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Gospel According to John

General Information

The Gospel According to John is the fourth book of the New Testament of the Bible. In style, language, and content, it differs dramatically from the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke - called the synoptic Gospels. Unlike these Gospels, the fourth Gospel opens with a philosophical prologue (John 1:1 - 18). It identifies the Logos, or Word, with Christ and introduces the themes to be developed in the Gospel. Further comparisons show that the synoptic Gospels describe the ministry of Christ mainly in Galilee, with reference to only one Passover; but John situates most of the events in Judea and refers to three Passovers.

Thus it is from John's Gospel that one concludes that Jesus' ministry lasted 3 years. In the synoptic Gospels, parables are Jesus' vehicle for teaching; in John, long discourses are used. Although John omits significant events such as the Temptation of Christ and the Transfiguration, he relates a number of events in Jesus' life not found in the synoptic Gospels.

By the time the fourth Gospel was written, in the latter half of the 1st century, Christianity had shifted from Jerusalem to the Aegean world. The thought of the day was directed more to universal truths than to historical facts. With the development of Gnosticism, the idea of the spirit was stressed, and the idea of the material was deemphasized. Weaving into his message concepts like truth, light, life, spirit, and word, John aimed to teach that God's eternal truth had become incarnated for the Salvation of humankind in events that happened once for all. He could not overlook historical events because he believed that in Christ the eternal had become flesh and dwelt among humankind. For John, the true meaning of the eternal could only be understood through the Revelation of God in the historical person Jesus Christ.

According to a tradition dating from the second half of the 2d century, the author of the Gospel was Saint John, the Apostle. Many are still convinced of the tradition's accuracy. Others, while acknowledging that John the Apostle is the source behind the Gospel, refer to John the Elder, a disciple of John, as the author.

Douglas Ezell

C H Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel (1960); W F Howard, Christianity According to St. John (1943); E F Scott, The Fourth Gospel (1930); W H Thomas, The Apostle John (1984).

Gospel of John

Brief Outline

  1. Incarnate Word (1:1-18)
  2. Testimony to Jesus' Messiahship (1:19-2:11)
  3. Christ's self-revelation, through words and deeds (2:12-12:50)
  4. Christ's self-revelation, through His Crucifixion and Resurrection (13-21)


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