XLVIII. Later and more objective study finds John’s Gospel rooted in actual events, even if told in a unique style by John. It is evident that the author had precise and detailed knowledge of times and places in Jesus’ life. Some conjecture that John is intentionally countering Gnostic ideas by using them in presenting a very different reality in Jesus – Gnostic speculation corrected by the truth revealed in Christ. At any rate, a critical reading of John shows it is deeply grounded in Old Testament thought and ideas common in Judaism from Jesus’ time, and not in abstract Greek philosophy.
Pope Benedict reviews more recent scholarship that supports the claim already known in the second century that the author of this Gospel is John. He was the brother of James and a son of Zebedee, and known to the high priestly class in Jerusalem (probably through Zebedee, his father, the owner of a fishing business with hired hands and likely to have exercised in his turn a role in the Temple).
While such questions may seem fussy, they ultimately rest on the question of whether the Incarnation and Paschal Mystery really happened. Are these events in time that have transformed human history ever after, or merely abstract myths that present vague concepts restricted to how we think but unrelated to what actually occurred? St. Paul will address this question in his own writings: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty [too] is our preaching; empty, too, your faith. … If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all” (see I Cor. 15:13-19).