Distinctive features of the Fourth Gospel
The Fourth Gospel and the letters of John: a scenario
Composition of the Fourth Gospel
Purpose and readership
Date and place of writing
Recent trends in the interpretation of the Fourth Gospel
Theology of the Fourth Gospel
Structure of the Fourth Gospel
‘The Son of Man’
The different words for ‘temple’ in 2:13–22
Being born of water and the Spirit
Jews and Samaritans
The Saviour of the world
In my name / in his name
The original Tyndale Commentaries aimed at providing help for the general reader of the Bible. They concentrated on the meaning of the text without going into scholarly technicalities. They sought to avoid ‘the extremes of being unduly technical or unhelpfully brief ’. Most who have used the books agree that there has been a fair measure of success in reaching that aim.
Times, however, change. A series that has served so well for so long is perhaps not quite as relevant as it was when it was first launched.New knowledge has come to light. The discussion of critical questions has moved on. Bible-reading habits have changed. When the original series was commenced it could be presumed that most readers used the Authorized Version and one’s comments were made accordingly, but this situation no longer obtains. The decision to revise and update the whole series was not reached lightly, but in the end it was thought that this is what is required in the present situation. There are new needs, and they will be better served by new books or by a thorough updating of the old books. The aims of the original series remain. The new commentaries are neither minuscule nor unduly long. They are exegetical rather than homiletic. They do not discuss all the critical questions, but none is written without an awareness of the problems that engage the attention of New Testament scholars. Where it is felt that formal consideration should be given to such questions, they are discussed in the Introduction and sometimes in Additional notes.
But the main thrust of these commentaries is not critical. These books are written to help the non-technical reader understand the Bible better. They do not presume a knowledge of Greek, and all Greek words discussed are transliterated; but the authors have the Greek text before them and their comments are made on the basis of what the originals say. The authors are free to choose their own modern translation, but are asked to bear in mind the variety of translations in current use.
The new series of Tyndale Commentaries goes forth, as the former series did, in the hope that God will graciously use these books to help the general reader to understand as fully and clearly as possible the meaning of the New Testament.
We regret that, because of poor health, Leon Morris was unable to fulfil his editorial role for this volume, and we are grateful to Andreas Köstenberger of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary for his willingness to read and comment on the manuscript.
(Note: Leon Morris died on July 24th, 2006)
From the Author's Preface
The writing of this commentary has been a rich experience for me. I have seen afresh something of the glory of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh and full of grace and truth, whom the evangelist so skilfully portrays. As the commentary goes out, it is my prayer that it will enable readers to understand the Gospel of John better, and by so doing to know better the only trueGod whose glory, grace and truth were revealed in the person and ministry of Jesus. To know this God and Jesus Christ whom he sent is to experience eternal life (John 17:3).
Colin G. Kruse
From the Introduction
The Fourth Gospel has brought inspiration and comfort to countless generations of Christians, while providing scholars with many challenges. Those who study it seriously reap great rewards. The content of this Gospel is as follows:
A prologue (1:1–18), which describes the pre-existent Word (Logos) who was with God in the beginning, was the agent of
creation, and was then incarnate in the person of Jesus. (By commencing his Gospel in this way the evangelist ensures that his readers know the true identity of his main character.)
A long section describing Jesus’ work in the world (1:19 - 12:50), which includes signs and extended discourses through which he revealed God the Father and offered the gift of eternal life to all who believed.
Another long section, which relates Jesus’ return to the Father (13:1 - 20:31). It includes Jesus’ preparation of the disciples for life without his physical presence, his prayer for himself and his disciples, followed by his betrayal, arrest, trials, crucifixion and post-resurrection appearances.
An epilogue (21:1–25), which describes yet another post-resurrection appearance during which Jesus recommissioned Peter, predicted the nature of Peter’s death, and made veiled comments about the fate of the beloved disciple.
2. Distinctive features of the Fourth gospel
The Gospel of John is unique in a number of ways. It alone speaks of the Logos who was with the Father in the beginning, who came down fromheaven, incarnate in the person of Jesus. In this respect it is unlike Mark’s Gospel, which begins its story of Jesus with the ministry of John the Baptist, or the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, which begin their accounts with the story of Jesus’ birth. In the Fourth Gospel, Jesus’ message is presented mainly in terms of eternal life and resurrection, whereas the Synoptic Gospels highlight his preaching of the kingdom of God. In the Fourth Gospel, Jesus’
teaching is frequently presented in long conversations, extended discourses and debates. This is in contrast to the Synoptic Gospels, in which Jesus’ teaching ismore often found in parable formor in short pithy sayings. The Fourth Gospel has no account of Jesus’ baptism by John or his temptation, his exorcisms, his transfiguration or the institution of the Lord’s Supper, all of which feature in the Synoptic Gospels. Outstanding in the Fourth Gospel is the extensive teaching about the Holy Spirit, which stands in contrast to the paucity of Jesus’ teaching on this subject in the Synoptic Gospels. These are but a sampling of the distinctive features of the Fourth Gospel
3. The Fourth Gospel and the letters of John: a scenario
There is a striking similarity between the language of the Fourth Gospel and the letters of John, so a prima facie case exists for positing the same basic authorship for all four documents (the question of the authorship of the Fourth Gospel is discussed in more detail below). A possible scenario for the production of and interrelationship between the Gospel and the three letters is offered below.
It represents one possible reconstruction that depends upon certain assumptions concerning historical and literary matters, and is only as good as those assumptions. Nevertheless, it provides a working hypothesis to begin a study of the Fourth Gospel and may be modified if that proves necessary.
The beloved disciple (identified as the apostle John) lived in Ephesus and was an esteemed figure in a group of churches in relationship with the church at Ephesus. These churches are referred to by scholars today as the ‘Johannine community’. The beloved disciple produced an early form of the Fourth Gospel, in which the life and teaching of Jesus were depicted primarily to show readers that Jesus was the Christ and to encourage them to believe in him and so experience eternal life (20:30–31). He may have had secondary purposes, including the aimto encourage Jewish believers being persecuted by their unbelieving Jewish kinsfolk.
Sometime after the writing of the early form of the Gospel, disagreement arose in the parent church in Ephesus concerning the nature of Christ, the necessity of his atoning sacrifice, and the behaviour expected of those who claim to know God. This disagreement became so sharp that it resulted in the secession of a number of the members, who then proceeded to propagate their aberrant beliefs among those remaining in the Johannine community. This caused deep uncertainty in the community. Therefore, the beloved disciple wrote 1 John to expose the errors of the secessionists and to reassure the remaining members that they were in the truth, that they knew God, and that they were recipients of eternal life. First John was sent as a circular letter around the churches of the Johannine community. As a follow-up to this circular letter the beloved disciple wrote 2 John, which was addressed to one of these churches and its members (‘the elect lady and her children’) to warn them about the secessionist missionaries and to urge themnot to give hospitality to themand thereby endorse their erroneous teaching. Third John was written as a further followup and was addressed to an individual, Gaius, who was a member of one of these churches. It commends him for giving hospitality to faithful missionaries who had gone out from the parent church, and complains about one Diotrephes who refused to do so.
Following the writing of these three letters, it appears that the beloved disciple died and others edited his Gospel and included their testimony to the trustworthiness of his work (see 21:20–24). It is this edited version of the Gospel that was included in the NT canon. ...