In this opening lesson (15 minutes), we will consider the nature of John's gospel, and then probe the important prologue (1:1-18), which sets the stage for the entire gospel.
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The Gospel of John: Introduction
- John's is the most universal focus of the four gospels.
- Mark—the Roman world. Caesar is not the true emperor—Jesus is!
- Matt—Jews, though ends with command to launch Gentile mission. Jesus is Messiah.
- Luke—the entire Gentile world. Jesus as ideal human, bringing the message from Galilee to Jerusalem. (And in Acts, from Jerusalem to Rome -- omitting Egypt, parts of Syria, and much more.)
- Jesus is savior of the whole world, as the villagers of Sychar proclaim (John 4).
- 90% of John’s material is unique, and mainly set in Jerusalem, as opposed to Galilee.
- Unlike the Synoptics, John is not structured around the Caesarea-Jerusalem trek, following Peter’s confession (Mark 8).
- Antitheses: simple yet effective use of paired opposites, combined with physical and spiritual levels (and frequent misunderstanding), like light & darkness, life & death, heaven & earth, and above & below.
- John's gospel is a highly theological gospel, although it is easy to understand because of the large amount of narrative and simple themes.
- John heavily emphasizes Jesus’ incarnation
- Humanity: fatigue 4:6; anguish 12:27, 13:21; weeping 11:33-35; irritation 2:4; friends 11:11.
- Same in letters of John
- The structure of John
- Multiple Passover visits, thus a ministry spanning 3 years
- Triple-seven: 7 signs, 7 confessions, 7 I AM statements.
- Purpose -- 20:30-31 is the author's statement of purpose.
- For more, see NT chapter notes, esp. the Advanced section (c. 400 pages)
- In this series, we will be reading the NRSV.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
- The opening of John clearly harks back to Genesis 1:1. It is also nearly identical to 1 John 1:1 -- especially when you read both passages in the Greek.
- In the beginning was the logos: word, saying, message, talk, conversation, question, preaching, account, value, reason, grounds, charge, matter, or thing
- The alpha point of creation involves reason, not just feeling; logic, not just sensation. Just as "in the beginning," God is again going to speak, this time through his Son.
- The beginning point for understanding of God, including communication of the word of God to those who do not know him, is reason, words, not mystical (wordless) experience.
- The complete union of God and man in one being -- one God, two natures -- was the conclusion of hundreds of years of discussion among Christian leaders and intellectuals from the 2nd to 4th centuries.
- In verse 1 theós is rendered God -- just as it is every other time it appears in John 1.
- Groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses are wrong when they claim that the word means "a god," simply because it is lacking the definite article.
- This is a common construction in NT Greek.
- The Jewish ear would be offended if John’s gospel taught there was a second god. Jesus wasn't a god, but God (in the flesh, v.14).
- The Word was involved in the creation itself (v.3). See also Colossians 1:15ff.
- In the Word was life (v.4). This is not biological life, but spiritual life, as opposed to darkness (v.5).
- The darkness did not overcome, or understand. But how did mankind react to light?
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
- John the Baptist – all 4 gospels record his ministry before Jesus, preparing the way. John is prophesied in Mal 3, Mal 4, and Isa 40.
- John warned mankind, prepared the Jews, and testified to the light (v.6). This is John the Baptist, not John the apostle. He selflessly pointed people to Jesus (3:30). He did not want glory for himself or his own ministry.
- We dare not preach ourselves (2 Cor 4:5) – trying to impress others with how together we are.
- The light is not something divine within us – eastern or New Age concepts. Even the Quaker notion isn't too far removed from this misunderstanding.
- The Word was the true light. See 8:12; 9:5. It refers to Jesus Christ.