John, the worthy disciple of Jesus – Part – I

  1. Describe the writer of the Fourth Gospel, according to B. F. Westcott’s view of internal evidence. Bruce, p. 1


According to B. F. Westcott’s view of internal affairs, the writer of the fourth gospel is a Jew, an apostle, a Palestine, an eyewitness and John the Apostle himself. His knowledge over the geographical topology of the places and the various Jewish religious festivals and other ceremonial customs mentioned in the gospel, helped him decide the author’s ethnicity.


  1. When and where was the Fourth Gospel written? Bruce, p. 2


The Fourth Gospel or the Gospel according to John, narrates the events recounting the life and death of Jesus Christ. However, the actual identity of the author of the fourth or the time and place of the composition of the gospel is debatable. Apparently, it has been authored by St. John the Apostle, who has been referred to as “the beloved disciple of Jesus”. Although, the language used in the gospel suggests differently. The language and the developed theological views places the writer later than John’s actual timeline. Moreover, the final chapter of the gospel seems to be a later addition to the original manuscript. Given that the time of composition is uncertain, the place where it was composed also seems to be uncertain. It is opined by some scholars that it was written at Ephesus, in Asia Minor some time around 100 CE.


  1. Discuss whether there is any evidence that the book was originally written in Aramaic. Bruce, p. 2


The fragment of the Rylands Library Papyrus P52 provides the evidence provides the earliest evidence of a manuscript of the fourth gospel. It’s written in Greek. However, since the language in which Jesus communicated was Aramaic, it may be possible that the ideas were heavily influenced by the Aramaic language and culture.


  1. Evaluate the possible connection between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Fourth Gospel. Bruce, pp. 2-3


The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of manuscripts in ancient Jewish and Hebrew, that have been unearthed in the Judaean deserts, near the Dead Sea. The texts bear a close resemblance to the concepts and languages used in the gospel of John. The gospel of John centres upon the messages of hope and perseverance to follow in life. The War Scrolls, a part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, also centres upon the qualities of hope and perseverance in the defeat of evil and dualism. Both the texts portray similar belief and culture. The gospel of John ponders upon the dualistic antithesis, like in that of the Dead Sea Scrolls, to convey His teachings to His disciples and His followers.


  1. Debate whether John the Apostle would have called himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. Bruce, p. 3


John the Apostle was one of the closest disciples of Jesus, along with James and Peter, who went along with Jesus everywhere and sat beside him during the last supper and asked him to take care of his mother during crucifixion, Mary. When Mary Magdalene informed the disciple of the empty tomb, John was the first disciple to reach there. But the name- “the disciple whom Jesus loved” shows the overpowering love of Jesus Christ and the transformation that His love brought in his love.


  1. Discuss the possibility of a “signs-source” and a “sayings-source” for this gospel. Bruce, p. 5


The signs source are the hypothetical account of the happenings of the life of Jesus Christ, which are, according to some scholars, source of the gospel of John. One such signs source is that of the commentary by Rudolf Bultmann, published in 1941. According to his him, the writer of the Gospel of John depended on some earlier texts.

The sayings source is a hypothetical collection of the saying of Jesus Christ in writing. One such source is the Q source, which is supposed to have a collection of hypothetical quotes of Jesus Christ.


  1. Describe the earliest known fragment of any New Testament manuscript. Bruce, p. 6


The earliest known fragment of any New Testament manuscript is the Ryland Papyrus P52. It is presently at display at the John Ryland University Library in Manchester, UK. It was translated by C. H. Roberts. He sent its photographs to three papyrologists in Europe, whom dated the manuscript from A.D. 100-150. The manuscript has been written on the codex and has seven lines from John inscribed on the front ( John 18: 31-33) and few verses (37-38) inscribed at the back. It is supposed that Apostle John authored this manuscript sometime around late first century. It was found in Egypt, near Ephesus.


  1. Using other resources, who were the Gnostics and what did they believe that made other Christians call them heretics? SeeBruce, p. 7


Gnostics were the people who believed in personal spiritual knowledge over the orthodox teachings and authority of the church. They believed in the presence of a supreme hidden God and a malevolent lesser divine being, who created a flawed material universe.  Many gnostic’s didn’t believe in the concepts of sin or repentance, but in enlightenment.

The Gnostics believed that the world was created out of spite by a vengeful God and the world was inherently evil. They didn’t believe that Jesus was born a human and went through human sufferings of this world. They did not uphold the values of an apostle and were not a reliable source of the teachings of Jesus. Also, they could not keep up with the evolving values of Christianity. So, they were called the heretics.


  1. Who is the first orthodox (not heretical) Christian to quote the Fourth Gospel? Tell something about him. Bruce, p. 8


Irenaeus is, supposedly, the forth orthodox Christian to quote the fourth gospel.

He was a Greek bishop of Lugdunum, now Lyon. When met with the beliefs of the gnostics, who believed in knowing the mystery of the world, he defined the three pillars of orthodoxy, which were the scriptures, the traditions and the teachers.


