Gospel of John

Gospel of John

The Gospel of John (literally, "According to John"; Greek, Κατὰ Ἰωάννην, "Kata Iōannēn") is the fourth gospel in the canon of the New Testament, traditionally ascribed to John the Evangelist. Like the three synoptic gospels, it contains an account of some of the actions and sayings of Jesus of Nazareth, but differs from them in ethos and theological emphases. The Gospel appears to have been written with an evangelistic purpose, primarily for Greek-speaking Jews who were not believers, [Colin G. Kruse, "The Gospel According to John: An Introduction and Commentary", Eerdmans (2004), page 21. ISBN 0802827713] , or to strengthen the faith of Christians."Gospel of John." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005] A second purpose was to counter criticisms or unorthodox beliefs of Jews, John the Baptist's followers, and those who believed Jesus was only spirit and not flesh.Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985.]

Of the four gospels, John presents the highest Christology, describing him as the Logos who is the Arche (a Greek term for "existed from the beginning" or "the ultimate source of all things"), teaching at length about his identity as savior, and possibly declaring him to be God. [A detailed technical discussion can be found in Raymond E. Brown, "Does the New Testament call Jesus God?" "Theological Studies" 26 (1965): 545–73]

Compared to the Synoptic Gospels, John focuses on Jesus' mission to bring the Logos ("Word", "Wisdom", "Reason" or "Rationality") to his disciples. Only in John does Jesus talk at length about himself, including a substantial amount of material Jesus shared with the disciples only. Here Jesus' public ministry consists largely of miracles not found in the Synoptics, including raising Lazarus from the dead. In John, Jesus, not his message, has become the object of veneration.Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985.] Certain elements of the synoptics (such as parables, exorcisms, and possibly the Second Coming) are not found in John.

Since "the higher criticism" of the 19th century, historians have questioned the gospel of John as a reliable source of information about the historical Jesus. [ [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08438a.htm#VI Gospel of Saint John] , in Catholic Encyclopedia 1910] ["In particular, the fourth Gospel, which does not emanate or profess to emanate from the apostle John, cannot be taken as an historical authority in the ordinary meaning of the word. The author of it acted with sovereign freedom, transposed events and put them in a strange light, drew up the discourses himself, and illustrated 22 great thoughts by imaginary situations. Although, his work is not altogether devoid of a real, if scarcely recognisable, traditional element, it can hardly make any claim to be considered an authority for Jesus’ history; only little of what he says can be accepted, and that little with caution. On the other hand, it is an authority of the first rank for answering the question, What vivid views of Jesus’ person, what kind of light and warmth, did the Gospel disengage?" Adolf von Harnack [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/harnack/christianity.iii.ii.html What is Christianity? Lectures Delivered in the University of Berlin during the Winter-Term 1899-1900] ] [Harris says John's biography is "highly problematical to scholars..." p. 268. Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985.] Most scholars regard the work as anonymous, [Harris, Stephen L.. "Understanding the Bible: a reader's introduction", 2nd ed. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. page 302.] [Delbert Burkett, "An Introduction to the New Testament and the Origins of Christianity", Cambridge University Press, (2002), page 215.] [F. F. Bruce, "The Gospel of John", Eerdmans (1994), page 1.] and date it to "c" 90–100.

Narrative summary (structure and content of John)

After the prologue (] Tradition ascribes the book the John the Evangelist, a disciple of Christ.

John the Evangelist

The tradition that John the Apostle, son of Zebedee, was the author goes back at least to the end of the 2nd century. Several other authors have historically been suggested, including Papias, John the Presbyter and Cerinthus,] He identifies three layers of text in the Fourth Gospel (a situation that is paralleled by the synoptic gospels): 1) an initial version Brown considers based on personal experience of Jesus; 2) a structured literary creation by the evangelist which draws upon additional sources; and 3) the edited version that readers know today (Brown 1979).

Among scholars, Ephesus in Asia Minor is a popular suggestion for the gospel's origin.Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985.]


Most scholars agree on a range of "c." 90–100 for when the gospel was written, though dates as early as the 60s or as late as the 140s have been advanced by a small number of scholars. The writings of Justin Martyr use language very similar to that found in the gospel of John, which would also support that the Gospel was in existence by at least the middle of the second century, [ [http://www.ntcanon.org/Justin_Martyr.shtml Justin Martyr] "NTCanon.org". Retrieved April 25, 2007.] and the Rylands Library Papyrus P52, which records a fragment of this gospel, is usually dated between 125 and 160. [Nongbri, Brent, 2005. "The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel." Harvard Theological Review 98:23–52.]

