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The Gospel itself claims to have been written by a member of Jesus' inner circle, an apostle, one of the Twelve. Since the apostolic office was foundational and unrepeatable in the history of the church (Acts 2:42; Eph. 2:20), their message, the gospel, has special authority. As an apostle (i.e., one specially commissioned by Jesus Christ), John was given a mission to testify to what he had seen and heard (John 15:27; 1 John 1:1-4). In fact, being an eyewitness of Jesus' ministry was an indispensable requirement for apostleship (Acts 1:21-22; cf. John 1:14).
Implicit in John is also the claim of having been written by the disciple who was closest to Jesus during his earthly ministry. All the Gospel writers concur that John's relationship with Jesus was particularly close. In the present Gospel, the apostle conceals himself behind the expression "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:20). As an apostolic eyewitness, John is uniquely qualified to write an authoritative account of Jesus' life: "The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true" (19:35; cf. 21:24).
Where and Why Was the Gospel Written?
John's purpose is bound up with believing in Jesus and having life in his name (20:30-31). By presenting certain startlingevents in Jesus' ministry as evidence that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah, John seeks to lead his readers to place their faith in Jesus. In the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70, John shows Jesus to be the fulfillment of Jewish as well as universal human aspirations.
While ancient tradition places the writing of John's Gospel at Ephesus (Irenaeus, Haer. 3.1.2), the work ultimately transcends any one historical setting and applies to the entire church of John's as well as our day. Some of the material incorporated in this Gospel probably grew over years of preaching and teaching. John's awareness of the contents of the other canonical gospels may also have influenced his final selection of material.
Together with Rome, Corinth, Antioch, and Alexandria, Ephesus ranked among the most important urban centers of the Roman empire. Located at the intersection of major trade routes, Ephesus was the largest and most well-known city of Asia Minor (modern Turkey).
In an important development, Emperor Augustus declared Ephesus as capital of the province of Asia in place of Pergamum. The Ephesian temple of Artemis was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and its theater could seat 25,000 people. Ephesus acquired its first imperial temple (attaining to the status of neokoros, "temple warden") during the latter years of Domitian's reign (A.D. 81-96).
A Gospel of Decision
John's Gospel has rightly been called "a Gospel of decision." Every person must choose between light or darkness, faith or unbelief, life or death. Light, life, and salvation, in turn, can be attained only by faith in the crucified and risen Messiah, Jesus.
* John IMPORTANT FACTS:
AUTHOR: The apostle John, the son of Zebedee.
DATE: A.D. 80-90.
OCCASION AND PURPOSE:
To demonstrate that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, by presenting and commenting on seven selected messianic signs.
To show that the Christian faith is universal, applying to Jews and non-Jews alike, and the only way to God.
To equip believers for mission.
To evangelize unbelievers by equipping believers to share the good news.
1. Jesus as the preexistent, incarnate Word, the fully divine and human Messiah, the crucified and risen Savior of the world.
2. The Jewish rejection of Jesus the Messiah and the universal offer of salvation to everyone who believes.
3. Believers' need to follow Jesus through obedient, committed, and faithful discipleship, realized through love and unity in the Christian community and dependence on the Holy Spirit.
Excerpted from John Copyright © 2002 by Andreas J. Köstenberger. Excerpted by permission.
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