  1. What is the Diatessaron? Give the meaning of the word and what piece of literature it describes.


The Diatessaron is a single juxtaposed version of the four gospels of the New Testament. It was composed by Tatian around A.D. 150. Around A.D. 400, it was replaced by the four separated individual versions of the Gospels.

It describes the Syriac literature, although no texts are extant now. Syriac literature once flourished with lots of hymns and poems, philosophy, grammar, medicine, etc, though none of them survives to this day.


  1. Who was Marcion and how does the anti-Marcionite prologue to the fourth gospel reject him?


Marcion of Sinope was the son of bishop of Sinope, who believed that God was a higher divine power than the good of Judaism. He was a follower of Paul the Apostle and considered him to be the only apostle of Jesus Christ. Just like Gnoists, he, too, believed that the God of the Old Testament was vengeful.

While Marcion was writing the gospel when John was dictating it carefully, he was rejected and expelled by John because he was teaching the opposite thing to John.


  1. Tell what you learn about Papias and the Johannine authorship of the fourth gospel.


Papias was the bishop of Hierapolis, who was a hearer of John. His work, “Explanation of the sayings of the Lord” is an important source of the oral account of historical facts regarding early Christianity and the origin of the Gospels.

The Johannine authorship is comprised of The Gospel According to St. John, the three Epistles of John and the Revelation of St. John the divine. They have been authored around the 2nd century A.D. It revolves around the author’s identity, when and where they were composed. Although, John the Apostle is considered to be the author of all these works, there is still a place of speculation in this matter.


  1. Who were the Montanists? What did Clement of Alexandria say about the fourth gospel?


Montanists were the followers of the sect, Montanism, founded by Montanus. They believed in an apocalyptic end of the world, and laid great faith in expecting prophetic gifts and followed strict asceticism.

Clement of Alexandria called John’s gospel to be supplementing the synoptic gospels. According to him, the gospel of John enlightened the spirits of individuals.


  1. Summarize the primary message of the fourth gospel as stated in John 20: 30-31.


The message from these lines is that there are so many numerous miracles done by Jesus that it is not possible to mention each and every one of them. Every second a new miracle is happening somewhere around the world, taking place of the latest one around. So as not to make his gospel another biography of the life of Jesus, John put forward only a few them so that we may believe in Jesus and follow his way.


  1. On your own, research the term “diaspora” and how it pertained to the Jews.


The term “diaspora” refers to a scattered population that has been uprooted from its original geographical location and resettled in a new place.

The Jews were dispersed and exiled outside Israel from the gentiles during the Babylonian Exile.The mass exodus of Jewish population due to the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem in 70 A.D. led the Jews to scatter over the world.


  1. Define and describe “Hellenism” and how it might pertain to the audience of this gospel.


Hellenism is defined as the adoption of cultures, art, thought, customs, etc., of ancient Greece.

In the Gospel of John, we find the author making Greek references about pagan philosophies and concepts that are easy to communicate with the gentile Greek audience.


  1. Who was John the Baptist? Summarize all we know about him.


John the Baptist was a prophet who came before Jesus, who came to fulfil a prophecy from the Book of Isaiah. Jesus was baptised by John and we find the humble nature of John when he admitted to Jesus that he was not worthy to even tie the laces of Jesus’ sea. Later, as the text proceeds, we learn the bravery of John, who doesn’t deter from his path of God even when met with problems. He came before Jesus to prepare the way for Him. He baptised with water, while Jesus baptised with the holy spirit.


  1. Who was the John who became an Apostle?


John the Apostle was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, along with his brother, James. He was the son of Zebedee and Salome. He was originally the disciple of John the Baptist, but he sent them to Jesus. The fourth gospel is supposedly authored by him. He was one of the three closest disciples of Jesus. Along with Peter and James, John is considered to be one of the strong pillars of the church.


  1. Use other resources to determine the general differences between the fourth gospel and the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke).


The first four books the New Testament of the Bible are known as Gospels. The four gospels are those of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.


The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke are collectively known as Synoptic Gospels, since they portray many similar stories and identical sequence of series and often have similar vocabulary. The Fourth Gospel is the gospel of John, which is sternly different from the rest three Gospels in the Holy Bible. Although all the four gospels deal with the life and death of Jesus Christ for the sins of humanity, their way of expression and viewpoint differs relatively. The following may be characterised as the general differences between the synoptic gospel and the court gospel.


