INTRODUCTION TO THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. JOHN The Gospel according to St. John answers the need of everyone: the simple and the scholar. St. John’s words are extremely simple: hence he appeals to the simple as they find themselves closely drawn and comforted. On the other hand, those with spiritual experience find the opportunity to dive into his writings without ever reaching its depth1. THE GOSPEL OF ST. JOHN AND THE EARLY CHURCH The Gospel according to St. John attracted the heart of the early Church and lifted it to 1 El Khoury Paul El-Faghaly: The Gospel of St. John, The Biblical Association, 1992, p. 14 (in Arabic). perceive the sublime divine mysteries. This is the result of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, St. John uses a style that is spiritually attractive and which is far removed from difficult philosophical terms or dry theological language. ? We may venture to say that the Gospels are the first- born of all the Holy Books, and that from among the Gospels the first- born is the Gospel of St. John. Unless we lean on the Lord’s bosom (Jn 13:23), and accept St. Mary through Jesus Christ as our Mother (Jn 19:27), we will not understand its message. By doing so, we become another St. John, and the Lord Jesus Christ will appear to us just as He had appeared to St. John. According to those who have presented a truthful report about St. Mary, she had no son other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus had said to His Mother: “This is your son,” (Jn 19:26). He did not say: “This is your son as well.” It is as though He was telling her: “This is Jesus whom you have conceived.” Indeed, every person who has become perfect does not live but rather it is Christ who lives in him (2 Cor 4:7). And since Christ lives in him, it is possible to refer to him and tell St. Mary: “Here is your son, Jesus Christ.”2 Origen ? All the others - the evangelists Mathew, Mark, and Luke - have risen slightly above earthly matters. That is they have dealt with the events that Jesus did on earth, while they spoke only briefly about His divinity. They seemed to be just like other people who had accompanied Him on earth. In contrast, the Eagle - that is St. John - is the one to preach the sublime Truth, as well as the one who contemplates and turns with piercing vision towards the inner eternal Light… In spite of that, we are the ones who are weak and crawl upon the earth: we walk among men with difficulty, we venture to uphold and comprehend these sublime matters, and we lead ourselves to believe that we have comprehended these issues since we have meditated on them or spoken about them.3 St. Augustine ? As for the blessed St. John…we find that he possesses a fiery desire and a mind that yearns for matters that surpass the human mind. He ventures and draws close in order to explain the sublime Birth which is impossible to report in its totality - the Birth of God, the Word. Yet he realizes that “It is the glory of God to conceal matters” (Prov 25:2); and that the honor due to God exceeds our understanding and comprehension. Hence, it is hard for anyone to understand or explain the features of the Divine Nature.1 St. Cyril, the Great The Gospel of St. John specifically achieves the ‘fullness’ of the Holy Bible: it is as though that Gospel represents the ‘epicenter’ of the mystery of the Bible. Fr. Maximus, the Confessor likens the Holy Bible to the Holy Church, and the Gospel of St. John as the Holy of Holies within Her. Through St. John’s Gospel, we enter into the sanctified depths of the Holy Bible, we get acquainted with Its Mysteries, and we break through 2 Commentary on John, Book 1:23 3 On the Gospel of St. John, tr.36: 5 1 St. Cyril the Great: he interpreted the Gospel of St. John. This was translated by the Center for Patristic Studies, January 1989, pg 12. I have borrowed many of the sayings of St. Cyril the Great quoted in that translation. the veil. St. Clement of Alexandria justly calls it the ‘spiritual Gospel’ that leads the soul to recognize the glories that have been prepared for her through the love of God the Father, the redeeming act of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. St. Clement finds that the Gospel of St. John constitutes the spirit while the other three Gospels constitute the body. The latter present the tangible facts and events in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, His service, and His redeeming work. The Gospel of St. John comes to present an interpretation of what lies behind these events, and to reveal their depths and implications. Hence the Gospel is in harmony with the words of the Lord: “…that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jn17: 3). This is the spiritual Gospel since it raises the believer into the spiritual world. It does not allow him to remain on the material plane: For when He had satisfied the multitudes with bread, they rejoiced (Jn 6:26), but He invited them to partake of the eternal Food (Jn 6:27). In the Lord’s conversation with Nicodemus about the new Birth, the Jewish scholar’s concept was limited to his own mother’s womb. However, the Lord Jesus Christ raised him to see with his heart’s vision that “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (Jn 3:1-6). In the Lord’s conversation with the Samaritan woman, we find that her thought is limited to her material bucket, Jacob’s well, and his herds. However Jesus lifts her heart to the Divine Source. From this, He offers her Water that will gush within her into sources of Living Water that flow into eternal life. When St. John Chrysostom began to give sermons about the Gospel of St. John, he spoke about St. John, the evangelist. He presented His Gospel and made a comparison between him and other speakers and actors. He explained how the latter attracted the masses by their skillful use of the language as well as music, and by parading in attractive masks. As for St. John the evangelist, he spoke as though he stood on a heavenly platform: Many of the people to whom he spoke had already become like angels; and he yearned that the rest of his listeners would be transformed likewise. He only armed himself with the Grace of God and considered himself in the company of heavenly hosts. To these, St. John presents the joyful message of the Lord Jesus Christ. ?Now this man appears before us: the son of thunder, the beloved of the Lord Jesus Christ, the pillar of all Churches in the world, the one who holds the keys of heaven, who drank of the Lord’s Cup, was baptized by His Baptism, and confidently leaned on his Lord’s bosom… He entered wearing the robe of incomprehensible beauty, for he appears before us having put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 13:14; Gal 3:27). His beautiful feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace (Eph 6:15); and he is dressed, not with a girdle around his waist, but around his shoulders. His robe is not made of crimson hide, neither is it covered by gold on the outside. But it is woven and fashioned of the Truth Himself. Now St. John appears before us to head and proclaim openly the Truth. He does not appear wearing a mask and ready to play a theatrical role. He does not attempt to force the crowds to believe him, but rather uses gentleness and kindly looks and words to achieve his message without resorting to musical instruments such as the violin or similar objects. Indeed he only uses his tongue and speaks with a voice that sounds sweeter and more effective than a harp or any other musical tool. His platform is all the heavens and his stage is the whole inhabited planet. His band consists of all the angels. As for his hearers, they are human beings, many of whom are angels or wish to become likewise. These will not be able to enjoy fully his words unless they get transformed and demonstrate that change through their acts. As for the rest, they are like young children who hear yet do not understand… they are playful and leisurely, and only live to possess wealth, power, and sensual pleasures. What they hear is the Truth, yet their demeanor does not stress that which is great or noble since they hurry towards the earth that is used to make bricks.1 ?He is no longer the fisherman and the son of Zebedee, for he is now the one who knows ‘the deep things of God’ (1 Cor2:10), and of the Holy Spirit - by this I mean that he plays on that harp. Therefore, we wish we would listen to him. Note that he does not speak to us as a person in any way, for his words come from the depths of the spirit, and from the mysteries that have not been revealed even to the angels. Indeed, the angels have learned about them from the voice of St. John, and at the same time as we have. So they really got to know about matters through us and which we already knew. Another apostle explains this by saying: “…to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places (Eph 3:10). Therefore, if the leaders, powers, cherubim, and seraphim have learned these matters from the church, it becomes clear that they are very eager to listen to these teachings. Indeed, we are granted such a great honor since the angels have learned about these things which they had not known before.2 St. John Chrysostom ==THE WRITER * The word John means: ‘Jehovah is tender.’ * He is the son of Zebedee from the house of Sidon in Galilee. The Lord Jesus Christ called him and his older brother, James, to follow Him. Herod Agrippas, the First, killed James in the year 44 B.C. * It seems that he was relatively well off as his father used to hire men to handle his boats (Mk 1:20). Moreover, the high priest knew who John was (Jn18; 16). His mother, Salome was a virtuous and pious woman who always followed the Lord (Mk15:40)…She participated with the other women in buying expensive spices for the body of Jesus. Most probably she is the sister of Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ (Jn 19:25). * He became a fisherman by trade, and he and his brother James were fishing partners with Simon (Lk 5:10). The Lord Jesus Christ chose Simon, Andrew, John, and James to be His first disciples. Because John and his brother had fiery tempers, the Lord named them ‘Boanerges’ which means the ‘sons of thunder’ (Mk3:17). John became the apostle of love. He was extremely gentle and his gospel, letters, and revelations all revolve round ‘love.’ He continued to preach about love till his old age. In his interpretation of the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians, St. Jerome reports that in his old age, the disciples of John used to carry him and take him up into the pulpit to hear him utter these words: “My children, love one another. This is the Lord’s commandment: if you follow just this one commandment, it will be good enough for you”1. John is known as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved,’ (Jn21:20). * St. Ireneaus reports that John was twenty-five years old when the Lord Jesus called him to be His disciple. 1 Homilies on St. John, Hom1: 2 2Homilies on St. John, Hom1: 3 1 St. Jerome: Comm. On Galat.6: 10 * Like Peter and James, John is considered from the special ones privileged to be alone with the Lord Jesus in many instances: such as at the Transfiguration (Matt 17:1); the raising of the daughter of Jarius (Mk 5:37); in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt26:37); and at the time the Lord predicted the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (Mk13:3). The Lord entrusted him and Peter to prepare the place where He would hold the Passover with the disciples (Lk 22:8). He in particular leant on the Lord’s chest (Lk 13:23); and he accompanied the Lord and stood at the foot of the Cross where he received St. Mary as his mother (Jn 19:20-27). * After the resurrection of the Lord, he was with Peter when he healed the lame man at the gate of the temple that is called Beautiful (Acts 3:1-6). He was also with Peter when they were sent to Samaria to lay their hands on believers so that they might receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17). * St. Paul considered him to be one of the pillars of the church (Acts 15:6; Gal 22:9). * He preached in Asia Minor, namely in Ephesus; was tortured under Dematious, and was exiled to the Island of Patmos. There he enjoyed the revelations concerning the Day of the Lord: The book of The Revelation of Jesus Christ. He remained in exile until his death. According to St. Jerome, St. John remained in the world for sixty-eight years after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Based on that, he lived for two or more years into the second century A.D. This means that he lived to be almost one hundred, for he was a few years younger than the Lord. Others believe that he died in the year 98 A.D. during the reign of Trojan (98 - 117 A.D.). * In his book ‘The History of the Church’2, Eusebius the Caesarian recounts a story about St. John the apostle. It reveals how much he was concerned, even in his old age, about the salvation of the human soul and the amazing ways he used to fulfill that task. The historian borrowed the story from the book written by St. Clement of Alexandria entitled ’Who is the Rich Person Who will be Redeemed?’ The story recounts that after St. John returned from the Island of Patmos; he went to the city of Ephesus to resolve ecclesiastical matters and to appoint bishops. He also visited some of the neighboring pagan areas. In one of these cities close by - probably Izmir - he introduced to the bishop of the local church a young pagan who had accepted faith. St. John was very concerned about him and underlined that that youth would be a trust he delivers into the bishop’s hands. The latter consequently tended him until he was baptized. However, the youth soon made the acquaintance of some corrupt youngsters who encouraged him to lead a life of pleasure and squandering. When they needed money, they resorted to stealing and he would join them. Thus he became progressively involved in one crime after another and he even formed and led a gang to steal, plunder, and kill. Eventually, St. John returned to the city and asked the bishop about the youth. The bishop informed him: “He was led astray…he spiritually died, for he has reverted to his evil days and has become an indecent person and a robber. Instead of being a church member, he has gone to the mountains with a gang who shared his disposition.” The saint could not bear the news, and asked for a horse that he mounted in spite of his old age. He rode to the area where robbers hid where they captured him and carried him to their leader. Upon seeing the saint, the gangster felt so embarrassed that he tried to flee. However, St. John ran after him and shouted: “Why are you running away from me? My son, I am your father and I am harmless and advanced in age. If need be, I am willing to die for your sake just as the Lord Jesus Christ suffered death on our behalf. For your sake, I will sacrifice my life. Stop. Believe, for the Lord has sent me to you.” The youth instantly felt ashamed and stopped. He 2 Eusebius: Hist. Ecc. 3: 28 held his head down, and spread his arms in fear while he wept bitterly. St. John was overjoyed and led him back to church, where he stayed with him until he felt assured he would be well. * St. John Cassian tells the following story: “As St. John was one day coddling an eagle, a young hunter came by and wondered at the sight. He asked the saint why a great man like him would waste his time as such. The saint responded by asking him: “What are you holding in your hand?” The youth answered: “It is a bow.” The saint said; “And why is it loose?” The youth replied: “Because if it remains taut all the time it loses its flexibility which is what I need to have when I shoot an arrow.” The old saint said: “Therefore you should not be upset with me, my young friend, because I sometimes release the strings of my soul. Otherwise I would lose its power and I would be let down when I turn to it in the time I need.1” * The historian Eusebius2 also reports how St. John was extremely concerned about preserving the upright faith from the trends of heretic thoughts. He bases his report on the writings of St. Clement, bishop of Lyon. He reports that the Saint went into a public bath to bathe, and there he heard the heretic Kirnasius (proclaiming that the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ is an earthly one; and that He loved to go to dinners and engage in impure physical relationships). Upon hearing that, St. John jumped out in great dismay, and ran away as he could not bear to be under the same roof with that man. He told his companions to follow his example and said: “Let us escape lest the bath would collapse due to the presence of Kirnasius, who is the enemy of truth”3. * Using the words of Apollonious - who is believed to have been a bishop of Ephesus, Eusebius4 the historian, also tells us that the apostle St. John, by the grace of God, raised a person from the dead. *The scholar Tertullian5 reports that St. John was thrown into a tub filled with boiling oil and that the Lord rescued him. PLACE AND DATE OF WRITING According to the testimony of St. Iraneaus, Bishop of Lyon (177 A.D. - 200 A.D. approximately), who is a disciple of St. Policarpus, St. John delivered his Gospel to the bishops of Asia where he lived with them until the reign of Emperor Trajan. He had it published in Ephesus.6 This testimony continues to be accepted in both the Eastern and Western Churches with hardly any opposition. However, some critics have recently raised doubts concerning the authority of St. John and consequently questioned the place and date of his writings. Concerning the place of writing, some think it to be Antioch or Syria. They base their assumption on the information given in the Acts of Ignatius7 - (which is a document with uncertain date) - and which mentions that St. John was closely bound to Antioch. The response to this is that St. John did stay in Antioch for a short time, but then he went to Ephesus where he resided for a long while.. Other critics believe it was written in Alexandria and their claim to that is that the oldest manuscripts of St. John’s Gospel have been found in Egypt. They also explain that the writing reflects a Hellenic style that corresponds to the thought of the School of Alexandria and that had 1Collat. XXIV c.2 2 Eusebius: Hist Ecc 3:28. 