The fourth gospel, and fourth book in the New Testament.

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King James Bible

John, the youngest son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, came to the throne of England after the death of his brother Richard I in 1199. In practice, John had been ruling for some time before that, as Richard spent most of his reign on Crusade or defending Normandy. John had been the favorite of both his parents, but was nicknamed "John Lackland" because he was not given any dukedoms in his youth (available titles and lands had mostly gone to his four older brothers before the oldest three died). Richard gave him titles and named him heir to the throne (rather than Arthur, duke of Brittany and son of their older brother Geoffrey, who strictly speaking had a better claim because of primogeniture).

John was a man with very few principles; he probably had Arthur murdered in 1203 (which angered the King of France enough to invade Normandy over it) and is also said to have hanged one of his wife's lovers over her bed (though he was known as a womanizer himself). He also quarreled with the Church over who had the power to nominate people for the position of bishop, and was excommunicated in 1208 for it (though he was accepted back into the church in 1213 when he humbled himself before the Pope's choice for Archbishop of Canterbury).

While John was in France in 1214, his nobles gathered together (under the same Archbishop of Canterbury) to protest his misgovernment, and on John's return forced him to sign the Great Charter (Magna Carta) to recognize the rights of the Church, the barons, and the people of England. John, saying that he had signed under duress, got the Pope's permission to raise an army to fight the barons. The fighting went on for about a year with no clear winner. During the fighting, John's baggage train was swept away while crossing a river and John got extremely upset at losing valuables including his crown. He came down with a fever, which was probably not helped by his emotional state, ate too many peaches with new cider and got dysentery from it, and died a few days later on 18 October 1216. He was succeeded by his son Henry III.

John is known as the archetypical bad king, though he was capable of occasionally showing mercy or generosity toward people. I've heard a story that because of this John's reputation, no likely heir to the throne of England is ever named John (however, I can't find any confirmation of this).

This is also a nickname/slang for a man who visits prostitutes.

This is often with an indefinate article such as a as in "a john" or in plural form. But it is not necessary. Also a typical name, like John Doe or Jane Doe.

The gospel of John begins in a unique way. Unlike Matthew and Luke, John is not based on the work of Mark, which starts with the prophesizing of John the Baptist. In contrast to Mark who bases his writing on the eyewitness accounts of Peter, John's words are those of a man professing his faith for all to see, instead of merely a recounting of events surrounding Jesus (McKenzie 2).

John begins with words of intensity and beauty that only a faithful man can profess.

"What has come into being in him was life and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it (John 1:3b-5)."

Through out the entire book similar passages with romantic language can be found. Since the writers of John were in Asia at the time of the book's creation (Class Notes 5/2), and thus influenced by Greek culture, the language shows their motives; namely to seduce Gnostics with the beauty of the text while still preaching Jesus as Lord.

The Book of John not only differs from the other gospels in its use of language, it is also different in perspective. John is written in the third person with any references to the disciple John omitted. If John needs to be referred to, he is called "the disciple whom he (Christ) loved."

Thematically the gospel is based on the Word of God, and the use of light and dark to symbolize those who have experienced and believe the word and others who do not. Jesus himself puts very clearly his mission in these terms when he talks to a group of people just before the Last Supper:

The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you (John 12:35a). And, while you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of the light (John 12:36).
Another unique portion of John occurs at the Last Supper. In the ultimate act of humility Jesus washes the feet of all of the disciples, including Judas Iscariot. The act is meant to teach us that the lowest of society is no less one of God's children than the mightiest, and we should treat everyone the same. In the case of Judas, Jesus goes one step further telling us not only to treat those with low standing well, but also those who do us harm.

However the feet washing episode teaches us something more, it is a preparation for His ultimate death and resurrection. As John McKenzie and Paul Visokay put it:

If a person is to share in him, Jesus, if he is to be in communion with him and belong to him, he must accept the slave-service Jesus offers; in other words, he must accept the death of Jesus as a death that brings him salvation (McKenzie II, 24).
In John Jesus has other humble, humanistic qualities. Another good example is when he weeps openly at the death of Lazarus. One could ask why Christ would be overcome with emotion at the death of one person, but this goes back to light and dark and sight and blindness. The purpose of Jesus in John was not only to try to bring healing to the world. God sent him, so that God might also experience human suffering and frailty and love. Had Jesus not wept at the death of Lazarus, he would have missed a vital part of the human experience and remained in the dark about it.

Staying out of the dark is the fundamental part of John, and through it's devotion to Jesus as a man and a savior, the book aims to bring the "light" and the "life" of the world to those willing to accept him.

