Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 20, 1971 when parishioners settled on a site for the new St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Oxford.
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msgrliptak_halfQ. While studying the Bible recently, a question about the authorship of the Fourth Gospel came up; specifically, who was the actual author of St. John’s Gospel? I was schooled on the assumption that the author was St. John the Apostle, and that he is the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” who appears in the Gospel (e.g., standing beneath the Cross of Calvary). Is there any Church-accepted opinion about all this?

A. This is a fascinating question. However, from the time of St. Irenaeus of Lyon (d.202), Church Tradition has, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “unanimously regarded John, the son of Zebedee, as the beloved disciple and the author of the [Fourth] Gospel.” (See Jesus of Nazareth, Doubleday, 2007).

This means of course, that the John who stood under the Cross of Calvary was indeed St. John the Apostle. It also means that the Apostle who leaned against the Savior’s breast (Jn 13:25) was John the Apostle. The mysterious reference here is that it parallels the close “of the beautiful prologue to the Gospel according to John wherein we learn: ‘No one has ever seen God; it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart who has made him known.’” (Ibid; cf. Jn 1:18).

An underlying problem here is that several trends in Biblical scholarship erupted in the early portions of the 20th century. One was generated by a German Lutheran scholar, Rudolf Bultmann, who died in 1976. Bultmann, who is viewed by some Protestant scholars as the century’s most influential interpreter of the New Testament, published a widely read commentary on John’s Gospel, the first edition appearing in 1941. Bultmann is perhaps most remembered for his currently questioned theories about demythologizing the Scriptures to ascertain existential religious lessons.

It is important here to say that Bultmann, although wrong in many of his suggestions, tried to be a serious scholar. I recall being introduced to his writings while in Scripture classes during the early 1950s in St. Bernard’s Seminary, Rochester. However, it was not until I completed graduate work at a Protestant theological school in the ’70s that I actually had to read from some of his volumes – in German, with lengthy references in Hebrew and Greek. Scripture study absolutely requires not only a background of Latin, but also of Greek and Hebrew – and German, since so much of modern Biblical literature is in German. Our present Holy Father, for example, himself a world-class theologian, depends largely on German works of Biblical exegesis; among the best on John’s Gospel, he suggests, is Rudolf Schnackenburg’s, which, fortunately, is in English translation. (Crossroad, N.Y., 1982).

But back to the main question. St. John, who is identified with the “beloved disciple,” is unquestionably the source of the Gospel according to John.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his awesome Jesus of Nazareth (Doubleday, 2007) answers in this way:

“I entirely concur with the conclusion of Peter Stuhlmacher … [a Biblical scholar]. He holds that ‘the contents of the Gospel go back to the disciple whom Jesus (especially) loved. The presbyter [John the Presbyter, a pillar of the early Church in Ephesus, who was closely allied with John the Apostle] understood himself as his [the Apostle’s] transmitter and mouthpiece. (Some contemporary scholars refer to Presbyter John as “the literary executor of the favorite disciple.” See Jesus of Nazareth, Op.cit., pp. 226-7.)

Pope Benedict sums up the final answer thus:

“This Gospel [the Fourth Gospel] ultimately goes back to an eyewitness, and even the actual redaction of the text was substantially the work of one of his [John’s] closest followers within the living circle of his disciples.” (Ibid., p. 227).

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.