The New Testament starts with the three Gospel books of Matthew, Mark and Luke. These three are known as the Synoptic Gospels. Gospel means “Good News”, and Synoptic refers to the fact that all three give an account of the same general events from the same point of view. The fourth book, John, is distinctly different from the three Synoptic Gospels, and includes much information not in the other three Gospels.
The four gospel books differ in what stories they include and how the stories are told. None of the four Gospels are meant to be a complete, detailed life of Jesus. Rather, as John wrote, “Jesus truly did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God; and that by believing you might have life through his name.” “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which, if they should all be written, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.”
Together, the four Gospels comprise the vast majority of the direct information we have about the life and teachings of Jesus.
The first four books of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are known as Gospels, meaning “good news.” The books are named after their traditionally accepted authors. The first three (Matthew, Mark and Luke) are called Synoptic Gospels because they share many of the same stories, and some common passages have similar or identical wording.
In contrast, the contents of John are comparatively distinct from the Synoptic Gospels. John was likely written two or three decades after the others, and its writer included different information, and wrote in a different style than the Synoptic Gospels, with much more symbolic language and various themes.
It is traditionally assumed that the author of John is the Apostle John. He was with Jesus throughout his ministry, and likely refers to himself when he mentions “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” In fact, the subject of love often features in John’s writings.
The opening words of John are reminiscent of those in Genesis, which opens with the beginning of the heavens and the earth, while John opens with the beginning of everything. It is widely interpreted that John uses the term “Word” to refer to Jesus.
The verses in John 1 are very important to gaining an understanding the nature of God, the relationship between the Father and the Son, and the humanity of Jesus. The information in John 1 about John the Baptist is also helpful in understanding just how important he was.
John is the only gospel with the story where Jesus turns water into wine at the marriage feast in Cana. John specifically points out that it is his first miracle.
John is also the only gospel writer who mentions Nicodemus. He describes a long discourse between Nicodemus and Jesus in John 3, and mentions him again on two other occasions. It is likely that the conversation with Nicodemus and Jesus was longer than the portion John recorded, but even so, that portion is full of gems. John 3:16 is possibly the best-known of all New Testament verses.
Throughout John, it is important to keep in mind that the author is being very selective about the information he provides. We know that because he says as much in John 20:30-31. Why is he being choosy? He chooses the things needed to make sure his readers will become believers in Jesus!
Luke – Troy Powell
John Mark – Wilbur Penn
Paul – Brian Shoop
Matthew – James Hansen Prince
Peter – Francis Fuselier
John the Apostle – John Ferguson
Lazarus – Ricco Fajardo
Philip the Apostle – Jordan Dragonking
Joseph of Arimathea – Gerardo Davila
Mary Magdalene – Trisha Zarate
Thomas – Brandon Potter
Most Thankful Angel – Carleen Huber