Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Gospel of John

So, I haven't been writing lately. Noticed? Well, no matter. My parents were in town for two weeks, so I took time off work. So I decided to not really worry about this either. But today is my first day back, so all is now forgiven for my absence!! Also, so.

The Gospel of John has been coming up a lot lately, we're doing a small study on it in our community group, it has come up specifically in several conversations over the past few days. So I have it on the brain. I'm thinking the next few days, I'll make posts upon a few issues in that book. Unless something else comes up, and i'll write about that instead.

Lots of people seem to really like John. Many consider it their favorite gospel...and lots of times when I ask "why?" people say something along the lines of "because it's different." Granted, there are often more specific reasons why, but they usually center along the differences.

I thought I'd put up a quick list of a few things that are missing from the Gospel of John when compared to the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke). Think of this as a neat list of fun facts.

Things that are "Missing" in John

  • Jesus' baptism. John the baptizer gives the testimony of the dove descending from heaven and remaining on Jesus....but the text says nothing of any sort of a baptism of Jesus occurring.
  • The temptation of Jesus by Satan. Stands to reason since there's no baptism in John, and this happened right after in the storyline in the Synoptics. Also, Satan is only mentioned 1 time in John, that being John 13:27 "As soon as Judas took the break, Satan entered into him."
  • Any mention of Hell. Which would make this next one seem pretty logical...
  • Exorcisms. Jesus does a lot of exorcisms in the synoptics. A lot. You'd think there were demons hanging out everywhere Jesus went, just looking for trouble. Zero in the Gospel of John.
  • The Kingdom of God. This phrase is littered throughout the synoptics along with "The Kingdom of Heaven. It is an incredibly important concept in the synoptics. It is mentioned only 2x in John, in the same discourse John 3: 1-21.
  • Parables. There may some disagreement about this on semantics and definitions of parables, but technically there are NO parables in the Gospel of John. I find this especially interesting as parables are Jesus' primary teaching method in the other gospels. John does contain some allegories and metaphors, such as John 15: 1-17.
  • The Transfiguration. You know, that whole bit where Jesus takes 3 disciples to the top of a hill and he becomes real white and shiny while Moses and Elijah show up and chat for a bit. Yeah. Not in John. Also funny, is that the synoptics list John as one of the disciples that went up onto the mountain. And mention of this event is in one of John's letters, but not the Gospel of John. Some people would use this to argue against John being the actual author of the Gospel of John....but hey, what do they know?
  • The Lord's Prayer. The "Our Father." The prayer that many non-Christians could probably recite due to how often they've heard it and how often it is referenced in culture. This is also absent in Mark....so John isn't really fully unique in this regard. But still worth mentioning.
  • Repent. Or Repentance, or any variant thereof. Similarly you'll only find "forgive" appearing once as well, in John 20:23 "If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." Ok, so technically four times, pshaw.
  • The Gospel. The greek transliteration 'euangelion' meaning "the good message." Good news, gospel, etc, all of these are missing from John. I find this the most interesting of items on this list. I'll definitely be expanding on this later.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, there are anthologies written about the differences of the gospels and specifically the variances John brings to the table. But it's a good start. And of course this list doesn't touch on things that ONLY occur in John and not the synoptics...that would be an entirely different list.

It is generally accepted that as the Gospels were written they were quickly dispersed throughout the Church and became the approved material of the early organized Church. But this surely didn't happen instantly. It happened over a few decades of time. I wonder what kind of effect that had on some branches of early Christians....well, I guess I don't really wonder, most of the New Testament writings other than the Gospels deal with the problems/fighting/divisions of the early Church....so we know the effect it had.

Rather, I find it interesting to think of what kind of picture of Jesus was painted in the hearts and minds of those who only had access to one gospel as opposed to four like we do now. Especially if that gospel was John.

It also makes me think of how we waste the wealth of information the Bible presents us. We cut it apart. We take parts of Jesus we like and emphasize them, and we de-emphasize or even ignore the parts we don't want to hear or don't understand. We create our own Gospel and our own Bible based upon the information we want to take from it. We find verses and sections to emphasize our point that we already have in our head. Maybe having such a large cache of information to pull from allows this. Whereas early churches who only had access to one gospel narrative instead of 4 were unable to do so to the same extent....but still found ways.


  1. I think John was written with an argument against a form of proto-gnosticism that was growing in the early church, hence an abandonment of most of the mystical aspects of the synoptics.

    just my SWAG on it.

  2. Agreed. But that sounds way too fancy.

    Also, I wasn't aware of SWAG as an acronym, I had to look it up. I am very pleased with this new information :)