The Gospel of John
The reason why the fourth Gospel about the Lord Jesus Christ was written is “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (20:31). This book is for believers and unbelievers, for babes in Christ and for the mature Christian. The Gospel of John is easy to read and yet its depths cannot be plumbed. This may be so because John focuses on the divinity of Christ, for He is the Son of God (1:1-4; 20:31).
Stemming perhaps from a low view of Scripture, some doubt that the apostle John, the son of Zebedee, wrote the Gospel that bears his name. These doubters are wrong. The person who wrote this Gospel was one of the three disciples (Peter, James and John) who beheld the glory of the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration (1:14). The writer of “these things” (21:24) is the disciple whom Jesus loved (21:7; cf. 13:23-24; 19:26, 35), not Peter (21:20-24) and most probably not the apostle James who was martyred in about AD 44 (Acts 12:2). Therefore, John wrote this Gospel (Blum 1983:267). External evidence supports this claim: Polycarp, Irenaeus, Theophilus of Antioch, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Tatian and Eusebius all confirm that the apostle John wrote this Gospel (Tenney 1985:189; Constable 2017:1-2).
The Gospel of John appears to have been written after the Synoptic Gospels, because John assumes that the reader knows that ‘this generation’ in Israel rejected their Messiah (1:10; cf. Matthew 12:23-45), resulting in the postponement of the Messianic kingdom. John also assumes the reader is familiar with Mary having anointed the Lord with fragrant oil (11:1-2). Further, John 21:18, 23 requires some time to have passed before the author was inspired to write this Gospel. In agreement with Tenney (1985:192; cf. Blum 1983:268), the Gospel of John was likely written in Asia Minor, perhaps in Ephesus, towards the close of the first century, when the church had already achieved a measure of maturity. This Gospel was likely written around AD 85-95.
Content and Themes
The key word in this Gospel is the verb “believe”, occurring 98 times. John wanted his readers to exercise an active and vibrant faith in the Lord Jesus. Other important words often found in this Gospel are signs, life, darkness vs. light, witness, love, abide, the Counsellor (i.e., the Holy Spirit), light, Word, glorify, true, and real (cf. Tenney 1985:192-193; Constable 2017:4).
If we did not have the Gospel of John, what would we miss? About 93% of this Gospel is unique (Blum 1983:269), giving us a marvellous prologue in chiastic form (1:1-18), seven “I am” statements of Christ, seven sign miracles, seven witnesses of Christ being the Son of God, various private conversations of Jesus (ex: chapter 4), the Upper Room discourse (chapters 13-17), the relationship between God the Father and God the Son, references to Jewish feasts and to the ‘world’ (kosmos)—and so much more.
The seven sign miracles of Jesus in the Gospel of John are: changing water into wine (2:1-11); healing an official’s son (4:46-54); healing an invalid at the Pool of Bethesda (5:1-18); feeding 5000 (6:5-14), walking on water (6:16-21); healing a man born blind (9:1-7); and raising dead Lazarus back to life (11:1-45).
The seven “I am” statements of the Son of God’s are: I am the Bread of Life (6:35); I am the Light of the World (8:12); I am the Gate for the Sheep (10:7, 9); I am the Good Shepherd (10:11, 14); I am the Resurrection and the Life (11:25); I am the Way and the Truth and the Life (14:6); and I am the true Vine (15:1, 5). The seven persons who testified that Jesus is indeed the Son of God are: John the Baptist (1:34); Nathaniel (1:49); Peter (6:69); Jesus (10:36); Martha (11:27); Thomas (20:28); and John (21:31).
Most outlines proposed for this Gospel are quite similar. Blum (1983:270-271) and Bailey & Constable (1999:156) propose this outline: The prologue (1:18); Presentation of the Son of God to Israel (1:19-12:50); Jesus’ preparation of his disciples (13:1-17:26); Jesus’ passion and resurrection (18:1-20:31); and The epilogue (21:1-25).
In agreement with the stated purpose of this Gospel (20:31), the seven sign miracles, the seven “I am” statements of Christ and the seven witnesses of Christ being the Son of God all authenticate who Jesus is, resulting either in faith in Christ or a hardening of the heart. There is only one way to God the Father and that is through the Son (14:6). It is the Son of God who said these famous words: ‘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”.
Bailey, M.L. & Constable, T.L., 1999, Nelson’s New Testament survey, Thomas Nelson, Nashville.
Constable, T.L. 2017, Notes on John, 2017 edition, Sonic Light.
Blum, E.A., 1983, ‘John’, in J.F. Walvoord & R.B. Zuck (eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, pp 267-348, David C Cook, Colorado Springs.
Tenney, M.C., 1985, New Testament Survey, revised edition, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids.
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