Introduction to John

“Introduction to John,” New Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2016)


Why Study This Book?

During a time of increasing persecution against Christians, growing apostasy, and disputations about the nature of Jesus Christ, the Apostle John recorded his testimony of the Savior. Studying the Gospel of John can help you come to know Heavenly Father through the ministry of His Son, Jesus Christ. John’s account teaches that those who live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ can receive great blessings, including eternal life.

Who Wrote This Book?

The Apostle John wrote this book. Throughout the book he referred to himself as the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (see John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20).

John and his brother James were fishermen (see Matthew 4:21). Before becoming a disciple and Apostle of Jesus Christ, John was apparently a follower of John the Baptist (see John 1:35–40; Guide to the Scriptures, “John, Son of Zebedee,” scriptures.lds.org).

When and Where Was It Written?

We do not know exactly when John wrote this book. Proposed dates for its writing range from A.D. 60 to A.D. 100. Early Christian writers of the second century A.D. suggested that John wrote this book at Ephesus in Asia Minor (modern Turkey).

To Whom Was It Written and Why?

Although John’s writings are meant for everyone, his message also has a more specific audience. Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote: “The gospel of John is the account for the saints; it is pre-eminently the gospel for the Church” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:65). John stated that his purpose for writing this book was to persuade others to “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31). “The scenes from Jesus’ life that [John] describes are carefully selected and arranged with this object in view” (Bible Dictionary, “John, Gospel of”).

What Are Some Distinctive Features of This Book?

About 92 percent of the material in the Gospel of John is not found in the other Gospel accounts. This is probably because John’s intended audience—Church members who already had an understanding of Jesus Christ—was decidedly different from Matthew’s, Mark’s, and Luke’s intended audiences. Of the seven miracles reported by John, five are not recorded in any other Gospel. While Matthew, Mark, and Luke presented considerable information about Jesus’s ministry in Galilee, John recorded numerous events that took place in Judea. John’s Gospel is richly doctrinal, with some of its major themes being the divinity of Jesus as the Son of God, the Atonement of Christ, eternal life, the Holy Ghost, the need to be born again, the importance of loving others, and the importance of believing in the Savior.

John emphasized Jesus’s divinity as the Son of God. John recorded more than 100 of Jesus’s references to His Father, with more than 20 references in John 14 alone. One of John’s major contributions is his inclusion of the Savior’s teachings to His disciples in the hours before His arrest, including the great Intercessory Prayer, offered the night He suffered in Gethsemane. This portion of John’s account (John 13–17) represents more than 18 percent of the pages in John, providing us with a greater understanding of the Savior’s doctrine and what He expects of His disciples.

Outline

John 1. John testifies of Jesus Christ’s premortal divinity and mission to offer salvation to all men. John records the baptism of Jesus and the calling of some of His disciples.

John 2–4. Jesus Christ turns water into wine. He teaches Nicodemus about spiritual rebirth and testifies to the woman at the well that He is the Christ. He heals the son of a nobleman.

John 5–7. The Savior heals a lame man at the pool of Bethesda and proclaims His divine power and authority. He feeds more than 5,000 people in preparation for his Bread of Life discourse, proclaims that He is the Messiah, and declares at the Feast of Tabernacles that only those who receive Him can receive eternal life.

John 8–10. Through the experience of the woman taken in adultery, Jesus teaches about compassion and repentance. He declares Himself to be Jehovah, the great I Am. He heals a man who was born blind and describes Himself as the Good Shepherd, who loves and lays down His life for His sheep.

John 11–13. Jesus Christ raises Lazarus from the dead, demonstrating His power over death. He enters Jerusalem triumphantly. During the Last Supper, Jesus washes the feet of His disciples and teaches them to love one another.

John 14–16. Jesus instructs His disciples on the relationship between love and obedience. He promises to send the Comforter (the Holy Ghost) and to minister personally to His disciples. He declares that He is the True Vine and that He has overcome the world.

John 17–19. Jesus offers the Intercessory Prayer in behalf of His disciples and those who will believe in their preaching. He is betrayed, arrested, tried, and condemned. After suffering on the cross, He dies and is buried.

John 20–21. The resurrected Jesus Christ appears to Mary Magdalene at the Garden Tomb and then to some of His disciples in Jerusalem. He appears to seven of the disciples at the Sea of Galilee and commissions Peter to lead the disciples in ministering to others.