Lectionary Year B
May 21, 2000
Step III: Composition
(JW) A. IMMEDIATE CONTEXT
Pre: Immediately surrounding this text is the Apostle John's witness to Jesus's continued teaching of the disciples. John proclaims our Lord's very words of assurance. Christ teaches about the Holy Spirit's presence in our lives in chapter 14. At the end of chapter 14, John witnesses to Jesus's promise that God will send the Holy Spirit in Christ's name.
Post: In chapter 16 Christ explains the Holy Spirit's revelatory power for teaching God's children about sin, righteousness and judgement. Our Lord is thoroughly explaining the divinity of Christ and salvation offered for believers. And John bears witness of Jesus's promise to return and Christ's emphatic promise to grant that which is asked for in his name. Of course, immediately before and after the pericope, John records the intriguing declarations of Jesus, that he will go away and come again. Then Christ explains why he must go away.
(JW) B. COMPOSITIONAL WHOLE
The Gospel of John is often credited for its uniqueness. Indeed it only shares a few of the recorded incidents in the Synoptic Gospels. The illustrative teaching in this pericope is found only in John's gospel. The question might be raised about the author maybe taking the liberty to symbolize what Christ taught about the pervasiveness of our Triune God. John is often described as a symbolic writer. Throughout this Fourth Gospel though a thorough witness is given about who Jesus is and how Christ teaches this. John begins with the declaration of Christ's everlasting presence with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He tells of how John the Baptist prepared the people for Jesus's ministry. The following is a basic outline of this Gospel ans offers an interpretation of John's writing style as symbolism. The Fourth Gospel seems to emphasize Jesus' descent from heaven and his ultimate ascension back to heaven.
1. Witnessing to Jesus's true identity
(the author, John the Baptist, the disciples)
2-4. Journey from Cana and back
The wedding at Cana
The temple cleansing sign
John the Baptist's testimony to Jesus
Jesus and the woman from Samaria (living water)
The official's son's healing when Jesus returned to Cana
5-10. Jesus's teaching of the Father and Son union
Sabbath healing, controversy (Lord of the Sabbath)
The feeding of the 5000 (faith)
The sign of bread, controversy ("bread of life" 6:35 RSV)
Healing of a blind man in Jerusalem, controversy ("The Good Shepherd", 10:1-18)
11-12. The supreme sign foretold: the Messiah's suffering, death and resurrection
( Jesus offers life, Lazarus raised from the dead, the Pharisees declaration "the world has gone after him" 12:19)
13-17. Jesus teaching the disciples
(Johannine version of) The Lord's Supper, Christ's glory (The True Vine), prayer
18-20. Christ lays down his life (arrest, trials, the death and resurrection)
21. (Appendix) The witnessing community (Jesus' appearance)
(JW) C. AUTHORSHIP
Indirect evidence to the author of the Fourth Gospel presents quite clearly that the author was a Jew, familiar with Jewish customs (feasts) and Jewish beliefs (ex. Sabbath Laws). Even more compelling is that the writer is determined to show Jesus as the Messiah the Jews were waiting for. Furthermore, the detail of relations between Pharisees, Jews and Samaritans characterizes the author as a Palestinian Jew of the 1st century (Westcott, B. F., The Gospel According to St. John, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1954, p. xii.).
The author was an eyewitness of the events described. Direct quotes of the disciples and Jesus are given. He seems to know and understand their feelings, like one who lives with another. Of course, the direct evidence for authorship is recorded in the witnessing of Jesus's death (16:35), as but one example. John witnesses to the truth of having seen Jesus bleed and die, just as the Scriptures foretold the Messiah would.
Scholars slate the final edition of this gospel at the end of the first century, and for the most part accept the voice of tradition declaring the apostle John as author, writing it in Ephesus. I tend to agree. [JEA - other sources besides Westcott? for follow-up study].
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