Gospel of John
The Gospel of John is the only non-synoptic gospel of the canon and is a gospel that plainly and boldly conveys Jesus’ as deity. The author believed to have written it is himself a theologian and eyewitness to the life and events of Jesus, and has written it as it was presented to a largely Jewish community. The author’s writing style and vocabulary conceals great depth and encourages study and reflection. It is widely held that the Apostle John is indeed the author, this based in part on external evidences by Polycarp. Consequently, we must consider also the issue concerning authorship to be the identification “the beloved disciple”. Frequent use of this term (i.e. John 13:23-25, 19:26-27, 20:2-9) we understand to be making reference to the Apostle John, and within this same text John 21:24-25 identifies him as the one who “wrote these things”. Through a logical process of elimination, most scholars concur that this gospel was in fact written by the former ‘son of thunder’. His father’s name was Zebedee, whose business was fishing in the Sea of Galilee. He seems to have been in comfortable circumstances, for he owned a boat and employed men to assist him (Matthew. 4:21; Mark. 1:20), and Salome (“Peace”), his wife, the mother of John, was one of the band of women who ministered to Jesus (Mark. 15:40; 16:1).
His birthplace and early home was Bethsaida (House of Fish, Fishtown), on the northern shore of the lake, near where the Jordan flows into it; or perhaps Capernaum. Business led them often to be at Capernaum, the populous commercial emporium (Luke. 5:10; John. 1:44). It would be in Capernaum, while fishing with their father, that Jesus would call both James and John to follow Him.
This gospel was in all probability written within the last fifteen years of the first century. If indeed John the Apostle is the writer, then this gospel joins his other writings of the three epistles, and the Revelation. In five New Testament books the Holy Spirit inspired John to write the word “love” (‘agape’), one hundred and one times. It is no wonder that John is called “the apostle of love.” Love is the greatest word in existence (1 Corinthians. 13:13; 1 John. 4:8, 16); the most difficult, most divine, most manly and virile. All his writings were evidently written in the last ten or so years of his life (85B.C. – 100B.C.).
The Apostle John delves right into the pre-existence and incarnation of Jesus as the word of God (John 1:1-18). The Gospel of John also develops a Christology that is unique from the other Gospels. One of the overriding themes throughout the New Testament is that Jesus is the Messiah. Immediately he identifies Jesus as having always been even from the beginning, before the world began. John says “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31). Eusebius (First historian of Christianity after Luke) argued that John wrote in order to complement the Synoptics where they were lacking, while the Muratorian Canon suggested that his fellow disciples in Asia Minor urged him to write an account. In either case, we have supporting historical evidence that the Apostle John is the author. Additionally, it is clear that the chief aim was to encourage faith among its readers. This must signify that the work was designed as an evangelistic instrument. Obviously, John offers no genealogy for his central character, Jesus. Even the casual reader can interpret from the text that the rationale for this absence is because deity has none. Its truth and teachings are not limited to those of Jewish faith but to the world. Readers today ought not to be quick in identifying the books language with today’s culture, though all its content and truths are timeless.
Someone once compared the Fourth Gospel to a pool of water, so shallow at the edges that a child could wade, and yet so deep at the center that an elephant could swim. This is a fitting illustration because the Gospel of John is easy to comprehend at the surface, but has a depth that scholars who have spent their entire lives in the study of it have not fully exhausted.
A derived emphasis seems to be on the miraculous works of Jesus, further identifying His divine origin. The Gospel in total supplements the Synoptic gospels with an emphasis on the Judean ministry of Jesus. Uniquely, this gospel contains no parables, although metaphoric stories, like John 15, are still found in the gospel.
Some of the key verses found in the writing are “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1,14). “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'” (John 1:29).
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent'” (John 6:29). “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28). “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?'”(John 11:25-26). “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me'” (John 14:6). “Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, “Show us the Father”?'” (John 14:9). “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17).
“So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit” (John 19:30). “Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed'” (John 20:29).
The reader is compelled to consider some of the miraculous works witnessed by John and how these influenced his reader’s belief. Initially, he introduces the turning of water into wine (2:1), an event not mentioned in the synoptic gospels. Here Jesus and his disciples are in attendance of a wedding in Cana, where the hosts run out of wine. Jesus’ (unnamed) mother asks him to help with a miracle. He does perform the miracle of turning water into wine which the guests call the best wine.
Following, John unfolds an, by finite measure, much larger miracle of feeding more than five thousand people with only five loaves and two fish. Theatrical it may sound, but John colorfully tells how Jesus asked the rhetorical question “where shall we buy bread that these may eat?” One could only imagine the personal grief and exhibition of jovial kindness as Jesus watched his closest followers scramble in bewilderment and skepticism. Afterward Andrew would come announcing that five loaves and two fish were found in the hands of a lad, from whom Jesus would take and multiple greatly to feed the many thousands. When everyone was filled, his disciples gathered enough fragments to fill twelve baskets full. The smallest of things matter to Him.
The supernatural occurrences continued as Jesus bore evidence of His divine power; surpassing his act of walking on water He actually raised a man from the dead! Yes, a man named Lazarus who lived in the town of Bethany, fell ill and died. It would be four days before Jesus arrived to find Lazarus deceased and four days buried. But, what is four days to a man who turned water into wine, walked on water and feed over five thousand with only five loaves and two fish. He had the men roll the stone from the opening of the tomb, and with the authority of heaven and earth commanded Lazarus to come out! Amazingly, he did, still wrapped in his grave clothes!
This was astounding, this had never been seen before, and actually this had never been done before. Yet, John includes too the sad reaction by a number of witnesses and their parting to enlighten the Pharisees.
What mind can fathom a demonstration of power and authority above that of bringing another back from the dead? John, as does the synoptic gospels, gives an unequivocal portrayal of the trail, mistreatment, and crucifixion of this Jesus. Eyewitnesses, reporting detail that our minds can not grasp as bearable. Jesus experienced and endured the cross for a solitary purpose, to seek and save that which was lost. His Father, accepting His Son as the willing sacrifice, raised Him up after three days in the tomb. Our author waste no time conveying to his readers that this same Jesus, who was crucified and resurrected, has revealed himself to many people in the days and weeks following. One of the most notable persons to whom Jesus showed himself was the Apostle Thomas, the very man that John’s gospel gave personality to beyond his mere name (“Doubting Thomas”, 20:27). Maybe scarcely noticeable to the new convert, but this gospel has no apocalyptic teachings, stories of Satan, demonic or exorcisms. It seems to rest solely upon the pillars of Jesus’ deity, His love, sacrifice, and ultimate resurrection.
One of the earliest known manuscripts of the New Testament is a fragment from John. A scrap of papyrus discovered in Egypt in 1920, now at the John Rylands Library, Manchester, bears parts of John 18:31-33 on one side and 18:37-38 on the other. If C. F. Roberts is correct, it is dated to the first half of the second century and ranks as the earliest known fragment of the New Testament in any language.
One can only read the gospel and find within its scripture an eye witness account of the greatest deity, only perfect man that ever lived, and most abundant love the world ever saw. We know from the Gospels the destiny of Jesus, but what about the fate of our author, John?
According to John’s Gospel (John 19:26-27), it was probably John who took Mary, the mother of Jesus as his adopted mother. He preached in Jerusalem, and later, as bishop of Ephesus, south of Izmir in western Turkey, worked among the churches of Asia Minor. During the reigns of either Emperor Nero (AD54-68) or Domitian (AD81-96), he was banished to the nearby island of Patmos, now one of the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. He was subsequently freed and died a natural death at Ephesus c AD100.