Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006) makes a persuasive argument that the Gospels display eyewitness testimony and thus renews the quest for the identity of the Beloved Disciple as the author of the Fourth Gospel. While Bauckham attributes this Gospel to “the presbyter John” mentioned by Papias, the authors of this study show that the patristic evidence more likely seems to support the authorship of John the apostle and that the literary device of inclusio in the Fourth Gospel, astutely observed by Bauckham, also favors the authorship of John the son of Zebedee.
The purpose of this concluding chapter is not to sum up all of the important results of all the preceding chapters, though I shall mention or discuss some of them. Rather my intention is to offer some broader reflections on this field of study, its importance for the study of the canonical Gospels and the quest of the historical Jesus, the particular problems it poses and the opportunities it provides for further study. I limit the field to Gospel traditions in Christian literature because this enables me to generalize to some extent, whereas the pagan and Jewish sources, which are also the subject of chapters in this volume, present quite distinct problems and possibilities. I certainly do not mean to devalue their importance.
This is a response by Richard Bauckham to Margaret Mitchell’s paper, “Patristic Counter-evidence to the Claim
that The Gospels Were Written for All Christians”, which was presented to the Synoptics Section of the SBL Annual
Meeting, Atlanta, November 2003. Please note that this response is to that paper as previously posted, and not to the forthcoming published version, which may have taken account of several of these points.