Gospel Of John Essay Research Paper The

Gospel Of John Essay, Research Paper The genius of the Apostle John resides in his ability to penetrate to the theological foundations that undergird the events of Jesus’ life. He reaches to the deeper

Gospel Of John Essay, Research Paper

The genius of the Apostle John resides in his ability to penetrate to the theological

foundations that undergird the events of Jesus’ life. He reaches to the deeper

baptism and the calling of the Twelve are doubtless presupposed, they are not

actually described. Even themes central to the Synoptics have almost disappeared:

in particular, the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven, so much a part of the

preaching of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels and the central theme of His narrative

parables, is scarcely mentioned as such (cf. 3:3, 5; 18:36).

meaning of the events, to the relationships of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit

in the work of redemption, and to the Trinitarian love for humanity which generated

that work and which seeks through the gospel to bring within that sublime circle of

indwelling love all who respond by faith to Jesus as the great “I AM.”

John deals with the same revealed truth as Mathew, Mark, Luke and Paul. But

his way of approaching that truth is different–very different. Like waters from the

same source, Johannine, Pauline and the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and

Luke) all flow from the same historical Jesus, but flow through different lands,

picking up different textures, and emerge as observably different rivers.

The Johannine river, as a preceptive reader will quickly realize, flows through

a profoundly different world of its own: a world with its own language, its own

symbolism, and its own unique theological view point. The reader who enters this

world senses immediately how different it is from the world of Paul and the Synoptic

Gospels. And thus, a few words are needed to help to guide our way.

First, John’s Gospel leaves out a great deal of material that is characteristic of

the Synoptic Gospels. There are no narrative parables in John, no account of the

transfiguration, no record of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, no report of Jesus

casting out a single demon, no mention of His temptations. There are fewer brief,

pithy utterances, but more discourses; but even here some major discourses found

in the Synoptics (e.g. the Olivet Discourse) are not found in John. Although Jesus’.Page 2 Introduction

Second, John includes a fair amount of material of which the Synoptists make

no mention. All of the material in John chapters 2 thru 4, for instance, including His

miraculous transformation of water into wine, His dialogue with Nicodemus and His

ministry in Samaria, find no Synoptic counterpart. Further, the resurrection of

Lazarus, Jesus’ frequent visits to Jerusalem, and His extended dialogues or dis-courses

in the Temple and in various synagogues, not to mention much of His private

instruction to His disciples, are all exclusive to the Fourth Gospel.

No less striking are the forcefully presented themes that dominate John but that

are largely absent from the Synoptics. Only in John is Jesus explicitly identified with

God (1:1, 18; 20:28). Here, too, Jesus makes a series of important “I am” statements

which are qualified: I am the light of the world, the resurrection and the life, the good

shepherd, the vine, the living water, the way, the truth and the life. These culminate

in a series of absolute (unqualified) “I AM” statements that are redolent of God

Himself (cf. 6:20; 8:24, 28, 58). Furthermore, the Fourth Gospel maintains a series

of “opposites,” dualisms if you will, that are much stronger than in the Synoptics: life

and death, from above and from below, light and dark, truth and lie, sight and

blindness, and more.

Third, these themes become still more problematic for some readers when,

formally at least, they contradict the treatment of similar themes in the Synoptic

Gospels. Here, for instance, John the Baptist denies that he is Elijah (1:21), even

though according to the Synoptists Jesus insists that he is (Mk. 9:11-13). What shall

we make of the bestowal of the Spirit (Jn. 20:22) and its relation to Acts 2? Above

all, how do we account for the fact that in the Synoptics the disciples seem to grow

from small beginnings in their understanding of who Jesus is, with various high-points

along the way, such as Caesarea Philippi (Mk. 8:27-30), while in John the very

first chapter finds various individuals confessing Jesus not only as Rabbi, but as

Messiah, Son of God, Son of Man, Lamb of God and King of Israel?

Fourth, there are several chronological difficulties that must be addressed. In

addition to the obvious questions, such as the relation between the cleansing of the

Temple at the beginning (Jn. 2:14-22) and at the end (Mk. 11:15-17) of Jesus’ public

ministry, or the length of that ministry as attested by the number of Passovers it

embraces (John reports at least three, the Synoptists only one); there are one or two

questions of great difficulty that are precipitated in part by a knowledge of

background ritual and circumstance. In particular, the chronology of the Passion in

the Fourth Gospel, as compared with that of the Synoptics, seems so idiosyncratic

that it has generated complex theories about independent calendars, or about.Introduction Page 3

theological motifs that John is self-consciously allowing to skew the naked chronol-ogy.

