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Dr. J. Vernon McGee :: Notes for John

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WRITER: John, the apostle, son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother of James (Mark 1:19, 20; Matthew 20:20; John 21:20-24). His authorship has been seriously questioned by the Tubingen school of critics; however, the objections have been fully answered by the Dead Sea scrolls and also by the dating of carbon 14, and the Johannean authorship is received by competent Bible scholarship.
It is interesting to note that the following early church fathers ascribe the fourth Gospel to John: Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch — A.D. 180; Iranaeus — A.D. 190, pupil of Polycarp, who in turn was pupil of John; Clement of Alexandria — A.D. 200; and the Muratorium fragment says the fourth Gospel is by John.

DATE: A.D. 90-100
Some suppose that this is the last book of the New Testament to be written. However, it seems appropriate to consider the writings of John in sequence: namely, the Gospel of John, the three Epistles, and the Revelation. All were written evidently during the last ten years of the life of the “beloved apostle.”

STRUCTURE: There are several striking features about the structure:

1. The first three Gospels are called the Synoptic Gospels because they are written from the same viewpoint. The fourth Gospel is different.

(a) Matthew and Mark emphasize the miracles of Jesus, and Luke gives attention to the parables; John does neither.

(b) The miracles in John are given as signs and were chosen with a great deal of discrimination in order to interpret certain great truths (e.g., Jesus fed the 5000, and following it is His discourse on the Bread of Life). There are eleven specific signs in John.

(c) There are no parables in the fourth Gospel. The word “parable” occurs one time (John 10:6), but is not the regular Greek word parabole but paroimia. The story of the Good Shepherd is not a parable but a discourse. The record of the lost sheep in Luke 15 is a parable. In John, the figures that Jesus used are in the nature of metaphors.

2. The simplicity of language has caused some to label John’s record as the “simple Gospel.” The fact that so many monosyllabic and disyllabic words occur has deceived many. This is the most profound Gospel, and the most difficult to fathom its meaning. Consider this simple statement and then try to probe its depths: “…ye in me, and I in you” (John 14:20).

3. John gives a chronological order which is well to note (e.g., “the next day,” John 1:29, 35, 43). He presents a logical and chronological sequence of events. He also gives attention to places and cities (e.g., “Bethabara beyond the Jordan,” John 1:28; “Cana, of Galilee,” John 2:1).

4. Although the deity of Christ is in the foreground, the humanity of Christ is peculiarly emphasized (e.g., “Jesus…being wearied with his journey,” John 4:6).

5. The name Jesus is used almost entirely to the exclusion of Christ. This seems strange in a Gospel that sets forth His deity.

6. The word Jew occurs over 60 times.

WHY JOHN WROTE: Several explanations have been offered as the reasons why John wrote his Gospel:

1. To correct Synoptic Gospels (invalid since he did not deal with their material);

2. To correct a wrong view concerning John the Baptist;

3. To refute errors of Cerinthus;

4. John’s own reason — John 20:30, 31.

ESTIMATION: During the entire life of the church there have been many glowing tributes paid to the fourth Gospel. Some have called this “the heart of Christ,” the “spiritual Gospel,” and in Europe it is called “the bosom of Christ.”
Origen said, “The Gospel [of John] is the consummation of the Gospels as the Gospels are of the Scriptures.”
Jerome said, “John excels in the depths of divine mysteries.”
Culross said, “I believe the writings of John have been blotted by more penitents’ tears and have won more hearts for the Redeemer than all the rest put together.”
Dr. A. T. Pierson said, “It touches the heart of Christ. If Matthew corresponds to the court of the Gentiles, John leads us past the veil into the Holy of Holies.”
D. A. Hayes said, “As we read we are assured that here at last is the worthy and adequate picture of the life of Jesus among men.”

THEME: The deity of Jesus is the paramount purpose. The Messianic character also holds priority. This is succinctly stated in John 20:31 — “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”
There is a mighty movement stated in John 16:28 — “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world; again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.” God became a man; this is the simple statement of the sublime fact. John Wesley expressed it, “God contracted to a span.”
These things are recorded to beget faith in the heart of man. “Believe” is used over 100 times in John’s Gospel. It occurs fewer than 40 times in the Synoptic Gospels. The noun “faith” does not occur in John but is used in the other Gospels. “Eternal life” occurs 35 times in John, but only 12 times in the Synoptic Gospels.


The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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