  • While the gospel of John focused predominantly on who Jesus was, the synoptic gospels focused on what Jesus said and did. The gospel of John begins with who Jesus was and not how he was born or going into any of His birth details. The gospel of John portrays the humble beginning of Jesus, where he wanted to first be baptised by John the Baptist.
  • The synoptic gospels mention several miracles done by Jesus, but the gospel of John mentions less of them and the miracles mentioned in the gospel of John are those miracles that are not mentioned elsewhere in the book. This shows the stark difference between the two groups of gospels.
  • The synoptic gospels define various parables said by Jesus before a large gathering of people or to his immediate close disciples. But the fourth gospel mentions no such parable throughout the chapters. The synoptic gospels emphasised on what Jesus did and said for us to follow. But the gospel of John teaches us who Jesus really was. His actions spoke louder than his words
  • The gospel of John draws a new picture of Jesus in every new chapter, what he does, etc. It brings us closer to understanding Jesus’ nature and character. The synoptic gospels could not bring us as close to Jesus as the fourth gospel could and did.
  • The synoptic gospels mention certain events in Jesus’ life that are mentioned in the gospel of John. Some examples are Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4, Luke 4), the last supper ( Matthew 26: 17-30, Mark 14: 12-31, Luke 22: 7-46), the sermons on the mount, His casting out demons, the Lord’s prayer, etc. These events are not mentioned in the gospel of John.
  • Certain events are mentioned to have happened in the gospel of John, which don’t appear elsewhere in the synoptic gospels. Some of these are the resurrection of Lazarus, the elaborate activities before His arrest.
  • The synoptic gospels are more of a descriptive nature, whereas the fourth gospel is more of a reflective nature. Although all the four Gospels have been written from a third-person point of view, the author of the gospel of John isolates himself from the events while describing the events. However, the authors of the synoptic gospels described the events as they saw and perceived them.
  • Instead of indulging in parables like in the synoptic gospels, Jesus is seen to engage in more proverbs and dialogues in the gospel of John.
  • Another difference that we find between the gospel of John and the synoptic gospels is the way He interacted with His audience. In the gospel of John, we find him saying something which is misunderstood by the hearer and thus, providing Jesus a chance to explain what he meant actually.
  • In the synoptic gospels, more emphasis is given to the notion of the kingdom of God with all its beauty and glory. Whereas, we find the notion of eternal life being celebrated in the gospel of John.
  • The style of writing and language used in the synoptic gospels and the gospel of John is also different. In the Gospel of John, the Greek style is quite different from the one used in the other synoptic gospels.
  • In the synoptic gospels we find the acts of exorcism of demons. The way the demons fled at the rebuke of Jesus, showed his supremacy over the evil forces at work. But we do not find any such event in the gospel of John.
  • In the synoptic gospels, we find Jesus being tempted by Satan in the wilderness, to commit mortal sins and disobey God. Although He overcame all such temptations, we do not find this incident in the gospel of John.
  • In the synoptic gospels, we find John the Baptist paving the way for Jesus to begin his journey of fulfilling God’s desires. But we do not find any detailed conversation or interaction between the two. However, in the gospel of John, we read John the Baptist’s testimony and learn about God’s Chosen One.
  • In the gospel of John, the ministry of Jesus spreads for a period of three years, as can be seen from the mention of three Passovers. But in the synoptic gospels, the events happen for a period of one year.
  • Although the name of Jesus’ mother, Mary, has been mentioned in the fourth gospel, she is never identified by her name. But in the synoptic gospels, her name has found special mention within the course of the texts.
  • In the very beginning of the gospel of John, Jesus is identified as the “Word”, referring to God. But no such mention has been made or found in the synoptic gospels.
  • In the synoptic gospels, Jesus pleads with his disciples to keep his divinity a secret. He did not want to garner any attention before the appointed time. But in the gospel of John, he openly discussed it.
  • In the synoptic gospels, the quotes of Jesus are short and concise. Whereas, in the gospel of John, sayings are much longer and detailed.
  • In the synoptic gospel, Jesus is said to have been arrested after the event of the cleansing of the temple. While, in the fourth gospel, the curing of Lazarus incited His arrest.
  • The synoptic gospel shows the Pharisees to be more legally uniform. While in the fourth gospel, the Pharisees often gave in to debates among themselves.
  • The events that led up to the certification of Jesus are quite different in the two groups of gospels. In the synoptic gospels, Jeus actually ate the Passover Feast before He was crucified. But in the Gospel of John, Jesus was arrested when He went to pray before the feast.
  • The gospel of John takes the readers back to the time of creation. Whereas, the synoptic gospels have very different beginnings. In the gospel of Matthew, the writer starts with the genealogy of Jesus. The gospel of Mark started with the baptism of Christ and the subsequent beginning of His teachings. The gospel of Luke begins with the North of John the Baptist. The gospel of John tries to begin by building a connection with the Almighty Father, who is the creator of everything and through whom everything matters.
  • In the synoptic gospels, we find the act of cleansing the temple to be act of His youth. But in the gospel of John, we find this act of cleansing to be the cause of His arrest.


Despite all the differences present in the synoptic gospels and the fourth gospel, or the gospel of John, we find certain similarities in both the group. With similarities ranging from overlapping of certain events in the lifetime of Jesus, to certain stories said by Him during that time. But the most important similarity that overshadows all other similarities as well differences between the synoptic gospels and the fourth gospel is the life of Jesus, who died for our sins.


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