Did Jesus and His disciples eat the Passover, so that He was arrested the evening

of Passover and crucified the next day, or was He crucified at the same time the

Passover lambs were being slaughtered? And how does one account for the fact that

the Synoptics picture Jesus being crucified about the third hour (9:00 a.m.), while in

John Pilate’s final decision is not reached until the sixth hour (19:14)?

Fifth, students of Greek, perhaps more readily than those who read John’s

Gospel only in a translation, observe that the style of writing is quite different from

that of the Synoptics. For instance, the vocabulary is smaller, there is frequent

parataxis (the use of co-ordinate clauses instead of subordinating expressions, which

elegant Greek much prefers), peculiar uses of pronouns (e.g. “that one”), and many

instances of asyndeton (simply laying out clauses beside each other, without

connecting them with particles or conjunctions, as Greek prefers). More impor-tantly,

there is little discernible difference in style between the words that are

ascribed to Jesus and the Evangelist’s own comments (Jn. 3:16 ff.).

With all these examples of the differences between the Synoptics and John’s

Gospel, the Gospel of John has been used by Christians in every age, and for the

greatest array of purposes. University students distribute free copies to their friends

in the hope of introducing them to the Savior. Elderly Christians on their deathbed

ask that parts of this Gospel be read to them. Very often, this Gospel is the first of

all Scripture to be translated in a newly evangelized part of the world. Children

memorize entire chapters, and sing choruses based on its truth (e.g. “For God So

Loved The World”). Countless Bible courses and sermons have been based on this

Book or on some part of it. It stood near the center of Christological controversy in

the fourth century. And perhaps the best known verse in all the Bible is John 3:16:

a toddler can even recite it. In this Gospel the love of God is dramatically mediated

through Jesus Christ, so much so that Karl Barth is alleged to have commented that

the most profound truth he had ever heard was “Jesus loves me, this I know/For the

Bible tells me so.”

Before entering this world, something must be

said about the date and the author. In addition,

something must be said about the audience and

purpose of the author, and especially his literary

techniques, and the structure of his Gospel. These

points belong to what is known as introduction. The

better they can be established and described, the easier it is to understand and

appreciate the Gospel.

Internal evidence suggests that the Gospel was written after 85 A.D. External

evidence points to a date no later than 110 A.D. The allusion to Peter’s martyrdom

in 21:18-19 demands a date after 64 A.D. Three references to excommunication

from the synagogue (9:22; 12:42; 16:2) allude to the Birkat ha-minim, a “Test

Benediction” used by the rabbis to exclude from the synagogue all heretics and

perhaps especially Christians. Since the “Test Benediction” was instituted in the mid

eighties, it is reasonable to conclude that the Gospel was composed sometime after

85 A.D.

How long after is impossible to determine. But external evidence in the form

of papyrus fragments found in Egypt suggests some ten or fifteen years later, i.e.,

between 85 and 100 A.D. The Rylands papyrus, the papyrus Egerton 2, P66, and

P75 all date to approximately 150 A.D. These papyrus finds prove that the Gospel

existed in Egypt in the first half of the second century. If one allows forty or fifty years

for the Gospel to become known and copied in Egypt, one comes on the basis of

external evidence to the same conclusion suggested by the internal evidence, i.e., 85-

100 A.D. for the date of the Gospel.

By the end of the second century, the Fourth Gospel was accepted, along with

the three Synoptics, as canonical in Gaul (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.1.1-2), in

Egypt (Clement of Alexandria, so Eusebius, Church History 6.14.5), in North Africa

(Tertullian, Against Marcion 4.2), and in Rome (Muratorian fragment).

The Author

Whoever the author of the Fourth Gospel was, one thing is certain: he wanted

to remain anonymous. He wanted only to be known as the disciple whom Jesus

loved. He speaks about himself in 13:23 as the one who at the Last Supper “was

reclining on Jesus’ breast . . . whom Jesus loved.”; in 19:23-26, 35, as the disciple

who stood beneath the cross, was given the care of Jesus’ mother, and witnessed the

death of Jesus; in 20:2-10, as the disciple who ran with Peter to the tomb on Easter

morning and, upon seeing the burial cloths, believed; in 21:7, as the disciple who

alone recognized the stranger on the shore as Jesus; and in 21:20-23, as the disciple

about whom Jesus said to Peter: “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that

to you? Follow Me!”.Introduction Page 5

It is probable that he is the “disciple . . . known to the high priest” who spoke

to the maid and had Peter admitted to the court of Annas (18:15-16). It is quite

probable that he was one of the two unnamed disciples of John the Baptist who

followed Jesus at the beginning of His public life (1:35-39), and equally probable that

he was one of the two unnamed disciples who accompanied Peter in the boat on the

Lake of Galilee after the resurrection (21:2).

