World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Gospel of Saint John

Article Id: WHEBN0000601352
Reproduction Date:

Title: Gospel of Saint John  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Son of perdition, Secret Gospel of Mark, Ostromir Gospels, The Woman Taken in Adultery (Rembrandt)
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Gospel of Saint John

For other uses, see Gospel of John (disambiguation).


The Gospel According to John (Greek τὸ κατὰ Ἰωάννην εὐαγγέλιον), commonly referred to as the Gospel of John or simply John, is an anonymous account of the public ministry of Jesus. It begins with the witness and affirmation of John the Baptist and concludes with the death, burial, resurrection, and post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. This account is fourth of the canonical gospels, after the synoptics (Matthew, Mark and Luke), and is often referred to in New Testament scholarship as the Fourth Gospel.

Scholar Raymond E. Brown has traced the development of the tradition from which the gospel arose.[3] The discourses seem to be concerned with issues of the church-and-synagogue debate at the time when the Gospel was written.[4] It is notable that, in the gospel, the community appears to define itself primarily in contrast to Judaism, rather than as part of a wider Christian community.[5] Though Christianity started as a movement within Judaism, Christians and Jews gradually became bitterly opposed.[6]

John presents a "higher" Christology than the synoptic gospels, meaning that it describes Jesus as the incarnation of the divine Logos through whom all things were made, as the object of veneration,[7] and more explicitly as God incarnate.[8] Only in John does Jesus talk at length about himself and his divine role, often sharing such information with the disciples only. Against the synoptics, John focuses largely on different miracles (including the resurrection of Lazarus), given as signs meant to engender faith. Synoptic elements such as parables and exorcisms are not found in John. It presents a realized eschatology in which salvation is already present for the believer.



A series of articles on
John in the Bible
Johannine literature
Gospel of John · First Epistle of John · Second Epistle of John · Third Epistle of John · Revelation · Authorship
John the Apostle · John the Evangelist · John of Patmos  · John the Presbyter · Disciple whom Jesus loved
Twelve Apostles · The Early Church
Related literature
Apocryphon of John · Acts of John · Logos · Signs Gospel

The gospel identifies its author as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." Although the text does not name this disciple, by the beginning of the 2nd century a tradition had begun to form which identified him with John the Apostle, one of the Twelve (Jesus's innermost circle). Although some notable New Testament scholars affirm traditional Johannine scholarship,[9][10] the majority do not believe that John or one of the Apostles wrote it,[11][12][13][14][15][16] and trace it instead to a "Johannine community" which traced its traditions to John; the gospel itself shows signs of having been composed in three "layers", reaching its final form about 90-100 AD.[17][18] According to Victorinus[19] and Irenaeus,[20] the Bishops of Asia Minor requested John, in his old age, to write a gospel in response to Cerinthus, the Ebionites and other Jewish Christian groups which they deemed heretical.[21] This understanding remained in place until the end of the 18th century.[22]

The Gospel of John developed over a period of time in various stages,[23] summarized by Raymond E. Brown as follows:[24]

  1. An initial version based on personal experience of Jesus;
  2. A structured literary creation by the evangelist which draws upon additional sources;
  3. The final harmony that presently exists in the New Testament canon, around 85-90 AD.[25]

In view of this complex and multi-layered history it is meaningless to speak of a single "author" of John, but the title perhaps belongs best to the evangelist who came at the end of this process.[26] The final composition's comparatively late date, and its insistence upon Jesus as a divine being walking the earth in human form, renders it highly problematical to scholars who attempt to evaluate Jesus' life in terms of literal historical truth.[27][28]


Order of material

Among others, Rudolf Bultmann suggested[29] that the text of the gospel is partially out of order; for instance, chapter 6 should follow chapter 4:[30]

4:53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house.
4:54 This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.
6:1 After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.
6:2 And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.

Chapter 5 deals with a visit to Jerusalem, while chapter 7 opens with Jesus again in Galilee because "he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him," a consequence of the incident in Jerusalem described in chapter 5. There are more proposed rearrangements.

Signs Gospel

One possible construction of the "internal evidence" states that the Beloved Disciple wrote an account of the life of Jesus. [21:24]] However, this disciple died unexpectedly, necessitating that a revised gospel be written. [21:23]] It may be that John “is the source" of the Johannine tradition but "not the final writer of the tradition."[31] Therefore, scholars are no longer looking for the identity of a single writer but for numerous authors whose authorship has been absorbed into the gospel's development over a period of time and in several stages.[23][24][32]

The hypothesis of the Gospel being composed in layers over a period of time had its start with Rudolf Bultmann in 1941. Bultmann suggested[29] that the author(s) of John depended in part on an author who wrote an earlier account. This hypothetical "Signs Gospel" listing Christ's miracles was independent of, and not used by, the synoptic gospels. It was believed to have been circulating before the year 70 AD. Bultmann's conclusion was so controversial that heresy proceedings were instituted against him and his writings. (See: Depiction of Jesus and more detailed discussions linked below.)

