I have heard in some debates that the Gospel of John had some push back from people (Church Fathers?) from being included into the Canon.
Can someone shed some light on this topic? Or provide a book reference?
The pushback against the Gospel of John has been in force nearly from the beginnings of Christianity. It began with Marcion’s total rejection of the Book as too “Jewish”. Tertullian and others prevailed that it was part of the Christian Canon. Yet there remained that underlying feeling. Some focused on a key discrepancy between John and Matthew, Mark, and Luke. This dilemma surfaced in 155 between Asia Minor and Rome, at Nicea, and then at the Great Schism. It finally erupted again forcefully in the 19th century out from the Tubingen School of Theology.
This primary problem that led from outright rejection to included suspicion was the so-called “contradiction” between the Gospel of John and the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) over the day and date of the death of Christ. The Synoptics say Christ ate the Passover before His crucifixion (Matthew 26:17, Mark 14:12, Luke 22:15), while John states Passover is after His crucifixion (John 18:28).
Marcion taught about the year 144 CE in Rome. He emphatically tried to separate the old Jewish ideas from the new Christians ideas as he interpreted Pauline theology and the Passover. He rejected all of the Hebrew Bible and most of what we consider to be the 27 books of the New Testament writings. He excluded the Gospel of John as too “Jewish” for example. In his much abbreviated canon, he included some of Luke’s Gospel and 10 of the 13 Pauline epistles.
From about the same time, there arose a dispute in the Church over the “contradiction”. Asia Minor was following John’s chronology, while Rome was following the Synoptic timeline. This Passover argument surfaced first between Polycarp and Anicetus of Rome and then with Polycrates and Victor of Rome. Although they finally settled on the days and dates (Friday the 15th of Nisan) as the day of death at Nicaea, the issue, not being actually solved, bubbled along under the surface. They had succeeded in enforcing a view, but were not able to solve the riddle of the contradiction. It was the contributing cause to the schism in 1054.
While Marcion’s heresy and canon came and went in its season, the Tubingen teaching has been more pernicious, pervasive, and problematic. After all, by this time, we had found out that the emperor had no clothes on. Everyone can read and interpret the Gospels, note the contradictions, and come to so-called solutions. Eventually this one book challenge morphed into the modern era of questioning the veracity and inerrancy of the Bible as a whole.
We could have seen it coming. How can truth contradict itself? The founding professor of the Tubingen School was F.C. Baur a German Protestant. His two primary pupils were Adolf Hilgenfeld and Albert Schwegler. They too were perplexed about the contradiction so-called about the historic Passover events. Did Christ use leavened or unleavened bread? Unable to reconcile the problem, their solution was to question the authenticity of the Gospel of John.
To be clear, unlike Marcion at the beginning, the Tubingen argument did not form around whether the Gospel of John should or should not be in the Canon, but it was directed rather at its author; that is, they taught that the Gospel of John was not and could not have been written by John the Apostle of Christ. It was a later, idealized tome written by someone unknown.
How does one reconcile this foundational, yet persistently divisive teaching? For those at Nicea, it was to use Constantine as the enforcer of one’s view. Doesn’t matter what John the Apostle taught. At the Great Schism, mutual anathemas were pronounced. Doesn’t matter what the other taught. For the Tubingen School, it was to explain that the Gospel of John was not written by the eyewitness Apostle John, but rather later by an unknown someone in order to spiritualize the meanings of Passover as fulfilled in Christ.
Suffice to say that no solution, including ridding our Canon of John or undermining the Biblical eyewitness accounts, has been satisfactorily presented, but this is not to say one does not yet exist.
The problem of the Gospel of John lies in its supposed contradictions from the Synoptic Gospels over precisely when Christ observed the Passover and died and was thus resurrected. To the OP, yes some have tried to exclude the book. Others essentially “exclude” the parts beyond their understanding. Others dismiss it as a later interpolation to explain spiritual matters, rather than view it as a recording of historical actual events.
For some others, we view the author as an historic eyewitness to the Last Supper (aka Passover).