3 Refer also to Eusebius 4:14 4 Eusebius: Hist.Ecc 5:18:4. 5 Tertullian: Praescrip., Haer., 36 6 Adv. Haer.3: 1:1 PG 7:844 7 PG 5:984 been inspired by Philo, the Jewish Alexandrian thinker. The response to this theory is that the academic climate of Egypt led the School to have it in its possession at a very early date. By having it at the School, the Gospel could play a significant role in the life of her church and its fathers. This does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that it was written in Egypt1. Concerning the rejection of some critics to the testimony that the Gospel was written in Ephesus, their view is based on the following: First: Most of the recent critics confirmed, during the first half of the twentieth century, that the style of writing of the Gospel of St. John is Gnostic and Hellenic. They say that it is a style that is not consistent with the First Century after Christ but belongs rather to the Second Century. Therefore, they insist that even if St. John was the one who wrote the original text, yet it had to have been rewritten by a Gnostic hand in Alexandria or Antioch during the Second Century. In 1947, the Manuscripts of the Dead Sea were discovered, as well as the complete Gnostic library found at almost the same time in Naga Hamadi in Upper Egypt. These confirmed the opposite of what these critics insisted upon. Consequently, scholars withdrew and believed in the veracity of ecclesiastic tradition. Most of them became convinced that the Gospel of St. John was written in the First Century and that St. John most probably is the one who wrote it while he lived in Ephesus. We will return to this subject when we will speak about “the Gospel of St. John and Gnosticism.” Secondly: Some critics have tried to raise doubts concerning belief that the Gospel was written by St. John in Ephesus. They claim that the saint was martyred with his brother by Herod Agrippa the First in Jerusalem in the year 44 A.D. They have presented evidence that can be refuted based on the following considerations: 1- In St. Mark’s Gospel, chapter 10:39, the verse says that James and John would drink of the same cup as the Lord Jesus Christ. They claim that this means that John must have been martyred with his brother; otherwise St. Mark would have changed his version. The response to that is that St. Mark was obligated to report the exact words of the Lord Jesus Christ, and had no right to alter any of them, thereby leaving the interpretation to the reader. The Lord used the cup as a symbol to prophecy the sufferings that the two disciples were to undergo. It does not necessarily indicate martyrdom or the spilling of blood 2. Besides, if Herod had killed the two brothers together, St. Luke would not have mentioned the death of James only (Book of the Acts of the Apostles). He would have mentioned both brothers: “Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also,” (Acts 12:2, 3). 2- The critics depended on a brief expression that occurs in the writings of two later authors: namely, Philip of Sidea, a writer of the Fifth Century; and George Hamartolus, who wrote in the Ninth Century. In their writings, they referred to Papayas who stated that the Jews had killed John and James. The response to their statements regarding that matter cannot be taken seriously since these two writers are known to be inaccurate historians3. C.K. Barrett states that Ireneaus and Eusebius are acquainted with the writings of Papayas and that he does not mention anything about the martyrdom of St. John4. Moreover, the fact that Philip of Sidea names St. John as the Divine leads one to be suspicious since St. john was not known by that title in the days of Babias- in the Second Century. Concerning what George Hamartolus has written, the matter was not taken seriously as he came back to the subject and reported that St. John had 2 Donald Guthrie: N.T. Introduction, 1975,p262 3 Ibid 4 The Gospel according to St. John, 1965, p87 passed away peacefully (without martyrdom). 3- In the Syrian records of the Acts of the Martyrs - 411A.D.1- the commemorations of St. John and St. James are celebrated on the same day, i.e. December 27. They are celebrated as two apostles from Jerusalem. This agrees with the Calendar of Carthage- written in 505A.D. approximately2. Yet some scholars point out the error that is made as the Baptist follows the name of St. John. Moreover, in the sermon of Fr Avrahat, 3 he says that we may add the names of John and James only to the names of Stephen, Peter, and Paul as apostles who died as martyrs. The response to the above is that some confusion has occurred between St. John the Baptist and St. John the Apostle. The following provides positive evidence that St. John did not die with his brother: 1- St. John is mentioned as one of the pillars of the Church in Galatians 9:2: and the date to that is after 44 A.D. 2- The archaeological finds of the. grave of St. John in Ephesus by Austrian scholars support the traditional ecclesiastic thought4. 3- According to Polycrates, the Bishop of Ephesus had written to Victorianus, the Bishop of Rome, in the year 190 A.D. approximately, to confirm that John the Apostle had lived in Ephesus and had died there5. Concerning the date of the writing of the Gospel of St. John, it was penned towards the end of the apostle’s life. This is based on ecclesiastical tradition. It is clear that it was written after the destruction of the temple of the Jews in Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D- (refer to Jn 2:19, 20; 4:21). Thus the writing took place probably during the period after the believers had been banned from the gatherings of the Jews around the years 85 to 90 A.D. - (refer to Jn 9:22; 16:2). THE AIM OF THE WRITING The Evangelist tells us about his object in writing the Gospel in the following words: “ …that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name,”(20:31). Note the following in the above verse: A- The word ‘believe’ occurs in Greek as ‘pioteonte’ and this appears in the Seniaid, Vatican, and Koredethi versions. It is used in the present tense and not in the past tense to indicate that the Gospel has been written to reinforce a faith that is established already6. Hence, he is not presenting a new faith, but rather he seeks to uphold the faith of the church, and which she already enjoys, and seeks to prevent anyone from deflecting from it. B- The core of faith is that Jesus is the Messiah, and that He is the Son of God. According to W.C.Van Unnick7, the word ‘Messiah’ is not a mere title but it necessarily implies ‘the one anointed’: ‘The anointed king.’ In contrast to the Gentiles, this is the issue that only the Jews could recognize. As for the expression ‘Son of God’ the Hellenic world could understand it more than others. In any case, the association of the two expressions was fundamental to indoctrinate and ascertain faith of those from Jewish or Gentile origin. Every believer has to recognize that Jesus is the subject of all the old prophecies, and that He is the Son of God and is consubstantial with Him in essence. Hence He is able to offer redemption and renew our nature. Scholars have remarked that the word ‘Messiah’ occurs in this Gospel only without any translation and just in its own right. It is as though St. John intends to underline the concept of 1 Cf. H Leitzmann: Diedrei altesten Martyrologien (Klein Texte, 2), 1911, p.7f 2 Ibid, p.5. 4 Nelson: A New Catholic Commentary on the Holy Scripture, 1969, p. 1033. 5Eusebius: H.E.3: 31:3; 5:24:3f. PG20: 485 6 Guthrie, p 271. 7 “The Purpose of St. John’s Gospel,” Stidia Evangelica. 1959, p382- 411 the Jews. Consequently, we find him presenting us with the words of Philip to Nathaniel: “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote…” (Jn 1:45). Also the invitation of Andrew to his brother Simon Peter: “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ) (Jn 1:41). This is the picture of the Lord Jesus Christ that we find in the Gospel of St. John from its very beginning - a Messianic picture1. It is the picture of Christ as the King and Messiah that the Jews have awaited for long, and Whom the Evangelist ascertains in more than one passage. He reports that when the Lord entered Jerusalem they “…cried out: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of Israel!’…His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him,” (Jn 12:13-16). Before Pilate, the Lord admitted that He had a Kingdom (Jn 18:33-37). He was claimed as King of the Jews (Jn 19:3, 12-15, 19, 20). St. John is the only one who reports that the crowds sought Him to crown Him as King but he withdrew from their midst (6:15). The Lord did so because their concept of a Messianic King was different from His own. This presentation of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Messiah King whom the Jews had been awaiting for so long, led some scholars to consider that St. John was a Jewish man with a bitter heart. They explain that this was due to the enmity that the Jews expressed towards the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what Lord Charnwood claimed in 1925. However, some scholars, such as F.Taylor, observe that this was not the main object; and that St. John was bitter towards anyone who expressed hostility towards the Lord, whether that came from a Jew or from a non-Jew. Other scholars- such as A.T. Robinson2 -find that the Apostle did not direct his Gospel to the Jews, but rather to Christians of Hellenic origin. C- The aim of this Gospel is to ascertain the Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, as He is the Son of God. The Apostle had no intention to go into theoretical discussions or philosophical arguments. He just proposes that we enjoy life in His Name. Our faith in the Lord’s divinity touches our lives and redeems our very souls. Consequently, after the New Testament had been written, the first sermon we find in our hands begins with these words3: [It is appropriate for us, dear brethren, to think of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Judge of the living and the dead. Therefore we should not belittle the issue of our redemption, for if we do, we will be belittling (the Lord Jesus Christ) and will consequently receive so little from Him4.] It is as though this Gospel comes to claim, with greater clarity and elaboration, what the other evangelists have presented to us. It announces the divine aspect. In this context, Origen says: [None of the evangelists announced the Lord’s divinity as clearly as St. John. He is the one through whom the Lord says: “ I am the Light of the world”, “ I am the Way, the Truth, the Life”, “ I am the Resurrection”, “ I am the Door”, “ I am the Good Shepherd”].Moreover, we find in Revelations: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last”5. In other words, this Gospel presents to us the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son, as well as the implications of this unique relationship in the lives of believers and its role in their redemption. By revealing the Person of Jesus Christ as the only Son of God, St. John wishes us to believe in Him, become saved, and attain eternal life. The evangelist underlines that the Lord’s contemporaries neither realized the full extent of His perfection nor the implications 1 Guthrie, p.272 2 New Testament Studies, Number 6, 1960. Pgs.117-131 4 Clem. 1:1:1L2 5 Commentary on the Gospel of St. John: P1, 6. of His words nor deeds. That seemed to be beyond their comprehension. His blood relatives, such as His Mother, and His brothers (His cousins), His friends, the Jewish teachers, the priests, as well as the Samaritan woman and Pontius Pilate…all these did not comprehend His words and were astonished at His acts1. * I dare to say, dear brethren that St. John himself did not speak of the issue in its entirety. Rather, he speaks insofar as he was able to comprehend. For he was a human being who spoke about God. It is true that God inspired him, yet he remained a human being2. St. Augustine D- The Lord preserved the life of this apostle and did not allow him to be martyred at an early time as the other disciples. It was His will that St. John would present to the young Church the Truth in a clear manner - the Gospel of St. John - and to lead her to the Day of the Lord so that She could ultimately perceive the opened heavens and the Revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. * Can’t you see, it is not without a reason that we say, this Apostle is speaking to us from heaven? Just observe how, from the very beginning, he attracts the soul upwards, and provides her with wings, and lifts up the minds of his hearers. In this manner, he lifts the soul above all that is tangible matter, and to heights above the earth and sky. He holds the soul’s hands and leads her to heights that are above the Cherubim and Seraphim themselves; and even above thrones, authorities, and powers. In a word, he urges her to go on a journey that transcends all creatures3. St. John Chrysostom * St. Paul’s spirit was heaven- bound and he said: “For our citizenship is in heaven,” (Phil 3:20). The same is true of St. James and St. John; and therefore were called ‘Sons of Thunder’ (Mk 3:17). St. John was like someone who lived in heaven and consequently saw the Word of God4. St. Ambrose St. John lived into the end of the First Century and was the last one from among the Lord’s disciples and apostles to leave this world. He lived to see a new generation of Christians, and he was - if we can correctly say so- the link between the Apostolic Era and the Post- Apostolic one. He wished to convey the final apostolic word about the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to protect the Church from the invasion of wrong ideas. Some scholars find that the Evangelist intended to face some of the Gnostic movements, such as Docetism, as these proclaimed that it is impossible for the Divine Word to become real flesh and incarnated. This was due to their perception of matter as being evil. Consequently, the Apostle ascertains in his Gospel that Jesus is truly the Son of God and that He truly became incarnate. This was not fiction, for he says: “The Word became flesh.” We could not have enjoyed redemption if He had not carried our nature in Him, and actually shared our life. The Evangelist reinforces the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ: in the wedding at Cana and as he takes on the role of everyone’s servant. He turns the water into wine, a task that involves creation, yet he presents it as a humble service and does not expect to be given a seat of honor. At the well of Sikhar, the Lord appears tired and thirsty. At the tomb of Lazarus, he is overcome and weeps. In the upper room, he washes His Disciple’s feet; and on the Cross, He got thirsty. 1 C.M. Laymon: The Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary on the Bible, 1980, p707 2 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate1: 1 3 Homily on St. John, 2:8. 4 Letter22: 5. The aim of this Gospel is to link the historical Jesus and the Lord who is present in His Church. He uses the events that occurred in the life of the Lord to proclaim His nature as the glorious God Who works in His Church1. OTHER AIMS OF THE GOSPEL OF ST JOHN Some scholars find that five theories have been proposed about the aim of writing the Gospel of St. John: 1- To allow the believer to attain the promise of eternal life through the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnated Son of God, and to make him experience heavenly matters as the Evangelist himself demonstrates (Jn 20:30-31). This is what we have discussed earlier. 2- To answer heretics and contemporary inventions, as well as antagonistic Jews. Doing so entails defending the Christian faith: a matter we will discuss later on. 3- The theory of wanting to complete what had been recorded in the other Gospels regarding other events. Among those who hold this theory are Eusebius the Caesarean2, and St. Jerome3. It is hard to believe that this is what the Evangelist aimed to accomplish. He really provides us with a revelation of the Holy Spirit through reporting the conversations and discussions between the Lord Jesus and certain persons and groups. These reveal the nature of the Lord, His redeeming mission, and His divine capacities. The Lord puts these to our service, besides granting us His sublime gifts and sending the Holy Trinity to live within us. St. John presents to us a wonderful and practical source of writing about the Living God and provides a most complete body of theological knowledge. An old tradition holds that St. John wrote his Gospel in answer to the request of the Bishops of Asia Minor who were his partners in the ministry. St. Clement of Alexandria reports (in about the year 190 A.D.) the following: [John, who is the last of them all, having understood the apparent facts revealed by the Gospels (the other ones), was urged by his disciples and inspired by the Holy Spirit to write a spiritual Gospel4.] It seems as though they requested him to write a theological interpretation to what the Apostles had written earlier on. Though, historically it is necessary to remark that each Evangelist has recorded his Gospel through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and has conveyed a distinctive theological principle that is also complimentary to the other Gospels. 