4 Reasons Lazarus, not John, may be the Author of the Fourth Gospel

June 12, 2012 — 9 Comments

Tradition holds that the Gospel of John, the fourth gospel in the New Testament, was written by the Apostle John.  Officially, however, the gospel is anonymous, written by a person identified only as, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (21:20-24).  While it’s indeed likely that this disciple is John, there is another intriguing possability.  Here are 4 reasons why the Beloved Disciple could in fact be Lazarus.

1. Lazarus and the Beloved Disciple are the only two men in John who are said to be loved by Jesus

In John 13:23, we are introduced to the Beloved Disciple,

There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. (see also 19:26-27; 20:2-10; 21:7, 20-24).

For a charachter that plays such a prominent role in the chapters to come, it’s surprising that he’s not mentioned earlier.  Or is he?

The description, “whom Jesus loved” is not without precedent.  Only one other male is so described in the gospel.  Just two chapters prior, the author introduces Lazarus with the same description.

Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha… So the sisters sent word to him, saying ‘Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” (John 11:1-3)

The author adds,

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. (11:5)

The Jews likewise comment,

See how He loved Him! (11:36)

But this isn’t the only reason to connect the Beloved Disciple with Lazarus.  The link appears to make sense of other details in the gospel as well.

2. The Beloved Disciple pays special attention to the face-cloth in the empty tomb – the same face-cloth worn by Lazarus

At the tomb of the risen Jesus we are told that the Disciple sees the face-cloth and believes.

the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first: and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. and so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself.  So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed.  (John 20:4-8)

As the possible author of the fourth gospel, the Beloved Disciple’s description of the face-cloth might suggest a recognition of Lazarus’ own death-to-life experience.  The only other time he describes such a cloth is in the raising of this man.

the man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth.  Jesus said to them, “unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11:

The author certainly didn’t have to mention the face-cloth in either event.  But he notes them in both and in so doing creates an important connection between them.  The raising of Lazarus, it seems, has some significance on the events of this scene.  Granted the significance may be something other than the disciple recognizing his own death-to-life experience, but the possibiliy is intriguing to say the least.

3.  Lazarus having already been raised from the dead may be another reason it is said the disciple whom Jesus loved will not die.   

At the end of the gospel, we are told that a rumor spreads among the brothers that the disciple whom Jesus loved will not die (21:20-23).  The reason for this rumor is found in Jesus words to Peter, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?”  But if we connect the Beloved Disciple with Lazarus we find a further, perhaps more compelling reason behind the rumor.  It’s possible the rumor was deemed all the more credible because the Beloved Disciple as Lazarus had already been raised fom the dead.

4. Lazarus and the beloved disciple are linked in a parable of Luke where a Lazarus goes to Abraham’s “Bosom’ when he dies.  

Out of Matthew, Mark and Luke, the closest gospel to John is Luke.  Among a host of other connections, only John and Luke mention men named Lazarus.

In Luke Jesus says that Lazarus died and went to a place called Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:19-31).  The word  “bosom” like the name Lazarus, is rare in the New Testament.  Only two verses link this word with a person.  Here in Luke 16:22 with Abraham and in John 13, at the first appearance of the Beloved Disciple, with Jesus.

There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples whom Jesus loved. (13:23)

If Lazarus is the Beloved Disciple then its interesting that whereas in Luke he’s found in the bosom of Abraham in John he’s in the bosom of Christ.  Is this a clue pointing us to the identity of the Beloved Disciple?

There are of course other reasons.  Ben Witherington III has written here on the subject.   Though none of these reasons guarantees that Lazarus is the disciple, they do suggest an interesting possibility.  At the very least, the author of John wanted the Beloved Disciple to be seen in someway like Lazarus.

Matthew Scott Miller

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  • Larry

    Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Matthew 9:27

    He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” Luke 10:2

    “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”
    John 4:35 or as you prefer Lazarus 4:35.

    In Jesus’ own words, we are short of ‘workers’ and you are spending your time arguing that Lazarus wrote the Gospel of John. Priorities!

