Exd & Cnq


κατα ιωαννην
The Gospel According to John


  • Authorship
  • Traditionally, John "son of Zebedee"  (also Letters of Jn and Revelation).
    • If true, 1 of 2 gospels possibly written by an eyewitness to Jesus' ministry-
      • Mt being the other.

  • But John "son of Zebedee" is never mentioned by name in this gospel,
    • none of the stories in the synoptics in which John is so prevalent are recorded in this gospel.
      • [Transfiguration, Jairus' daughter, Agony in the Garden, "Ambition" of James and John]

  • JN's epilogue states that the "Beloved Disciple" is the author,
    • or at least the source for the gospel's information.

  • Date
  • may rely on earlier sources; probably dates to end of 1st century,
    • between 90-100 AD.

  • Jn mentions Jesus' followers expelled from synagogues,
    • did not begin until after destruction of the temple (70 AD)
    • when Rabbinic Judaism became dominant (90 AD).

  • earliest known manuscript fragment of a NT document is a papyrus fragment of GJn, 
    • dates as early as 125 AD.
    • P52 or the "Rylands Papyrus"

  • Jn is also mentioned in writings of early Church Fathers from 1st half of 2nd century
    • given time necessary for a document to be transmitted, suggests a date around the turn of the century.

  • Location
  • Traditionally, Ephesus in Asia Minor,
    • city to which Jn son of Zebedee traveled
      • later exiled to Patmos,
        • the location from which Revelation was written.

  • Probably a major urban center,
    • Jn's uses language of Hellenistic philosophy.
    • [But, discovery of DSS suggests Hellenistic ideas had influenced even most isolated of Palestinian Jewish groups.similar language and imagery,probably centuries before Jn was written.]

  • JN could contain traditions from Jesus' ministry or the Jerusalem church.
    • shows greater knowledge of the Jerusalem temple than the other gospels, suggesting personal familiarity.

  • Purpose
  • Jn went through stages of editing before being canonized.
  • were some of the author's intentions distorted or diminished?
    • later edits make the gospel's image of Jesus conform to that of developing orthodoxy.

  • possible purposes:
  • grounds faith in beliefs about Jesus and his relationship w/ the Father,
    • not apocalyptic expectations of return of a "Son of Man," or a coming "kingdom of God."
    • [Both phrases used less frequently in Jn than in Synoptics.]

  • a counter to movement towards apostolic authority (esp. Peter) in early Christian communities?
    • Like Paul, Jn endorses a church that is "spirit guided"
      • not submitting to a specific leader.
    • Jesus refers to the spirit as the "Paraclete" (Advocate)
      • that the Father "will" send in the future,
      • to lead the community in Jesus' place.
    • In Jesus' "Good Shepherd" speech,
      • he rejects the idea that churches can be led by human shepherds.

  • In General
  • Since 3rd century, John = the "spiritual gospel"  (Clement of Alexandria)
    • early church was aware of the differences between John and the synoptics.

  • Five writings in the NT have been associated with "John":
    • GJohn
    • Letters of 1,2, & 3 John
    • Revelation- only one to name its author as "John"

  • Roughly 90% of the GJohn has no // in synoptics.
  • Jn's unique material contains some memorable stories:
    • The Miracle at Cana
    • Jesus and Nicodemus
    • Samaritan Woman at the Well 
    • Raising of Lazarus
    • Washing the feet of the disciples
    • "Doubting Thomas"
    • (The Woman Caught in Adultery)

  • missing from Jn:
    • No genealogy or infancy narrative
    • No baptism of Jesus
    • No temptation in the Desert
    • No transfiguration
    • No parables
    • No exorcisms
    • No institution of the Eucharist
    • No Agony in the Garden
    • No mention of the name of Jesus' mother
    • No list of the Twelve Apostles
    • No teachings about the Kingdom of God
    • No specific mentioning of Gentiles

  • Material Jn has in common w/ the synoptics, but changed:
    • Jesus' ministry lasts for at least 2 years,
      • text refers to 3 Passovers (2:13; 6:4; 11:55).
    • "Cleansing of the Temple" comes at beginning of Jesus' ministry, not the end,
      • not the reason the Jewish authorities arrest Jesus.
    • Nathanael is among the disciples called.
    • Mary, sister of Martha, anoints Jesus at Bethany.
    • Jesus dies day b4 the Passover, not the morning after.

