The book of John (John 1)

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The author of this book claimed to have been a disciple of Jesus and a trustworthy witness of the things he described (John 21:24). Most readers take for granted his identification with “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (21:20), an epithet applied to John, son of Zebedee, since the earliest traditions of the church.

John’s Gospel is usually dated very late – toward the end of the first century – but there are reasons for believing that it was actually written much earlier. The John Rylands Papyrus (p 52)suggests that John was already in wide circulation during the second century A.D. (see John Rylands papyrus (p 52) under  John 18). Some have even proposed a date prior to the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70. It has been suggested that John may have written from Ephesus.

The Gospel of John was written to non-Jewish believers and to questioning unbelievers struggling with popular Greek philosophies claiming that Jesus was divine but not truly human (see Gnostics and their Scriptures under 1 John 4). John expressed his primary purpose for writing in John 20:31: “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God“.

Those who advocate an early date for John’s Gospel see no implication anywhere in the book that Jerusalem and the temple had already been destroyed. In fact, John’s presentation of Jesus’ cleansing of the temple, and His claim that Jesus’ body is the true temple (chapter 2), would have been surprising had that edifice already been destroyed. On the contrary, nothing would have served as better vindication of Jesus’ condemnation of the corruption at the temple and of his claim to have supplanted it in His own person. More than that, at 2:21, immediately after having reported that Jesus spoke of the destruction of “this temple”, John , ha he been writing after A.D. 70, would have ignored a perfect opportunity to point to the desolation of the Jerusalem temple when he instead clarified that Jesus was speaking of His own body.

As you read, look for “signs” in John’s Gospel that point to Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. Note the various audiences Jesus addressed in this Gospel. To whom was He speaking at any given point? How did He interact with them? Did His style change based upon His audience?

Did you know that Jewish religious teachers rarely spoke with women in public (4:27)? Did you know that many Jews believed that the soul remained near the body for three days after death in the hope of returning to it (11:17)? Did you know that Jewish custom provided for three days of very heavy mourning, then four days of heavy mourning, followed by lighter mourning for the remainder of thirty days (11:19)? Did you know that “God-fearers” were attracted to Judaism by its monotheism and morality but repelled by its nationalism and requirements such as circumcision? They worshiped in the synagogues but did not become proselytes/converts (12:20).


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