Class Presentation on John 21
Back to Post-Resurrection Appearance Stories

Outline of John, chapter 21
1 Introduction of revelation
2 The players
3 Fishing expedition at night
3-6 Jesus appears and tells them to cast the net on the right side
7 Eager Peter makes his declaration and jumps
7-11 Bring boat in and fish
11-14 Breakfast is served, Jesus reveals self
14-19 Feed and tend the sheep
19-23 Questions about the disciple Jesus loved
23-25 Who is writing and statement regarding Jesus deeds.

Authorship – The Gospel of John (SC)

Kummel: Originally this the Gospel of John was attributed to John, the Son of Zebedee, a disciple and an eyewitness. But soon this became doubtful to many scholars. Caius, a Roman presbyter, said the Gospel of John and the Revelation to John were related to the gnostic named Cerinthus. Kummel claims that the aim of the gospel is not at non-believers, as may be assumed, but to strengthen the faith of believers and to distinguish Jesus from other contemporary savior figures. From the text, we must assume that it is connected to this "Beloved Disciple", but that we can't know who that was. The author named his informant as a Palestinian Christian. Some suppose the author was a Jew because of the place names he mentions in Palestine, but Kummel says these may be from a tradition among the early Christians handed down. Finally, Kummel claims that if the author was a Jew, he may have been a member of a gnosticizing group. Kummel also claims that due to style variants, chapter 21 is a later supplement to the gospel.

John 21: 1-3 (CB)

I. Acquaintance

A. Comparison of English translations

Revised Standard Version New International Version The Message 1. After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he revealed himself in this way. (RSV) Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: (NIV) After this, Jesus appeared again to the disciples, this time at the Tiberias Sea (the Sea of Galilee). This is how he did it: (Message)

2. Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. (RSV) Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. (NIV) Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed "Twin"), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the brothers Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. (Message)

3. Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you." They went out and got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing. (RSV) "I'm going out to fish," Simon Peter told them, and they said, "We'll go with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. (NIV) Simon Peter announced, "I'm going fishing." The rest of them replied, "We're going with you." They went out and got in the boat. They caught nothing that night. (Message)

C. Rough Translation -

1. After these he showed himself again the Jesus to the disciples on the Sea of Tiberias; he showed but in this way. 2. Were together Simon Peter and Thomas the one being called Didymus (proper name meaning "twin") and Nathanael the one from Cana of the Galilee and the ones of the Zebedee and two others from the disciples of him. 3. He says to them Simon Peter, "I go (off) fish." They say to him "Go also we with you." They went out and got in into the boat and in that the night they caught nothing.

II. Disposition

A. Genre: Appearance story

B. Personal Interaction - Questions and observations.

Why did the author tell us about Thomas' name "Didymus"? Why didn't he just call him Thomas or Didymus or the Twin?

Why did the author call John and James the "son's of Zebedee" instead of naming them?

Why didn't we get the names of the "other two" disciples?

It seemed strange to me that Peter announced, "I'm going fishing." Was it usual for fishermen to fish in the nighttime? Was Peter bored? Was he just going to work again?

How did they fish in the dark? Did they use torches? Was it a dangerous endeavor to fish when it was dark? Was the moon out?

Why did everyone else decide to go with Peter? Could Peter have fished alone?

III. Composition

A. Immediate Context -

- Our text refers us to John 6:1 where we find Jesus preaching at the Sea of Galilee.

- We are referred to John 11:16 where we find Thomas being called Didymus.

- In John 1:45-49 we find out Nathanael is Philip's friend. Jesus tells him of his conversation with Philip and says that he will see even greater things.

- In Matthew 4:21 we find Jesus calling James and John the son's of Zebedee into ministry.

- In Luke 5:5 we have Simon after a unsuccessful night of fishing, Jesus tells him to let his nets out.

- The text immediately before my pericope is the end of Chapter 20 where we find Jesus showing up and proving to Thomas his "realness". It ends much like the end of Chapter 21 saying that Jesus did many other things that Jesus did and these things were written that we may believe.

- The text immediately after my pericope is when Simon and the others put out their nets again because of the directions of "one" standing on the bank and they finally recognized Jesus.

