John 21

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Gospel of John

The chapter John 21 in the Bible contains an account of the post-Resurrection appearance in Galilee, which the text describes as the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples. In the course of this chapter, there is a miraculous catch of 153 fish, the confirmation of Peter's love for Jesus, a foretelling of Peter's death in old age, and a comment about John's future. Some New Testament historians assert that it was not part of the original text of the Gospel of John.[1]




In the 20th chapter of the Gospel of John, the text summarizes the many signs that Jesus performed for his followers, not all of which could be recorded in the Gospel. John 21 begins with the Johannine transition, After these things... (Greek: Μετὰ ταῦτα) that is used throughout the Fourth Gospel,[2] leading some scholars to suggest that John 21 was appended in the same way as Mark 16:9-20. Peter's ecclesiastical role is emphasized, but this is similar to Peter's commissioning in John 1.[3] The Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece (27th ed.) as well as major translations of the New Testament (e.g. KJV, NASB, NIV, RSV, NRSV) retain this chapter in their editions as original, and just one fragmentary manuscript has been discovered that may end at John 20 without John 21.

One point of view is that the author simply decided to add an additional incident at some time after writing the book, but before final publication. Westcott stated,

It is impossible to suppose that it was the original design of the Evangelist to add the incidents of chapter 21 after the verses which form a solemn close of his record of the great history of the conflict of faith and unbelief in the life of Christ.

But Donald Guthrie writes:

It is unlikely that another author wrote this section since there are several points of contact in it with the style and language of previous chapters...(IVP New Bible Commentary)
John 21 provides the only Biblical information about Peter's death, traditionally held to have been by crucifixion.

The Church Father Tertullian wrote, "And wherefore does this conclusion of the gospel affirm that these things were written unless it is that you might believe, it says, that Jesus Christ is the son of God?", which describes the end of Chapter 20, not Chapter 21. However, the Nestle-Aland critical text of the New Testament lists no surviving copies of the Gospel that omit this chapter.

The description of the "beloved disciple's" (normally assumed to be John) fate is presented as an aside to Peter. Jesus says that it is not Peter's concern, even if Jesus should wish that that disciple remain alive until the end of time. The following verse clarifies that Jesus did not say "This disciple will not die", but that it was not for Peter to know.

Many scholars, such as Bart Ehrman, have proposed that John's Prologue, as Signs Document and Glory Document and John 21 represent modifications to the Gospel of John.

Verses 24-25

The chapter is closed by two verses referring to the author of the gospel (whoever it might be) in the 1st person ("We know that his testimony is true").

Manuscript evidence

In an essay, contributed on behalf of scholars unconvinced of any decisive sense of "originality" to John 21 (published in 2007), Felix Just wrote: "We (unfortunately!) do not possess any ancient manuscript of John that actually ends at 20:31."[4] In other words, ancient manuscripts that contain the end of John 20 also contain text from John 21. So if John 21 is an addition, it was so early (which is not in doubt: part of John 21 appears in P66) and so widespread, that no evidence of the prior form has survived. This should however be balanced against the tendency for the first and last pages of codices to be lost: there are just four papyrus witnesses to John 20-21, only three of which date from the 4th Century or earlier.[5]

Novum Testamentum Graece (NA27) and the United Bible Societies (UBS4), which are the same text with minor orthographic differences (published in 1993), provided the critical text for John 21; a new edition of Nestle-Aland's New Testament, NA28, was published in late 2012, and diverges from NA27 and UBS4 in several places.

However, in 2006 one 4th century Sahidic papyrus manuscript (Bodleian MS. Copt.e.150(P)) came to light that may end at 20:31.[6] One side of this single-leaf fragment consists of John 20:30-31 with a large space under it, having no subscription.

See also


  1. ^ Ehrman, Bart (13 February 2012). "Debate "Is the Original New Testament Lost?" (from around 23:40)". The Ehrman Project. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  2. ^ John 2:12, 3:22, 5:1, 6:1, 6:66, 7:1, 11:7, 19:28, 21:1
  3. ^ John 1:42
  4. ^ Felix Just, 'Combining Key Methodologies in Johannine Studies', in Tom Thatcher (ed), What We Have Heard from the Beginning: The Past, Present, and Future of Johannine Studies, (Baylor University Press, 2007), p. 356.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Gesa Schenke, 'Das Erscheinen Jesu vor den Jüngern und der ungläubige Thomas: Johannes 20,19-31' in Louis Painchaud and Paul-Hubert Poirier, eds, Coptica - Gnostica - Manichaica: Mélanges offerts à Wolf-Peter Funk (Les presses de l'Université Laval / Peeters, 2006) pp. 893-904.

Chapters of the Bible
Preceded by:
John 20
Gospel of JohnFollowed by:
Acts of the Apostles 1