  • Characteristics
  • [1] The Prologue (1:1-18)
    • Jesus = the "Word" or "Logos" of God-
      • a term w/ meanings both from Greek philosophy and Judaism.
    • Jesus is both present and divine "from the beginning" (like "Wisdom" in the OT).
      • [see Sirach 24; Wis. of Solomon 6-9:18]
    • the "Word became flesh"- Jesus is fully human and fully divine;
      • also incarnated, not "born."

  • [2] Refs to the "disciple whom Jesus loved" (Beloved Disciple).
    • Who is he?
    • gospel's epilogue says the BL is the author. (21:23-24).
    • BL has a more intimate relationship w/ Jesus than  Peter:
      • 13:21-29=  at Last Supper, BL passes Peter's question about Judas' betrayal to Jesus.
      • [18:15-18=  he gains Peter access to Jesus' hearing in Pilate's court, where Peter denies Jesus.]
      • 19:26-27= he becomes Mary's "son," and Jesus' brother. (He is the only male disciple at the cross)
      • 20:2-10= he outruns Peter to the empty tomb.
      • [21:4-7= while fishing, he is first to recognize the resurrected Jesus on the shore, and identifies him to Peter.]
      • 21:20-22= Jesus may have promised that he would "live until the master returns"
        • [the ONLY reference to a second coming in the gospel- but it gets reinterpreted]

    • Tradition identifies the BD w/ John, son of Zebedee (one of the 12);
      • also considered the gospel's author, but...
      • never mentioned by name in GJn.

      • synoptics claim that John was w/ Jesus from the beginning of his ministry,
        • but the BD does not appear until relatively late in GJn.
        • None of the events associated w/ John son of Zebedee mentioned in the synoptics are mentioned in GJn.

    • Lazarus?
      • described as 'one whom Jesus loved' in 11:36;
        • all refs to the BD occur after this.
      • raised from the dead;
        • may have contributed to rumors that he would not die (see 21:20-23).
      • But... Lazarus is never described as a disciple in John,
        • much less in the synoptics, where the 12 are listed.

    • Most scholars believe that the BD is purposely unnamed in John-
      • probably known to John's community,
      • and the source of the community's traditions about Jesus.

  • [3] Use of symbolism.
  • uses symbols to explain the identity of Jesus:
    • Jesus is referred to as "lamb of God."

    • 7 symbolic "I am" sayings:
      • "...the bread of life" (6:35)
      • "...the light of the world" (8:12 & 9:5)
      • "...the gate" (10:7,9)
      • "...the good shepherd" (10:11 & 14)
      • "...the resurrection and the life" (11:25)
      • "...the way, the truth, and the life" (14:6)
      • "...the vine" (15:1,5)

    • [phrase "I AM" is significant (see 8:58 & 13:19; Exodus 3:14)
    • All total, Jesus refers to himself with an "I am" saying (some not symbolic) 46x in John,
      • only 2x in Mk and Lk, and 5x in Mt.]

    • Dualistic symbolism:
      • Light and Darkness (1:5; 3:19; 8:12; 12:35,46).
        • Nicodemus (3:2) comes to Jesus "at night," i.e. in darkness.
      • Above and Below (3:31; 8:23)
      • Sacramental symbolism:
      • Jesus= "living water";
        • other refs to water linked to baptism.
        • [but Jn has no reference to Jesus' baptism]
      • Refs to bread ("bread of life"), wine, and blood are linked to Eucharist.
        • [also no words of institution at the Last Supper.]

    • Characters misunderstand Jesus' symbolic language.
      • gives Jn opportunity to explain Jesus' symbols;
      • trains reader to look for symbolism throughout the gospel.
        • The Temple (2:19-21)
        • Living Bread (6:51-52)

  • [4] The content and style of Jesus' teachings diff in Jn.
    • Synoptics claim Jesus "never" taught w/o using parables
      • (Mark 4:34; Matthew 13:34)
    • in Jn, Jesus
      • uses long philosophical discourses, never parables.
      • says little about Kingdom of God;
      • speaks frequently about himself.
    • Also, no prediction of Jerusalem's fall,
      • typical of synoptic apocalyptic discourses.

  • [5] Jn has a unique understanding of the holy Spirit,
  • "Paraclete" or "Advocate."
    • LK also focuses on the Spirit, but each author understands it differently:
    • In Lk, Spirit = source of power for mission and ministry.
    • In Jn, Spirit teaches and reveals truth-
      • same as Jesus throughout the gospel.
      • So, Jesus speaks of the Spirit in the future tense,
        • it 'will come' after he has died and returned to the Father.

