Introduction to the Book of John Index

TITLE:

  • Almost without exception the Fourth Gospel has, since the earliest Christian centuries, been known as the Gospel According to John. The name John means, "The Lord is gracious." (5BC 891)

AUTHORSHIP:

  • This Gospel is anonymous to the extent that, for reasons best know to himself, the writer deliberately avoids naming himself directly. He does not identify himself as one of the two disciples who first followed Jesus (John 1:37; DA 138), and with obvious modesty refers to himself simply as "that disciple" (John 21:23), "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (John 21:20), "the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things" (John 21:24). From the very first, Christian tradition has pointed to John the Beloved, not only as the source of information, but also as the actual writer of the gospel account that bears his name. (5BC 891)
  • John is distinguished above the rest of the Twelve as "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (John 21:20). In his heart the flame of personal loyalty and ardent devotion to his Master seemed to burn purer and brighter than in the hearts of his fellows. Between him and Jesus there developed a more intimate friendship than the others knew (DA 292). As Christ alone could perfectly reveal the Father, being the only One who knew Him perfectly, so John was eminently qualified to present, in his Gospel, the sublime truths concerning Christ. (5BC 891)
  • When John and his brother James first came to Christ they received the nickname "sons of thunder" (Mark 3:17). They were proud, self-assertive, ambitious for honor, impetuous, resentful under injury; they often harbored the desire for revenge, and took it opportunity offered (AA 540-541). These were serious defects indeed, and it is certain that John was not chosen to be a disciple because of a particularly winsome or noble character. But beneath this forbidding exterior Jesus discerned an ardent, sincere, loving heart. At first a rather dull pupil in whom the Master Teacher envisioned a dynamic apostle, John took upon himself the yoke of Christ, and as a result his entire life and character were transformed. (5BC 891)
  • As John beheld in Jesus the One altogether lovely, he felt a supreme longing to become like Him. He was younger than the other disciples (DA 292), and with the confiding trust and hero worship of youth he opened his heart to Jesus. He was ever close by the side of his Master, yielded himself more fully to the influence of that perfect life, and as a result came to reflect it more fully than did his fellow disciples. His was the most receptive, the most teachable spirit. As in the pure light of the Sun of Righteousness his defects were revealed one by one, he humbled himself and accepted the reproof implicit in Christ's perfect life and explicit in His words of counsel and reproof. Divine love and grace transformed him as he yielded his life to the Saviour's influence. (5BC 891-892)
  • John's childhood home was Bethsaida, a fishing community on the northern shore of the Lae of Galilee. His father seems to have been a man of some means and social position, and his mother joined the group of devout women who ministered to the needs of Jesus and the Twelve on their journeys to and fro in Galilee and elsewhere in Palestine. John was a member of that inner circle of three whom Jesus made His most intimate associates and who shared with Him the deepest experiences of His life mission. It was to John that Christ entrusted His own mother as He hung upon the cross. Tradition has it that many years later she accompanied the apostle to Ephesus, where he supervised the Christian communities of the region. John was the first of the disciples at the tomb on the resurrection morning, and the first to grasp the glorious truth that the Lord had risen (John 20:8). Thenceforth he devoted his all to the proclamation of a crucified, risen, and returning Saviour, bearing witness to what he had hears, seen, and experienced "of the Word of Life" (1 John 1:1; 1 John 1:2). (5BC 892)

HISTORICAL SETTING:

  • See attached articles: 1) The Reign of Herod the Great and 2) The Jews of the First Christian Century.