4- St. Clement of Alexandria was inclined to side with what some called the didactic theory, which presents the Lord Jesus Christ as the Teacher. Although this is a fact, yet He is not a Teacher Who presents external or apparent knowledge. Rather, He is a Teacher Who embraces His students as members of His Body, savoring His life as a life they could live and attain as their own. 5- The theory of counteracting contemporary philosophies with the purpose of harmonizing between philosophy and Christian faith does not appeal to us. We do not believe that this is the object of the Holy Spirit. Rather, the object of writing this Gospel is to present the Divine Gospel Truth. It does not mean that this Truth rejects or opposes all philosophies, but that It sifts them and rejects all falsehoods. Especially during the time of St. Clement of Alexandria, the School of Alexandria was preoccupied with studying the possibility of harmonizing between the living Faith and philosophy. This involved what truths they embodied, and not what human 1 Cf. Oscar Cullmann: The N.T., 1968, p46. 2 Eusebius: H.E.3: 24. 3 Comm. On Matt., Prolong. 4 Eusebius: H.E. 6:14:5-7.PG 20:552 beings had corrupted by their dreams and imagination5. THE RESPONSE TO HERETICS, CONTEMPRORARY INVENTIONS, AND HOSTILE JEWS Some of the Church fathers, like St. Iraneaus- Bishop of Lyon1, St. Jerome2, and Victorinus of Pattau, as well as others, find that the aim of St. John’s Gospel is to respond to contemporary heresies and inventions and to the hostile Jews who resisted the Church. Victorinus of Pattau reports that towards the end of the Third Century and at the beginning of the Fourth Century, St. John wrote his Gospel after he had finished the Book of Revelation. [This was after heretics had spread their writings, such as: Valentinus, Kirenthus, Apyon. There were many others who belonged to this satanic school of teachings in all the other parts of the world. This obliged the bishops in the neighboring areas to meet with St. John and obligated him to write a Gospel of his testimony3.] It is true that the Apostle undertook the defense of Christian faith facing a number of groups who resisted the Church. However, his Gospel is essentially focused on the gift of the Holy Spirit Who has inspired the Evangelist to reveal the Divine Truth in touch with our redemption. Thus, His Gospel does not stop at the negative side. There is no doubt that this Gospel provides a living Source out of which the Church continues to drink and draw strength as she confronts the inventions that appear through the years. In the response of St. Iraneaus to heresies, he quoted one hundred verses out of St. John’s Gospel. Hipollituss; St. Athanasius, the Apostle; and St. Cyril, the Great quoted from him too. St. Clement of Alexandria often borrowed from him as well. FIRST: THE RESPONSE TO THE HOSTILE JEWS The resistance of the Jews to the Lord Jesus Christ is apparent in the three preceding Gospels. St. John uses the word ‘Jew’ seventy times, in contrast to its use five or six times in each of the corresponding Gospels. He uses the word to convey different meanings, such as the following: * With a national implication that has nothing to do with religion; for example, in the conversation with the Samaritan woman (9:4). * In the context of religious authority, such as the authority of those in Jerusalem who opposed the Lord Jesus Christ (22:9); 18:3; 8:13). The Bible makes a distinction between the words ‘the Jews’ and ‘Israel.’ The latter has a positive meaning and refers to the real inheritance mentioned in the Old Testament. St. John the Baptist had come to baptize with water until Jesus appeared to Israel (1:31). Nathaniel was described as an Israelite in whom there is no guile (1:47). When St. John speaks about the feasts and customs of the Jews (2:6, 13; 7:2) we do not get any sense that indicates embarrassment or scorn. The Jews resisted the Lord Jesus Christ: “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples,” (9:28). They sought to kill Him, therefore the Lord counted them as ‘children of Satan’ (8:44 -47). This is because they wanted to carry out the murderous acts of their father from the beginning of time. The Jews denied that He is the Messiah and the Son of God (5:18; 8:40-49). They conspired and planned to kill Him (10:30-39; 11:8-50). They banished from their gatherings 5 Fr Tadros Y. Malaty: The School of Alexandria, Introduction 2 Comm.on Matt., prolong. 3 PG 5:333 those who confessed their belief that He is the Messiah (9:22; 12:42). There was also another group called The Ibyonions. These were believers of Jewish origin. They were adamant that it was necessary for Christians to uphold Jewish customs and the tradition of the fathers. In their zeal for Moses and the prophets, they considered that the Lord Jesus Christ was merely the son of David and that he had never existed prior to His incarnation. They believed that the Lord was just a great prophet whom they had been expecting. They called themselves ‘Ibyonions’: that is a Hebrew word -ebyon- that means ‘poor.’ ST JOHN CLARIFIES THE FOLLOWING POINTS IN HIS GOSPEL: * There does not exist any sort of comparison between Moses- the recipient of the Commandments and the Law- and the Lord Jesus Christ the Giver of grace and Truth (1:17). The first provided manna, whereas the Latter is Himself the Bread of Life (Jn 6:23). * The end to Jewish traditions (1:-10). * Worship is not associated with the Temple (2:1-10) * The resentful Jews are not the children of Abraham, but rather the children of Satan (8:39-44). * The resentful Jews will not meet with Moses to share fellowship in the Lord’s glory for he will condemn them (5:45). SECOND: THE SUPPORTERS OF ST JOHN THE BAPTIST Some believe that a few of the disciples formed a group that glorified St. John the Baptist and favored him over Jesus Christ. They believed him to be the greater one since he came before Him, and since he was baptizing. In Recognitions, a work credited to St. Clement, we are told that these disciples considered St. John the Baptist to be their teacher and not Jesus. These people lived in the Christian world and they opposed Christianity. They were influential, especially in Ephesus (Acts 19:1-8). Those who hold that opinion - that this Gospel has been written to resist those who favor St. John the Baptist- find that the Evangelist ascertains that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Light of the world (1; 8-9); that the Lord came after St. John the Baptist although He really existed before St. John the Baptist; and that the Lord is greater than him (1; 30). Besides, he confirms that the Lord - and not St. John the Baptist- is the Messiah (1:20; 3:28); and that St. John the Baptist came to bear witness for the Lord so that the Lord increases while St. John the Baptist decreases (3:30). St. John confirms, through the testimony of St. John the Baptist himself, the greatness of the Lord Jesus Christ: The Baptist is not the Light but rather he is a witness to the Light (1:6-8); that he is not the Groom but the friend of the Groom (2:28-30); that he is not the Lamb bearing the sins of the world, but that the Messiah alone is the Lamb of God Who bears the sins of the world (1:29). This Evangelist has clearly proclaimed the deep feelings of the Lord Jesus Christ more than any of the others. This is powerfully apparent in the Lord’s final prayer in Chapter 17 when He prays out loud. Thus the Evangelist offers to us a picture of the Incomprehensible Lord which he admits is so hard to express: he leads us into the perfectly divine mystery and reveals the Lord’s utter manhood so that we stand in awe and astonishment! St. John did not ignore the greatness of St. John the Baptist, for he recognized that he was a messenger sent by God (1:60); and that he was the burning and shining light (5:35). THIRD: THE RESPONSE TO SOME INVENTIONS St. Iraneaus, who lived in the Second Century, mentions in his book ’Against Heresies’ that the Gospel of St. John opposes Kirenthus, of Asia Minor, who is the proponent of the Gnostic trend. St. Iraneaus believes that Kirenthus claimed that the Lord is the son of Joseph and that the Messiah is a heavenly element that descended upon Him at the time of His baptism, and that It departed from Him after His death. He also claimed that the Creation occurred through a creative power and not through God. St. Iraenius, the Bishop of Lyon mentions Ibyion together with Kirenthus; and this led St. Jerome to believe that the Gospel of St. John was written to answer Ibyion and his followers who belonged to a conservative Christian faction. There is also the opinion that St. John’s Gospel is directed against the declared Docetists who spoke about visualization concerning the body of the Lord. They claimed that Jesus, the Messiah, did not really become incarnated and that His body was not real but seemingly real or ethereal, or a fancy of the mind. Hence He appeared to be human and consequently His suffering and death were manifisted. FOURTH: A CALL TO DISPERSED CHRISTIANS OF JEWISH ORIGIN St. John mentions twice those who have believed in the Lord but who lacked the courage to proclaim their faith. Such people feared they would be banished from the meetings of the Sanhedrin. Mention is first made in Ch 12:42: “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.” The second mention occurs in Ch 19:38: “After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus.” FIFTH: SUPPORTING ALL CHRISTIANS IN THE WORLD, REGARDLESS OF ORIGEN The Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to be the Light for every person (1:9). He is the Lamb of God Who carries the sins of the world (1:29); He came to redeem the world (3:16); having been raised on the Cross, He attracts everyone to Him (12; 23); for He is the Savior of the world. The Jews scornfully wondered if He would go to the Dispersion to teach the Greeks (7:35). Thus they prophesied unwittingly of the work He would do among the Gentiles. We hear about that from some of the Greeks who asked Philip: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus,” (12:20-21). In talking about His task as a Good Shepherd, Jesus ascertains that He has other sheep that do not belong to this fold and that He must bring them so that there will be one flock and one Shepherd (10:16). In 4:35, we learn that the Lord has come to save not only the Jewish nation but to gather and unify the dispersed children of God. Some Samarians made the acquaintance of the Lord and recognized Him as the Savior of the world. He Looked upon the fields of Samaria and found that they were white and ready to be harvested (4:35). THE GOSPEL OF ST JOHN AND THE SYNOPTIC GOSPELS1 Although the Gospel of St. John is different from the analogous or Synoptic Gospels- the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke- yet we cannot chop it completely away from them. This is because the Evangelist assumes we have knowledge of the preceding three publications; or that at least we are familiar with the tradition on which they are based 2. The first ecclesiastical opinion is embodied in the words of St. Clement of Alexandria3 1 We have previously dealt with the Synoptic Gospels in the Introduction of the book: The Gospel according to St. Matthew, 1983, p.18-23. 2 Cullmann, p.45. 3 Eusebius: H.E.6: 14:5-7 and this states that St. John wanted to present a spiritual interpretation to the three Gospels written earlier. This opinion has prevailed throughout the ages and is still accepted by many scholars. However, some recent critics find no positive or negative relationship between this Gospel and the other three. Others believe that St. John knew St. Mark and St. Luke but did not know St. Matthew. It is worthy to note that we assume that the reader is familiar with the other three Gospels. For example, in John 1:40 St. Andrew is introduced to us as follows: “…Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother…” although no previous mention had been made of St. Peter. In John 6:67, St. John assumes that the reader is familiar with the twelve disciples. In John 1:23- 34, he records St. John the Baptist’s witness for the Lord, and assumes that the reader knows about the Lord’s Baptism at his hands. Some are of the opinion that the three Gospels are similar to the itinerary or journey of the Lord Jesus Christ from Galilee to the holy City where He offered Himself as the unique Passover offering. On the other hand, they find that the Gospel of St. John relates a number of occasions when Jesus resided in Jerusalem; and he mentions the feast of the Passover three consecutive times. Finally, he speaks about the eve of the last Passover when the Lord died as the Lamb of God in order to present a new feast for the whole world, to be filled with the joy of His Resurrection, an event that would be commemorated and celebrated as “the Christian Passover.” St. John the Beloved has recorded this Gospel through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; and after the time of the writing of the three Synoptic Gospels. He records his Gospel to the universal Church to clarify the nature of the Savior, who is the divine and eternal God, the Son of God, and the Savior of the world * It is for a good reason that St. John begins his story with the Eternal Presence. In contrast, St. Matthew starts his Gospel with the relationship of the Lord with Herod, the king; whereas St. Luke starts with Tiberius Caesar; and St. Mark starts with the Lord’s baptism at the hands of St. John the Baptist. St. John skips all these matters and crosses over all the times and ages1. * Why does St. John speak briefly about God’s plan: “And the Word became flesh…” (14), whereas the other evangelists began by speaking about it? He left out all the other matters: the pregnancy, His birth, His upbringing, and His growth to… speak promptly about His eternal Being? …He does so in order to frustrate those who wish to belittle that subject, and to attract them towards heaven. That is why it is for a good reason that he starts his story from a heavenly peak and from the eternal Being. Thus while St. Matthew, St. Luke and St. Mark begin by speaking respectively about king Herod, Tiberius Caesar, and the Baptism of St. John the Baptist; St. John the Evangelist abandons all these matters and draws the minds of his listeners to the ‘Beginning.’ He does not wish their thoughts to be attached to any detail or be bound by certain limits as the other evangelists have done by mentioning Herod and Tiberius and John. What we are trying to indicate is that it is astonishing that St. John, who dedicated himself to this sublime teaching, did not ignore the Plan (of Redemption). The other evangelists were not confined to these limits either and are not silent about His actual Being before all ages. It is for a good reason that One Spirit moved all these souls and they therefore demonstrated great harmony in their stories2. St. John Chrysostom 1 Hom.4. PG 59:27. 2 Homily 4:1. * St. John was particularly favored, above all the other companions and evangelists, and granted a special gift from the Lord. He leaned on His chest during the Passover - an indication that he drank deeper mysteries out of the Lord’s profound heart. Consequently, he spoke of matters that pertained to the Son of God. These matters could arouse the curious minds of children but they would not satisfy them as they are beyond their comprehension. On the other hand, for those who are more developed and have attained some kind of inner manhood, these matters provide words that can be experienced and are fulfilling1. * In the four gospels, or more correctly in the four books that constitute one message of good news or ‘gospel’, St. John is deservedly likened to an ‘eagle’ due to his spiritual discernment. Through his words, he has achieved greater and more sublime heights than all the other three evangelists. By his ascendance, he has sought to elevate our hearts too. This is because the other three evangelists walked with the Lord on earth as though He was a human being. They speak very rarely about His Divinity. As for St. John, it is as though he belittles His passage on earth- as is evident in the introduction. He shakes us with his thundering words and carries us not merely above the earth, but beyond all the surrounding air and skies. Indeed, he carries us above all the angelic hosts and other ethereal armies. Thus he attains the One Whom ‘all things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made’2. St. Augustine St. John relates only the following events in the way the other three gospels do, but that is where all resemblance ends: * The Lord’s Baptism- (by implication) 1:23-34. * The Cleansing of the Temple 2:13-16. * The Feeding of the Crowds 6:1-13. * Walking on the Water 6:16-21. * The Anointing in Bethany 12:1-8. * The Lord’s Triumphal Entry in Jerusalem 12; 12-19. * Announcing the Betrayal 13:21-30. * His Sufferings and Resurrection presented in a special way. Besides, St. John mentions seven miracles only. He chooses them out of countless miracles and wonders; and the ones he relates are new to us since any other evangelist does not relate them. An exception to that is the Lord’s walking on the waters; and the feeding of the crowds, which he records as an introduction to his words about the Eucharist. St. John mentions events and conversations that have not been mentioned by any of the evangelists and thus his words are new to our ears. He does not repeat what has been mentioned before, such as the birth of Christ, His lineage, His temptation, the sermon on the mount, the transfiguration, the parables, the last supper, the suffering in the garden of Gethsamene, the resurrection, etc…he is often satisfied by merely alluding to them. THE GOSPEL OF ST JOHN IN THE LIGHT OF THEOLOGY AND HISTORY There is no doubt the St. John’s Gospel has a distinctive character that sets it apart from the other gospels. Thus if the latter have been inspired by the Holy Spirit for a historical purpose while each, at the same time, focuses on one specific aspect of the Lord Jesus Christ; then this Gospel has an overwhelming theological nature, even though it is also presented within a historical framework. St. Mark mentions one trip from Galilee to Jerusalem (Mk10:1). As for St. John, he 1 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate18: 1 2St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 36:1 mentions three trips (Jn2:13; 5:1; 7:10). In St. Mark’s Gospel, the event of the cleansing of the Temple is related towards the end of the book (Mk 11:15); whereas in St. John, it is