A Commentary on the Gospel of John

Introduction to the Gospel

by Cooper Abrams

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The Characteristics of Apostle John.

              The Apostle John is one of the most familiar names to the reader of the New Testament. From the Scriptural references we learn much about him. He was a Jew, who was a native of Galilee, as were eleven of the twelve disciples. His name is always among the first four disciples who enjoyed being in the inner circle and closest to the Lord. He is always mentioned whenever the disciples are enumerated and was an eyewitness of the events of the life of Jesus Christ. He was a disciple of John the Baptist prior to meeting Jesus (John 1:37).

              His father was named Zebedee, and his mother, Salome (Mk. 1:19; Mk. 16:1 cf. Mt. 27:56). His occupation before becoming a disciple was a fisherman. His father appears to have been prosperous having hired servants working for him (Mark 1:20). John’s family was somewhat prominent as shown in that he was known to the High Priest in Jerusalem. (John 18:15).

              John brother, James, was also a disciple of Jesus. Because James is always listed first whenever the two are named together, it is presumed that James was the older of the two. It appears that he and his brother were very emotional. There are incidents which may point to a "hotheadedness" such as wishing to call down fire from heaven on a Samaritan village which did not receive the Lord (Lk. 9:54). He and his brother were nicknamed Boanerges, "the sons of thunder" by the Lord. (Mk. 3:17).

              He was a man possessed with genuine humility, as he never mentions his own name in his own gospel, but rather refers to himself by descriptive titles. For example he calls himself "the other disciple" (Jn. 18: 16; 20:2, 3, 4, 8) and "the disciple whom Jesus loved "(Jn. 13:23). He was an eyewitness of the events of the life of Jesus Christ.

Tradition supplies us with additional material about the life of John.

             John seemingly left Jerusalem shortly before or during the Jewish wars (AD 65 - 69). He spent the final years of his life in Ephesus. During the reign of Domitian (AD 81 - 96) he suffered persecution as a Christian and was banished to the isle of Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation. Upon the accession of the Emperor Nerva (AD 97), he returned to Ephesus where he died during the reign of Trajan in approximately AD 98. He was the only one of the twelve disciples to die a natural death.

John's Gospel has a unique presentation of the ministry of Christ.