Book type: Gospel
Author: The apostle John, the son of Zebedee
No. of chapters: 21
Key character(s): God, Jesus, Mary (mother of Jesus), John the Baptist, the 12 disciples, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, Mary (wife of Cleopas), Nicodemus, Pontius Pilate. 
Brief description: John – Jesus, the revealer of Life from above.
01) The arrival of the Revealer [Jesus] (1:1-51)
02) The signs of the Revealer of life (2:1-12:50)
03) The exaltation of the Revealer of life (13:1-20:31)
04) The vocation of those who receive life from above (21:1-25)
The name John derives from Greek ’Ioannes; &/or from Hebrew Yôhanan, which means “Jehovah is gracious”.
The word gospel is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word which meant “God’s spell”, or “God’s word”, ie “the story concerning God.” In the New Testament the Greek word euaggelion, means “good news.” It proclaims tidings of deliverance.
John’s Gospel explores what it means to confess that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31).
The Gospl of John develops the theme that Jesus, as the Revealer of the Father, brought new life to all who would believe in him. Four of John’s doctrines are vital to understanding the life of Jesus:
01) Jesus was the Word (logos) of God, God in human flesh.
02) The children of God are led by his spirit.
03) The church is to be marked by love & unity.
04) The life from above, eternal life, begins now.
Jesus, in whom the eternal Word (logos) of God became flesh, revealed to us the character of God as Father.
John revealed, therefore, how God grants his people the experience of a life that has its origin, its power, & its end in him. Jesus came to reveal this life & to enable others to share in it. Those who respond in faith to the Word of God in Jesus, find the life that Jesus promised.
[Source: NIV Disciple’s Study Bible]
The Gospel of John was written to prove that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. As an eyewitness to the love and power displayed in the miracles of Jesus, John gives us an up-close and personal look at Christ’s identity. He shows us that Jesus, though fully God, came in the flesh to distinctly and accurately reveal God, and that Christ is the source of eternal life to all who believe in him.
Author of the Gospel of John:
John, the son of Zebedee, is the author of this Gospel. He and his brother James are called the “Sons of Thunder,” most likely for their lively, zealous personalities. Of the 12 disciples, John, James, and Peter formed the inner circle, chosen by Jesus to become his closest companions. They had the exclusive privilege of witnessing and testifying about events in the life of Jesus that no others were invited to see. John was present at the resurrection of Jarius’ daughter (Luke 8:51), the transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9:2), and in Gethsemane (Mark 14:33). John is also the only recorded disciple to be present at the crucifixion of Jesus.
John refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” He writes with simplicity in the original Greek, which makes this Gospel a good book for new believers. However, below the surface of John’s writing are layers of rich and profound theology.
The Gospel of John was written primarily to new believers and seekers.
John wrote the Gospel sometime after 70 AD and the destruction of Jerusalem, but prior to his exile on the island of Patmos. It was most likely written from Ephesus. Settings in the book include Bethany, Galilee, Capernaum, Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria.
Themes in the Gospel of John:
The predominant theme in the book of John is the revelation of God to man through his living illustration—Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. The opening verses beautifully describe Jesus as the Word. He is God revealed to man—the expression of God—so that we might see him and believe. Through this Gospel we witness the everlasting power and nature of the Creator God, offering eternal life to us through his Son, Jesus Christ. In every chapter, Christ’s deity is unveiled. The eight miracles recorded by John reveal his divine power and love. They are signs that inspire us to trust and believe in him.
The Holy Spirit is a theme in John’s Gospel as well. We are drawn to faith in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit; our belief is established through the indwelling, guiding, counselling, comforting presence of the Holy Spirit; and through the power of the Holy Spirit in us, the life of Christ is multiplied to others who believe.
