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Relevant Biblical Passages Luke 1:1-4; John 15:1-8; 17:20; 20:24-31; 21:20-25

The Unique Purpose of John’s Gospel. Our studies for this quarter take us to the fourth Gospel, often called the “beloved” Gospel because the author was Jesus’ disciple, John the Beloved. In the first lesson, we explore some of the features that distinguish John from the so-called synoptic Gospels and ask why John was compelled to write another Gospel after three were already known among those who followed Jesus.

  1. One or Four? What are the advantages of hearing four different Gospels instead of one? What are the disadvantages?
    By listening to four trusted witnesses a person learns how to sort out the essential from peripheral.And remarkably, what one author considers important another may omit completely. Is it possible that the intense interest in defending the “inerrancy” of Scripture (i.e. the view that the Bible is without error) may actually undermine God’s purpose in giving us four separate Gospels? Instead of the differences being seen as examples of “allowable limits” for human witnesses, they become flash points for controversy.
  2. Luke’s candid comments. How do the first four versesof Luke’s Gospel point to the role of the human author in writing Gospel? Is it pushing Luke too far if we simply say that he was “dissatisfied” with all the other Gospels and therefore wrote his own? Can this help us understand the even more unique approach in John’s Gospel?
  3. John: Speaking to those who come later. Several features in John’s Gospel suggest that it was intended specifically for those who had not seen Jesus but were dependent on the witness of those who had. The following are noted in the regular Sabbath School study guide:
    1. Hands-off miracles: In the synoptic Gospels, Jesus often touches those whom he heals; in John, Jesus almost always heals by the “word” rather than by the touch. The “mud” applied to the blind man’s eyes in John 9 is a notable exception.
    2. Second-hand invitations: Instead of responding directly to an invitation from Jesus himself, many in John’s Gospel come to Jesus through the invitation of another.
    3. Jesus’ prayer for those who are to come. In his prayer of John 17, Jesus specifically refers to those who will believe as a result of hearing the words of his disciples (17:20).
    4. Nobleman’s son from afar. John 4:46-54 records the story of the nobleman whose son was healed by Jesus’ word, even though the man desperately wanted Jesus to come in person.
    5. Thomas and those who have not seen. In John 20:24-28, Jesus grants Thomas the privilege of touching him, but then commends those who believe without seeing.
  4. First-hand vs. second-hand witnesses. In 1 John 4:1-4 the value of hands-on witnesses is stressed. How does this contrast with the apparent emphasis in the Gospel that one must be prepared to believe without that first-hand contact?

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