John 21:4-6 (TB)

Step IA. Comparison of Translation

Reading three versions (NRSV, NIV, The Message) of John 21:4-6, one discovers similarities and differences between words presented in the different texts. Verse 4 …the disciples did not know that it was Jesus (NRSV) …the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus (NIV) …they didn't recognize him. (Message)

Verse 5 "Children, you have no fish, have you?" (NRSV) "Friends, haven't you any fish?" (NIV) "Good Morning! Did you catch anything for breakfast?" (Message)

Verse 6 "Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some." (NRSV) "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." (NIV) "Throw the net off the right side of the boat and see what happens" (Message)

Step IB. Textual Criticism

Step IB1. External Evidence

In John 21:4 the word ginomenas is witnessed in the Nestle text as a variant to aideisan. The genetive feminine singular present middle passive participle "knowing of" is supported by four major sources of the Alexandrian family and others. Ginomenas even appeared in the Nestle 25th editon. However, aideisan, is supported by five major sources of the Alexandrian family and therefore is used.

Examination of external evidence in the textual apparatus of John 21:4 is required to determine the insertion or exclusion of egnosan, a third person plural aorist active indicative which means "they knew." The insertion of egnosan is witnessed by the Papyri 66, three Alexandrian witnesses, and other varius manuscripts. Although egnosan is witnessed by several reliable sources, the text maintains the use of aydeisan, which means to know someone by something or to have perception about someone.

Step IB2. Internal Evidence

In the Nestle text, John 21:6 has witnesses cited from the Papyri 66, Alexandrian 1 and other manuscripts to include the insertion of the verse, "But they said, ‘The whole night we labored and we caught nothing, but because the word of you, we were casting."

Using internal evidence, there appears to be a split, however not a major one in the Alexandrian family. If a question remains over originality, one considers using lectio brevior to accept the shorter reading of the text. This method supports the exclusion of the verse from Luke 5:5 by its supporting texts.

Step C. Rough Translation

4) Now morning having come, Jesus stood on the shore, the disciples had not realized that it is Jesus. 5) So, Jesus says to them, "Children, y'all have not any fish?" 6) And He said to them, "Deposit to the right side of the boat the fishing net, and y'all will discover. Therefore they deposited it and no longer strong enough to haul it because of the quantity of fish.

Step II. Disposition

A. Genre- Resurrection and Appearance

B. Personal Interaction-

Did the disciples not recognize Jesus in the same way that they had not recognized him when he called them in Luke 5?
Would it take the same miracle for Peter to recognize him?

How could they not have noticed Him?

Had they lost their faith, their vision of Jesus and their vision of what Jesus had commissioned them to do?

Would they merely return to their old business?

Why would Jesus repeat this miracle?

Step III Composition

A. Immediate Context- The verses preceding these verses set up the pericope, informing the reader who the disciples are and what they are doing. The following verses reunite Peter to the Lord.

John 21:7-10 (DAC)

Step I - Acquaintance


9 When they got out on the land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread. (RSV) So when the got out on the land, they saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it and bread. (NAS) When they got out of the boat, they saw a fire laid, with fish and bread cooking on it. (Message)

The only verse I saw where there was that seemed to be a struggle for the translators was verse 9, and it did not seem too significant.

Textual Criticism:

Nothing of import.

Rough Translation:

(7) Therefore that disciple whom Jesus was loving says to Peter: "It is the Lord." Now Simon Peter, having heard that it is the Lord, girded himself by means of an outer garment, for he was naked, and he cast himself into the sea. (8) But the other disciples went in the boat, for they were not far away from the land, about 200 cubits, dragging along the casting net of the fish. (9) Therefore, thus they disembarked into the land seeing a heap of charcoal (hot embers) laying and (cooked) fish placed upon the embers and bread. (10) Jesus says to them: "Bring from the fish you all have pressed upon now."

Step II - Disposition


First off, if Peter is naked or "stripped" (whatever that means) for work, why would he put clothes on to immediately toss himself into the water?
Where did Jesus get the bread and the fish to cook? Why is he preparing a meal for them? Is John trying to stress the resurrected body being both different and the same? Appears from nowhere but needs/seeks nourishment?
This section of John is very much like Luke 5:4-7, which is not a resurrection story at all. What is going on here?

John 21: 11-14 (SC)

Initial Acquaintance:

Comparison: RSV:

v 11 “went aboard and hauled”
v 12 “Come and have breakfast”
v 14 “This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead”


v 11 “climbed aboard and dragged”
v 12 “Come and have breakfast”
v 14 “This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.”

v 11 “got into the boat and hauled”
v 12 "Come and have your breakfast."
v 14 “This is already the third time that Jesus showed himself to his disciples after his resurrection from the dead.”

Text Criticism:

Verse 13: euxaristeisas edoken instead of kai didosin in 5 non-Alexandrian texts. Basically, changes, “and he gives” to, “giving thanks, he gave”. While this is a significant change, it is not well supported at all.

