John : Christian Community Bible
Introduction to John
At the outset, the first three gospels may have us overlook the work and skills of its writers. Whatever vision they wanted to transmit about their Savior, they dealt so plainly with the witnesses that oftentimes we seem to have seen and heard Jesus himself.
Comparatively, John’s gospel is very different. This book has matured along with him in his life. His experience as an apostle moved him to constantly re-interpret the presence of the resurrected Jesus in the Church.
John does not let us ignore his purpose: “This has been recorded that you may believe that Jesus is the Son of God” (Jn 20:31). The faith of the Church proclaimed Jesus as the Son of God. But how should we understand this term? Though Jesus’ resurrection had manifested the divine character of his person, one could wonder how and from what moment was Jesus Son of God and to what extent was he identified with God. John’s Gospel clearly asserts that Jesus’ existence was forever in God. This assertion on Jesus’ origin helps us understand the range of his work. The eternal Son-of-God-become-human did not come only to teach us the way of amending ourselves, but also to transform the whole creation.
John’s Gospel is controversial because the purer and harder a truth is, the lesser are those who are able to receive it. This is why this gospel raised controversies within the very Church but was later acknowledged as the word of God and as an apostolic witness.
So it is that John’s Gospel was written and re-written and was most probably published only after the death of his author, about the year 95, as a small paragraph added at the end let it be understood. In this last composition it seems that John organized it around the three Passovers which mark out Jesus’ public ministry.
Here we find an important element to understand John’s mind. He finished writing twenty years after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Roman armies. John knows as well as Paul that Jesus’ resurrection originated a new age. The revelation to the Jewish people and the great liturgies in the Temple belong to a certain extent to the past, but in this first covenant that has become the old covenant are found the keys to the understanding of Jesus’ achievements. This is why John will call to mind the Jewish feasts and religious symbols such as the water, the palms, the lamb… and he will show how these are transfigured in the Christian life and liturgy.
This is why three sections can be gleaned after an opening that we call the week of discovery (till 2:16). These are:
NOTE: excerpted from the introductory material for this book.