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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Written and "Unwritten" Christmas Christ Story: Four Gospels Examined

Christmas is fast approaching. Amid the commercialism and many secular seasonal customs, the birth of Jesus Christ is the true meaning for celebrating the holiday. Reading the biblical accounts of Christ's birth renews the spirit of Christians everywhere. Just what do the Gospels say about Christmas? To a novice reader, the content may be enlightening.

This blog entry stands as pertinent information about the birth of Jesus. It doesn't claim to reveal rigid, pat answers to specific questions that people pose about the events. Instead it examines the story and the intended readership of the event as it sheds light on the apostles.

Beth Piepenburg, past Headmistress at Classical Cottage School and Bible historian, examines four apostolic versions of the Christ story. I find it very interesting to read Piepenburg's interpretation of the audience for which each version was written. I have included all four Gospels in the King James Version of the Bible followed by research pertaining to each.

Beth Piepenburg's Post:


Matthew's Version

* "Initially, Matthew wrote his gospel in the Hebrew Aramaic for the Jewish people with the focus on Jesus Christ being King and Messiah. Loaded with Jewish idioms and culture, the gospel was later translated into Greek, the language for literary writings. Therefore, Matthew’s intention is to explain to his fellow Jews the fulfillment of prophecy." 

-Beth Piepenburg

Matthew 1:18 (King James Version)

18. Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.

Matthew 1:19-25 (King James Version)

19. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.

20. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

21. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

22. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,

23. Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

24. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:

25. And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

Matthew 2:1-2 (King James Version)

1. Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem

2. Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

Matthew 2:3-8 (King James Version)

3. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

4. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

5. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet,

6. And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

7. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.

8. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

Matthew 2:9-10 (King James Version)

9. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

10. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

Matthew 2:1-2 (King James Version)

1. Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

Matthew 2:12-15 (King James Version)

12. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

13. And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.

14. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:

15. And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. 

The Gospel of Matthew is anonymous: the author is not named within the text, nowhere does he claim to have been an eyewitness to events, and the superscription "according to Matthew" was not part of the first editions.

Harrington, Daniel J. (1991). The Gospel of Matthew. Liturgical Press

The tradition that this was the disciple Matthew  begins with the early Christian bishop Papias of Hierapolis (b. 63), who wrote: "Matthew wrote down the sayings of Jesus in Hebrew dialect (en Hebraïdi dialektōi—may refer to Hebrew or Aramaic -- the subgroup includes Canaanite language such as Hebrew and Phoenician), and everyone translated (hērmēneusen—or "interpreted") them to the best of their ability.
 Turner, David L. (2008). Matthew

On the surface this implies that Matthew's Gospel was written in Hebrew or Aramaic and translated into Greek, but the passage is ambiguous and Matthew's Greek "reveals none of the telltale marks of a translation." 

Matthew wrote for a Jewish audience: he stresses the continuing relevance of the Jewish law; unlike Mark he never bothers to explain Jewish customs; and unlike Luke, who traces Jesus' ancestry back to Adam, father of the human race, he traces it only to Abraham, father of the Jews.

 Burkett, Delbert (2002). An Introduction to the New Testament and the origins of Christianity.  Cambridge University Press

The content suggests that this community was stricter than the others in its attitude to keeping the Jewish law, holding that they must exceed the scribes and the Pharisees in "righteousness" (adherence to Jewish law); and of the three only Matthew refers to a "church" (ecclesia), an organized group with rules for keeping order.

Mark's Version

* "Mark, writing in Rome, condensed the gospel story for the Roman world with the focus on Jesus Christ being the Servant of God and Son of God. Although written in Greek, this gospel keeps to a Semitic syntax, and yet uses many Latin words and idioms. Therefore, Mark’s intention is to explain to the common culture the story of Christ in a pragmatic manner."

-Beth Piepenburg

Mark 1:1-15 (King James Version)

1. The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;

2. As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

3. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

4. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

5. And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.

6. And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;

7. And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.

8. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.

9. And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.

10. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:

11. And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

While it is true that Mark does not include a birth narrative, this does not mean that he was either unaware of the truth about Jesus or denied the virgin conception. Eyewitnesses often omit important details because they either (1) have other concerns they want to highlight with greater priority, or (2) presume that the issue under question is already well understood. The gospel of Mark exhibits great influence from the Apostle Peter. - See more at:
No mention of the Christmas story is found? Mark's gospel, believed to be the earliest version of the life of Christ is the shortest and most focused. Included are the events most important in articulating salvation that is offered by the cross.