Verse 14: de added between touto and ede in three Alexandrian sources. Changes “This now” to This but now”. Not highly significant, but somewhat well supported. Also, auto added after matheitais in one Alexandrian source along with several others. Changes “to the disciples” to “to the disciples of him.” Interesting because NIV has “his disciples.”

Rough Translation:

11 Went up then Simon Peter and he/she/it drew the fishing net into the land full of fish large, one hundred fifty three. And so much being not split the fishing net. 12 Says to them Jesus, “Come, eat breakfast.” But no one dares of the disciples to ask him, “You who are?” They had known that the Lord he/she/it is. 13 Comes Jesus and he/she/it takes the bread and gives tot hem and the fish in the same way. 14 This now a third time (it was) made known Jesus to the disciples he was being raised up out of death.



Obviously, this is part of the appearance story genre. It may also be connected to similar stories about loaves and fishes.

Personal Interaction:

1. Did Simon Peter get into the boat as many versions suppose and translate? Why is he the focus disciple of the pericope?

2. Is it important that the net was not split? Why are we told that information? Is it just to show that the fish were actually caught? Were 153 large fish usually sufficient to break a net?

3. Were the disciples afraid to confirm who Jesus was? Why?

4. Was the insertion about giving thanks in some versions because of the Pauline tradition of the last supper? Did Jesus cook the fish?


Immediate Context:

The preceding pericope is the fishing story about the net being too heavy after the resurrected Jesus gave the fishermen advise. Fish seem to be a continuing theme. The following pericope is the story about Jesus questioning Peter and telling him to feed his sheep. Eating also seems to be a connecting theme.

John 21: 15-17 (MHO)

John 21: 15-17


             Acquaintance: The Text:

a. Comparison of Translations:

                         NRSV                                      NJB                                          REB

V.  15

             they had finished breakfast              When they had eaten                 After breakfast



             tend my sheep                                 Look after my sheep                 tend my sheep


b. Textual Variants


v. 15 ‘Iwannou is sometimes replaces by the name Iwna, Some strong ancient witnesses cite this last name: A, C2, Q, Sinaiticus and others.

       v. 16 ta arnia has a variant using probata instead, attested by C, D it. Kai legei autw, legei is replaced in some other witnesses by eipon, attested by B, C, f13, Sinaiticus, A, D, W, Q, Y etc.


v. 17 [o Ihsous] According to Nestle-Alan, the nominative singular ‘Jesus’ seems doubtful to belong in this place. It seems a later explanatory addition.


Apart from the variants cited above, there is no major textual critical problems in these three verses.


b. Rough Translation


v.15 When they had broken the fast, to Simon Peter, Jesus (asked):

Simon, of Jonah, do you love (agapaj) me more (than) these?

Yes, Lord, you know that I love (filw) you.

He says to him, Feed the lambs of me.


v.16 He says to him again secondly, Simon of Jonah, do you love (agapaj) me? He says to him, Yes, Lord, You know that I love (filw) you.

He says to him, Shepherd the sheep of me.


v.17 He says to him, thirdly, Simon of Jonah do you love fileij me? was hurt Peter that he said to him thirdly, do you love (fileij) me?

And he said to him, Lord, you all things know, you know that I love you. He said, feed the sheep of me.

II. Disposition


a.  Genre and how the text says what it say?


These three verses are a unit of question-response alignment. The question that

comes up immediately is three folded, and then the answer is also three folded, why three?

3 questions                    love-love-love
3 answers                     love-love-love
3 commissions               feed-shepherd-feed


As part of an appearance story, we must remark that the text presents the resurrected Lord questioning Peter. So, this is particularly important because there is obviously a great difference between being questioned by someone whom you know is among the living, to being questioned by someone who has defeated death, and moreover, whom you somehow betrayed before his death.


b.  Questions:


Is this question-answer dialogue an assurance for Peter who denied Jesus three times?


According to the way the questioning goes, the third time Peter hears the questions, he feels hurt, in Greek the word is eluphqh, meaning that he “grieved” over the third question, why? Was it because Jesus had a doubt in his face/tone of voice? Was it that Peter was reminded of how low he had gone when he denied the Master that once before he swore to defend with his life? Was it that the Greek word are not really exchangeable in meaning and that when Jesus used fileo instead of agape, Peter felt the reproach in the most intimate part of his soul?