The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press 1989.

Brown, Raymond E. The Anchor Bible: The Gospel According to John. Volumes XIII-XXI. Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc. 1970.

Helms, Randel McCraw. Who Wrote the Gospels?. Altadena, California: Millennium Press 1997.

McKenzie, John L. New Testament for Spiritual Reading: The Gospel According to St. John. Volumes I-III. New York: Crossroad 1981.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
Book: John
Chapters: 1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · 6 · 7 · 8 · 9 · 10 · 11 · 12 · 13 · 14 · 15 · 16 · 17 · 18 · 19 · 20 · 21 · 1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 ·

The Apostle and Evangelist, John, seems to have been the
youngest of the twelve. He was especially favoured with our
Lord's regard and confidence, So as to be spoken of as the
Disciple whom Jesus loved. He was very sincerely attached to his
Master. He exercised his ministry at Jerusalem with much
success, and outlived the Destruction of that City, agreeably to
Christ's prediction, ch. 21:22. History relates that after the
Death of Christ's mother, John resided chiefly at Ephesus.
Towards the close of Domitian's reign he was banished to the
isle of Patmos, where he wrote his Revelation. On the accession
of Nerva, he was set at liberty, and returned to Ephesus, where
it is thought he wrote his Gospel and Epistles, about A. D. 97,
and died soon after. The design of this Gospel appears to be to
convey to the Christian world, just notions of the real nature,
office, and character of that Divine Teacher, who came to
instruct and to redeem mankind. For this purpose, John was
directed to select for his narrative, those passages of our
Saviour's Life, which most clearly displayed his Divine power
and authority; and those of his discourses, in which he spake
most plainly of his own nature, and of the power of his Death,
as an Atonement for the sins of the world. By omitting, or only
briefly mentioning, the events recorded By the other
evangelists, John gave Testimony that their narratives are true,
and left room for the doctrinal statements already mentioned,
and for particulars omitted in the other Gospels, many of which
are exceedingly important.

The name comes originally from Yochanan 'God is great' in Hebrew, and is one of the most common names in all of the Western World. Here is how the name appears in various languages:

  • Hebrew: Yochanan
  • Ancient Greek: Ioannes
  • Latin: Johannes
  • English: John
  • Dutch: Johannes, Hannes, Hans
  • German: Johannes, Johann, Johan, Jan, Hans
  • Danish: Johannes, Johan, Jon, Jan, Jens, Hans, John
  • Norwegian: Johannes, Johan, Jon, Jan, Hans
  • Swedish: Johannes, Johan, Jon, Jan, Hans
  • Icelandic: Jóhannes, Jóhann, Jón
  • Cornish: Jowan
  • Manx: Ean
  • Scottish: Eoin, Iain, Ian
  • Irish: Eoin
  • Welsh: Iefan, Ifan, Evan
  • Breton: Yann
  • French: Jean
  • Spanish: Juan
  • Portuguese: João
  • Catalan: Joan
  • Galician: Xoán
  • Italian: Giovanni, Gianni
  • Romanian: Ioan, Ion
  • Basque: Ion, Jon
  • Finnish: Jani, Joni, Jouni, Juha, Juhana, Juhani, Juho, Jukka, Jussi
  • Hungarian: Jani, János
  • Estonian: Jaan
  • Latvian: Janis
  • Lithuanian: Jonas
  • Russian: Ivan
  • Ukrainian: Ivan
  • Bulgarian: Ioan
  • Croatian: Ivo, Ivan
  • Serbian: Jovan, Ivan
  • Slovene: Yanez
  • Macedonian: Jovan
  • Polish: Iwan, Jan
  • Czech: Ivan, Jan, Johan
  • Slovak: Ivan, Jan
  • Albanian: Gjon
  • Greek: Ioannes, Ioannis
  • Armenian: Hovannes
  • Esperanto: Johano
  • Hawaiian: Keoni
  • Niuean: Sione
  • John (?), n. [See Johannes.]

    A proper name of a man.

    John-apple, a sort of apple ripe about St. John's Day. Same as Apple-john. -- John Bull, an ideal personification of the typical characteristics of an Englishman, or of the English people. -- John Bullism, English character. W. Irving. -- John Doe Law, the name formerly given to the fictitious plaintiff in an action of ejectment. Mozley & W. -- John Doree, John Dory. [John (or F. jaune yellow) + Doree, Dory.] Zool. An oval, compressed, European food fish (Zeus faber). Its color is yellow and olive, with golden, silvery, and blue reflections. It has a round dark spot on each side. Called also dory, doree, and St. Peter's fish.


    © Webster 1913.

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