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Signs Gospel

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Title: Signs Gospel  
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Subject: Gospel of John, Authorship of the Johannine works, John the Presbyter, John, John of Patmos
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Signs Gospel

Russian Orthodox icon of the Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, 18th century (Iconostasis of Transfiguration Church, Kizhi Monastery, Karelia, Russia).

The Signs Gospel is a hypothetical gospel account of the life of Jesus Christ. Some scholars believe it to be a primary source document for the Gospel of John. This theory has its basis in source criticism. Since the commentary of Rudolf Bultmann in 1941, the Hypothesis of a Semeia Source (miracle) has gained rather wide acceptance.


  • Internal evidence 1
  • Bultmann 2
  • Recent scholarship 3
  • Jesus Seminar 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Internal evidence

One possible construction of the "internal evidence" states that the Beloved Disciple wrote an account of the life of Jesus.However, this disciple died unexpectedly, necessitating that a revised gospel be written. In other words it may be that John “is the source" of the Johannine tradition but "not the final writer of the tradition." [1] Therefore scholars are no longer looking for the identity of a single writer but for numerous authors whose authorship has been absorbed into the gospel's development over a period of time and in several stages.[2][3][4]


The hypothesis of the Gospel of John being composed in layers over a period of time had its start with Rudolf Bultmann in 1941. Bultmann suggested that the author(s) of John depended in part on an author who wrote an earlier account.[5] This hypothetical "Signs Gospel" listing Christ's miracles was independent of, and not used by, the synoptic gospels. It was believed to have been circulating before the year 70 AD. Bultmann's conclusion was so controversial that heresy proceedings were instituted against him and his writings.

Recent scholarship

Nevertheless, this hypothesis has not disappeared. Scholars such as Raymond Edward Brown believe that the original author of the Signs Gospel to be the Beloved Disciple. They argue that the disciple who formed this community was both a historical person and a companion of Jesus Christ. Brown goes one step further by suggesting that the Beloved Disciple had been a follower of John the Baptist before joining Jesus.[6]

It is now widely agreed that the Gospel of John draws upon a tradition of Miracles of Jesus which are substantially independent of the three synoptic gospels.

Jesus Seminar

According to the controversial Jesus Seminar, there are at least two distinct writing styles contained in the Gospel of John. The later style contains midrash and theological essays put on the lips of Jesus. The other, earlier style is the original Signs Gospel, possibly written by the ‘Beloved Disciple’. It is simple, direct and historical in style and can be reconstructed as follows:


  1. ^ , Volume 1, Symposium series, no. 44, Society of Biblical Literature Pub, 2007 p.78John, Jesus, and History: Critical Appraisals of Critical ViewsPaul N. Anderson,
  2. ^ , Paulist Press, 1979The Community of the Beloved DiscipleRaymond Edward Brown, pp.31 - 34
  3. ^ The Muratorian fragment dates from around 180 It states that while John was the primary author, several people were involved, that mutual revision was part of the original intent of the authors, and that the editors included the apostle Andrew. (Geza Vermes, The authentic gospel of Jesus, London, Penguin Books. 2004. A note on sources, p. x-xvii.
  4. ^ , Volume 1, Symposium series, no. 44, Society of Biblical Literature Pub, 2007 p.77John, Jesus, and History: Critical Appraisals of Critical ViewsPaul N. Anderson,
  5. ^ Frank E. Peters "How to Proceed" The Quest: The Historians' Quest for the Historical Jesus and Muhammad, Modern Scholar 2008.
  6. ^ , Paulist Press, 1979The Community of the Beloved DiscipleRaymond Edward Brown, pp.31 - 34

External links

  • Text of the Signs Gospel
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