I currently belong to the vocal minority of people who think that the Johannine epistles, by and large, predate the Johannine gospel. One of the reasons commonly offered for the priority of the gospel is the following triad of verses:Ben C. Smith wrote: ↑Tue May 30, 2017 7:21 amOn pages 105-106 of his commentary on the gospel and epistles of John, and also on page 389 of his Introduction to the New Testament, Raymond Brown lists differences between the epistles and the gospel. This is the version from his Introduction (the two lists are the same in substance, but differ slightly in wording):
I would say that yes, some of these differences do give 1 John "the air" of being more primitive than the gospel. It honestly surprises me that the majority view in scholarship seems to be that the gospel precedes all three epistles. Sometimes it is granted that the appendix (John 21) and a few redactions may postdate the epistles, but the main body of the gospel is commonly thought to have been written first.
In the gospel Jesus acknowledges that the love commandment he is giving is a new commandment, while in the epistles the author/elder admits that this love commandment is not new. Thus, the argument goes, the gospel must have been written first.
But this argument confuses the order of events with the order in which an author writes about those events; just because an author writes both about WWI and about WWII does not mean s/he has written about those two wars in that order. It is just as easy to write a prequel as it is to write a sequel.
In this case, for example, it is easy to imagine the epistles being written on the basis of church doctrine as found, say, in Matthew 22.37-39 = Mark 12.29-31 = Luke 10.27 and then the gospel later, when the time came to put the love commandment in writing yet again, specifying that it was a new commandment based on the wording of 1 John 2.8 and 2 John [1.]5. Furthermore, the love commandment also finds expression elsewhere in the epistles:
The pronoun ("him") in verse 21 must refer to God; thus, according to this epistle it was God who issued the love commandment. The epistle comes across as ignorant of Jesus having issued it in the gospel.
A more directional argument may be found elsewhere between the epistles and the gospel, and it cuts in the opposite direction. In this case, a datum from the epistles is presumed in the gospel, and there is no other known text early enough which would give the information:
Notice that Jesus says that another Paraclete/Helper will be sent after he is gone, implying that he himself is a Paraclete/Helper. But this information (that Jesus is a Paraclete) is not found in the gospel; nor is it found in any of the synoptics or other gospels. Rather, it is found in 1 John, in which Jesus Christ is the only Paraclete mentioned. The gospel, in other words, presumes previous knowledge of something found in one of the epistles.
For the sake of completeness, the following are the only other instances of this term in the New Testament:
It appears to be a Johannine concept, appearing only in Johannine writings.
The argument for epistolary priority does not suffer from the same prequel/sequel observation to which the argument based on the love commandment succumbs; it is genuinely surprising to find the Spirit called "another" Paraclete in the gospel... unless one has already read the epistles. 1 John, rather than merely being the first half of a pair of events which could be told in either order, is actually the first half of a conversation, to which the second half is responding. Furthermore, we have evidence in the synoptic gospels of a dominical saying upon which the love commandment in the first and second epistles of John might be based, whereas we have no evidence in any other gospels of anything upon which the Paraclete saying in the gospel of John might be based.
So, for the members of this forum, are there other arguments that you find convincing in this connection, whether for or against my proposal here that the epistles, overall, predate the gospel?