Sources: Paul J. Achtemeier et al., Introducing the New Testament: Its Literature and Theology (Eerdmans, 2001); David Wenham and Steve Walton, Exploring the New Testament: A Guide to the Gospels and Acts (IVP, 2001).
A Very Different Gospel
Major themes of John (Achtemeier et al., 194):
revelation of Jesus' identity and the challenge to recognize him,
contrasting responses of belief and unbelief, and
judgment upon those who do not believe.
Differences with the synoptics stand out against the commonalities (see Achtemeier et al., 197-200):
From Jesus' baptism by John on to his final days in Jerusalem, Jesus
... speaks parables and sayings
... speaks discourses
... stressing the Kingdom of God.
... stressing his coming and identity (with 'I am' claims and 'the Father/the Son' language) and its consequences ('life', 'light'/'darkness', 'witness', 'truth', 'the world').
As he teaches crowds, calls twelve disciples, heals, and debates opponents, especially Pharisees, Jesus
... calls for repentance
... calls for belief
... with mighty works, wonders, exorcisms
... with signs (repeating only the feeding of the 5,000 and walking on water)that 'the ruler of this world is cast out' (12:31)
... that evoke audiences' awe, praise, misunderstanding
... that evoke trust among witnesses and mistrust among 'the Jews' (because of later disciples' expulsion from the synagogue? see 9:22)
... climaxing in the Temple disturbance.
... climaxing in the raising of Lazarus (11:38-54).
Jesus is arrested, tried, crucified, buried, and rises again and appears to his disciples.
The narrative centers in Galilee
The narrative centers in Jerusalem
... and is structured by travels
... and is structured by Jewish holy days (e.g., Jesus is crucified as the Passover lambs are sacrificed)
... whose tensions resolve at the resurrection
... with foreshadowing and anticipation throughout (e.g., his preexistence, disciples' confessions, Temple cleansing, glorification, 'it is finished', ascension, Spirit's outpouring, return, perfect tenses)
... in fairly typical Hellenistic styles.
... in a consistently polarized, dualistic, and Hellenistic Jewish apocalyptic style whose simple prose and events have deeper significance that the unbelieving fail to discern (sometimes ironically: 3:2, 5:7, 9:29, 11:50).
Then is John a free-standing response to other gospels (cf. 3:24 with Mark),
or an independent tradition from a different community (or circle of eyewitnesses)?
Are John's differences with the Synoptics troubling? vexing? engaging?
John's narrative structure (juxtaposed, so Bauckham, with Mark's)
Prologue (1:1-18, cf. Mark 1:1)
Beginning (1:19-51, cf. Mark 1:2-20)
"Book of Signs":
Signs and growing conflict (2:1-12:36, cf. Mark 1:21-14:9)
Summary (12:37-50 [cf. Mark 14:10-11?])
"Book of Glory":
The upper room (13:1-17:26, cf. Mark 14:12-42)
The passion (18:1-19:42, cf. Mark 14:43-15:47)
Resurrection (20:1-31, cf. Mark 16:1-8 [16:1-18?])
Epilogue (21:1-25 [cf. Mark 16:19-20?])
Prologue and Beginning: Highlights Introduction: the identity and mission of God in Jesus Christ, as witnessed
Overture: John testifies, opponents question, disciples do both yet follow.
Book of Signs: Highlights (also see chart above) Water to wine at Cana (2:1-11);
clearing the temple; exchanges with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman;
Healing of official's son at Cana (4:46-54);
Healing of paralytic at Jerusalem (5:1-15);
unity with the Father; judgment on unbelieving witnesses;
Feeding the five thousand across from Galilee (6:6-16);
Walking on water on the Sea of Galilee toward Capernaum (6:16-21);
discourse on himself as bread of life; mass desertion and foreshadowing of betrayal; Jesus keeps his own festival of booths; perplexed and worried audiences; Jesus promises the Spirit; light of the world; will be 'lifted up'; sons of Abraham versus sons of the devil;
healing the blind man at Jerusalem (9:1-7) and resulting exchanges;
the good shepherd; divided opinions; the son of God is in the Father; failures to arrest Jesus;
Raising of Lazarus (11:1-45) at Bethany;
plot to murder Jesus; anointing at Bethany; triumphal entry; prediction of death; divided interpretations.
Signs of glory's incommensurability with sin:
rebuke, then granting; escalating conflict; intensifying divine confirmation, hardening human unbelief juxtaposed with growing trust.
Book of Glory: Highlights No last supper narrative! Instead, footwashing, teaching, and prayer (13:1-17:26).
Jesus' great love, his disciples, is to be their own.
Jesus will send 'the Paraclete' (14:26) to judge the world (16:8) and teach the disciples (16:18).
Do the tenses of the farewell discourses indicate post-ascension revelation?
In the garden, on trial, and on the cross, Jesus ...
dismisses his disciples rather than being deserted (18:7-8, cf. Mark 14:34-52),
judges his judges, for the power over his life is his (cf. 10:18, 12:31),
and is already glorified ("lifted up", 3:14) on the cross (13:31, 17:1-5).
Jesus' resurrection appearances are recognition scenes (20:16, cf. 10:3-5).
Jesus seems to ascend and return in the middle of the narrative (20:17, 27).
Disciples face the same challenge to believe rather than disbelieve (20:27).
Triumphant glory in the midst of incommensurability.
Epilogue The narrative has been a penetrating gospel of cosmic significance focused sharply on Jesus, written for trust in his name unto eternal life (20:30-31).
But have the disciples
failed to follow Jesus in the next scene (21:3)?
Jesus appears and restores Peter to his former calling (21:15-18).
Finally he charges the disciples again to 'follow me' (21:19, 21, cf. 1:43).