Introduction to the Gospel of John


  1. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the Synoptic Gospels because they have a lot in common, and they focus on Jesus’ work in Galilee.
  2. The Gospel of John is different from the Synoptic Gospels because it focuses on Jesus’ work in Judea. 
  3. John fills in the gaps the Synoptic Gospels leave out. 


Consider the following chart:


The Gospels










In common






Each Gospel account has its own theme, and each account was written to a specific group as noted below:  


  1. Matthew was written to the Jews, and it shows Jesus’ Messianic work as a king over His everlasting spiritual kingdom, which is His church.
  2. Mark was written to the Romans, and it shows that Jesus is the one with power and strength through His miraculous works.
  3. Luke was written mainly to the Greeks, and it shows the human side of Jesus and portrays Him as being a perfect man.
  4. John was written to all Christians, and its primary focus is Jesus being Deity, and that He is the Son of God. (John 20:30-31)


Before we examine more of the unique features of the Gospel of John, I want to take a look at its background.



The author is unnamed, but it is believed that the apostle John is the author of this book and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John, which are also unnamed.

Let’s examine the evidence that logically shows that the apostle John is the most likely candidate for being the author.


  1. Whenever we have a book that does not bare the author’s name, we must rely on other early writers who state whom the author was. In this case, the external evidence is overwhelming because many of the early writers credit these books to the apostle John.
  2. The only early writing that speaks against John being the author comes from a small heretical sect known as the Alogi in Asia Minor around A.D. 170. Most scholars agree that this sect only wrote against him being the author because the Gospel of John proves the Deity of Jesus, and that went against their belief.


So, the external evidence suggests the apostle John was the author.



Let’s look at the internal evidence:


  1. Most agree that whoever wrote the Gospel of John also wrote 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John because they use some of the same words and expressions.
  2. The Gospel of John and 1 John start and end with the same thought.
  3. The use of “only begotten Son,” which refers to Jesus, is only found in these two writings (Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 4:9).
  4. The author is most likely a Jew because he quoted passages from the Old Testament, and he has a working knowledge of the Jews’ feasts.
  5. He mentions four Passover feasts (Jn. 2:13, 23; 5:1; 6:4; 13:1; 18:28), the Feast of Tabernacles (Jn. 7:37), and the Feast of Dedication (Jn. 10:22).
  6. He was familiar with the Jewish customs such as purification (Jn. 3:25; 11:55), burial (Jn. 11:38, 44; 19:40), and the social position of women (Jn. 4:27).
  7. The writer was an eyewitness and one of the 12. (Jn. 21:20-21, 1 Jn. 1:1-4).
  8. The author is described as "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (Jn. 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20, 24).
  9. Only one of the three apostles Peter, James, or John, who were part of Jesus’ “inner circle” of friends, could possibly be the person whom Jesus loved.
  10. "The disciple whom Jesus loved" could not refer to Peter (Jn. 21:20), and it could not be James because he was martyred at an early date (recorded in Acts 12:2).
  11. John is the only possibility remaining.


Another argument used against John being the author states that John had a disciple named John the Elder, and he is the person being referred to in 2nd and 3rd John. Therefore, he is the one that wrote these books under the apostle John’s guidance.


    • They get this from a vague passage from Eusebius’s writings in Book 3 Chapter 39 verse 4. Most scholars who have looked at this passage consider it as unclear because it is difficult to tell if he was talking about two different Johns or the same John.
    • Based on the evidence, this is a big “what if” based on one unclear passage from an early uninspired writer.
    • All the evidence I have presented strongly suggests that the apostle John is the author of these books.


A brief look at John’s background:


    • His father’s name was Zebedee (Mt. 4:21).
    • His mother’s name was Salome (Compare Mk. 15:40 to Mt. 27:56).
    • His brother’s name was James (Mt. 4:21).
    • He was one of the twelve apostles (Mt. 10:2; Mk. 3:14-17; Lk. 6:13-14; Acts 1:13). 
    • Many times He was in the company of Simon Peter, and he and his brother had a partnership with Peter and his brother in their fishing business (Lk. 5:10).
    • John was present when Jairus's daughter was raised from the dead (Mk. 5:37ff, Lk. 8:51-56).
    • He went with Jesus to the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt. 17:1ff; Mk. 9:2ff; Lk. 9:28ff).
    • Jesus called him and his brother, sons of thunder (Mk. 3:17). Why? Possibly (Lk. 9:54ff).
    • When Jesus spoke of the destruction of Jerusalem, John asked Him when it would take place and what signs would precede this destruction (Mk.13:3-4).
    • Jesus asked John and Peter to make preparations for the Passover (Lk. 22:7-8).
    • John was with the Messiah during His agony in the garden of Gethsemane (Mt. 26:36ff; Mk. 14:32ff).


After Jesus' ascension into Heaven:


  1. John and Peter were entering the temple area when a lame man stopped them and asked them for money.  Peter healed him instead, which gave them the opportunity to preach the gospel (Acts 3).
  2. Peter and John were arrested for their preaching, and they stood before the Jewish council at Jerusalem (Acts 4).
  3. When the Samaritans were converted by the preaching of Philip, the apostles sent Peter and John to visit these new converts to impart miraculous gifts to them (Acts 8).
  4. John was at the "Jerusalem Conference" with Peter and James (the Lord's brother) who were described as "pillars" in the church at Jerusalem (Acts 15; Gal. 2:9).
  5. Tradition says that John was the only apostle that died of natural causes around A.D.100.



