From Introduction:


According to the critical analysis of John A.T. Robinson (Redating the New Testament, The Westmister Press, 1976 pp 254-311), this work was originally written circa A.D. 40-65.  It has been more commonly dated at some time after A.D. 80, but for us, Robinson’s extensive arguments are more convincing, and recent archaeological discoveries seem to corroborate this Gospel’s awareness of details about Jerusalem, such as the Pool of Siloam (9:7) and Solomon’s Porch (10:23), that point to a period prior to Jerusalem’s destruction.  In a study shared with us, our friend, Arthur Eedle, has astutely argued that it would have been illogical for our author to have waited decades before sharing these things, especially considering the purpose, cited below, which the author gave for composing this Gospel.  It is only logical that he would have been familiar with the other Gospels that were also written during this same period, and, “undoubtedly he would have spent time gathering all his journal entries and composing the Gospel. To leave it until some later date would have been unthinkable” (Eedle).


The author has traditionally been considered to be John, but there is scholarly debate about this.  From the internal evidence, during the writing of these Observations, we have come to suspect that it may have been someone else – as will be considered, later in the text.  However, neither the date nor authorship are primary concerns of this work.  Our purpose is to be a catalyst for our readers to give greater pause in reading this Gospel, and to pay attention to the particular details that its author shares, and the nuances and allusions that populate the work.  This Gospel is foundational to Christianity, and its focus is critical to those who sense a call to be a follower of Jesus Christ.  The author’s purpose is given in 20:31,

            “Yet these things have been written to the end that you folks can (or: may; would)

            continue trusting and keep on believing [other MSS: should come to trust and believe]

            that (or: should progressively be faithful, because) Jesus is the Christ (Anointed One),

            God's Son (or: the Son of The God and from God), and so that in continually trusting,

            believing and being loyal, you can continuously hold (would progressively have) Life

            [other MSS: eonian life (or: life from, and in the realm of, the Age; age-lasting life)] within,

            in the midst of, in union with, and centered in, His Name.


Understanding the genre of the particular literature that a person begins reading will affect the strategy of interpretation that the reader will employ.  A Gospel is a unique genre of ancient literature.  It is based upon history, but it tells a story.  The story is about Jesus Christ: Who He was, His life, His message and the Work that God gave Him to do.  There are many stories, within this Story, and what was written was crafted to proclaim what was really going on in the overarching story (i.e., what God was doing in history, and why) within the midst of what was historically happening during the Incarnation of the Logos, the Word which was God and which was manifested in Jesus of Nazareth.  We get a glimpse of how His followers came to understand “what was going on” within the “history” of the death of Jesus in Peter’s first sermon:

            “Men!  Israelites!  Continue listening and hear these words!  Jesus the Nazarene, a 

            mature Man having been fully pointed out unto you and continuing publicly

            exhibited and demonstrated [to be] from God – in powers and by abilities, together

            with miracles and signs which God did and performs through Him within your

            midst - just as you yourselves have seen, and thus are aware and know. This Man,

            given forth (or: lent out; provided out of the Midst [of God]; given out [as in marriage];

            given from the midst [of one's house]; issued forth [in birth]; or: surrendered; or: This

            Fully-given, Emerged Emptied One) in and by the specific, determined, bounded

            plan (intended purpose, design and counsel) and foreknowledge (intimate knowledge  

            which was experienced beforehand) of God, you folks - through the hand of people not

            bounded by the Law - took up and assassinated by fastening [Him] to a cross, Whom

            God resurrected, after loosing the birth-pangs of the death - corresponding to the

            fact that it was not possible for Him to be held fast by it (Acts. 2:22-24).

This presented God as being very much a part of the entire story.  We will see this corroborated in 3:16-17, below.  Later, when Paul wrote to Corinth he would encapsulate what he saw as the main point of this entire story, by saying, “For you see, I decided not to see, perceive or know anything within or among you folks, except Jesus Christ – and this One being one having been crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).  And then, in 2 Cor. 5:14b he gives the following conclusion:

            “[We are] deciding (discerning and concluding; judging) this: that [some MSS add: since]

            One Person (or: Man) died over [the situation of] all people (or: for the sake of all

            humans); consequently all people died (or: accordingly, then, all humans died).”

With these thoughts in mind, let us turn to a short description of how our author arranged this Gospel.


