This is useful for all of us who are spending the next little while studying the Gospel of John at The Mount, and anyone else interested in John’s message, I imagine. I found it especially thought-provoking.
…This would place John’s death right around A.D. 100, the latest possible date for the writing of the Gospel if we accept the apostle John as the author.
The earliest possible date for the Gospel’s composition is not as easily answered, since both the internal and external evidence can be interpreted in a number of ways. The witness of the ancient church attests that the Gospel of John was written after the other three Gospels, implying a later date, depending on how one dates the other Gospels. However we can be more precise if we consider Jerome’s account above to be accurate. He notes that John wrote the Apocalypse on the island of Patmos and then returned to Ephesus during the reign of Nerva. We know that Nerva ruled as emperor of Rome from A.D. 96 to 98. Further, we learn from Irenaeus that “John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon his breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.” Therefore, at least according to the witness of Irenaeus and Jerome, we can place the writing of the Gospel as Ephesus sometime within the last half of the final decade of the first century (A.D. 96-100). Apart from the dissenting view of Ephrem the Syrian, who records a tradition that John wrote his Gospel at Antioch, where he lived until the end of Trajan’s reign, the patristic consensus was that John wrote the Gospel from Ephesus.
But this also has implications for the Gospel’s relation to Revelation, which we also assume was written by John. Clement of Alexandria says that John, who was exiled to Patmos, returned to Ephesus “after the death of the tyrant.” If the Revelation, then, was written on the island of Patmos and the Gospel was written in Ephesus, it would mean either that John wrote the Gospel in Ephesus before he was exiled to Patmos, which is highly unlikely given the earlier evidence discussed, or the Gospel was composed when John returned to Ephesus after his exile. Therefore, John composed the Fourth Gospel after he wrote the Revelation on the island of Patmos.
This would help explain a number of hermeneutical questions, including the profound prologue of the first eighteen verses in terms that go far beyond a simple Hellenistic or Jewish influence, although these no doubt are there and are important influences. The prologue’s cosmological glimpse into the eternity of the Word and the heavenly realms as John entered through that open door into heaven seems much more prescient when reading the first eighteen verses of John with the Revelation as the backdrop. It also lends renewed appreciation for the certainty and conviction, evident throughout the rest of the Gospel, that Jesus Christ was truly God and man. We have an eyewitness who had seen his glory not only on earth but perhaps also in heaven.
Ancient Christian Commentary on Scrirpture: New Testament IVa – John 1-10
Joel C. Elowsky, Editor