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The gospel of John

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The gospel of john

St John the Evangelist, the beloved Apostle of Jesus, was the son of Zebedee and brother of St. James the Great. John was the youngest of the apostles, and he defined himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. According to tradition, in 49 AD, John settled at Ephesus, where the witnessed the assumption of the Virgin Mary. From there he was exiled to the Island of Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation. A few years later, he returned to Ephesus, where he wrote three letters, which contain the sublime definition of the divinity : God is love.

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There he also wrote the 4th gospel, whose sublime theology was represented in art as an eagle.

As to the date of its composition, there’s still no certain historical information. According to the general opinion, the Gospel is to be referred to the last decade of the first century, or to be still more precise, to 96 or one of the succeeding years.

The grounds for this opinion are briefly as follows: 1)The Fourth Gospel was composed after the three Synoptics; 2)It was written after the death of Peter, since the last chapter – especially xxi, 18-19 presupposes the death of the Prince of the Apostles; 3)It was also written after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, for the Evangelist’s references to the Jews (cf. particularly xi, 18; xviii, 1; xix, 41) seem to indicate that the end of the city and of the people as a nation is already come; 4)The text of xxi, 23, appears to imply that John was already far advanced in years when he wrote the Gospel; 5)Those who denied the Divinity of Christ, the very point to which St. John devotes special attention throughout his Gospel, began to disseminate their heresy about the end of the first century; 6)Finally, the so-called “Monarchian Prologue” to the Fourth Gospel, which was probably written about the year 200 or a little later, says concerning the date of the appearance of the Gospel: “He [sc. the Apostle John] wrote this Gospel in the Province of Asia, after he had composed the Apocalypse on the Island of Patmos”. The banishment of John to Patmos occurred in the last year of Domitian’s reign (i.e. about 95). A few months before his death (18 September, 96), the emperor had discontinued the persecution of the Christians and recalled the exiles (Eusebius, “Hist. eccl.”, III, xx, nn. 5-7). This evidence would therefore refer the composition of the Gospel to A.D. 96 or one of the years immediately following.

The authenticity of the Fourth Gospel was scarcely ever seriously questioned until the end of the eighteenth century. Evanson (1792) and Bretschneider (1820) were the first to run counter to tradition in the question of the authorship, and, since David Friedrich Strauss (1834-40) adopted Bretschneider’s views and the members of the Tübingen School, in the wake of Ferdinand Christian Baur, denied the authenticity of this Gospel, the majority of the critics outside the Catholic Church have denied that the Fourth Gospel was authentic. On the admission of many critics, their chief reason lies in the fact that John has too clearly and emphatically made the true Divinity of the Redeemer, in the strict metaphysical sense, the centre of his narrative. However, even Harnack has had to admit that, though denying the authenticity of the Fourth Gospel, he has sought in vain for any satisfactory solution of the Johannine problem.

The Gospel according to John is quite different in character from the three synoptic gospels. It is highly literary and symbolic. It does not follow the same order or reproduce the same stories as the synoptic gospels. John sets his account of Jesus life in the framework of seven signs and seven sayings. His leading themes are the light, the life and the love that Jesus brings.

The gospel narrative contains wondrous deeds of Jesus. The author is primarily interested in the significance of these deeds, and so interprets them for the reader by various reflections, narratives, and discourses. The first sign is the transformation of water into wine at Cana (John 2:1-11); this represents the replacement of the Jewish ceremonial washings and symbolizes the entire creative and transforming work of Jesus. The second sign, the cure of the royal official’s son (John 4:46-54) simply by the word of Jesus at a distance, signifies the power of Jesus’ life-giving word. The same theme is further developed by other signs, probably for a total of seven. The third sign, the cure of the paralytic at the pool with five porticoes in chapter 5: 1-9, continues the theme of water offering newness of life. In the preceding chapter , to the woman at the well in Samaria Jesus had offered living water springing up to eternal life, a symbol of the revelation that Jesus brings; here Jesus’ life-giving word replaces the water of the pool that failed to bring life. John 6 contains two signs, the multiplication of loaves (6:1-15) and the walking on the waters of the Sea of Galilee (6:16-21). These signs are connected much as the manna and the crossing of the Red Sea are in the Passover narrative and symbolize a new exodus. The multiplication of the loaves is interpreted for the reader by the discourse that follows, where the bread of life is used first as a figure for the revelation of God in Jesus and then for the Eucharist. After a series of dialogues reflecting Jesus’ debates with the Jewish authorities at the Feast of Tabernacles in John 7; 8, the sixth sign is presented in John chapter 9, the sign of the young man born blind. This is a narrative illustration of the theme of conflict in the preceding two chapters; it proclaims the triumph of light over darkness, as Jesus is presented as the Light of the world. This is interpreted by a narrative of controversy between the Pharisees and the young man who had been given his sight by Jesus, ending with a discussion of spiritual blindness and spelling out the symbolic meaning of the cure. And finally, the seventh sign, the raising of Lazarus in ch 11, is the climax of signs. Lazarus is presented as a token of the real life that Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life, who will now ironically be put to death because of his gift of life to Lazarus, will give to all who believe in him once he has been raised from the dead.

After the account of the seven signs,  the author passes from sign to reality, as he moves into the discourses in the upper room that interpret the meaning of the passion, death, and resurrection narratives that follow. The whole gospel of John is a progressive revelation of the glory of God’s only Son, who comes to reveal the Father and then returns in glory to the Father.

The intention of the Evangelist in composing the Gospel is expressed in the words: “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (xx, 31). He wished also by his work to confirm the faith of the disciples in the Messianic character and the Divinity of Christ. To attain his object, he selected principally those discourses and colloquies of Jesus in which the self-revelation of the Redeemer laid clearest emphasis on the Divine Majesty of His Being. In this manner John wished to secure the faithful against the temptations of the false learning by means of which the heretics might prejudice the purity of their faith. Towards the narrative of the earlier Evangelists John’s attitude was that of one who sought to fill out the story of the words and works of the Saviour, while endeavouring to secure certain incidents from misinterpretation. His Gospel thus forms a glorious conclusion of the joyous message of the Eternal Word. For all time it remains for the Church the most sublime testimony of her faith in the Son of God, the radiant lamp of truth for her doctrine, the never-ceasing source of loving zeal in her devotion to her Master, Who loves her even to the end.


            Barclay, William.(2001).The Gospel of John. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.


Cite this The gospel of John

The gospel of John. (2017, Jan 24). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/the-gospel-of-john/

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