Introduction to the Gospel of John
Mark, and Luke are called the Synoptic Gospels because they have a lot in
common, and they focus on Jesus’ work in Galilee.
- The Gospel
of John is different from the Synoptic Gospels because it focuses on Jesus’
work in Judea.
fills in the gaps the Synoptic Gospels leave out.
Consider the following chart:
Each Gospel account has its own theme, and each account was
written to a specific group as noted below:
was written to the Jews, and it shows Jesus’ Messianic work as a king over
His everlasting spiritual kingdom, which is His church.
was written to the Romans, and it shows that Jesus is the one with power
and strength through His miraculous works.
was written mainly to the Greeks, and it shows the human side of Jesus and
portrays Him as being a perfect man.
- 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.
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.
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:
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.
- The Gospel
of John and 1 John start and end with the same thought.
use of “only begotten Son,” which refers to Jesus, is only found in these
two writings (Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 4:9).
author is most likely a Jew because he quoted passages from the Old
Testament, and he has a working knowledge of the Jews’ feasts.
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).
- 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).
writer was an eyewitness and one of the 12. (Jn. 21:20-21, 1 Jn. 1:1-4).
author is described as "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (Jn.
13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20, 24).
- 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.
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).
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.
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.
on the evidence, this is a big “what if” based on one unclear passage
from an early uninspired writer.
the evidence I have presented strongly suggests that the apostle John is
the author of these books.
A brief look at John’s
father’s name was Zebedee (Mt. 4:21).
mother’s name was Salome (Compare Mk. 15:40 to Mt. 27:56).
brother’s name was James (Mt. 4:21).
was one of the twelve apostles (Mt. 10:2; Mk. 3:14-17; Lk. 6:13-14; Acts
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.
was present when Jairus's daughter was raised from the dead (Mk. 5:37ff,
went with Jesus to the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt. 17:1ff; Mk. 9:2ff; Lk.
called him and his brother, sons of thunder (Mk. 3:17). Why? Possibly (Lk.
Jesus spoke of the destruction of Jerusalem,
John asked Him when it would take place and what signs would precede this
asked John and Peter to make preparations for the Passover (Lk. 22:7-8).
was with the Messiah during His agony in the garden of Gethsemane
(Mt. 26:36ff; Mk. 14:32ff).
After Jesus' ascension into Heaven:
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
and John were arrested for their preaching, and they stood before the
Jewish council at Jerusalem
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).
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).
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
Gnostics believed that God the spirit was good, but matter is evil. In
other words, everything that is created is evil.
taught that angels or a less perfect being came from God and created the
believed in the body, soul, and spirit, but they considered the body and
soul as being evil.
spirit was good, but it had to be awakened by a specific knowledge that a
person could only gain if he joined the Gnostics.
- 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.
based their relationship with God by how they felt instead of basing it on
There were different Gnostic beliefs:
would deny themselves of certain foods and marriage.
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:
Sin – Born a sinner.
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.
Roman Catholic errors such as celibacy, food requirements, lent, etc.
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.
is the "bread of life" (Jn. 6:33-35).
is the "light of the world" (Jn. 8:12; 9:5; 12:35-36, 46).
is the "door of the sheepfold" (Jn. 10:1, 7).
is the "good Shepherd" (Jn. 10: 11, 14).
is the "resurrection and the life" (Jn. 11:25-26).
is "the way, the truth, and the life" (Jn. 14:6).
is "the true vine" (Jn. 15:1-8).
His testimony is also supported in seven great miracles:
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.
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
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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
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.
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.
"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."
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:
has no parables (John 10:1ff is a proverb).
synoptic Gospels begin with Adam and work their way to Christ, but the Gospel
of John begins with God.
fills in the details the synoptic Gospels leave out.
- It records
Jesus’ longest prayer (John 17).
teaches many details about the work of the Holy Spirit.
- It is
written in the most simplistic form of Greek, yet it teaches a deep spiritual