Nevertheless, scholars such as Raymond Edward Brown continue to consider this hypothesis a plausible possibility. They believe the original author of the Signs Gospel to be the Beloved Disciple. They argue that the disciple who formed this community was both an historical person and a companion of Jesus Christ. Brown goes one step further by suggesting that the Beloved Disciple had been a follower of John the Baptist before joining Jesus.[24]


The author may have used a source consisting of lengthy discourses,[33] but this issue has not been clarified.[34]


The author has Jesus foretell that new knowledge will come to his followers after his death.[35] This reference indicates that the author may have included new information, not previously revealed, that is derived from spiritual inspiration rather than from historical records or recollection.[35]

Trimorphic Protennoia

Main article: Trimorphic Protennoia

In terminology close to that found in later Gnostic works, one tract, generally known as the Trimorphic Protennoia, must either be dependent on John or the other way round.[36]


Main article: Dating the Bible

The gospel was apparently written near the end of the 1st century.[37][38] Bart Ehrman argues that there are differences in the composition of the Greek within the Gospel, such as breaks and inconsistencies in sequence, repetitions in the discourse, as well as passages that he believes clearly do not belong to their context, and believes that these suggest redaction.[39]

The so-called "Monarchian Prologue" to the Fourth Gospel (c. 200) supports AD 96 or one of the years immediately following as to the time of its writing.[40] Scholars set a range of c. 90–100.[41] The gospel was already in existence early in the 2nd century.[42] John was composed in stages (probably two or three).[43] Since the middle of the 2nd century writings of Justin Martyr use language very similar to that found in the Gospel of John, the Gospel is considered to have been in existence at least at that time.[44] The Rylands Library Papyrus P52, which records a fragment of this gospel, is usually dated to the first half of the 2nd century.[45]

Conservative scholars consider internal evidences, uch as the lack of the mention of the destruction of the Temple and a number of passages that they consider characteristic of an eyewitness,[46][47] sufficient evidence that the gospel was composed before 100 and perhaps as early as 50–70.[48] In the 1970s, scholars Leon Morris and John A.T. Robinson independently suggested such earlier dates for the gospel's composition.[49][50][51]

The noncanonical Dead Sea Scrolls suggest an early Jewish origin, parallels and similarities to the Essene Scroll, and Rule of the Community.[52] Many phrases are duplicated in the Gospel of John and the Dead Sea Scrolls. These are sufficiently numerous to challenge the theory that the Gospel of John was the last to be written among the four Gospels[53] and that it shows marked non-Jewish influence.[54]

Textual history and manuscripts

Probably the earliest surviving New Testament manuscript, Papyrus 75, in consequence of which a substantially complete text of the Gospel of John exists from the beginning of the 3rd century at the latest. Hence the textual evidence for the Gospel of John is commonly accepted as both earlier and more reliable than that for any other of the canonical Gospels.

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

Egerton gospel

The mysterious Egerton Gospel appears to represent a parallel but independent tradition to the Gospel of John. According to scholar Ronald Cameron, it was originally composed some time between the middle of the 1st century and early in the 2nd century, and it was probably written shortly before the Gospel of John.[59] Scholar Robert W. Funk and the Jesus Seminar place the Egerton fragment in the 2nd century, perhaps as early as 125, which would make it as old as the oldest fragments of John.[60]

Position in the New Testament

In the standard order of the canonical gospels, John is fourth, after the three interrelated synoptic gospels Matthew, Mark and Luke. In the earliest surviving gospel collection, Papyrus 45 of the 3rd century, it is placed second in the order Matthew, John, Luke and Mark, an order which is also found in other very early New Testament manuscripts. In syrcur it is placed third in the order Matthew, Mark, John and Luke.[61]

Narrative summary (structure and content)

Gospel of John

After the prologue, [Jn 1:1–5]] the narrative of the gospel begins with verse 6, and consists of two parts. The first part [1:6-12:50]] relates Jesus' public ministry from John the Baptist recognizing him as the Lamb of God to the raising of Lazarus and Jesus' final public teaching. In this first part, John emphasizes seven of Jesus' miracles, always calling them "signs." The second part [13–21]] presents Jesus in dialogue with his immediate followers [13–17]] and gives an account of his Passion and Crucifixion and of his appearances to the disciples after his Resurrection. [18–20]] In the "appendix", [21]] Jesus restores Peter after his denial, predicts Peter's death, and discusses the death of the "beloved disciple".

