The Gospel of John
An Essay Written for A Humanities Course That Studies the
Bible As A Historical Document
THE GOSPEL OF JOHN: "The Man from Heaven," "Bread of Life,"
"Light of The World," "Living Water," .... and of course,
"Son of Man." This is who Jesus is in The Gospel of John.
Jesus' life is portrayed very differently from the other
Synoptic Gospels; he lives completely within symbolism, and
In reading the Gospel of John, I felt that Jesus was (more)
clear to me, unlike my feelings in reading Matthew and
Mark. Perhaps this is because I have gained knowledge of
who the historical Jesus was since my first readings.
However, I find that John writes about Jesus and
Christianity more in the way that conventional American
Christianity practices today! I see the verses most
familiar to me (John 3:16), and I see the symbolism that I
am used to. Most importantly, I see the lengthy teachings
and sayings of Jesus, that are less frequent in the earlier
gospels. This is the Jesus I am used to!
Throughout this essay, I will show the parallels and
differences from the Gospel of John and the earlier gospels
(mostly Mark), as I discuss the anonymous evangelist(s)'
conception of the word of God.
1. John 3:15 2. John 6:48 3. John 1:4 4. John 7:37-39 5.
Has been believed to be: John, Son of Zebedee.
The Gospel of John was written between 90-100 ADE. A late
book in the New Testament, it deals with different problems
than the early Gospel of Mark. Although the book does not
try to stray from the special traditions of Christianity
(after all, The Christian Church has become strong by this
time), the book the Life of Jesus, to meet the needs of the
community in 100 ADE.
What were the changes that the Johannine Community had to
deal with; and, how does the Gospel of John differ from
earlier gospels to deal with these changes?
The entire new testament is apocalyptic writing, by authors
who (obviously) believe in the Parousia. We see a lot of
different religions of the time develop a "Christ" figure
... it is a sign of the times; it reflects that most people
were desperate for help from political and social problems
that they could not escape. This is the community that the
Gospel of Mark wrote for: the desperate, looking toward
their God for help. Now the Gospel of John has to deal with
the Parousia, that Christians believed was coming.
The Johannine author(s) clearly had the Gospel of Mark
available to them (and also possibly the Gospel of Luke).
6. I will compare only Gospel of Mark, as it is a main
source for all later Gospels.
With the entire tradition of the Jewish Christian
apocalyptic, the idea could not be completely thrown out.
What develops from this is the Johannine "Realized
Echatology" (CH Dodd). This suggests that the "future is
here now:" resurrection, judgement and eternal life are here
.... as [you] believe in Jesus. "He who sü8üTüsü÷üsü=ü in
Him is en( condemned; but he who does not believe is
condemned already, because he has not believed in the name
of the only begotten Son of God." -- John 3:18
I have mentioned many times that the Gospel writers were
very traditional. The Johannine Community, although
disenchanted with the idea of a "Second Coming of Christ &
Resurrection," did not want to pünüfü=ü8üsü(üsü8ü ü throw
out the belief.
"Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming when the
dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who
hear will live." -- John 5:25
Sounds a bit like "hedging your bet," doesn't it? But
seriously, the new understanding has shifted from Mark's
Day of Judgment (occurring at a specific, unknown time), to
John's Day of Judgment part of every day; where, reward or
penalty will be seen at one's own time.
Before concluding, I would like to make a comparison of the
style and presentation of Jesus through the Gospel of John
and the Gospel of Mark (the earlier gospel). As N. Perrin
pointed-out, John 12:25-26 and Mark 8:34-35 appear to be
written as the same thing. We know that John had the Markan
writing available to him. How does he translate it?
7. Matthew 24:29-31, example of this. Matthew is nearly a
straight translation of Mark (with many additions). Mark
"If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and
take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his
life will lose it; and whoever loosed his like for my sake
and the gospel's will save it."
"He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his
life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone
serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My
servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father
There is certainly an apparent poetic style in John that is
not as strong in Mark. However there is also a "flip" in
the scripture, which shows a stress on the important part
of the saying. Perhaps this particular passage is a
straight translation from Mark, or because of the tradition
of this saying, it is how John has written it from
word-of-mouth (Quite possible, many sayings of Jesus were
passed through word of mouth.).
Out of cultures as desperate, and as powerless in political
change as the Jews, it is not a surprise that the common
person searched for a God who, as they believed, would come
one day to judge the villains, and to help the helpless.
Now we see the incredible change in South Africa! A huge
8. Social History, is actually my passion. Jesus' following
is a great study of the politically represented a
population of politically helpless people see Mandella as
the Messiah in their struggles; able to make a miracle in
only "three weeks" after the elections. We hope it will not
be "business as usual."
A 2000 year old document of Revelations (Written, according
to Perrin, by John) still has a huge following in cultures
all over the world .... including our own. Still, it is a
belief for the desperate; yes, even in our country.