The Uniqueness of John’s Gospel and Letters

In John 4 today, I am reminded of how unusual John’s Gospel is. When Jesus is talking with the Samaritan woman, he comes right out and says that he is the Christ (v. 26). In the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) Jesus is careful to prevent anyone from knowing he is the Christ until the last week of his ministry, which led to his being killed. (The admonition not to tell anyone he is the Christ, found in Matt. 16:20 is in all three synoptic Gospels.) Basically, riding into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey was his announcement to everyone that he was the King; the Jewish leaders would have been very familiar with Zechariah 9:9.

As an aside, what kind of leaders wait around for the arrival of a prophesied King, then make it a rule that anyone claiming to be that King is blaspheming? (see Luke 22:70-71).

Anyway, Jesus’s regular announcements that he is the Christ in the Gospel of John makes me think John spent most of the Gospel talking about the last week of Jesus’s life. (John 13-17 is all from one night.) The problem with that is the early Christians say John wrote his Gospel to cover the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, which the synoptic Gospels did not cover (Eusebius, AD 323, Church History, Bk. 3, ch. 24). Thus, John lists the miracle of the water and wine as the first of Jesus’s miracles, and the healing of the nobleman’s son as his second miracle.

That is not the only unusual thing about John’s Gospel. One important unusual thing is his use of “eternal life.” John is the only New Testament author to teach that eternal life is a current possession. For all other New Testament authors, eternal life is a reward after the judgment (yes, in Paul’s letters, too). Another is his persistent use of the Greek present tense, a tense which indicates “this is what is going on currently.” Thus, John 3:16 really should be translated as …

For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that whoever is believing in him [currently] should not be destroyed, but be having [currently] eternal life.

This is true in 1 John as well, where 1 John 3:9 should be “He who is born of God is not sinning [currently].”

Now, I know that those of you who have read to this point will ask, “What are you saying?” My answer is that I am not saying anything; I am telling you what John said.

I am suggesting, though, that we should be careful about how we interpret John, or we may contradict the rest of the New Testament.

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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