Dear Brothers and Sisters,
St. John’s gospel is a unique composition. The author clearly knows the earlier recorded stories of Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection, but John includes other stories and introduces other characters to round out the whole picture.
John’s gospel is written later than the other three. Scholars believe it was completed toward the end of the first century at the end of John’s long life. While it was written late it draws on memories and sources from decades before. Some believe the gospel was written by an anonymous author who put John’s name to it, but this is a late invented theory. All the early witness in the church tell us that the gospel was written by John, the apostle.
John, the brother of James, and the “beloved disciple” of Jesus has had decades to ponder the gospel events. By the end of the first century the apostolic church had come to understand fully who Jesus was and what his mission was on earth. John uses the language of signs and symbols throughout his gospel to reveal Jesus’ true identity and mission.
There are so many personal details and reminiscences in John’s gospel that there is no reason to disbelieve that it was written by John himself, or at least by a secretary or editor who worked closely with John. Some believe that a simple fisherman could not have written such a profound and beautiful gospel, but this is to underestimate the level of education and learning even working-class Jewish boys would have received in Jesus’ time. It also does not allow for the learning that anyone might undertake throughout their life.
John’s gospel along with the three letters of John and the Book of Revelation are considered to be from the same author or group of editors working from the original memories and sermons of the apostle. Scholars like to debate about the details, but the simple truth is that in the gospel of John we are brought into a real and vital contact with Jesus, and the theological depth of the gospel helps us to understand how important the Lord’s life and death were within the early church.
At Christmas the gospel of John comes into its own as we read the majestic words, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was made flesh…and dwelt among us full of grace and truth, and we beheld it’s glory.”