Itself declares.
“The Only Begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, made known to this His most chaste and beloved friend, who reclined upon His breast, the hidden things and sacraments of the Divinity, which had been kept-secret from the foundation of the world. John hath declared the same to us, as a son of thunder, thundering and lightening the whole world with the Deity of the Word. As with a flaming thunderbolt “he hath given shine to the world;” and with the fire of love he hath inflamed it. Let that speech of Christ, His longest and His last, bear witness, which He made after supper (S. John xiii. &c.), which breathes of nothing but the ardour of Divine love.”