Raymond E. Brown, a scholar of the social environment where the Gospel and Letters of John emerged, labeled the first and second parts the "Book of Signs" and the "Book of Glory", respectively.[62]

Hymn to the Word

This prologue is intended to identify Jesus as the eternal Word (Logos) of God.[63] Thus John asserts Jesus' innate superiority over all divine messengers, whether angels or prophets.[7] Here John adapts the doctrine of the Logos, God's creative principle, from Philo, a 1st-century Hellenized Jew.[7]

Philo had adopted the term Logos from Greek philosophy, using it in place of the Hebrew concept of Wisdom (sophia) as the intermediary (angel) between the transcendent Creator and the material world.[7] Some scholars argue that the prologue was taken over from an existing hymn and added at a later stage in the gospel's composition.[63]

Seven signs

Further information: Seven signs in the Gospel of John

This section recounts Jesus' public ministry.[63] It consists of seven miracles or "signs," interspersed with long dialogues and discourses, including several "I am" sayings.[7] The miracles culminate with his most potent, the raising of Lazarus from the dead.[7] In John, it is this last miracle, and not the temple incident, that prompts the authorities to have Jesus executed.[7]

Last teachings and death

This section opens with an account of the Last Supper that differs significantly from that found in the synoptics.[7] Here, Jesus washes the disciples' feet instead of ushering in a new covenant of his body and blood.[7] This account of foot washing might refer to a local tradition by which foot washing served as a Christian initiation ritual rather than baptism.[64] John then devotes almost five chapters to farewell discourses.[7] Jesus declares his unity with the Father, promises to send the Paraclete, describes himself as the "real vine," explains that he must leave (die) before the Holy Spirit comes, and prays that his followers be one.[7]

The Jesus Seminar has argued that verses

John then records Jesus' arrest, trial, execution, and resurrection appearances, including "doubting Thomas."[7] Significantly, John does not have Jesus claim to be the Son of God or the Messiah before the Sanhedrin or Pilate, and he omits the traditional earthquakes, thunder, and midday darkness that were said to accompany Jesus' death. The gospel also omits Jesus' ascension.[7] John's revelation of divinity is Jesus' triumph over death, the eighth and greatest sign.[7]

Detailed contents

The major events covered by the Gospel of John include:


Though the three Synoptic Gospels share a considerable amount of text, over 90% of John's Gospel is unique to him.[70] The synoptics describe much more of Jesus' life, miracles, parables, and exorcisms. However, the materials unique to John are notable, especially in their effect on modern Christianity.

As a gospel, John is a story about the life of Jesus. The Gospel can be divided into four parts:[71]

  • Prologue
  • The Book of signs
  • The Book of exaltation (Passion narrative)
  • The Epilogue.[72]

The Prologue [Jn. 1:1-18]] is a hymn identifying Jesus as the Logos and as God. The Book of Signs [1:19-12:50]] recounts Jesus' public ministry, and includes the signs worked by Jesus and some of his teachings. The Passion narrative [13-20]] recounts the Last Supper (focusing on Jesus' farewell discourse), Jesus' arrest and crucifixion, his burial, and resurrection. The Epilogue [John 21]] records a resurrection appearance of Jesus to the disciples in Galilee.

Following on from "the higher criticism" of the 19th century, Adolf von Harnack[73] and Raymond E. Brown[24] have questioned the gospel of John as a reliable source of information about the historical Jesus.[74][75]


According to one scholar, John portrays Jesus Christ as "a brief manifestation of the eternal Word, whose immortal spirit remains ever-present with the believing Christian."[76] The book presents Jesus as the divine Son of God, and yet subordinate to God the Father.[77] This gospel gives more focus to the relationship of the Son to the Father than the other gospels. It also focuses on the relation of the Redeemer to believers, the announcement of the Holy Spirit as the Comforter (Greek Paraclete), and the prominence of love as an element in Christian character.

Jesus' divine role

In the synoptics, Jesus speaks often about the Kingdom of God; his own divine role is obscured (see Messianic secret). In John, Jesus talks openly about his divine role. He says, for example, that he is the way, the truth, and the life. He echoes Yahweh's own statements with several "I am" declarations that also identify him with symbols of major significance:[78]

  • "the bread of life" [6:35]]
  • "the light of the world" [8:12]]
  • "the gate of the sheep" [10:7]]
  • "the good shepherd" [10:11]]
  • "the resurrection and the life" [11:25]]
  • "the way, the truth, and the life" [14:6]] and
  • "the real vine" [15:1]][7]

Critical scholars think that these claims represent the Christian community's faith in Jesus' divine authority but doubt that the historical Jesus actually made these sweeping claims.

