Vincent's Word Studies

Marvin R. Vincent, D.D.

Baldwin Professor of Sacred Literature in Union Theological Seminary New York.

The Gospel According to John


The life of John covers a period from near the beginning of the first century to the beginning of the second. He was a native of Galilee, and, according to tradition, of the town of Bethsaida, which was on the western shore of the Lake, not far from Capernaum and Chorazin. His father was Zebedee. His mother, Salome (Mar 16:1; Mat 20:20), was among the women who supported the Lord with their substance (Luk 8:3), and attended Him to His crucifixion (Mar 15:40). The family was not without worldly means. Zebedee was a fisherman, and had hired servants in his employ (Mar 1:20). Salome ministered to Jesus, and John seems to have had his own house (Joh 19:27). He was, apparently, one of the disciples of John the Baptist; and while engaged in his father's craft, was found and called by Jesus (Mat 4:21; Mar 1:19). Of the two mentioned in Joh 1:35, only one, Andrew, is named (Joh 1:40); the other is commonly supposed to have been John, who suppresses his own name, as in other instances where he refers to himself (Joh 14:23; Joh 18:15; Joh 19:26; Joh 20:2, Joh 20:4, Joh 20:8; Joh 21:20).

As soon as Jesus was made known to him, he became His enthusiastic disciple. His peculiar intimacy with our Lord is marked by the phrase “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” and also by the fact that he was one of the three chosen to be with Him at certain special and momentous crises. He was admitted to the death-chamber of the ruler's daughter (Mar 5:37) and witnessed her restoration to life; he was present at the Transfiguration (Luk 9:28), and with Peter and James was chosen by the Master to bear Him company during His agony in Gethsemane (Mar 14:33). He accompanied Jesus, after His arrest, into the palace of the High Priest, and secured entrance for Peter (Joh 18:15, Joh 18:16). He stood by the cross with the mother of Jesus, and to his care Jesus committed her (Joh 19:25-27). With Peter he ran to the sepulchre on the morning of the Resurrection at the summons of Mary Magdalene, entered the empty tomb, and saw and believed (Joh 20:2-8). After the Resurrection he appears engaged in his former employment on the Lake of Galilee. He is the first to recognize the risen Lord standing upon the shore (Joh 21:7), and is the subject of Peter's inquiry, “Lord, what shall this man do?” when he is seen by Peter to be following Jesus (Joh 21:20).

His apostolic activity was in the first thirty years after the Ascension. In Jerusalem his position among the apostles was not exceptionally prominent. At the time of the Stephanic persecution he remained with the other apostles at Jerusalem (Act 8:1); but when Paul, three years after his conversion, came to that city (Gal 1:18), he met there only Peter, and James the Lord's brother. From this, however, it does not follow that the remaining apostles had permanently departed from Jerusalem and settled elsewhere. In Gal 2:9, Paul alludes to John as having been present in Jerusalem at the time of the council (Acts 15). The narrative in Acts does not mention him in connection with the council, but Paul, in the Galatian letter, refers to him as one of the pillars of the church with James and Cephas.

The commonly received tradition represents him as closing his apostolic career in Asia and at Ephesus. An old tradition affirms that he left Jerusalem twelve years after the death of Christ. In no case, therefore, did he go immediately to Ephesus. Definite notices as to his abode in the interval are wholly wanting. It is a noteworthy fact that the lives of so many of the world's leaders include spaces which remain a blank to the most careful biographer, and into which the world's curiosity can never penetrate. Such is the period of Paul's retirement in Arabia, of Dante's exile, and, to some extent, of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness. Some later traditions assert that he visited Parthia, and Jerome groundlessly conjectures that he had preached in Judaea. There is some plausibility in the supposition that he may have betaken himself to Antioch at the time of Paul's first missionary journey. It is certain that, much later, John was a successor of Paul at Ephesus. Neither at the departure of Paul to Miletus (Acts 20) nor during the composition of the Ephesian letter is there a trace of John's presence at Ephesus.

Tradition is also agreed that John was banished to the isle of Patmos by the Roman authority. Irenaeus says that he was banished in the reign of Domitian: another tradition assigns the exile to the reign of Nero. From this exile he was permitted to return, it is said, under Nerva (a.d. 96-98). The date of his death is unknown. Jerome places it sixty-eight years after the death of Christ.

The dominant characteristic of John's nature is contemplative receptivity. Every word of his Lord is taken into his deepest heart, held fast and pondered. “He does not ask, 'What shall I do?' but 'What does he do?'” Hence it is clear why the finest and subtlest flavor of Jesus' personality has been caught by him. With this receptiveness goes a power of impartation. “Every man,” says Ebrard, “can see the sunset-glow on an Alp, but not everyone can paint it.” John, like a mirror, not only received but reflected. While the other Evangelists perceived that element of Jesus' teaching and work which produced the most immediate and striking outward results, as the Sermon on the Mount, for instance, John discerned the meaning and the bearing of less prominent incidents, such as the conversation at Jacob's well. Paul, like John, has the quality of inwardness, but Paul reasons where John contemplates. John is tenacious and intense; Paul equally so, but more deft than John. John broods over his thought; Paul thrusts and parries with it.

