John, the apostle, son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother of James (Mar_1:19-20; Mat_20:20; Joh_21:20-24). His authorship has been seriously questioned by the Tubingen school of critics; however, the objections have been fully answered by the Dead Sea scrolls and also by the dating of carbon 14, and the Johannean authorship is received by competent Bible scholarship.
It is interesting to note that the following early church fathers ascribe the fourth Gospel to John: Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch — A.D. 180; Iranaeus — A.D. 190, pupil of Polycarp, who in turn was pupil of John; Clement of Alexandria — A.D. 200; and the Muratorium fragment says the fourth Gospel is by John.
DATE: A.D. 90-100
Some suppose that this is the last book of the New Testament to be written. However, it seems appropriate to consider the writings of John in sequence: namely, the Gospel of John, the three Epistles, and the Revelation. All were written evidently during the last ten years of the life of the “beloved apostle.”
There are several striking features about the structure:
1. The first 3 Gospels are called the Synoptic Gospels because they are written from the same viewpoint. The fourth Gospel is different.
(a) Matthew and Mark emphasize the miracles of Jesus, and Luke gives attention to the parables; John does neither.
(b) The miracles in John are given as signs and were chosen with a great deal of discrimination in order to interpret certain great truths (e.g., Jesus fed the 5000, and following it is His discourse on the Bread of Life). There are eleven specific signs in John.
(c) There are no parables in the fourth Gospel. The word “parable” occurs one time (Joh_10:6), but is not the regular Greek word parabole but paroimia. The story of the Good Shepherd is not a parable but a discourse. The record of the lost sheep in Luke 15 is a parable. In John, the figures that Jesus used are in the nature of metaphors.
2. The simplicity of language has caused some to label John’s record as the “simple Gospel.” The fact that so many monosyllabic and disyllabic words occur has deceived many. This is the most profound Gospel, and the most difficult to fathom its meaning. Consider this simple statement and then try to probe its depths: “…ye in me, and I in you” (Joh_14:20).
3. John gives a chronological order which is well to note (e.g., “the next day,” Joh_1:29, Joh_1:35, Joh_1:43). He presents a logical and chronological sequence of events. He also gives attention to places and cities (e.g., “Bethabara beyond the Jordan,” Joh_1:28; “Cana, of Galilee,” Joh_2:1).
4. Although the deity of Christ is in the foreground, the humanity of Christ is peculiarly emphasized (e.g., “Jesus…being wearied with his journey,” Joh_4:6).
5. The name Jesus is used almost entirely to the exclusion of Christ. This seems strange in a Gospel that sets forth His deity.
6. The word Jew occurs over 60 times.
WHY JOHN WROTE:
Several explanations have been offered as the reasons why John wrote his Gospel:
1. To correct Synoptic Gospels (invalid since he did not deal with their material);
2. To correct a wrong view concerning John the Baptist;
3. To refute errors of Cerinthus;
4. John’s own reason — Joh_20:30-31.
During the entire life of the church there have been many glowing tributes paid to the fourth Gospel. Some have called this “the heart of Christ,” the “spiritual Gospel,” and in Europe it is called “the bosom of Christ.”
Origen said, “The Gospel [of John] is the consummation of the Gospels as the Gospels are of the Scriptures.”
Jerome said, “John excels in the depths of divine mysteries.”
Culross said, “I believe the writings of John have been blotted by more penitents’ tears and have won more hearts for the Redeemer than all the rest put together.”
Dr. A. T. Pierson said, “It touches the heart of Christ. If Matthew corresponds to the court of the Gentiles, John leads us past the veil into the Holy of Holies.”
D. A. Hayes said, “As we read we are assured that here at last is the worthy and adequate picture of the life of Jesus among men.”
The deity of Jesus is the paramount purpose. The Messianic character also holds priority. This is succinctly stated in Joh_20:31 — “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.”
There is a mighty movement stated in Joh_16:28 — “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world; again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.” God became a man; this is the simple statement of the sublime fact. John Wesley expressed it, “God contracted to a span.”
These things are recorded to beget faith in the heart of man. Believe is used over 100 times in John’s Gospel. It occurs fewer than 40 times in the Synoptic Gospels. The noun faith does not occur in John but is used in the other Gospels. Eternal life occurs 35 times in John, but only 12 times in the Synoptic Gospels.
Chapter 1 — There are 3 great building blocks of the prologue, and the other verses are the cement that holds them together. In each building block there are three great statements:
Chapter 2 — Jesus came from heaven’s glory, yet He walks over a hill to Cana to attend a wedding. (He would like to come to your wedding also, and bless it.) Here He performs His first miracle (Joh_2:11) and manifests His glory so that His disciples believe on Him.
