The Gospel of John (literally, According to John; Greek, Κατὰ Ἰωάννην, Kata Iōannēn) is the fourth gospel in the canon of the New Testament, traditionally ascribed to John the Evangelist. Like the three synoptic gospels, it contains an account of some of the actions and sayings of Jesus of Nazareth, but differs from them in ethos and theological emphases. The Gospel appears to have been written with an evangelistic purpose, primarily for Greek-speaking Jews who were not believers, or to strengthen the faith of Christians. A second purpose was to counter criticisms or unorthodox beliefs of Jews, John the Baptist's followers, and those who believed Jesus was only spirit and not flesh.
As a gospel, John is a story about the life of Jesus. John tells this story in four parts: the Prologue, the Book of Signs, the Passion narrative, and the Epilogue. The Prologue (1:1-18) is a hymn identifying Jesus as the Logos and as God. The Book of Signs (1:19 - 12) recounts Jesus' public ministry, and includes the signs worked by Jesus and some of his teachings. The Passion narrative (13-20) recounts the Last Supper (focusing on Jesus' farewell discourse), Jesus' arrest and crucifixion, his burial, and resurrection. The Epilogue (John 21) records a resurrection appearance of Jesus to the disciples in Galilee.
Of the four gospels, John presents the highest Christology, describing Jesus as the Logos who was in the Arche (a Greek term for "the beginning" or "the ultimate source of all things"), teaching at length about his identity as savior, and declaring him to be God.
Compared to the Synoptic Gospels, John focuses on Jesus' mission to bring the Logos ("Word", "Wisdom", "Reason" or "Rationality") to his disciples. Only in John does Jesus talk at length about himself, including a substantial amount of material Jesus shared with the disciples only. Here Jesus' public ministry consists largely of miracles not found in the Synoptics, including raising Lazarus from the dead. In John, Jesus, not his message, has become the object of veneration. Certain elements of the synoptics (such as parables, exorcisms, and possibly the Second Coming) are not found in John.
After the prologue (1:1–5), the narrative of the gospel begins with verse 6, and consists of two parts. The first part (1:6-ch. 12) relates Jesus' public ministry from John the Baptist recognizing him as the Lamb of God to the raising of Lazarus and Jesus' final public teaching. In this first part, John emphasizes seven of Jesus' miracles, always calling them "signs." The second part (ch. 13–21) presents Jesus in dialogue with his immediate followers (13–17) and gives an account of his Passion and Crucifixion and of his appearances to the disciples after his Resurrection (18–20). In Chapter 21, the "appendix", Jesus restores Peter after his denial, predicts Peter's death, and discusses the death of the "beloved disciple".
This prologue identifies Jesus as the eternal Word (Logos) of God. Thus John asserts Jesus' innate superiority over all divine messengers, whether angels or prophets. Here John adapts the doctrine of the Logos, God's creative principle, from Philo, a 1st-century Hellenized Jew. Philo, in turn, had adopted the term Logos from Greek philosophy, using it in place of the Hebrew concept of Wisdom (sophia) as the intermediary between the transcendent Creator and the material world. Some scholars argue that the prologue was taken over from an existing hymn and added at a later stage in the gospel's composition.
This section recounts Jesus' public ministry. It consists of seven miracles or "signs," interspersed with long dialogues and discourses, including several "I am" sayings. The miracles culminate with his most potent, raising Lazarus from the dead. In John, it is this last miracle, and not the temple incident, that prompts the authorities to have Jesus executed. Jesus' discourses identify him with symbols of major significance, "the bread of life" (John 6:35), "the light of the world" (John 8:12), "the door of the sheep" (John 10:7), "the good shepherd" (John 10:11), "the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25), "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), and "the real vine" (John 15:1). Many scholars think that these claims represent the Christian community's faith in Jesus' divine authority but doubt that the historical Jesus actually made these sweeping claims.
