A Commentary on the Gospel of John
Introduction to the Gospel
by Cooper Abrams
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John does not stress the "what" of Jesus' ministry, but the "why" of it. John 1:18 states that Jesus "declared" the Father. The verb used here is the root from which we derive our word "exegesis." “Exegesis” is the word used to describe the interpretation of God’s word. It refers to conducting a careful examination and then giving a detailed explanation of a passage of Scripture.
“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” (John 1:18) In other words, Jesus made fully known God the Father and revealed Him to mankind. The phrase “he hath declared Him” is an emphatic statement that says that all the revelations men have received of God, whether under the law or the gospel, had Jesus Christ for their source.
The Gospel of John is unlike the other Gospels, presenting Jesus as the Messiah from the opening of the Book and recording that the Jews were plotting His death from the start of His ministry. John goes into great detail showing the wickedness and hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees and all the Jewish rulers.
Each Synoptic Gospel presents Jesus with a different theme and audience:
2. The fact that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, is emphasized in the fourth gospel is due to the purpose for which John wrote his gospel.
3. The book was intended to be unlike the other gospels. It was written many years later and for a different purpose. All of the other gospels were written before the fall of Jerusalem with Jewish temple worship still in effect.
4. What is recorded in the fourth gospel is consistent with what is recorded in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, & Luke).
The earliest extant copy of any part of the New Testament is a papyrus scrap which was found in Middle Egypt sometime in the first half of the Second Century (AD 135). It contains parts of five verses from John's gospel. It has been estimated that for a piece of literature to circulate from Ephesus to Middle Egypt would take about thirty years. It clearly shows the Gospel of John was being read in Egypt within around thirty years after it was penned.
John is the only one of the four gospel writers to specifically state the purpose for its writing. His purpose was fourfold (John 20:30-31). First, the Gospel’s primary purpose appears to be the evangelization of the lost. The verb "believe" in the key verse is in the aorist tense in most manuscripts showing that this was the purpose of John. A secondary purpose may have been to establish and stabilize believers. A smaller group of manuscripts has the verb "believe" in the present tense implying not a one-time act, but a continual life of faith. A third purpose for the gospel was to combat heresies, particularly the Gnosticism that was prevalent throughout the region during this time. He does this by proving that Jesus Christ was fully man and fully God. Jerome states that John wrote when those who denied the unique person of the Lord were gaining a hearing in the church.
The fourth reason God inspired John to write this Gospel was to supplement the other gospels. The use of the term "this book" in John 21:25 implies that he was probably familiar with the synoptic gospels, or at least their content. However, John 20:31 establishes the main purpose of the Gospel “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” (John 20:31)
John wrote to supplement the other Gospels. The use of the term "this book" in John 21 :25 implies that he was probably familiar with the synoptic gospels, or at least their content. There is a further implication that John presupposes that his readers were familiar with the other gospels (Jn. 3:24 cf. Mk. 6:17 - 18). However this was not the main purpose of his writing.
The gospel of John is not directed to a specific cultural group, but to the world at large. The view of some earlier church fathers is that John wrote a "spiritual gospel" to the churches to provide a fuller account of the ministry of Christ than the synoptic gospels did.
The nature of the gospel of John separates it from the synoptic gospels. John's gospel has a unique presentation of the person of Christ. The main topic is the Savior, not the kingdom. The Synoptic Gospels all present Christ as the Messiah who is offering the promised kingdom to the Jews. The kingdom is only mentioned five times in three verses. John 3:3, 5 when Jesus was speaking to the Jewish Pharisee Nicodemus; and in John 18:36 when Jesus said His kingdom was not of this earth.
The main person of the Gospel is Jesus Christ who is presented as the incarnate God and not referred to as the king. The title king is used sixteen times in John, but he does not record any occasion where Jesus refers to Himself as King. Further, John omits Jesus’ birth, boyhood, and begins with the fact that Jesus is God in John 1:1-4. He used “then” a Hebraic term two hundred times. John gives no parables. Only twenty days of the total within Christ’s life are recorded. The days recorded in the Gospel are not in sequence. John uses the term “Verily, verily” 25 times. The other Gospels only use “verily.” The word means “amen” or “truly.”