mentioned near the beginning (Jn 2:13 etc…). St. John the Evangelist focuses on the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He wishes to proclaim that the Word of God Who transcends time has submitted to time, and consequently holds a place in the history of mankind. Actually, he did not wish his Gospel to be an exposition and history of the life of the Lord; but rather intended to underline His reality as the Logos - the Divine Word, the Light, the Truth, the Life, the Resurrection, etc…It is as though this Gospel intends to ascertain that to experience the internal joy of the Kingdom of God, it is essential to get acquainted with the Person of the Messiah and Redeemer; and to realize how His mysteries work within us. That is why the Lord submitted to time and ‘the Word became flesh’ (1:14). As human beings, we are clothed with flesh that obeys and submits to the factor of time. By willingly submitting to time and invading our history through His incarnation, the Lord Jesus Christ has not shattered time but has sanctified it in a special manner. That could explain why St. John speaks intensely about the ages and the times. He says: “…now it was about the tenth hour…” (1:39); “…it was about the sixth hour…” (4:6; 19:14); “It has taken forty-six years to build the Temple…” (2:20); “…and it was winter.” (10:23); “And it was night.” (13:30). The Apostle’s interest in recording time could be to underline that the Lord had a real body and became part of the history of mankind. His incarnation was not mere fiction as some have claimed, such as the Docetists. As St. John delves deeper into theology, and as he is the first theologian, he explains to us God’s Intention and “Plan” (in Greek, ‘eikos ecomomia’, eikos meaning house, nomos meaning law or tradition): “Wisdom built herself a house” (Prov 9:1). Wisdom is the Lord, and the first house for Him is the holy Virgin Mary. By His incarnation through her, the Lord came into the world. The holy Virgin is the image of the Church that is also the house of God (1 Cor 3:9-17)1. THE RISE IN THE IMPORTANCE OF THE HISTORICAL ASPECT Recently, some scholars have attempted to interpret the Gospel of St. John from a purely theological perspective, and thereby missing its historical value. However, they have found themselves faced with this reality:this theology has been recorded within a historical framework2. Consequently, the trend grew towards the inclusion of the historical, social, and geographical aspects of this Gospel; giving special importance to the events that have been recorded in it and are not found in the other Gospels. Examples of these studies are those made by each of these scholars: Albright, Higgins, Leal, Pallard, Stauffer, and others. These have focused on the following3: 1- The events recorded in Chapter four which speak about the Samaritans: their theological beliefs, their manner of worship on the Mount of Ghorazim, and the exact location of Jacob’s well. 2- In Chapter five, there is detailed information about the pool of Bethesda: its name, location, and architecture. 1 The Monastery of St. George for Skills, The Gospel of St. John, A Reading and Commentary, 1986, p.10. 2 The Anchor Bible: R.E.Browm: The Gospel according to John (1-X11), 1981, p. XL1. 3 The Anchor Bible: R.E.Browm: The Gospel according to John (1-X11), 1981, p. XL11. 3- Theological essays concerning the Feast of the Passover (Chapter 6); and the Feast of the Tabernacles (Chapter 7, 8). These provide us with accurate information about certain celebrations and feasts, and the readings made in the Jewish Temple during these occasions. 4- Specific details about Jerusalem: such as those mentioned about the pool of Siloam (9:7); Solomon’s Porch being a shelter in the winter time (10:22-23); and the Pavement in the court of Pontius Pilate (19:13). In other words, we may state that this Gospel presents us with accurate knowledge about Palestine before the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D. and the demolition of its landmarks. CHARACTERISTICS OF ST JOHN’S GOSPEL 1- A Gospel of Divine Holiness This Gospel reveals to us God’s holiness in a marvelous and joyful way. The word ‘holiness’ in Greek is ‘ayios’ and means non-terrestrial. Holiness is a name that pertains to God alone and St. John uses it to proclaim matters beyond our comprehension. In the past, God’s holiness was associated with fear: “…so that all the people who were in the camp trembled,” (Ex 19:12 -25). “You cannot see My Face, for no man shall see Me and live” (Ex 33:20). “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips…For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts,” (Is 6:5). The Gospel of St. John reveals to us the depths of the New Testament as he announces that the Heavenly has descended on earth and His holiness is associated with glory and not with fear: “…the Word… dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory…” (Jn 1; 14). 2- A Gospel of Faith Activated by Redemptive Love This Gospel is characterized by its use of certain terms that are repeated, and that are different from those that occur in other Gospels. Probably, the most important words repeatedly used are: believe- (98 times); know- (55 times); live- (55 times); testify- (21 times). These words have not been repeated at random or without reason, but it is done by the will of divine inspiration in order to reveal the aim of this Gospel: that is to instill faith based on spiritual knowledge, so that man may live with a spirit of love. Note that the word ‘believe’ has been used 98 times, out of which it has occurred 74 times in the first 12 chapters. These chapters are called ‘the book of wonders or miracles’, and they cover seven miracles made by the Lord. They all seem to focus on ‘faith’ as it is the mysterious essence of our life and redemption. Note also that the word ‘believe’ occurs in this Book 39 times to convey not just the belief in the Lord’s words, but the necessity that man surrender himself to God or that he move towards Him in a practical manner and as indicated in 12:11: “…because on account of Him many of the Jews went away and believed in Him.” It could be that the word originates from the Hebrew language and means that a person surrenders himself trustfully 1. The word ‘know’ occurs repeatedly too. This enables the Apostle to ascertain that faith, that implies the trustful surrender to God, involves the surrender of the wise soul that accepts God’s love and becomes acquainted with his mysteries, and consequently runs into His embrace. Faith is not accepted by the foolish, and it does not imply ignorance, but it goes side by side with real knowledge. That is especially true of the knowledge God Himself reveals and makes acceptable to the mind; for even though it exceeds the mind’s ability, yet it does not oppose or contradict one’s being in any manner. Knowledge in this context does not imply mere theoretical understanding. It implies full unity and integration with Love and Truth: fellowship with Life. The Evangelist clarifies this point in his First Epistle: “…that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us, and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ,” (1Jn:1:3). The purpose of that knowledge is to have ‘fellowship with God’ so that he may live and work within us. Consequently, we will embody the nature of His love. This love is a sacrificial love that He pours within us so that we may experience and live it in practice. The Gospel tells us: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life,” (3:16). This is the redeeming love that the Son has offered, as the Lord explains: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself,” (12:32). “…when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end,”(13:1). Faith in the Cross enlightens our perception, and enables us to get acquainted with God as the redeeming Lover of mankind. Hence the Lord confirms: “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He,” (8:28). We will know Him as the living God, who loves His creation to the very end. That explains how faith is associated with knowledge and love: leading man to experience the living faith through spiritual knowledge, and to practice the nature of love. The Redeeming Love that we taste and that consequently leads us to respond to God with love arises from the eternal nature of love that exists between the Father and the Son (3:35; 15:9). Through that love, we too show it towards one another (13:14). Thus, the evangelist St. John, who is the apostle of love, speaks to us about the following: - God’s love for the Lord Jesus Christ. - God’s love for mankind revealed through offering His only begotten Son. - The Lord Jesus Christ’s redeeming love for mankind, especially in His farewell words. - Our love for God. - Our love for one another as an indication of our fellowship with the Divine Love. 3- The Gospel of Truth The word ‘truth’ occurs in this Gospel 25 times. It is used in a different sense than that used by the Gnostics or the Hellenic writers1. Here ‘truth’ is not the fruit of mere human thought, or a human philosophy to be acquainted with. Rather, it is the ‘evangelical truth’ that implies the following: First: The Divine Word Himself who frees the soul from bondage to sin: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” (8:32). Through the Divine Word, we become holy according to the farewell words of the Lord: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth (17:17). Second: It is divinely announced to us, for the Lord says: “He who is from God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God,” (8:47). Also, “ But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom God will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (14:26). Third: Truth implies living and practicing a way of life: “But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen that they have been done in God,” (3:21). “…Walking in truth,” (2 Jn:4). 4-The Gospel of the Spirit The Evangelist transports us to the realms of divinity in order to acquaint us with the holy mysteries. He enables us to taste and experience them. In this way, there is no need for human 1 Nelson: A New Catholic Commentary on the Holy Scripture, 1969, p 1035 controversies or philosophical debates. Rather, there is the need for the Holy Spirit Who enlightens our inner sight. Since it is the Spirit that inspires the Apostle to write, then he asks his readers to enjoy the work of the Spirit. Consequently, they will be enabled to understand the mysteries of the written Word, and perceive the redemptive Divine work as events unfold. The disciples were not spiritually guided to understand the words of the Lord Jesus Christ until He was glorified, for He said to them: “Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up”…‘Therefore when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said,’ (Jn2:19, 22). ‘His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him,’ (12:16). ‘For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead,’ (20:9). They had heard the words of the Lord and witnessed the events, yet they needed the Spirit to open their inner sight so that they could understand and believe. It is for this reason that St. John underlines that physical sight alone is insufficient and that faith is what grants the sight to gain inner vision. ‘Jesus said to them: “But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe,”’ (6:36). “ And this is the will of the Father who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up the last day,” (6:40). “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed,” (20:29). ‘…And immediately blood and water came out. And he who had seen testified and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe,’ (19:34, 35). ‘Then the other disciple who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed,’ (20:8). The Gospel clearly states that there are those who perceive with the physical eye, but do not discern with their inner vision: ‘And Jesus said: “…I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be blind”,’ For it is through faith that the Gentiles saw the One Whom they had not seen actually in the flesh. In contrast, the Jewish leaders were blinded in spite of having seen Him with their own physical eyes. The same principle of physical and spiritual sight applies also to the sense of hearing. There are those who hear the sound with their ears yet their inner ears are closed. The Bible tells us: ‘Then a voce came from heaven, saying: “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered…’ (12:28, 29). * The words of St. John do not matter at all to those who do not wish to be liberated from this earthly bestial world. Moreover, no benefit is gained from worldly matters. Thunder shocks us, as it is a sound void of meaning; whereas the voice of that Man comforts a believer and relieves his weariness. It does not upset us: it upsets devils only and their slaves.1 St. Augustine 5- The Gospel Witnessing for the Lord Jesus Christ There is no doubt that the essence of apostolic life is to be a witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. And St. John writes his Gospel to proclaim his testimony for the Lord as He is the ‘Messiah, the Son of God.’ He presents his confirmation in a manner that would appeal to the 1 Homilies on St. John, Hom1: 4. mentality of the Jews and within the framework of their traditions. Therefore he presents a number of different testimonies: A- The Testimony of the Law for Jesus Christ: St. John clearly explains that He fulfills what came in the Books and prophecies, which specifically refer to the events pertinent to His sufferings (12:38; 13:18; 15:25; 17:12; 18:9; 9:24; 19:24, 36). The Lord Himself asks us to search the Scriptures (5:39). B- The Testimony of St. John the Baptist: (1:7, 15, 19, etc…; 3:26, etc…; 5:53, etc…). C-The Samaritan Woman: (4:39). D- The Testimony of the Crowds: (12:17) E- While the Lord proclaims that man cannot be his own witness, He clarifies that the Father witnessed for Him on various occasions: (5:31-36; 8:17 etc…; 10:37; 14:10 etc…). F- The Testimony of the Holy Spirit for Him (15:26, etc…). G- The Testimony of the Disciples for Him (15:27). We will postpone, at this point, writing about the testimony for Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the confirmation of His divinity. We will deal with these issues when we get to the main exposition of the Gospel in order to avoid repetition and unnecessary extension. Actually, this subject is the core of the Gospel and the Evangelist opens and ends his Book with it: he clarifies the eternal relationship that exists between the Father and the Son. This is what angered the Jews and drove them to seek to kill Him (5:18). Notice how St. John, the beloved, focuses the light of the Lord Jesus Christ on certain persons as he relates them to the Lord. Thus, he calls St. Mary ‘the mother of Christ’, and calls himself as “the disciple whom Jesus Loved.’ It is as though the saints carry names merely to indicate their closeness to the Lord Jesus Christ. 6- The Gospel for the New Commandment or the Gospel of Love Although this Gospel has not reported the Sermon on the Mount, or the Parables of the Lord, or any rules related to Him specifically; yet it presents to us a new commandment that the Lord has focused upon. This commandment is neither a charter of rules nor a code of laws. Rather, it is a way of love that does not burden man but that offers fellowship in the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lover of Mankind. He Himself says: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another,” (13:34, 35). He spoke in length about the relationship of God and the universal Church as being one of love. Union with the Church is like union between newly wedded couples. St. John the Baptist describes the Lord as the Groom/Bride of the Church: “He who has the bride is the bridegroom…therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled,” (3:25-28). He also ascertains that growth is achieved by eating His Body: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever…,” (6:48-51). The Lord likens Himself to the good Shepherd (10:11); the Doorkeeper (10:3); and the Door (1:7). He then describes Himself as the Vine and the Church as the Branches (Ch 15). In this Gospel, the writer is described as the one who leaned on the Lord’s bosom, and as the disciple whom Jesus loved. The Lord is depicted as the One who shares with people their daily lives as for example in the wedding at Cana (Jn 2); and at the tomb of Lazarus, when the Lord shares the grief of the sisters and weeps (Jn 11). The same is evident when the faith of someone grows weak: as in the case of Thomas, and the Lord strengthens him (20:27-28); and when Paul fails, the Lord encourages him not to retreat and supports him by telling him about love (21:15-18). St. John introduces the Lord’s farewell speech by saying: “…having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (13:1). This is no exaggeration, for He sacrificed Himself for our sakes: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (3:16). Note that in the Gospel of St. John, there is no explicit parable except when the Lord speaks about the good Shepherd (Jn 10). 7- The Messiah of the Joyful Youth The Lord began His service by attending the wedding at Cana, for He is the Friend of young people and the Source of their joy. St. John does not mention the names of the couple at whose wedding the Lord went and made His first miracle (Jn 2). They were probably related to the Lord by family ties and consequently He had been invited with His mother to attend. 