John 1: “Introduction”

Welcome to John!

Below is helpful information I found in Fee and Stuarts Book, “How to Read the Bible Book by Book:“

Orienting Data for John

Content: the story of Jesus, Messiah and Son of God, told from the perspective of postresurrection insights; in his incarnation Jesus made God known and made his life available to all through the cross

Author: the beloved disciple who “wrote [these things] down” (21:24; cf. 13:23; 19:25–27; 20:2; 21:7) most likely refers to John the apostle, son of Zebedee (otherwise not named in this Gospel); the “we” of 21:24 suggests another person is responsible for the Gospel in its final form

Date: unknown; probably ca. a.d. 90–95

Recipients: see 1 John, to which this Gospel is closely related

Emphases: Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God; in his incarnation and the crucifixion, he both revealed God’s love and redeemed humanity; discipleship means to “remain in the vine” (Jesus) and to bear fruit (to love as he loved); the Holy Spirit will be given to his people to continue his work

Overview of John

John’s Gospel is one of the great treasures of the Christian faith. Intentionally telling the story from a perspective after Jesus’ resurrection and the gift of the Spirit (see 2:22; 12:16; 14:26;16:13–14), John writes to reassure believers of the truth of what they believe (in light of defections and rejection)—that through the Incarnation God is fully and finally known. Here is God’s love in full and open display.

In so doing, John puts the story of Jesus into the broadest biblical framework: The Incarnate One is none other than the Word, present with God from the beginning and responsible for creation (1:1–4, 10). But the Incarnate One is also the Crucified One, who, as God’s Lamb, “takes away the sin of the world” (1:29). John is also concerned to demonstrate that the incarnate Son of God is in fact the long-awaited Jewish Messiah; thus Jesus bursts onto the world’s stage, fulfilling every imaginable Jewish hope, while at the same time becoming “the Savior of the world” (4:42). Since he is the Son of (the living) God, what he gives is life (= the life of God himself)—eternal life (= the life of the coming age available now).

John begins with a prologue that puts much of this in poetic form (1:1–18), weaving theology and history together as he sets the stage for his telling of the story. The story itself is in two major parts (1:19–12:50; 13:1–20:31); it concludes with a commissioning epilogue and explanation of the (not-expected) death of the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (21:1–25).

In part 1 Jesus first manifests himself as Son of God to his disciples (1:19–2:11), who thus see “his glory” (1:14) and “put their faith in him” (2:11). He is then revealed to “the world” (2:13–12:50) as both the Messiah and the Son of God. John brings this off by telling the story in the setting of the Jewish feasts, where Jesus acts and speaks in ways that fulfill the rich messianic expectations expressed (especially) through the ceremonies connected with these feasts (Passover, 2:13–4:54; Sabbath, 5:1–47; Passover,6:1–71; Tabernacles, 7:1–10:21; Dedication, 10:22–42; [prelude to the final] Passover, 11:1–12:36). Also in this section one finds the seven “signs” (John’s significant word for miracles) and the seven “I am” sayings (Jesus’ self-identification). Part 1 ends with a double conclusion, narrating first Jesus’ rejection by some of the Jews (12:37–43) and then the meaning of Jesus and his mission (12:44–50).

The two narratives connected with the Passover (2:13–4:54; 6:1–71) also anticipate the final Passover narrated in part 2. Here the interest focuses first on the disciples as those who will carry on Jesus’ mission (chs. 13–17) and then on the crucifixion itself (chs.18–19), where the Son of God cries (triumphantly) about his work, “It is finished” (19:30). The narrative proper concludes with the resurrection (ch. 20), focusing especially on the commissioning of the disciples (20:19–23) and using Thomas’s need to see as a foil for those who believe without seeing (vv. 24–31).

Specific Advice for Reading John

The thing that should most strike you when coming to John’s Gospel from having read the Synoptics is how different it is. Not only is the basic scene of Jesus’ ministry different (Jerusalem instead of Galilee), but the whole ministry looks quite different. Here you find no messianic secret (Jesus is openly confessed as Messiah from the start); no parables (but rich use of symbolic language); no driving out of demons; no narratives of the testing in the desert, the Transfiguration, or the Lord’s Supper. Rather than placing emphasis on the kingdom of God, the emphasis is on Jesus himself (the Life who gives eternal life); rather than short, pithy, memorable sayings, the teaching comes most often in long discourses. As one scholar put it, “John seems to belong to a different world.”