His work begins with a clear allusion to Gen. 1:1 in his opening verse.  This is the Good News about the New Creation.  There is a Prologue (1:1-18) and an Epilogue (chapter 21).  Signs, some of which are designated as such by the author and others that can be observed from the text, appear from chapter 2, and on throughout, including in the Epilogue.  Topics of focus will be the Logos, Light, Life, Bread, Water, Truth, Path (Way; Road), Resurrection and Love, which paint Jesus in a much larger picture and context than the traditional messianic categories presented in the OT.  His story does not begin with His birth as a human, or with His appearance as a Jewish rabbi.  As the Logos, He is connected to God’s creative power, to the created universe, and at the same time, to the Hellenistic world of philosophy.  It reaches back to the entire corpus of the OT.  Jesus will speak of a new Temple, a new Birth, and a new realm of worship.  The metaphors of shepherds and sheep, of a Vine and its branches, and the theme of Life of the Age of the Messiah, will also be highlighted.  The human side of the story of Jesus is seen first of all as Him being “the Logos made flesh,” and then “taking up residence among the People” (1:14).  The social side of His life is presented as Him “being in the world” (1:10), attending a wedding (2:1ff), and striking up a conversation with a woman who was a stranger (4:3ff).  The period of His public ministry is mostly covered from chapters 2-12.  Chapters 13-17 record His upper room experience in intimate fellowship, and His final meal with His disciples, and then chapters 14-16 offer continuous teaching given to them (including the announcement of the coming Paraclete) which carries on through chapter 17 – an intimate view of His relationship with both His Father and His apprentices, in His long prayer for them.  Chapters 18-20 involve His arrest, His trial, His crucifixion and then His resurrection.  In 1:41 Andrew terms Him the Messiah, and in 1:49, Nathanael proclaims Him to be “the Son of God… the King of Israel,” then in 6:69, Simon Peter will acclaim, “we by personal, intimate experience have come to know that You, Yourself, are God’s Holy One.”


Our work will spend considerable time on the various ways that the first sentence of the Prologue can be rendered, and the implications that are associated with each potential rendering.  There will be an extensive investigation of the Greek word Logos, which dominates the theme of Jn. 1:1-14, and we will point out its use elsewhere in this Gospel.  This Gospel contains numerous iconic verses for the “Christian Faith,” such as these:


            “Within the midst of a beginning (or: In [the] Origin, in union with Headship and centered

            in Sovereignty) there was, and continued being, the Logos (the Word; the Thought; the

            collection of thoughts; the Idea; the Reason; the discourse; the speech and communication;

            the verbal expression; the Message; the reasoned, laid-out and ordered arrangement).

            And the Logos (the idea; the thought; the expression; the Word) was, and continued

            being, facing, [directed, and moving] toward, (or: continued being face to face with)

            God” (1:1)


            “It was (or: He was, and continued being) the True and Genuine Light which (or: Who) is             continuously (repeatedly; progressively) enlightening (giving light to) every person (or:

            all humanity) continuously (repeatedly; progressively; constantly; one after another)

            coming into the world (or: the ordered system of culture, religion, economics and

            government; aggregate of humans; or: the universe)” (1:9)


            “Yet, as many as grasp, receive or accept It (or: took Him in hand; seized to possess

            Him) – to, for and among the ones habitually trusting into Its (or: believing and being

            faithful unto His) Name – It gives (or: He gave) to them (or: for them; in them; among

            them) authority ([the] right; or: privilege from out of the midst of Being) to be birthed

            God’s children” (1:12)


            “You should not be amazed (or: begin to marvel; at some point be filled with wonder;

            suddenly be astonished; or: Don't be surprised) that I said to you, 'It is necessary and

            binding for you folks to be born back up again to a higher place (or: for you people to

            be given birth from above).'” (3:7)


            “And so, just as (or: correspondingly as) Moses lifted up (elevated; raised up high) the

            serpent, within the wilderness (desert; desolate place) [Num. 21:7ff], thus it is

            necessary and binding for the Son of Mankind (Humanity’s Son; the Human Being) to

            be lifted up (elevated; raised up high; exalted), with the result and end that all – this

            progressively believing and successively (one-after-another) trusting humanity – in

            union with Him (or: in order that all humanity, who being constantly loyal, centered in and

            within the midst of Him), would continuously have eonian Life For thus God loves (or:

            You see God, in this manner, fully gives Himself to and urges toward reunion with) the

            aggregate of humanity (universe; ordered arrangement; organized System [of life and

            society]; the world), so that He gives His [other   MSS: the] only-born (or: only-kin;

            unique-class) Son, to the end that all humanity, which (or: everyone, who) – when

            progressively trusting and successively believing into Him and thus being constantly

            faithful to Him – would not lose or destroy itself, or cause itself to fall into ruin, but

            rather can continuously have (or: would habitually possess and hold) eonian life.  You

            see, God does not send forth His [other MSS: the] Son as a Representative or

            Emissary into the world (or: System; aggregate of humanity) to the end that He should

            continuously separate and make decisions about the world (or: would at some point sift

            and judge the System, or the aggregate of humanity), but to the contrary, to the end that

            the world would be delivered

                        (or: for the result that the System could be healed and made whole; so that the

                        ordered arrangement should be restored to health; to the end that the aggregate of