Chapter 3 — Nicodemus was probably sent by the Sanhedrin to align Jesus on their side, but he found Jesus to be concerned with him personally. Jesus said, “You must be born again, and therefore the Son of man must be lifted up” (see Joh_3:7, Joh_3:14). The necessity of being born again makes imperative the lifting up of Christ on the cross. Jesus did not mean a second beginning, as Nicodemus interpreted it, but a different beginning — being born anew (2Co_5:17).
Chapter 4 — Samaritans were despised by the Jews because they were the result of intermarriage of the poorest class of Jews with the hated Assyrian conquerors. This woman is not only a Samaritan, she is dissolute, rude, and stupid. That the God of eternity would stop to have an interview with her ought to tell us something about God! Notice how gently He deals with her, appealing first to her sympathy and then to her curiosity.
The period known as His great Galilean ministry begins with Joh_4:46, dated December A.D. 27. The miracle (Joh_4:50) is not so much the healing of the boy, but it is the faith of the father. Most of us would have said, “When I get home and see my boy running around, then I’ll believe.”
Chapter 5 — The last of Joh_5:3 and all of Joh_5:4 is omitted in the best manuscripts. It has been inserted in the King James Version to let us know why that crowd of sick people were there. Today many folk are waiting for some mysterious moving. Notice Jesus did not offer to put him in the water, but said, “Get up. Pick up your mat. Walk!” (see Joh_5:8). Because this was done on the Sabbath, it occasioned the final break with the religious rulers (Joh_5:16). They understood perfectly that He was making Himself equal with God (Joh_5:18).
Chapter 6 — Mathematics of a Miracle
5 loaves 5,000 men
1 loaf 1,000 men
1 fish 2,500 men
1/2 loaf 500 men (about 1/2 a hamburger bun for 500 men)
Naturally this would remind them of Moses and the manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16). But manna did not give them life — they are dead. The true Bread is the Lord Jesus Christ; He gives life. Notice that the work of God (Joh_6:29) is not that which is commanded by God, but that which is wrought by God.
Chapter 7 — Notice that our Lord has become a controversial figure. The enmity against Him is beginning to break out like wildfire. At the feast of tabernacles they built booths and lived in them throughout the feast, symbolic of the wilderness journey. Every day there was the pouring out of water in the temple and a double portion on the last day, reminding them that God gave them water from the rock in the wilderness (Exodus 17). Using this symbolism, Jesus gives His invitation (Joh_7:37). Drinking and believing are the same thing (Joh_7:38).
Chapter 8 — Obviously the scribes and Pharisees did not want to stone her; they wanted to stone Him (Joh_8:6). If they had been sincere about following the Law, why didn’t they bring the man also (Lev_20:10)? Notice the requirement for judging another — sinlessness. Jesus is putting His cross between the woman and her sin. He did not come to judge. He came to save (Joh_3:17).
“I…came from God” (Joh_8:42 — cf. Joh_3:17, Joh_3:34; Joh_5:36-37; Joh_8:18, Joh_8:26, Joh_8:29; Joh_10:36; Joh_11:42; Joh_12:49; Joh_14:10; Joh_17:3, Joh_17:8). “Ye are of your father the devil” (Joh_8:44) — (see Mat_13:38; Mat_23:15; 1Jo_3:8; Rev_12:9). Notice the 7 “I AMs” in John Joh_6:35; Joh_8:12; Joh_10:9, Joh_10:11; Joh_11:25; Joh_14:6; and Joh_15:5.
Chapter 9 — The question in Joh_9:2 was due to current beliefs in: (1) reincarnation; (2) heredity (Exo_20:5); (3) sin of Adam; (4) a child in the womb could sin (cf. Jacob and Esau).
The condition of the blind man parallels our condition before we were saved:
(1) Outside the temple, shut out from God
(2) Blind, unable to see the Savior
(3) Blind from birth — we were born in sin
(4) Beyond human help
(5) Beggar — salvation is not for sale; it is a gift
Notice the syllogistic method of arguing (Joh_9:16): Major premise — all people from God keep the Sabbath; minor premise — Jesus does not keep the Sabbath; conclusion — Jesus is not from God.
The blind man knew he was blind, received the light that was given to him, believed, and was saved. The Pharisees did not admit their blindness — the Light revealed their blindness.
Chapter 10 — “Door” is used in 3 ways:
1. “Door into the sheepfold” (Joh_10:1) — Sheepfold is the nation Israel. Jesus will lead His sheep out of Judaism, out from under the Law.
2. “Door of the sheep” (Joh_10:7) — Jesus is the door for those coming out of Judaism (cf. blind man had no place to go after excommunication).
