The first, on the 27th of June 1906, affirmed, with some significant but unworkable reservations, the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch; and the second (29th of May 1907) strenuously maintained the Apostolic Zebedean authorship of the fourth Gospel, and the strictly historical character of the events and speeches recorded therein.
But the reasons against the author being John the Zebedean or any other eyewitness of Jesus' earthly life have accumulated to a practical demonstration.
Irenaeus's testimony is the earliest and admittedly the strongest we possess for the Zebedean authorship; yet, as Calmes admits, " it cannot be considered decisive."
In his work against the Heresies and in his letter to Florinus, about 185-191, he tells how he had himself known Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna, and how Polycarp " used to recount his familiar intercourse with John and the others who had seen the Lord "; and explicitly identifies this John with the Zebedean and the evangelist.
But Irenaeus was at most fifteen when thus frequenting Polycarp; writes thirty-five to fifty years later in Lyons, admitting that he noted down nothing at the time; and, since his mistaken description of Papias as " a hearer of John " the Zebedean was certainly reached by mistaking the presbyter for the apostle, his additional words " and a companion of Polycarp " point to this same mistaken identification having also operated in his mind with regard to Polycarp. In any case, the very real and important presbyter is completely unknown to Irenaeus, and his conclusion as to the book's authorship resulted apparently from a comparison of its contents with Polycarp's teaching.
The Alexandrian Clement, Tertullian, Origen, Eusebius, Jerome and Augustine only tell of the Zebedean what is traceable to stories told by Papias of others, to passages of Revelation and the Gospel, or to the assured fact of the long-lived Asian presbyter.
This man was so great that the writer strives to win his authority for this Gospel; and yet this man was not John the Zebedean, else why, now he is dead and gone, not proclaim the fact?
If the dead man was John the presbyter - if this John had in youth just seen Jesus and the Zebedean, and in extreme old age had still seen and approved the Gospel - to attribute this Gospel to him, as is done here, would not violate the literary ethics of those times.
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