Mark was probably the primary source of information for the writers of Luke and Matthew. Moreover, because neither Jesus nor his original disciples left any writings behind, the Gospel of Mark is the closest document to an original source on Jesus’s life that currently exists.

Mark leaves out accounts of Jesus’ birth, yet the Bible confirms Mark does not appear to be ignorant of the Virgin Mary's conception. His silence about the birth of Christ serves as a presumption that the virgin conception has already been accurately described by other authors.

In the Sixth Chapter, Mark uses an unusual expression related to Jesus' parentage:

Mark 6:1-3

"1. Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. 
2 And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! 
3. Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him."

This gospel was written primarily for an audience of gentile Greek-speaking residents of the Roman Empire: Jewish traditions are explained, clearly for the benefit of non-Jews and Aramaic words and phrases are expanded upon by the author. When the book references the Old Testament, it does so in the form in which it had been translated into Koine Greek. (A common, regional form of Greek spoken and written during hellenistic and Roman antiquity, Koine Greek arose as a common dialect within the armies of Alexander the Great.)

The Gospel According to Mark does not name its author. A tradition evident in the 2nd century ascribes it to Mark the Evangelist (also known as John Mark), the companion of Peter, on whose memories it is based. However, according to the majority view, the author is an otherwise unknown figure, the author's use of varied sources telling against the traditional account. The gospel was written in Greek, probably around AD 60–70, possibly in Syria.

Bernd Kollmann, Joseph Barnabas (Liturgical Press, 2004)

According to Papias of Hierapolis, writing in the early 2nd century, this gospel was by "Mark, (who) having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately, though not in order, whatsoever he remembered of the things said or done by Christ." In modern terms, Mark was Peter's scribe.

Papias, quoted in Eusebius History of the Church, trans. G.A. Williamson (London: Penguin Books Ltd., 1965). 3.39.15 / pp. 103–4.

Some modern scholars believe that the gospel was written in Syria by an unknown Christian no earlier than AD 70, using various sources including a passion narrative (probably written), collections of miracles stories (oral or written), apocalyptic traditions (probably written), and disputations and didactic sayings (some possibly written).Some of the material in Mark, however, goes back a very long way, representing an important source for historical information about Jesus.

 Theissen, Gerd and Annette Merz. The historical Jesus: a comprehensive guide. Fortress Press. 1998. translated from German (1996 edition). p. 24–27.

Luke's Version

"Luke, the beloved physician, wrote his gospel with the focus on Jesus Christ being the Son of Man and the perfect God-Man. Written in Greek, the literary language of the day, the gospel has Greek overtones. Therefore, Luke’s intention is to explain by Greek expression the human story of Christ in a historical genre."

-Beth Piepenburg

 Luke 1:26-38 (King James Version)

26. And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

27. To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.

28. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

29. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

30. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

31. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.

32. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:

33. And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

34. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

35. And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

36. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.

37. For with God nothing shall be impossible.

38. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
Luke 1:39-40; 56 (King James Version)

39. And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;

40. And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.

56. And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.

Luke 2:1-5 (King James Version)

1. And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

2. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5. To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 

Luke 2:6-7 (King James Version)

6. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:8-14 (King James Version)

8. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2:15-20 (King James Version)

15. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Luke presents a detailed "Christmas account." The human appeal of the story cannot be denied.

It is generally considered significant that this message was given to shepherds, who were located on the lower rungs of the social ladder in first-century Palestine.  Contrasting with the more powerful characters mentioned in the Nativity, such as the Emperor Augustus, they seem to reflect Mary's words in the Magnificat: "He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble."

The Magnificat is known as the Song of Mary or the Canticle of Mary. The text of the canticle is taken directly from the Gospel of Luke where it is spoken by the Virgin Mary upon the occasion of her Visitation to her cousin Elizabeth. Luke 1:39-56. In the narrative, after Mary greets Elizabeth, who is pregnant with the future John the Baptist, the child moves within Elizabeth's womb. When Elizabeth praises Mary for her faith, Mary sings what is now known as the Magnificat in response.

Luke 1:39-56 (King James Version) 


39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;
40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.
41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
45 And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.
46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
51 He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
54 He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
55 As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.
56 And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.

 Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke. Eerdmans, 1997

In Luke, the shepherds, taken as Jewish, also combine with the gentile Three Magi, in later tradition thought to be one each from the three continents then known, to represent the first declaration of the Christian message to all the peoples of the world.

The phrase "peace to men on whom his favor rests" has been interpreted both as expressing a restriction to a particular group of people that God has chosen and inclusively, as God displaying favor to the world.

According to the preface, the purpose of Luke is to write a historical account, while bringing out the theological significance of the history. The writer divides history into three stages: The first ends with John the Baptist, the second consists of Jesus' earthly ministry, and the third is the life of the church after Jesus' resurrection.

N. B. Stonehouse, The Witness of Luke to Christ (1951), pp. 24–45; H. J. Cadbury, The Beginnings of Christianity II, 1922, pp. 489–510; R. Bauckham,
 Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (Eerdmans, 2006).

The account of Luke also has a special emphasis on prayer, the activity of the Holy Spirit, women, and joyfulness. Jesus is presented as the Son of God, but attention is especially paid to the humanity of Jesus, featuring his compassion for the weak, the suffering, and the outcast. Luke's style is the most literary of all these books. Graham Stanton evaluates the opening of the Gospel of Luke as "the most finely composed sentence in the whole of post-Classical Greek literature." 

The author is traditionally identified as Luke the Evangelist. Biblical Scholars are in wide agreement that the author of the Gospel of Luke also wrote the Acts of the Apostles. Modern scholarship generally rejects the view that Luke was the original author, with the most that could be said being that Lukan authorship is "not impossible."

 Martin, D. 2009. New Testament History and Literature 9. The Gospel of Luke. Yale University.

The traditional view is that Luke, who was not an eye-witness of Jesus' ministry, wrote his gospel after gathering the best sources of information within his reach (Luke 1:1–4).

Most modern critical scholarship concludes that Luke used the Gospel of Mark for his chronology and a hypothetical sayings source Q document (According to Q document hypothesis, this ancient text was based on the oral tradition of the Early Church.) for many of Jesus' teachings. Luke may also have drawn from independent written records. The date of the Gospel of Luke is traditionally fixed to some time before the end of the final events of Luke's second volume to Theophilus, Acts, so as early as 59 or 60

Robertson, A.T. Luke the historian in the light of research. 1923

The Gospel survives in anonymous form, but it is considered that the name was known to the addressee, Theophilus. The author was probably a Gentile Christian. Whoever the author was, he was highly educated, well traveled, well connected, and extremely widely read. By the time he composed the Gospel, he must have been a highly practiced and competent author – able to compose in a wide variety of literary forms according to the demands of the moment.

Fizmyer, Joseph. The Gospel according to Luke: introduction, translation, and notes. The Anchor Bible v. 28–28A. (2 vols) Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1981–1985.

Despite the majority opinion that Luke was a gentile writing to other gentiles, a few authors have challenged this view. Birger Gerhardsson notes his opinion that “Luke is very much dependent upon Jewish rabbinical tradition.” Adolf Schlatter concluded that the text's character together with other indicators point to the author's provenance from the Jewish church.

Schlatter, Adolf, The theology of the Apostles: the development of New Testament theology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), 327

Although references to the Semitic language exist throughout the Gospel of Luke, it was composed in Koine Greek. Like Mark (but unlike Matthew), the intended audience is the Greek-speaking populations of the region; it assures readers that Christianity is an international religion, not an exclusively Jewish sect.

Harris, Stephen L. Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985

Like Matthew, Luke recounts a royal genealogy and a virgin birth for Jesus. Unlike Matthew, who traces Jesus' birth back through the line of David to Abraham in order to appeal to his Jewish audience, in Luke the evangelist traces Jesus' lineage back to Adam, indicating a universal sense of salvation. Luke's birth narrative features the Christmas story, in which Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem for a census,  the newborn Jesus is laid in a feeding trough (or manger), angels proclaim him the savior for all people, and shepherds come to adore him. Also unique to Luke is John the Baptist's birth story and three canticles (including the Magnificat) as well as the only story from Jesus' boyhood.

Ehrman, Bart D. The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings (Fourth Edition). New York: Oxford. 2008

John's Version

"John wrote his gospel in Greek. His focus is on Jesus Christ being the Son of God and the Revealed Word. John’s gospel is spiritually oriented, and speaks to the heart, whether Jew or Gentile. Therefore, John’s intention is to explain Christ in spiritual terms."