John also promises eternal life for those who believe in Jesus. [3:16 and others]]


Main article: Logos

In the Prologue, John identifies Jesus as the Logos (Word). A term from Greek philosophy, it meant the principle of cosmic reason. In this sense, it was similar to the Hebrew concept of Wisdom, God's companion and intimate helper in creation. The Jewish philosopher Philo merged these two themes when he described the Logos as God's creator of and mediator with the material world. The evangelist adapted Philo's description of the Logos, applying it to Jesus, the incarnation of the Logos.[17]

The opening verse of John is translated as "the Word was with God and the Word was God" in all orthodox and historical Bibles.[80] There are alternative views. The explicit statement that Jesus was himself the Arche does not come from John's gospel but from the Letter to the Colossians. [Col. 1:18]] The Scholar's Version of the gospel, developed by the Jesus Seminar, loosely translates the phrase as "The Logos was what God was," offered as a better representation of the original meaning of the evangelist.[81]

John the Baptist

Main article: John the Baptist

John's account of the Baptist is different from that of the synoptic gospels. John is not called "the Baptist."[63] John's ministry overlaps with Jesus', his baptism of Jesus is not explicitly mentioned, but his witness to Jesus is unambiguous.[63] The evangelist almost certainly knew the story of John's baptism of Jesus and he makes a vital theological use of it.[82] He subordinates John to Jesus, perhaps in response to members of the Baptist's sect who denied Jesus' superiority.[7]

In John, Jesus and his disciples go to Judea early in Jesus' ministry when John has not yet been imprisoned and executed by Herod. He leads a ministry of baptism larger than John's own. The Jesus Seminar rated this account as black, containing no historically accurate information.[81] Historically, John likely had a larger presence in the public mind than Jesus.[83]


Main article: Antisemitism in the New Testament

In his Jerusalem speeches, John's Jesus makes unfavorable references to the Jews.[17] It has been argued that these references may constitute a rebuttal on the part of the author against Jewish criticism of the early Church.[17] Yet the Gospel of John collectively describes the enemies of Jesus as "the Jews". In none of the other gospels do "the Jews" demand, en masse, the death of Jesus; instead, the plot to put him to death is always presented as coming from a small group of priests and rulers, the Sadducees. John's gospel is thus the primary source of the image of "the Jews" acting collectively as the enemy of Jesus.[84]

Some scholars have attempted to counter charges that the Gospel of John is anti-Semitic by arguing that its author likely considered himself Jewish, did not deny that Jesus and his disciples were all Jewish, and was probably speaking to a largely Jewish community.[85] While passages in John have been used to support anti-semitism, these passages reflect a dispute within Judaism, and it is highly questionable whether the evangelist himself was anti-semitic.[86]

Gnostic elements

Though not commonly understood as Gnostic, many scholars, perhaps most notably, Rudolf Bultmann, have forcefully argued that the Gospel of John has elements in common with Gnosticism.[7] Christian Gnosticism did not fully develop until the mid-2nd century, and so 2nd-century Proto-Orthodox Christians concentrated much effort in examining and refuting it.[87] To say John’s Gospel contained elements of Gnosticism is to assume that Gnosticism had developed to a level that required the author to respond to it.[88] Bultmann, for example, argued that the opening theme of the Gospel of John, the pre-existing Logos, was actually a Gnostic theme. Other scholars, e.g. Raymond E. Brown have convincingly argued that the pre-existing Logos theme arises from the more ancient Jewish writings in the eighth chapter of the Book of Proverbs, and was fully developed as a theme in Hellenistic Judaism by Philo Judaeus.

Comparisons to Gnosticism are based not in what the author says, but in the language he uses to say it, notably, use of the concepts of Logos and Light.[89] Other scholars, e.g. Raymond E. Brown have argued that the ancient Jewish Qumran community also used the concept of Light versus Darkness. The arguments of Bultmann and his school were seriously compromised by the mid-20th century discoveries of the Nag Hammadi library of genuine Gnostic writings (which are dissimilar to the Gospel of John) as well as the Qumran library of Jewish writings (which are often similar to the Gospel of John).

Gnostics read John but interpreted it differently than non-Gnostics.[90] Gnosticism taught that salvation came from gnosis, secret knowledge, and Gnostics did not see Jesus as a savior but a revealer of knowledge.[91] Lindars asserts that the gospel teaches that salvation can only be achieved through revealed wisdom, specifically belief in (literally belief into) Jesus.[92]

Raymond Brown contends that "The Johannine picture of a savior who came from an alien world above, who said that neither he nor those who accepted him were of this world, [17:14]] and who promised to return to take them to a heavenly dwelling [14:2-3]] could be fitted into the gnostic world picture (even if God's love for the world in

Historical reliability

The differences between the Synoptics and John were acknowledged in the early Church.[95] Around AD 200, Clement of Alexandria noted that John's gospel was a "spiritual gospel", distinct from the Synoptics.[96] However, there is some degree of debate regarding Clement's exact meaning of "spiritual gospel"; care must be taken not to ascribe to his phrase modern prejudices or expectations. Critical scholarship in the 19th century distinguished between the "biographical" approach of the synoptics and the "theological" approach of John, and began to disregard John as a historical source. Current scholarship, however, emphasizes that all four gospels are both biographical and theological.[97]

According to the majority viewpoint for most of the 20th century, Jesus' teaching in John is largely irreconcilable with that found in the synoptics, and perhaps most scholars consider the Synoptic Gospels to be more accurate representations of the teaching of the historical Jesus.

