The Introduction To John Part 1

The House of The Nazarene spiritual study series brings you a teaching journey through the gospel of John. This is the introduction to John with the entirety of John 1:1-18 at the end for your ease of use.
Let’s begin with a prayer. Lord, we thank You for this evening together. We ask that You would bless and guide our time and lift up our thoughts on things that are pleasing to You as we reflect on this marvelous revelation from You, a personal revelation of the personal Incarnate One, who is the Author of the cosmos and the Author of salvation. We pray in His name. Amen.
We’re going to be doing an introduction to the gospel of John. This is the beginning of a series of teachings throughout this wonderful gospel. Really the most unusual gospel, the most distinctive of the four gospels because of it’s distinct content and also a very distinctive style as we’ll see.
It truly can be regarded as a supplement to the three synoptic gospels. Synoptic comes from two Greek words, sune which means together and optikos which mean to see. So it’s a way of seeing together. The synoptic gospels see through one point of view together. The three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are supplemented by this fourth gospel that gives us an account of Jesus’ life and ministry from a totally different perspective.
I think it’s easily the simplest and yet at the same time the most profound of the gospels. For many people, it’s the greatest, most powerful and their favorite gospel. Some people love other gospels more but for me, this is my favorite for various reasons. (Each of the four gospels appeals to different personality types in the Myer-Briggs if you break it down into four types.)
This gospel is quite extraordinary because of the way it ties things together. It’s a gospel that was written for a very particular purpose. In fact, it has the clearest purpose statement in Scripture that we will mention in just a moment. That purpose statement relates to bringing people to spiritual life through belief in the person and in the work of Jesus Christ.
Let me just say a word about the gospels as a whole and draw some comparisons between them. I think it would be very helpful for us to do that.
If we look at Matthew first of all, which is probably dated around 58-60 A.D. (we don’t know exactly when it was written but pretty close to that period of time) we see a gospel that focuses on what we call the Jewish mind. What I mean by that is that he is focusing on his basic audience, which is primarily Jewish. This is more of a religious gospel and the theme is of Jesus as Messiah and also as King. It presents Jesus as being Jesus the Messiah to a largely or originally Jewish readership. Its focus is on more of a religious mindset. Matthew was probably written from the province that the Romans called Palestine or possibly from Antioch in Syria.
Mark on the other hand which can probably be dated somewhere from 55-65 A.D., in that range, would have been written to a different mind. Mark probably wrote from Rome and he’s really writing to a Roman mindset, a different orientation. It reflects a different kind of mind. The Jewish mind has more of a religious orientation and a great deal of quotations from the Old Testament. In the gospel of Mark, focusing on the Roman mind, there is a much more pragmatic orientation (dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations.) The word eutheos, (straightway or immediately), is used some 41 times in Mark’s gospel. It’s a very pragmatic culture and so we have a very crisp portrait of Jesus. There He’s presented more as the Servant and also the Redeemer.
I want you to understand that the gospels are not really biographies so much as they are thematic portraits of Jesus. They really give us portraits that come out of the same Person from different angles. It’s like looking at a gem from different perspectives and you’re looking through the various prisms of that one gem and the total is greater than the sum of the parts. When we put these four gospels together we see various aspects of our Lord’s life.
The gospel of Luke’s most probable date would be about 60-68A.D. My view for various reasons is that all three of the synoptic gospels were written prior to the fall of Jerusalem, which took place in the year 70 A.D. Luke, was written from either Rome or Greece, focuses much more on a Greek mindset. A Greek mind would be much more idealistic. So while the Jewish mind would be religious and the Roman mind pragmatic, the Greek mind would be more idealistic. We see in Luke the portrait of a perfect man. He is the perfect man, the ideal of all that the Greeks would have sought to epitomize.
John, on the other hand, would’ve been written probably around the range of 70-90A.D. If pressed I would say closer to 80-90A.D. It was written probably from Ephesus according to tradition. It was not written to a Jewish mind, which was religious, not a Roman mind that was pragmatic, nor a Greek mind, which is idealistic, but John wrote a universal gospel. What I mean by that is that there is a universal dimension that is found in his gospel and that is we see Him as the Son of God and not just a perfect man.