    • For JN, Spirit = felt presence of Jesus, despite his physical absence.
      • this actually replaces any reference to the Parousia,
        • or 'second coming.'
        • which is already realized in the presence of the spirit.

  • [6] John refers to Jesus' miracles as "signs."
    • each is followed by a related sermon
      • [for example, Jesus multiplies the loaves,
        • and then explains how he is the "bread of life";
      • he gives sight to the blind,
        • then refers to himself as "the light of the world," etc.]

    • Differs from synoptics-
      • where Jesus refuses to perform signs,
      • and those who seek signs are seen as evil
        • [Mt 12:38-39 & Lk 11:29-32, also Mk 13:22].

    • consider the temptation stories [Mt 4:1-11, Lk 4:1-13].
      • Satan tempts Jesus to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple-knowing that angels will catch him. 
      • What is the temptation? 
        • the temple would be filled w/ a crowd of people,
        •  who would see what happened and know who Jesus was-
          • he would use his power to prove his identity.

      • Jesus rejects this as Satanic.
      • Consider:
        • Raising of Jairus' Daughter in Mk (5:21-43)
        • Raising of Lazarus in Jn (11:1-44)
      • In both:
        • A person is ill
        • relative goes to Jesus for help
        • Jesus is delayed
        • When he arrives, person has died & is being mourned
        • Jesus says the person is "sleeping" (meaning dead)
        • witnesses think Jesus has arrived too late & can't help
        • Jesus says something that causes the person 2 rise from the dead
        • and instructs on how to care for the person.

      • Unique:
        • In Mk, Jesus is delayed inadvertently,
        • In Jn it is intentional. Why?
          • The text explains (11:15)
        • In Mk, Jesus heals the girl in private,
          • in Jn the healing is public

    • In Jn, Jesus' signs lead people to true faith (see 20:30-31)-
      • though gospel admits faith based on signs is a problem (see 4:48).

    • In other words, Jesus' miracles are "signs" of who he is.
    • John mentions exactly 7 signs:
      • Turning water into wine (2:1-11)
      • Healing the Capernaum official's son (4:46-54)
      • Healing the paralytic by the pool of Bethzatha (5:2-9)
      • Feeding the 5000 (6:1-14)
      • Walking on water (6:16-21)
      • Healing the man born blind (9:1-12)
      • Raising Lazarus from the dead (11:1-44)

    • But notice 20:30-31,
      • "Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples..."

  • [7] In Jn, when Jesus is crucified, he is exalted.
    • In synoptics, 3 passion predictions
      • [in Mark, see 8:31-32; 9:31; 10:33-34)]
    • In Jn, Jesus predicts 3x that he will be "lifted up" [3:14; 8:28; 12:32-34]
      • both the literal and symbolic meaning-
      • lifted up from the earth on a cross,
      • exalted and glorified, and, ultimately, he ascends into heaven.
    • In Jn, Jesus has total control of the events leading to his crucifixion.
      • no reason for an "agony" in the garden-
      • Jesus never doubts his purpose. [But see 12:27-28]

  • [8] Jn identifies Jesus' opponents as "the Jews."
    • The only other place is Mt 28:15.
    • Jn knows Jesus and his followers are Jewish
      • [4:9- the Samaritan woman calls Jesus "a Jew"]

    • Jn is aware of a split between Judaism and Christianity-
      • they are distinct religions by the time he writes.
        • People must choose between Jesus or Moses (9:28).
        • Confessing faith in Jesus means being expelled from the synagogue (9:22; 12:42; 16:2).

    • Jn portrays the Jews as
      • not believing their own scriptures (5:37-47).
      • and rejecting their allegiance to God (19:15).

    • Jesus refers to some of the Jews as "children of the devil" (8:44).
    • Jn's bitterness towards the Jews has more to do with his own time,
      • not the time of Jesus and the apostles.
        • [having Christians ejected from synagogues is anachronistic-
          • Jesus' followers saw themselves as Jewish,
          • and were perceived as another "sect" of Judaism]

    • 'Jews' is better trans. as 'Judeans' in Jn
      • refers more specifically to those seen as responsible for Jesus' death.

  • [9] Jn emphasizes the commandment to 'love one another' as the mark of  a Christian.
    • Jn has none of the synoptic reinterpretations of the Mosaic law:
      • Nothing on divorcing, keeping the Sabbath, ending the law of retaliation, and forgiving enemies.
    • Only one new commandment- 'to love.'