3. “The door” (Joh_10:9) — He is the door of salvation for both Jew and Gentile (cf. Joh_14:6). He is the way in.
Jesus came into the fold the right way (v. 2), made under the Law, in David’s line. The porter (the Holy Spirit) opened the way for Him. “Fold”
(Joh_10:16) means Israel. For over 2000 years He has been calling out Jew and Gentile. We are now one flock, the church.
Good Shepherd — Psalm 22 (Joh_10:11)
Great Shepherd — Psalm 23 (Heb_13:20)
Chief Shepherd — Psalm 24 (1Pe_5:4)
Chapter 11 — Here is God’s answer to the Jews’ question to Jesus, “Who are You?” He is the resurrection and the life!
Is illness in the will of God? Is it a sign that He doesn’t love you (Joh_11:3-4)? “Sleep” (Joh_11:11) always refers to the body. The believer’s body is put to sleep, to be awakened (in a new body) by our Lord. Science is helpless in the presence of death — Jesus began where man leaves off (Joh_11:14-15). “…I am the resurrection, and the life; [How?] he that believeth in [trusts into or upon] me, though he were dead [in trespasses and sins], yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die [a penal death for his sin]” (Joh_11:25-26). “Jesus wept” (Joh_11:35) — this is how He feels at the funeral of your loved one; He weeps.
Notice how the enemy bears testimony to Him (Joh_11:47). They are frightened of Him now (Joh_11:48). Their only solution is murder (Joh_11:53).
Chapter 12 — While they were plotting His death in Jerusalem, those who loved Him made Him a dinner at Bethany. Mary expresses her devotion and adoration with this costly gift that is worth, according to Judas, 300 pence — the annual wage of a laboring man. It revealed her spiritual insight
(Joh_12:7), which none of the disciples had at this time. Having presented His miracles (and they rejected Him), He now makes a definite claim to Messiahship and rides publicly into Jerusalem. It is to fulfill the Word of God (Gen_49:8-12, “Shiloh” in verse Gen_49:10 is the Messiah; Zec_9:9) and to fulfill the will of God.
Chapter 13 — Evidently there is a meaning here not seen on the surface
(Joh_13:12). “He that is washed [bathed (louo), which is regeneration] needeth not except to wash [nipto] his feet” (Joh_13:10). The spiritual meaning is that He is cleansing His own from the defilement of the world (1Jo_1:9) in order to restore them to fellowship. He is sending them out to do the same thing (Joh_13:14, cf. Gal_6:1).
He is now warning His own and preparing them, since He would soon go to the cross.
Chapter 14 — When man sinned back in the Garden of Eden, 3 things happened to him: (1) dead to God; (2) no communion with God; (3) no longer had knowledge of God. Christ restores these — “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Joh_14:6) — reconciliation, illumination, and regeneration.
Joh_14:17 reveals the great truth of this age. The Holy Spirit was with them in the Old Testament; He is in believers today.
Judas represents the devil, for the devil entered into him and overcame him.
Simon Peter was overcome by the flesh.
Thomas was overcome by the world — spiritual truth was dim and unreal to him.
Chapter 15 — Everyone He is speaking to here is a believer. The prophets spoke of the nation Israel as the vine — Psa_80:8-9; Isa_5:1-7; Jeremiah 2:21; Hos_10:1. It was a degenerate vine, and Jesus now presents Himself as the genuine vine. Salvation is not by being in Israel (or being in a church), but being in Christ. A grapevine will never break at the place where the branch goes into the vine. “Abide” (Joh_15:4) means constant communion with Christ — isn’t that what a branch is doing in the vine? “Fruit” (Joh_15:5) is produced by the Holy Spirit in such a life (Gal_5:22-23). The fruit of soul-winning is a by-product. The fire in verse 6 is not hell, but being taken away from the place of fruitbearing (cf. 1Co_3:11-15).
Chapter 16 — “He will guide you into all truth” (Joh_16:13) is the ministry of the Holy Spirit completing the teaching of Jesus. We find this in the Epistles. “And he will show you things to come” (Joh_16:13) is revelation. “He shall glorify me” (Joh_16:14) — all of this is the unfolding of Christ’s person and His ministry.
I consider Joh_16:28 to be the key to this Gospel. The eternal Son came to the earth for one purpose — to redeem man. When the mission is accomplished, He will return to the Father. This is the movement in the Gospel of John. Though they believe He is the Messiah, they still don’t comprehend His death, resurrection, and ascension. He has painted a black picture in this chapter; persecution is coming — “They have hated me and they will hate you; it will be rough going in the world — but be of good cheer! I have overcome the world” (see Joh_16:33). His victory is our victory.