What is certain is that the Gospel itself declares the Beloved Disciple to be “this

is the disciple who bears witness of these things, and wrote these things; and we

know that his witness is true” (21:24). The meaning of this statement is hotly

debated. It asserts at a minimum that the Beloved Disciple is the author of at least

chapter 21; at a maximum, it asserts that he is the author of the entire Gospel. The

reasons for these conclusions will be explained in the commentary on 21:24-25.

However much the Gospel says about the Beloved Disciple, it nowhere

identifies him by name. Tradition, via

Polycarp, Polycrates, and Irenaeus, tes-tifies

to the belief of the Church in the

early second century that John, the son

of Zebedee, was the Beloved Disciple.

This belief perdured until the twentieth

century and was defended as recently as

the sixties by such renowned Johannine scholars as R. Schnackenburg and R. E.

Brown. Brown, however, in his more recent The Community of the Beloved

Disciple, has abandoned it and now goes along with the modern trend of dissociating

John, the son of Zebedee, and the Beloved Disciple.

Contemporary scholars see the Beloved Disciple as a disciple of Jesus, but not

one of the Twelve, a disciple who formed and led his own Christian community

sometime after the resurrection and became for that community a living link with the

teaching of Jesus. They see him also as the leading figure in a school of interpreters

who preserved his teaching and expanded it as the years went on, until a genius

member of the school at the end of the first century authored the Gospel as we know

it now. His identity, however, remains a mystery. Considering the paucity of the

evidence, it will probably always remain a mystery.

supports an evangelistic purpose: that you may come to faith, come to believe. The

former, then supports and edificatory purpose: that you may continue in faith,

continue to believe. In fact, it can easily be shown that both expressions are used

for both initial faith and continuing in faith, so that nothing can be resolved by the

appeal to one textual variant or the other.

It is worth comparing these verses with the stated purpose of 1 John: “These

things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that

you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). This verse was clearly

written to encourage Christians; by the contrasting form of its expression, John

20:30-31 sounds evangelistic.

This impression is confirmed by the firm syntactical evidence that the first

purpose clause in 20:31 must be rendered literally, “that you may believe that the

Christ, the Son of God, is Jesus.” Thus the fundamental question the Fourth Gospel

addresses is not “Who is Jesus?” but “Who is the Messiah? Who is the Christ? Who

is the Son of God?” In their context, these are questions of identity, not of kind: i.e.

the question “Who is the Christ?” should not here be understood as “What kind of

‘Christ’ are you talking about?” but “So you claim that you know who the Christ is.

Prove it, then: Who is he?”

Support for this is simply common sense. Christians would not ask that kind of

question, because they already knew the answer. The most likely people to ask that

sort of question would be Jews and Jewish proselytes who know what “the Christ”

means, have some sort of messianic expectation, and are perhaps in personal contact

with Christians and want to know more. In short, John’s Gospel is not only

evangelistic in its purpose (which was a dominant view until this century, when only

a few have defended it), but aims in particular to evangelize Jews and Jewish

proselytes. This view has not been popular, but is gradually gaining influence, and

much can be said for it. It may even receive indirect support from some recent studies

The Purpose and Audience of the Gospel

The proper place to begin when we discuss John’s purpose for writing his Gospel

is with his own statement: “Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the

presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been

written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that

believing you may have life in His name” (20:30-31). The words rendered “that you

may believe” hide a textual variant: either hina pisteuete (present subjunctive) or

hina pisteusete (aorist subjunctive). Some have argued that the latter expression.Introduction Page 7

that try to interpret the Fourth Gospel as a piece of mission literature.

The commentary that follows occasionally pauses to show how one passage or

another fits nicely into this purpose. Some have argued, for instance, that John

chapters 14–17 cannot possibly be viewed as primarily evangelistic. Such judgment

is premature, for at least two reasons. First, the evangelism of the early church was

not merely existential. It had to explain, as it were, “how we got from there to here,”

especially if the targeted audience was Jewish. Second, the best evangelistic

literature not only explains why one should become a Christian, but what it means

to be a Christian. John chapters 14–17 addresses those concerns rather pointedly,

and numerous details within those chapters likewise suggest an evangelistic thrust

(e.g. 14:6).

