Reading 1,44 - 21 Chapters - 878 verses - 19,099 words

Vital Statistics


The author is the apostle John,"the disciple whom Jesus loved" (13:23 [see note there]; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7,20,24). He was prominent in the early church but is not mentioned by name in this Gospel—which would be natural if he wrote it, but hard to explain otherwise. The author knew Jewish life well, as seen from references to popular Messianic speculations (see, e.g., 1:21; 7:40-42), to the hostility between Jews and Samaritans (see 4:9), and to Jewish customs, such as the duty of circumcision on the eighth day taking precedence over the prohibition of working on the Sabbath (see note chi 7:22). he knew the geography of the Holy Land, locating Bethany about 15 stadia (about two miles) from Jerusalem (11:18) and mentioning Cana, a village not referred to in any earlier writing known to us (2:1; 21:2). The Gospel of John has many touches that appear or reflect the recollections of an eyewitness—such as the house at Bethany being filled with the fragrance of the broken perfume jar (see 12:3). Early writers such as lrenaeus and Tertullian say that John wrote this Gospel, and all other evidence agrees (see Introduction to John: Author).


In general, two views of the dating of this Gospel have been advocated:

1. The traditional view places it toward the end of the first century, c. A.D. 85 or later (see Introduction to 1 John: Date).

2. More recently, some interpreters have suggested an earlier date, perhaps as early as the 50s and no later than 70.

The first view may be supported by reference to the statement of Clement of Alexandria (died between 211 and 216) that John wrote to supplement the accounts found in the other Gospels (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 6.14.7), and thus his Gospel is later than the first three. It has also been argued that the seemingly more developed theology of the fourth Gospel indicates that it originated later.

The second view has found favor because it has been felt more recently that John wrote independently of the other Gospels. This does not contradict the statement of Clement referred to above. Also, those who hold this view point out that developed theology does not necessarily argue for a late origin. The theology of Romans (written c. 57) is every bit as developed as that in John. Further, the statement in 5:2 that there "is" (rather than "was") a pool "near the Sheep Gate" may suggest a time before 70, when Jerusalem was destroyed. Others, however, observe that John elsewhere sometimes used the present tense when speaking of the past.

Purpose and Emphases

John's Gospel is rather different from the other three. Whether or not he knew them (or any one of them) continues to be debated. In any event, his witness to Jesus goes its own way, highlighting matters that in the other Gospels remain implicit and underdeveloped.The literary style of this witness of Jesus is also unique among the Gospels; here focus is on the"signs" of Jesus' identity and mission and on lengthy, theologically rich discourses. John begins with the profound announcement that Jesus is the "in the beginning" creative word of God who had become embodied (incarnated) as a human being to be the light of life for the world. After this comes the proclamation that this Jesus is the Son of God sent from the Father to finish the Father's work in the world (see 4: 34). God's own glory is made visible in him ("Anyone who has seen me his seen the Father," .14.9), and what he does glorifies the Father. In him the full grace and truth of God has shown itself. Strikingly, a series of "I'm" claims on Jesus' lips echoes God's naming of himself in Ex 3: 14, further strengthening the !ink between the Father and the Son (see 6:35; 8:12; 9:5; 10:7,9,14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1,5). Jesus' words to Nicodemus nicely summarize this Gospel's central theme:"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (3:16). Although a variety of motivations for the composition of John's Gospel have been posited by interpreters (such as to supplement the other Gospels, to combat some form of heresy, to oppose the continuing followers of John the Baptist), the author himself states his main purpose clearly in 20:31:"that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." For the main emphases of the book see notes on 1:4,7,9,14,19,49; 2:4,11; 3:27; 4:34; 6:35; 13:1--17:26; 13:31; 17:1-2,5; 20:31.

How to read John

In Jesus’ day, as in ours, there were many competing belief systems—all trying to connect with a spiritual reality beyond ourselves. One major religion features a god of power and revenge; another worships one that is silent and indifferent to the suffering of people; still another offers a god that is mysterious and unknowable, absorbing all of humanity into a great cosmic ocean of oneness. Some people worship “gods” of possessions, fame, and entertainment. Only one faith—Christianity—worships an amazing, personal being known primarily for his sacrificial love. This book profiles that unique God, revealed in the person of Jesus Christ—God in human flesh.

In this account of Jesus’ life, you will be confronted with some astonishing claims about who he is and what he came to do. John tells us that he has selected only a few of the many noteworthy things Jesus did in order to help us understand who Jesus is. He records only seven miracles, climaxing in Jesus’ resurrection. For John these signs give indisputable proof that Jesus is the Son of God. There is more, John says, but “the world itself wouldn’t have room for the books that would be written” (Joh 21:25) had he recorded all of Jesus’ mighty signs. So why has he told us these select stories? To elicit a response of faith in our hearts, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (Joh 20:31).