There are notable exceptions to this perception, e.g. the story of the calling of the first disciples. In the Synoptic Gospels the account of Jesus' calling of his first disciples from among Galilean fishermen belongs to the paranormal or unexplained. In the first chapter of the Gospel of John, by contrast, John the Baptist personally introduced those first apostles to Jesus. Furthermore, the Synoptic Gospels contradict each other about the number of times that Jesus visited Jerusalem, and so should not be given instant precedence in comparison with the Gospel of John which maintains that Jesus visited Jerusalem multiple times.[98]

A growing movement among scholars (e.g. Raymond E. Brown) seeks to correct the 20th century skepticism regarding the historical validity of the Gospel of John, although it currently remains a minority opinion.

The teachings of Jesus in John are distinct from those found in the synoptic gospels.[28] Thus, since the 19th century many Jesus scholars have argued that only one of the two traditions could be authentic.[99] J. D. G. Dunn comments on historical Jesus scholarship, "Few scholars would regard John as a source for information regarding Jesus' life and ministry in any degree comparable to the synoptics."[100][101] E. P. Sanders concludes that the Gospel of John contains an "advanced theological development, in which meditations of the person and work of Jesus are presented in the first person as if Jesus said them."[102] Sanders points out that the author would regard the gospel as theologically true as revealed spiritually even if its content is not historically accurate[102] and argues that even historically plausible elements in John can hardly be taken as historical evidence, as they may well represent the author's intuition rather than historical recollection.[102] The scholars of the Jesus Seminar identify the historical inferiority of John as foundational to their work.[103] Geza Vermes discounts all the teaching in John when reconstructing his view of "the authentic gospel of Jesus."[104]

While a large number of 20th-century biblical critics argue that the teaching found in John does not go back to the historical Jesus, they usually agree that gospel is not entirely without historical value.[105] Several of its independent elements are historically plausible,[106] such as Jesus's being executed before Passover, as John reports.[106][107] Former followers of John the Baptist probably joined Jesus's movement.[106] It has become generally accepted that certain sayings in John are as old or older than their synoptic counterparts, that John's representation of things around Jerusalem is often superior to that of the synoptics, and that its 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.[108]

Throughout the 20th century a minority of prominent scholars, such as John A.T. Robinson, have argued that John is as historically reliable as the synoptics. Robinson wrote that, where the gospel narrative accounts can be checked for consistency with surviving material evidence, the account in John is commonly the more plausible.[109] Robinson further wrote that it is generally easier to reconcile the various synoptic accounts within John's narrative framework than to explain John's narrative within the framework of any of the synoptics,[110] and that, where in the gospel Jesus and his disciples are described as travelling around identifiable locations, the journeys can always be plausibly reconstructed on a map,[111] which is not the case for any synoptic gospel. Scholars such as D. A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo, and Craig Blomberg, often agree with Robinson.[112][113] Henry Wansbrough writes: "Gone are the days when it was scholarly orthodoxy to maintain that John was the least reliable of the gospels historically."[114]


Some scholars today believe that parts of John represent an independent historical tradition from the synoptics, while other parts represent later traditions.[115] The Gospel was probably shaped in part by increasing tensions between synagogue and church, or between those who believed Jesus was the Messiah and those who did not.[116]

Chronology of Jesus' ministry

Main article: Chronology of Jesus

A distinctive feature of the Gospel of John is that it provides a very different chronology of Jesus' ministry from that in the synoptics. E.P. Sanders suggests that John's chronology, even when ostensibly more plausible, should nevertheless be treated with suspicion on the grounds that the Synoptic accounts are otherwise superior as historic sources. C.H. Dodd proposes that historians may mix and match between John and the synoptics on the basis of whichever appears strongest on a particular episode. Robinson says that John's chronology is consistently more likely to represent the original sequence of events.

Robinson offers three arguments for preferring the chronology of John's Gospel to that of the synoptics. First, he argues that John's account of Jesus' ministry is always consistent, in that seasonal references always follow in the correct sequence, geographical distances are always consistent with indications of journey times, and references to external events always cohere with the internal chronology of Jesus' ministry. He claims that the same cannot be claimed for any of the three Synoptic accounts. For example, the harvest-tide story of Joseph of Arimathea bought a shroud for Jesus on Good Friday; which would not have been possible if it were a festival day.

