Introduction To John's Gospel


When I was a new Christian, I was told that one of the first things that I should read was the Gospel of John. I agree with those who told me this in the sense that John is a great place to start for new Christians. However, as time has gone on and I have become more and more involved in the deep study of Scripture, the more I have realized that a cursory reading of any book of the Bible will leave you missing some of the details. That is, once the context and background is factored in, the study of a particular passage of Scripture becomes even more alive than it would have without this information. For this reason, I wanted to give a brief overview and introduction to John's Gospel.

Who Wrote John's Gospel?

The Gospel that is attributed to John does not name its author. Traditionally, it has been held from early in the Church's history that John the apostle wrote this Gospel. However, because the author of the Gospel does not name himself, it is not possible to know with certainty. We do, however, know several things from the contextual clues that are given in the Gospel:

1.) The author of this Gospel was one of the twelve disciples. The author of this Gospel portrays himself as an eyewitness to the life and ministry of Jesus. Based on the genre and style of the book, it is clear that this was meant in a literal, not figurative, sense. Furthermore, he uses the term "disciple" to refer to himself. Thus the most reasonable conclusion that we can come to is that the author of this book was one of the Twelve.

2.) The author of this Gospel was present at the Last Supper, since he was the disciple who leaned on Jesus' breast to ask who would betray him.

3.) We can rule out certain persons among the Twelve that definitely did not write the Gospel. We can rule out Peter, since the Beloved Disciple is presented at least three times as a different person than Simon Peter. We can rule out Judas Iscariot, since he committed suicide long before this Gospel was written. We can rule out Thomas, again, because Thomas is presented as someone other than the Beloved Disciple. There are others who are likely not the author as well.

At the end of the day, after those who could not have written this Gospel have been eliminated, the traditional view that John the apostle wrote this book is still highly probable, even if it is not something that can be proven with certainty.

When And Where Was John's Gospel Written?

It is even more difficult to determine the time when the Gospel that is attributed to John was written than it is to determine the author of this Gospel. It is probable that the Gospel attributed to John was written by one author at one point in time, only to be later redacted near the end of the first century. While it is somewhat difficult to give a definitive answer, it is likely that the Gospel of John was redacted to its final form in the 90's AD, which means that the Gospel was originally written at some point prior to this time. Some have made the case that the Gospel attributed to John was originally written prior to AD 70, but this is far from certain.

Likewise, we cannot be certain exactly where this Gospel was written. However, a good "best guess" is that it was written while the Apostle John was in Ephesus. The apostle John likely wrote this Gospel to Gentile Christians in Ephesus while residing there. Again, this cannot be stated with absolute certainty, but it seems to be the most likely option.

Why Was John's Gospel Written?

This is the one question that we can have the most certainty about, since the Gospel that is attributed to John makes its purpose clear. The author writes in John 20:31, "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." Thus, we can be certain as to the purpose of the Gospel attributed to John.

What Is In John's Gospel?

The Gospel of John can be outlined according to its main units and subunits as follows: 

  1. I. Prologue (1:1-18) 

  1. a. The Relationship Of The Father And Son (v. 1-5) 

  1. b. John’s Testimony (v. 6-8) 

  1. c. The Light Comes (v. 9-10) 

  1. d. Receiving Him (v. 11-13) 

      c'. The Logos Tabernacles (v. 14) 

      b'. John’s Testimony (v. 15) 

      a'. The Son’s Relationships (v. 16-18) 

  1. II. Miracles, Signs, And Confrontations (1:19-12:50) 

  1. a. John And Jesus 

  1. i. John Is Not The Christ (1:19-28) 

  1. ii. John Testifies About Jesus (1:29-36) 

  1. iii. Jesus Is the Christ (1:37-51) 

  1. b. The First Sign And First Confrontation (2:1-25) 

  1. i. The First Sign: Water Into Wine (2:1-11) 

  1. ii. The First Confrontation: Cleansing The Temple (2:12-25) 

  1. c. Explaining Who Jesus Is (3:1-4:42) 

  1. i. Jesus Converses With Nicodemus (3:1-21) 

  1. ii. John Testifies Again About Jesus (3:22-36) 

  1. iii. Jesus And The Samaritan Woman (4:1-30) 

  1. iv. The Disciples Offer Food To Jesus (4:31-38) 

  1. v. Some Samaritans Believe (4:39-42) 

  1. d. The Second Sign (4:43-54) 

  1. i. The Centurion’s Son Is Sick (4:43-49) 

  1. ii. The Centurion's Son Is Healed (4:50-54) 