John 1:14 (ANIV)
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 20:30-31 (ANIV)
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Fuller list of major characters in John’s Gospel:
|Jesus||”Saviour”. Christ means “the Anointed One”. (aka Jesus of Nazareth, The Christ, The Messiah, Son of man, Son of God). The central figure of the New Testament, whose life, death, and resurrection are chronicled in the 4 Gospel books.|
|Mary (mother of Jesus)||Greek. Maria or Mariam; from Hebrew miryam, “obstinacy, rebellion”. Young virgin mother of Jesus. Impregnated by the Holy Spirit. One of the only people who remained with Jesus through the crucifixion.|
|John the Baptist||Jon; Greek ’Ioannes; from Hebrew Yôhanan, “Jehovah is gracious”. Son of Zechariah & Elizabeth. The forerunner to Jesus, spreading the word of Jesus’s imminent arrival. Lived in the desert, baptising people in the Jordan river. Ate locusts and honey.|
|The 12 Apostles:|
|Simon||“Harkening” or “Listening” (aka Peter (Petros, Greek “a [small] rock”)). Son of John (or Jonah or Jona), brother of Andrew. Born in the village of Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee. Fisherman. Accompanied Jesus during the Transfiguration. Confessed Jesus as the Messiah. Was part of Jesus’ inner circle of friends. Denied Jesus three times during Jesus’ trial. Preached on the day of Pentecost (Acts 02).|
|Andrew||”Manly, masculine”. Son of John (or Jonah or Jona), brother of Simon Peter. Born in the village of Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee. Fisherman. Originally a disciple of John the Baptist, before Jesus called him. Present on some important occasions as one of the disciples more closely befriended by Jesus.|
|James||Jacobus (ja-ko´bus; Greek Iakobos—Jacob). (aka James the Greater or James the Great to distinguish him from James, son of Alphaeus). Son of Zebedee (& Salome?), elder brother of John. Together with his brother John called Boanerges “The sons of thunder” by Jesus. Fisherman. One of only three apostles whom Jesus selected to bear witness to his Transfiguration. “Herod the king” (identified as Herod Agrippa) had James executed by sword (Acts 12); thus first apostle martyred for the faith.|
|John||Jon; Greek ’Ioannes; from Hebrew Yôhanan, “Jehovah is gracious”. Son of Zebedee (& Salome?), younger brother of James. The beloved disciple of Jesus. Together called Boanerges “The sons of thunder” by Jesus. Fisherman. Church tradition holds that John is the author of the Gospel of John and four other books of the New Testament – the three Epistles of John and the Book of Revelation.|
|Philip||“Lover of horses”. One of the twelve apostles; a native of Bethsaida, Galilee. Readily responded to the call of Jesus (John 1:43), and brought Nathanael to Jesus (John 1:45-46). Prominent amongst the apostles.|
|Bartholomew||”Son of Tolmai”. One of the twelve apostles (Matthew 10:3; Acts 1:13). Generally supposed to have been the same person as Nathanael. One of the disciples who saw Jesus at the Sea of Tiberias after his resurrection (John 21:2). He also witnessed Jesus’ Ascension (Acts 1:4, 12-13).|
|Thomas||Greek form of Aramaic Ta’oma’ = “Twin”. Also called Didymus (John 11:16; John 20:24), which is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name. One of the twelve apostles (Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18). All we know about him is from John’s Gospel.|
|Matthew||“Gift of God”. Son of Alphaeus. Tax collector. Among the early followers and apostles of Jesus. Thought to be the author of Gospel of Matthew.|
|James||Jacobus (ja-ko´bus; Greek Iakobos—Jacob). (aka “The Less”, to distinguish him from James, son of Zebedee). Son of Alphaeus (aka Cleopas). “The brother” or near kinsman/ cousin of Jesus (Galatians 1:18-19). Possibly called James “the Less,” or “the Little,” probably because he was short in stature. He met separately with Jesus after his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7). He appears to have occupied the position of head of the Church at Jerusalem, where he presided at the council held to consider the case of the Gentiles (Acts 12:17; Acts 15:13-29:21:18-24). Author of the epistle of James.|