Are the commands that Jesus gives to Peter a commissioning to have a special role in the birth and development of the Christian community, kind of a special leadership? Or is it perhaps a compelling way to call people to ministry in the early church? Is it just cheap legendary stuff, propaganda of the Petrine community, which felt especially drawn to Peter for ecclesiastic supremacy in the early church over against other minority groups?



John 21: 18-20 (DJS)

English Bible Comparison of John 21:18-20

                      NIV                       NKJV                     NASB

18 I tell you truth                             Most assuredly, I say to     Truly, truly, I say to you you

19      Jesus said this to indicate    This He spoke, signifying         Now this He said,
            the kind of death by which  by what death he would            signifying by what kind of
            Peter would glorify God.     glorify God.                            death he would glorify
20      This was the one who had
,    who also had leaned on          ; the one who also had
            leaned back                                                                             leaned back on



Text Critical

In verse 18, allos se zwsei (another will dress you) and alloi se zwsousin[1] (others dressing you) are there. In NIV NKJV, and NASB, will dress you and will gird you were used. And oiser opou (he or she will bring where), apoisousin se op (carrying you where), and poihsousin (performing or leading to you) are used. But generally three versions uses future tense and accusative of you like will bring or will carry you.



Rough Translation

18: Truly I say to you, when you were young, you dressed yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and bring where you do not wish.


19: Jesus said this, indicating what death would glorify God. And, having spoken, He said to him, “Follow me.”


20: Peter, having been turned around (Epistrofeij), saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned His chest at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays you?”



1) Did Peter really understand what Jesus said in 18?

2) What kind of death was Jesus talked about? Crucifixion or other?

3) Who was the one who had leaned? If we can know who he was, how come?

4) After Jesus said, “Follow me,” Peter did not respond anything for it. “Yes” or “No?”



[1] Present Active Participle (Dative Masculine Plural)

John 21: 21-24 (SS)

Comparison of translations:

RSV NIV Message V21 Saw him…Lord, what about this man? (RSV) Saw him…Lord, what about him? (NIV) Noticed him…Master, what’s going to happen to him? (Message)

V22 If it is my will that he remain until I come…Follow me! (RSV) If I want him to remain alive until I return…You must follow me. (NIV) If I want him to live until I come again…You-follow me. (Message)

V23 The saying spread… (RSV) Because of this, the rumor spread… (NIV) That is how the rumor got out… (Message)

V24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness… (RSV) This is the disciple who testifies to these things… (NIV) This is the same disciple who was eyewitness to all these things… (Message)

V24 His testimony is true. (RSV) His testimony is true. (NIV) His eyewitness account is reliable and accurate. (Message)

Textual Criticism:

Verse 25: Some manuscripts omit this verse. The text has cwrhsai -aorist active infinitive. Several sources use cwrhsein-present active infinitive. Present infinitive refers to the action in its continuance or as repeated. Aorist infinitive doesn’t refer to the action in such a way. Hard to bring out distinction in English translation. Note at end of verse 25 referencing John 7:53-8:11 which is also omitted from some manuscripts. What does this mean?

Rough translation:

Peter, after having seen this one/him says to Jesus, “Lord, and/but what about this man?” Jesus says to him, “If him I want to remain until I come, what (is that) to you? You follow me.” Therefore/then/thus this one, the saying/word to the brothered ones that that disciple not die. But Jesus did not say to him that he/she/it not die but, ”If him I want to remain until I come, what (is that) to you?” This is the disciple, the one testifying about these things and/even/also the one having written these things. And we know that true the testimony of him is. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they are written one by one, I think not the world itself to have room for the books being written.


Why was Peter concerned about “the disciple whom Jesus loved”? Where were Peter and Jesus going…verse 20-Peter sees the disciple following them and verse 21-Peter sees “this one”?

Who is the “disciple whom Jesus loved”? Are the “disciple whom Jesus loved” and “this disciple” in verse 24 the same person?

How do we know his testimony is true?

Does verse 25 leave the door open for other written and/or verbal sources of things Jesus did?

Who is the “we” in verse 24? Who is the “I” in verse 25? Do these refer to the author/authors of this gospel?

How do verses 24 and 25 fit into the text? Verse 25 is similar to John 20:30. Could the gospel of John ended with chapter 20? If so, what is the purpose of chapter 21?

So, here ends the gospel of John?

Cross section:

In verse 23: reference to Philippians 1:25 “Convinced of this I know that I will remain…” Can remain mean more than just physically? What about remaining with them in spirit?

In verse 24: reference to John 19:35 which says, “The man who saw it [the crucifixion] has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.” Is this man the “disciple whom Jesus loved”?