8- The Gospel records the Dialogues of the Lord Most of these come in the form of questions or arguments directed to Him. Through His responses, the Lord reveals the truth about Himself and His mission. As examples, we mention the following: * Nathaniel: “How do you know me?” (1:48). * The Jews: “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” (2:18). * Nicodemus: “How can these things be?” (3:9). * The Samaritan Woman: “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” (4:9). * The Jews: “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” (6:52). * At the Feast of the Tabernacles: “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?” (7:15). * The Crowds: “You have a demon. Who is seeking to kill you?” (7:20). * The Scribes and the Pharisees: “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” (5:8). * The Jews: “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?” (8:33). - “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” (8:48). - “Are You greater than our father Abraham who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do you make Yourself out to be?” (8:53). - “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” (8:57). * The Disciples: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (9:1). That is how this Gospel achieves its aim: it presents the questions and the arguments and how the Lord answers and reveals His mysteries! The Gospel also contains a number of general speeches and that could be directed to certain people: 1- Baptism and the New Birth (3:1-21). 2- Eternal Life (4:5-21). 3- The Source of Eternal Life (5:19-47). 4- The Bread of Life (6:29-59). 5- The Teacher of the Truth (7:14-29). 6- The Light of the World (8:12-20). 7- The Crucified Lord is the focus of faith (8:21-30). 8- The Spiritual Liberator (8:31-59). 9- The Good Shepherd (10:1-180. 10- The Oneness of the Divinity (10:22-38). 11- The Savior of the World (12:20-36). The Gospel also presents the Lord’s farewell speeches to His disciples. He speaks to them about the following: 12- His Death on behalf of the Whole World (12:20-36). 13- Holiness and Sanctification (13:31-14:31). 14- Union with the Lord (15:1-27). 15- The Holy Spirit, the Comforter (16:1-33). 9-A Liturgical Gospel The Gospel of St. John is the most ‘liturgical’ of all Gospels. In other words, it proclaims the mysterious presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. He announces the presence of the Lord at the wedding of Cana- not as a mere guest- but as the mystery of a hidden joy as He turns the water into wine. He reveals His divine presence through His conversation with Nicodemus, at night, about the mystery of baptism. This is also portrayed in the healing of the man of Bethesda. As soon as the Lord gave up His spirit, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear. At once, water and blood came out (19:34). This is the Blood of the Eucharist, and the Water of Baptism. It is as though the Church is born at this instance: a new Eve is born from the side of the second Adam. Thus the Messianic events and speeches in this Gospel have a truly liturgical quality embodying ecclesiastical mysteries. Examples are found in the dialogue of the Lord with Nicodemus about the new birth or baptism (Jn3), and in His speech with the crowds that can be called Eucharistic speech (Jn 6). 10- The Gospel of Power and Energy The Gospel of St. John is characterized by a distinct and dynamic energy. It offers us the flow of creation towards the Father through the Messiah and the Lord Jesus Christ: “…Jesus knew…that He had come from God and was going back to God,” (3:1, 3). It is a true Passover episode through which the Lord raises believers into the Father’s embrace through the Cross. He says: “Your Father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (5:56). The Gospel of St. Mark is likened to a lion as it makes believers rejoice with the heavenly hosts, singing hymns of victory and thereby sounding like conquering lions. The Gospel of St. Luke is likened to a bull’s face: a symbol of believers who give their lives as a sacrificial offering of love to God in the name of the Lord Who is the true sacrificial Offering. The Gospel of St. Matthew is likened to the face of a man. In contrast, the Gospel of St. John is likened to an eagle that carries us up and soars to the heights of divinity. He leads us upwards into the heavens themselves to acquaint us with the sublime mysteries of God, and hence we can exclaim: “…and we beheld His glory!” (1:14). 11- His Interest in Certain Numerals For example, the number 3 is used to record in the following instances: * The Lord goes to Galilee three times. * In Galilee, He chooses to do three miracles; * The Lord goes to Judea three times; * There, He does three miracles; * The Gospel records three out of the seven pronouncements the Lord makes while hanging on the Cross! * It speaks of three appearances of the Lord after His Resurrection. He was also interested in the number 7: * The Gospel mentions seven witnesses for the Lord (review the section here entitled A Gospel witnessing for the Lord, the Messiah) * In the whole Gospel of St. John, only seven miracles/ wonders performed by the Lord are recorded. * The expression ‘the last Day’ is repeated seven times. 12- His Style is Absolutely Overwhelming In reading the Gospel of St. John, the believer experiences a special pleasure for he discovers the ultimate in spiritual inspiration. The style is pure and extraordinary in that the writing is robed in apparent simplicity. The topic is the ‘Messiah’ Himself Who is the ‘Word of God.’ It is He Who raises the soul to enable her to discover the Divine Mysteries through Him and with no intermediary. St. John lived for more than half a century after the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. He meditated on Him by the help of the Holy Spirit Which the Lord had promised to send: “ …for He dwells with you and will be in you…He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you,” (14:17, 26). “…He will guide you into all truth…” (16:13). His personal experience with the Lord during His life on earth, and the special place he held as His disciple, enabled his soul to take flight, through the Holy Spirit, and explore heavenly matters. Consequently, his spirit enjoyed her beloved and glorified Lord Jesus Christ; and he was enabled to write, by the spirit, this Gospel. He sought to elevate every soul so that it would taste that very same experience. 13- The Last Book of the Holy Bible to be Written We have mentioned that this Gospel is distinguished from among the Synoptic Gospels as it was written towards the end of the First Century. It was probably the last book of the Holy Bible to be written. It was done with the purpose of completing, rather than repeating, what had been written before. Consequently, it possesses the following features: * Whereas all the written Gospels are concerned with the service of the Lord in Galilee, and have not dealt with any other trip except the one the Lord took to Jerusalem in the last week of His life on earth; this Gospel is more concerned with the Lord’s service in Judea, in Jerusalem, and in the Temple. That explains why some have called the first Gospels ‘Galilean’ Gospels, while they called St. John’s Gospel ‘The Jerusalem Gospel.’ * The first Gospels relate in simple language the Lord’s interaction and dialogues with the common people. As for ‘The Jerusalem Bible’, it deals with the interaction between the Lord and the Jewish scholars and leaders more than with His interaction with the public. Consequently, some scholars claim that the Messiah of the Synoptic Gospels seems to be different than the One portrayed in ‘The Jerusalem Gospel.’ Actually, it is the Lord Jesus Christ Who speaks to the people in a common language: He draws on examples from their daily lives, is He Himself who uses another form of language when he converses with scholars and frankly reveals Himself and His Father. This led the disciples to tell Him: “See, now You are speaking plainly, and using no figure of speech!” (16:29). 14- A Combined Artistic and Historical Unity The Gospel of St. John represents an artistic and historical unity, so wonderful and unique. The Lord’s sermons and dialogues are linked to events concerning time, place and objectory. St. John includes seven miracles linked to seven speeches that reveal the nature of the Lord and His divine mysteries. 15- The Use of Analogy This Gospel is distinguished by its use of analogy or parallels. We mention the following as examples of this feature: * The Book of Genesis begins by the sentence: ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’ St. John starts his Gospel as follows: ‘In the beginning was the Word…All things were made through Him…’ * The act of Creation was completed in six days; and the renewal of the Creation started from the sixth day after St. John the Baptist began witnessing for the Lord (1:19-2:1), to the moment the Lord attended the wedding at Cana. At that event, He changed the water of our lives into the wine of His love. * We find a parallel and contrast between the vacillating Nicodemus, a Jewish leader (Ch 3), and the Samaritan woman who is an outsider yet witnesses for Him and attracts the whole city (Ch 4). * When he spoke about eating His holy Body, many were repulsed (6:66). This is paralleled and contrasted by the disciples’ increasing devotion to Him. This is expressed by St. Paul who says: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life… .” Also, we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” (6:68, 69). * When the Lord opened the eyes of the person who was born blind (Ch9), the Pharisees met to challenge Him and claimed that He was a sinner (9:24). In contrast, the one who was healed witnessed for Him right before their eyes and challenged them with his words. Therefore the Lord said: “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be blind,” (9:39). 16- Variations in Style St. John’s Gospel displays a variety of styles. Thus he sometimes uses symbolism, at others he uses a narrative style, besides using dialogue, sermons, logical reasoning- (Sophism), didactic or instructive style…However, all along, he maintains a harmony and fluency that achieves a unified and complete literary work that indicates that it is written by one person. Indeed, one of the features that characterize this Gospel is its language. While the expressions ‘the kingdom of God’ and ‘the kingdom of heaven’ occur often in the Synoptic Gospels, they are used twice only in St. John’s Gospel. In contrast, the expression ‘I am He’ is repeated in this Gospel while it is not found in the other Gospels1. THE GOSPEL OF ST JOHN AND THE OLD TESTAMENT The Gospel of St. John is considered the Gospel that quotes the least or that quotes indirectly from the Old Testament. In the Greek text- the ‘Nestle Greek Text’- we find only 14 quotations taken from the Old Testament. In the ‘Westcott-Hort’ text, we find 27 quotations taken from the Old Testament. In contrast, there are 70 in the Gospel of St. Mark, 109 in St. Luke, and 124 in St. Matthew. In spite of this, many scholars find a strong link between the Gospel of St. John and the Old Testament since the picture he draws of the Lord Jesus Christ is consistent and typical with that presented in the Old Testament: both present the Lord as the Messiah, the suffering slave, the King of Israel, and the Prophet2. Donald Guthrie3 reports that the great emphasis put on the extent to which Hellenism has affected the Gospel of St. John has hampered the study of the Old Testament in the light of St. John’s Gospel. Actually, St. John presents the Lord Jesus Christ as part of Jewish history; and that when the Jews rejected Him they were really rejecting Someone related to them: ‘He came 2 F.M. Braum: Jean le Theologien, t. 11,Les Grandes Traditions D’Israel, 1964 3 Guthrie, p.237 to His own, and His own did not receive Him,’ (1:11). The Lord went to the Temple and practiced his rightful authority ‘when He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen…’ (2:15). Nicodemus who was a ruler of the Jews knew the rights of the Lord as a Teacher (3:12). The Lord considered Himself as one of the Jews who had the promise of salvation. Accordingly, He tells the Samaritan woman: “…we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews,” (4:22). Some scholars find that the Old Testament is of paramount importance and influence on this Book, especially the Books of Genesis and Exodus, as St. John moves from the letter of the word to the Spirit of the word; and from the shadow and symbol to the Truth: 1- The Book of Genesis opens by speaking about God as the Creator who has conceived the whole world out of His love for mankind. The Gospel of St. John opens by speaking about the Word of God (the ‘Logos’) through Whom everything came into being. He is the Creator and the Renovator of creation, He enlightens every person with His brilliance. 2- St. John underlines the struggle between the Lord and Satan who has murdered people since the beginning of time (Gen 3; Jn 8:44). The Lord has granted us victory over Satan, as He says: “now the ruler of this world will be cast out (12:31). For He has come Who is born of a woman and Who shall bruise the serpent’s head (Gen 3:15). 3- In the Book of Exodus, the Ark of the Tabernacle represents a sanctuary in which God lived in the middle of His people. St. John’s Gospel comes to claim the glory of the Son of God incarnated and dwelling among us (1:14). 4- The healing bronze serpent (Num 21:4-9), is a symbol of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior (Jn 3:14). 5- The heavenly manna (Ex 16), is a symbol of the sacrificial Body of the Lord (6:25- 58). 6- The water from the rock (Ex 17:1-7), is a symbol of the Lord Jesus Christ who says: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink,” (7:37). 7- The pillar of fire that served for light to them (Ex 13:21-22), points to His words: “I am the Light of the world” (8:12; 12:35). 8- In Exodus, God reveals Himself to Moses and says: “I AM” or “I AM WHO I AM” (3:14). The Lord Jesus Christ ascertains more than once in St. John’s Gospel and says: “I am He.” 9- The Passover occupies a central place in the Book of Exodus (Ch 12). During the Passover, the Israelites crossed from Egypt and out of slavery to flee towards the Promised Land. The Gospel of St. John comes to reveal to us the real Passover: it is our crossing away from this world and going to the Father (13:1, 16:28). The Evangelist mentions the three Feasts of the Passover that were celebrated during the Lord’s service on earth. If he had not mentioned them, we would not have been able to know that the Lord had lived for about three years and a half after the thirty years preceding His baptism. * At the first feast (2:13 etc..), The Lord cleaned the Temple, and in doing so proclaimed His zeal for it. He ascertained to the Jews that He would rebuild a new Temple in three daysthrough the resurrection of the temple of His Body. * At the second feast (6:4 etc…), the Lord announced the offering of His sacrificial Body as the true Bread granting eternal life. * At the third feast (12; 31), the hour had come for His glorification as He rose on the Cross, thereby granting His believers eternal life. 10- The Lord gives new meanings to the Old Testament: the Jews, according to the Old Testament, proudly maintained to be the children of Abraham who was given the promise. They proclaimed that they observed the law - especially by observing the Sabbath. The Lord clarified to them that He is the Only Begotten Son and Giver of true adoption: He is the Lord of the Sabbath! He indicates to them that they are not Abraham’s children, but the devil’s because of their denial of Him and of their desire to kill Him. They did not observe the Sabbath, and even Moses would accuse them to the Father (5:45). 11- The Lord Jesus Christ urges the Jews to read the Old Testament so that they would realize that it testifies for Him. He tells them: “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life,” (5:39, 40). He underlines that anyone who believes in Moses, believes in Him, for Moses has written about Him (5:36). By saying so, the Lord clearly explains the continuity that exists between the Old and the New Testaments. 12- This Gospel underlines clearly that what has been achieved through the Lord Jesus Christ is directly related to our redemption. Besides, it had been predicted fully by the prophets of the Old Testament. For example: * The victorious entry of the Lord into Jerusalem (12:14). * His being rejected by the Jews (12:38, 40). * Not breaking the Lord’s legs (19:36). * Abraham’s vision of the day of the Lord and consequent rejoicing (8:56). * Isaiah’s vision of His glory (12:42). * Isaiah’s prophesy about John, the forerunner (1:23). Guthrie comments as follows: [The Lord’s quoting from the Old Testament and the comments of the Gospel of St. John indicate that the whole of the Holy Bible points to the Lord Jesus Christ: He is the fulfillment of the Old, and the Truth that will guide us to interpret the implications of the Gospel1]. THE GOSPEL OF ST JOHN AND GNOSTICISM2 By just flipping through the Gospel of St. John, we discover a feature that is totally different from the other Gospels. For while he presents the life of Jesus Christ in Palestine, he also underlines that in the Lord all the prophecies of the Old Testament have been fulfilled. However, and until very recently, scholars considered that the personality of Jesus Christ, according to St. John’s exposition of Him in this Gospel, is more compatible within a Hellenic and Gnostic setting than with the way the Lord is depicted in the other Gospels. This opinion is being rejected by many scholars, as we shall observe later on in this work. Some critics have maintained that Gnosticism, with its focus on inner knowledge as the road to salvation, has affected the writer of this Gospel. Yet Gnosticism appeared in the Second Century after Christ, whereas the Gospel of St. John had been written at the end of the First Century. Some may argue that the roots of Gnosticism are to be found in the earliest stages of paganism and even in Jewish times; and that some Christians in some way or other had accepted it since the First Century. * In any case, the Gospel of St. John battles Gnostic ideas as they deny the humanity and sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Jn 19:34, a soldier pierces the side of the Lord with a spear and blood and water immediately flow out. What else could this be but an instance of His humanity? St. John accordingly says: “And the Word became flesh,” (Jn 1:14). In St. John’s First 1 Guthrie, p.238 2 Jerome Biblical Commentary, p. 416-7The Anchor Bible: R.E. Brown: The Gospel According to John (1-X11), 1981, p. XL111, L11, LXV. Letter (4:2-4), and in the Second Letter (v. 4), he says that those who do not confess that Jesus Christ came in the flesh are deceivers and are not of God. Some scholars claim that we do not find in this Gospel the same Lord Jesus Christ that we find in the other Gospels that relate the parables and simple instructive behavioral teachings. Rather, St. John’s Gospel presents symbols and specific definitions, such as: “ I am the Bread”, “ I am the Light”, “The Door”, “The Shepherd”, “ The Truth”, “ The Life”, “ The Way”, and “The Vine.” We also find names such as ‘The Logos’, ’the Truth’, and ‘Knowledge.’ Note also the use of antithesis, such as: the light and darkness, truth and falsehood, the spirit and the body…. All this has driven scholars to say that the Jesus depicted in this Gospel seems to be moving in a Hellenic world in the Second Century. Other scholars add that the writer believes in Gnosticism. It is true that the Lord Jesus Christ, according to the Gospel of St. John, presents Himself repeatedly in awesome sacred expressions: “I AM HE.” He came into a dark world that hates the light; he came into a world of falsehoods as of being the Truth; into a world of hatred and enmity while He is Love Himself. By His coming, He distinguishes between two categories of men: one that accepts the Light and another that flees from the Light. The first category believes in the Truth, while the other rejects It. Yet this thought is different than the duality found in Gnosticism. Indeed, the Gospel of St. John does not present a specific teaching concerning the origin of truth or that of evil; and that is what precisely occupied the Gnostics. These studies could have constituted an obstacle as they seem to arouse doubts in some of the simple- minded concerning the validity of this Gospel and whether St. John the Evangelist is the writer. However, two important discoveries were made around the year 1947 whereby the Lord willed to transform these studies into factors that would strengthen believers all the more. First: The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls or the scrolls of Quomran: these have presented the world with a library about the sect of the Essenes. They document a period of time between 140 B.C. and 68 A.D. These writings reveal that the thoughts and expressions used in the Gospel of St. John are typically Palestinian and reflect the First Century after Christ. Secondly: The discovery of a complete Gnostic library in the region of Naga Hamadi in Upper Egypt. This offers to the world, and for the first time ever, Gnosticism in its principal origins. Previously, we were gaining information about this subject from the writings of the fathers who opposed this school of thought. We had heard about the names of books without finding complete editions. Today, this discovery has provided us with information that reveals the vast disparity between the world of Gnosticism and the Gospel of St. John; besides indicating the definite differences between them. There is no longer any doubt that this Gospel does not depend on Gnostic sources. Indeed, it has been revealed that any words that were thought to have Gnostic origins are actually pure Jewish and Palestinian words that were in common usage in the First Century after Christ. Some scholars, such as Braun, Barret, and Quispel have made comparative studies between the Gospel of St. John and the Gnostic manuscripts found in Naga Hamadi. Examples of these manuscripts are: ’The Gospel of Truth’ (dating back to 140 A.D.), and ‘The Gospel of Thomas.’ They compared the ideas and expressions and came to the following conclusions: 1- It is impossible to place the Gospel of St. John among the Gnostic writings that have been found in Naga Hamadi. But it is possible to say that the Gnostics have made use of the Gospel of St. John in their writings during the Second Century A.D.; and that they have presented ideas not found in this Gospel. 2-There are strong distinctions between the Gospel and these manuscripts in the content of thoughts as well as expressions. 3- There are some expressions that are shared in both writings, yet the Gospel uses them in a specific way while the Gnostics have used them with different implications and for completely different purposes. The above explains the relationship between St. John’s Gospel and the writings of Christian Gnostics or heretics. Yet, we may ask: “Is it possible that this Gospel has opened the door to Gnosticism?” or “Has it prepared the way for it?” * Some scholars find that the Gnostics could have been influenced by Judaism as they misunderstood some of the texts of the Old Testament and not because of St. John’s Gospel. This Gospel has distinguished between light and darkness, yet it has not presented an ideology concerning the source of either of them. * The Gospel of St. John focuses on ‘faith’ and considers ‘knowledge’ to be a ‘divine gift’ granted through a divine revelation. This is an issue that contradicts Gnostic thought. THE GOSPEL OF ST JOHN AND HELLENISM St. John has been accused - or the writer of this Gospel - of divesting Christianity with a Hellenic character for the purpose of attracting the Hellenic mind. As proof, they cite his use of the term ‘the Word’ or ‘the Logos’ as a borrowing from Greek philosophy. The answer to the above is that St. John does not use this term in the same way as it used by Hellenic or Gnostic philosophers; or as used by Philon - a Jew from Alexandria who presented Jewish thought in a symbolic Helenistic style. St. John gives the term a scriptural meaning that can be understood in the light of the Old Testament and its teachings about ‘Wisdom.’ It is Wisdom that has come to mankind to transform them into houses of God, and as the Book of Proverbs says: “Wisdom calls aloud outside; she raises her voice in the open squares; “Wisdom has built a house, she has sewn her seven pillars,” (9:1). ‘The Word’ in Hellenic thought represents the governing mind inherent in the creation: it is the first newborn creature. In contrast, St. John speaks about ‘the Logos’ as God’s own utterance. The Logos is the Only Son: He is of God and resides with Him. He does not exist outside God for He is indeed one with Him in essence. In Hellenic thought, we do not find the expression ‘the Word of God incarnate dwells among men for He proclaims to them His divine mysteries.’ There is then a distinction between ‘the Word’ as used by Hellenic scholars and ‘The Word’ according to the Bible. If we study carefully the ‘LOGOS’ according to St. John’s proclamation in his Gospel, we will find that It is equated with ‘ wisdom’ as per the teachings in the Old Testament: A- Eternal: (Prov 8:22; Sirach 24:9; Ws 9:5). [Read Jn 1:1]. B- Seated in Heaven, He descends to the earth, to live in the midst of Israel (Prov 8:31; Baruch 3:37; Si 14:8). [Read Jn 1:14; 3:41; 6:38; 16:28]. C- A bounty of the glory of the Most High: (Ws 7:25); [Jn1:14; 8:15; 11:4; 17:5). D- Teaching the divine mysteries to man: (Ws 9:16); and all that pleases God (Ws 8:4); leading people to Life (Prov 8:25; Si 4:12). [Jn 3:19; 7:40; 14:19] E- Uses the voice of the speaker “I” (Prov 8; Si 24) F- Calls man and appears to him (Prov 8:1; Ws 6:16); [Jn 5:14; 9:35;]. He calls His disciples “My children” (Prov 8:23; Si 6:18), [Jn 13:33]. THE GOSPEL OF ST JOHN AND THE LORD JESUS CHRIST It is regrettable that many critics have recently become exceedingly engaged in researching the extent to which this Gospel is marked by Hellenic thought, language, and culture. This has led some to believe that the writer could never have been a Jew! However, the study of this Gospel exposes the writer’s relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and the character of the Evangelist: St. John is preoccupied with revealing the nature of our Lord Jesus Christ. First: As the King of the Jews: He is the spiritual King, the Messiah that the prophets awaited, and the One Who preoccupied the people of the Old Testament. “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (Jn1:49). “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (12:13). - Pilate…said to Him: “Are You the King of the Jews…Are you a king then?” Jesus answered: “You say rightly that I am a king…” (18:33-37). “Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.” (19:12). “Shall I crucify your King?” (19:15). - And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS (19:19). Secondly: The Gospel affirms repeatedly 21 times that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Messiah. This is in contrast to 19 times in the Gospel of St. Matthew. Indeed, the words spoken by the Lord, as well as His acts, all fulfill the Messianic hope1 to the people of God: * He came to purify His Temple in Jerusalem (2:13-22). * He is the One “…of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets, wrote…” (1:45; Deut 18:18). * In Him, the words of the prophet Isaiah were fulfilled (6, 35:5), when He opened the eyes of the blind (9:6); and made the deaf to hear, and the lame to walk, etc… * The Giver of freedom (Jn 8:36; Is 61:1). * The true Light that shines on those sitting in darkness (Jn1:5; 9; 8:12; 12:46; Is 9:1; 60:1). * The Source of Living Water given to quench the thirst of His people (7:37 etc..; Ch 4; Ex17:1- 7; Is 55:1; 58:11). * The Shepherd King who personally cares for His people (??Jn 10; Ez 34). * The Judge of the living and the dead, and this is a Jewish title used distinctively for God (Jn 11). * The Gospel, in its entirety, almost repeats the words of the Samaritan woman: “I know that a Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ)…Could this be the Christ?” (4:25, 29). Third: This Gospel is characterized by the claim of the Lord Himself: “I AM He” with which He presents Himself to mankind. In the Old Testament, “I am He” indicates the One God, the Maker, and the Savior (Ex 3:14; 10:2; Is 42:8; 43:10-11; Ex6:7). That explains why the words of the Lord are repeated in this Gospel: “I AM He” proclaims the nature of God as the Source of Salvation: “I am the Bread of Life,” (6:35). “I am the Light of the world,” (8:12; 9:5). “I am One who bears witness of Myself,” (8:18). “I am the Door of the sheep,” (10:7). “I am the Good Shepherd,” (10:11, 14). “I am the true Vine,” (15:1, 5). “I am a King,” (18:37). Fourth: The principle theme running from the beginning to the end of this Gospel is the presentation of the Lord as the Kingdom in itself: note that the Kingdom has been mentioned twice only (3:3-5; 18:36). Yet He is revealed through our delight in the Lord Jesus Christ Himself who is our eternal Kingdom. 1 Nelson: A New Catholic Commentary on the Holy Scripture, 1969, p1023. “…that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life,” (6:40). “…. No one comes to the Father except through Me,” (14:6). “…. He who has seen Me has seen the Father…,” (14:9 etc.). This clear theme that runs throughout this Gospel has also been presented in the other Gospels. It is the ultimate outcome and conclusion that people reached towards the final days that the Lord Jesus Christ spent on earth. Fifth: The Lord Jesus Christ is not presented as a lawgiver setting forth laws or rites. Rather, He is presented in Person as the mystery of life. He is ‘Life’- (14:6; 1:4). He announces to His flock the mystery of His coming to earth: “…I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly,” (10:10). “…Because I live, you will live also” (14:19). The Lord affirms to Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life,” (11:25). He came to graft us onto Him and be branches in His Vine, thereby carrying His life within us (15:1-8). Our delight in the Lord Jesus Christ - ‘the life’- is achieved through the complete change that touches our nature during the mystery of Baptism - (3:3-8), our unity and steadfastness in Him through the mystery of the Eucharist - (6:52-58), and receiving remission of our sins continuously through the mystery of Repentance - (20:23). All these have been fulfilled by the power of the Cross and the blessings of His Blood. Sixth: In each chapter, St. John presents to us a certain aspect of the nature of the Lord that grants us salvation and fulfills all our needs. * By reading the Gospel of St. John, we get to understand the Lord from the perspective of His divinity: the Creator of all; and from the perspective of His incarnation: He came to reform the fallen creation1. St. Augustine WHO IS JESUS? Jn.1: The Divine Word Incarnated, Grantor of divine adoption. Jn.2: The Son of Man with Divine Power, who gives joy and renewal of our souls. Jn.3: The divine and able Teacher, the Giver of the new birth. Jn.4: The amazing Winner of souls. Jn.5. The great Physician Jn.6: The Bread of Life. Jn.7: The Living Water. Jn.8: The Light of the World. Jn.9: The Giver of Insight. Jn.10: The Good Shepherd. Jn.11: The Giver of Life and Resurrection. Jn.12: The King of Israel. Jn.13: The Washer of feet. Jn.14: The heavenly Comforter. Jn.15: The true Vine. Jn.16: The Dispatcher of the Holy Spirit. Jn.17: The great High Priest. Jn.18: The suffering Messiah. Jn.19: The rejected King. Jn.20: The Conqueror of death. Jn.21: The Lifter of fallen souls and their Promoter into heaven. 1 Sermon on N.T. Lessons, 67:1. * Do not be in doubt - in your understanding of the mystery of the Trinity- that you are doing anything beyond man’s capacity. St. John, the Evangelist, did just that: for he soared beyond the flesh, beyond the earth that he walked upon, beyond the seas that he saw, beyond the air where birds fly, beyond the sun and moon and stars, beyond all the intangible spirits, and beyond his own mind. He did so with his own reasoning mind, and sublimated and spilled himself above and beyond all this, high up wherever He may be found2. St. Augustine THE GOSPEL OF ST JOHN AND THE FATHER Since the Lord Jesus Christ is the focus of this Gospel, the Evangelist affirms that He is the Eternal Word of God. He came to reveal Himself to us and to accomplish the messianic and redeeming offering on our behalf - (20:47), granting us life- (10:10), since He is from above and above all- (3:3). At the same time, the Evangelist affirms the role of the Father in order to save us from falling into the error committed by the Gnostics. Hence the only Son is with the Father, and He is the Word and the Son at the same time, Who has been sent by the Father- (5:36; 6:57; 11:42; 20:21). He came to proclaim the words of the Father (3:34; 6:29; 17:3); and to perform His work- (10:36) He who sees Him sees the Father, and he who believes in Him perceives the Father- (5:23 etc; 12:44 etc; 14:9). Therefore this Book is the Gospel of the Messiah: The Messiah is the Word of God and the Redeemer. Consequently, the Messiah is one with His Father, fulfilling the Father’s will that is at the same time in harmony with His own. This is what we shall notice more clearly as we proceed with our study. * St. John is like an eagle soaring upwards and reaching the Father Himself. He says: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God- (1)…The chaste writer explains mysteries that married people could not handle1. St. Jerome ST JOHN AND THE HOLY SPIRIT Some name this Gospel “The Gospel of the Holy Spirit.” Throughout this Book, the issue of the Holy Spirit is clearly and powerfully raised. In the discussion between the Lord Jesus Christ and Nicodemus, the Lord speaks about the role of the Holy Spirit in the new birth (Ch 3). The Lord clarifies the difference between natural birth (physical) and spiritual birth. It was hard even on the Jewish teacher Nicodemus to understand the work of the Holy Spirit. Therefore the Lord presented to him a tangible example; He likened the Spirit to “the wind that blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (3:8). The discourse of the Lord in this passage about the birth granted by the Holy Spirit is considered one of the principal signposts of the Gospel of St. John. It is in harmony with the rest of this Book, for we will be able to comprehend the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ only through our grasp of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, this will enable us to worship God in spirit and in truth (4:24). This is possible through the Spirit of God Who lives within us and not due to our own ability. The Lord saw the crowds, celebrating the feast and practicing its rites, without feeling any inner spiritual fulfillment. Consequently, He stood up on the last day of the feast and promised to offer the Holy Spirit as the living water springing within the believers (7:37-39). 2 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 20:13. 1 Against Jovinianus, 1:26 In His farewell speech - Ch.14-17), the Lord could offer nothing else to comfort His disciples but the promise of the Holy Spirit. He is the Comforter- the Paraclete- that the Lord grants to His Church in order to affect and shape it constantly and ultimately transforms her into the image of her Groom: * For He is Her Advocate [this is the literal translation of the Greek word: the Paraclete]. He is the Spirit of Truth that bears witness to the Lord. He does so not through mere theoretical words but through His power to shape our nature into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ and His likeness. * The Holy Spirit is the speaker as the glorious Lord Jesus is no longer present in the flesh (since He has risen to heaven). He teaches, leads, and guides the disciples the truth, and bears witness through them (14:26; 16:13etc). * He is the Comforter- (16:6 etc…) as we carry the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. THE GOSPEL OF ST JOHN AND THE CHURCH Many scholars consider that the earlier holy Gospels have been written for the world - whether the people are Jewish, Roman, or Greek- in order to acquaint them with the Lord Jesus Christ as a spiritual King, a true Servant, and the unique friend of all mankind. Consequently, all would believe in Him, and enjoy His redeeming work. Ultimately, they would rise from being slaves to become sons of God. As for the Gospel of St. John, these scholars consider that it has been written specifically for the Church and therefore it has been called ‘The Gospel of the Church’: it presents to us ‘the Christ of the Church’, even though St. John does not use the term ‘church.’ The principal theological premise here is to establish a link between the historical Jesus as He appeared to be in His life on earth and the Christ of the Church Who is ever-present and works within Her. In other words, since the Lord Jesus Christ who is ‘the incarnate Word of God’ is central to the Gospel, then His Church- with Her ministry and worship, including specifically the holy mysteries- holds a principal position in His favor. St. John therefore discusses the following points: 1- The mission of the Church (Jn.4:31 etc; 12:20 etc.). 2- Her offering of worship ‘in spirit and in truth.’ He strips the Temple in Jerusalem of its glory in order to proclaim it - through the Church – of the crucified Lord resurrected from the dead (1:14, 51; 2:13 etc, 4:19 etc). 3- Regarding the holy mysteries of the Church: We find that St. John puts special emphasis on the mysteries of the Church such as Baptism, the Eucharist, and the Priesthood: * The Evangelist presents the baptism of John as a testimony for the Lord Jesus Christ - (1:8) and a preparatory road to His baptism by the Holy Spirit (1:15; 25:23). * At the wedding in Cana (2:1-12) The transformation of the water used by the Jews for purification into wine is a Messianic sign that His hour had come (2:4); and probably points to the Eucharist too. * The Lord spoke clearly to Nicodemus about the mystery of Baptism (3:1-7). * The Evangelist speaks clearly about the Eucharist (6:22-50). This is also referred to in the event of the feeding of the crowds (6:1-13). Here we see the Lord as He satisfies believers through the mystery of the Eucharist offered in His Church. * The mystery of Baptism is also referred to in the healing of the lame man of Bethesda (5:1-14), since human nature is healed. Also in the event of opening the eyes of the blind man (9:1-7) by washing him in the pool of Siloam that means the one dispatched or sent forth. * The Blood and Water flowing from the side of the crucified Lord (19:34) indicates the unity of the two mysteries: Baptism and the Eucharist, and the way they complement each other. * He speaks about the mystery of Priesthood (20:22-23). 4- In the earlier Gospels, mankind is divided into good and evil; whereas in this Gospel the Evangelist writes about ‘Christ of the Church’ and makes a distinction between believers and non- believers. In believing, we are not judged (3:18) and we are granted eternal life (3:36). Moreover, we move from death to life. However, it should not be mere theoretical belief (13:34.35), but a living faith coupled with love and observation of God’s commandments (21:114-24). 5- The promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit in the farewell words of the Lord as the Spirit would be the Comforter of the Church, Her Intercessor, and Leader (Ch 14- 17). 6- The Lord Jesus Christ presents Himself repeatedly as ‘I AM’ since He is the focus of life, glory, and hope in the life to come. In the same way, He is now the focus of His present Church. THE GOSPEL OF ST JOHN AND THE UNIVERSALITY OF THE CHURCH As this Gospel has been written for the churches found all over the world, it bears the thought of the ‘‘Universal Church.” It is, therefore, not directed solely to the Jews. This line of thought is clear throughout this Gospel. We may quote a few examples: 1- The Gospel of St. John presents the Lord Jesus Christ as: “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” (1:29). ‘That was the true Light which gives light to every man who comes into the world’ (1:9) ‘But as many as received him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God, even to those who believe in His name,’ (1:12). “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life,” (3:16). “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself,” (12:32). ‘…He prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad,’ (11:51,52). “ And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up in the last day,” (6:40). “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also must I bring, and they will hear My voice, and there will be one flock and one shepherd,” (10:16). “ I do not pray for these alone but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one,”(17:20,21). “… Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed,” (20:29). 2- The Universality of the Church became evident due to rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ by the Jewish people: They turned their backs to their Redeemer and sought to kill Him (4:3, 44; 7:1-8; 11:7-16). Jerusalem had become the capital of Israel and the city of the Messiah (12; 12-19). That city was marked by turmoil (1:19 etc.; 5:23). The Lord abandoned the Temple (8:59), and moved away from the walls of the city as He headed towards Golgotha,(19:17). 3- ‘The Temple of Jerusalem’ is replaced by His Father’s house- (2:12), full of glory- (12:14), from where redemption is granted- (4:22). The Lord proclaims the glory of the Temple of His Body- (2:20 etc) that offers a mystery of resurrection to all mankind. 4- The heretic city of ‘Samaria’ is transformed into a place of worship in spirit and in truth (4:23etc…). 5- The whitened fields that are ready for the harvest point to the harvest of future times and are symbolic of the non-Jewish world. 6- Because the Evangelist is writing to all peoples- even the non-Jews- he interprets the words: Rabbi- (1:31); Messiah- (1:41); Cephas- (1:42). He also elaborates on the Jewish custom of purification- (2:6), and of burial- (9:40); as well as their relationship with the Samaritans- (4:9); and the Passover as a Jewish feast- (4:6). We find that he also gives a geographical description of Bethesda- (5:2); and the court of Pontius Pilate known in Hebrew as Gabbatha- (19:13)…All this reveals that St. John is writing to speakers who lived in Ephesus and used the Greek language- whether these are of Jewish or Gentile origins. He believes that the universal Church is not confined to the Jewish nation. THE GOSPEL OF ST JOHN AND ETERNAL LIFE (eschatological life) The Synoptic Gospels lead the reader towards the Kingdom of God which is anticipated at the end of time and would be fulfilled soon by the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. In contrast, St. John the Evangelist affirms that a believer attains eternal life through his everyday life. This Gospel does not describe the end of time and the end of the world; or the final coming of the Lord to judge the world. Rather, it speaks about eternal life that is achieved through the redeeming work we enjoy when we accept the Cross. Consequently, we taste eternal life through its pledge here on earth; and as we experience its glory by the kind of life we lead here: * He proclaims the glory of the Lord- (1:14; 2:11; 11:4, 40). This brings the Church to taste the pledge of eternal life where we see the Lord in the fullness of His glory and get acquainted with His mysteries. * Redemption actually elevates us above time and is a victory over death. It is achieved through active faith, and as the Lord says: “Most assuredly, I say to you, He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from life to death,” (5:24). * Eternal life becomes a reality for us as we observe the following: A- The prince of this world has been condemned (3:18, 19). B- The Evangelist proclaims that the fullness of time has come and that history has been fulfilled at the time the Lord Jesus Christ died on the Cross. As whoever tastes the Gospel of St. John, truly finds himself elevated to eternal life - through its pledge - and hence he beholds the glorified Lord within his innermost depths, and experiences the real victory over death and over the love of this world. One feels victorious over Satan who subjected the world for a while and who is now bound and driven out as he has no place within us. The cross of the Lord has led us into this living and heavenly experience. * Don’t you realize that it is not without reason that the Evangelist speaks to us from heaven? Notice how from the very beginning he draws our souls and gives them wings and ascends with the minds of his listeners. He holds our hands and leads us above all tangible things, above earth and heaven and above the angels themselves: above the cherubim and seraphim: above the thrones and leaders and authorities - in brief, he leads us on a trip that travels above all creatures1. St. John Chrysostom C.H. Dodd2 believes that St. John was trying to correct the intention of the Ecclesiastical and Eschatological thought; and that he, therefore, presented ‘a realized eschatology.’ That 1 Homilies on St. John, Hom. 2:8. 2 The Apostolic Teaching and its Development, 1944, p65 ff. means that eschatology is an actual reality and not just a mere future prediction. However, scholars have rejected this as a main premise for the Gospel. Their argument is based on that though some chapters that speak about the life at the end of time as a life that is experienced in the present through its pledge. The Evangelist does not ignore the future life at the end of time (5:25-29), but both paths run side by side3. THE GOSPEL OF ST JOHN AND THE MIRACLES In the Gospels preceding the Gospel of St. John, we find an abundance of miracles performed by the Lord Jesus Christ. Through them, the Lord reveals His divine tenderness and great love for mankind. Although St. John knows about them all, he chooses to relate only seven of them in his Gospel whereby we would accept to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ - some consider he chooses eight of them. He says: “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but 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,” (20:30,31). “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, that if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written,” (21:25). It is, therefore, clear that the Lord performed these miracles to lead us to have faith and enjoy eternal life. This is what Nicodemus felt as he said: “…no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him,” (3:2). The Lord also affirms: “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe,” (4:48). He holds these signs as testimony against unbelievers, as He says: “If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin,…” (15:24). The chief priests and the Pharisees realized how these miracles would affect the life of the people, and so they said: “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this everyone will believe in Him…,” (11:47,48). THE MIRACLE THE MEANING 1- Water turned to wine-2:1-11. 2-A nobleman’s son healed- 4:47-54. 3- A man healed at Bethesda- 5:1-9. 4- The feeding of the multitude- 6:1-4 ;(Matt 14:13- 21; Mk 6:32-44; Lk 9:10- 17). 5- Walking on the water- 6:15-21 ;(Matt14:22-36; Mk 6:45-56). 6- The healing of the man born blind-9:1- 14. 7- Lazarus rose from the dead- 11:1-44. 8-Catching fish-21:1-14. - The renewal of human nature and lending it eternal joy. - Faith is a prerequisite for eternal life. - The power of the renewed life. - Jesus Christ is the living Bread. - Jesus Christ our leader in the royal path - Jesus Christ is the light of life. - Jesus Christ is our resurrection and Conqueror of death - Complete fellowship in the new life. THE AUTHORITY OF THIS GOSPEL The universal Church unquestioningly accepted the authority of the Gospel of St. John from the beginning. The testimonies of the Church came even from heretics and heathen groups and these admitted that the writer of this Gospel is St. John ever since the beginning of the 3 Cf. L Van Hartingsveld: Gie Eschatologie des Johannesevangeliums, 1963 Second Century, that is shortly after its writing. Only a few known as the ‘Algi’ group disagreed with this, according to St. Epiphanius1. These opposed the Gospel as it contradicted their belief in the Logos. It is not clear whether the Algi were a group or just one person. At any rate, they did not have an audience among the public or in the Church. FIRST: THE TESTIMONY OF THE CHURCH AND THE HERETICS The Gospel of St. John was found among the Old Greek manuscripts that contained the New Testament, such as the Sinai and the Vatican versions. These had been written from versions that were even older than them. They were similar to manuscripts of the New Testament that had been translated before and could date back to manuscripts written in the Second or Third Centuries, just as the Syrian or Latin ones that included this Gospel. As for the testimony of the first Fathers of the Church, we do not hear anyone voice having any doubts concerning the author or any suspicion that someone other than St. John has written this Gospel. We mention the following as examples: * St. Ireneaus, Bishop of Lyon in the Second Century: he based his case against the Gnostics on the Gospel of St. John. He testifies that the authorized versions are four. He also testifies that St. John published his Gospel in Ephesus1. * Some fathers have borrowed certain expressions directly from this Gospel, or have used them without referring to the source. This is found in the following: the Epistle of Barnabas; the Book of the Shepherd by Hermes; in the writings of Papias; Clement the Roman; St. Justin, the martyr; Theophilus of Antioch; St. Ignatius of Antioch; St. Polycarp; Tertulian, the scholar; Origen; and St. Clement of Alexandria. *The testimony contained in the Muratorian Canon, in the Second Century-170-200A.D. approx.-is powerful in its statement that the writer of this Book is St. John. * Tatian, the disciple of St. Justin, borrowed much from this Gospel, and began his work entitled ‘Diatessaron’ with the same introduction as that of St. John’s Gospel. *Many heretics borrowed from St. John’s Gospel, such as Heraclion and his teacher Valentinous besides Bassilides-in 120A.D. Moreover, Gnostic writings- such as the Gospel of Truth- borrowed from this Gospel. SECOND: THE TESTIMONY OF THE HEATHEN The heathen philosopher Salsas, an enemy of Christianity, borrowed from this Gospel the material he used to write his book against Christianity and to attack the four Gospels around the year 178A.D. He mentions details that have been written only in the Gospel of St. John. OPPOSITION TO THE AUTHENTICITY OF ST JOHN AS THE WRITER Many scholars and critics have discussed the validity of the authorship of St. John, the son of Zebedee. They have presented numerous and complicated theories. Some have attempted to consider that it has been produced by the apostolic Church and not as the work of one person. Some suggested that its form indicates it was written in the Second Century. This could be due to possible links they saw between the Gospel and Gnosticism, as we have pointed out earlier. Others have tried to confirm that the writer is a non-Jew. E Haenchen presents a summary of the critical problems relevant to this matter and covers the period from 1929 to the fifties2. The following is a summary of the response to those who deny the authority of St. 1 Adv. Haer.2: 31. 1 Adv. Haer, 3:1:1 2 Theologische Rundschau, n.f., 1955, p. 295-335 John as the writer of this Gospel: CLUES IN THE GOSPEL THAT REVEAL THE CHARACTER OF THE WRITER Although the Evangelist has not mentioned his own name in this Gospel, yet he has included clues to his character through which we are able to recognize him. These are: A- HE IS AN EYE-WITNESS In the introduction of the Gospel, the Evangelist says: “We saw His glory,” (1:14). Some have tried to interpret the plural term ‘we saw’ as an intention to convey ‘all Christians’, and does not refer to the writer. Hence the term alludes to a spiritual rather than a material meaning. In this way, the writer of the Gospel is ‘The Apostolic Church’ and not a witness1. Many scholars do not accept this line of thought especially that the verb, used in the Greek context means physical sight and not spiritual sight. Even if it were interpreted as spiritual vision2, St. John confirms in more than one place that he is a witness who is reporting the truth: ‘And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows he is telling the truth, so that you may believe,’ (19:35). “This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true,” (21:34). It is clear that the writer is a ‘disciple’ and an ‘eye witness’: this is relevant to St. John who writes in the same style in the introduction of his First Epistle: “ That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life…the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life…,”(1Jn1). B- THE BELOVED DISCIPLE One of the indications incorporated within the Gospel itself, and pointing to St. John as the writer, is the title he humbly gives himself without mentioning his name: ‘ …the disciple whom Jesus loved,’ (21:20; 19:26). Some modern critics have attempted to raise suspicion concerning that issue but have differed on defining the identity of that disciple. They claimed he is: 1- The rich youth who, it is reported, Jesus looking at him, loved him (Mk10:21). Yet we have nothing in the Bible or in tradition to prove that the youth returned and believed after he had left the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore this opinion is of no value. 2- Nathaniel: the response to that is that we know very little about him. Moreover, when the Evangelist speaks of him he mentions him by name (21:2), while in that same chapter we get the words: ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved....’ (21:20). Therefore the last words are intended to distinguish him from Nathaniel 3- Lazarus3: as the sisters had sent for the Lord saying: “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick,” (11:3). The response to that is that Lazarus was not with the Lord in the ’upper room’ when he would have leaned on His chest and for the verse to be relevant which says: ‘… Peter…saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper…’ (21:20). It is clear from the three other Gospels that the Lord Jesus Christ was solely with His disciples during the last supper. Moreover, the Evangelist repeats the name of Lazarus in chapters 11 and 12, so why would he hide his name after that?! 4- Some believe that this title does not indicate a specific person but carries a symbolic 1 C.K.Barett: The Gospel According to St. John, 1956, p.138 2 Guthrie, p.242. 3 J.N.Senders defended this opinion in many works, including:B.A.Mastin: The Gospel According to St. John, 1986. This was followed by F.V.Fison, and E.F.Harrison significance. In this way, the writer of this Gospel could be the Church as an entire entity and not as one person. This thought is not satisfactory and hard to accept for it denies that disciple any historic place as an eyewitness; and this is contradictory to all that is reported about him in this Gospel4. The above exposes the different conflicting opinions. As for positive indications that St. John is the disciple whom Jesus loved, they are the following: 1- Ever since the Second Century, the writings of the church fathers speak about the disciple whom Jesus loved and identify him to be John, the son of Zebedee. To them, St. John is the writer and this was a matter they did not question. M.F.Miles1 notes that Origen, and St. John Chrysostum have found in the description: ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’ the key that reveals the object of this Gospel. 2- He is one of the Lord’s disciples according to the testimony of the Gospel of St. John and in which he is referred to as ‘the disciple’- (21:20). This is further underlined by the indication that he leaned on the Lord’s chest during the last supper (21:20) 3- Some scholars find that St. John is one of three disciples who were close to the Lord, and who accompanied Him on many occasions when the rest of the disciples were absent2. When St. James was martyred in the year 44 A.D., St. Peter and St. John were still alive: for we are told that both were together in Jn 20:2. Therefore this could be no other but St. John. 4- St. John is mentioned by name in the other Gospels: twice in Matthew’s, nine times in St. Mark’s, and six times in St. Luke’s. In St. John’s Gospel, however, he is never mentioned by name. It is evident that the writer is St. John and that he refrained from giving his name due to his humility. 5- This disciple was very close to St. Peter as we are told in (21:7; 20:2). The only time St. John appears without St. Peter is when the Lord, from His Cross, entrusted him with the Virgin Mother to be his own (19:26). So who is that disciple who always accompanied St. Peter? There is no doubt that it was St. John the son of Zebedee since he was with him and with James, while the other disciples were absent, on many occasions and as we have mentioned earlier (review Mk 5:37; 9:2; 14:33). The Lord appointed these three to prepare the Passover for Him (Lk 22:8). They were together even after the Lord’s resurrection (Acts 3:1; 4:13). They are mentioned in Acts 8:14 as the ones delegated to go from Jerusalem to Samaria. When St. Paul speaks about the pillars of the Church, he mentions James, Cephas (Peter), and John (Gal 2:9). All this indicates that this is St. John: the disciple whom Jesus loved and who was St. Peter’s companion. 6- Some scholars note that when St. John the Baptist is mentioned in this Gospel his name is just mentioned as ‘John ’without any title attached to it. This strongly supports the ecclesiastical concept that the writer is St. John the son of Zebedee who insisted on not mentioning his own name in this Gospel: he found that there was no need to make a distinction between himself and St. John the Baptist by including a specific title. C-THE PALESTINIAN BACKGROUND Some wonder if the Gospel, having been written by St. John the son of Zebedee, bears any proof that the writer is a Jew who had lived in Jerusalem? And was he an eyewitness of the Lord? Or was he a Second Century man from Antioch or Alexandria? Scholars respond that this Gospel includes many indications and testimonies that prove 4 Cf. Correll: Consummatum Est, 1958, p.204 ff. 1 M.F.Miles: The Spiritual Gospel, 1960, p.9 ff. 2 Review our commentary in this study about the character of St. John that the writer lived in Palestine in the First Century, and that he was a Jew. For example: 1- His knowledge of Jewish customs and traditions He often presents accurate details about the Jewish way of life and traditions during the period prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, such as: * The rites of purification [2:6]. *The rites of the Feast of the Tabernacles [7:37; 8:12(the Enlightening)]. * The rites of purification for the Feast of the Passover [18:28; 19:31-42]. * The teachings of the Jews governing their lives, such as the law governing the observation of the Sabbath [5:10; 7:21-9:14, 23, et…]. *His knowledge about the anticipation of the Jews for a prophet with the spirit of Elijah [1:19-27]; and their understanding that Christ, the Messiah, ‘remains forever’ [12:34]. 2- His knowledge of Jewish history The writer knows exactly the years it took to build the Temple (2:20). He knows about the enmity that existed between the Jews and the Samaritans (4:9). He also knows that the high priest at the time of the Lord’s crucifixion is the same Caiaphas and that his father in law was Annas (18:13; 11:49; etc..) 3- His knowledge of Palestine’s geography The writer has accurate knowledge of Palestine: he knows the Hebrew name for the Pool near the Sheep Gate and that it has five porches. He knows that there are two villages named ‘Bethany’ (12:1;???28:1). He speaks about the spring of ‘Aenon’ near Salim (3:23); and says that the Sea of Galilee is the Sea of Tiberias (4:21). Moreover, he indicates that the city of Ephraim is close to the wilderness (11:54). 4-He retained the style of the Hebrew language Although St. John has written his Gospel in Greek, yet it bears the style of the Hebrew language. This is due to the difficulty faced by a writer using a language other than his own native one. This feature appears in the terms and the expressions he uses, as well as in his emphasis on figures. 5- He incorporates details not mentioned in the other three Gospels: these could not have been included by anyone unless he has been an eyewitness and is acquainted with the people and their names, for example: * The detailed report about Nicodemus (Ch3). * The report about Mary and Martha (Ch 11). * The incident with Malchus (18:10). * The report about Annas and Caiaphas (18:19-320 * The report about the women at the Lord’s tomb (20:15-17). * The report about the Lord’s delivery of His mother to St. John’s care while He was on the Cross (19:27). * The report about St. Peter and John himself after the Resurrection (21:5-23). St. John also records fine details about events that can be presented only by an eyewitness. For example: he states that there were six water-pots (2:6); the distance the disciples had rowed away from the coast was two hundred cubits approximately (21:8); and the number of fishes they caught was fifty three, (21:11). He also mentions that the loaves were made of barley (6:9); that the odor of the oil of spikenard filled the house (12:3); the emotions of the officers when the Lord was arrested (18 :); and the weight of the spices used for the Lord’s body (19:39). Note also the accurate description of the reactions of the disciples (2:11 etc..; 4:27; 6:19; 12:16; 13:22; etc…); and the Lord’s sympathy and reaction (13:1.61??; 6:15, 24; 2:11). The above examples and many other details confirm that St. John is an eyewitness to all he has written in his Gospel. THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN, THE FISHERMAN Some scholars refuse to recognize that St. John is the writer of this Gospel. They validate their stand by saying: ‘Is it logical to believe that an illiterate fisherman can write such a Gospel while we consider it to be better than anything that Sufi philosophers have ever written? This is a kind of unparalleled and unforced fluency that is awesome?’ The response to this is the following: First: Even if the disciple were illiterate, yet we believe that the entire Holy Bible has been inspired by the Holy Spirit (2Peter1:21). Hence, even though the human element is instrumental yet the Holy Spirit sanctifies, elevates, and grants it tremendous power. He also embraces the human being to shield him/her from committing any fault. Second: St. John was actually qualified to write this sublime ‘spiritual Gospel’ based on the following: 1- He was not illiterate as many claimed. Actually, he was not just a fisherman: he was a merchant who traded in fish and his father had people who worked for him just as any rich man would have at that time. There is a great probability that he enjoyed learning and sought to increase his knowledge. It is a typical custom of the Jews to take up a certain craft such as fishing- and every Jew had a craft-just as Saul of Tarsus practiced the craft of making tents (Acts 18:3). 2- We know that the Word of God is offered to all mankind- beginners as well as mature people. This is clear in the words of St. Paul: “…we speak wisdom among those who are mature…” (1 Cor2:6); “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age (Heb 5:14). Just as the three evangelists-Matthew, Mark, and Luke offered the Word of God to the simple people, we may say that St. John was one of three who were very close to the Lord and who were chosen to accompany Him in grave circumstances. These were events that revealed the mystery of His Person and His message. It is this disciple whom Jesus loved and who leaned on His chest - (21:20) - who was to write to the mature. It is as though the first three Gospels represent the invitation to accept the faith and belief in the Lord Jesus Christ as the redeeming Messiah, the Servant of mankind, and the divine Friend. As for this Gospel, it represents the complementary education in faith for mature believers. It is the ’spiritual Gospel’ that is offered to those who have become genuine Christians and hence it elevates them to enjoy the ultimately divine mysteries. Third: We have commented on the extent to which this Gospel is related to the Old Testament as it underlines that the Lord is the true Lamb of God, and not a Passover symbol, for in Him the prophecies are fulfilled. The discussion between the Lord and the Jews is meant to reveal that He is greater than Abraham and Moses…this agrees with St. John since he is a Jew who perceives the divine mystery. He yearns that every Jew, as well as every Gentile, enjoy the One Who is the ‘subject of the prophecies.’ Fourth: We have also indicated that this Gospel does not contain any kind of Hellenic Gnosticism. A number of scholars had made this claim before the Gnostic library was discovered in Naga Hamadi. The discovered manuscripts that were found and brought to light around 1947, however, reveal that the writings belong to the religious group known the Essenes or monks from the Jewish city of Quomran. The style of St. John is similar to that of these manuscripts and appropriately so since he studied under St. John the Baptist who lived in the wilderness. He learned lot about them being neighbors. The attitude of the Essenes towards religion was a spiritual, Sophist, mystical, and symbolic one rather than a tangible concept. Their life rotated around the conflict between light and darkness, between truth and falsehood…It is as though St. John came to announce to them that he had found the One Who would fulfill their heart’s desire. He was Someone who would not only lead them to know the light and the truth, but Who would offer Himself to them as the ‘true Light’ and the ‘Truth’: through Him we are enlightened and enjoy the Truth! SYNOPSIS Scholars have agreed that this Gospel is notable for its detailed and goal-oriented parts. In spite of that, they are not unanimous about the breakdown in itself. For instance, the divisions D. Mollat sets up are that the Gospel, after the introduction, is divided into nine parts according to the liturgies observed for the principal Jewish feasts: A-The Introduction to the Gospel Ch 1:1 - 18 B-The Nine Parts 1- The first week of Messianic service Ch 1:19 - 2:11 2- The First Passover Ch 2:12 - Ch 4 3- The Sabbath Ch 5 4- The Second Passover Ch 6 5- The Feast of Tabernacles Ch 7 -Ch 10:21 6- The Feast of Dedication Ch10:22 - Ch 11:54 7- The Third Passover Ch 11:55 - Ch 19:42 8- The Resurrection Ch 20 9- The Appearances of the resurrected Jesus Ch 21 However, the most prevalent manner of marking the divisions is the one proposed by A. Feuillet, C.H. Dodd, and R.E. Brown. This consists of two main parts plus an introduction and a conclusion: A- The Introduction Ch 1:1- 18 B- The Book of Signs Ch 1:19 -Ch12 C-The Book of Suffering Ch 13 -Ch 20 D- The Conclusion Ch 21 Feuillet finds that the Gospel as a whole covers two subjects: the proclamation of the Lord Jesus Christ and His submission to suffering until death on account of this proclamation. Based on that, it is possible to divide the Gospel as follows: The First Book: The Book of Signs 1-Establishing a new testament by instituting baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit Ch 1:19 - Ch 4:42 2- Revealing Himself: that He is one with God, the Source of life Ch 4:43 -Ch 5:47 That He is the Bread of Life Ch 6 That He is the Light of the world Ch 7 -12 The Second Book: The Book of Suffering 1- Revealing Himself to His disciples through love, comforting, and oneness Ch 13 -17 2- Suffering is the road taken to establish the Church Ch 18 -Ch 19 3- Resurrection and its association with the descent of the Holy Spirit Ch 21, 22 To facilitate the study of this Gospel, we propose the following divisions: First: The Introduction: The Word Incarnated Ch 1:1-18 Second: Signs and Deeds that reveal His Divinity Ch 1:19-Ch 12 Third: His Revelation of His Identity to His Own Children Ch 13-17 Fourth: The Son of God Sacrificed Ch 18-19 Fifth: His Resurrection Testifies to His Divinity Ch 20 Sixth: The Conclusion Ch 21 AN INSPIRATION FROM THE GOSPEL OF ST JOHN GRANT ME TO SOAR WITH YOUR EAGLES IN YOUR SKIES! *Allow me to lean on Your chest with the Beloved St. John And to accompany You up to the Cross And to receive Your Mother from You as a Mother for me. Yes, and grant me the wings of the Spirit so that I become an eagle, and join him In flight in your heavens, and enjoy fellowship and glory with You. I would live among Your angels And get to know Your divine mysteries that provide heavenly food and satisfy my innermost depths! * Grant me to soar with my thoughts towards Eternity, This thatcannot be conceived by a heavenly or earthly being. I stand and rejoice at Your birth before the beginning of time Shine upon me O Word of God, with Your Father and Your Holy Spirit, Then my soul will be filled with the brilliance of the Trinity. Hence I will tread upon the darkness of the world And soar in this amazing brilliance! *You became incarnate for my sake, O holy One who has granted me life, You have enlightened me; hence I am no longer counted as one of this world. Indeed, by Your grace, I enjoy divine adoption: Having become a Son of God, the world cannot find room for it within me! *May Your Holy Spirit carry me to the mysteries within Your Book: To see You- the King- hanging on the Cross! I do not seek You to reign in the way the crowds sought to have You But, rather, to establish Your throne in my depths that I may cherish Thee. I will not take the road of philosophical arguments For I recognize that You are the royal Messiah Who grants lordship. I perceive You as the King of kings and the Giver of a Royal Life. *You are the Lamb of God Who carries the sins of the world! You have been crucified and hence reconciled us with Your Father. You have drawn us to You, and hence our sins have been replaced by Your righteousness. You have opened Your arms to embrace and enfold the Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles together. By Your Cross You have poured love into us, O Lord of true love, We have become an icon of You and will not become separated from Love, neither will You leave us. We have received fellowship with Your Nature, and love flows in our veins. Neither hatred, nor contempt, nor wickedness can ever creep stealthily within us. * Grant me, with the bride and bridegroom of Cana, to drink of the wine of Your love. Grant me, with Nicodemus, to discover the mystery of the new birth. Grant me, with the Samaritan woman, to drink from the sources of Your Holy Spirit. Grant me, with the one born blind, perception that enables me to see You within me. Grant me, with the sick man of Bethesda, to be steadfast and rejoice, Hence I would walk towards Your divine Embrace and reach my true home. * Let me hear You as You reveal Yourself to me. Your words ‘I AM’ have a special sweetness for You are Jehovah who lives within me! According to Your promise, let me hear Your voice saying: I am the heavenly Bread, he who eats Me will enjoy the eternal feast. I am Life, without Me you would not exist. I am the Light of the world, I shine on you hence you experience the eternal light. I am the Truth, I bring you into the divine mysteries. I am the Resurrection, death will never be able to bind you! I am the Door, I lead you to come into My embrace. I am the Good Shepherd, I carry you - with all your frailty - on My shoulders! I am the true Vine, stay steadfast in Me and I will abide in you! * Allow me to accompany You in the upper room, as well as to Gethsemane, Let me go with You where You will be judged and crucified, And to sit at Your tomb looking out for Your resurrection. Reveal Yourself to me, and make Your resurrection shine within my depths! Yes, throughout the days of my estrangement I will continue to meditate on every detail of Your amazing work: These events will continue to be my reason for offering praise with all the heavenly ranks. To You be the glory, O true Love and Truth: the One who grants love and freedom! AMEN

CH 1 >