Why does Saint John switch from one style of Greek to another in his
final chapter 21 ? The false argument against John's authorship is
stated by some as :
“Critical analysis makes it difficult to accept the idea that
the gospel as it now stands was written by one person. Jn
21seems to have been added after the gospel was completed; it
exhibits a Greek style somewhat different from that of the rest
of the work.”
Introduction to John in the NAB Bible.
Because the author of this note cannot think of a reason why one
author would switch from one style to another, that proves that
no such reason could exist, therefore there are at least two
authors. “If I do not know it, then it is not worth knowing.”
The conclusion seems to be based on an arrogant assumption.
But, John did have a reason to switch styles.
An explanation for the difference in the Greek was offered by
On EWTN, Bookmark, Doug Keck
interviewed Professor Peter S Williamson, from Sacred Heart Major
Seiminary in Detroit. He stated clearly that St. John the Evangelist
was the author of the fourth Gospel. He explained the difference in the
formal Greek of the first 20 chapters, as opposed to the informal, lower
form of Greek in chapter 21, could easily be explained that John
utilized a trained secretary for the first 20 chapters, but then later
added the 21st chapter by the aid of another secretary, or
perhaps he himself wrote it. Modern Popes today make wide use of
secretaries and other assistant writers in Their encyclicals.
So, after having written the first 20 chapters with
the assistance of his secretary who was highly skilled in formal Greek,
St. John could have become aware of the problem that the Greek's had
with their perception of wisdom. Since, John lived among the
Greeks this problem or challenge was to serious to be left unanswered.
So, it could be that St. John added 21st chapter later
even though the assistance of his skilled secretary was no longer
Second possible explanation
The reason why Saint John would switch from one style of Greek to
another in the final chapter is not obvious to everyone. Some serious
study of this issue is required. After an in-depth study we can see that
if Saint John, a single author, had not switched his style of
Greek in the final chapter he should have done so. It fits perfectly in
line with achieving what he states is his primary goal.
I have already written over 16 pages of study on this chapter 21 and it
is too much to copy and paste here. So, I will just list some key points
For the sake of conversation let us suppose this Gospel had one author.
Then we need to ask ourselves why would John switch styles ? Who was he
trying to affect or influence ? Most readers who only know Greek loosely
and not as a first language would not even recognize the difference.
Only someone steeped in Greek culture and language would have recognized
the difference. So, we need to ask how was John specifically trying to
influence them ? This leads us to investigate who these Greeks were. We
need to understand what they valued.
Irenaeus tells us that John the Apostle wrote this Gospel in the Greek
city of Ephesus.
( Irenaeus Against Heresies III.1.1)
This was one of the major cities of Macedonia. So, John’s was a
Gospel written in Greek to the Greek community to which John was
ministering and pastoring. So, it is natural to think he would have
appealed to their known strengths and all the while wanting to address
their weaknesses, especially the main stumbling block to their
As for their strength the Greeks were known and still are today for
their wisdom on the natural level. It was almost as if they worshipped
wisdom. They excelled so well in it.
… One of the most important characteristics of the Pythagorean order was
that it maintained that the pursuit of philosophical and mathematical
studies was a moral basis for the conduct of life. Indeed, the words
philosophy (love of wisdom) and mathematics (that which is learned) are
said to have been coined by Pythagoras.
Plato, Archimedes, Pythagoras, and Euclid ( Euclidean Geometry)
were all great ancient Greek mathematicians.
As for their weaknesses the New Testament tell us,
1 Corinthians 1:22-24
“For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we
proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and
foolishness to Gentiles, but … Christ the power of God and the
wisdom of God.” NAB
So, their strength on the natural level was wisdom, became an area
weakness on the supernatural level. Without the gift of faith the idea
that a perfect God dying for a sinful creation does sound like
foolishness. As their pastor this is the very issue John the Apostle
needs to address.
Just before the beginning of Chapter 21 – there were no chapter
divisions in the first hundreds of years of the Church – John tells us
his purpose for his Gospel.
“Now Jesus did many other signs … that are not written in this
31 But these are written that you may (come to) believe that
Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God…”
So, John is appealing to Greeks that are not yet Christians so that
they “may (come to) believe.”
We need to look from the perspective of the non-believing Greeks to
see what John was contending with. These non-believers would not be
approaching John’s Gospel from a humble Christian perspective of trying
to get closer to God. They esteemed wisdom and would have considered
themselves as the masters of wisdom. They probably would not have read
the Gospel for the purpose of becoming John’s disciples. Rather, as the
masters of wisdom they probably esteemed themselves as the experts who
knew or at least studied the wisdom from all the cultures with Judaism
and now this Christian “offshoot” as just as one of the many lessor
attempts to express wisdom throughout the world.
Presumably John would have written his Gospel in attempt to attract
their interests. The following notes are interesting.
“ … and the sayings of Jesus have been woven into long
discourses of a > quasi-poetic form resembling the speeches of
personified Wisdom in the
Introduction to John’s Gospel in the NAB Bible
So, it is quiet plausible that the Greeks would have considered
reading John’s Gospel not as students wanting to learn, but rather as
masters who were just monitoring a lessor’s work. As they were coming to
end of John’s final chapter they were probably gaining an egotistical
satisfaction of having consumed this “lessor” piece of wisdom and being
the masters of knowledge of all worldly wisdom. And.as reading sometimes
causes they might have been quiet relaxed as if in preparation for a
nice nap. But, then John changes the Greek style. This is a difference
they would have noticed. John is saying, “Wake up. This is important
John would have had good reasons for wanting to get his point in chapter
21 across by way of metaphor.
But, he needs to wake up his audience so they look for the hidden
meaning behind the metaphor. By switching his style of Greek in this
final chapter, John by analogy could be compared to a chauffeur who all
of the sudden drops the transmission into a lower gear and then
accelerates quickly pressing his passengers back into their seats. John
is alerting them so that they would pay closer attention so they would
uncover the meaning of his metaphor in Chapter 21.
All the early church fathers agreed that John was using “153 Fish” as a
special metaphor. But, the all disagreed as to what it actually meant.
See the hidden meaning of “153 Fish” in John 21.
I cannot copy and paste all 17 pages of text here, so just let me
highlight a few key points.
If I were to state the number 3.14 I can be sure that many of my readers
would automatically be thinking about Pi. Similarly, John would have
known, that his use of 153 would have automatically have brought into
the thoughts and minds of his Greek audience of AD 90 the idea of
wisdom. This is because these Greeks who prided themselves on wisdom
would have highly esteemed one of their greatest mathematicians of all
time, Archimedes. And his greatest work in terms of influence on others
was his work on a new method for calculating Pi. It is a very short
explanation on about two pages. It consists of only 10 equations and
extremely brief commentary. And the first nine of his equations all
ended with the number 153.
Archimedes Work on Pi
So, John switches his style of Greek to get the Greeks to pay special
attention to this final chapter. By appealing to their strength, natural
wisdom, he ministers to their stumbling block of thinking their wisdom
proves that the Gospel of Jesus to be “foolishness” (1 Corinthians
1:22-24). By using a gentle metaphor John gets around their pride to get
them to consider how Jesus is the source of “153 Fish”, He is the source
of all wisdom. The net does not tear that contains all 153 fish, all
wisdom, because there is no inconsistency, there is no contradiction
between the Greek’s natural wisdom and the wisdom of Jesus’ revelation.