This section opens with an account of the Last Supper that differs significantly from that found in the synoptics. Here, Jesus washes the disciples feet instead of ushering in a new covenant of his body and blood. John then devotes almost five chapters to farewell discourses. He declares his unity with the Father, promises to send the Paraclete, describes himself as the "real vine," explains that he must leave (die) before the Holy Spirit comes, and prays that his followers be one. The farewell discourses resemble farewell speeches called testaments, in which a father or religious leader, often on the deathbed, leaves instructions for his children or followers. Verses 14:30-31 represent a conclusion, and most modern scholars regard the next three chapters to have been inserted later. Most scholars regard the discourses as having been assembled over time, representing the theology of the "Johannine circle" more than the message of the historical Jesus.
John then records Jesus' arrest, trial, execution, and resurrection appearances, including "doubting Thomas." Significantly, John does not have Jesus claim to be the Son of God or the Messiah before the Sanhedrin or Pilate, and he omits the traditional earthquakes, thunder, and midday darkness that were said to accompany Jesus' death. John's revelation of divinity is Jesus' triumph over death, the eighth and greatest sign.
Chapter 21, in which the "beloved disciple" claims authorship, is commonly assumed to be an appendix, probably added to allay concerns after the death of the beloved disciple. There had been a rumor that the End would come before the beloved disciple died.
The major events covered by the Gospel of John include:
Hymn to the Word
Book of Signs, Seven Signs
Book of Glory, Last Teachings and Death
See main article: Authorship of the Johannine works.
Most modern experts conclude that the author was an unknown non-eyewitness. Tradition ascribes the book to John the Evangelist, a disciple of Jesus.
The text itself is unclear about the issue. John 21:20–25 contains information that could be construed as autobiographical. Conservative scholars generally assume that first person "I" in verse 25, the disciple in verse 24 and the disciple whom Jesus loved (also known as the Beloved Disciple) in verse 20 are the same person. Critics point out that the abrupt shift from third person to first person in vss. 24–25 indicates that the author of the epilogue, who is supposed a third-party editor, claims the preceding narrative is based on the Beloved Disciple's testimony, while he himself is not the Beloved Disciple.  An early document from circa 170, the Muratorian fragment, states that while John was the primary author, several people were involved; that mutual revision was part of the original intent of the authors; and that the editors included the apostle Andrew.
The tradition that an apostle of Jesus wrote the Gospel can be found as early as the first two decades of the second century, and there are many Church Fathers in the remainder of the second century that ascribe the text to John the Apostle. Attestation of Johannine authorship can be found as early as Irenaeus. Eusebius wrote that Irenaeus received his information from Polycarp, who is said to have known the apostles.
The Alogi, a 2nd-century sect that denied the doctrine of the Logos, ascribed this gospel, as well as Revelation, to the Gnostic Cerinthus. Irenaeus, on the other hand, asserted that John wrote his gospel to refute Cerinthus.
Starting in the 19th century, critical scholarship has further questioned the apostle John's authorship and regarding the author as anonymous.   They most often date it to c 90–100, decades after the events it describes. Some critical scholarship argues that there are differences in the composition of the Greek within the Gospel, such as breaks and inconsistencies in sequence, repetitions in the discourse, as well as passages that clearly do not belong to their context, and these suggest redaction.
Raymond E. Brown summarizes a prevalent theory regarding the development of this gospel. He identifies three layers of text in the Fourth Gospel (a situation that is paralleled by the synoptic gospels):
Among scholars, Ephesus in Asia Minor is a popular suggestion for the gospel's origin.
Most scholars agree on a range of c. 90–100 for when the gospel was written, though dates as early as the 60s or as late as the 140s have been advanced by a small number of scholars. The writings of Justin Martyr use language very similar to that found in the gospel of John, which would also support that the Gospel was in existence by at least the middle of the second century, and the Rylands Library Papyrus P52, which records a fragment of this gospel, is usually dated between 125 and 160.
The traditional view is supported by reference to the statement of Clement of Alexandria that John wrote to supplement the accounts found in the other gospels. This would place the writing of John's gospel sufficiently after the writing of the synoptics.
Conservative scholars consider internal evidences, such as the lack of the mention of the destruction of the temple and a number of passages that they consider characteristic of an eye-witness (John 13:23ff, 18:10, 18:15, 19:26–27, 19:34, 20:8, 20:24–29), sufficient evidence that the gospel was composed before 100 and perhaps as early as 50–70. Barrett suggests an earliest date of 90, based on familiarity with Mark’s gospel, and the late date of a synagogue expulsion of Christians (which is a theme in John). Morris suggests 70, given Qumran parallels and John’s turns of phrase, such as "his disciples" vs. "the disciples". John A.T. Robinson proposes an initial edition by 50–55 and then a final edition by 65 due to narrative similarities with Paul.
