Gospel of John – Introduction

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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.

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.


  • 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.


  • 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.

4 Responses

  1. I stumbled upon a book on the internet one night while researching for a bible lesson titled The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved, by J. Phillips. It can be viewed on the internet at http://www.thedisciplewhomjesusloved.com. Phillips makes an argument that our belief that the Apostle John wrote the fourth gospel is mainly driven by early church history (as you mention in your blog), but that if we were to try to identity the author based solely on the evidence contained in the Bible that we would not come to that conclusion . . . that in fact we would determine that it could not have been the Apostle John. I have not studied the subject thoroughly, but Phillips’ arguments are interesting. Each point he makes does not by itself prove authorship. But in total, his arguments seem convincing. He makes a case for Lazarus being the author.

    Let me give you a summary of two of his arguments.
    1. John 20:8 states that the “disciple whom Jesus loved” saw and believed. Note that this is the first person the Bible states who saw and believed that Jesus had risen from the dead. This was immediately after racing Peter to the tomb and seeing the sight of the strips of linen lying in the tomb as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head which was folded by itself separate from the linen. Phillips makes the point that the disciple instantly knew Jesus had arisen from the dead . . . because the disciple had experienced it himself. The linen cloth that had been placed around his own head had also been removed when he was raised from the dead . . . at the voice of Jesus. In John chapter 11 Jesus calls for Lazarus to come out of the tomb. John 11:44 states “The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” Lazarus would have believed that the one who raised him from the tomb could also raise himself from the tomb. He saw the cloth that had been around Jesus’ face folded and laid separate from the other linen pieces . . . and he believed because . . . he had seen it before . . . it was a familiar verse.

    2. As noted above, the disciple whom Jesus loved was the first believer . . . the first person the Bible records believing that Jesus had risen from the dead. Mark 16:14 states: “Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating: he rebuked them for their lake of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.” Phillips makes the point that since the Apostle John was one of the Eleven . . . who did not believe until they saw Jesus in person . . . the Apostle John could not have been the disciple who saw and believed earlier in the tomb . . . even without seeing our risen Lord.

    Has anyone seen these arguments before? Does anyone know of any discussion of these arguments that can be referenced on the internet? Matt, do you know of anything? Have these arguments been laughed at, and I am the last to know. Thanks Matt.

  2. Are our pastors telling us the truth?

    Are Christian pastors honest with their congregations regarding the evidence for the Resurrection? Is there really a “mountain of evidence” for the Resurrection as our pastors claim or is the belief in the Resurrection based on nothing more than assumptions, second century hearsay, superstitions, and giant leaps of faith?

    You MUST read this Christian pastor’s defense of the Resurrection and a review by one of his former parishioners, a man who lost his faith and is now a nonbeliever primarily due to the lack of good evidence for the Resurrection:

    —A Review of LCMS Pastor John Bombaro’s Defense of the Resurrection—

    (copy and paste this article title into your browser to find and read this fascinating review of the evidence for the Resurrection)

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