|Thaddaeus||“Breast”. One of the 12 apostles. Referred to as “Judas the brother of James” (Luke 6:16 & John 14:22), probably referring to the same person, speaks of “Judas, not Iscariot.” These different names all designate the same person: Jude or Judas, the author of the epistle.|
|Simon||“Harkening” or “Listening” (aka Simon Zelotes, Simon the Zealot, Simon Kananaios or Simon Cananeus). One of the 12 apostles. Called “Zelotes” or “Zealot” (Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13) because previous to his call to the apostleship he had been a member of the fanatical sect of the Zealots. There is no further information regarding him.|
|Judas Iscariot||Judas is Greek for Judah. Son of Simon (John 6:71; John 13:2, 26), surnamed Iscariot, which means “a man of Kerioth Hezron (aka Hazor)” (Joshua 15:25). Betrayer of Jesus to Jewish authorities (John 18:3). “Jesus knew from the beginning who should betray him” (John 6:64). Hanged himself after that deed (Matthew 27:5). His name is uniformly the last in the list of the apostles, as given in the synoptic (i.e., the first three) Gospels.|
|Mary||Greek. Maria or Mariam; from Hebrew miryam, “obstinacy, rebellion”. Sister of Martha & Lazarus. Lived in Bethany. Quiet listener of Jesus upon his visit to their home. During Jesus’ last visit to Bethany, Mary brought “a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus” as he reclined at table in the house of one Simon, who had been a leper (Matthew 26:6; Mark 14:3; John 12:2, 3). This was an evidence of her great love towards Jesus.|
|Martha||Greek Μάρθα, Mártha, “mistress,” being a transliteration of the feminine form of מַר, mar, “Lord”. May also mean “who becomes bitter; provoking”. Sister of Mary & Lazarus, possibly eldest of the family, who all lived at Bethany (Luke 10:38, 40, 41; John 11:1-39). Famous for being busy; providing for Jesus’ & his disciple’s needs, but anxious & accusing of Mary’s choice to sit & listen to Jesus’ teachings.|
|Lazarus||Λάζαρος, Lázaros, an abridged form of the Hebrew Eleazar, with a Greek termination); meaning “God has helped”. Brother of Mary and Martha of Bethany. Raised from the dead after he had lain four days in the tomb (John 11:1-44). The plot of the Jewish leaders to have Jesus put to death also included killing Lazarus, because of that miracle of his own resurrection.|
|Mary Magdalene||Greek. Maria or Mariam; from Hebrew miryam, “obstinacy, rebellion”. (aka Mary of Magdala). Disciple & close friend of Jesus after her exorcises seven demons out of her (Luke 8:2) during his Galilean ministry. One of the women who discover that Jesus’s body is not in the tomb. Witnessed the resurrected Jesus.|
|Mary (wife of Cleopas)||Greek. Maria or Mariam; from Hebrew miryam, “obstinacy, rebellion”. Stood at the cross with Mary of Magdala and Mary the mother of Jesus (John 19:25). Same person as “Mary the mother of James the little”, and sister of Jesus’ mother. She was that “other Mary” who was present with Mary of Magdala at the burial of Jesus (Matthew 27:61; Mark 15:47); and she was one of those who went early in the morning of the first day of the week to anoint his body, and thus became one of the first witnesses of the resurrection (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1).|
|Nicodemus||Greek. “Victor over the people”, or “Victory of the people”. A Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin. He visited Jesus by night (John 3:1-21) to learning more of his teaching, giving prominence to the necessity of being “born again.” Nicodemus opposed the Sanhedrin’s decision to have Jesus executed (John 7:50-52). Mentioned in the preparation for the anointing and burial of the body of Christ (John 19:39). Probably became a true disciple of Jesus.|
|Pontius Pilate||Prefect, Roman governor of Judea during the time of Jesus’s trial in Jerusalem. Pilate sentenced Jesus to death by crucifixion.|