Two-year ministry

In John's Gospel, the public ministry of Jesus extends over rather more than two years. At the start of his ministry Jesus is in Jerusalem for Passover, [Jn 2:13]] then he is in Galilee for the following Passover, [6:4]] before going up to Jerusalem again for his death at a third Passover. [11:55]] The synoptics by contrast only explicitly mention the final Passover, and their accounts are commonly understood as describing a public ministry of less than a year. Recent studies in ancient narrative historiography argue that it is possible for John's Gospel to record multiple Passovers—as historical testimony not theological literary-devices—and yet not represent three years as it was not uncommon for ancient historians to organize their histories without an absolute timeline.[117] If true this would mean John's chronology is much closer to Synoptic chronology than often assumed.

In favour of the Synoptic chronology, E.P Sanders observes that a short ministry accords with the careers of other known prophetic figures of the time—who appear in the desert, raise large scale public interest, but soon come to a bloody end at the hand of the Roman military. In favour of the two-year ministry, John Robinson points out that both Matthew and Luke imply that Jesus was preaching in Galilee for at least one Passover during his ministry. The Temple tax [Jn 17:24]] is only collected at Passover; moreover, the massacred Galileans of Luke 13:1 would appear to have been in Jerusalem for Passover, as this was the only pilgrim feast where the faithful slaughtered their animals themselves.

Cleansing of the Temple

In John, Jesus drives the money changers from the Temple at the start of his ministry, whereas in the Synoptic account this occurs at the end, immediately after Palm Sunday. In favor of the later dating of the synoptics, Geza Vermes says that this event provides a clear context and pretext for Jesus' arrest, trial and execution. It makes more sense to suppose that events proceeded quickly. Robinson says that all three Synoptic accounts explain the reluctance of the Temple authorities to arrest Jesus on the spot, as being due to their fear of popular support for John the Baptist. Some believe this would make more sense while the Baptist was still alive.

Earlier baptizing ministry in Judea

In chapters 3 and 4 of the Gospel of John, Jesus, following his encounter with John the Baptist, undertakes an extended and successful baptizing ministry in Judea and on the banks of the River Jordan; initially as an associate of the Baptist, latterly more as a rival. In the Synoptic accounts, Jesus retreats into the wilderness following his baptism, and is presented as gathering disciples from scratch in his home country of Galilee; following which he embarks on a ministry of teaching and healing, in which baptism plays no part. In favour of the Synoptic account is the clear characterisation of Jesus and his disciples in all the Gospels as predominantly Galilean. Against this, Robinson points out that all the synoptics are agreed that, when Jesus arrives in Jerusalem in the week before his death, he already has a number of followers and disciples in the city, notably Joseph of Arimathea, and the unnamed landlord of the upper room, who knows Jesus as 'the Master'.

Repeated visits to Jerusalem

In John, Jesus not only starts his ministry in Jerusalem, he returns there for other festivals, notably at Luke 13:34), Jesus appears to recall several previous preaching ministries in Jerusalem, when his message had been generally spurned.

Date of the crucifixion

In the Jewish calendar, each day runs from sunset to sunset, and hence the Last Supper (on the Thursday evening), and Jesus's crucifixion (on Friday afternoon), both fell on the same day. In John, this day was the 14th of Nisan in the Jewish calendar; that is the day on the afternoon of which the Passover victims were sacrificed in the Temple, which was also known as the Day of Preparation. The Passover meal itself would then have been eaten on the Friday evening (i.e. the next day in Jewish terms), which would also have been a Sabbath. In the Synoptic accounts, the Last Supper is a Passover meal, and so Jesus's trial and crucifixion must have taken place during the night time and following afternoon of the festival itself, the 15th of Nisan. In favour of the Synoptic chronology is that in the earliest Christian traditions relating to the Last Supper in the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians, there is a clear link between Passion of Jesus, the Last Supper and the Passover lamb. In favor of John's chronology is the near universal modern scholarly agreement that the Synoptic accounts of a formal trial before the Sanhedrin on a festival day are historically impossible. By contrast, an informal investigation by the High Priest and his cronies (without witnesses being called), as told by John, is both historically possible in an emergency on the day before a festival, and accords with the external evidence from Rabbinic sources that Jesus was put to death on the Day of Preparation for the Passover. Astronomical reconstruction of the Jewish Lunar calendar tends to favor John's chronology, in that the only year during the governorship of Pontius Pilate when the 15th Nisan is calculated as falling on a Wednesday/Thursday was AD 27, which appears too early as the year of the crucifixion, whereas the 14th of Nisan fell on a Thursday/Friday in both AD 30 and 33.[118]

Compared with the synoptics

The Book of John is significantly different from the Synoptic Gospels:

