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The Gospel of John,the fourth of the gospels, is a highly schematic account of the ministry of Jesus, with seven "signs" culminating in the raising of Lazarus (foreshadowing the resurrection of Jesus) and seven "I am" discourses culminating in Thomas's proclamation of the risen Jesus as "my Lord and my God"; the concluding verses set out its purpose, "that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name."
John reached its final form around AD 90–110,although it contains signs of origins dating back to AD 70 and possibly even earlier. Like the three other gospels, it is anonymous, although it identifies an unnamed "disciple whom Jesus loved" as the source of its traditions. It most likely arose within a "Johannine community", and as it is closely related in style and content to the three Johannine epistles most scholars treat the four books, along with the Book of Revelation, as a single corpus of Johannine literature, albeit not from the same author.
The discourses seem to be concerned with issues of the church–synagogue debate at the time of composition.
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|John in the Bible|
John 21:24-25 references a Beloved Disciple, stating of him: "This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true; but there are also many other things that Jesus did; if all of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself would not contain the books that would be written."Early Christian tradition identified this disciple with John the Apostle, but most scholars have abandoned this hypothesis or hold it only tenuously - for example, the gospel is written in good Greek and displays sophisticated theology, and is therefore unlikely to have been the work of a simple fisherman. John 21:24-25 implies rather that the core of the gospel relies on the testimony (perhaps written) of the "disciple who is testifying", as collected, preserved and reshaped by a community of followers (the "we" of the passage), and that a single follower (the "I") rearranged this material and perhaps added the final chapter and other passages to produce the final gospel. (Recent arguments by Richard Bauckham and others that John's gospel preserves eyewitness testimony have not won general acceptance).
Most scholars believe that John reached its final form around AD 90–110.Given its complex history there may have been more than one place of composition, and while the author was familiar with Jewish customs and traditions, his frequent clarification of these implies that he wrote for a mixed Jewish/Gentile or Jewish context outside Palestine. The author may have drawn on a "signs source" (a collection of miracles) for chapters 1-12, a "passion source" for the story of Jesus's arrest and crucifixion, and a "sayings source" for the discourses, but these hypotheses are much debated. He seems to have known some version of Mark and Luke, as he shares with them some items of vocabulary and clusters of incidents arranged in the same order, but key terms from those gospels are absent or nearly so, implying that if he did know them he felt free to write independently. The Hebrew scriptures were an important source, with 14 direct quotations (verses 27 in Mark, 54 in Matthew, 24 in Luke), and their influence is vastly increased when allusions and echoes are included. The majority of John's direct quotations do not agree exactly with any known version of the Jewish scriptures.
For much of the 20th century scholars interpreted John within the paradigm of a Johannine community,meaning that the gospel sprang from a late 1st century Christian community excommunicated from the Jewish synagogue (probably meaning the Jewish community) on account of its belief in Jesus as the promised Jewish messiah. This interpretation, which saw the community as essentially sectarian and standing outside the mainstream of early Christianity, has been increasingly challenged in the first decades of the 21st century, and there is currently considerable debate over the social, religious and historical context of the gospel. Nevertheless, the Johannine literature as a whole (made up of the gospel, the three Johannine epistles, and Revelation), reveals a community holding itself distinct from the Jewish culture from which it arose while cultivating an intense devotion to Jesus as the definitive revelation of a God with whom they were in close contact through the Paraclete.
The majority of scholars see four sections in John's gospel: a prologue (1:1–18); an account of the ministry, often called the "Book of Signs" (1:19–12:50); the account of Jesus' final night with his disciples and the passion and resurrection, sometimes called the "book of glory" (13:1–20:31); and a conclusion (20:30-31); to these is added an epilogue which most scholars believe did not form part of the original text (Chapter 21).
