Christ called his disciples to be his witnesses. He did not write the story of his life himself. And he did not send any letter to the churches. But his personality made a big impression on the hearts of his followers, whom the Holy Spirit led to glorify their Lord Jesus Christ. They saw in his love, humility, death and resurrection a glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. While the evangelists Matthew, Mark and Luke clarified the sayings and deeds of Jesus, and the kingdom of God as the aim of his coming, John set forth the innermost person of Jesus and his holy love. For this reason the gospel of John was called the main gospel, which is the crown of all the books of the holy Bible.
Who is the author of this Gospel? The fathers of the church in the second century agreed that John, the disciple of Jesus, was the writer of this unique book. Now the evangelist John mentioned the names of many apostles, but he never came to mentioning either his brother James' name or his own, because he did not consider himself worthy of being mentioned together with the name of his Lord and Savior. However, the Bishop Irenaeus of Lyon in France clearly wrote that John, the disciple of the Lord, who leaned on his breast during the Last Supper, was the one who produced this gospel, while he was serving in the Anatolian Ephesus during the reign of the Emperor Trajan (98-117 AD).Some critics think that John, the writer of this gospel, was not the disciple who accompanied Jesus, but one of the elders of the church of Ephesus, who was a disciple of the apostle John, and that it was written later. These critics are dreamers and they do not know the Spirit of truth, which does not lie, because the apostle John wrote his gospel in the first person when he said, "And we beheld his glory." Thus the writer of the gospel was one of the eye-witnesses to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. And the friends of John were the ones who added at the end of his gospel the saying, "This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true" (John 21:24). They emphasized the characteristics of John that set him apart from the other apostles, which are that Jesus used to love him and let him lean on his breast during the first holy communion. And he was the only one who dared to ask Jesus about his betrayer, asking, "Lord, who is it [who will deliver you]?" (John 13:25).John was a young man when Jesus called him to follow him. He was the youngest in the circle of the twelve apostles. He was a fisherman. His father's name was Zebedee and his mother's name was Salome. He lived with his family in Bethsaida on the shores of Lake Tiberias. He joined Peter, Andrew and his own brother James, together with Philip and Nathaniel when they went down together to the Jordan Valley to John the Baptist, who was calling to repentance. People hurried to him and among them John, the son of Zebedee, who asked for forgiveness and baptism at the hands of the Baptist in the River Jordan. He was possibly a relative of the family of the high priest Annas because he was known to them and he had the right to enter the palace. Thus, he was close to a priestly family. Therefore he mentioned in his gospel what the other evangelists did not, what the Baptist said about Jesus, namely that he is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. In this way, the apostle John, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, became the disciple who perceived his Lord Jesus in his love more than all the others.
The relationship between John and the other three evangelists When John wrote his gospel, the gospels according to Matthew, Mark and Luke had already been written and known in the church for quite some time. The three evangelists produced their books on the basis of an original Hebrew book in which the apostles gathered through the hands of Matthew the sayings of Jesus, so that they may not be lost, especially during the time when years had passed and the Lord had not returned yet. Most probably the deeds of Jesus and the events of his life were related in a separate collection. The evangelists took great care to pass on these writings with fidelity. Luke the physician depended on other sources since he met with Mary the mother of Jesus and different eye-witnesses.John, however, in himself, is an important source in addition to the other sources mentioned above. He did not want to repeat the news and sayings that were known in the church, but he wanted to add to them. While the three first gospels declare the deeds of Jesus in the region of Galilee, pointing to only one trip to Jerusalem that Jesus undertook during his service, finding his death there, the fourth gospel shows us what Jesus did in Jerusalem before, during and after his ministry in the area of Galilee. John testifies to us that Jesus was present three times in his country's capital, where the leaders of his nation repeatedly rejected him. And after an increasing opposition to him they handed him over to be crucified. Thus, the importance of John is that he showed the ministry of Jesus among the Jews in Jerusalem, the center of the Old Testament culture.The fourth evangelist did not give importance to the miracles that Jesus performed, mentioning only six of them. What did John want to clarify with this? He declared the words of Jesus in the style of the One who says, "I AM" and this way he explained the personality of Jesus. The first three evangelists concentrated on mentioning the deeds and life of Jesus, but John concentrated more on sketching the person of Jesus in his glory before our eyes. But where did John get such words, which cannot be found with the others, and which Jesus said about himself? It was the Holy Spirit who reminded him of them after the first Pentecost. For John himself confessed at different times that the disciples did not understand the truth of some of the words that Jesus said until the time after his resurrection and the descent of the Holy Spirit on them. In this way, he perceived later the meaning of Jesus' words, which he said about himself and which contained the phrase "I AM". They are a distinguishing characteristic of this unique gospel.John also mentions the words of Jesus, which he spoke by contrasting opposites, like light and darkness, spirit and body, truth and falsehood, life and death, as well as being from above and below. We hardly ever find these contrasts in the other gospels. But the Holy Spirit reminded John after a number of years, while living in the Greek area of influence, of the words that the Lord said. He clarified to the evangelist that Jesus did not only speak in a Semitic Hebrew way, but also using Greek phrases for the nations.
