So says Ben Witherington III in Making a Meal of It. In under 20 pages, he makes an almost-airtight case that Jesus’ resurrected friend is the ‘Beloved Disciple.’ BWIII does so in a way that makes sense of the vastly different setting & stories of Jesus told in this gospel (versus the Synoptics), and second-century disputes about authorship. The first act of John culminates in the transformation of Lazarus, Witherington writes. The second act culminates – of course – with the transformation of Jesus. Jesus is at his most cosmic, powerful, and otherworldly, precisely because his story is told here by a friend who’d been raised from the dead – Lazarus proved to be a capable writer but one unable to have the mystery and under-statedness of, say, Mark’s gospel in its ambiguities regarding Jesus’ Messiahship. John of Patmos (not the same as John of Zebedee in the gospels) is then the editor of this work, adding the postscript about the Beloved Disciple’s death – a death that wouldn’t be expected to happen to a man raised from the dead ‘until Jesus comes.’
Showing Lazarus’ authorship of John isn’t why Dr. Ben writes Making a Meal of It, nor is it why I’m reading it. Nonetheless, its a segue that is alone worth the price of the book. Check it out!
PS: Though I haven’t read it yet, I can only imagine that this idea is the central plot device of Ben and Ann Witherington’s recently-released novel The Lazarus Effect, which Anne Rice describes as “Set against the intense, exotic, and vivid backdrop of modern Israel, yet delving into the deepest mysteries of the time of Christ, The Lazarus Effect won’t fail to entertain and inform. Highly recommended.”