The structure is highly schematic: there are seven "signs" culminating in the raising of Lazarus (foreshadowing the resurrection of Jesus), and seven "I am" sayings and discourses, culminating in Thomas's proclamation of the risen Jesus as "my Lord and my God" (the same title, dominus et deus, claimed by the Emperor Domitian, an indication of the date of composition).
John's "high Christology" depicts Jesus as divine, preexistent, and identified with the one God,talking openly about his divine role and echoing Yahweh's "I Am that I Am" with seven "I Am" declarations of his own:
Yet scholars agree that while John clearly regards Jesus as divine, he just as clearly subordinates him to the one God.
In the prologue, John identifies Jesus as the Logos (Word). In Ancient Greek philosophy, the term logos meant the principle of cosmic reason. In this sense, it was similar to the Hebrew concept of Wisdom, God's companion and intimate helper in creation. The Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo merged these two themes when he described the Logos as God's creator of and mediator with the material world. According to Harris, the evangelist adapted Philo's description of the Logos, applying it to Jesus, the incarnation of the Logos.
The portrayal of Jesus' death in John is unique among the four Gospels. It does not appear to rely on the kinds of atonement theology indicative of vicarious sacrifice (cf. Mark 10:45, Romans 3:25) but rather presents the death of Jesus as his glorification and return to the Father. Likewise, the three "passion predictions" of the Synoptic Gospels (Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:33–34 and pars.) are replaced instead in John with three instances of Jesus explaining how he will be exalted or "lifted up"(John 3:14, 8:28, 12:32). The verb for "lifted up" (Greek: ὑψωθῆναι, hypsōthēnai) reflects the double entendre at work in John's theology of the cross, for Jesus is both physically elevated from the earth at the crucifixion but also, at the same time, exalted and glorified.
Scholars disagree both on whether and how frequently John refers to sacraments, but current scholarly opinion is that there are very few such possible references, that if they exist they are limited baptism and eucharist:there is in fact no institution of the eucharist in John's account of the Last Supper (it is replaced with Jesus washing the feet of his disciples), and no New Testament text that unambiguously links baptism with rebirth.
In comparison to the synoptic gospels, the Fourth Gospel is markedly individualistic, in the sense that it places emphasis more on the individual's relation to Jesus than on the corporate nature of the Church.This is largely accomplished through the consistently singular grammatical structure of various aphoristic sayings of Jesus throughout the gospel. According to Richard Bauckham, emphasis on believers coming into a new group upon their conversion is conspicuously absent from John. There is also a theme of "personal coinherence", that is, the intimate personal relationship between the believer and Jesus in which the believer "abides" in Jesus and Jesus in the believer. According to C. F. D. Moule, the individualistic tendencies of the Fourth Gospel could potentially give rise to a realized eschatology achieved on the level of the individual believer; this realized eschatology is not, however, to replace "orthodox", futurist eschatological expectations, but is to be "only [their] correlative."
John's account of the Baptist is different from that of the synoptic gospels. In this gospel, John is not called "the Baptist."The Baptist's ministry overlaps with that of Jesus; his baptism of Jesus is not explicitly mentioned, but his witness to Jesus is unambiguous. The evangelist almost certainly knew the story of John's baptism of Jesus and he makes a vital theological use of it. He subordinates the Baptist to Jesus, perhaps in response to members of the Baptist's sect who regarded the Jesus movement as an offshoot of their movement.
In John's gospel, Jesus and his disciples go to Judea early in Jesus' ministry before John the Baptist was imprisoned and executed by Herod. He leads a ministry of baptism larger than John's own. The Jesus Seminar rated this account as black, containing no historically accurate information.According to the biblical historians at the Jesus Seminar, John likely had a larger presence in the public mind than Jesus.
