The Gospel of John, while telling the story of Jesus and his ministry, is quite different from the other gospels. Traditionally the apostle John has been considered this gospel’s author. However many scholars believe that the gospel was not written by John but by someone who knew the “beloved disciple” mentioned in the gospel (19:35, 21:24).
The Gospel of John was probably written before 100 CE and probably after 70 CE and the destruction of the Temple. Most scholars think it was written between 85 and 95 CE. The period after the destruction of the Temple was a time of religious turmoil for Judaism. Scholars believe that the harsh language about “the Jews” in John reflects a painful conflict between John’s community of Jews who believe Jesus is the Messiah and other Jewish groups. Jews who believe Jesus is the Messiah were separating from and being separated from their synagogues. John’s gospel takes Jewish traditions and Jewish scriptures very seriously. The harsh language against “the Jews” is not a rejection of all of Judaism and all Jewish people. It is the result of a painful, tumultuous period of Jewish history when various branches and factions within Judaism were struggling for control and indeed their very survival. Modern readers must read John’s Gospel carefully and thoughtfully, avoiding older anti-semitic interpretations.
Traditionally Ephesus has been considered the place where this gospel was written but we do not know for certain. Antioch and Alexandria are also possibilities. All three of these places are significant cities with substantial Jewish populations.
What we do believe is that John’s Gospel was written by a Jewish Christian for a Jewish Christian community which was in conflict with the Jewish synagogue authorities of its time.
John’s Gospel differs from the other three gospels in several ways. In John, Jesus ministry lasts three years and three different Passover feasts are recorded, rather than the one Passover mentioned in the other gospels. There are three trips to Jerusalem in John’s gospel and much of Jesus’ ministry takes place in Judea and Jerusalem. The chronology of Jesus trial and crucifixion are different in John. There are people and places and events unique to John’s gospel.
Jesus’ miracles are called “signs” in John’s gospel and they are demonstrations of Jesus’ origin and mission. In John’s gospel there are often long discussions about the meaning of the signs and who Jesus is. In the other gospels, miracles are greeted with amazement by the crowds but not much discussion.
John’s gospel has longer literary scenes where narrative, dialogue and discourse are woven together. John does not have as many parables as the other gospels.
“…John draws no lines between history and interpretation, story and theology. To try to separate what happened in the life of Jesus from its meaning is a false pursuit for this Gospel. That claim does not minimize or dismiss the possible historical values of the account of Jesus’ life and ministry in John, but instead recognizes that, for John, the value of the events of Jesus’ life and ministry lies in their theological significance- what they reveal about God- and not in the events in and of themselves. In order to understand what John says about Jesus and God, then, one must attend carefully to how he tells his story. …To understand the theological world of John, one must begin by recognizing the centrality of the incarnation to the Gospel….Jesus’ revelation of God is thus not simply that Jesus speaks God’s words and does God’s works, although that is part of it (e.g., 5:19-20;10:25,37-38; 12:48-49). It is, rather, that Jesus is God’s Word. No line can be drawn between what Jesus says and what he does, between his identity and mission in the world. Jesus’ words and words, his life and death, form an indissoluble whole that provides full and fresh access to God.” (O’Day:495).
I. Book of Signs chapter 1-12
A. The Prelude to Jesus’ Ministry 1:1-51
1. 1:1-18 Hymnic prologue
2. 1:19-51 Narrative prologue
a. John the Baptist 1:19-34
b. The Call of Disciples 1:35-51
B. “The Greater Things”: Jesus’ Words and Works 2:1-5:47
a. Cana 2:1-12
b. The Cleansing of the Temple 2:13-22
c. The discussion with Nicodemus 2:23-3:21
d. The second appearance of John the Baptist 3:22-26
e. Jesus and the Woman of Samaria 4:1-42
f. Healing of an Official’s son 4:43-54
g. Healing at Bethzatha and Discussion 5:1-47
C. Jesus’ Words and Works: Conflict and Opposition Grow 6:1-10:42
a. Feeding of the Five Thousand and Bread Discourse 6:1-71
b. Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles 7:1-52
c. The Woman Taken in Adultery 7:53-8:11
d. Jesus the Light of the World 8:12-59
e. The Man Born Blind 9:1-41
f. Jesus the Good Shepherd 10:1-42
D. The Prelude to Jesus’ Hour 11:1-12:50
a. The Raising of Lazarus 11:1-44
b. The Condemnation of Jesus 11:45-54
c. Jesus Final Jerusalem Visit and the End of His Public Ministry 11:55-12:50
11. Book of Glory chapters 13-21
A. The Farewell Meal and Words of Jesus 13:1-17:26
a. The Last Supper 13:1-38
b.The Farewell Discourse and Prayer 14:1-17:26
B. “The Hour Has Come” Jesus Arrest, Trial and Death 18:1-19:42
a. Jesus’ Arrest 18:1-11
b. Jesus Before the High Priest and Peter’s Denial 18:12-27
c. Jesus before Pilate 18:28-19:16
d. The Execution of Jesus 19:17-37
e. The Burial 19:38-40
C. The First Resurrection Appearances 20:1-31
a. The Empty Tomb 20:1-10
b. Mary at the Tomb 20:11-18
c. Appearances to the Twelves and Thomas 20:19-29
d. The Purpose of the Gospel 20:30-32
D. Jesus’ Resurrection Appearance at the Sea of Tiberius 21:1-25
a. The Appearance by the Sea 21:1-14
b. Peter and the Beloved Disciples 21:15-25
Read More About It
Carter, Warren John: Storyteller, Interpreter, Evangelist, (Peabody, MA:Hendrickson Publishers) 2006.
Johnson, Luke Timothy, The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation, rev. ed. (Minneapolis:Fortress Press) 1999. Chapter 24 “The Gospel of John”
Miller, Donald G. and Bruce M. Metzger “The Gospel According to John” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Bruce M. Metzger, Roland E. Murphy eds. (New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.
O’Day, Gail R. “The Gospel of John” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Volume IX, Leander Kirk,eds. (Nashville: Abingdon Press) 1995.
Smith, D. Moody “John” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary, rev. ed.James L Mays, ed. (New York: Society of Bible Literature) 2000.