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Criswell Theological Review 3 1 1988 17 29 Copyright 1988 by The Criswell College Cited with permission APPROACHING THE FOURTH GOSPEL MOISES SILVA Westminster Theological Seminary Philadelphia P A 19118 I Fluctuating Perspectives on John Depending on the story teller the development of modern biblical scholarship can appear unbearably dull or altogether engrossing It would take some effort however to review the vicissitudes of the Gospel of John during the past two centuries without succumbing to the fascination of this subject Consider the question of historical value How does one account for the fact that while at the beginning of the 19th century the Fourth Gospel was almost universally regarded as the most valuable source for the life of Jesus few critics by the end of the century thought that it provided any significant historical information at all And what has caused scholars in the 20th century to move in a more conservative direction so that it is no longer disreputable to argue that this document contains some amount of independent reliable material Or take the related issue of date of composition The traditional view that the Gospel was written toward the end of the 1st century gave way to a remarkable theory that pushed the date well into the middle of the 2nd century The well known discovery in 1933 of the Rylands Fragment papyrus 52 containing only a few verses from John 18 which can be dated firmly no later than A D 135 seemed magically to restore the Gospel to its traditional setting Yet more recent research has suggested to at least one prominent scholar that a A few portions of this article especially the first section are reproduced from The Present State of Johannine Studies to appear in a future volume of The New Testament Student ed J H Skilton Phillipsburg N J Presbyterian and Reformed 18 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW date prior to A D 70 is reasonable and that therefore the Gospel of John may well be as ancient as Mark 1 And what does one do

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