In the first half of the 20th century, many scholars, primarily including Rudolph Bultmann, have forcefully argued that the Gospel of John has elements in common with Gnosticism.Christian Gnosticism did not fully develop until the mid-2nd century, and so 2nd-century Proto-Orthodox Christians concentrated much effort in examining and refuting it. To say John's gospel contained elements of Gnosticism is to assume that Gnosticism had developed to a level that required the author to respond to it. Bultmann, for example, argued that the opening theme of the Gospel of John, the pre-existing Logos, along with John's duality of light versus darkness in his Gospel were originally Gnostic themes that John adopted. Other scholars, e.g. Raymond E. Brown have argued that the pre-existing Logos theme arises from the more ancient Jewish writings in the eighth chapter of the Book of Proverbs, and was fully developed as a theme in Hellenistic Judaism by Philo Judaeus. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran verified the Jewish nature of these concepts. April DeConick has suggested reading John 8:56 in support of a Gnostic theology, however recent scholarship has cast doubt on her reading.
Gnostics read John but interpreted it differently from the way non-Gnostics did.Gnosticism taught that salvation came from gnosis, secret knowledge, and Gnostics did not see Jesus as a savior but a revealer of knowledge. Barnabas Lindars asserts that the gospel teaches that salvation can only be achieved through revealed wisdom, specifically belief in (literally belief into) Jesus.
Raymond Brown contends that "The Johannine picture of a savior who came from an alien world above, who said that neither he nor those who accepted him were of this world, 3:16 could not)." It has been suggested that similarities between John's gospel and Gnosticism may spring from common roots in Jewish Apocalyptic literature.and who promised to return to take them to a heavenly dwelling could be fitted into the gnostic world picture (even if God's love for the world in
The Gospel of John is significantly different from the synoptic gospels in the selection of its material, its theological emphasis, its chronology, and literary style, with some of its discrepancies amounting to contradictions.The following are some examples of their differences in just one area, that of the material they include in their narratives:
|Material found in the Synoptics but absent from John||Material found in John but absent from the Synoptics|
|Narrative parables||Symbolic discourses|
|The Kingdom of God||Teaching on eternal life|
|The end-time (or Olivet) discourse||Emphasis on realized eschatolgy|
|The Sermon of the Mount and Lord's Prayer||Jesus's "farewell discourse"|
|The baptism of Jesus by John||Interaction between Jesus and John|
|The institution of the Lord's Supper||Jesus as the "bread of heaven"|
|The Transfiguration of Jesus||Scenes in the upper room|
|The Temptation of Jesus by Satan||Satan as Jesus's antagonist working through Judas|
|Exorcism of demons||No demon exorcisms|
In the Synoptics, the ministry of Jesus takes a single year, but in John it takes three, as evidenced by references to three Passovers. Events are not all in the same order: the date of the crucifixion is different, as is the time of Jesus' anointing in Bethany and the cleansing of the Temple occurs in the beginning of Jesus' ministry rather than near its end.
Many incidents from John, such as the wedding in Cana, the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well, and the raising of Lazarus, are not paralleled in the synoptics, and most scholars believe the author drew these from an independent source called the "signs gospel", the speeches of Jesus from a second "discourse" source,and the prologue from an early hymn. The gospel makes extensive use of the Jewish scriptures: John quotes from them directly, references important figures from them, and uses narratives from them as the basis for several of the discourses. The author was also familiar with non-Jewish sources: the Logos of the prologue (the Word that is with God from the beginning of creation), for example, was derived from both the Jewish concept of Lady Wisdom and from the Greek philosophers, John 6 alludes not only to the exodus but also to Greco-Roman mystery cults, and John 4 alludes to Samaritan messianic beliefs.
John lacks scenes from the Synoptics such as Jesus' baptism,the calling of the Twelve, exorcisms, parables, and the Transfiguration. Conversely, it includes scenes not found in the Synoptics, including Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana, the resurrection of Lazarus, Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, and multiple visits to Jerusalem.