Note some unique features of John’s gospel. He uses the images of light and life to describe God’s activity in the world. He includes several of Jesus’ sermons not found in the other gospels (3:10-21; 5:19-47; 9:41-10:5; 10:7-18; 10:25-30; 13:7; 13:8; 13:10; 13:12-20; 13:21; 13:26; 13:27; 13:31-35; 13:36; 13:38-14:4; 14:6-7; 14:9-21; 14:23-16; 16:19-28; 16:31-33; 17:1-26). He highlights Jesus’ many “I am” statements. Jesus declares he is the Messiah, the bread of life from heaven, the one sent by God, the light of the world, the door, the good shepherd, the Son of God, the resurrection, the life, the way, the truth, the true vine, and the King of the Jews. These statements should give you ample reason to believe!

John Interpretive Challenges

Because John composed his record in a clear and simple style, one might tend to underestimate the depth of this gospel. Since John’s gospel is a “spiritual” gospel, the truths he conveys are profund. The reader must prayerfully and meticulously explore the book, in order to discover the vast richness of the spiritual treasures that the apostle, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (14:26; 16:13), has lovingly deposited in his gospel.

The chronological reckoning between John’s gospel and the Synoptics presents a challenge, especially in relation to the time of the Last Supper (13:2). While the Synoptics portray the disciples and the Lord at the last Supper as eating the Passover meal on Thursday evening (Nisan 14) and Jesus being crucified on Friday, John’s gospel states that the Jews did not order “to avoid ceremonial uncleanness… because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover” (18:28). So, the disciple had eaten the Passover on Thursday evening, but the Jews had not. In fact, John (19:14) states that Jesus’ trial and crucifixion were on the day of Preparation for the Passover and not after the eating of the Passover, so that with the trial and crucifixión on Friday Christ was actually sacrificed at the same time the Passover lambs were being slain (19:14). The question is, “Why did the disciples eat the Passover meal on Thursday?

The answer lies in a difference among the Jews in the way they reckoned the beginning and ending of days. From Josephus, the Mishna, and other ancient Jewish sources we learn that the Jews in northern Israel calculated days from sunrise to sunrise. That area included the region of Galilee, where Jesus and all the disciples, except Judas, had grown up. Apparently most, if not all, of the Pharisees used that system of reckoning. But Jews in the southern part, which centered in Jerusalem, calculated days from sunset to sunset. Because all the priests necessarily lived in ou near Jerusalem, as did most of the Sadducees, those groups followed the southern scheme.

That variation doubtlessly caused confusion at time, but it also had some practical benefits. During Passover time, for instance, it allowed for the festival to be celebrated legitimately on two adjoining days, thereby permitting the temple sacrifices to be made over a total period of four hours rather than two. That separation of days may also have had the effect of reducing both regional and religious clashes between the two groups.

On that basis the seeming contradictions in the gospel accounts are easily explained. Being Galileans, Jesus and the disciples considered Passover day to have started at sunrise on Thursday and to end at sunrise on Friday. The Jewish leaders who arrested and tried Jesus, being mostly priests and Sadducees, considered Passover day to begin at sunset on Thursday and end at sunset on Friday. By that variation, predetermined by God’s sovereign provision, Jesus could thereby legitimately celebrate the last passover meal with His disciples and yet still be sacrificed on Passover day.

Once again one can see how God sovereignly and marvelously provides for the precise fulfillment of His redemptive plan. Jesus was anything but a victim of men’s wicked schemes, much less of blind circumstance. Every word He spoke and every action He took were divinely directed and secured. Even the words and actions by others against Him were divinely controlled (11:49-52; 19:11).


John Horizontal

God's character in John

  1. God is accessible - 1:51; 10:7, 9; 14:6

  2. God is glorious - 1:14

  3. God is invisible - 1:18; 5:37

  4. God is loving - 3:16; 15:9, 10, 16:27; 17:23, 26

  5. God is righteous - 17:25

  6. God is spirit - 4:24

  7. God is true - 17:3, 17

  8. God is unified - 10:30; 14:9-11; 17:3

  9. God is wrathful - 3:14-18, 36

Christ in John

Unquestionably, the gospel of John stands as a proclamation of divinity of Jesus Christ. John reveals the nature of Jesus in his first sentence: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (1:10 Whereas the gospel of Mark focuses on Jesus as the Son of Man, the message of John is that "Jesus us the Christ, the Son of God" (20:31). Notably, Jesus asserts Himself as God in seven explicit statements designating Himself as "I am" (6:35; 8:12; 10:7, 9; 10:11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1, 5).