John - Session #1
The Circumstances in which John Wrote
Objective of this Study
Compare the Gospels
Matthew (Written First )
Mark (Written Third)
Luke (Maybe Written First probably Second)
John (Written Fourth) - Spiritual Gospel
The Gospel that is Different
The Gospel that is Different
Church historian Eusebius
It was in fact this difference of scene which provided the great Church historian Eusebius with one of the earliest explanations of the difference between the Fourth Gospel and the other three. He said that in his day (about AD 300) many people who were scholars held the following view. Matthew at ﬁrst preached to the Hebrew people. The day came when he had to leave them and go to other nations. Before he went, he set down his story of the life of Jesus in Hebrew, ‘and thus compensated those whom he was obliged to leave for the loss of his presence’. After Mark and Luke had published their gospels, John was still preaching the story of Jesus orally. ‘Finally he proceeded to write for the following reason. The three gospels already mentioned having come into the hands of all and into his hands too, they say that he fully accepted them and bore witness to their truthfulness; but there was lacking in them an account of the deeds done by Christ at the beginning of his ministry … They therefore say that John, being asked to do it for this reason, gave in his gospel an account of the period which had been omitted by the earlier evangelists, and of the deeds done by the Saviour during that period; that is, of the deeds done before the imprisonment of John the Baptist … John therefore records the deeds of Christ which were performed before the Baptist was cast into prison, but the other three evangelists mention the events which happened after that time … The Gospel according to John contains the ﬁrst acts of Christ, while the others give an account of the latter part of his life’ (Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History, 5:24).
It was with this in mind that the great scholar Clement of Alexandria (about AD 230) arrived at one of the most famous and true of all verdicts about the origin and aim of the Fourth Gospel. It was his view that the gospels containing the genealogies had been written ﬁrst—that is, Luke and Matthew; that then Mark, at the request of many who had heard Peter preach, composed his gospel, which embodied the preaching material of Peter; and that then ‘last of all, John, perceiving that what had reference to the bodily things of Jesus’ ministry had been sufﬁciently related, and encouraged by his friends, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote a spiritual gospel’ (quoted in Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History, 6:14). What Clement meant was that John was interested not so much in the mere facts as in the meaning of the facts, that it was not facts he was after but truth. John did not see the events of Jesus’ life simply as events in time; he saw them as windows looking into eternity, and he pressed towards the spiritual meaning of the events and the words of Jesus’ life in a way that the other three gospels did not attempt.