In the fourth gospel, Jesus' mother Mary, while frequently mentioned, is never identified by name. 6:42 . For John, Jesus' town of origin is irrelevant, for he comes from beyond this world, from God the Father.John does assert that Jesus was known as the "son of Joseph" in
While John makes no direct mention of Jesus' baptism,he does quote John the Baptist's description of the descent of the Holy Spirit as a dove, as happens at Jesus' baptism in the Synoptics. Major synoptic speeches of Jesus are absent, including the Sermon on the Mount and the Olivet Discourse, and the exorcisms of demons are never mentioned as in the Synoptics. John never lists all of the Twelve Disciples and names at least one disciple, Nathanael, whose name is not found in the Synoptics. Thomas is given a personality beyond a mere name, described as "Doubting Thomas".
Jesus is identified with the Word ("Logos"), and the Word is identified with theos ("god" in Greek);no such identification is made in the Synoptics. In Mark, Jesus urges his disciples to keep his divinity secret, but in John he is very open in discussing it, even referring to himself as "I AM", the title God gives himself in Exodus at his self-revelation to Moses. In the Synoptics, the chief theme is the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven (the latter specifically in Matthew), while John's theme is Jesus as the source of eternal life and the Kingdom is only mentioned twice. In contrast to the synoptic expectation of the Kingdom (using the term parousia , meaning "coming"), John presents a more individualistic, realized eschatology.
In the Synoptics, quotations from Jesus are usually in the form of short, pithy sayings; in John, longer quotations are often given. The vocabulary is also different, and filled with theological import: in John, Jesus does not work "miracles", but "signs" which unveil his divine identity. 16:21 ) or the dying grain ( 12:24 ) to be parables.Most scholars consider John not to contain any parables. Rather it contains metaphorical stories or allegories, such as those of the Good Shepherd and of the True Vine, in which each individual element corresponds to a specific person, group, or thing. Other scholars consider stories like the childbearing woman (
According to the Synoptics, the arrest of Jesus was a reaction to the cleansing of the temple, while according to John it was triggered by the raising of Lazarus.The Pharisees, portrayed as more uniformly legalistic and opposed to Jesus in the synoptic gospels, are instead portrayed as sharply divided; they debate frequently in John's accounts. Some, such as Nicodemus, even go so far as to be at least partially sympathetic to Jesus. This is believed to be a more accurate historical depiction of the Pharisees, who made debate one of the tenets of their system of belief.
In place of the communal emphasis of the Pauline literature, John stresses the personal relationship of the individual to God.
The Gospel of John and the three Johannine epistles exhibit strong resemblances in theology and style; the Book of Revelation has also been traditionally linked with these, but differs from the gospel and letters in style and even theology.The letters were written later than the gospel, and while the gospel reflects the break between the Johannine Christians and the Jewish synagogue, in the letters the Johannine community itself is disintegrating ("They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out..." - 1 John 2:19). This secession was over Christology, the "knowledge of Christ", or more accurately the understanding of Christ's nature, for the ones who "went out" hesitated to identify Jesus with Christ, minimising the significance of the earthly ministry and denying the salvific importance of Jesus's death on the cross. The epistles argue against this view, stressing the eternal existence of the Son of God, the salvific nature of his life and death, and the other elements of the gospel's "high" Christology.
The teachings of Jesus found in the synoptic gospels are very different from those recorded in John, and since the 19th century scholars have almost unanimously accepted that these Johannine discourses are less likely than the synoptic parables to be historical, and were likely written for theological purposes.By the same token, scholars usually agree that John is not entirely without historical value: certain sayings in John are as old or older than their synoptic counterparts, his representation of the topography around Jerusalem is often superior to that of the synoptics, his testimony that Jesus was executed before, rather than on, Passover, might well be more accurate, and his presentation of Jesus in the garden and the prior meeting held by the Jewish authorities are possibly more historically plausible than their synoptic parallels.