(Those underlined are found in John)
Christ Jesus Son of God Son of Man
Son of David Lord Jesus Christ
The Other Names of Jesus Used in the New Testament
Advocate (1 John 2:1)
Lord of glory (1 Co. 2:8)
Master (Mt. 10:24, John 8:4)
Mediator (1 Ti. 2:5)
Messiah (Jn. 1:41)
Mighty God (Is. 9:6)
Nazarene (Mt. 2:23)
*Only Begotten Son (Jn. 1:14)
Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6)
Prophet (Mt. 13:57, Jn. 6:14)
Physician (Mt. 9:12)
Rabbi (Jn. 1:38)
*Resurrection and the Life (Jn. 11:25)
Rock (1 Co. 10:4)
Savior (Mt. 1:21, Jn. 4:42)
Shepherd (Mt. 26:31)
*Son of God (Mt. 14:33, Jn. 1:34)
Son of man (Mt. 8:20, Jn. 1:51)
Son of David (Mt. 21:9)
Son of Abraham (Mt. 1:1)
Sower (Mt. 13:3,37)
Stumbling stone (Ro. 9:33)
*True Vine (Jn. 15:1)
*Truth (Jn. 14:6)
*Way (Jn. 14:6)
Wonderful (Is. 9:6)
*Word (Jn. 1:1)
Only John refers to Jesus as the “Lamb of God.” The Jews understood the sacrifice of a lamb symbolized the taking away of sin. Exodus 12:1-12 records the sacrificial lamb being offered at the Passover.
The Apostle John is one of the most familiar names to the reader of the New Testament. From the Scriptural references we learn much about him. He was a Jew, who was a native of Galilee, as were eleven of the twelve disciples. His name is always among the first four disciples who enjoyed being in the inner circle and closest to the Lord. He is always mentioned whenever the disciples are enumerated and was an eyewitness of the events of the life of Jesus Christ. He was a disciple of John the Baptist prior to meeting Jesus (John 1:37).
His father was named Zebedee, and his mother, Salome (Mk. 1:19; Mk. 16:1 cf. Mt. 27:56). His occupation before becoming a disciple was a fisherman. His father appears to have been prosperous having hired servants working for him (Mark 1:20). John’s family was somewhat prominent as shown in that he was known to the High Priest in Jerusalem. (John 18:15).
John brother, James, was also a disciple of Jesus. Because James is always listed first whenever the two are named together, it is presumed that James was the older of the two. It appears that he and his brother were very emotional. There are incidents which may point to a "hotheadedness" such as wishing to call down fire from heaven on a Samaritan village which did not receive the Lord (Lk. 9:54). He and his brother were nicknamed Boanerges, "the sons of thunder" by the Lord. (Mk. 3:17).
He was a man possessed with genuine humility, as he never mentions his own name in his own gospel, but rather refers to himself by descriptive titles. For example he calls himself "the other disciple" (Jn. 18: 16; 20:2, 3, 4, 8) and "the disciple whom Jesus loved "(Jn. 13:23). He was an eyewitness of the events of the life of Jesus Christ.
John seemingly left Jerusalem shortly before or during the Jewish wars (AD 65 - 69). He spent the final years of his life in Ephesus. During the reign of Domitian (AD 81 - 96) he suffered persecution as a Christian and was banished to the isle of Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation. Upon the accession of the Emperor Nerva (AD 97), he returned to Ephesus where he died during the reign of Trajan in approximately AD 98. He was the only one of the twelve disciples to die a natural death.
The main topic is the Savior, not the kingdom and the main Person is the incarnate God , not the King.
• The Gospel of John omits the birth, genealogy, youth, baptism, temptation, transfiguration, and ascension because he is presenting the deity Jesus as God incarnate in man.
• There are no parables in the gospel of John. The word "paroimia" is translated "parable" in John 10:6 however the word means an illustration or proverb. The word is translated "proverb" the other three times it is used in the New Testament (In John 16:25, 29; 2 Peter 2:22).
• There are eight miracles recorded in John's gospel, and of them only the feeding of the five thousand appears in any other gospel leaving seven as unique to the Gospel of John. This is further evidence that John was written to the world and presented Jesus’ supernatural ministry identifying Him as God come in the flesh.
Because of their preconceived opinions, the higher critics are predisposed to accept a late date for John's gospel, and in the process they also deny the Johannine authorship of the book. Most conservative scholars favor a date between AD 80 and 98 for the composition of the book.
Those who propose an earlier date for the Gospel being written in the 60's often refer to John 5:2 as evidence that it was written before Jerusalem was destroyed. The verse says “Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.” (John 5:2) The critics make the assumption that in 70 AD the pool was completely destroyed. However, the Bethesda pool was excavated in the 19th Century and it was uncovered mostly intact. Did the pool then exist in the end of the 1st Century when John wrote this Gospel? Certainly, and it exists today and your author has visited the site. Further, archaeology found the five porches or pocticos exactly as John recorded.
The latest possible date for composition of the book is AD 98, when John died. The suggested date for the writing of the gospel of John is AD 90-95. This makes the Gospel of John one of the last books of the New Testament to be written.
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