JOHN, GOOD NEWS ACCORDING TO
An account of Jesus Christ’s earthly life and ministry, the last of the four to be written.
Writership. Though the book does not name its writer, it has been almost universally acknowledged that it was written by the hand of the apostle John. From the beginning, his writership was not challenged, except by a small group in the second century who objected on the ground that they considered the book’s teachings unorthodox, but not because of any evidence concerning writership. Only since the advent of modern “critical” scholarship has John’s writership been challenged anew.
The internal evidence that the apostle John, the son of Zebedee, was indeed the writer consists of such an abundance of proofs from various viewpoints that it overwhelms any arguments to the contrary. Only a very limited number of points are mentioned here, but the alert reader, with these in mind, will find a great many more. A few are:
(2) He was a native dweller in the land of Palestine, as is indicated by his thorough acquaintance with the country. The details mentioned concerning places named indicate personal knowledge of them. He referred to “Bethany across the Jordan” (Joh 1:28) and ‘Bethany near Jerusalem.’ (11:18) He wrote that there was a garden at the place where Christ was impaled and a new memorial tomb in it (19:41), that Jesus “spoke in the treasury as he was teaching in the temple” (8:20), and that “it was wintertime, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the colonnade of Solomon” (10:22, 23).
(3) The writer’s own testimony and the factual evidence show that he was an eyewitness. He names individuals who said or did certain things (Joh 1:40; 6:5, 7; 12:21; 14:5, 8, 22; 18:10); he is detailed about the times of events (4:6, 52; 6:16; 13:30; 18:28; 19:14; 20:1; 21:4); he factually designates numbers in his descriptions, doing so unostentatiously.—1:35; 2:6; 4:18; 5:5; 6:9, 19; 19:23; 21:8, 11.
(4) The writer was an apostle. No one but an apostle could have been eyewitness to so many events associated with Jesus’ ministry; also his intimate knowledge of Jesus’ mind, feelings, and reasons for certain actions reveals that he was one of the party of 12 who accompanied Jesus throughout his ministry. For example, he tells us that Jesus asked Philip a question to test him, “for he himself knew what he was about to do.” (Joh 6:5, 6) Jesus knew “in himself that his disciples were murmuring.” (6:61) He knew “all the things coming upon him.” (18:4) He “groaned in the spirit and became troubled.” (11:33; compare 13:21; 2:24; 4:1, 2; 6:15; 7:1.) The writer was also familiar with the apostles’ thoughts and impressions, some of which were wrong and were corrected later.—2:21, 22; 11:13; 12:16; 13:28; 20:9; 21:4.
(5) Additionally, the writer is spoken of as “the disciple whom Jesus used to love.” (Joh 21:20, 24) He was evidently one of the three most intimate apostles that Jesus kept nearest to him on several occasions, such as the transfiguration (Mr 9:2) and the time of his anguish in the garden of Gethsemane. (Mt 26:36, 37) Of these three apostles, James is eliminated as the writer because of his being put to death about 44 C.E. by Herod Agrippa I. There is no evidence whatsoever for such an early date for the writing of this Gospel. Peter is ruled out by having his name mentioned alongside “the disciple whom Jesus used to love.”—Joh 21:20, 21.
Authenticity. The Gospel of John was accepted as canonical by the early Christian congregation. It appears in nearly all the ancient catalogs, being there accepted without query as authentic. The epistles of Ignatius of Antioch (c. 110 C.E.) contain clear traces of his use of John’s Gospel, as do also the writings of Justin Martyr a generation later. It is found in all the most important codices of the Christian Greek Scriptures— the Sinaitic, Vatican, Alexandrine, Ephraemi, Bezae, Washington I, and Koridethi codices—as well as in all the early versions. A fragment of this Gospel containing part of John chapter 18 is contained in the John Rylands Papyrus 457 (P52), of the first half of the second century. Also parts of chapters 10 and 11 are found in the Chester Beatty Papyrus No. 1 (P45), and a large part of the whole book is found in the Bodmer Papyrus No. 2 (P66) of the early third century.
