Survey of John

Book Type: The fourth book of the four gospels; the fourth book of the New Testament; the forty-third book of the Bible.

Author: As with the other Gospels, this book does not specifically name its author. However, internal evidence and early church tradition attribute it to the disciple John, also the author of the book of Revelation and the letters 1, 2, and 3 John. Among the advocates of this view was the early church father Polycarp, who actually knew John personally.

Audience: The Gospel of John was written after the other three, and was one of the last books of the Bible to be written. It seems to be written to those who are already familiar with the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Rather than cover the exact same material, John adds additional details.

In particular, John is focused on proving that Jesus Christ is, in fact, God, and that people ought to believe in Him (John 20:31).

Date: Most likely, the Gospel of John was written between AD 85 and 90. Early church fathers always referred to it as “the fourth Gospel,” and it is clearly written by someone who already knows the details given in the other three. Tradition also holds that John wrote this book around the same time as the book of Revelation, when he was already a very old man.

Overview: John’s primary purpose is to prove that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, God incarnate, and the One in whom all people ought to believe. Jesus’ teachings on the meaning of His ministry are given an important role in this book. More so than the other Gospels, John focuses on the meaning behind the miracles.

In order to accomplish his purpose (John 20:31), John provides several categories of evidence, each of which can be divided into seven separate incidents.

The first chapter of John describes Jesus using seven names, which summarize His roles in both Scripture and prophecy. These are the Word (John 1:1–2, 14), the Light (John 1:4–13); the Son of God (John 1:14–28, 34, 49), the Lamb of God (John 1:29–36), Messiah (John 1:35–42), the King of Israel (John 1:43–49) and the Son of Man (John 1:50–51).

Especially important in John are seven of Jesus’ miracles, which John describes as signs. The purpose of including these is to prove that Jesus’ claims, and His ministry, are approved by God. These seven signs are turning water into wine (John 2:1–11), healing an official’s son (John 4:46–54), healing a lame man at the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:1–15), feeding 5,000 at the Sea of Galilee (John 6:1–15), walking on water (John 6:16–21), healing a man born blind (John 9:1–7) and raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1–45).

In addition, there are seven instances in the Gospel of John where Jesus is proclaimed as the Messiah—the Son of God. The persons who describe Jesus in this way are John the Baptist (John 1:29), Nathanael (John 1:49), Peter (John 6:69), the man born blind (John 9:35–38), Martha (John 11:27), Thomas (John 20:28), and Jesus Himself (John 5:25; 10:36).

Jesus also refers to Himself using the phrasing “I AM,” which echoes the way God described Himself to Moses in Exodus 3:14. John records seven instances of Jesus using this pattern, often resulting in major controversy. In the Gospel of John, Jesus uses “I AM” to describe Himself as the Bread of Life (John 6:35); the Light of the World (John 8:12); the Door for the Sheep (John 10:7–9); the Good Shepherd (John 10:11); the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25); the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6); and the True Vine (John 15:1). As with the other Gospels, John provides insights on Jesus’ teachings and His death at the hands of the Romans. John’s description of Jesus’ prayers and conversations during that final day are especially detailed.

Key Verses (ESV):

John 1:1, 14: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 3:16–18: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

John 5:39–40: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”

John 8:12: “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'”

John 12:12–13: “The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!'”

John 12:32: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

John 13:34–35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 14:6: “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 16:33: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 18:36–38: “Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.’ Then Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’ Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?’ After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, ‘I find no guilt in him.'”

John 19:18: “There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.”

John 20:19–20: “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.”

John 21:25: “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”


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