I want you to understand that all four gospels really complement one another. They complete one another. In fact they also have symbols that have been historically associated with the four gospels. For example, the Matthew gospel would focus on the lion, which is a symbol of strength and of power and authority. Mark’s gospel focuses on the bull because you can see the idea of power but also sacrifice and service. Luke’s symbol would be the perfect man so we have this image of a perfect man. Guess what John’s symbol would be? If you know anything about the four cherubim, the four faces that they had, they were, in fact, a lion, a bull, a man and the fourth one, an eagle. What we have here is a picture of deity in His personhood. We have a portrait here of the One who is both the Lion King as well as the Servant Sacrifice as well as the Perfect Man as well as the divine Son of God, who in fact is symbolized by the beauty of the eagle.
After looking at the four gospels what I want to do is draw a contrast between the first three gospels, the synoptic gospels, whereas John is a supplemental gospel. The first three, the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke,, remember optics, seeing together, as opposed to John which is supplemental. Partly I say that because clearly, John was aware of the other gospels if he wrote it when he did and the evidence is that he wrote after the other gospels were being circulated and known. What we have in the synoptic gospels is the focus on man/God. In the supplemental gospel, we have the focus on the God/man. Both are true. He is fully man and fully God, fully divine and human. If you wanted to pull something out, you’d see that John supplements the others by particularly focusing on His deity. It’s not to say that John minimizes His humanity. There are evidences of His clear and full humanity.
Another contrast we have is that the synoptic gospels tend to be more historical in their orientation whereas John’s gospel is more theological. Not to say it’s not historical but there’s a dimension to it that the other gospels may not have.
In fact, the unique material of the other gospels goes as such. In Matthew, only 42% of the material is unique to Matthew. In Luke, only 59% is unique to Luke. In Mark, only 7% is unique to Mark. In other words, only 7% of the verses in Mark are found only in Mark. John’s material, by contrast, contains 92% of material not to be found in the other three gospels. We clearly have only an 8% overlap here.
It’s important for us to see how John is deliberately supplementing and layering and giving us an understanding that we would otherwise have not known. We wouldn’t of known about Jesus’ early Judean ministry before his Galilean ministry. The other gospels don’t start with that. John tells us things we wouldn’t have known about the wedding in Cana and the miracle of the water and the wine. He tells us about Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus. He tells us about Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well. We wouldn’t of known about that. He talks about his relationship to Him. Behold the Lamb of God- the Agnus Dei- is only found here. There are many materials unique to this gospel.
There is another contrast even in terms of the Passovers. In the synoptic gospels, only one Passover is mentioned whereas in John’s gospel 3 or perhaps 4 (depending on how we understand the feasts) are mentioned.
The synoptic gospels concentrate on the Galilean ministry and John’s gospel looks a great deal more at the Judean ministry of Jesus Christ. They do fit together.
The discourse material in John is more private. For example, we have the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew and Luke, which is a very public discourse. But what is the key discourse in John? The third of the great discourses, the upper room discourses. This is revealed to only a handful of people. It is a good deal more private. If it were not for John’s gospel we would not have Jesus’ parting teachings to His own disciples to prepare them for His departure from this earth. That discourse gave His disciples an intimate portrait in the Upper Room and also it contains the seeds for the later epistles and teaches us about the spiritual life and the resources we have available to us. Again, materials we would of not otherwise have known are to be found in this book. We have parables that are repeated in the synoptic gospels but in the supplemental gospel, we have allegories (a story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one,) for example, the allegories of the Good Shepherd and the Vine. We don’t have parables in John’s gospel. We have these allegories. It is a different approach that is taken. The teaching emphasis in the synoptic gospels is more an ethical and practical teaching. We have that dimension. It’s more of a personal application of the truth. It’s how do you embrace, it’s how do you become immersed in a relationship with the God who has loved us.
So we see that the synoptic gospels complement each other but this one supplements the others.
