Gospel of John – Introduction

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Author:
What is John 1:1 missing? John doesn’t identify himself in the opening of the Gospel. I guess you could say that he figured it wasn’t about him anyway. We do know that he wanted his reader to know that this Gospel was and is credible. He identifies himself as someone whose testimony is valid as a Palestinian Jew and eyewitness (John 1:14, 19:35) of the events that unfold in the Gospel of John.

External evidence in favor of John – Early church history attributes this to the apostle John most likely writing from Ephesus.

Internal evidence in favor of John – He never mentions himself by name but we do know that the author was of Jesus’ inner circle and most likely refers to himself as the “disciple Jesus loved” (John 21:7 – narrows this down to Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John or two other disciples). Interestingly enough James is also not referred to by name.

Purpose:
John 20:31 states the purpose very clearly: ““Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31But 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.”

  • This “purpose statement” contains two of the three most repeated words/themes in the Gospel of John.
  • John uses the word “believe” (98 times in John…3X more than the other Gospels combined).
  • John uses the word “life” 66 times, roughly equal to the total number of times it is used in the rest of the New Testament.
  • John uses the word “truth” 85 times which is more than in the rest of the New Testament combined.

Interesting features of the Gospel of John:

  • No parables. Instead John records many double entendre of Jesus where he uses a word or a phrase that has multiple meanings. That results in several misunderstandings among those Jesus is talking with (“born again” with Cornelius and “living water” with the Samaritan woman are two examples).
  • John doesn’t have any exorcisms.
  • John leaves out stories key to the other Gospels (Last supper, Jesus’ baptism, temptation in the wilderness, the messianic secret of Mark, Peter’s confession to name a few.
  • It is probably the case that the Gospel of John was the fourth written of the Gospels and so he took it a different direction with new themes, emphasis, and narrative.

Date:

  • I prefer a pre-70 date for this Gospel. I think that helps explain verses like John 5:2 that describes in the present tense something destroyed in 70 AD.  I am probably in the minority as most people I read put the date in the 80s.

Structure of John:

  • There are many creative structures you can place on the Gospel and find some backing for but I think simpler is better. The tried and true two-part division of John seems to work well. Part 1 – The Book of Signs (John 1:19-12:50) and Part 2 – The Book of Glory (John 13:1-20:31). For more on that see this link.

Audience:

  • His immediate audience were probably Ephesian Christians. That is what church history tells us. Obviously from John’s purpose statement mentioned above we today are included in his audience and the intended results of believing in Jesus ultimately resulting in having life in his name is just as valid for us as it was for them.

Last, I think it is important for us to regularly spend time reading the Gospels. There is nothing like walking with Jesus, putting his words in our hearts and minds and praying that God would use us to continue to spread the Gospel today. So I hope you will join me on a journey through the Gospel of John that I will periodically be  posting about over the coming months.

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