Daily Bible Study Tips –
The Gospel of John
Day 14, John 1-5
Day 15, John 6-9
Day 16, John 10-14
Day 17, John 15-19
Study Tips on John
Comments on John Chapters 1 – 6
Comments on John Chapters 9 – 14
Comments on John Chapters 15 – 21
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Day 14, John 1-5.
The Gospel of John
is one of the latest books in the New Testament, written around the turn of the century, when the disciple John was a very old man living in Ephesus. Even the most cursory reading of the four Gospels shows that Matthew, Mark
, and Luke
are really similar to each other, and John
is really different from them. There are several reasons for this.
Day 15, John 6-9. (4/18/08
- First, John emphasized the early, Judean ministry at the request of the Church, and he wrote about the Last Supper in great detail. The Synoptic Gospels start the action when Jesus moved out of Judea and into Galilee, after John the Baptist was imprisoned. Their treatment of the Last Supper, while sympathetic, is brief.
- Second, by the time John was written, John had spent many decades in the company of the Holy Spirit, thinking about what had happened and what it meant, and he wrote a “spiritual gospel” that combines reporting and interpretation. The Synoptics tend to report the facts, with little elaboration.
- Finally, the style is different. There is almost a complete lack of parables in John, but an extensive use of metaphors (e.g., “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”) There are relatively few miracles of healing, but each one is accompanied by an lengthy explanation of what it means spiritually. I have commented before that John loved puns even more than most Biblical writers, and that his Greek vocabulary is extremely simple – right until you get to the most important sentence in a story, at which point it becomes extremely difficult.
Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 66: John 2:13-23, Christ Casting Out the Money Changers at the Temple, by Carl Bloch (9/1/15)
Every day is a new adventure when you get a new computer. Just when I think I’ve got something solved, either that problem comes back or a new one appears.
Don’t you hate it when that happens? If you read the Synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – you’ll see that Jesus cast out the moneychangers during Holy Week, which was the week before Passover. It may seems that Jesus just went in and immediately started causing a rumpus; however, look at Mark 11:11: Jesus went into the Temple one day, left, and came back the next day to start the rumpus!
Jesus had addressed the same problem three Passovers back. John reports an entirely different incident, near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, also shortly before Passover. In the first incident, Jesus comes in, sees what’s going on, makes the whip on the spot, and immediately starts driving out the moneychangers. Probably Jesus was too wise in the ways of the world to think he had solved the problem permanently, but he didn’t let that stop him from working on it again during Holy Week.
Previous Step. Next Step.
"Christ Casting Out the Money Changers at the Temple" by Carl Bloch, from the Gamble family Bible, now in the private collection of Regina Hunter.
Many of you know that my husband and I raised three boys, all of whom, I will say with no hint of modesty whatever, have turned out fabulous. (We also have a fabulous daughter, but she was grown before she and I ever shared a roof.) I was also lucky enough to have a number of young men as interns while they were in high school and college. My three favorite comic strips are Zits, Baldo, and Red and Rover, because the writers really understand boys.
I am convinced that John was a teenager when Jesus called him away from his father’s nets. Jesus named John and his brother James “the Sons of Thunder” (Mk. 3:17), and it’s easy to see why. When a Samaritan village wouldn’t let Jesus enter, John and James wanted to command fire to come down and consume them (Lk. 9:54). John reported proudly to Jesus, "Teacher, we saw a man who was driving out demons in your name, and we told him to stop, because he doesn't belong to our group" (Mk. 9:38). Only James and John had the temerity to ask for seats at Jesus’ right and left or the confidence to proclaim that they could drink the same cup he would drink (Mk. 10). The other disciples were indignant, but none of them said “me, too” when it came to drinking the cup.
On the other hand, John had an intense personal and spiritual loyalty to Jesus. It was John who was closest to Jesus at the Last Supper, who immediately believed that the empty tomb meant Jesus had risen, who instantly recognized that the figure on the shoreline was Jesus, who tagged along when Jesus called Peter to one side for a private conversation, and who easily outran Peter to the tomb on Sunday morning. It was probably John who entered the High Priest’s house during Jesus’ trial. All of these incidents seem to me to be more consistent with teenage behavior than the behavior of a mature man.
John was one of the four disciples who formed Jesus’ inner circle of friends, and it was John to whom Jesus entrusted his own mother in the moments before his death. In spite of all this, John never refers to himself by name in his gospel, only allowing his writing companions to give him the title, “the disciple Jesus loved.”
Day 16, John 10-14.
John is very clear on why he is writing a gospel: “In his disciples' presence Jesus performed many other miracles which are not written down in this book. But these have been written in order that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through your faith in him you may have life” (John 20:30-31). Throughout the book, the responses of belief among the people who encounter Jesus are recorded: Nathaniel believed (ch. 1); the disciples who saw water turned into wine believed (ch. 2); people who believe are saved, but people who do not believe are judged by their own unbelief (ch. 3); Samaritans believed, and an official and his family believed (ch. 4), and so on until the end. John’s Good News is that all you have to do is believe and be saved.
John’s gospel is less concerned with repentance than the others; he alone never uses the words “repent” or “repentance.” He is also less concerned with our behavior than the other gospel writers. Instead, John’s clear idea that if Christians properly love Jesus and obey his commandments, they will love each other, and no other concern about their behavior will arise (chs. 13-15). This idea carries through the letters of John as well, as we will see later.
Day 17, John 15-19.
The record of how John came to compose the gospel comes to us from the Muratorian Canon, which was compiled in Rome about 170 A.D., and from Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons about 177 A.D. Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John. The Church had noticed that Matthew, Mark
, and Luke
concentrated on Jesus’ ministry after John the Baptist was imprisoned and Jesus had withdrawn to Galilee, and that some important details were missing. In addition, heresies had already begun to arise and needed countering. People began urging John to publish a “spiritual gospel” that would fill in the blanks and emphasize the early, Judean ministry of Jesus. John asked the people he was with, probably largely his own disciples, to fast and pray with him for three days and see what they thought. At the end of this time, a man named Andrew reported that he had been given a vision that John should, in cooperation with the Church, publish a gospel.
Here is the important point: the Gospel of John
is John’s gospel, whether or not he personally wrote it down. (Remember that Mark
is considered by the Church to be Peter’s gospel.) The specific details reported in this gospel show clearly that it is the record of an eye-witness, and only John the disciple could have known many of them. Nevertheless, if you look at the last few verses of the book and Church tradition that John “published” it, it’s easy to see that a committee took overall responsibility for the book and its origin with John.
2008, 2010, 2015, 2016 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved.
Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the
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Bible-study participants. Thanks to the
Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers
for their support and enthusiasm. All
errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.
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