In addition, the Gospel seems to be polemic. But who would need such

warnings, refutations, encouragement, and strengthening? We come to one reason-able

conclusion from looking at the question from a historical perspective: John

wrote his Gospel primarily for Jewish Christians whose faith was wavering, who

were under attack by the synagogue for believing in Jesus, and who, because of

Jewish persecution, were tending to either remain in or return to the synagogue and

thereby apostasize from their faith in Jesus (i.e. in Paul’s terminology, “fallen from

grace,” Gal. 5:4). In brief, John’s primary audience among Christians was that group

of Christian Jews who were straddling the fence between the Christian community

and the Jewish synagogue (cf. the Book of Hebrews).

John’s secondary audience was that group of Jewish Christians who belonged

to Christian communities but who were wavering in their faith because of persecu-tion

and the threat of death (16:1-4). For these he records the words of Jesus: “These

things I have spoken to you, that you may be kept from stumbling” (16:1).

Therefore, in conclusion, the Gospel as an edificatory piece, we may be

reasonably sure that John wrote his Gospel for weak Christians both in his

community and in the synagogue. His Gospel encourages Christian Jews who were

straddling the fence between Jesus and the synagogue (1) because they feared

excommunication from the synagogue (cf. 9:22; 12:37-43; 16:2); (2) or because they

found Jesus’ teaching about the Eucharist a hard saying and could not accept it (cf.

6:59ff.) (3) or because they could not accept the high Christology of John and his

community (cf. 5:1-47; 7:–8:59, especially 8:31; 10:22-29; and perhaps 2:23-25;

11:46); (4) or, possibly but not certainly, because they had been disciples of John the

Baptist and could not easily accept Jesus as greater than the Baptist (cf. 1:19-34;

3:22–4:3). For all of these, the Gospel as a whole, with its massive emphasis on.Page 8 Introduction

witness to Jesus and response of faith in Jesus, provided a powerful appeal for a

definitive decision concerning the Messiah (”the Christ”). To all of these equally, the

words of Jesus would certainly apply: “These things I have spoken to you, that you

may be kept from stumbling” (16:1).

Literary Techniques

Few things are more helpful for readers of John’s Gospel than an appreciation

of his literary techniques. These are for the most part the techniques of a dramatist.

They include the technique of using stories to set up scenes; the use of discourses,

dialogues, and monologues to expound Jesus’ teaching; the use of misunderstanding

and double-meaning words to emphasize important elements of Jesus’ teaching; and

the use of such other techniques as the rule of two, explanatory comments, irony,

foreshadowing, inclusion, and the chiastic arrangement of parts, sequences, and

sections of the Gospel. All of these call for a brief explanation.

1. Stories

John uses stories to set up scenes, discourses, and dialogues. The following are

good examples. In John 1:19-51, the story of Jesus’ coming to John the Baptist at

the Jordan sets the scene for the parade of witnesses who testify successively to Jesus

as the Lamb of God, Messiah, King of Israel, Son of God, and Son of Man.

In 2:13-25, the story of the cleansing of the temple sets the scene for Jesus’

dialogue with the Jews concerning His words “Destroy this temple [He means His

body], and in three days I will raise it up.” In 3:1-21, the story of Nicodemus’ coming

to Jesus at night sets the scene for Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus about being “born

again” (3:5), just as in 4:4ff., Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman sets the scene

for His dialogue with her about the water that will become “a well of water springing

up to eternal life” (4:14).

John uses the same technique in chapter 5, where the cure of the paralytic (5:1-

18) sets the scene for the long monologue of 5:19-47; in chapter 6, where Jesus’

discussion with the Jews about signs (6:22-31) sets the theme for Jesus’ homily on

“the true bread from heaven” (6:32-58); in chapters 7–8, where Jesus’ secret trip to

Jerusalem sets the scene for a series of debates with the Jews; in chapter 9, where

the cure of the man born blink sets the scene for the discourse on the good and the.Introduction Page 9

bad shepherds (10:1-21); in 10:22-39, where Jesus’ appearance at the feast of the

Dedication leads to His final dispute with the Jews; and lastly in chapters 13–17,

where the washing of the feet (13:1-32) sets the scene for Jesus’ Last Supper

discourse. In all these examples, the stories are secondary to the dialogues,

monologues, and discourses for which they prepare the way. They are clearly the

work of a superb dramatist.

