Hugo Grotius on John 21

In my previous post on the twenty-first chapter of the Gospel According to John, I noted that the hypothesis that chapter 21 is a later addition to the gospel goes back at least to Julius Wellhausen’s 1908 commentary.  I’m grateful to Dexter Brown of Yale University for pointing out to me that the hypothesis in fact goes back (much!) earlier–at least to the 1641 edition of the Annotationes of Hugo Grotius. According to Grotius, chapter 21 was added after the death of John by the church of Ephesus. Grotius makes the point in one of his notes on John 20:30:

     πολλὰ μὲν οὖν καὶ ἄλλα σημεῖα] Omnino arbitror quae hic sequuntur conclusionem esse totius operis et ibi finisse Iohannem librum quem edidit. At sicut caput ultimum Pentateuchi et caput ultimum Iosuae post Mosis et Iosuae mortem additum est à Synedrio Hebraeorum, ita et caput quod sequitur post mortem Iohannis additum ab Ecclesia Ephesina, hoc maxime fine, ut ostenderetur impletum quod de longae vitate ac non violenta morte Iohannis Dominus praedixerat. Caetera autem quae in eo capite narrantur, addita ad demonstrandum tempus, locum et occasionem illius oraculi. Argumento est quod in fine capitis clausula huic similis repetitur, et quidem hoc modo: oἴδαμεν ὅτι ἀληθὴς ἐστίν ἡ μαρτυρία αὐτοῦ, quibus verbis Ecclesia ostendit se de supra positis à Iohanne, et de his etiam quae ex privatis ipsius commentariis erant depromta minime dubitare, cum alioqui si Iohannes hoc scripsisset, dicturus fuisset ut supra, κᾀκεῖνος οἶδεν ὅτι ἀληθῆ λέγει, XIX, 35.

It makes me wonder if any medieval commentators would have reached similar conclusions. Again, if anyone has knowledge of earlier attestations of this hypothesis, I would love to learn about them.

Grotius Annotationes 1641

Hugo Grotius, Annotationes in Libros Evangeliorum. Cum tribus tractatibus et Appendice eo spectanibus (Amsterdam: Ioh. & Cornelium Blaeu, 1641)



This entry was posted in New Testament. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Hugo Grotius on John 21

  1. Pingback: The Twenty-first Chapter of the Gospel According to John | Variant Readings

  2. Jeff Cate says:

    Jan Krans and others in Amsterdam have compiled a massive (virtually exhaustive) database of NT conjectures. It’s accessible in the VMR of the INTF at

    For John 21, they list Grotius as one of the earliest for the conjectured absence of Jn 21… but it looks like Juan de Marina (1619) might be earlier… but they list and cite Grotius (1641) first chronologically. (Not sure why.) And they list at least a couple dozen others prior to Wellhausen, many in the 17th & 18th centuries, including Richard Simon, John Mill, J. J. Wettstein, F. C. Baur, etc.

    • Thanks, Jeff! This is fantastic! I feel silly now for not having checked the database, but now that I think of it, I never considered a 20-chapter version of John a “conjectural reading,” although that is perfectly sound designation. It goes to show how “stuck” my own thinking still is in the artificial division between redaction criticism and textual criticism. Thanks again.

  3. Pingback: John 21 in the Amsterdam Database of New Testament Conjectural Emendation | Variant Readings

  4. Jeff Cate says:

    I’ve been following your posts on this subject and find your discussions fascinating… ever since you presented what you did last year at SBL on Jn 21 and the Bodmer evidence. And I never thought to look at the database until you mentioned Grotius. It really is an amazing and helpful tool which the good people in Amsterdam have built. Really helps us reconstruct the history of interpretation.

  5. Jan Krans says:

    Thanks, Jeff and Brent, for the nice words about our Amsterdam project.
    We try to distinguish between source criticism and textual criticism as fas as possible, but we know too well – even without Larsen – that any neat distinction tends to rapidly become artificial. Still, when someone writes about “the sources of the fourth gospel” we tend to exclude such research from the database (or use it as illustration), whereas a publication about “interpolations” usually gets our full attention. Indeed, many authors aspire to separate redactional activity by the gospel writer from later interventions, on whatever shaky ground we may now think that such judgments stand.
    Thus, for instance, Wendt (1886) sees the addition of ὕδατος καί in John 3:5 ( as “ein Zusatz des Evangelisten,” while Lake (1904) attributes it to the “early church”; in such as case, Lake makes a conjectural emendation, but Wendt does not, though he has to count as a “precursor” (BTW there are other, even earlier authors for this specific conjecture).
    In the case of John 21:1–25 (, de Mariana (1619) assumes that the gospel writer added chapter 21, whereas Grotius (1641) clearly distinguishes between the gospel writer, who wrote chapters 1–20, and the “Ephesian church” that added chapter 21. For this reason we have listed de Mariana as precursor and Grotius as author of the conjecture.

  6. Pingback: The RBL Review of my Book « The Jesus Memoirs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s