  • Jesus is identified with the divine Word ("Logos") and referred to as theos ("God").[119]
  • The Gospel of John gives no account of the 6:42.
  • In chapter 7:41-42, and again in 7:52, John records some of the crowd of Pharisees dismissing the possibility of Jesus's being the Messiah, on the grounds that the Messiah must be a descendent of David and born in Bethlehem, stating that Jesus instead came out of Galilee (as is stated in the Gospel of Mark); John made no effort to refute or correct (nor did he affirm) this, and this has been advanced as implying that John rejected the synoptic tradition of Jesus's birth in Bethlehem.
  • The Pharisees, portrayed as more uniformly legalistic and opposed to Jesus in the synoptic gospels, are instead portrayed as sharply divided; they debate frequently in the Gospel of John's accounts. Some, such as Nicodemus, even go so far as to be at least partially sympathetic to Jesus. This is believed to be a more accurate historical depiction of the Pharisees, who made debate one of the tenets of their system of belief.[120]
  • John makes no mention of Jesus' baptism,[103] but quotes John the Baptist's description of the descent of the Holy Spirit.
  • John the Baptist publicly proclaims Jesus to be the Lamb of God. The Baptist recognizes Jesus secretly in Matthew, and not at all in Mark or Luke. John also denies that he is Elijah, whereas Mark and Matthew identify him with Elijah.
  • The Cleansing of the Temple appears near the beginning of Jesus' ministry. In the synoptics this occurs soon before Jesus is crucified.
  • John contains four visits by Jesus to Jerusalem, three 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.
  • Jesus washes the disciples' feet instead of the synoptics' ritual with bread and wine (the Eucharist).[17][103]
  • No other women are mentioned going to the tomb with Mary Magdalene.
  • John does not contain any parables.[121] 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.
  • Major synoptic speeches of Jesus are absent, including the Sermon on the Mount and the Olivet discourse.[122]
  • While the synoptics look forward to a future Kingdom of God (using the term parousia, meaning "coming"), John presents an eschatology that has already been realized.[123]
  • The Kingdom of God is mentioned only twice in John.[124] In contrast, the other gospels repeatedly use the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven as important concepts.
  • The exorcisms of demons are never mentioned as in the synoptics.[103][124]
  • John never lists all of the Twelve Disciples and names at least one disciple (Nathanael) whose name is not found in the synoptics; Nathanael appears to parallel the apostle Bartholomew found in the synoptics, as both are paired with Philip in the respective gospels. While James and John are prominent disciples in the synoptics, John mentions them only in the epilogue, where they are referred to not by name but as the "sons of Zebedee."
  • Thomas the Apostle is given a personality beyond a mere name, as "Doubting Thomas".

Comparison chart of the major gospels

The material in the comparison chart is from Gospel Parallels by B. H. Throckmorton, The Five Gospels by R. W. Funk, The Gospel According to the Hebrews, by E. B. Nicholson and The Hebrew Gospel and the Development of the Synoptic Tradition by J. R. Edwards.

Item Matthew, Mark, Luke John Thomas Gospel of the Hebrews
New Covenant The central theme of the Gospels - Love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself[125] The central theme - Love is the New Commandment given by Jesus [Jn 13:34]] Secret knowledge, love your friends[126] The central theme - Love one another[127]
Forgiveness Very important - particularly in Matthew [Mt 18:21]] and Luke [Lk 17:4]] Assumed [Jn 20:23]] Not mentioned Very important - Forgiveness is a central theme and this gospel goes into the greatest detail[128]
The Lord's Prayer In Matthew and Luke but not Mark Not mentioned Not mentioned Important - “mahar” or "tomorrow"[129][130]
Love and the poor Very important - The rich young man[131] Assumed[132] Important[133] Very important - The rich young man[134]
Jesus starts his ministry Jesus meets John the Baptist and is baptized[135] Jesus meets John the Baptist[136] N/A - Speaks of John the Baptist[137] Jesus meets John the Baptist and is baptized. This gospel goes into the greatest detail[138]
Disciples-inner circle Peter, Andrew, James and John[139] Peter, Andrew, James and the Beloved Disciple[140] Peter, Andrew, James and John[138] Peter[141]

Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James, Simon the Zealot, Jude Thaddaeus, and Judas[140]

Philip, Nathanael, Matthew, Thomas, James, Simon the Zealot, Jude Thaddaeus and Judas[140]

Matthew, James the Just (Brother of Jesus), Simon the Zealot, Thaddaeus, Judas[142]

Matthew, Thomas, James the Just (Brother of Jesus)[143]