Yet John is no sentimentalist. He is not the lovely, effeminate youth of picture. His mental and moral fiber is strong. He received the title “Son of Thunder” from One who never misread character. Not irascible, as some have too hastily inferred from Luk 9:54, he illustrates the peculiarity of many affectionate and contemplative natures, which flash into a startling impetuosity on occasions which appeal to their more radical view of truth and to their longer range of vision. John was incapable of half-enthusiasms and of suspended faith. To whatever he addressed himself, he was totus in illis. In his own way, he is no less plain-spoken and severe than Paul. He is direct where Paul is sometimes ironical. He is neither gentle nor vague in his language concerning those who deny that Jesus is the Christ (1Jo 2:22), nor concerning the lineage of him that committeth sin (1Jo 3:8) and the moral quality of him that hateth his brother (1Jo 3:15; 1Jo 4:20). In the Apocalypse he enters with profoundest sympathy into the divine indignation against evil, and contemplates with unfeigned joy its wholesale and crushing defeat and punishment. He seems to cheer the progress of the Conqueror upon the white horse. The issues between truth and falsehood, life and death, light and darkness, love and hatred are stated by him with a stern and decisive sharpness, and as absolute finalities. The quality of sin is conceived according to the scale of his adoring love for Christ. He deals with it as wickedness rather than as weakness, though not overlooking the latter. For him the victory of the Gospel is not a prophecy, but an accomplished fact. Faith overcometh the world. The overcoming Christ is already present in every believer.

Such a character would not have been adapted to Paul's work. It was not sufficiently versatile and many-sided. John had not Paul's pioneer instinct, his pushing activity, and his executive power. He was fitted to raise the superstructure rather than to lay foundations; to be a teacher rather than an evangelist. It was his to complete the teaching of the other apostles by unfolding the speculative mystery of the incarnation and the secret of the inward union of the believer with Christ; to purge the Church from speculative error, and to hold up, over against the Gnostic caricature, the true image of the Son of Man.

The writings ascribed to John are the Gospel, three Epistles, and the Apocalypse or Revelation.

The Gospel

The nearly unanimous tradition of the Church assigns the fourth Gospel to John. It is unquestionably the work of a Jew, an eyewitness, and a disciple of Jesus. It was probably written toward the close of the first century, and therefore later than the other three Gospels. According to the earliest evidence, it was composed at Ephesus, at the request of John's intimate friends, who desired to have his oral teaching recorded for the permanent use of the Church.

There are three theories as to the motive of its composition. According to the first, known as the “supplementary” theory, John wrote the fourth Gospel as a supplement to its predecessors, in order to supply what was wanting in the synoptic narrative. This Gospel is indeed supplementary in fact, but not in motive. It is supplementary in that the writer constantly assumes that certain facts are already known to his readers, and adds other facts from his own special information. But the Gospel itself expressly disclaims all intention to be complete (Joh 21:25), and is an original conception, both in form and substance, having a distinct plan of its own, and presenting a fresh aspect of the person and teaching of our Lord. “It is the picture of one who paints, not because others have failed to catch the ideal he would represent, but because his heart is full and he must speak.”

The second theory is that the Gospel is “polemical” or controversial, designed to oppose the errors of the Nicolaitanes and of Cerinthus. But the Gospel is polemical only incidentally, as the presentation of the positive truth suggests particular points of error. The point of view is not controversial. The writer is moved by the pressure of his great theme to set it forth in its positive aspects, and not with special reference to the errors of his time.

The third theory, known as the “irenic” or conciliatory, maintains that the Gospel was intended to reconcile divergent religious views, and to bring into their right relation truths which heresy perverted. The Gospel is conciliatory in fact, not from definite intent, but from the very nature of the subject - the Word made flesh, in which all religious controversies are reconciled. “Just as it rises above controversy while it condemns error, it preserves the characteristic truths which heresy isolated and misused. The fourth Gospel is the most complete answer to the manifold forms of Gnosticism, yet it was the writing most used by the Gnostics. It contains no formal narrative of the institution of sacraments, and yet it presents most fully the idea of sacraments. It sets forth with the strongest emphasis the failure of the ancient people, and yet it points out most clearly the significance of the dispensation which was committed to them. It brings the many oppositions - antitheses - of life and thought, and leaves them in the light of the one supreme fact which reconciles all, the Word became flesh; and we feel from first to last that this light is shining over the record of sorrow and triumph, of defeat and hope” (Westcott).

The object is distinctly stated in the Gospel itself. “These are written that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that, believing, ye may have life in His name” (Joh 20:30, Joh 20:31). The last of these three - life in Christ through faith - is the key to the two others. The readers were already disciples; and in vindicating the two propositions that Jesus is the Christ and that Jesus is the Son of God, the object was not to lead to the acknowledgment of His divine mission, but to exhibit these as the ground of a living communion of believers with God, and of a richer spiritual life. The character of the Gospel is predominantly historic. Even the doctrinal portions have a historic background and a historic embodiment. The doctrine, for instance, of the essential antagonism between light and darkness, it set forth in the narrative of the hostile attitude of the Jews toward Christ; and the discussions with them have their root and material in this same antagonism. The historical material is carefully selected with a view to its bearing on the particular conception of Christ's person and work which is announced in the Prologue. The history is the practical exhibition of the Logos-doctrine in the person and earthly life of the Man Jesus. The miracles are invariably termed signs, and are regarded as expressions and evidences of the divine personality of the worker.

The Gospel is characterized by the profuse employment of symbolism. This accords with its Hebrew fiber, and also, largely, with the nature of its subject. For not only was John a Jew, familiar with the symbolic economy and prophecy of the Old Testament, but Jesus, the central figure of his Gospel was, pre-eminently the fulfiller of the Law and of the Prophecies. Christ's own teaching, too, was largely symbolic; and John's peculiar, profound spiritual insight detected in His ordinary acts that larger meaning which belonged to them in virtue of Jesus' position as the representative of humanity; and that unity of the natural and spiritual worlds which was assumed in the utterances of our Lord in which the visible was used as the type of the invisible. “John,” says Lange, “gives us not only a symbolism of the Old Testament word, of Old Testament institutions, histories, and persons; he gives also the symbolism of nature, of antiquity, of history and of personal life; hence the absolute symbolism, or the ideal import of all real existence, in significant outlines.”