2. Discourses, Dialogues, and Monologues

As C. H. Dodd has pointed out, the typical Johannine discourse (e.g., in 3:1-21;

4:4-38; 5:1-47; 6:22-58; 9:39–10:21; 10:22-39; 13:33–16:33) follows a distinctive

pattern: (a) it begins with a solemn declaration by Jesus, often in lapidary terms (e.g.,

3:3; 4:10; 5:17; 6:32; 7:16; 9:39; 10:25; 13:13); (b) it is frequently followed by an

objection or question based upon a misunderstanding of Jesus’ words (e.g.3:4; 4:11;

5:18; 6:41-42; 7:20; 9:40; 10:6; 10:31; 13:36); (c) there then follows Jesus’ discourse

clarifying the misunderstanding or the objection. The discourse is sometimes

interrupted by further questions and objections (e.g., 4:4-38; 6:33-58; 15:33–16:33)

and at other times consists entirely of a long monologue (e.g., 3:11-21; 5:19-47; 10:7-


6. Irony

John records certain persons, most frequently opponents of Jesus that make

statements about Jesus that they think are correct and that John’s readers know are

correct, but in a different and sometimes far deeper sense. The following are good

examples. In 4:12, the Samaritan woman asks Jesus, “You are not greater than our

father Jacob, are you, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself, and his sons, and

his cattle?” She thinks not; the reader knows that Jesus is inestimably greater than.Introduction Page 11

Jacob–for He is the one that gave it to Jacob (cf. 8:58).

The Jews ask, “Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the

offspring of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” (7:42).

Their question implies that they deny Jesus’ Davidic descent and birth in Bethlehem.

The reader knows the opposite is true.

Caiaphas declares, “nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that

one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish”

(11:50). Caiaphas means that the execution of Jesus as a revolutionary will save the

Jews from the wrath of Rome. The reader knows that Caiaphas (the high priest),

without being conscious of it, has prophesied the death of Jesus for the spiritual

redemption not only of the Jews but of the whole world!

When Pilate asks, “What is truth?” (18:38), his question implies that one cannot

find the truth. John’s readers know that the truth Pilate despairs of finding stands

before him in the person of Jesus, “the way, and the truth, and the life” (14:6).

Finally, when the soldiers mock Jesus as king (19:2-3), John’s readers grasp the

double irony: He whom the soldiers ironically declare to be king is, ironically, truly

a king!

7. Foreshadowing

This is a narrator’s technique whereby knowledge of the future is given in

advance in order to arouse anticipation and suspense, and at the same time prepare

the audience to look for an interconnection of the parts of the story with the whole.

There are several excellent examples of foreshadowing in John’s Gospel. In the

Prologue, John says, “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not

receive Him” (1:11). Hearing these words, the reader is led to anticipate both the

rejection of Jesus by the Jews and His eventual death on the cross.

When Jesus looks at Peter and says to him, “‘You are Simon the son of John; you

shall be called Cephas’ (which translated means Peter)” (1:42), the reader, who

already knows the significance of Simon’s nickname, Peter (cf. Matt. 16:17-19), is

led to anticipate what actually only happens at the end of the Gospel, namely, Jesus’

designation of Peter to be vicar-shepherd in charge of His flock (21:15-19)..Page 12 Introduction

A classic example of foreshadowing occurs in 11:4. Jesus responds to Martha

and Mary’s message about Lazarus’ illness by declaring, “This sickness is not unto

death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” Lazarus’

illness is not unto death because Jesus will raise him. And because Jesus raises him,

the Jewish leaders will plot and bring about Jesus’ own death. Thus, Lazarus’ illness

is “for the glory of God,” because it leads to Jesus’ death-glorification on the cross.

Simpler foreshadowings are found in 11:50; 12:33; 13:36; 16:32; 21:18.

8. Inclusion

Known among classical scholars as “ring composition,” inclusion is a narrator’s

technique in which was is said at the beginning of a piece is repeated at the end. The

repetition forces the reader’s attention back to the beginning and thus serves as a

frame for the piece as a whole. John frames his whole Gospel by repeating in chapter

21 words and names used in 1:19-51 (note the return in chapter 21 of the names

Simon son of John, Nathanael, the two unnamed disciples, the words “follow me,”

and the commissioning of Peter as vicar-shepherd of the sheep, a commissioning

already implicit in the change of Simon’s name to Peter in 1:42).