Possible Authors Unknown;[144] Mark the Evangelist and Luke the Evangelist The Beloved Disciple[145] Thomas[146] Matthew the Evangelist[147]
Virgin birth account In Matthew and Luke, but not Mark[148] Not mentioned Not mentioned Not mentioned
Jesus' baptism Described Not mentioned N/A Described in great detail[138]
Preaching style Brief one-liners; parables Essay format, Midrash Sayings Brief one-liners; parables
Storytelling Parables[149] Figurative language and Metaphor[150] Gnostic, hidden[151] Parables[152]
Jesus' theology 1st century liberal Judaism[153] Critical of Jewish Authorities[154] Gnostic 1st century Judaism[155]
Miracles Many miracles Seven Signs N/A Fewer but more credible miracles[156]
Duration of ministry 1 year[157] 2 years (three Passovers mentioned) N/A 1 year[157]
Location of ministry Mainly Galilee Mainly Judea, near Jerusalem N/A Mainly Galilee
Last Supper Body and Blood=Bread and wine Interrupts meal for foot washing N/A Hebrew Passover is celebrated but details are N/A Epiphanius[158]
Burial shroud A single piece of cloth Multiple pieces of cloth, as was the Jewish practice at the time [Jn 20:5-7]] N/A Given to the High Priest[159]
Resurrection Mary and the Women are the first to learn Jesus has arisen [Mt 8:1]] [Mk 16:1]] [Lk 24:1]] John adds detailed account of Mary Magdalene's experience of the Resurrection [Jn 20:11]] Not applicable, as Gospel of Thomas is a collection of the "sayings" of Jesus, not the events of his life In the Gospel of the Hebrews is the unique account of Jesus appearing to his brother, James the Just[160]


John was written somewhere near the end of the 1st century, probably in Ephesus, in Roman Asia. The tradition of John the Apostle was strong in Asia, and Polycarp of Smyrna reportedly knew him. Like the previous gospels, it circulated separately until Irenaeus proclaimed all four gospels to be scripture.

Although the Church Fathers Polycarp and Ignatius of Antioch did not mention this gospel,[161] it is thought that its ideas are reflected in their writings.[162] The gospel appears to have been familiar to Papias of Hierapolis,[163][164] and was used by other early Christians, including the author of the Muratorian Canon,[165] the Christians of Vienna and Lugdunum,[166] Theophilus of Antioch,[167] Tatian[168] and Justin Martyr.[169]

\mathfrak{P}^{52}, \mathfrak{P}^{90}, \mathfrak{P}^{75}, \mathfrak{P}^{66} are early papyri of the Gospel of John.

In the 2nd century, the two main, conflicting expressions of Christology were John's Logos theology, according to which Jesus was the incarnation of God's eternal Word, and adoptionism, according to which Jesus was "adopted" as God's Son. Christians who rejected Logos Christology were called "Alogi," and Logos Christology won out over adoptionism.

The Gospel of John was the favorite gospel of Valentinus, a 2nd-century Gnostic leader.[122] His student Heracleon wrote a commentary on the gospel, the first gospel commentary in Christian history.[122]

In the Diatesseron, the content of John was merged with the content of the synoptics to form a single gospel that included nearly all the material in the four canonical gospels.

When Irenaeus proposed that all Christians accept Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John as orthodox, and only those four gospels, he regarded John as the primary gospel, due to its high Christology.[122]

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

Although harmonious with 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.[170]


The Gospel of John has influenced Impressionist painters, Renaissance artists and classical art, literature and other depictions of Jesus, with influences in Greek, Jewish and European history.

It has been depicted in live narrations and dramatized in productions, skits, plays, and passion plays, productions, as well as on film. The most recent film portrayal being that of 2003's The Gospel of John, directed by Philip Saville and narrated by Christopher Plummer, and starring Henry Ian Cusick as Jesus.

See also


  • Called by F.F. Bruce "the most important work to appear in this field in a generation”.[171]


External links

Online translations of the Gospel of John:

  • The Gospel of St. John the Apostle, Douay Rheims Bible Version with commentaries by Bishop Challoner
  • at
  • at Biola University
  • at
  • Text of the Gospel with textual variants
  • The Egerton Gospel: text. Compare it with Gospel of John

Related articles:

  • Gospel According to John, Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
  • A textual commentary on the Gospel of John Detailed textcritical discussion of the 300 most important variants of the Greek text (PDF, 376 pages)
  • at the John Rylands Library; illustrated.
  • John Rylands papyrus: text, translation, illustration and a bibliography of the discussion
  • Encyclopædia Britannica – collected comments
  • Conflicts Between the Gospel of John & the Remaining Three (Synoptic) Gospels on
  • David Robert Palmer, Translation from the Greek
  • John Henry Bernard, Alan Hugh McNeile, , Continuum International Publishing Group, 2000.
Gospel of John
Preceded by
Gospel of
New Testament
Books of the Bible
Succeeded by
of the Apostles

public domain: 

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.