There are critical scholars who are of the opinion that John was composed in stages (probably two or three), beginning at an unknown time (50–70?) and culminating in a final text around 95–100. This date is assumed in large part because John 21, the so-called "appendix" to John, is largely concerned with explaining the death of the "beloved disciple", supposedly the leader of the Johannine community that would have produced the text. If this leader had been a follower of Jesus, or a disciple of one of Jesus' followers, then a death around 90–100 is reasonable.
Perhaps one of the earliest known manuscripts of the New Testament is a fragment from John, Rylands Library Papyrus 457, better known as P52. A scrap of papyrus roughly the size of a business card discovered in Egypt in 1920 (now at the John Rylands Library, Manchester, accession number P52) bears parts of John 18:31–33 on one side and John 18:37–38 on the other. Most texts list the date of this manuscript to c. 125. The difficulty of fixing the date of a fragment based solely on paleographic evidence allows for a range of dates that extends from before 100 to well into the second half of the second century. P52 is small, and although a plausible reconstruction can be attempted for most of the fourteen lines represented, nevertheless the proportion of the text of the Gospel of John for which it provides a direct witness is necessarily limited, so it is rarely cited in textual debate. Other notable early manuscripts include Papyrus 66 and Papyrus 75.
Much current research on the textual history of the Gospel of John is being done by the International Greek New Testament Project.
Source criticism is the practice of deducing an author's or redactor's sources, especially in Biblical criticism.
In 1941 Rudolf Bultmann suggested that the author of John depended in part on an oral miracles tradition or manuscript account of Christ's miracles that was independent of, and not used by, the synoptic gospels. This hypothetical "Signs Gospel" is alleged to have been circulating before 70. Its traces can be seen in the remnants of a numbering system associated with some of the miracles that appear in the Gospel of John: all of the miracles that are mentioned only by John occur in the presence of John; the "signs" or semeia (the expression is uniquely John's) are unusually dramatic; and they are accomplished in order to call forth faith (see John 12:37). These miracles are different both from the rest of the "signs" in John, and from the miracles in the synoptic gospels, which occur as a result of faith. Bultmann's conclusion that John was reinterpreting an early Hellenistic tradition of Jesus as a wonder-worker, a "magician" within the Hellenistic world-view, was so controversial that heresy proceedings were instituted against him and his writings. (See: Images of Jesus and more detailed discussions linked below.)
The mysterious Egerton Gospel appears to represent a parallel but independent tradition to the Gospel of John. According to scholar Ronald Cameron, it was originally composed some time between the middle of the first century and early in the second century, and it was probably written shortly before the Gospel of John. Robert W. Funk, et al, places the Egerton fragments in the 2nd century, perhaps as early as 125, which would make it as old as the oldest fragments of John.
The Gospel of John is easily distinguished from the three Synoptic Gospels, which share a considerable amount of text. John omits about 90% of the material in the synoptics. The synoptics describe much more of Jesus' life, miracles, parables, and exorcisms. However, the materials unique to John are notable, especially in their effect on modern Christianity.
John portrays Jesus Christ as "a brief manifestation of the eternal Word, whose immortal spirit remains ever-present with the believing Christian." The gospel gives far more focus to the mystical relation of the Son to the Father. Many have used his gospel for the development of the concept of the Trinity while the Synoptic Gospels focused less directly on Jesus as the Son of God. John includes far more direct claims of Jesus being the only Son of God than the Synoptic Gospels. The gospel also focuses on the relation of the Redeemer to believers, the announcement of the Holy Spirit as the Comforter (Greek Paraclete), and the prominence of love as an element in the Christian character.
In the synoptics, Jesus speaks mostly about the Kingdom of God. His own divine role is obscured (see Messianic secret). In John, Jesus talks openly about his divine role. He says, for example, that he is the way, the truth, and the life. He echoes Yahweh's own statements with several "I am" declarations.