When and Where Written. It is generally thought that John had been released from exile on the island of Patmos and was in or near Ephesus, about 100 km (60 mi) from Patmos, at the time he wrote his Gospel, about 98 C.E. Roman Emperor Nerva (96-98 C.E.) recalled many who had been exiled at the close of the reign of his predecessor Domitian. John may have been among these. In the Revelation that John received on Patmos, Ephesus was one of the congregations to which he was commanded to write.
John had reached a very old age, being probably about 90 or 100 when he wrote his Gospel. He was undoubtedly familiar with the other three accounts of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry, also the Acts of Apostles and the letters written by Paul, Peter, James, and Jude. He had had opportunity to see Christian doctrine fully revealed and had seen the effects of its preaching to all nations. He also had seen the beginning of “the man of lawlessness.” (2Th 2:3) He had witnessed many of Jesus’ prophecies already fulfilled, notably the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of that Jewish system of things.
Purpose of John’s Gospel. John, inspired by holy spirit, was selective in the events he chose to chronicle, because, as he says: “To be sure, Jesus performed many other signs also before the disciples, which are not written down in this scroll,” and, “There are, in fact, many other things also which Jesus did, which, if ever they were written in full detail, I suppose, the world itself could not contain the scrolls written.”—Joh 20:30; 21:25.
With these things in mind, John states his purpose for writing the account he was led by inspiration to write, in which he repeated little that had been written before: “But these have been written down that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that, because of believing, you may have life by means of his name.”—Joh 20:31.
John emphasized the fact that what he wrote was real and true and that it had actually taken place. (Joh 1:14; 21:24) His Gospel is a valuable addition to the Bible canon as the actual eyewitness evidence from the last living apostle of Jesus Christ.
Widely Published. The Good News According to John has been the most widely published of any part of the Bible. Thousands of copies of the Gospel of John have been separately printed and distributed, apart from its being included in copies of the complete Bible.
Value. In harmony with the Revelation, in which Jesus Christ states that he is “the beginning of the creation by God” (Re 3:14), John points out that this One was with God “in the beginning” and that “all things came into existence through him.” (Joh 1:1-3) Throughout the Gospel he stresses the intimacy of this only-begotten Son of God with his Father, and he quotes many of Jesus’ statements revealing that intimacy. Throughout the book we are kept aware of the Father-Son relationship, the subjection of the Son, and the worship of Jehovah as God by his Son. (Joh 20:17) This closeness qualified the Son to reveal the Father as no one else could and as God’s servants of ages past never realized. And John highlights the affectionate love of the Father for the Son and for those who become God’s sons by exercising faith in the Son.
Jesus Christ is presented as God’s channel of blessing to mankind and the only way of approach to God. He is revealed as the One through whom undeserved kindness and truth come (Joh 1:17), also as “the Lamb of God” (1:29), “the only-begotten Son of God” (3:18), “the bridegroom” (3:29), “the true bread from heaven” (6:32), “the bread of God” (6:33), “the bread of life” (6:35), “living bread” (6:51), “the light of the world” (8:12), “the Son of man” (9:35), “the door” of the sheepfold (10:9), “the fine shepherd” (10:11), “the resurrection and the life” (11:25), “the way and the truth and the life” (14:6), and “the true vine” (15:1).
Jesus Christ’s position as King is stressed (Joh 1:49; 12:13; 18:33), also his authority as Judge (5:27) and the power of resurrection granted him by his Father. (5:28, 29; 11:25) John reveals Christ’s role in sending the holy spirit as a “helper,” to act in the capacities of remembrancer or reminder, witness bearer for Him, and teacher. (14:26; 15:26; 16:14, 15) But John does not allow the reader to lose sight of the fact that it is actually God’s spirit, emanating from God and sent by His authority. Jesus made it clear that the holy spirit could not come in such capacity unless he went to the Father, who is greater than he is. (16:7; 14:28) Then his disciples would do even greater works, for the reason that Christ would again be with his Father and would answer requests asked in his own name, all for the purpose of bringing glory to the Father.—14:12-14.
