Study Guide

Gospel of John

Gospel of John Introduction

Here at Shmoop, we've got some pretty core beliefs:

  • Coke is better than Pepsi. Obviously.
  • The Red Sox are the best baseball team on the planet. And we liked them before 1918.
  • Jacob is obviously the better choice for Bella. Wish we could have told her that before she chose immortal life with a vamp. Oops.

We're pretty sold on these beliefs, but how far would we really go for them? Sure, we'd tell the world via Shmoop. But would we risk alienating our friends and family if they didn't agree? Well, maybe for the Red Sox thing, but generally, not so much.

The Gospel of John is all about sticking by what we know is right. It's true that there aren't many people who would go to battle over the soft drink wars (or at least we hope not). But when it comes to the big questions in life—faith, family, politics, justice, and love—we might risk a little more. But that takes a lot of guts. Just ask Jesus.

The Gospel of John isn't your average Matthew, Mark, or Luke. It also wasn't written by a guy named John, although the people who put it in the Bible thought Jesus's disciple John had written it. Now we're pretty sure that there were actually multiple writers; after all, there are all kinds of awkward transitions and weird edits within the story.

What's so different about John? We're glad we asked:

  • Jesus doesn't talk as much about a "kingdom of God."
  • Jesus doesn't teach in parables.
  • Jesus talks about himself a lot more. Sometimes he even used metaphors to explain who he was. 
  • Jesus didn't perform tons of miracles or heal people possessed by demons.

The main message: the only way they could know God is to know Jesus. Period. Just put your faith in Jesus… or else God will not be amused.

P.S. Don't feel bad if your beliefs don't inspire others to create the most popular religion in the world or anything. Start out slow. Worried about the environment? Start a recycling program. Think bullying is wrong? Stand up to the meanies. Love the Yankees? Hmmm… that one you might want to keep to yourself.

What is Gospel of John About and Why Should I Care?

The Bible is for rebels.

What's that you say? Reading the Bible is a pretty tame way to rebel? Oh, we get it. You think the Bible is just for old ladies with musty church hats or little kids forced to sit through boring Sunday school lectures. Well, Doubting Thomas, we're pretty sure you haven't read the Gospel of John.

Not only is Jesus—the star of the Gospel of John—the original rebel (flying in the face of authority and getting crucified is pretty hardcore), the authors of John's Gospel were pretty radical, too. Even though they probably knew about the other three gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—they didn't worry their pretty little heads about making sure their gospel was just Part Four of an unstoppable Jesus quadrilogy. They did their own thing.

As a result, you get all new material. Ever heard of someone casting the first stone? Turning water into wine? How about Lazarus rising from the dead? Ever been called a Doubting Thomas? (Oh, yeah, that was us…) Well, you can thank those rebels over at the Gospel of John. They invented those stories. In fact, the authors of John's Gospel were so revolutionary that nearly 80% of what they wrote is totally unique to their gospel (source).

So, what do you think? Ready to rebel? Hop on your bike and ride over to the first chapter of John's Gospel. We'll meet you there… as soon as we get this weird smell out of our church hats.

Gospel of John Resources

Websites

From Jesus to Christ
Everything you ever wanted to know about Jesus, but were unsure how to Google.

Movies and TV

The Gospel of John
The 2003 movie is a word-for-word recreation of John's Gospel (for all those times when words on a page just won't cut it). Bonus points for starring Desmond from Lost as Jesus.

Jesus Christ Superstar
While not exclusively about The Gospel of John, this rock opera—based on the last week of Jesus's life—has all kinds of catchy gospel-inspired musical numbers.

The Last Temptation of Christ
This controversial movie drew protest when it was released in 1988, in part because it shows Jesus struggling with doubt, depression, and lust. Guess no one likes a Doubting Messiah.

The Passion of the Christ
Maybe it's impossible to make a movie about Jesus without a little controversy. This 2004 Mel Gibson blockbuster covers the final twelve hours of Jesus's life and features dialogue in Aramaic and Latin. People balked at the gruesome depictions of the crucifixion, but flocked to the theaters anyway.

King of Kings
This 1927 silent movie by Cecil B. DeMille (of The Ten Commandments fame) attempted to portray a more nuanced version of its Jewish characters. It makes the high priest, Caiaphas, into a more sympathetic figure—not an easy task.

Historical Documents

The Gospel of John
Read it for yourself. We dare you.

The Antiquities of the Jews
Written by first-century Jewish historian, Josephus, around 94 CE, the third chapter of this text provides some information about Jesus and Pilate. Have at it and become a biblical scholar in one sitting.

Video

Who Was Jesus?
Here's some historical info on Jesus from the good people at National Geographic.

Where Was Jesus Buried?
No one really knows, but this short PBS news story gives us some options.

The Last Supper
In this Funny or Die original sketch, Jesus dines with his disciples at his last supper… and has a slight issue with the bill.

Don't Pray So Much
SNL takes on Jesus, Phil Hartman style.

Life of Brian
Jesus only makes a brief appearance in this irreverent Monty Python comedy, but the crucifixion scene will have you looking at the bright side of life.

Why I Love Jesus and Hate Religion
This spoken word poem went viral a few years ago, but it still has the power to capture our attention as an earnest mediation on faith in Jesus.

Criss Angel Walks on Water
Sure, Jesus did it in the middle of the stormy sea at night, but we guess we'll give Criss Angel credit for getting across this hotel swimming pool.

Audio

John Dominic Crossan
New Testament scholar John Dominic Crossan talks with NPR about Jesus, the crucifixion, and the early church. Trust us, this guy knows his stuff.

Bart Ehrman
Bart Ehrman, professor of religious studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, talks with Terry Gross about Jesus and the difference between the gospels. You'll want to run out and read all of them again.

Bach's The Gospel of St. John
A concert performance of Bach's 18th-century oratorio, St. John's Passion. The audio includes a short introduction to the piece and its slightly problematic history in Christian worship.

Were You There?
Johnny Cash and The Carter Family sing the haunting gospel classic, Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)? We dare you not to swoon.

How Bible Stories Evolved Over the Centuries
Check out this awesome NPR story on how the New Testament was shaped and changed to become the book we know today.

Images

First-Century Judea
Ever wondered where all the stars of the Gospel of John lived? This helpful map points the way—but please, no flash photography.

Map of Jerusalem
The big city.

Temple in Jerusalem
Check out how the temple looked in the time of Jesus. Money changers might want to set up shop elsewhere.

Loaves and Fishes
Here's a stunning mosaic tile floor in The Church of the Multiplication. Look familiar?

Rio, Baby
The largest Art Deco statue in the world is located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. And it's Jesus.

The Passion of the Christ
A screen shot from The Passion of the Christ. The movie (inaccurately) imagines that Mary Magdalene was the woman caught in adultery.