John, Apostle and Evangelist
John Writes His Own Version of Jesus' Story
John was one of Jesus' disciples, perhaps John the son of Zebedee. He wrote the Fourth Gospel, the Book of John. The disciple James was John's brother.
He seems to refer to himself as "the disciple Jesus loved," which term has confused scholars ever since. John uses the Greek word, agape, which means the sort of love God has for all his people.
But since we see Jesus as someone who loved everyone, even loving and caring about Judas as he betrayed Jesus, it is hard for us to see Jesus singling out only one person to love the way that God the Father loved him. We know Jesus loved everyone in the world, even those of us who hadn't been born in his lifetime.
So we don't really know what John meant.
This John may also have written the three letters of John and the Book of Revelation, which are in the New Testament. He may have traveled with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry, with his mother, Mary, the wife of Zebedee; if so, he may have been younger than the other disciples.
Since writers of that time usually dictated what they had to say to a scribe or secretary, it is more difficult to tell their personal writing styles apart than it is of writers today. We believe that the Gospel writer John lived a very long life, seeing many changes, so he could have lived long enough to have seen all those things included in the letters and the Book of Revelation, as well as to have made major changes in the way he wrote.
The Gospel of John was written after the other three gospels, those of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, were written, and after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Those three gospels are called the synoptic gospels, because they focus on Jesus' life story.
John's gospel is quite different from Matthew's, Mark's and Luke's. Some of the time he seems to be refuting points made by other people; they were probably spoken questions or criticisms, so we have only the answers, and sometimes having only the second part of the debate can confuse us.
Some of the Jews believed the rise of Christianity caused the destruction of the Temple. John seems to be more emphatic in both style and content than the other writers that the Christians were the true inheritors of the Jewish tradition.
John's writing style seems more mystical to us than it is because we are unfamiliar with the Jewish Talmudic tradition. His style of writing can be seen in (John 1: 10 - 18).
Readings from John are incorporated into the three years of the synoptic gospels. John doesn't have his own year in the lectionary.
John alone sees Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb of God who was crucified at the same time that the lambs were being slaughtered for the Passover supper. Matthew, Mark, and Luke show Jesus as the host of the Passover supper, who was betrayed, tried, and crucified after the meal.
If this is the John who also wrote the letters, he wrote my favorite Bible verse, 1 John 4: 16: God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
John's symbol is the eagle because his gospel soars like an eagle into the wisdom of God.
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