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On The Book of John
to the Book of John
I will do the Gospel of John
Commentary similar to my other Commentaries . . . in that
I will bring the verse or verses in the KJV, followed by what
it is saying to me. What I write will be a personal comment,
it is NOT Scripture.
The apostle John is the writer of this Gospel. He was the son of Zebedee and Salome (Mat.27:56; Mk.15:40-41). His father was a fisherman in Galilee, although it seems that he was not destitute of property, and was not in the lowest condition of life. He had hired men in his employ (Mk.1:20). Salome is described as one who attended our Saviour in His travels, and ministered to His needs (Mat.27:55; Mk.15:41).
Christ Jesus, while on the cross, commended His own mother, Mary to the apostle John, and he took her to his own home (Jn.19:26-27), with whom, history tells us, she lived with him until her death, about fifteen years after the crucifixion of Christ.
John was known to Caiaphas, the high-priest (Jn.18:15). It would seem probable that John had some property, and was better known than any of the other apostles.
John was the youngest of the apostles when called, he was called to be a follower of Jesus while working with his father and his older brother James mending their nets at the Sea of Tiberias (Mat.4:21; Mk.1:19; Lk.5:10).
John lived to the oldest age of any of the apostles, and he is the only one who supposedly died a non-violent death.
John seemingly had a special favor and friendship with the Lord Jesus. The two brothers, James and John, along with Peter, were several times admitted to very special circumstances by our Lord. They were the only ones that were permitted to be present at the raising of the daughter of Jairus (Mk.5:37; Lk.8:51). Only they were permitted to be present with the Saviour, when He went to the mount where He was transfigured before them (Mat.17:1; Mk.9:2). Only these same three were permitted to be present at His sufferings in the garden of Gethsemane (Mat.26:36-45; Mk.14:32-42). And it was to these disciples, together with Andrew, to whom the Saviour specially addressed Himself when He made known the desolations that were coming upon Jerusalem and Judea (Mat.24:12; Mk.13:3-4).
John also had a special, One on one, friendship with the Lord Jesus. It is stated of him as "that disciple whom Jesus loved" (Jn.19:26), and also as him leaning on Jesus' bosom at the institution of the Lord's Supper (Jn.13:23). This certainly would be evidence of an exclusive friendship. Although the Redeemer loved all His disciples, it seems probable to suppose that Jesus' disposition was more agreeable with that of the meek and likable John, possibly setting the example of special friendships among Christians.
To this special man, John, was committed the care of Mary, the mother of Jesus. After the ascension of Christ he remained some time at Jerusalem (Acts 1:14; 3:1; 4:13). John is also mentioned as having been sent down to Samaria to preach the Gospel there with Peter (Acts 8:14-25), and from Acts 15, it appears that he was present at the council at Jerusalem, a.d. 49 or 50. All this agrees with what is said by Eusebius, that he lived at Jerusalem till the death of Mary, fifteen years after the crucifixion of Christ. Until this time it is probable that he had not been preaching the Gospel among the Gentiles. When John first went among the Gentiles to preach the Gospel is not known for certain. Some think that he resided in Judea and that area until the war broke out with the Romans, and that he came into Asia Minor about the year 69 or 70. It is clear that he was not at Ephesus at the time that Paul visited those regions, as in all the travels of Paul and Luke there is no mention made of John.
Ecclesiastical history tells us that John spent the latter part of his life in Asia Minor, and that he resided mainly at Ephesus, the chief city of that country. Of his residence there is little known. In the latter part of his life he was banished to Patmos, a small desolate island in the Aegean Sea, about twenty miles in circumference. This is commonly supposed to have been during the persecution of Domitian, in the latter part of his reign. Domitian died a.d. 96, so it is probable that John returned soon after that. It was in that island, where John wrote the Book of Revelation (Rev.1:9).
After his return from Patmos he lived peaceably at Ephesus until his death, which is supposed to have occurred not long after. He was buried at Ephesus; and it has been commonly thought that he was the only one of the apostles who did not suffer martyrdom. It is evident that he lived to a very advanced period of life. We know not his age, when Christ called him to follow Him, but we can suppose it was about twenty-five or thirty. If that be so, he must have been close to 100 years old when he died.