-Beth Piepenburg

John: 1-18 (King James Version) 

1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2. The same was in the beginning with God.

3. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

4. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

5. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

6. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

7. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

8. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

9. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

10. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

11. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

12. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

13. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

15 John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.

16. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.

17. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

18. No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

The Christmas story in John begins not with angelic visitors, but with the Word of God active "in the beginning." (John 1:1) Through the Word, God created all things, including life and light. Although no radiant star appears in the heavens in this Gospel, the light that shines in the darkness does. (John 1:1-5)

John 1:1-14 reveals the heart of John's Christmas story: "And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth."

The Word of God, active in creation, source of life and light, became human. The presence of the Word in human flesh reveals glory, the glory of God the Father. This glory is not just radiant light, however. Rather, it is the fullness of God's grace and truth. From this fullness, humans have all received "grace upon grace" (John 1:16).

The Christmas story in the John's Gospel ends by acknowledging that no one has ever seen God. But Jesus Christ, the only Son (or the only God; the Greek text is uncertain at this point) has made God known to mankind.

Roberts, Mark D. "Preaching the Neglected Christmas Story." December 08, 2010

The Gospel According to John is an anonymous account of the public ministry of Jesus. It begins with the witness and affirmation of John the Baptist and concludes with the death, burial, resurrection, and post-resurrection appearances of Jesus.

Chapter 21 states that the book derives from the testimony of the "disciple whom Jesus loved." Along with Peter, the unnamed disciple is especially close to Jesus, and early church tradition by the 2nd century identified him as John the Apostle, one of Jesus' Twelve Apostles.

The gospel was apparently written near the end of the 1st century. Brat Ehrman 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 he believes clearly do not belong to their context, and believes that these suggest redaction. (Redaction regards the author of the text as the editor of his source materials.)

Ehrman, Bart. A Brief Introduction to the New Testament. Oxford University Press, USA. 2004.

The noncanonical Dead Sea Scrolls suggest an early Jewish origin, parallels and similarities to the Essene Scroll, and Rule of the Community. Many phrases are duplicated in the Gospel of John and the Dead Sea Scrolls. These are sufficiently numerous to challenge the theory that the Gospel of John was the last to be written among the four Gospels and that it shows marked non-Jewish influence.

"Religion: Out of the Desert." Time Magazine. April 15, 1957

The gospel is closely related in style and content to the three surviving Epistles of John such that commentators treat the four books, along with the Book of Revelation, as a single body of Johannine literature. According to most modern scholars, however, the apostle John was not the author of any of these books.

Harris, Stephen L. Understanding the Bible (Palo Alto: Mayfield, 1985) p. 355

The discourses seem to be concerned with issues of the church-and-synagogue debate at the time when the Gospel was written. It is notable that, in the gospel, the community appears to define itself primarily in contrast to Judaism, rather than as part of a wider Christian community. Though Christianity started as a movement within Judaism, Christians and Jews gradually became bitterly opposed. 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.

Lindars, Barnabas (1990). John. Sheffield Academic Press 

John presents a "higher" Christology than the synoptic gospels, meaning that it describes Jesus as the incarnation of the divine Logos through whom all things were made, as the object of veneration, and more explicitly as God incarnate.

 Brown, Raymond E. (1965). "Does the New Testament call Jesus God?" 
Theological Studies 26: 545–73

This prologue is intended to identify 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.

Harris, Stephen L. (1985). Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield

Only in John does Jesus talk at length about himself and his divine role, often sharing such information with the disciples only. Against the synoptics, John focuses largely on different miracles (including the resurrection of Lazarus), given as signs meant to engender faith. Synoptic elements such as parables and exorcisms  are not found in John. It presents a realized eschatology in which  salvation is already present for the believer.

Eschatology is the study of the destiny of humankind as it is revealed by the Bible. The major issues and events in Christian eschatology are death and the afterlife, Heaven and Hell, the Second Coming of Jesus, the Resurrection of the Dead, the Rapture, the Tribulation, Millennialism, the end of the world, the Last Judgment, and the New Heaven and New Earth of the world to come.

John has Jesus foretell that new knowledge will come to his followers after his death. This reference indicates that the author may have included new information, not previously revealed, that is derived from spiritual inspiration rather than from historical records or recollection.

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