In addition to framing the Gospel as a whole, John frames each individual

sequence of his Gospel. Two examples will suffice: 2:1-12 (note how verses 11-12

repeat names and places in verses 1-2); 20:1-18 (note how the sequence begins and

ends with the full name of Mary Magdalene). Recognition of inclusions is important

for the interpreter. More than anything else, inclusions clearly indicate beginnings

and endings and thus help the exegete to divide the Gospel into distinct parts,

sequences, and sections. In modern terms, inclusions divide the written Gospel into

parts, chapters, and paragraphs. The importance of this becomes obvious when the

reader realizes that ancient manuscripts like John’s Gospel were regularly written

almost entirely without indications of, or divisions into parts, chapters, and sections.

Recognition of John’s inclusions becomes all the more important when one

realizes that the present division of the Gospel into twenty-one chapters, as found

in all modern Bible translations, goes back to the twelfth century and was done with

complete disregard for John’s use of inclusions to divide his Gospel into individual

parts, sequences, and sections. As we shall see in this study, when we deal with the

structure of the Gospel, John uses inclusions regularly, skillfully, and abundantly in

the composition of his Gospel.

Structure of John’s Gospel

The search for the structure of John’s Gospel has been long and dishearteningly

unsuccessful. Forty years ago, Bultmann proposed that the Gospel as it stands is not

the Gospel as it came from the hand of the author, but the poor attempt of editors to

put back in order an originally well-arranged manuscript that was either damaged or

disarranged as early as the autograph stage.

In 1963, D. M. Smith, Jr., made a study of Bultmann’s thesis regarding the order

of John and came to the conclusion that in almost every instance Bultmann’s

reconstruction raised as many problems as it provided solutions. Smith himself came

to the conclusion that it was “quite possible, indeed probable, that the Fourth Gospel

has been left to us in an unfinished stage.”

Brown begins his section on the unity and composition of the Gospel with the

question: “Is the fourth gospel as it now stands the work of one man?” His answer,

like that of all modern commentators with the exception of Lagrange and Hoskyns,

is an emphatic denial. Despite the fact that there is absolutely no textual witness to

any other order than the one we find now in the Gospel, almost all commentators take

for granted that there were at least two hands (or “schools”) at work in the

composition of the Gospel and that the Gospel as it stands now is in a state of great


The great commentators since Bultmann (Dodd, Barrett, Brown, Schnacken-burg,

Lindars, and Marsh) all call attention to the difficulties with Bultmann’s

reconstruction but do little more toward reconstructing the so-called original Gospel

beyond suggesting a series of inept redactors or editors who have distorted the

original order of the Gospel by introducing new material at several points and by

adding to what is considered the original ending of the Gospel (20:30-31) a new

concluding chapter (21).

To explain the alleged disorder, they propose variant versions of the following

hypotheses: (a) hypotheses of accidental displacements; (b) hypotheses of multiple

sources ineptly melded together; (c) hypotheses of successive editions of an earlier

Gospel supplemented and re-edited later by incompetent editors. Despite these and

other hypotheses, what H. M. Teeple said in 1962 remains true: “No one yet has

demonstrated convincingly that the gospel has been disarranged.”.Page 22 Introduction

What follows is a proposed hypothesis that the Gospel of John has suffered

neither displacements nor disarrangements but stands now as it came from the

hand of the author. This proposition is based on the contention amply demonstrated

that the Gospel was composed according to the laws of chiastic parallelism rather

than according to 20th century Western literary devices.

The Gospel appears to be in a state of disarrangement only if one presupposes

that the author composed it according to the ordinary principles of narrative

composition. If one presupposes, on the contrary, that the Gospel was composed

according to the principles of chiastic parallelism, every part, sequence, section, and

element is precisely where it belongs.

It is my belief that the Gospel as it now stands is the work of one individual; that

it has suffered no displacements; that it has a clear and easily demonstrable chiastic

structure from beginning to end; and that it exists now in our New Testament (with

the exception of the adulteress account) exactly as it came from the author. I agree

wholeheartedly with Strauss who concluded many years ago when he declared that

the Gospel “was like the seamless robe of which it spoke (John 19:23-24), which one

may cast lots for, but cannot divide.”

The heart of my argument resides in this fundamental presupposition–a presup-position

diametrically opposed to the fundamental presupposition of all previous

authors: John wrote his Gospel according to the laws of chiastic parallelism and not

according to the laws of narrative. If the Gospel had been written according to the

principles of narrative, one would rightly expect a logical and chronological

succession of events without violent changes of geography, situation, time, and

content. If this narrative presupposition is true, scholars would be correct in

deducing that John’s Gospel has suffered displacements, rearrangements, supple-mentary

interpolations, and even several redactions.