Many stories are related of him while he remained at Ephesus, but there is no sure evidence of their truth. Some have said that he was taken to Rome in a time of persecution and thrown into a caldron of boiling oil, and came out unharmed. It has been said also that, going into a bath one day at Ephesus, he perceived Cerinthus, who denied the divinity of the Saviour, and that he fled from him hastily, to express his disapprobation of his doctrine. It is also said, and of this there can be no doubt, that during his latter years he was not able to make a long sermon. He was carried to the church, and was accustomed to say nothing but this, "Little children, love one another." His disciples asked him why he always said the same thing. He answered, "Because it is the Lord's command; and if this be done, it is sufficient."
Men have been greatly divided about the time when this Gospel was written. Some say it was written just after our Saviour's ascension; others say that it was written in 97; another one that it was about the year 68, just before the destruction of Jerusalem. The common opinion is that it was written at Ephesus after his return from Patmos, and of course as late as the year 97 or 98. Nothing can be determined with certainty, and it really does not matter.
There is no doubt that it was written by John. This is abundantly confirmed by the ancient fathers, and was not questioned by Celsus, Porphyry or Julian, the sharpest enemies of Revelation in the early ages. It has never been extensively questioned to have been the work of John, and is one of the books of the New Testament whose canonical authority was never disputed.
The plan of writing it, John himself states (Jn.20:31). It was to clearly show that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, and that those who believed might have life through His Name.
This design is kept in view through the entire Gospel, and should be remembered in our attempts to explain it.
Many attempts have been made to show that John wrote it to confute the followers of Cerinthus and the Gnostics, but there is no satisfactory evidence of such a plan has been furnished.
Because John wrote after the other evangelists, he has recorded many things which they omitted. He dwells much more fully than they do on the divine character of Jesus; and he relates many things pertaining to the early part of Jesus' ministry which they had omitted. He records many more of His discourses than they did, and particularly the interesting discourse at the institution of the Supper (John ch.14-17).
Some say that there is proof in this Gospel that it was not written for the Jews . . . but, the author explains words and customs which to a Jew would need no explanation (Jn.1:38,41; 5:1-2; 4:9; 7:2). The style in the Greek indicates that John was not a highly educated man. He writes in simple, plain and unpolished words, such as we should suppose would be used by one in his circumstances, while at the same time it is dignified, containing pure and profound sentiments, and is really, on many accounts the most difficult of all the books of the New Testament to interpret. It contains more about Christ, His person, His plan, and His work than any of the other Gospels. The other evangelists were more interested in recording Jesus' miracles, and giving external evidence of the divine mission of Jesus. John is mainly interested in telling us what He was, and what His special doctrine was. John's aim was to reveal: #1. That Jesus was the Messiah. #2. To show, from the words of Jesus himself, what the Messiah was.
The other evangelists record Jesus' parables, His miracles, His debates with the Scribes and Pharisees, while John records mainly His discourses about Himself. If anyone truly wants to learn the TRUE doctrine about the Messiah, the Son of God, stated in plain language, but with most uplifting Truths, and to learn the TRUE nature and character of God, and the One and Only Way to approach to His mercy-seat; to have before him the purest model of character the world has seen, he cannot do it better than by a prayerful study of the Gospel by John.
John was a fisherman, mild mannered, humble and unlearned (Acts 4:13). What man in that rank of life in today's time, could write a book like this? I believe that this Gospel will stand to the end of time as a demonstration that the fisherman who wrote it was under divine guidance, and was, according to the Promise that he has recorded (Jn.14:26; 16:13), guided into all Truth. I believe it is proof that the character which John has described . . . the character of the Lord Jesus . . . was real. It reveals the perfect character of our Saviour, with NOT one flaw! John describes quite well One who he believed had a divine nature (Jn.1:1). John attempts to describe God in human nature. There is NOT one word stated by the Lord Jesus, or an emotion ascribed to Him, that is inconsistent with this in any way!
We humans are lustful, envious and hateful. John shows us through his Book, that we are to be like our precious Saviour and Lord. This lowly Jewish fisherman, could only have written this awesome Gospel, while under a guidance far superior than that of man . . . John was under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
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