The relation of the Gospel to the Old Testament is pronounced. The center of the Old Testament system is the manifestation of the glory of God - the Shekinah. John declares that this glory appears essentially in Christ. He recognizes the divine preparation among the nations for Christ's coming, and the special discipline of Israel with a view to the advent of the Messiah. In the Jews he discerns the special subjects of the Messianic economy. Nathanael is an Israelite indeed: the temple is the Father's house: salvation is from the Jews: the Jewish Scriptures testify of Christ: the testimonies to Christ are drawn from the three successive periods of the people's training - the patriarchal, the theocratic, and the monarchical: the Serpent in the wilderness prefigures Christ's “lifting up,” and the Passover His own sacrifice as the Lamb of God.

The fourth Gospel is the only one of the four which is developed according to a prearranged and systematic plan. This plan may be generally described as the exhibition of “the parallel development of faith and unbelief through the historical presence of Christ.” The Gospel accordingly falls into two general divisions: the Prologue (1:1-18); the Narrative (1:19-21:23). The narrative consists of two parts: the self-revelation of Christ to the world (1:19-12:50); the self-revelation of Christ to the disciples (13-21). In the development of this plan the author dwells upon three pairs of ideas: witness and truth; glory and light; judgment and life. “There is the manifold attestation of the divine mission; there is the progressive manifestation of the inherent majesty of the Son; there is the continuous and necessary effect which this manifestation produces on those to whom it is made; and the narrative may be fairly described as the simultaneous unfolding of these three themes, into which the great theme of faith and unbelief is divided” (Westcott). The plan is foreshadowed in the Prologue. He who was the Word, in the beginning with God, by whom all things came into being, was life and light - the light of men. To Him witness was born by John, who was sent to testify of Him that all men might believe on Him. But though He was made flesh and dwelt among men, though He came unto His own home, though He was full of grace and truth, the world knew Him not, and His own people refused to receive him. There were, however, those who did receive Him; and to such He gave power to become sons of God through faith in His name. They became such, not in a physical sense, not of blood, nor of the will of man, but of God. They received of his fullness.

Accordingly the Gospel treats of the nature of Christ, and of the witness born to Christ by John, by the disciples, and by miracles. It goes on to describe the conflict between the eternal Light and the darkness as embodied historically in the persistent opposition of the Jews to Jesus. He came to them and they received Him not. Then the other aspect is presented - the blessing of those who did receive Him, the impartation of sonship and the consequent privilege of communion with the divine nature. From the thirteenth to the end of the seventeenth chapter is described Christ's revelation of Himself to His disciples in ministries of love and in confidential discourse. The darkness did not overcome the light. The apparent defeat through death was converted into victory through resurrection. This victory of the light is unfolded from the eighteenth to the end of the twentieth chapter, in the story of the betrayal, the passion, and the resurrection. The twenty-first chapter forms an Epilogue in which the divine light again shines forth in miracle, ministry, and counsel, before the final departure to the Father.

Relation to the Synoptic Gospels

The fourth Gospel exhibits marked differences from the others both in chronological arrangement and in the selection of material. As regards the latter, it contains much that is peculiar to itself, and falls in with the Synoptists only in a few sections.

But, while independent, it is not contradictory of the Synoptic Gospels. All the four Gospels are consciously based upon the same great facts; and the author of the fourth owns and confirms the first three. The incidents common to the fourth Gospel and all the Synoptists are, the baptism of John; the feeding of the five thousand; the triumphal entry into Jerusalem; the last supper and the passion and resurrection. John, with Matthew and Mark, relates the walking on the sea and the anointing at Bethany.

John's Gospel also implies acquaintance with incidents which he does not relate. Such are the circumstances of Christ's baptism; the position and character of Simon Peter; Christ's early home at Nazareth and later residence at Capernaum; the number of the disciples; the date of the Baptist's imprisonment; the Ascension, etc. The same imagery appears, in the figures of the bride and the bridegroom, the harvest, the servant, the vine. The same sayings occur, and verbal and other coincidences are frequent.

The inner coincidences are still more striking. John's portrait of Jesus, for instance, is, in many particulars, unique. It is fuller, more subtle, and indicates a closer intimacy. John deals with His person, where Matthew and Luke deal with His offices. In Matthew He is the fulfiller of the law; in John He foreshadows the grander and richer economy of the Spirit. Nevertheless, John's Christ is the same figure which appears in the lines of the Synoptists. In both He is the teacher, the meek and lowly one, the worker of miracles of power and mercy. In both He is plain of speech toward those who would become his disciples, the hater of hypocrisy, the reader of men's hearts.

Similar coincidences appear in the portraits of prominent disciples, notably of Peter. Though appearing in some scenes not noted by the Synoptists, the Peter of their Gospels is easily recognized in the portrait by his fellow disciple. He is the same combination of impulsive boldness and cowardice; of affectionateness and brusqueness; as quickly responsive to love as to anger; as prompt to leap into the lake at the sight of his Lord, as to smite Malchus.

The inner coincidences are also to be discerned in John's assumption of facts recorded by the other evangelists, so that the coincidence sometimes appears in what he does not record. Giving no details of the birth of Christ, like Matthew and Luke, he tells us that the Word became flesh. The childhood, with its subjection to parental authority appears in the story of the wedding at Cana. While the Synoptists dwell upon the event of the incarnation, he dwells upon the doctrine. The sacraments of Baptism and of the Eucharist, the institution of which he does not relate, are assumed as familiar in the conversation with Nicodemus and in the discourse at Capernaum. The ascension is not described, but is predicted in Christ's words to Mary. Similarly, the work of Jesus in Galilee, which John does not narrate, is presupposed in the sixth and seventh chapters. The anointing at Bethany is assumed to be known, as is the hearing of Jesus before Caiaphas.