Next, in our introduction, I would like to talk about authorship because it’s a highly debated issue, as some of you may well know. Jesus by the way nicknamed John and his brother, James. What did he call them? He called them the sons of thunder in Mark 3. Their father was Zebedee and their mother was Salome and they served Him in Galilee. Salome was also present at Jesus’ crucifixion. John was evidently among the Galileans, I take it that followed John the Baptist in John 1. Remember John opens up with disciples of John the Baptizer. Evidently, John is writing from an eyewitness perspective and must’ve been among those. We then see later on that these Galileans were called to become full-time disciples of the Lord in Luke 5. In Luke 5 it’s our first encounter with them but we have an earlier encounter with some of these men prior to the Galilean call. There was some history going on before He told them to leave those boats. John was among the 12 men in Luke 6 who were selected to be what was called the apostles or sent ones. After Jesus’ ascension John became one of the basic pillars of the church in Jerusalem along with James and Peter according to Paul in Galatians 2:9. Who were Peter, James, and John? They were the inner circle if you recall. They were the inner circle of disciples. John’s mentioned in the book of Acts three times and each time he’s mentioned it’s in association with Peter. He had an intimate and close association with Peter right from the beginning and we still see that in the book of Acts.
Tradition tells us John apparently went up to Ephesus before the destruction of Jerusalem and had a ministry in Asia Minor. Ephesus was the capital city of Asia Minor. John was on a circuit. Remember the seven cities of Revelation? John was really an apostle to those 7 cities and he would send his messages out. If you look at a map they kind of follow a circuit. He would start out in Ephesus and go to Laodicea, Smyrna and so forth and come back after Philadelphia and so forth. He would eventually come back to Ephesus. He ministered to those churches. The Romans eventually exiled him for a time to the island of Patmos. We see that in Revelation 19 where he is given the revelation of Jesus Christ that takes place from the island of Patmos. It’s basically a small barren island.
In any case, I want to talk about the idea of John’s authorship. My own view is that it really is John the disciple who wrote this. I also argue that it’s the same John who wrote the 3 epistles that are attributed to him and the Book of Revelation. Some would say that it was the presbyter John and there are some theological assumptions that motivate critics to question whether John was the real writer.
Actually, however, John Reiland’s papyrus was discovered. In John Reiland’s library, Papyrus 52 contains portions of the book of John chapter 18 and this dates back to 135 A.D. It was found in Egypt so there had to be some time for it to have been copied and brought there. We have a manuscript that dates from within a few decades of the original that is by the way unparalleled in ancient materials. Only in the New Testament do we have dates that close. Typically in the Greek and Roman writings, it is usually 4,5,6,7, 8, or more centuries after the original that copies or fragments are found. Here we have something that is close. Furthermore, it shows that it was not a 2nd-century doctrine at all but actually quite clearly what it claimed to be a first-century document.
Here is a person who wrote evidently after the other gospels were written. His familiarity with the topography of Jerusalem, with the environs of Judea, Smyrna, Perea and the area of Galilee shows that he had an intimate knowledge of that area. Clearly, he lived in that area.
It was written by what we would a Palestinian Jew, not an outsider. He gave meticulous attention to details such as the number of fish caught and people’s names. This affirms his claim that he was an eyewitness.
Other verses also verify his eyewitness claims. These illustrate this idea that this is not something second hand. This claims to be in its own terms an eyewitness account form one who had seen these things.
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 (KJV)
It wasn’t they saw it. We saw it. He puts himself among those who saw this glory. Look at John 19:35. Near the end of the epistle, he makes a very specific and explicit claim to this. John 19:35, “And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe.” He also goes on to say in chapter 21 (the last chapter) verses 24-25, “This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true. And there are so many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” So he says, I’m the one. This is the disciple who goes unnamed as the one who wrote them.
How can we deduce that this is John just from the internal evidence? Well, here’s how we can do it. Remember there was an inner circle of three. The disciple whom Jesus loved is mentioned several times. That disciple whom Jesus loved is clearly part of the inner circle of the disciples and is closely associated with Peter. The synoptic gospels name this inner circle and we mentioned them before, Peter, James, and John. Now Peter in John’s gospel is separate from the beloved disciple. For example go to John 21:7, “ Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” So it’s clearly the disciple he’s referring to which is also the disciple who is testifying to these things is not Peter. We also know it can’t be James from Acts12: 1-2 because James, John’s brother, was martyred quite early. So it has to be John.
