Sunday, Feb 17, 2002: “An Introduction To The Gospel According To John”

St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary

“An Introduction To The Gospel According To John”

Sunday, February 17, 2002


This morning, Father Mike Kreutzer led us through “An Introduction To The Gospel According To John.”  He explained how it held a special place within our observance of lent and celebration of Easter.  We are in Year A of the lectionary cycle. Today’s session will focus on the introduction.  The first Sunday in begins with the story of Jesus’ temptation and on Good Friday the Passion according to John is used.  The second through fifth Sundays rotate through the synoptic Gospels whose events and chronology line up more exactly than does John’s Gospel.  Next, Mike walked the group through a handout that described the Paschal cycle.




The paschal mystery of the dying and rising again of Jesus Christ and our participation therein is the theological core of the gospel, and its liturgical celebration is the central event of the church year. This celebration includes not only the special services of Holy Week and the Easter Vigil, but a substantial part of the year, roughly from February to June, the seasons of Lent, Holy Week, and Easter.


Not only is celebration of the resurrection of Christ theologically central to this annual cycle, the entire celebration of the paschal cycle is “dependent upon the movable date of the Sunday of the Resurrection or Easter Day” (BCP 15). Easter is actually a fixed date in a lunar calendar. Its earliest recorded celebration was among the Quartodecimans of Asia Minor, who celebrated the Pascha on the fourteenth day of the Jewish month of Nisan.  Irenaeus claimed that this celebration went back to the time of Polycarp, who died around 155. It celebrated both the passion and resurrection of


Christ. In other parts of the Christian world, and eventually everywhere, L: the celebration was held on the Sunday following, Sunday being the weekly eschatological celebration of the resurrection. In our calendar Easter Day is the Sunday after the first full moon of spring. It therefore falls between March 22 and April 25.


The celebration of the Pascha included both fasting and celebration. In the Roman model, which became normative, Friday and Saturday were observed as days of fasting, with the celebration of the Eucharist either during Saturday night or at dawn on Sunday; so that it occurred on the first day of the week (which began at sundown in the Jewish world but at midnight in the Roman). The festival rejoicing continued for fifty days, called the Pentecost, all of which were treated as one great Lord’s Day, celebrating the resurrection and ascension of Jesus and the descent of the Holy Spirit.


In the fourth century the week before Easter came to be filled with celebrations tied to the historical commemoration of the resurrection on Sunday; The Friday; already a fast day; became Good Friday; the commemoration of the passion and crucifixion; the Last Supper “on the night in which he was betrayed” was commemorated with a Thursday evening Eucharist. From this grows our Holy Week. At about the same time the period of preparation of catechumens for Easter baptism, marked by penitence, fasting, and instruction, came to be identified as Quadragesima (the Forty Days), which we translate as Lent.


The Easter cycle of the liturgical year in our Prayer Book developed from the medieval version of this sequence of celebrations. The Proper Liturgies for Special Days mark major occasions in this cycle. As we observe these separate occasions, though, we need to keep in mind the unity of the entire celebration. The Great Vigil of Easter, with the celebration of the paschal sacraments of baptism and Eucharist, is at its core and is its organizing theme, but the Easter cycle encompasses everything from Ash Wednesday through Pentecost. Its theme is the salvation of the human race through the mighty acts of Jesus Christ. In its celebration we become participants in those mighty acts and enter into the risen life of Christ.


In summary, the Pascal cycle is the core of our church year.  The Great Three Days are actually a single celebration, which is divided into three parts.  There is no dismissal after the Maundy Thursday or Good Friday services.  Easter is celebrated the first Sunday after the first full moon in spring.  In Rome, the day begins at midnight, but in the Jewish community, the day begins at sundown of the day before.  Pentecost lasts fifty days.  Lent, or Quadragisima in Latin lasts forty days.  The duration is actually forty-six days since Sundays are feast days and as such, not included as part of Lent itself.


Those preparing for baptism during Lent had special times.  It is meant to be a time of renewing baptismal covenants for all Christians.  Thus, many of the readings are related to baptism.  John’s writings give a different perspective on Jesus’ life.  Mark was probably written around 65 AD, Matthew and Luke around the mid 80’s, and John sometime in the 90’s.


Next, Mike reviewed the outline of the upcoming lessons, which also included various definitions



The Gospel According To John



1)  Original material, similar to the Synoptics

2)  Johannine patterns

3)  Organization into a consecutive gospel

4)  Secondary editing by “the evangelist”

5)  Redaction by a follower / disciple of the evangelist

            (possible addition of chapters 11-12, 15-17, 21)

It was unknown who the secondary editor was or who did the redaction or final editing.  The description of the Last Supper in chapters 15 through 17 is the longest of all of the Gospels.  Chapter 21 starts a different pattern with a different writing style.


Exact information:

Chap. 4, Samaritans: belief, theology, Geriz~ Jacob’s well

Chap. 5, pool of Bethesda: name, location, construction

Chap. 6-8: theological themes related to the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles reflect accurate knowledge of practices and synagogue readings

Details about Jerusalem: pool of Silo am (9:7); Solomon’s Portico (10:22-23); stone pavement at the Praetorium (19:13)

John seems to have a lot of exact information.  Some of the stories follow in the traditions of both Palestine and western Asia Minor (western Turkey today).  The pool at Bethesda matches with the archeological finds.



Material/information not found in the Synoptics:

Jesus baptizing before his public ministry (3 :22);

public ministry lasting more than one year;

several journeys to Jerusalem;

ongoing opposition of the authorities in Jerusalem (not just in last days);

many details about the passion and death

John is the only place in the Bible where it is made mention of Jesus baptizing people before his ministry.  He also mentions that Jesus’ ministry lasted three years and not just one.



Jesus portrayed in terms of Old Testament “Wisdom”   (wisdom coming forth from God).


Use of terms from the Pharisaic tradition (e.g. “Rabbi”) 


The liberal Pharisee believed in angels and the raising of the dead.  The conservative Sagusees believed in the literal translation of the Torah.  Most of the Sagusees lost their lives in the 66 AD rebellion against Rome, which is why the liberal philosophies flourished after that time period.


Purpose: teaching to encourage believers; defense against Jewish opponents, followers of John the Baptist, and early heresies  (An analysis by Raymond Brown compares the relationship of Jesus at the top (all knowing), the reader in the middle (in-between) and the disciples at the bottom (knowing very little) with the Sherlock Holmes – Watson relationship.)


ecclesiology: a community of believers is assumed (“vine and branches”, “sheep and shepherds”)


sacramentalism: no specific sayings or “institution narratives”, but references to Baptism and the Eucharist scattered throughout the gospel; used to show how the sacraments of Christian life are rooted in Jesus own words and actions    (“I am the bread of life.”)


eschatology: both realized and imminent   (This refers to the view at the end of time.  There was the initial waiting for the second coming and the “realized” eschatology, which recognizes we are already at the end of time and must live our lives accordingly.) 


poetic format: parallelism, inclusions, chiasm, double-meaning, misunderstanding  (Inclusions as is seen in the Book of Psalms which ties together with the overall theme.  Chiasms have the AB-BA format.  The double meanings relate to a single word, which can have two completely different meanings.)  John has a higher Christology than the synoptic Gospels.