With these coincidences marked differences appear. Setting aside the omission by Mark of the Gospel of the infancy, the Synoptic narrative falls into three parts: 1, The ministry of the Baptist, the baptism and temptation of Jesus. 2, The return of Jesus to Galilee, followed by a series of connected narratives concerning His teaching and miracles in this and surrounding districts, without any intimation that, during this time, He also visited Judaea and Jerusalem. 3, Hereupon all the three pass at once from the last journey of Jesus to Jerusalem to the Passover, at which He was crucified. Hence, as Dean Alford remarks, “had we only their accounts, we could never, with any certainty, have asserted that He went to Jerusalem during His public life, until His time was come to be delivered up. They do not, it is true, exclude such a supposition, but rather, perhaps, imply it. It would not, however, have been gathered from their narrative with any historical precision.”

Turning now to John's Gospel, we find Christ's ministry in Galilee between the Baptism and the Passion interrupted by journeys to Jerusalem. He goes up to the Passover, on which occasion occur the cleansing of the temple and the visit of Nicodemus (Joh 2:13; 3:1-21). A second visit is made to an unnamed feast of the Jews (Joh 5:1), during which He heals the impotent man at Bethesda, excites thereby the hostility of the Jews, and delivers the discourse in 5:17-47. He goes up again at the Feast of Tabernacles (Joh 7:10), and, ten months later, appears at the Feast of Dedication (Joh 10:22). An interval is spent on the other side of the Jordan (Joh 10:40), at Ephraim in the wilderness of Judaea (Joh 11:53-54), and at Bethany (11, Joh 12:1), after which He makes His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Joh 12:12 sqq.). According to John, therefore, between Christ's last journey from Galilee to Jerusalem and His triumphal entry, there is an interval of several months, spent partly in Jerusalem and partly in the neighboring districts; while according to the Synoptists it seems that He went from Galilee to Jerusalem to the last Passover only a short time before it began; and that He had previously remained continuously in Galilee or in the neighborhood, having taken up His abode there at the beginning of His public ministry.

In the Synoptists the scene of Christ's work is almost exclusively Galilee, while John mentions only five events connected with the Galilaean ministry. On the other hand, the fourth Gospel assumes a knowledge of Jesus' activity in Galilee and Peraea (Joh 6:1; Joh 7:1, Joh 7:11, Joh 7:52; Joh 10:40).

The difference between John and the Synoptists also appears in the form of the narrative. The latter represent Jesus' teaching as dealing mainly with the humble peasantry. It is proverbial, popular, abounding in parable, and the discourses are brief. John represents Christ as speaking in long and profoundly thoughtful discourses. While John has nothing answering to the Sermon on the Mount and the groups of parables, the other evangelists have nothing answering to the interviews with Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, and the disciples before the Passover. In John the discourses are more dramatic and dialectic; in the Synoptists, proverbial, parabolic, and prophetic. Yet John's account of Jesus' teaching is not wanting in short paradoxical sayings, such as abound in the Synoptists (see Joh 2:19; Joh 4:32, Joh 4:34, Joh 4:35; Joh 7:33; Joh 5:17; Joh 6:27, Joh 6:33, Joh 6:62); nor, though no parable is worked out by John, are parabolic sayings wanting, such as the Good Shepherd, the Vine, the Living Water, and the Bread of Heaven.

In another and deeper aspect his Gospel stands related to the others as completing. He alone has seized and preserved certain sides of the life and teaching of the Lord, such as His utterances as to His eternal relation to the Father and His eternal unity with Him (Joh 3:13 sqq.; Joh 5:17 sqq.; Joh 6:33, Joh 6:51; Joh 7:16, Joh 7:28 sqq.; Joh 8:58, and elsewhere). It is to John, in short, that we owe the view of the speculative side of Christ's work; while as regards the relation of believers to their Lord, John gives us those deep and comforting words concerning the mystical unity and community of life between Himself and His disciples, into which they will enter through the Holy Spirit.

Yet these deeper and more mystical views were not altogether the outcome of John's characteristic personality. They were also toned and shaped by the peculiar conditions of the Church and of the religious thought of his time. The conflict of Christianity was no longer with Judaistic error; no longer between the Gospel and the Law; between circumcision and uncircumcision; but with an essentially heathen Gnosticism which appealed to the Church with the claim of a profound insight into Christianity, and sought to wrest the Gospel to its own service. It has already been remarked that the aim of the fourth Gospel was not distinctively polemic. John was impelled to write by the pressure upon his own soul of the truth “God manifest in the flesh,” rather than by the aggressions of heresy; but none the less the utterances of a Cerinthus lent sharpness to the lines of the Apostle's portrait of the Son of Man, and no more impressive answer to such teaching could have been given than John furnished in the words of the Lord himself concerning His own pre-existence and eternal Godhead, and in His testimony that the Father has created all things through the Word. (See Joh 1:3, Joh 1:14, Joh 1:33, Joh 1:34, Joh 1:49; Joh 3:13, Joh 3:14; Joh 5:23, Joh 5:26; Joh 6:51, Joh 6:62; Joh 8:58; Joh 13:23 sqq.; Joh 17:1, Joh 17:2, Joh 17:16, Joh 17:19; Joh 18:6, Joh 18:11, Joh 18:37).

Style and Diction of John

John's style in the Gospel and Epistles is marked by simplicity and ease. It is plain without elegance, and the diction is comparatively pure so far as words and grammar are concerned, but animated with a Hebrew genius. Godet describes the style as characterized by “a childlike simplicity and transparent depth, a holy melancholy, and a vivacity not less holy; above all, the sweetness of a pure and gentle love.”

