INTRODUCTION TO THE GOSPEL
© Copyright 1998, Maranatha Church, Inc.
Authorship and canonicity (authenticity).
John the apostle has traditionally been accepted as the author of the fourth
gospel since the early Church fathers.
Irenaeus, circa 200AD, a leading theologian of an authoritative canon of
Scriptures, accepted John as the author of the Gospel of John.
Clement of Alexandria, 150-200AD, a Christian apologist and missionary
to the Hellenistic (Greek) culture, produced many writings certifying John
as the author of this gospel.
Authorship by John is further substantiated in the writings of the Muratorian
Canon dated 180-200AD. (This is a Latin list of New Testament writings
regarded as canonical and discovered by the Italian, Lodovico Musatori,
and published in 1740.)
External sources of canonicity are attested by the Egerton Papyrus 2, dated
before 150AD (C.H. Dodd, New Testament Studies, 1953 pp 1552) and also
attested by Tatian in his writing, Diatesaron, circa 200AD. (This writing
is a combination of the four gospels in one narrative.)
Internal attestation of both authorship and canonicity is seen in a classical
formulation from B. F. Westcott and J. B. Lightfoot, (Biblical Essays,
1893, pp 1198) where it is demonstrated that the gospel was written:
By a Jew. Jn.1:19-28 references the Jewish expectation of the coming of
Christ; Jn.4:9, the author knew the Jewish feelings towards the Samaritans;
Jn.4:20, the Jewish attitude towards worship and acquaintance with the
Jewish feasts; cp. Jn.18:39, noting the custom of the Passover for the
Romans to release a Jewish prisoner.
By a Palestinian Jew. The author was acquainted with the geography, especially
around Jerusalem, cp. Jn.9:7; 11:18; 18:1. Also, the cities of Galilee
and the territory of Samaria, Jn.1:44; 2:1; 4:5,6,21.
By an eyewitness of events, Jn.1:14 "We beheld His glory"; 19:35
(author speaking in the third person) "And he who has seen has borne
witness (event of the Cross)." The author knew the number and size
of the pots at the wedding of Cana, Jn.2:6.
By the "beloved disciple" and close associate of the apostle Peter, Jn.21:7;
cp. 13:23 (last supper, this rules out Peter). Since James was killed early
in the history of the Church, and Thomas and Philip are mentioned so frequently
in the third person (the author speaks of himself in the third person),
John the son of Zebedee is the best remaining possibility.
The language and thinking of the author of the Gospel of John is parallel
with the first epistle of John, cp. 1Jn.1:1ff.
Date and place of writing.
The date of writing for the gospel has been variously estimated from 40AD
Patristic evidence weigh heavier towards John living a full and long life
verses a short life.
Polycrates, Bishop of Ephesus, 190AD, and Irenaeus both place John at Ephesus
as late as 98-117AD with a long residence there.
The discovery of the Rylands Fragment, which is a copy of Jn.18:31-33,37,38,
shows that the Gospel of John was in use in the first half of the second
Internal support for the writing at Ephesus (Asia Minor and gentile surroundings)
is seen in the explanations of the feasts and customs of the Jews as if
it were for the benefit of those unfamiliar with them, cp. Jn.2:13; 4:9;
Though a definite time has not been determined for this writing, it has
traditionally been dated around 90AD.
Purpose of the writing.
The general purpose of John's writing is apologetic, or in defense of the
validity of who and what Christ is.
In a harmony of the gospels, we see most of John's writing contains information
not found in the synoptic gospels (Mt., Mk., and Lk.). However, the events
surrounding the Cross are parallel with the synoptic gospels. This provides
further apologetics for the validity of the synoptic gospels.
An additional purpose of the Gospel of John then, is to provide supplemental
information and to expand the reader's view of the incarnate Christ (life
and times of Jesus at the First Advent) as compared to the synoptic gospels.
Summary outline of chapter one.
John's prologue, Jn.1:1-18.
The preincarnate deity of Christ, vss.1-5.
The witness of John the Baptist, vss.6-13.
The incarnation of Christ, vss.1418.
The end of John the Baptist's ministry and the beginning of Christ's, vss.19-51.
The confession of John the Baptist, vss.19-28.
John the Baptist identifies Christ as Messiah, vss.29-34.
The conversion of Andrew, John, Simon Peter, Philip and Nathaniel, vss.35-51.