Question of the week: What makes the Gospel of John and the epistles of John different from the other New Testament writings?
We’ll focus this week on the Gospel of John.
- The stories are different. Not all of them, but some.Only in John do we find the story about the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding, and raising Lazarus from the dead.
- No parables. No pithy quotable quotes or stories. Rather, Jesus talks in longer discourses. We also get Jesus spending a lot of time emphasizing that he is the one sent from heaven. Reinforcing that view, Jesus’ miracles are described as ‘signs’ in order to prove that what Jesus says is true. This is in sharp contrast to several verses in the other three gospels, where Jesus asks people not to tell anyone after he performs a miracle.
- Multiple authors? Chapter 21 (the final one) appears to be an add-on. It does not flow from the end of Chapter 20 and is written in a different style. Scholars speculate it was possibly added later to round out the stories of Jesus’ resurrection. And while we are talking about writing style, the entire prologue about Jesus being the Word of God is written in a completely different (poetic) style from the other chapters of John. John never calls Jesus the “Word” anywhere else. Was this another add on inserted by a cleric in the second century who liked poetry?
The more we dig into this stuff, the more fascinating it gets. The Chief Editor has been reading a book by Bart Ehrman entitled Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. Today’s bullets were largely taken from Dr. Ehrman’s descriptions about John in this book. The big take-away from this book so far: We have no original manuscripts of any books from the New Testament. The earliest fragment (and it is a fragment) is dated around 200 CE. So with all the hand-copying and ‘editing’ over the centuries, it’s hard to tell what the original texts actually said.