The following would be the most obvious of these displacements and rearrange-ments:

(1) the cleansing of the Temple (2:13-25), which is out of place and should

be transposed to some point closer to the Passion account; (2) 3:27-36, which is

misplaced and should be rearranged to follow either 1:19-34 or perhaps 3:19; (3)

chapters 5–7, which are not in correct order and should be rearranged so that chapter

5 and chapter 7 go together, with chapter 6 preceding them; (4) parts of 10:22-39 (the

shepherd and sheep parts), which are misplaced and should go somewhere in 10:1-

21; (5) 12:44-50, which floats and can find no good resting place anywhere in the.Introduction Page 23

Gospel; (6) chapters 15–17, which should be treated as supplementary material

added to the Last Supper discourse by one or more editors; and (7) chapter 21, which

gives the appearance of being a supplement added to the Gospel as an epilogue by

the final editor.

The above-mentioned displacements and rearrangements have been hypoth-esized

on the premise, rarely if ever questioned, that the Gospel was written

according to the laws of narrative. If this premise were true, logic would demand that

some hypothesis of displacements, rearrangements, and editions must be found,

even though it reduces the Gospel as it stands to a hodgepodge of material put

together by remarkably incompetent authors and editors. Reflecting on this

situation, C. H. Dodd thirty years ago remarked, “Unfortunately, when once the

gospel has been taken to pieces, its reassemblage is liable to be affected by individual

preferences, preconceptions, and even prejudices” (The Interpretation of the Fourth

Gospel, p. 290).

If, on the other hand, the premise is false, then the situation is entirely different.

There remains the possibility that the Gospel was indeed written according to the

principles of parallelism rather than according to the principles of narrative. That this

is more than a mere possibility may be deduced from the fact that chiastic parallelism

as a structural principle in ancient Middle Eastern books has been amply documented

in the last fifty years for both classical and biblical authors. C. H. Talbert is

undoubtedly correct in his contention that books in the ancient Middle East were

frequently written according to the laws of chiastic parallelism, and in his subsequent

judgment that “. . . the very law of duality (i.e., parallelism) by which one part is made

to correspond to another by being either analogous or contrasting seems deeply

rooted in Near Eastern mentality” (Literary Patterns, Theological Themes, and the

Genre of Luke-Acts, p. 74).

In addition, I believe that John’s Gospel is not simply constructed according to

the principles of chiastic parallelism, but also that each of its parts, numbering five,

and each of the twenty-one individual sequences of the Gospel is constructed

according to the principles of chiastic parallelism.

The following study will demonstrate that John creates his parallelism most

often by repeating either the same words or the same content. Occasionally he

creates parallelisms by means of antithetic parallelism, i.e., by contrasting a negative

with a positive or a positive with a negative situation or concept. On rare occasions

he not only parallels words and content, but even the literary form of a sequence..Page 24 Introduction

Chiastic Structure of the Gospel

In the following outline of the Gospel, the reader will notice that the Gospel is

divided into twenty-one sequences, with the first mirrored back by the twenty-first,

the second mirrored back by the twentieth, the third by the nineteenth, and so through

the entire Gospel, with the eleventh sequence (6:16-21) standing starkly alone in the

center. This has been done because each sequence constitutes a well-defined unit

either because of unity of place or time or theme or situation. Ideally these sequences

should take the place of the old chapter arrangement of the Gospel that comes from

Stephen Langton, who in 1226 divided the Gospel into its present very poor

arrangement of chapters and verses.

The original Gospel, like almost all ancient books, contained neither chapters

nor verses nor even paragraphs. Scholars are agreed that Langton’s division is almost

entirely arbitrary, and they have attempted to rectify the situation by retaining

Langton’s chapters and verses but adding titles or headings to indicate where they

believe John would have begun new chapters and paragraphs if he were writing his

Gospel today.

In the following outline, because of limitation of space, only the most obvious

parallels of persons, places, and situation can be indicated in bold type. Following

the commentary on each sequence, beginning with the fourth, the reader will find a

listing of the full range of parallels John has created in order to compose his Gospel

according to the laws of parallelism.

Commentators down through the centuries have been all too content to laud

John’s Gospel for its theological depth and for its occasional brilliant literary sorties.

But on the whole, they apologized for the seemingly pedestrian literary gifts of the

author. When John is seen through the focus of chiastic parallelism, this judgment

has to be revised. Any author who could compose so elaborate a structure with such

artistic attention to detail and over so long a work deserves to be ranked with the best

of antiquity’s literary artists.