The traditional view is supported by reference to the statement of Clement of Alexandria that John wrote to supplement the accounts found in the other gospels (Eusebius of Caesarea, "Ecclesiastical History", 6.14.7). This would place the writing of John's gospel sufficiently after the writing of the synoptics.

Conservative scholars consider internal evidences, such as the lack of the mention of the destruction of the temple and a number of passages that they consider characteristic of an eye-witness (John 13:23ff, 18:10, 18:15, 19:26–27, 19:34, 20:8, 20:24–29), sufficient evidence that the gospel was composed before 100 and perhaps as early as 50–70. Barrett suggests an earliest date of 90, based on familiarity with Mark’s gospel, and the late date of a synagogue expulsion of Christians (which is a theme in John). [Barrett, C. K. "The Gospel According to St. John.", p.127–128] Morris suggests 70, given Qumran parallels and John’s turns of phrase, such as "his disciples" vs. "the disciples". [Morris, L. "The Gospel According to John" p.59] John A.T. Robinson proposes an initial edition by 50–55 and then a final edition by 65 due to narrative similarities with Paul. [Robinson, J. A. T. "Redating the Gospels", pp. 284, 307]

There are critical scholars who are of the opinion that John was composed in stages (probably two or three), beginning at an unknown time (50–70?) and culminating in a final text around 95–100. This date is assumed in large part because John 21, the so-called "appendix" to John, is largely concerned with explaining the death of the "beloved disciple", supposedly the leader of the Johannine community that would have produced the text. If this leader had been a follower of Jesus, or a disciple of one of Jesus' followers, then a death around 90–100 is reasonable.

Textual history and manuscripts

Perhaps one of the earliest known manuscripts of the New Testament is a fragment from John, Rylands Library Papyrus 457, better known as P52. A scrap of papyrus roughly the size of a business card discovered in Egypt in 1920 (now at the John Rylands Library, Manchester, accession number P52) bears parts of

*] The difficulty of fixing the date of a fragment based solely on paleographic evidence allows for a range of dates that extends from before 100 to well into the second half of the second century. P52 is small, and although a plausible reconstruction can be attempted for most of the fourteen lines represented, nevertheless the proportion of the text of the Gospel of John for which it provides a direct witness is necessarily limited, so it is rarely cited in textual debate. [Tuckett, p. 544; http://www.skypoint.com/~waltzmn/ManuscriptsPapyri.html#P52; http://www.historian.net/P52.html.] Other notable early manuscripts include Papyrus 66 and Papyrus 75.

Much current research on the textual history of the Gospel of John is being done by the International Greek New Testament Project.

Source criticism

Source criticism is the practice of deducing an author's or redactor's sources, especially in Biblical criticism.

igns gospel

In 1941 Rudolf Bultmann suggested ["Das Evangelium des Johannes", 1941 (translated as "The Gospel of John: A Commentary," 1971)] that the author of John depended in part on an oral miracles tradition or manuscript account of Christ's miracles that was independent of, and not used by, the synoptic gospels. This hypothetical "Signs Gospel" is alleged to have been circulating before 70. Its traces can be seen in the remnants of a numbering system associated with some of the miracles that appear in the "Gospel of John": all of the miracles that are mentioned only by John occur in the presence of John; the "signs" or "semeia" (the expression is uniquely John's) are unusually dramatic; and they are accomplished in order to call forth faith (see ). He doubts that Jesus has risen physically from the grave, and Jesus proves that he has. While the tradition of John was popular in Asia Minor, the tradition of Thomas was popular in neighboring Syria. To him was attributed a version of Jesus' teachings with Gnostic elements, which appears in the Gospel of Thomas. In John, the author uses Thomas himself to demonstrate that Jesus rose in the flesh.

Differences from the Synoptic Gospels

John is significantly different from the Synoptic Gospels in many ways. Some of the differences are:

* The Gospel of John contains four visits by Jesus to Jerusalem, three of which associated with the Passover feast. This chronology suggests Jesus' public ministry lasted three or two years. The synoptic gospels describe only one trip to Jerusalem in time for the Passover observance.
* The Kingdom of God is only mentioned twice in John (] Rather it contains metaphoric stories or allegories, such as The Shepherd and The Vine, in which each individual element corresponds to a specific group or thing. The UBS "Greek New Testament" [edited by Kurt Aland, Bruce M. Metzger and other scholars] titles
* The Synoptics contain a wealth of stories about Jesus' miracles and healings, but John does not have as many of those stories., the temple ) is missing from the best early Greek manuscripts. When it does appear it is at different places: here, after John 7:36 or at the end of this gospel. It can also be found after Luke 21:38.
* The crucifixion of Jesus is recorded as Nisan 14 ( etc).
* Jesus refers to himself with "εγω ειμι" "I am" seven times () () (
* In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus refuses to give any sign that he is the messiah, which is known as the Messianic Secret, for example , and ) () ()—but there are two other signs that occur in between these. Scholars conclude that this strange numbering occurs because John had access to a source, probably written, that consisted of the "signs" of Jesus in some numbered order. In between the first and second signs found in John's "Sign source", known as the Signs Gospel, John added his own, but did not account for his additions by numbering.
* There are no stories about Satan, demons or exorcisms, no predictions of end times, though there is mention of the Last Day (, ), or apocalyptic teachings other than perhaps )
* Jesus washes the disciples' feet ()
* Mary Magdalene visits the empty tomb twice. She believes Jesus' body has been stolen. The second time she sees two angels. They do not tell her Jesus is risen. They only ask why she is crying. Mary mistakes Jesus for the gardener. He tells Mary "not to" touch or cling to him. ()
* The "disciple whom Jesus loved" wrote down things he had witnessed, and his testimony is asserted by a third party to be true (, , , ).

Critical scholarship on the differences between John and the synoptics

Since the advent of critical scholarship, John's historical importance has been considered less significant than the synoptic traditions by some scholars. The scholars of the 19th century concluded that the Gospel of John had little historical value. Over the next two centuries scholars such as Bultmann and Dodd looked closer and began finding historically important parts of John. Many scholars today believe that parts of John represent an independent historical tradition from the synoptics, while other parts represent later traditions. [Brown 1997, p. 362–364] The scholars of the Jesus Seminar still assert that there is little historical value in John, and consider nearly every Johannine saying of Jesus to be nonhistorical. [ [http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_jsem.htm Jesus Seminar] ] However, most scholars agree that John is a very important document on Christian theology.

J. D. G. Dunn comments: "few scholars would regard John as a source for information regarding Jesus' life and ministry in any degree comparable to the Synoptics". [James D. G. Dunn, "Jesus Remembered", Eerdmans (2003), page 165]

But Henry Wansbrough says: "Gone are the days when it was scholarly orthodoxy to maintain that John was the least reliable of the gospels historically." It has become generally accepted that certain sayings in John are as old or older than their synoptic counterparts, that John's knowledge of things around Jerusalem is often superior to the synoptics, and that his presentation of Jesus' agony in the garden and the prior meeting held by the Jewish authorities are possibly more historically accurate than their synoptic parallels. [Henry Wansbrough, "The Four Gospels in Synopsis", The Oxford Bible Commentary, pp. 1012-1013, Oxford University Press 2001 ISBN 0198755007]


John was written somewhere near the end of the first century, probably in Ephesus, in Anatolia. The tradition of John the Apostle was strong in Anatolia, and Polycarp of Smyrna reportedly knew him. Like the previous gospels, it circulated separately until Irenaeus proclaimed all four gospels to be scripture.

In the early church, John's reference to Jesus as the eternal Logos was a popular definition of Jesus, defeating the rival view that Jesus had been born a man but had been adopted as God's Son. The gospel's description of Jesus' divinity was fundamental to the developing doctrine of the Trinity.

In the second century, Montanus of Phrygia launched a movement in which he claimed to be the Paraclete promised in John.

Jerome translated John into its official Latin form, replacing various older translations.

Although very much in line with many stories in the Synoptic Gospels and probably primitive (the Didascalia Apostolorum definitely refers to it and it was probably known to Papias), the Pericope Adulterae is not part of the original text of the Gospel of John.Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005] The evidence for this view does not convince all scholars. ["If it is not an original part of the Fourth Gospel, its writer would have to be viewed as a skilled Johannine imitator, and its placement in this context as the shrewdest piece of interpolation in literary history!" The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text with Apparatus: Second Edition, by Zane C. Hodges (Editor), Arthur L. Farstad (Editor) Publisher: Thomas Nelson; ISBN-10: 0840749635]

When Bible criticism developed in the 19th century, John came under increasing criticism as less historically reliable than the synoptics.