John reveals Jesus Christ also as the sacrificial ransom for mankind. (Joh 3:16; 15:13) His title “Son of man” reminds us of his being most closely related to man by becoming flesh, being man’s kinsman, and by reason of this, as foreshadowed in the Law, the repurchaser and avenger of blood. (Le 25:25; Nu 35:19) Christ told his disciples that the ruler of this world had no hold on him but that he had conquered the world and, as a result, the world was judged and its ruler was to be cast out. (Joh 12:31; 14:30) Jesus’ followers are encouraged to conquer the world by keeping loyalty and integrity to God as Jesus did. (Joh 16:33) This harmonizes with the Revelation that John had received, in which Christ repeats the need to conquer and promises rich heavenly rewards alongside him to those in union with him.—Re 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21.
The Spurious Passage at John 7:53–8:11. These 12 verses have obviously been added to the original text of John’s Gospel. They are not found in the Sinaitic Manuscript or the Vatican Manuscript No. 1209, though they do appear in the fifth-century Codex Bezae and later Greek manuscripts. They are omitted, however, by most of the early versions. It is evident that they are not part of John’s Gospel. One group of Greek manuscripts places this passage at the end of John’s Gospel; another group puts it after Luke 21:38, supporting the conclusion that it is a spurious and uninspired text.
[Box on page 92]
HIGHLIGHTS OF JOHN
The apostle John’s account of the life of Jesus, highlighting the theme that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, by means of whom eternal life is possible
Written about 98 C.E., more than 30 years after the last of the other three Gospels and 65 years after the death of Jesus
The Word becomes flesh and is identified as the Lamb of God, God’s Son, and the Christ (1:1-51)
The Word, who was in the beginning with God, resides among men but is rejected by his people; those who accept him are given authority to become God’s children
John the Baptizer testifies that Jesus is God’s Son and the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world
Andrew and then others become convinced that Jesus is the Christ
Jesus’ miracles and preaching demonstrate that he is the Christ, through whom eternal life is attainable (2:1–6:71)
Jesus turns water into wine in Cana
He tells Nicodemus that God sent His only-begotten Son so that faithful ones may have everlasting life
He speaks to a Samaritan woman about the spiritual water that imparts everlasting life, and he identifies himself as the Christ
Jesus performs healing miracles; the Jews object when a healing takes place on the Sabbath, and they want to kill him
Proclaiming that those who believe him have everlasting life, Jesus foretells the resurrection of all in the memorial tombs
He miraculously feeds about 5,000 men; when the crowd wants to make him king, he withdraws; when the people keep following him, he identifies himself as the bread that came down from heaven and tells them they will have to eat his flesh and drink his blood if they want everlasting life
Hostility to the Son of God intensifies (7:1–12:50)
Jesus boldly preaches in temple area although the chief priests and the Pharisees are seeking to seize him
Jesus announces that he is the light of the world and that the truth can make his listeners free, but they try to stone him
On the Sabbath, Jesus heals a man who was born blind; the Pharisees are furious
Jesus identifies himself as the fine shepherd, explaining that his sheep listen to his voice; the Jews again try to stone him
The resurrection of Lazarus fills the Jewish religious leaders with fear; they determine that both Jesus and Lazarus must die
Jesus rides into Jerusalem and is hailed as King by the crowd but not by the Pharisees
At the final Passover, Jesus gives parting counsel to his followers (13:1–17:26)
He washes their feet to teach humility and gives “a new commandment,” that they should love one another as he loved them
He identifies himself as the way, the truth, and the life; he promises to send the holy spirit to his disciples after his departure
To bear fruit, his followers must remain at one with him, the true vine; but they will be persecuted
Jesus prays for his followers and reports to his Father that he has finished the work assigned to him, making His name manifest
Jesus is arrested, rejected by Jewish nation, and impaled (18:1–19:42)
In Gethsemane, Jesus is arrested; he is led before Annas, Caiaphas, and then Pilate
He tells Pilate that His kingdom is no part of this world
When Pilate’s efforts to release him are frustrated, Jesus is impaled and dies
Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus care for his burial
Evidence of resurrection of Jesus concludes John’s proof that this one really is the Christ (20:1–21:25)
Jesus is seen by Mary Magdalene, then by the rest of the disciples, including Thomas
In Galilee, he performs one final miracle, providing a miraculous catch of fish, and then he gives the commission: “Feed my little sheep”