                        mankind may be saved – rescued and re-established in its original state): through

                        Him!” (3:14-17)

In this passage, we want to point to the present participles, “progressively believing and successively (one-after-another) trusting…. progressively trusting and successively believingbeing constantly faithful.”  This Gospel does not use the noun “faith; trust; faithfulness,” but rather different forms of the verb, and usually in a durative tense that signifies continual and/or progressive action.  These imply a dynamic interpersonal relationship with the object of the verb: Jesus, His words, and the Scriptures (2:22).  We suggest that the stories in this Gospel are purposely symbolic; look for layers of meanings.


            “No one is able (or: is presently having power) to come toward Me unless the Father –

            the One sending Me – should drag him [as with a net] (or: draw him [as drawing water in

            a bucket or a sword from its sheath])…” (6:44a)


            “It exists having been written within the Prophets: 'And all humans (all people) will

            continue existing being God’s taught-ones (or: folks having had instruction from God).'

            [Isa. 54:13]  All humanity – which, in hearing from the Father (or: the person listening at

            the Father’s side), and learning [D and others read: progressively learning] – is

            progressively coming toward Me!” (6:45)


            “I, Myself, am (or: continuously exist being) the continuously living Bread – the One

            stepping down (or: descending) from out of the midst of the atmosphere (or: heaven).

            If anyone should eat from out of this Bread, he will continue living on into the Age.

            Now also, the Bread which I, Myself, will continue giving, over (or: for the sake of; on

            behalf of) the life of the world (the ordered system; or: the aggregate of humanity), is My

            flesh!” (6:51)


            “I Myself AM the Door for the sheep (or: the sheep's Gate and Entrance)…. I, Myself, AM

            the Ideal Shepherd (the Beautiful Protector of, and Provider for, the sheep).  The Ideal

            (Fine; Beautiful) Shepherd continually places His soul over the sheep” (10:7, 11)


            “Jesus said to her, "I AM the Resurrection (or: I exist Being the standing back up again:

            the Arising), and (or: that is to say,) the Life.  The one progressively believing and

            habitually putting trust into Me, even if he may die-off (or: die-away), will continue

            Living (or: will proceed being alive)!” (11:25)


            “And thus I Myself: if (when) I should be lifted up from out of the earth (or: can be

            exalted from the midst of this Land), I will progressively (or: one after another) drag [note:

            drag as with, or in, a net; or: draw, as drawing water with a bucket, or a sword its sheath] all

            humans (or: everyone) to Myself” (12:32)


            “I, Myself, AM (exist being) the Way (or: Path), the Truth (the Reality) and the Life (or: = I

            am the way to really live).  No one is presently going to, or progressively coming

            toward, the Father, except through Me (through means of Me, or, through the midst of

            Me).” (14:6)


            “I, Myself, AM the Grapevine; you folks [are] the tender branches (shoots or twigs that

            can be easily broken).  The person continuously remaining (dwelling; abiding) within the

            midst of Me – and I within the midst of and in union with him – this one is repeatedly

            bearing (bringing forth; = producing) much fruit.  [It is the case] that apart from (or:

            Because separated from) Me you folks continue having ability and power to do (make;

            construct; create; form; perform; produce) nothing!” (15:5)


            “I am not now making a request about these only, but further about those habitually

            trusting and progressively believing into Me through their word (or: logos; message;

            what they lay out), to the end that all humans would (or: all people can and should)

            continuously exist being one, correspondingly as You, O Father [other MSS: Father],

            [are] within the midst of Me, and I [am] within the midst of You – so that they,

            themselves, may and would also continuously exist being within the midst of Us, to

            the end that the aggregate of humanity (the System: world of culture, religion and

            government; or: secular society) can (may; could) continuously trust and progressively

            believe that (would continue faithful because) YOU sent Me forth as an Emissary with a

            mission.” (17:20-21)


            “Correspondingly (or: Accordingly; On the same level; In the same sphere; In line with) as

            the Father has sent Me forth with a mission and as an Emissary (Representative), I

            Myself also am progressively (or: repeatedly; or: one after another) sending (dispatching)

            you folks” (20:21)


This is indeed a message of Goodness, Ease and Wellbeing (The Good News).  There is no mention of The Unseen (hades) nor of Gehenna (the Valley of Hinnom, the city dump outside Jerusalem) in this Gospel.  It is a Gospel about continuously having and holding Life.


May God's goodness overwhelm you,


Jonathan P. Mitchell

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