There are various dates that have been given for this Gospel ranging from A.D. 40 – 100.

According Irenaeus, who was the pupil of Polycarp (friend and pupil of John), John wrote this book from Ephesus 60 years after Jesus ascension, which puts it around A.D. 90.


Purpose of the Book:

The Gospel of John proves that Jesus is the Son of God and that He is Deity. The reason some say he wrote this Gospel was to refute Gnosticism. Irenaeus stated that John wrote this Gospel to refute the heresies of the Cerinthus and the Nicolaitans, which were two forms of the Gnostic heresy.


  1. The Gnostics believed that God the spirit was good, but matter is evil. In other words, everything that is created is evil.
  2. They taught that angels or a less perfect being came from God and created the earth.
  3. They believed in the body, soul, and spirit, but they considered the body and soul as being evil.
  4. The spirit was good, but it had to be awakened by a specific knowledge that a person could only gain if he joined the Gnostics.
  5. They believed there were seven orbs that surrounded the earth that separated us from God. The only way a person could make it through those orbs was by having a special knowledge that only the Gnostics could provide.
  6. They based their relationship with God by how they felt instead of basing it on God’s Word.


There were different Gnostic beliefs:


  1. Some would deny themselves of certain foods and marriage.
  2. Since the body was considered evil, others indulged in sinful pleasures because they didn’t feel it would have any affect on their good spirit.


One writer (author unknown) suggested the following false doctrines all have their roots in Gnosticism:


  1. Original Sin – Born a sinner.
  2. The Calvinistic doctrine of predestination – The Gnostics taught that some were born with a spirit nature and would be saved while others are born with a fleshly nature and would be lost.
  3. Many Roman Catholic errors such as celibacy, food requirements, lent, etc.
  4. Those who take what they have felt or personally experienced as being a sign that they are closer to God or that they are right with God instead of basing their belief on God’s Word only.


John deals with these type of doctrinal errors in his Gospel by showing that Jesus is Deity. Jesus’ identity is revealed in the following passages (Jn. 5:37; 8:14, 18, 18:37).


His testimony is supported by seven “I am” statements.


  1. Jesus is the "bread of life" (Jn. 6:33-35).
  2. Jesus is the "light of the world" (Jn. 8:12; 9:5; 12:35-36, 46).
  3. Jesus is the "door of the sheepfold" (Jn. 10:1, 7).
  4. Jesus is the "good Shepherd" (Jn. 10: 11, 14). 
  5. Jesus is the "resurrection and the life" (Jn. 11:25-26).
  6. Jesus is "the way, the truth, and the life" (Jn. 14:6). 
  7. Jesus is "the true vine" (Jn. 15:1-8).


His testimony is also supported in seven great miracles:


  1. The first miracle Jesus performed was turning water into wine (Jn. 2:1-11).  This wine was a nonalcoholic grape juice, and it was considered the best tasting. The ruler of the feast said, "Thou hast kept the good wine until now" (Jn. 2:10), which shows that Jesus is the master of quality.


  1. Jesus healed the nobleman's son (Jn. 4:46-54).  The nobleman came to Jesus begging Him to heal his son who was in Capernaum over twenty miles away.  Jesus told the nobleman, "Go thy way; thy son liveth". This shows that Jesus’ power was not limited by distance because He is the master of distance and space.


  1. Jesus healed a man who had an infirmity for thirty-eight years (Jn. 5:1-18).  The longer a disease afflicts a person, the harder it is to cure.  However, with Jesus time does not matter because He is the master of time.


  1.  Jesus fed five thousand men (besides women and children) with "five barley loaves, and two small fishes" (Jn. 6:1-14). The amount of food or the number of people did not matter, because Jesus is the master of quantity.


  1. After feeding the multitude, Jesus sent His apostles to the other side of the sea. Later, they saw Jesus walking on the water (Jn. 6:16-21), which showed that He is the master of natural law.


  1. In John 9, Jesus healed a man who was born blind.  Jesus taught His apostles that sin did not cause this man's misfortune. Instead, his misfortune would be used to show the work of God.  When Jesus healed him, He demonstrated that He is the master over misfortune.


  1. Jesus raised His friend Lazarus from the dead (John 11). Lazarus had been dead four days, yet Jesus commanded him to "come forth" and all saw "the glory of God," testifying that Jesus is the master of death.


There are several key words in the Gospel of John, but the only one I want to mention is the word “belief” or “faith’, which he used 98 times. In regards to salvation, neither “Belief” nor “faith” is used in the sense of just mentally believing in Jesus. Instead, it is a call to obedience. A great passage that proves this is John 3:36.


KJV John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.


NKJ John 3:36 "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."


ESV John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.


ASV John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.


NAU John 3:36 "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."


NRS John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God's wrath.


If a person wants eternal life he has to have an obedient faith because, if he does not obey, then he does not have true faith.


Finally, I want to point out a few more unique features about the Gospel of John:


  1. It has no parables (John 10:1ff is a proverb).
  2. The synoptic Gospels begin with Adam and work their way to Christ, but the Gospel of John begins with God.
  3. It fills in the details the synoptic Gospels leave out.
  4. It records Jesus’ longest prayer (John 17).
  5. It teaches many details about the work of the Holy Spirit.
  6. It is written in the most simplistic form of Greek, yet it teaches a deep spiritual message.