    • http://millemat.wordpress.com Matthew

      Thanks for the challenge Larry. I do need to witness more.

  • Jimmy

    Jesus raised Lazarus before Jesus died. If this was the raising of Lazarus to eternal life, then Jesus wouldn’t have been first. The bible is clear that Jesus is the first born of those who rise from the dead. Point 3 does not take into account scripture.
    The whole argument does not consider the fact that John’s authorship was upheld by his own disciples in the very earl second century.
    Lazarus authorship is not a viable theory.

    • Tom S. Coke

      Those who think Lazarus was possible author of fourth gospel (e.g., Ben Witherington’s) don’t believe Lazarus was raised to eternal life. They believe he died twice, looking forward to return of Christ.

      • Chilqiyyah, חִלְקִיָּה

        My kind a faithful reader, it would not be scripturally correct for a man to die twice, for it is appointed once for a man to die.


        He was seen in Washington D.C. on 14 December 2000, by me.

        Jesus told Martha what He was going to do. He told her Lazarus would be resurrected, AND did not stop there. NOTICE THE BIG WORD, A N D in verse 26.

        Lazarus is here amonst us, waiting for His Master and friend. He will see Him again in Jerusalem on that day. So will I.

  • ChiefsFan115

    Is it possible Lazarus and John the Beloved are the same man? What if Lazarus ( I believe to be Eleazar son of Boethus) changed his name to John (meaning God is gracious!) after his resurrection? I want to learn more about the Greek texts of John 11:1. What does the writer mean “Now, a certain man was sick”. Why does he call Bethany the town of Martha and Mary, but not their brother?

  • Macbeth

    If Lazarus is the beloved one then why would he write his own name down?

  • Macbeth

    If Lazarus is the beloved one why would he write his own name down?

  • SDAdventurist

    I do not believe Yeshua raised Lazarus to life only for him to die again. But the idea of Yeshua being the “first fruits” argument throws in another question, what then about two others? Yeshua arrives at the village of Nain during the burial ceremony of the son of a widow, and raised the young man from the dead. Luke 7:11–17. He also raised daughter of Jairus Mark 5:21–43, Matthew 9:18–26 and Luke 8:40–56. So what would happen to them? Would they live only to die again? Would they be caught up to heaven with those who came out of the graves after Yeshua rose from the dead? Did those who came out of the graves live and die again? Or were they taken to heaven when Christ went to his Father the second time in the clouds 40 days later? I somehow don’t think it is right to assume people were raised just to die again…doesn’t seem right, and yet I cannot find the answers in the Bible – can any of you?

    Also, the person in the Book attributed to John that is referred to as the “other disciple” could very well be Lazarus. At the end of the book it almost sounds like that…but then when would Lazarus be taken to heaven? He had to have time to write the book…This will take some more study to see if other events in the book give some more evidence. John is certainly the most PERSONAL gospel of our Lord. It reveals his soul and mind throughout…beginning to be one of my favorites. When I want to hear Yeshua himself speaking his heart, I go to John. Also He reveals himself clearly there more than once. “My sheep hear my voice,” keeps echoing in my mind – how true. We hear his voice, feel his presence…HE IS OUR LORD! Others stand by and don’t see what we do at all!

    BTW: I am very interested in Lazarus for another reason, I am writing a story, historical fiction, about Mary Magdalene and it has brought me to many twists and turns in the relationships between the people in the Gospels. Writing from her possible perspective and experience has been already a 10 year experience. There are a lot of unanswered questions in the Bible and when we look at the human experience sometimes those unanswered connections become evident as possibilities. The people of that day were no less corrupt than today…it has only been organized religions that have made common human beings into “saints” and lifted them up into some kind of lofty position. They experienced life as we do, howbeit different circumstances and knowledge base. We will all know the whole story someday when we can ask those who are saved in heaven and on into the New Earth. Praise Jehovah for his marvelous plan to bring his children home at last!

    The Adventurist