John also promises eternal life for those who believe in Jesus.
See main article: Logos. Christians have traditionally translated the opening verse of John as declaring the Logos (which would become the incarnate Jesus) as God, a translation found in many contemporary Bibles. Some critics have maintained that the opening Hymn to the Word declares that the Logos is "god" or "a god" (Greek: theos, without the article) and was with "God" (Greek: pros ton theon), but not that the Logos is God (Greek: ho theos). 
See main article: John the Baptist. John's account of the Baptist is different from that of the synoptic gospels. John is not called "the Baptist", though stress is laid on his being sent to baptize with water. John's ministry overlaps with Jesus', his baptism of Jesus is not explicitly mentioned, but his witness to Jesus is unambiguous. The evangelist almost certainly knew the story of John's baptism of Jesus and he makes a vital theological use of it. He subordinates John to Jesus, perhaps in response to members of the Baptist's sect who denied Jesus' superiority.
In John, Jesus and his disciples go to Judea early in Jesus' ministry when John has not yet been imprisoned and executed by Herod. He leads a ministry of baptism larger than John's own. The Jesus Seminar rated this account as black, containing no historically accurate information. Historically, John likely had a larger presence in the public mind than Jesus.
The Gospel’s treatment of the role of the Jewish authorities in the Crucifixion has given rise to allegations of anti-Semitism. The Gospel often employs the title "the Jews" when discussing the opponents of Jesus. The meaning of this usage has been the subject of debate, though critics of the “anti-Semitic” theory cite that the author most likely considered himself Jewish and was probably speaking to a largely Jewish community. Hence it is argued that "the Jews" properly refers to the Jewish religious authorities (see: Sanhedrin), and not the Jewish people as a whole. It is because of this controversy that some modern English translations, such as Today's New International Version, remove the term "Jews" and replace it with more specific terms to avoid anti-Semitic connotations, citing the above argument. Most critics of these translations, conceding this point, argue that the context (since it is obvious that Jesus, John himself, and the other disciples were all Jews) makes John's true meaning sufficiently clear, and that a literal translation is preferred.
Other critics go further, arguing that the text displays a shift in emphasis away from the Roman provincial government, which actually carried out the execution, and to the Jewish authorities as a technique used to render a developing Christianity more palatable in official circles. Nevertheless, these passages have been historically used by some Christian groups to justify the persecution of Jews.
Christian Gnosticism did not fully develop until sometime around the mid-second century CE. As Roger Olson noted, “second-century Christian leaders and thinkers expended tremendous energies examining and refuting it.”  To say John’s Gospel contained elements of Gnosticism is to assume that Gnosticism had developed to a level that required the author respond to it. Nevertheless, it should be noted that comparisons to Gnosticism, are based, fairly or unfairly, not in what the author says, but in the language s/he uses to say it; notably, use of the concepts of Logos and Light.
However, to say the author was Proto-Gnostic, or even Docetic, would be a misinterpretation of the prologue contained in the first eighteen verses of the text. As noted by Gordon Fee, the proper exegete of any text begins with a survey of the historical context of entire document. Therefore, we must ask who was the author’s intended audience? Raymond E. Brown noted, "John is most often characterized as a Hellenistic Gospel."  This is to say the author of John’s Gospel addressed people familiar with Greek thought and philosophy. When the author identified Christ as the Logos (Gk. word), Greek-speaking Jews and Gentiles heard a philosophically charged word that evoked images of Platonic dualism. However, as the author noted, the “Logos” became “Sarkos” (Gk. flesh or carnal) and was the true light which illuminates every person and overcomes all darkness. Theologically, this is inconsistent with classical Greek dualism and a repudiation of any form of Gnosticism and Docetism as well which held that Christ was not flesh but spirit.
Though not commonly understood as Gnostic, John has elements in common with Gnosticism. Gnostics must have read John because it is found with Gnostic texts. The root of Gnosticism is that salvation comes from gnosis, secret knowledge. The nearly five chapters of the "farewell discourses" (John 13, 18) Jesus shares only with the Twelve Apostles. Jesus pre-exists birth as the Word (Logos). This origin and action resemble a gnostic aeon (emanation from God) being sent from the pleroma (region of light) to give humans the knowledge they need to ascend to the pleroma themselves. John's denigration of the flesh, as opposed to the spirit, is a classic Gnostic theme.