The gospel has been depicted in live narrations and dramatized in productions, skits, plays, and Passion Plays, as well as in film. The most recent such portrayal is the 2014 film The Gospel of John, directed by David Batty and narrated by David Harewood and Brian Cox, with Selva Rasalingam as Jesus. The 2003 film The Gospel of John , was directed by Philip Saville, narrated by Christopher Plummer, with Henry Ian Cusick as Jesus.
Parts of the gospel have been set to music. One such setting is Steve Warner's power anthem "Come and See", written for the 20th anniversary of the Alliance for Catholic Education and including lyrical fragments taken from the Book of Signs. Additionally, some composers have made settings of the Passion as portrayed in the gospel, most notably the one composed by Johann Sebastian Bach, although some verses are borrowed from Matthew.
The Gospel According to Mark is the second of the four canonical gospels and of the three synoptic gospels. It tells of the ministry of Jesus from his baptism by John the Baptist to his death and burial and the discovery of the empty tomb. There is no miraculous birth or doctrine of divine pre-existence, nor, in the original ending, any post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. It portrays Jesus as a heroic man of action, an exorcist, a healer, and a miracle worker. He is also the Son of God, but keeps his messianic nature secret, with even his disciples failing to understand him. All this is in keeping with prophecy, which foretold the fate of the messiah as suffering servant. The gospel ends, in its original version, with the discovery of the empty tomb, a promise to meet again in Galilee, and an unheeded instruction to spread the good news of the resurrection.
The Gospel According to Luke, also called the Gospel of Luke, or simply Luke, is the third of the four canonical Gospels. It tells of the origins, birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel According to Matthew is the first book of the New Testament and one of the three synoptic gospels. It tells how Israel's Messiah, rejected and executed in Israel, pronounces judgement on Israel and its leaders and becomes the salvation of the gentiles. The gospel reflects the struggles and conflicts between the evangelist's community and the other Jews, particularly with its sharp criticism of the scribes and Pharisees: prior to the Crucifixion they are referred to as Israelites, the honorific title of God's chosen people; after it, they are called simply Ioudaioi ("Jews"), a sign that through their rejection of the Christ the "Kingdom of Heaven" has been taken away from them and given instead to the church.
Gospel originally meant the Christian message, but in the 2nd century it came to be used also for the books in which the message was set out; in this sense it includes both the four canonical gospels and various apocryphal gospels dating from the 2nd century and later.
Matthew the Apostle, also known as Saint Matthew and as Levi, was, according to the New Testament, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. According to Christian tradition, he was also one of the four Evangelists and thus is also known as Matthew the Evangelist.
The ascension of Jesus is the Christian teaching that Christ physically departed from Earth by rising into Heaven, in the presence of eleven of his apostles. According to the New Testament narrative, the ascension occurred 40 days after the resurrection. In the Christian tradition, reflected in the major Christian creeds and confessional statements, God exalted Jesus after his death, rising him from the dead and taking him to Heaven, where Jesus took his seat at the right hand of God.
The transfiguration of Jesus is a story told in the New Testament when Jesus is transfigured and becomes radiant in glory upon a mountain. The Synoptic Gospels describe it, and the Second Epistle of Peter also refers to it. It has also been hypothesized that the first chapter of the Gospel of John alludes to it John 1:14).
The Gospel of Philip is one of the Gnostic Gospels, a text of New Testament apocrypha, dated to around the 3rd century but lost in medieval times until an Egyptian man rediscovered it by accident, buried in a cave near Nag Hammadi, in 1945.
The authorship of the Johannine works—the Gospel of John, Epistles of John, and the Book of Revelation—has been debated by scholars since at least the 2nd century AD. The main debate centers on who authored the writings, and which of the writings, if any, can be ascribed to a common author.
Jesus, also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus Christ, was a first-century Jewish preacher and religious leader. He is the central figure of Christianity. Most Christians believe he is the incarnation of God the Son and the awaited Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament.