The vocabulary is meager. The same expressions continually recur. Thus we find φῶς (light), 23 times; δόξα, δοξάζεσθαι (glory, to be glorified), 42; ζωή, ζῆν (life, to live), 52; μαρτυρεῖν, μαρτυρία (to witness, testimony), 47; γανώσκειν (to know), 55; κόσμος (world), 78; πιστεύειν (to believe), 98; ἔργον (work), 23; ὄνομα (name), and ἀληθεία (truth), each 25; σημεῖον (sign), 17.

The meagerness of the vocabulary, however, is compensated by its richness. The few constantly recurring words are symbols of fundamental and eternal ideas. “They are not purely abstract notions, but powerful spiritual realities, which may be studied under a multitude of aspects. If the author has only a few terms in his vocabulary, these terms may be compared to pieces of gold with which great lords make payment” (Godet).

A similar sameness is apparent in the constructions. These are usually simple, plain, and direct. The sentences are short and are coordinated, following each other by a kind of parallelism as in Hebrew poetry. Thus where other writers would employ particles of logical connection, he uses the simple connective καὶ (and). For example in Joh 1:10, John means to say that though Jesus was in the world, yet the world knew Him not; but he states the fact in two distinct and independent propositions: “He was in the world, and the world knew Him not.” So in Joh 8:20. Jesus spake in the treasury, teaching in the temple, and yet, though He appeared and taught thus publicly, no one laid hands on Him. John writes: “These words spake Jesus as He taught in the temple, and no man laid hands on Him.” He uses and, where the antithetic but might be expected (Joh 1:5; Joh 3:11; Joh 15:24). There is also a frequent absence of connecting particles. There is not, for instance, a single one in the first seventeen verses of chapter 15. Out of the wealth of Greek particles, John uses only five. He abounds in contrasts or antithetic parallelisms without connecting links. Thus, “the law was given by Moses: grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (Joh 17:17): “No one ever saw God: the only-begotten Son revealed Him” (Joh 1:18). Compare Joh 8:23; Joh 15:5, etc. This simple coordination of clauses is assisted by the repetition of a marked word or phrase, so that a connection between two statements is established and the idea carried forward in a new direction (see Joh 10:11; Joh 15:13 sqq.; Joh 15:1, Joh 15:5; Joh 17:14 sqq.; Joh 6:39, Joh 6:40, Joh 6:44).

The narrative is direct. Even the words of others are given directly and not obliquely. Instead of saying “This is the witness of John when the Jews sent to ask him who he was, and he confessed that he was not the Christ” - John says, “This is the witness of John when the Jews sent to ask him Who art thou? and he confessed I am not the Christ” (Joh 1:19). Compare Joh 7:40 sqq.; Joh 2:3 sqq.; Joh 4:24 sqq.; Joh 5:10 sqq.; Joh 6:14; Joh 8:22; Joh 10:2 sqq. Illustrative details are not wrought into the texture of the narrative, but are interjected as parentheses or distinct statements (see Joh 6:10; Joh 4:6; Joh 10:22; Joh 13:30; Joh 18:40). John's style is circumstantial. An action which, by other writers, is stated as complex, is analyzed by him and its components stated separately. Thus, instead of the usual Greek idiom, “Jesus answering said,” John writes, “Jesus answered and said,” thus making both factors of the act equally prominent (see Joh 12:44; Joh 7:28; Joh 1:15, Joh 1:25). This peculiarity is further illustrated by the combination of the positive and negative expression of the same truth (see Joh 1:3, Joh 1:20; Joh 2:24; Joh 3:16; Joh 5:5; Joh 18:20; 1Jo 1:1, 1Jo 1:6; 1Jo 2:4, 1Jo 2:27). The detachment, however, is only superficial. The inner connection is closely held in the writer's mind, and is impressed upon the reader by that constant iteration which, upon a hasty view, savors of monotony, but which serves to represent the central thought in its manysidedness, and to place it in its commanding relation to subordinate thoughts. His frequent use of the particle οὐν (therefore) directs attention to the sequence of events or ideas (Joh 2:22, Joh 3:25, Joh 3:29; Joh 4:1, Joh 4:6, Joh 4:46; Joh 6:5; Joh 7:25; Joh 8:12, Joh 8:21, Joh 8:31, Joh 8:38; Joh 10:7; Joh 12:1, Joh 12:3, Joh 12:9, Joh 12:17, Joh 12:21). The phrase in order that (ἵνα), marking an object or purpose, is of frequent occurrence, and exhibits the characteristic of John's mind to regard things in their moral and providential relations. Thus Joh 4:34 : “My meat is in order that I may do the will of Him that sent me;” the emphasis lying not on the process, but on the end. Compare Joh 5:36; Joh 6:29; Joh 8:56; Joh 12:23; Joh 13:34; Joh 17:3.

The subject or the significant word of a sentence is often repeated, especially in dialogues (which are characteristic of John's Gospel), where, by the constant repetition of the names of the parties they are kept clearly before the reader's mind (see Joh 2:18; Joh 4:7 sqq.; Joh 8:48 sqq.; Joh 10:23 sqq. Also Joh 1:1, Joh 1:7, Joh 1:10; Joh 4:22; Joh 5:31; Joh 6:27; Joh 11:33).

The demonstrative pronoun is habitually introduced to recall the subject, when a clause has intervened between the subject and the verb (see Joh 15:5; Joh 7:18; Joh 10:1; Joh 12:48; Joh 14:21, Joh 14:26; Joh 15:26). The personal pronoun is frequently employed, especially that of the first person. “In this respect,” says Westcott, “much of the teaching of the Lord's discourses depends upon the careful recognition of the emphatic reference to His undivided personality” (see Joh 8:14, Joh 8:16; Joh 5:31).

The quotations are commonly from the Septuagint, and never immediately from the Hebrew.