See also

* List of Gospels
* Last Gospel
* Egerton Gospel
* Jesus and the woman taken in adultery
* Gospel of Mark
* The Gospel of John (film)
* Images of Jesus
* Signs gospel
* That They All May Be One
*List of omitted Bible verses


Further reading

* Raymond E. Brown, "The Gospel According to John" Anchor Bible, 1966, 1970
* Raymond E. Brown, "The Community of the Beloved Disciple" Paulist Press, 1979
* Robin M. Jensen, "The Two Faces of Jesus", Bible Review October 2002, p42
* J.H. Bernard & A.H. McNeile, "A Critical and Exegetical Commentary On The Gospel According To St. John". Edinburgh, T. & T. Clark, 1953.
* Robert Murray M'Cheyne "Bethany – Discovering Christ's Love in Times of Suffering When Heaven Seems Silent", (a study of John 12) Diggory Press, ISBN 978-1846857027

External links

Online translations of the Gospel of John:
* [http://www.biblegateway.com "Bible Gateway 35 languages/50 versions" at GospelCom.net]
* [http://unbound.biola.edu "Unbound Bible 100+ languages/versions" at Biola University]
* [http://www.gospelhall.org/bible/bible.php?passage=John+1 "Online Bible" at gospelhall.org]
* [http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/egerton.html The Egerton Gospel:] text. Compare it with "Gospel of John"

Related articles:
* [http://www-user.uni-bremen.de/~wie/TCG/TC-John.pdf A textual commentary on the Gospel of John] Detailed textcritical discussion of the 300 most important variants of the Greek text (PDF, 376 pages)
* [http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/signs.html "Signs Gospel"] . a hypothetical written source for miracles in the "Gospel of John": discussion
* [http://rylibweb.man.ac.uk/data1/dg/text/fragment.htm Papyrus fragment of "John" at the John Rylands Library;] illustrated.
* [http://www.kchanson.com/ANCDOCS/greek/johnpap.html John Rylands papyrus:] text, translation, illustration and a bibliography of the discussion
* [http://25.1911encyclopedia.org/J/JO/JOHN_GOSPEL_OF_ST.htm John, Gospel of St.] in the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica
* [http://www.mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/john.html Gospel of John] – collected comments
* [http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_john.htm Conflicts Between the Gospel of John & the Remaining Three (Synoptic) Gospels] on ReligiousTolerance.com.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Gospel of John —    Biblical text used against DEMONs. Although the reading of any Scripture sends a possessing demon into a tailspin, the words in the Gospel of John seem to cause the most discomfort. The beginning of the book, especially, sent medieval… …   Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology

  • Gospel of John (disambiguation) — Gospel of John may refer to:*The Gospel of John (film), a 2004 film adaptation of the Gospel of John. *Gospel of John …   Wikipedia

  • The Gospel of John (film) — Infobox Film name =The Gospel of John caption = director = Philip Saville producer = Garth Drabinsky Chris Chrisafis writer = John Goldsmith narrator = Christopher Plummer starring = Henry Ian Cusick music = Jeff Danna cinematography = Miroslaw… …   Wikipedia

  • Great Gospel of John — The Great Gospel of John by Jakob Lorber is about 2,000 pages long. It was written over the course of several years in the middle 1800s, in Austria.The Great Gospel is a narrative of Jesus last three years of ministry on Earth. It is a day by day …   Wikipedia

  • Omissions in the Gospel of John — Differences between the Gospel of John and the SynopticsStudying the differences among the various Gospel is important for understanding the origin of these early Christian documents, and how and why they were written.There are several episodes,… …   Wikipedia

  • Gospel of Saint John —     Gospel of St. John     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Gospel of St. John     This subject will be considered under the following heads:     I. Contents and Scheme of the Gospel;     II. Distinctive Peculiarities;     III. Authorship;     IV.… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Gospel in the Liturgy — • From the very earliest times the public reading of parts of the Bible was an important element in the Liturgy inherited from the service of the Synagogue Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Gospel in the Liturgy     G …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • John S. Kloppenborg — is a Canadian professor of religion who has authored numerous books and articles based on Christian Bible scholarship. He is the Chair of the Department and Centre for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto and a participant in The… …   Wikipedia

  • John Dominic Crossan — (b. Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, Ireland, 1934) is an Irish American religious scholar and former Catholic priest known for co founding the Jesus Seminar. Crossan is a major figure in the fields of biblical archaeology, anthropology and New …   Wikipedia

  • John 20 — is the twentieth chapter of the Gospel of John in the Bible. It relates the story of Jesus resurrection. It relates how Mary Magdalene went to the tomb of Jesus and found it empty. Jesus appears to her and speaks of his resurrection and… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.