The Christ myth theory is the view that the story of Jesus is a piece of mythology, possessing no substantial claims to historical fact. Alternatively, in terms given by Bart Ehrman paraphrasing Earl Doherty, "the historical Jesus did not exist. Or if he did, he had virtually nothing to do with the founding of Christianity." It is a fringe theory, supported by few tenured or emeritus specialists in biblical criticism or cognate disciplines. It is criticised for its outdated reliance on comparisons between mythologies, and deviates from the mainstream historical view.
The post-resurrection appearances of Jesus are the reported earthly appearances of Jesus to his followers after his death and burial. Believers point to them as evidence of his resurrection and identity as Messiah, seated in Heaven on the right hand of God. Others interpret these accounts as visionary experiences.
Richard John Bauckham is an English Anglican scholar in theology, historical theology and New Testament studies, specialising in New Testament Christology and the Gospel of John. He is a senior scholar at Ridley Hall, Cambridge.
Table I gives an overview of the periods and dates ascribed to the various books of the Bible. Tables II, III and IV outline the conclusions of the majority of contemporary scholars on the composition of the Hebrew Bible, the deuterocanonical works, and the New Testament.
The historical reliability of the Gospels refers to the reliability and historic character of the four New Testament gospels as historical documents. While all four canonical gospels contain some sayings and events which may meet one or more of the five criteria for historical reliability used in biblical studies, the assessment and evaluation of these elements is a matter of ongoing debate. Almost all scholars of antiquity agree that a human Jesus existed, but scholars differ on the historicity of specific episodes described in the Biblical accounts of Jesus, and the only two events subject to "almost universal assent" are that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and was crucified by the order of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate. Elements whose historical authenticity is disputed include the two accounts of the Nativity of Jesus, the miraculous events including the resurrection, and certain details about the crucifixion.
The cursing of the fig tree is an incident in the gospels, presented in Mark and Matthew as a miracle in connection with the entry into Jerusalem, and in Luke as a parable. The image is taken from the Old Testament symbol of the fig tree representing Israel, and the cursing of the fig tree in Mark and Matthew and the parallel story in Luke are thus symbolically directed against the Jews, who have not accepted Jesus as king.
Oral gospel traditions, cultural information passed on from one generation to the next by word of mouth, were the first stage in the formation of the written gospels. These oral traditions included different types of stories about Jesus. For example, people told anecdotes about Jesus healing the sick and debating with his opponents. The traditions also included sayings attributed to Jesus, such as parables and teachings on various subjects which, along with other sayings, formed the oral gospel tradition.
The historicity and origin of the resurrection of Jesus has been the subject of historical research and debate, as well as a topic of discussion among theologians. The accounts of the Gospels, including the empty tomb and the appearances of the risen Jesus to his followers, have been interpreted and analyzed in diverse ways, and have been seen variously as historical accounts of a literal event, as accurate accounts of visionary experiences, as non-literal eschatological parables, and as fabrications of early Christian writers, among various other interpretations. It has been suggested, for example, that Jesus did not die on the cross, that the empty tomb was the result of Jesus' body having been stolen, or, as was common with Roman crucifixions, that Jesus was never entombed.
The name John is prominent in the New Testament and occurs numerous times. Among Jews of this period, the name was one of the most popular, borne by about five percent of men. Thus, it has long been debated which Johns are to be identified with which.
Paul N. Anderson is a New Testament scholar conducting research on the historical, cultural and theological background of the Gospel of John, the historical Jesus, Quaker studies, and spirituality studies. He is Professor of Biblical and Quaker Studies at George Fox University since 1989 and was a founding member of the John, Jesus, and History Project at the Society of Biblical Literature 2002-2016. He also serves as Extraordinary Professor of Religion at North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa and has served as a visiting professor or researcher at Haverford College, Yale Divinity School, Princeton Theological Seminary, the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, the Radboud University of Nijmegen, and Chapman University.
Online translations of the Gospel of John:
Gospel of John
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