Study the Church Resources for studying the Bible and Church History

The Gospel of John

Author

Place and Time of Writing

Unique Characteristics

Audience

Theme

Note on the Four Themes of the Four Gospels

The early church leaders (meaning in the period up to the year 400) recognized that the four Gospels presented four different and necessary understandings of Jesus. One attempt to unite the four Gospels into one Gospel was made (It was called the Diatessaron and was compiled in the mid- to late-100s by Tatian.). But the early curch leaders thought that it was unnecessary, and the four Gospels were used instead since they gave a complete picture of Jesus:

Details about the Gospel of John

Two example of Jewish aspects found in John:

  1. John includes 7 "I am" statements by Jesus. This means that Jesus made 7 statements that began with the phrase "I am":
    1. The 7 "I am" statements:
      1. 6:35: "I am the bread of life."
      2. 8:12: "I am the light of the world."
      3. 10:9: "I am the gate."
      4. 10:11: "I am the good shepherd"
      5. 11:25: "I am the resurrection and the life."
      6. 14:6: "I am the way, the truth, and the life."
      7. 15:5: "I am the vine; you are the branches."
    2. This was significant to the Jews of Jesus' day for two reasons.
      • Seven was a significant number among the Jews (for example, Genesis says that God created everything in 6 days and then rested on the 7th day).
      • Concerning the phrase “I am.” In the Old Testament (in the book of Exodus), Moses asked God what God wanted to be called. God said, "Yahweh," which, in Hebrew, means "I am." Now this may sound a bit odd: why would someone want to be called “I am”? The answer is significant: Think about it this way: try to make an action sentence without using the verb “to be.” It is hard if not impossible: for example, “they are walking,” “he is working,” “she is writing.” So the verb “to be” is basic to language. In giving his title as “I am,” (“Yahweh” in Hebrew), God in the OT was saying that he was the basis or foundation to existence. God is not something among a lot of somethings, but God is the basis of everything. This was the understanding that the Jews had of God during the time of Jesus.
    3. Therefore, for Jesus to use the phrase “I am” to refer to himself, and for John to use this seven times in his Gospel, would have been a clear clue to Jews that John was presenting Jesus as God.
  2. Not only does John include 7 “I am” statements, but he also describes 7 miracles that Jesus performed during his ministry. Since a miracle is something Jews believed that only God could perform, this would highlight the theme of John that Jesus was God. (John does include one additional miracle in the last chapter of his Gospel, but this occurs after Jesus’ death and during the last meeting between Jesus and his Apostles.)

An example of a Gentile aspect found in John.

John 3:16: The most quoted verse in the Bible: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but will have eternal life.”

This verse is actually complex and can lead to misunderstandings.

Outline of John (chapters)

Comparing the amount of chapters by the 4 Gospels on the last week of Jesus’ life:

The Gospels dedicate from 1/5 (Luke) to more than 1/3 (John) of their writings to the last week of Jesus’ life. In Christianity, this signifies the importance that the crucifixion has in understanding why Jesus came.

Timeline up to the Gospel of John

Year Event
63 B.C. Romans conquer Israel.
27 B.C. Pax Romana began and lasted until A.D. 180.
4 B.C. Jesus born.
All dates after this are A.D. ["c." means "about"]
c.27 Jesus baptized.
c.30 Jesus crucified, buried, rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven.
64 Fire in Rome and Christians persecuted by Emperor Nero; Peter crucified upside down and Paul beheaded.
c.67 Gospel of Mark written.
70 Temple in Jerusalem destroyed by Romans (it has not been rebuilt).
c.80 Gospels of Matthew and Luke written.
c.90 Gospel of John written.
95 Christians persecuted by Emperor Domitian; Apostle John exiled on island of Patmos where he wrote Revelation.
96 Emperor Domitian died; Apostle John probably moved to Ephesus.
c.100 Apostle John died; he was the last Apostle to die.
390's New Testament canon "closed" at Councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397).
1200's Chapters added to the New Testament.
1500's Verses added to the New Testament.

©2012 Mark Nickens