[1]             Introduction to the Gospel of John

The Book

o        This Gospel is by common consent one of the most important books that has ever been written. Its influence in the Christian church and Christians has been incalculable.

o        The gospel is often the first Biblical book that new believers are encouraged to read because it contains some of the important beliefs that every Christian should hold. On the other hand, it also contains some of the most difficult sayings by Jesus or about Jesus in the Bible.

o        Leon Morris describes the Gospel of John as “a pool in which a child may wade and an elephant can swim. It is both simple and profound. It is for the beginner in the faith and for the mature Christian.” Hoskyns says that “years of close study of this Gospel do not leave one with a feeling of having mastered it, but rather with the conviction that it is still ‘strange, restless, and unfamiliar.’” These are authors who wrote two important commentaries on this Gospel.

 

Author

§         Since the time of the Early church, the author has been widely accepted as the Apostle John.

§         In the past two centuries, many liberal scholars have tried to attack this tradition and many Bible believing Christians and scholars have been affected by this prejudiced attack and started to doubt the authorship of John. Despite this, there are many strong reasons to support the traditional position. John 21:24 says the author is the Beloved Disciple.

·         It seems that the Beloved Disciple was one of the sons of Zebedee in 21:2.

·         John was in a close relationship with Peter (13:24; 20:2; 21:7), as Peter, James, and John formed a trio closest to Jesus, and John was the only person in the trio not mentioned in the book.

·         He was present at the Last Supper and it seems that only the Twelve were present on that occasion (Mt 26:20; Mk 14:17, 20; Lk 22:14, 30).

 

Date and Place

§         The traditional position was that this Gospel was written very late in Apostle John’s life, probably near the end of the first century. Some who disputed John’s authorship even tried to put the date in late second century. However, the oldest papyrus fragment of the NT contains 5 verses of Chapter 18 of the Gospel of John, dated from AD125, thus dispelling those misguided effort.

§         For many centuries, a late date had been accepted by most Biblical scholars because many words and ideas in the book appeared to come from Greek culture so many believed that the book was written after the Hellenization of Christianity. However, recent discovery from the Dead Sea Scrolls show that those ideas were actually Jewish in origin. As a result, a late date of composition is no longer necessary.

§         Conservative Biblical scholars now put the date of the book somewhere between AD65 and AD80.

§         The most likely place of composition was Ephesus.

 

Purpose

§         The book is simply about Jesus (237 times, more than any other NT books). It started with “In the beginning was the Word” (1:1) and ended (20:31, before the epilogue) with “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God….” This last statement is the explicit purpose of the Gospel.

§         Some believe that the book speaks to believing Christians with the intent to strengthen their faith as the phrase in 20:31 may be translated “that you may believe (anew)” or “that you may continue to believe.”

§         Some believe that the book aims to evangelize or to convert new believers. It speaks to non-Christians who are concerned about eternal life. It explains why one should become a Christian, how to become a Christian, and what it means to be a Christian.

§         It is possible that the Gospel of John aims to speak to both groups.

 

Relationship to the Synoptics

§         It is clear that there are great differences between this Gospel and the 3 Synoptic Gospels.

·         Different coverage: John centres on several visits to Jerusalem: 3 Passovers (2:13, 6:4, 13:1), possibly 4 (5:1), thus leaving out a great deal of material that is characteristic of the Synoptics

·         Different writing styles: long discourses (preaching) in John; parables and short, vivid sayings in Synoptic Gospels

·         Different themes: eternal life (present realized blessing) in John; repentance or Kingdom of God (eschatological blessing) in the Synoptics

§         However, there is no fundamental difference in teaching, only difference in emphasis:

·         theological emphasis in John; biographical emphasis in the Synoptics

·         discourses and “meditations” of Jesus in the circle of His disciples in John; public teaching of Jesus in the Synoptics

 

Structure

§         Prologue (1:1-18)

§         Book of Signs (1:19-12:50)

·         the beginning of Jesus’ ministry: John the Baptist and first disciples (1:19-51)

·         the 7 signs and 7 public discourses (2:1-12:50)

§         Book of Passion (13:1-20:31)

·         the farewell private discourses (13:1-17:26)

·         the end of Jesus’ ministry: crucifixion and resurrection (18:1-20:31)

§         Epilogue (21:1-25)

 

Application

§         To build up our faith, we need to solidify our foundation of faith. Without a solid foundation, a building has a greater danger of tumbling with each phase of upward construction. The Gospel of John is an indispensable part in the foundation of faith and it is important for new Christians as well as mature Christians to periodically revisit the teachings in this Gospel.

 

Hymn

Hymns of Universal Praise no.630 “Lead me, Lord” (from Psalms 5:8; 4:8)

Lead me, Lord, Lead me in Thy righteousness,

Make my way plain before my face.

For it is Thou, Lord,

Thou, Lord, only, that makest me dwell in safety.