John's Perspective On Jesus (Part 1)

We've looked at three of the four gospels in the New Testament. We explored how each one takes its own unique approach to the Jesus story. Now there is only one. The gospel of John.

John is rather different from the other gospels.

The style is different. The words about Jesus seem to be written in another stratosphere. Almost philosophical at times. It can seem much more abstract in its approach while Matthew, Mark, and Luke seem more tangible. This is clear from the start. Look at the first verse of John in the NIV:

"In the beginning was the word, and the word was God, and the word was with God."

Who's the word? Does this mean the Bible was there at the beginning? With God? How can that be? Let's keep reading. Maybe the second verse will help.

"He was with God in the beginning."

Well that's not helpful at all. That's the same thing he said in the first verse. I guess we should keep reading. Here's verse 3:

"Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made."

Again with the redundancy.

In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness,
but the darkness has not understood it."

See what I mean about a bit more abstract than what we find in the other gospels?

As you may know, the "word" in these verses is understood as Jesus. In the entire New Testament Jesus is only assigned this title three times, and two of the occurrences are in John 1:1 and John 1:14. John has his own style from the start of his book.

But it's more than just style. John's content is very different from the other gospels. John doesn't care too much about the parables of Jesus that show up in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. They're just not present in John. In fact, 90% of the gospel of John lacks a direct verbal parallel in the other gospels.

In addition to style and content, John sometimes follows a different chronology than the other gospels. Jesus clears the temple in John 2 at the start of his ministry, but in the other gospels Jesus doesn't clear the temple until the week of his crucifixion (Matthew 21; Mark 11; Luke 19). One could argue that Jesus cleared the temple twice, but come on. Be reasonable. If Jesus came into the temple once like a bull in a china shop, don't you think they'd be a little leery of him when he came around a second time? Imagine if this took place at your church on Sunday morning. Don't you think you'd notice when that guy showed up again?

Frankly, John doesn't care about putting things in chronological order. He cares about putting them in a theological order. I know, that's not how we usually operate, but we're not 1st century AD authors, and we shouldn't expect them to think like us. John took more of a Reservoir Dogs approach (Why yes, I am trying to see how often I can reference Quentin Tarantino films in my blog posts). He wasn't afraid to mix up the presentation a bit, if it helped make his point. John wants to make the point that Jesus was greater than the temple. That the temple of his body was more important than any temple of this earth. And he wants to make this point early in the story.

Style, content, and chronology. For these and other reasons, Matthew, Mark, and Luke are often called the synoptic gospels, a word which means "one view." They're a lot alike, while John is distinct. More on John with my next post.

It's like Sesame Street always says, "One of these things is not like the other..."

Comments

  1. That is so interesting. I had never thought of the difference, but you are right. He is so philosophical in his writings. He reminds me of so many philosophers I had to read for PhD program.

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  2. 😁 I love this. Very soon after I gave my life to Jesus (and didn't know exactly what that meant) I started Bible Study Fellowship and this is the very first book from the bible I studied. Talk about confusing BUT I got to know who Jesus was and what he could do so that was neat. This past year we studied Romans. Talk about your mind being on another level completely. I love Paul. Starting in August we get to study all the prophets.

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  3. A note on being on "another level"... sometimes when I can't humanly wrap my mind around a concept it's like God broadens my thought process to a level that isn't earthly at all. In those times I feel so connected that if I reach out I might actually touch God and it's like the understanding is on the tip of my tongue almost so approachable. Clear. Complete. Then other times (and mostly) that connection is so muddled with life's insanity but now I'm off on a tangent. Thanks for your blog. It helps

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    Replies
    1. Glad it helps. Thanks for coming back.

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