Furthermore, the external evidence supports this internal evidence. Irenaeus said this was John who wrote this. Irenaeus was a disciple of a man named Polycarp. Polycarp was a personal disciple of John. We have a clear succession. Irenaeus was a disciple of the disciple of John. There is a very personal connection there with no broken gap. He mentions this in his book against heresy and bears witness to John’s authorship. He not as well that John lived to the time of the emperor of Trajan. Now we know that Emperor Trajan reigned from the year 98-117 A.D. There are other early church fathers, Clement of Alexander, Theopolis of Antioch, Origen and others, who ascribe this book to John.
Let me say a word about the purpose statement that I alluded to earlier. Here we have the clearest purpose statement in the bible for a book of the bible. John 20:30, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” In other words, he is saying, I was highly selective in the signs that I presented. By the way, the word he uses is signs, not miracles. We’ll talk about that later. They are signs that point beyond themselves to spiritual truth. He says there are many other signs but I chose these ones. These have been written and actually, we only have eight of them. We have seven up through the point of chapters 2-12. Then the greatest sign of them all, the resurrection in chapters 20-21. These few signs were chosen, he said, so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One, the Son of God and that by believing you may have eternal “Zoe” in His name.
Zoe means “life” in Greek. From early times it was adopted by Hellenized Jews as a translation of EVE. It was borne by two early Christian saints, one martyred under Emperor Hadrian, the other martyred under Diocletian. The name was common in the Byzantine Empire, being borne by a ruling empress of the 11th century.
The word zoe is used 40 times in John and he never defines it. This is very clever of him for various reasons but it’s very provocative. Seventeen of those appearances have the modifying adjective eternal. So the image 17 times is of eternal Zoe. Remember what I told you before? Bios is one thing, Zoe is another. Bios, as we’ve observed, has to do with biological life. Even the word ‘bio’ we took biochemistry or biology or at least some of us did, that has to do with physical life, physical existence. Zoe, on the other hand, has to do with spiritual life. What we see here is that bios is found in the first birth because everybody is born by definition, (except Adam and Eve who was not born but created as a Bio, and Zoe life,) if they’re born they have biological life. But no one, according to this gospel and the testimony of scripture, is born with Zoe, or spiritual life. Because of the blast of the fall, because of our fallen condition, we are separated from God in this world and therefore there needs to be a new birth. We call it a second birth. He describes this in John 3. Jesus’ discourse with Nicodemus, one of the members of the Sanhedrin, when He says a man must be born again. Nicodemus takes it literally and Jesus says you’re missing the point here. There is a spiritual birth, not just a physical one. We have to have this new birth so that we can have a life with God Himself. And so in this theme, his purpose is clear.
He has written these things so that you may believe. He uses pisteuo for believe. Pisteuo is a special word, which we’re going to look at in more depth starting later. Pisteuo means more than intellectual assent. It does include the intellectual side but it also means a heart response. It means that a person must embrace, chose, come to know by trusting or entrusting one’s self to this Person. You see, Jesus is not nearly presenting propositions to be assented to; He presents himself as a person to be trusted and embraced. There is an idea of propositional truth that points to personal truth. That revelation, that scripture, was not only revealed to inform us but to transform us. It’ll only transform us if we personally respond. It’s one thing to believe about Jesus, it’s another thing entirely to entrust one’s self to this Jesus. That’s Johns point: so that you may believe He is the Son of God and by believing you may have what kind of life, zoe not bios. We already have that, but that you may have this new quality, a new form of life. To have faith in, upon, or with respect to, Jesus Christ.
John’s basically selected the signs that he would use with what we would call an apologetic purpose. Apologetics has to do with the defense of the faith and presenting its reasons, nature. He creates an intellectual case that you may believe and a spiritual case that by believing you may have life. It’s a conviction that’s both intellectual and spiritual because God is the author of both the mind and heart. He wants the two welded together so that there is a conviction that we are to embrace about the Son of God.
Atheist Logic
Atheist Logic is; An atheist sees a designer behind every wonderful human creation and praises the human designers. Confronted with the marvels of the created universe, the same atheist attributes it all to ‘chance’ and then rants at the God he doesn’t believe exist! And we get such people to define our morals. Now you know why the world is in such a mess? Our lives are defined by lunatics.

2 Replies to “The Introduction To John Part 1”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s