The Gospel According to Saint John

New Testament Teacher Resource Manual, (2002), 107–34


Author: The Gospel of John is an intimate testimony of Jesus Christ written by one of His most trusted and beloved servants and disciples. John, like Matthew, was one of the Lord’s original Twelve Apostles and so was a special witness to the acts and teachings in his Gospel. John and James were sons of Zebedee and, like Simon Peter, were fishermen who left all when Jesus called them (see Mark 1:19–20; Luke 5:10–11). Jesus referred to the brothers as the Sons of Thunder (see Mark 3:17). John and James were two of the Apostles Jesus appointed “to take the keys of presidency. Peter, James, and John acted as the First Presidency of the Church in their day” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 3:152). These three were with the Lord at the raising of Jairus’s daughter, at the Transfiguration, and in Gethsemane. In his testimony, John refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20; see also John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7). The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants refer to John’s role as a revelator and a restorer of the priesthood in the latter days (see 1 Nephi 14:18–27; Ether 4:16; D&C 7; 27:12; 77; see also Bible Dictionary, (“John,” p. 715).

Audience: Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote, “The gospel of John is the account for the Saints; it is pre-eminently the gospel for the Church, for those who understand the scriptures and their symbolisms and who are concerned with spiritual and eternal things” (Mormon Doctrine, 336).

Historical Background: Few agree as to when the Gospel of John was written. As one Latter-day Saint educator wrote, “Attractive arguments can be put forth for a [late first century] dating of John, but they are not sufficiently strong or decisive to rule out the possibility of an early date, perhaps even as early as A.D. 35 to 45” (C. Wilford Griggs, “The Testimony of John,” in Studies in Scripture: Volume Five, the Gospels, 111). Some believe John wrote his Gospel at Ephesus some time after the destruction of Jerusalem.

Unique Features: Of the four Gospels, John has the most unique material, being about 92 percent exclusive (see Bible Dictionary, (“Gospels,” p. 683). The chart below summarizes some of the differences between John’s book and the other Gospels.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke

John

Focus on Jesus’ ministry around Galilee.

Focuses on Jesus’ ministry around Judea.

Emphasize Jesus as the Son of David (the Messiah).

Emphasizes Jesus as the Son of God.

Accent the establishment of the Church and its priesthood.

Accents truths for Church members.

Emphasize chronological events.

Emphasizes the spiritual message of events.

Jesus’ sayings generally short.

More often includes long discourses of Jesus.

Theme:John declared that his purpose in recording his testimony was “that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31).