What is the aim of the Gospel of John? John did not want to set forth Jesus in a literary philosophical or imaginative spiritual way, but he concentrated more than the others on his incarnation, his weakness and his thirst, while hanging on the cross. He also made clear that Jesus is the Savior of mankind and not only of the Jews, because he is the Lamb of God that took away the sin of the world. He declared to us how God loved all mankind.These things which we mentioned are a method and evidences for reaching to the heart and core of this gospel, namely that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. His eternity appeared in his temporality, and his divinity in his humanity, and his authority in his weakness. Thus, in Jesus, God was present among mankind.The aim of the clarifications of John are not to know Jesus in a philosophical or mystical way, but to know the Lord through the Holy Spirit on the basis of a devout faith. Thus he closed his gospel with the famous words, "These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name" (John 20:31). The living faith in the divinity of Jesus is the aim of the gospel of John. This faith produces in us the divine, holy and eternal life.
To whom was the Gospel of John written? This book, full of truthful declarations about Christ, was not written to evangelize unbelievers, but it was written to build up the church and to make it mature in the Spirit. Paul had already started various churches in Anatolia and when he was imprisoned in Rome, Peter traveled to the forsaken churches and encouraged them. When Peter and Paul died, most probably during the persecutions under Nero in Rome, John took their place and lived in Ephesus, the center of Christianity at the time. He shepherded the various churches that were scattered across Asia Minor. Whoever reads his letters and the second and third chapters of his Revelations understands the anxieties and objectives of this apostle, who clarified to us the love of God incarnate in Jesus Christ. He fought against the philosophizing believers that had permeated his flock like wolves and had corrupted his sheep with empty thoughts, rigid regulations and an unclean liberty because they mixed up truth with futile thoughts.Disciples of John the Baptist also lived in Anatolia, who honored the one who called to repentance more than Jesus the Savior. They were still expecting the promised Messiah, thinking that he had not come yet. By describing the person of Jesus, John contradicted all these different currents that were opposing Christ. He raised his voice testifying against the opposing spirits saying, "And we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."It appears that most of the receivers of this gospel were Gentile believers because John spread out before them many details of Jewish life, which Jews did not need to have explained to them. Moreover, John did not depend in his gospel on words of Jesus written at that time in the Aramaic language, translating them into Greek like the rest of the evangelists. Rather, he used Greek phrases known in his church and filled them with the spirit of the Gospel and testified to the words of Jesus in a pure Greek language in all freedom and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Thus, his gospel speaks in simplicity and depth and with greater eloquence than all artistic rhetorical efforts. Therefore, the Holy Spirit presented us in this gospel the treasure of truth in simplicity, so that every youth can understand its lasting meanings.
When was this unique Gospel written? We thank the Lord Jesus that he led the orientalistic archaeologists in Egypt several years ago to find a piece of papyrus dated to the year 100 AD, on which some of the phrases of the gospel of John are written in clear writing. With this discovery, the long discussion came to an end and the poisonous criticism was extinguished because the diggings proved that the gospel of John was known in the year 100 AD, not only in Asia Minor but also in North Africa. There is no doubt that it was also known in Rome. This truth strengthens our faith that the apostle John surely is the one who wrote his gospel, being filled with the Holy Spirit.
What is the content of this Gospel? It is not easy for man to systematize inspired Scripture. And it is especially difficult to divide the gospel of John into distinct parts. Nevertheless, we suggest the following outline:
The evangelist John ordered his thoughts in inter-linked rings, as in a spiritual chain, in which every ring is centered around one or two main concepts or words. The rings are not completely separated from each other, but their meanings sometimes intersect.The Semitic Hebrew thinking of John, with its deep spiritual vision, harmonizes with the liveliness of the Greek language in a unique, glorious unity. The Holy Spirit clarifies for us the phrases of this gospel until today. It became for us the source of knowledge and wisdom without end. Whoever studies this book intensively will bow down before the Son of God and dedicate his life to him in gratitude and praise and eternal deliverance.