List of Greek Words and Phrases Used by John Only

Ἅλφα Alpha Rev 1:8, Rev 1:11
τὸ Α καὶ το Ω Alpha and Omega Rev 21:6; Rev 22:13
Ἀβαδδών Abaddon Rev 9:11
ἀγγελία message 1Jo 3:11
ἀγγέλλω to announce Joh 20:18
αἰχμαλωσία captivity Rev 13:10
ἀκμάζω to be fully ripe Rev 14:18
ἁλιεύω to go fishing Joh 21:3
ἀλλαχόθεν some other way Joh 10:1
ἀλληλούΐ́α hallelujah Rev 19:1, Rev 19:3, Rev 19:4, Rev 19:6
ἀλόη aloe Joh 19:39
ἁμαρτίαν ἔχειν to have sin Joh 9:41; Joh 15:22, Joh 15:24; Joh 19:11. 1Jo 1:8
ἀμεθυστος amethyst Rev 21:20
ὁ Ἀμὴν the Amen Rev 3:14
ἀμὴν, ἀμὴν verily, verily Joh 1:51; Joh 3:3, Joh 3:5; Joh 5:19, etc.
ἄν (contracted from ἐὰν) if Joh 13:20; Joh 16:23; Joh 20:23
ἀνὰ εἷς ἕκαστος every several one, Rev 21:21
ἀναμάρτητος without sin Joh 8:7 (passage rejected)
ἀνάστασις ζωῆς ressurection of life Joh 5:29
ἀνάστασις κρίσεως ressurection of judgment Joh 5:29
ἀνθρακιά heap of burning coals John 18;18; Joh 21:9
ἀνθρωποκτόνος manslayer, murderer Joh 8:44. 1Jo 3:15
ἀντιχρίστος antichrist 1Jo 2:18, 1Jo 2:22; 1Jo 4:3. 2Jo 1:7
ἀντλέω to draw (water or wine) Joh 2:8, Joh 2:9; Joh 4:7, Joh 4:15
ἄντλημα a thing to draw with Joh 4:11
ἀπεκρίθη καὶ εἶπε he answered and said Joh 2:19; Joh 3:3; Joh 4:10, etc.
ἀπέρχομαι εἰς τὰ ὀπίσω to go or follow after Joh 12:19
Ἀπολλύων Apollyon Rev 9:11
ἀποσυνάγωγος out of the synagogue Joh 9:22; Joh 12:42; Joh 16:2
ἄραφος without seam Joh 19:23
ἄρκος a bear Rev 13:2
Ἀρμαγεδών Armagedon Rev 16:16
ἀρξιτρίκλινος ruler of the feast Joh 2:8, Joh 2:9
ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου (τούτου) prince of this world Joh 12:31; Joh 14:30; Joh 16:11
ἄψινθος wormwood Rev 8:11
βάλλειν σκάνδαλον ἐνώπιον to cast a stumbling block before Rev 2:14
βαΐ́ον branch Joh 12:13
βασανισμός torment Rev 9:5; Rev 14:11; Rev 18:7, Rev 18:10, Rev 18:15
βάτραχος frog Rev 16:13
βήρυλλος beryl Rev 21:20
βιβλαρίδιον little book Rev 10:2, Rev 10:8, Rev 10:9, Rev 10:10
βιβρώσκω eat Joh 6:13
βότρυς cluster (of grapes) Rev 14:18
βροντή thunder Joh 12:29. Rev 4:5; Rev 6:1, etc. In Mar 3:17, as a translation
βύσσινος fine linen Rev 18:16; Rev 19:8, Rev 19:14
Γαββαθᾶ Gabbatha Joh 19:13
γεγετή birth Joh 9:1
γεννηθῆναι ἄνωθεν to be born again, or from above Joh 3:3
γεννηθῆναι ἐκ (τοῦ) Θεοῦ to be born of God Joh 1:13. 1Jo 3:9; 1Jo 4:7; 1Jo 5:1, 1Jo 5:4, 1Jo 5:18
γεννηθῆναι ἐκ (τοῦ) πνεύματος to be born of the Spirit Joh 3:5, Joh 3:6, Joh 3:8
γέρων old man Joh 3:4
γλωσσόκομον bag Joh 12:6; Joh 13:29
δακρύω to weep Joh 11:35
δειλιάω to be afraid Joh 14:27
δέκατος tenth Joh 1:39. Rev 21:20
τὸ δέκατον the tenth part Rev 11:13
διάδημα crown Rev 12:3; Rev 13:1; Rev 19:12
διαζωννύω to gird Joh 13:4, Joh 13:5; Joh 21:7
διαυγής transparent Rev 21:21
Δίδυμος Didymus (twin) Joh 11:16; Joh 20:24; Joh 21:2
διπλόω to double Rev 18:6
δράκων dragon Rev 12:3, Rev 12:4, Rev 12:7; Rev 13:2
δωδέκατος twelfth Rev 21:20
ἐγκαίνια feast of the dedication Joh 10:22
ἐγχρίω anoint Rev 3:18
εἶναι ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου to be of the world Joh 8:23; Joh 15:19; Joh 17:14, Joh 17:16; Joh 18:36. 1Jo 2:16; 1Jo 4:5
εἶναι ἐκ τῶν ἄνω to be from above Joh 8:23
εἶναι ἐκ τῶν κάτω to be from beneath, Joh 8:23
ἐκκεντέω to pierce Joh 19:37. Rev 1:7
ἐκνεύω to withdraw Joh 5:13
ἐκ τοῦ αἰῶνος since the world began Joh 9:32
ἐλεφάντινος of ivory Rev 18:12
Ἑλληνικός Greek Rev 9:11
ἐμέω to spue Rev 3:16
ἐμπόριον merchandise Joh 2:16
ἐμφυσάω to breathe upon Joh 20:22
ἐνδώμησις building Rev 21:18
