INTRODUCTION TO THE GOSPEL OF JOHN

When someone tells me that they wish to study the Bible for the very first time, I typically send them to the Gospel of John. It is a book that has equal value both to beginners as well as to those who have studied the Scriptures for a lifetime. It is at the very heart of the Scriptures.

 

AUTHOR

The author is not named in the book. Church tradition says that the author was the apostle John. It is noteworthy that the person of John is not mentioned by name within the Gospel account. When he is referenced, he is simply called "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7; 21:20).

 

THE DATE OF COMPOSITION

When was the Gospel of John penned? Our earliest manuscript evidence is the small manuscript fragment known as the Rylands Papyri (p52) that contains a portion of John 18 and has been dated to the early part of the second century.

A number of dates for the original composition of the Gospel of John have been suggested by scholars.

1. The Early Date.

In support of an early date of authorship prior to the A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem is the fact that Jerusalem and its Pool of Bethesda are described in the present tense: Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. (John 5:2).

The problem with this is that the Pool of Bethesda can still be seen in Jerusalem today, nearly 2000 years after the fall of Jerusalem and this statement could be accurately made today.

2. The Traditional Date.

Writing in the late 2nd century, Irenaeus comments on Revelation 13 and its reference to the number 666: We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitianís reign.

Domitian was assassinated on September 18, 96 A.D. This would place the writing of the book of Revelation shortly before that time.

Ignatius seems to quote from Johnís gospel on several occasions: John 3:8 in the Epistle to the Philadelphians in chapter 7, John 5:30 in the Magnesians, chapter 7, John 1:14 in the Ephesians, chapter 8 and John 20:27 in the Smyrneans chapter 3. This means that his Gospel was in sufficient circulation by A.D. 106 for the Bishop of Antioch (Ignatius) to have studied it.

 

PURPOSE OF THE GOSPEL ACCOUNT

The author states his reason for writing this account: Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:30-31).

It has been suggested that this double purpose forms an outline of the book:

1:1

1:19

12:1

20:1

Written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God...

...and that believing you may have life in His name

Prologue

Period of 3 years

Passion Week

Epilogue

Focus upon the ministry and miracles of Jesus

Focus upon Jesus teaching his disciples and the events of the death, burial & resurrection

Public Ministry

Private Ministry

John stresses the deity of Christ. Jesus is presented as the Son of God. This is not to say that the other gospel accounts do not speak of His deity, but John gives this a special emphasis.

John stands in contrast to the other three gospel accounts. They are described as the "Synoptics" because they are similar in ourlook. John is unique and different.

Matthew

Mark

Luke

John

Portrait of Jesus

King

Servant

Teacher

Son of God

Original readers

Jews

Romans?

Greeks

Church

Key phrase

Kingdom of heaven

Immediately

Son of man

Believe

Prominent sections

Sermons

Miracles

Parables

Teachings

Genealogy

Traced back to Abraham

None

Traced to Adam

None

Geographic Emphasis

Emphasis on the ministry of Jesus in Galilee

Ministry in Judea

Time Sequence

Only one Passover mentioned

3 Passovers

The first three Gospel accounts can be seen in contrast to the Gospel of John in a number of different areas.

Synoptic Gospels

Johnís Gospel

Emphasize the kingdom inheritance

Emphasizes eternal life inheritance

Relates many of the short sayings of Jesus

Gives more of the long discourses of Jesus

Emphasize future prophecy

Very little about future prophecy

John is silent about each of these events because they do not play a part in his major theme of presenting Jesus as the Son of God.

On the other hand, John is unique in telling us of...

Throughout the first portion of the book, there are seven signs that are presented. These miraculous signs are meant to show us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. The final and eighth sign is of the resurrection of Christ.

2:1-11

4:46-54

5:1-18

6:1-14

6:16-21

9:1-41

11:1-44

20:1-28

Water to wine

Son healed

Lame man at pool

Feeding of 5,000

Walking on water

Blind man healed

Lazarus raised

Christ raised

Seven selected signs

Supreme sign

We are meant to see these signs through the eyes of the disciples. They are said to be growing in their belief as they see the signs and we are meant to grow with them.

 


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