Posted by: Ken Brown | August 31, 2009

Introducing the Gospel of John

I just agreed to give a twenty minute introduction to the Gospel of John (followed by ten minutes for discussion) for a ladies’ bible study at our church. They don’t want anything too “heady,” just a bit of context and direction as they study the Gospel themselves this fall. Here are my first thoughts on what to include:

  • Setting (not too detailed, but a bit about the situation at the end of the first century, Johannine community, perhaps its relation to the other Gospels; I’m not sure what I’ll say about authorship or–worse–historicity).
  • Structure (I’m tempted to say something about the debates over John’s compositional history, but wonder if that would be too “heady” and time consuming).
  • Purpose of the Gospel and Major Themes (Christology, belief, light and life, Jesus’ death and resurrection as glorification, etc.)
  • Jewish Background and Content (Wisdom, Torah, the Festival Cycle, the portrayal of “the Jews”; I’ll try not to spend too much time on the Temple!)

Kinda makes me wish I could teach the whole course–there’s so much that would be interesting to discuss with them! Twenty minutes isn’t much time, and my main goals are to give them a sense of the depth of John’s narratives and to point them towards a few aspects of the text that they might otherwise overlook (such as John’s connections with Wisdom literature like Sirach, its unique perspective on Jesus’ death or, ehem, its engagement with the Temple). I wonder if I should give them a handout with more info… but that’s a lot of work and they’ve only given me a week to prepare.

So what do you think? Am I missing anything major, or should I limit myself to only a couple of these issues so I can do them better justice? What would you include (if you are a New Testament scholar)? Or what would you want to hear about (if you are not a scholar)?

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Responses

  1. Hi Ken, the four topics you listed are excellent. I would include (if time permits) how John’s Gospel is part of the Johannine corpus in the NT (1-3 John & Revelation) and that John is a major NT author/theologian, the other two being Luke and Paul. But I can see that you have much to cover in a 20 minutes’ intro. And some remarks on how John’s Gospel contrasts with the synoptic Gospels and that it is probably the last Gospel and NT book to be written close to the end of the 1st century, C.E, even perhaps after Revelation.

  2. […] Introduction to the Gospel of John I gave my introductory talk this morning. It seemed to go well, though I did not wrap it up it very effectively (I should have […]


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