  1. e. Three Miracles (5:1-6:21) 

  1. i. Jesus Heals A Blind Man At Bethesda (5:1-16) 

  1. ii. Jesus Responds To The Jews (5:17-47) 

  1. a. Jesus Explains His Unique Relationship With The Father (5:17-30) 

  1. b. Jesus Provides Evidence For Himself (5:31-47) 

  1. iii. Jesus Feeds Five Thousand (6:1-14) 

  1. iv. Jesus Walks On A Stormy Sea (6:15-21) 

  1. f. Jesus Teaches About Himself Again (6:22-8:58) 

  1. i. Jesus Addresses The Crowds (6:22-40) 

  1. ii. Jesus Addresses The Jews (6:41-59) 

  1. iii. Jesus Addresses His Disciples (6:60-71) 

  1. iv. Jesus Teaches At The Feast Of Booths (7:1-39) 

  1. v. Division Over Jesus (7:40-52) 

  1. vi. A Woman Caught In Adultery (7:53-8:11) 

  1. vii. Confrontation With The Jews (8:12-58) 

  1. g. Jesus Heals A Man Born Blind (9:1-41) 

  1. i. Jesus Heals A Man Born Blind (9:1-8) 

  1. ii. The Pharisees Confront The Man (9:9-34) 

  1. iii. Jesus Confronts The Man (9:35-41) 

  1. h. Jesus As The Good Shepherd (10:1-42) 

  1. i. Jesus Is The Good Shepherd (10:1-18) 

  1. ii. More Division Over Jesus (10:19-21) 

  1. iii. Jesus’ Sheep Hear His Voice (10:22-29) 

  1. iv. Jesus Claims Unity With The Father (10:30) 

  1. v. The Jews Attempt To Stone Jesus (10:31-42) 

  1. i. Jesus And Lazarus (11:1-12:11) 

  1. i. Lazarus Dies (11:1-16) 

  1. ii. Jesus Raises Lazarus From The Dead (11:17-44) 

  1. iii. The Chief Priests And Pharisees Desire To Kill Jesus (11:45-57) 

  1. iv. Jesus Is Anointed For Burial At Bethany (12:1-12) 

  1. j. Jesus Comes To Jerusalem (12:12-50) 

  1. i. Jesus Enters Jerusalem On A Donkey (12:12-16) 

  1. ii. People Try To Meet Jesus (12:17-26) 

  1. iii. Jesus Addresses The Crowd (12:27-50) 

  1. III. Discourses To The Disciples (13:1-17:26) 

  1. a. Jesus Washes Feet (13:1-20) 

  1. b. Judas Prepares To Betray Jesus (13:21-30) 

  1. c. Jesus Comforts His Disciples (13:31-14:14) 

  1. d. Love For Jesus And The Promised Holy Spirit (14:15-31) 

  1. e. The Disciples’ Relationships (15:1-27) 

  1. i. To Jesus (15:1-11) 

  1. ii. To One Another (15:12-17) 

  1. iii. To The World (15:18-27) 

  1. f. Jesus Promises The Holy Spirit (16:1-14) 

  1. g. Grief And Joy (16:15-22) 

  1. h. Jesus Has Overcome The World (16:23-33) 

  1. i. Jesus Prays (17:1-26) 

  1. i. For Himself (17:1-5) 

  1. ii. For The Disciples (17:6-19) 

  1. iii. For All Who Believe (17:20-26) 

  1. IV. Trial, Death, And Resurrection (18:1-20:31) 

  1. a. Trial (18:1-19:15) 

  1. i. Jesus In The Garden Of Gethsemane (18:1-11) 

  1. ii. Peter Denies Jesus While Jesus Faces Priests (18:12-27) 

  1. iii. Jesus In Front Of Pilate (18:28-19:15) 

  1. b. Crucifixion (19:16-30) 

  1. c. Burial (19:31-42) 

  1. d. The Empty Tomb (20:1-18) 

  1. e. Appearance To The Disciples (20:19-29) 

  1. f. The Gospel’s Statement Of Purpose (20:30-31) 

  1. V. Epilogue (21:1-25) 

  1. a. The Disciples Encounter Jesus While Fishing (21:1-14) 

  1. b. Jesus Addresses Peter (21:15-22) 

  1. c. A Rumor (21:23-25)


John's Gospel is an excellent read for new Christians. However, absent the background information of the text, it becomes more difficult to understand some aspects of this book, just as it is with any other book. It is my hope that the information provided here will make it easier for you in your study of John's Gospel.


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