As you study John’s chiastic structure on the next

page, note particularly how he has paralleled part

with part, sequence with sequence, and section with

section. The total effect of such a structure when

presented to the eye is similar to the effect of an

elaborate mosaic or a large Persian rug.

The Rewards of Parallelism

Studying the chiastic outline of John’s Gospel on page 25, the reader will notice

that the author has paralleled in a chiastic structure PART for PART, SEQUENCE

with SEQUENCE, and SECTION with SECTION. With the relative ease which the

literary style of John can now be detected, this study will make it a key that virtually

anyone can use to gain access to the all too often “hidden” treasures of the Scriptures.

Richard Greene Moulton emphasizes the importance of printing the text in such

a way that the chiastic structure can be seen visually and thus adverted to: “The

essential thing is that the verse structure should be represented to the eye by proper

printing of the text. Where this is done further explanation is superfluous; where

structural arrangement is wanting, no amount of explanation is likely to be of much


Admittedly, such a structure is alien to modern experience and difficult to

appreciate. But for the reader who is willing to study the principles of parallel

structure and apply them to the Gospel of John as a whole, the aesthetic, literary, and

theological rewards are considerable.

Leaving aside the aesthetic rewards, which are too subjective to be adequately

described, and leaving until later the theological rewards, the literary rewards can be

described briefly..Page 28 Introduction

First, sequences of the Gospel and sections of sequences which seem to

Bultmann and others to be out of their original place in the Gospel and which they

accordingly move either backward or forward in the Book to achieve a more flowing

and continuous narrative are seen to be precisely where the principles of chiastic

parallelism require them to be (e.g., 2:13-25; 3:22-36; chapters 5, 6, 7).

Second, sections of the Gospel which are considered by many to be doublets of

earlier sections, and which are therefore deduced to be the work of inept editors, are

seen to be artistic and necessary parallels of their chiastic counterparts when judged

according to the principles of chiastic parallelism (e.g., 3:22-36 parallels 1:19-31

and chapters 16–17 parallel 13:1–14:31).

Third, individual sequences and sections of sequences whose beginnings and

ends are difficult to determine when one expects them to follow the principles of

narrative are seen to have clear and definite beginnings and endings when one reads

them according to the principles of chiastic parallelism.

Fourth, such pericopes as 2:13-25 (the cleansing of the Temple), 11:1-54 (the

Lazarus story and the priests’ plot), to name but two, have always posed problems

for those who read John according to the principles of narrative. According to the

principles of parallelism, both pericopes are exactly where they belong, the Temple

pericope balancing the Passion narrative (the destroying of the body of Jesus) and

the Lazarus pericope balancing the “bread of life” promise in 6:32-58.

Lastly, many have adverted to what has been called the “spiral” movement of

John’s thought. They have seen this spiral movement, however, as peculiar,

confusing, and repetitive. When the spiral movement is seen as part and parcel of

John’s chiastic parallelism, it ceases to be peculiar and becomes artistic; it ceases to

be confusing and serves to clarify; it ceases to be repetitious and becomes balanced

and supportive.

There may be no more effective way to promote an ongoing renewal in biblical

studies today than to teach and encourage Christians to read the Scriptures according

to the same principles by which they were composed.

Finally, one may ask, why John intentionally arrange his composition according

to the principles of parallelism? Some possible answers are: (1) in order that the work

might be the more easily memorized; (2) in order that corresponding parts might help

to interpret one another; (3) in order to give to his grand theme a suitable artistic form.Introduction Page 29

in the same way that Vergil chose dactylic hexameters for his theme; (4) in order to

present his work to the world in the same parallel literary pattern used so extensively

in the Old Testament and other epic works of the Middle Eastern authors.


We conclude, therefore, that neither interpreters of the Fourth Gospel nor

translators should ignore the help given to them by an author when he chooses

parallelism as his method of composition.

After a close study of John’s Gospel, the reader will be awe struck by his literary

genius. Rarely in Western literature has form been woven into content, pattern sewn

into meaning, structure forged into theme with greater subtlety or success. The result

is a Gospel of profound paradox that first reveals then resolves itself in absolute

symmetry. To look closely at the major patterns of paradox is to discover how the

literal level of the Gospel fully engenders the meaning and how pattern finally

unravels predication.

The Gospel of John is the most intricately composed, complex and relatively

long opus in the New Testament. The author did not mind, however, breaking his

Gospel up into manageable pieces. Even in the central part of his composition, which

is strictly coherent, he has paid the greatest attention to the individual sequences and

sections. The grand effect of the Fourth Gospel is due to its parts melting into one

continuous whole.