Raymond Brown contends that "The Johannine picture of a savior who came from an alien world above, who said that neither he nor those who accepted him were of this world (17:14), and who promised to return to take them to a heavenly dwelling (14:2-3) could be fitted into the gnostic world picture (even if God's love for the world in 3:16 could not)."
In John, the apostle Thomas appears at one point as brave (11:16), at another as "doubting Thomas" (20:25). He doubts that Jesus has risen physically from the grave, and Jesus proves that he has. While the tradition of John was popular in Asia Minor, the tradition of Thomas was popular in neighboring Syria. To him was attributed a version of Jesus' teachings with Gnostic elements, which appears in the Gospel of Thomas. In John, the author uses Thomas himself to demonstrate that Jesus rose in the flesh.
Since the advent of critical scholarship, John's historical importance has been considered less significant than the synoptic traditions by some scholars. The scholars of the 19th century concluded that the Gospel of John had little historical value. Many scholars today believe that parts of John represent an independent historical tradition from the synoptics, while other parts represent later traditions. The Gospel was probably shaped in part by increasing tensions between synagogue and church, or between those who believed Jesus was the Messiah and those who did not. The scholars of the Jesus Seminar still assert that there is little historical value in John, and consider nearly every Johannine saying of Jesus to be nonhistorical. However, most scholars agree that John is a very important document on Christian theology.
J. D. G. Dunn comments: "few scholars would regard John as a source for information regarding Jesus' life and ministry in any degree comparable to the Synoptics".  But Henry Wansbrough says: "Gone are the days when it was scholarly orthodoxy to maintain that John was the least reliable of the gospels historically." It has become generally accepted that certain sayings in John are as old or older than their synoptic counterparts, that John's knowledge of things around Jerusalem is often superior to the synoptics, and that his presentation of Jesus' agony in the garden and the prior meeting held by the Jewish authorities are possibly more historically accurate than their synoptic parallels. And Marianne Meye Thompson writes: "There are items only in John that are likely to be historical and ought to be given due weight. Jesus' first disciples may once have been followers of the Baptist (cf. John 1:35-42). There is no a priori reason to reject the report of Jesus and his disciples' conducting a ministry of baptism for a time (3:22-26). That Jesus regularly visited Jerusalem, rather than merely at the time of his death, is often accepted as more realistic for a pious, first-century Jewish male (and is hinted at in the other Gospels as well: Mark 11:2; Luke 13"34' 22:8-13,53) ... Even John's placement of the Last Supper before Passover has struck some as likely."
See also: Omissions in the Gospel of John.
John is significantly different from the Synoptic Gospels in many ways. Some of the differences are:
John was written somewhere near the end of the first century, probably in Ephesus, in Anatolia. The tradition of John the Apostle was strong in Anatolia, and Polycarp of Smyrna reportedly knew him. Like the previous gospels, it circulated separately until Irenaeus proclaimed all four gospels to be scripture .
In the early church, John's reference to Jesus as the eternal Logos was a popular definition of Jesus, defeating the rival view that Jesus had been born a man but had been adopted as God's Son. The gospel's description of Jesus' divinity was fundamental to the developing doctrine of the Trinity.
Although very much in line with many stories in the Synoptic Gospels and probably primitive (the Didascalia Apostolorum definitely refers to it and it was probably known to Papias), the Pericope Adulterae is not part of the original text of the Gospel of John. The evidence for this view does not convince all scholars.
When Bible criticism developed in the 19th century, John came under increasing criticism as less historically reliable than the synoptics.
. Bart D. Ehrman. The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. 2004. Oxford. New York. 0-19-515462-2.
Online translations of the Gospel of John:
. Raymond E. Brown. An Introduction to the New Testament. 1997. Anchor Bible. New York. 0-385-24767-2.
. F.F. Bruce. The New Testament Documents: Are they Reliable?. 7.
. Gordon Fee. New Testament Exegesis, Revised Edition. Westminster/John Knox Press,. Louisville, KY. 1993.