Authorship

The early church unanimously attributes the writing of this Gospel to the apostle John, the brother of the disciple James and the son of Zebedee and Salome.  John was a fisherman along with his father and brother and is believed to have been the youngest of Jesus’ 12 disciples.  John refers to himself often as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” throughout his Gospel (for example, John 13:23), showing the close relationship he seemed to have developed with Jesus to the point that Jesus entrusted John with the care of his mother, Mary, following his crucifixion (Jn 19:25-27).  Church tradition says that John provided for her until she died in the year AD 48.1Schaller, John, Loren A. Schaller, and Gary P. Baumler. The Book of Books: A Brief Introduction to the Bible. The People’s Bible. Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Pub. House, 1990. 219.

Place and Date of Writing

The apostle John moved to Ephesus in Asia Minor at some point following the apostle Paul’s time there and probably sometime before the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.  There he served in his role as apostle to the church until he was exiled to the island of Patmos, where he wrote the book Revelation (Rev 1:9-11).  He later returned to Ephesus and died there around the year AD 100.  It is believed that John wrote his Gospel at some point while he was in Ephesus, most likely toward the end of the 1st century since a few manuscript copies of John’s Gospel have been discovered and dated to the 2nd century, with the oldest dated to the first half of the 2nd century.2For more information on these ancient manuscripts, see this page.

See also the Chronology of New Testament Books.

Purpose and Content

John himself gives us the purpose of his Gospel at the end of chapter 20:

“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (Jn 20:30-31).

Showing Jesus to be the Son of God certainly seems to be a major focus of John’s Gospel.  We see Jesus defending his close relationship with God the Father (for example, large portions of John 6-8) and explaining the work and glory of all three persons of the Trinity throughout the Gospel, including a lengthy discourse from Jesus during the Last Supper (John 14-17).

Since the other three Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) were written a number of years before John’s, it seems that John chose not to focus on providing another similar accounting of Jesus’ life and ministry but instead to supplement much of what the other Gospel writers did not include, such as Jesus’ early Judean ministry (Jn 1:35-5:47), his later Judean ministry (Jn 7:1-10:21), the long discourse at the Last Supper (Jn 14-17), and more post-resurrection appearances of Jesus (Jn 20-21).  He does all of this to show that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the whole world (Jn 1:9-13; 1:29; 3:16-18; 4:42; 6:33; 8:12; 8:26; 9:5; 12:47; 17:21-23).

See also the Composite of the Four Gospels, the Events of Holy Week, and the Order of Resurrection Events.

Notable Passages

One could mark every passage in the Gospels as a notable passage, but select passages are listed below.

  • John 1:1-18
  • John 1:26-34
  • John 2:18-22
  • John 3:3-21
  • John 5:21-29
  • John 6:29-69
  • John 8:12
  • John 10:1-18
  • John 11:17-44
  • John 12:31-33
  • John 13:34-35
  • John 14:1-17:26
  • John 18:28-40
  • John 19:1-42
  • John 20:1-31
  • John 21:24-25

Outline

  1. Theme: The Eternal Word of God in the Flesh (Jn 1:1-18)
  2. The Word Is Spoken to All Israel (Jn 1:19-4:54)
  3. The Word Is Rejected by Israel (Jn 5:1-12:50)
  4. The Word Is Received by the Disciples (Jn 13:1-17:26)
  5. The Word Speaks God’s Grace and Truth (Jn 18:1-20:31)
  6. Afterword: Jesus, Peter, and the Beloved Disciple (Jn 21:1-25)3Roehrs, Walter H., and Martin H. Franzmann. Concordia Self-Study Comentary. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1998.

References   [ + ]

1. Schaller, John, Loren A. Schaller, and Gary P. Baumler. The Book of Books: A Brief Introduction to the Bible. The People’s Bible. Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Pub. House, 1990. 219.
2. For more information on these ancient manuscripts, see this page.
3. Roehrs, Walter H., and Martin H. Franzmann. Concordia Self-Study Comentary. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1998.