ἐξακόσιον six hundred Rev 18:18, Rev 19:20
ἐξέρχεσθαι ἀπὸ παρὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ to come forth from God Joh 8:42; Joh 13:3; Joh 16:27, Joh 16:30
ἐξυπνίζω to awake one out of sleep Joh 11:11
ἐπάρατος accursed Joh 7:49
ἐπενδύτης upper garment Joh 21:7
ἐπιδέχομαι to receive 3Jo 1:9, 3Jo 1:10
ἐπιχρίω to anoint Joh 9:6, Joh 9:11
τὰ ἐρχόμενα things that are coming Joh 16:13
(ἡ) ἐσχάτη ἡμέρα the last day Joh 6:39, Joh 6:40, Joh 6:44, Joh 6:54; Joh 7:37; Joh 11:24; Joh 12:48
ζηλεύω to be zealous Rev 3:19
ζεστός hot Rev 3:15, Rev 3:16
ἡμίωρον half an hour Joh 20:25
ὁ ἦν which was (epithet of God) Rev 1:4, Rev 1:8; Rev 4:8
ἤπερ than at all Joh 12:43
ὁ θάνατος ὁ δεύτερος the second death Rev 2:11; Rev 20:14; Rev 21:8
θαῦμα (μέγα) θαυμάζειν to wonder with with great wonder Rev 17:6
θειώδης brimstone Rev 9:17
θεοσεβής worshipper of God Joh 9:31
θεωρεῖν θάνατον to see death Joh 8:51
θήκη sheath Joh 18:11
θρέμμα cattle Joh 4:12
θύΐ́νος thyine (wood) Rev 18:12
ἴασπις jasper Rev 4:3; Rev 21:11, Rev 21:18, Rev 21:19
ἱλασμός propitiation 1Jo 2:2; 1Jo 4:10
τὸ ἱππικόν cavalry Rev 9:16
ἶρις rainbow Rev 4:3; Rev 10:1
καθαίρω to purge Joh 15:2
κατάθεμα curse Rev 22:3
κατασφραγίζω to seal Rev 5:1
κατήγωρ accuser Rev 12:10
καῦμα heat Rev 7:16; Rev 16:9
κέδρος cedar Joh 18:1
κειρία swathing for a corpse Joh 11:44
κεραννυμι to mix, mingle Rev 14:10; Rev 18:6
κέρμα small coin Joh 2:15
κερματιστής money-changer Joh 2:14
κηπουρός gardener Joh 20:15
κιθαρῳδός harper Rev 14:2; Rev 18:22
κιννάμωμον cinnamon Rev 18:13
κλέμμα theft Rev 9:21
κλῆμα branch Joh 15:2, Joh 15:4, Joh 15:5, Joh 15:6
κοίμησις taking rest Joh 11:13
κολλούριον eye-salve Rev 3:18
κολυμβήθρα pool Joh 5:2, Joh 5:4, Joh 5:7; Joh 9:7, Joh 9:11
κομψότερον ἔχειν to ammend Joh 4:52
κριθή barley Rev 6:6
κρίθινος made or consisting of barley Joh 6:9, Joh 6:13
κρυσταλλίζω to be as crystal Rev 21:11
κρύσταλλος crystal Rev 4:6; Rev 22:1
κεκλεύω to encircle Rev 20:9
κυκλόθεν round about Rev 4:3, Rev 4:4, Rev 4:8; Rev 5:11
ἡ κυριακὴ ἡμέρα The Lord's day Rev 1:10
λέντιον towel Joh 13:4, Joh 13:5
λιβανωτός censer Rev 8:3, Rev 8:5
λιθόστρωτος pavement Joh 19:13
λιπαρός dainty Rev 18:14
λίτρα pound Joh 12:3; Joh 19:39
λόγχη spear Joh 19:34
μάρμαρος marble Rev 18:12
μασσάομαι to gnaw Rev 16:10
μεσουράνημα mid-heaven Rev 8:13; Rev 14:6; Rev 19:17
μεσόω to be midway Joh 7:14
Μεσσίας Messiah Joh 1:41; Joh 4:25
μετρητής firkin Joh 2:6
μέτωπον forehead Rev 7:3; Rev 9:4; Rev 13:16, etc.
μηρός thigh Rev 19:16
μίγμα mixture Joh 19:39
μονή mansion, abode Joh 14:2, Joh 14:23
μουσικός musician Rev 18:22
μυκάομαι to roar Rev 10:3
μύλινος made of milestones Rev 18:21
νίκη victory 1Jo 5:4
Νικολαΐ́της Nicolaitan Rev 2:6, Rev 2:15
νιπτήρ basin Joh 13:5
νύσσω to pierce Joh 19:34
ὄζω to stink Joh 11:39
ὀθόνιον linen bandage Joh 19:40; Joh 20:5, Joh 20:6, Joh 20:7
ὄλυνθος untimely fig Rev 6:13
ὀνάριον young ass Joh 12:14
ὅπου ἐκεῖ where there Rev 12:6, Rev 12:14
ὀπώρα fruits Rev 18:14
ὅρασις vision, sight Rev 4:3; Rev 9:17
ὅρμημα violence Rev 18:21
ὄρνεον bird Rev 18:2; Rev 19:17, Rev 19:21
ἡ οὐαί the woe Rev 9:12; Rev 11:14
οὐαὶ (with accus. of person) woe Rev 8:13; Rev 12:12
οὐκοῦν not then (interrogative) Joh 18:37
οὐρά tail Rev 9:10, Rev 9:19; Rev 12:4
ὀψάριον fish Joh 6:9, Joh 6:11; Joh 21:9, Joh 21:10, Joh 21:13
ὄψις appearance Joh 7:24; Joh 11:44. Rev 1:16
παιδάριον lad Joh 6:9
παράκλητος Comforter, Advocate Joh 14:16, Joh 14:26; Joh 15:26; Joh 16:7. 1Jo 2:1
πάρδαλις leopard Rev 13:2
