The Four Gospels: John

The Sea of Galilee offered fishermen a livelihood for many generations with the calling of the Jewish fishermen being the first step by which God brought the light of the Gospel to shine on all people. John was one such man. The youngest apostle, John was the son of Zebedee and Salome and was mending nets with his father along with his brother, James when Jesus called him and his brother to be “fisher of men”. As author of the Gospel of John as well as four other books of the New Testament (the three Epistles of John and the Book of Revelation), John writes as an eyewitness to the events he recorded.

Serving as one of four canonical gospels in the New Testament, the Gospel of John is traditionally positioned after the three Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, in part due to when the book was believed to be written. Many scholars believe that the three Synoptic Gospels were written while the city of Jerusalem was still standing and contained predictions by Jesus concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD. Meanwhile there is a debate among many scholars as to when the Gospel of John was actually written. Some scholars suggest it was written as early as 65 to 70 AD with portions of the book referring to areas around the temple while it was still in existence. Due to variances however, found in literary style within the gospel, more contemporary scholars believe the gospel was actually written in two or three stages over a period of years, with the gospel emerging in its complete form sometime after the temple’s destruction and John’s exile… around 80 and perhaps as late as 90 AD. This latter account would offer an explanation as to why this book differs from and is not linked to the three Synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

In terms of audience, the Gospel of John targets Gentiles and Christians of Greece, emphasizing Jesus as the Son of God. Referring to himself throughout as “the one whom Jesus loved”, John covers spiritual themes for strengthening the faith of believers while appealing to unbelievers to come to faith in Christ. Focusing on events and details of Jesus’ life not mentioned in the other Gospels, John conveys God love for humanity and is the only Gospel to refer to Jesus as the Word and the voice of God.

The following is the basic outline of the Gospel of John:

  1. The Prologue (1:1-18), which includes the Word introduced (1:1-5); the Word’s witness (1:6-13); and the Word in Flesh (1:14-18).
  2. The Book of Signs: Jesus Reveals the Father (1:19-12:50), which includes the miracles Jesus performed along with as a number of dialogues and monologues encompassing the Witness of John (1:19-34); the First Disciples (1:35-51); the Wedding at Cana (2:1-12); the Cleansing the Temple (2:13-22); the New Birth (3:1-10); a Monologue on Believing (3:11-21); John the Baptist’s Final Witness (3:22-36); the Dialog with the Samaritan Woman (4:4-26); the Living Water (4:7-15); Worship in Spirit and Truth (4:16-26); Dialog with the Disciples (4:27-42); the Life-Giving Word (4:43-5:47); Jesus – The Bread of Life (6:1-71); Dialogs on Jesus’ True Identity (7:1-8:59); Signs and Teachings (9:1-11:44); and Jesus’ Last Days (11:45-12:50)
  3. The Book of Glory: Jesus Returns to the Father (13:1-20:31), which introduces the Discipleship (13:1-30); the Last Discourses of Jesus (13:31-16:33); Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer (17:1-26); Passion Narrative (18:1-19:42); as well as the Resurrection Narrative (20:1-21:25), which includes the First Evidence of Jesus’ Resurrection (20:1-10) and Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene (20:11-18) and to Thomas (20:19-29)
  4. The Epilogue (20:30 – 21:25), which closes the book with the Purpose of the Gospel (20:30-31); Jesus’ Appearance to Seven Disciples Who Were Fishing (21:1-14); Jesus’ Final Words to Peter (21:15-23); and the second ending to the gospel (21:24-25)

Do you think the timing of when this inspiring book was written matters? If so, why?
What is clear is that the Holy Spirit served as the driving force for these four men and for these four gospels to show us in very real ways the truth about Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior from different vantage points. With each writer emphasizing different themes of Jesus’ life, these four historical testimonies provide a powerful, incredibly beautiful portrait of Jesus as servant and teacher, and as Son of God and Son of Man to convey God’s love for humanity.

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