πελεκίζω kill with an axe, behead Rev 20:4
πέμπτος fifth Rev 6:9; Rev 9:1; Rev 16:10; Rev 21:20
πενθερός father-in-law Joh 18:13
περιδέω to bind about Joh 11:44
περιπατεῖν ἐν ἀληθείᾳ to walk in the truth 2Jo 1:4. 3Jo 1:3, 3Jo 1:4
περιπατεῖν ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ or σκότει to walk in darkness Joh 8:12; Joh 12:35. 1Jo 1:6; 1Jo 2:11
περιπατεῖν ἐν τῷ φωτί to walk in the light 1Jo 1:7
πέτομαι to fly Rev 12:14
πλήσσω to smite Rev 8:12
πνεῦμα τῆς πλάνης spirit of error 1Jo 4:6
ποδήρης reaching to the feet Rev 1:13
ποιεῖν τὴν ἀλήθειαν to do the truth Joh 3:21. 1Jo 1:6
πορφυροῦς purple Joh 19:2, Joh 19:5. Rev 18:16
ποταμοφόρητος carried away of the flood Rev 12:15
πότερος whether Joh 7:17
προβατική pertaining to sheep Joh 5:2
προβάτιον little sheep Joh 21:17
προσαιτέω to beg Joh 9:8
προσκυνητής worshipper Joh 4:23
προσφάγιον food Joh 21:5
πρωΐ́νός pertaining to morning, early Rev 2:28
ὁ πρῶτος καὶ ὁ ἔσχατος, the first and last Rev 1:11, Rev 1:17; Rev 22:13
πτέρνα heel Joh 13:18
πτύσμα spittle Joh 9:6
πύρινος of fire Rev 9:17
πυῤῥός red Rev 6:4; Rev 12:3
ῥέδη (ῥέδα) chariot Rev 18:13
ὁέω to flow Joh 7:38
ῥυπαίνω to defile Rev 22:11
ῥυπόω to be filthy Rev 22:11
Ῥωμαΐ́στί in Latin Joh 19:20
σαλπιστής trumpeter Rev 18:22
σάπφειρος sapphire Rev 21:19
σάρδιον sardius (stone) Rev 21:20
σαρδόνυξ sardonyx Rev 21:20
σεμίδαλις fine flour Rev 18:13
σηρικός (σιρικός) silk Rev 18:12
σίδηρος iron Rev 18:12
σκέλας leg Joh 19:31, Joh 19:32, Joh 19:33
σκηνοπηγία feast of tabernacles Joh 7:2
σκηνόω to dwell Joh 1:14. Rev 7:15; Rev 12:12; Rev 13:6; Rev 21:3
σμαράγδινος of emerald Rev 4:3
σμάραγδος emerald Rev 21:19
στρηνιάω to live deliciously Rev 18:7, Rev 18:9
στρῆνος revelry, voluptuousness Rev 18:3
συμμαθητής fellow-discipline Joh 11:16
συνεισέρχομαι to accompany into Joh 6:22; Joh 18:15
σώματα slaves (lit. bodies) Rev 18:13
ταλαντιαῖος of a talent's weight Rev 16:21
τεκνίον little child Joh 13:33. 1Jo 2:12, 1Jo 2:28; 1Jo 3:18; 1Jo 4:4; 1Jo 5:21
τεταρταῖος of the fourth day Joh 11:39
τετράγωνος four-square Rev 21:16
τετράμηνος of four months Joh 4:35
τιθέναι ψυχήν to lay down the life Joh 10:11, Joh 10:15, Joh 10:17, Joh 10:18; Joh 13:37, Joh 13:38; Joh 15:13. 1Jo 3:16
τιμιότης costliness Rev 18:19
τίτλος title Joh 19:19, Joh 19:20
τόξον bow Rev 6:2
τοπάζιον topaz Rev 21:20
τρίχινος of hair Rev 6:12
ὑακίνθινος of jacinth Rev 9:17
ὑάκινθος jacinth Rev 21:20
ὐάλινος of glass Rev 4:6; Rev 15:2
ὕαλος glass Rev. 21;18, 21
ὑδρία water-pot Joh 2:6, Joh 2:7; Joh 4:28
ὑφαντός woven Joh 19:23
φανός lantern Joh 18:3
φάρμακον drug, enchantment Rev 9:21
φαρμακός sorcerer Rev 21:8; Rev 22:15
φιάλη bowl or saucer Rev 5:8; Rev 15:7; Rev 16:1, Rev 16:2, etc.
φιλοπρωτεύω to love pre-eminence 3Jo 1:9
φλυαρέω to prate 3Jo 1:10
φοῖνιξ palm-tree Joh 12:13, Rev 7:9
φραγέλλιον scourge Joh 2:15
χάλαζα hail Rev 8:7; Rev 11:19; Rev 16:21
χάλκεος of brass Rev 9:20
χαλκηδών chalcedony Rev 21:19
χαλκολίβανον fine brass Rev 1:15; Rev 2:18
χαμαί on the ground Joh 9:6; Joh 18:6
χάρτης paper 2Jo 1:12
χείμαῤῥος brook Joh 18:1
χλιαρός lukewarm Rev 3:16
χοῖνιξ measure, a choenix Rev 6:6
χολάω to be angry Joh 7:23
χρίσμα anointing, unction 1Jo 2:20, 1Jo 2:27
χρυσόλιθος chrysolite Rev 21:20
χρυσόπρασος chrysoprasus Rev 21:20
χρυσόω to make golden Rev 17:4; Rev 18:16
ψωμίον sop Joh 13:26, Joh 13:27, Joh 13:30

Taken from: "Vincent's Word Studies" By Marvin R. Vincent, D.D.

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