In Search of the Apostles, John the 'Beloved' part 3
Why did he write?
Have you ever stopped to ask why there are four gospels in the Bible? Yes, I know they're all 'eyewitness' accounts and they all see Jesus in slightly different a slightly different light, but why do we need four of them and not just one 'all encompassing' gospel that presents Jesus as all that the four do?
The truth is there were writers in church history who tried to do that. They took the gospel accounts and sought to combine the four into one account that tried to make sense of the timeline, but these four are the only ones that can be traced back through history and effectively linked with the followers of Jesus!
Study early church history and you'll come across documents like the 'Gospel of Thomas', the 'Gospel of Peter' and even the 'Gospel of Judas', there's even a Gospel of Mary Magdalene and a book called the 'Acts of Pilate' (that one may be mid second century) but none of them can be accurately traced back any earlier than the third or fourth century AD and even the earliest Christian writings we have that mention them are from that period and even tell us they're from the period!
Okay, I know I'm being a bit strange here and I probably seem as if I'm jumping into a debate expecting everyone to know something about what I'm talking about, for that I do apologize, but when talking of the Apostles and the Bible we have today it's good for the inquisitive among us to know that there are good reasons we have only four 'gospels' in our Bibles and modern scholars don't want to add more as they seem to find them!
The answer is that all of the books we have in the New Testament can be accurately dated to the time when the Bible says they were written, and can be linked, not just by it's own 'say so' but by historical documentation outside the Bible to the people that are either claimed by the book itself (Most of Paul's letters) or by association (the Gospels).
That still hasn't answered the first question though, has it?
Why did John have to write a 'Gospel'?
The answer is in what was going on at the time, but to see what and why we do need to look a little deeper, we might also 'throw some light' on what's going on in Christian circles today and what the Bible might say about it.
The Apostle writing his gospel
The first few years
During the time of the Acts of the Apostles (literally the story of how the faith went from 'backwater of the Empire' to the very heart of the Roman world' most of the Apostles were still alive and traveling not just inside the Empire, but outside it as well. Thomas reached India in AD 60, Andrew had reached into what is modern day Ukraine, Peter had reached Rome as well as possibly Babylon and
Thomas reached India in AD 60, Andrew had reached into what is modern day Ukraine, Peter had reached Rome as well as possibly Babylon, Paul also reached Rome, maybe getting as far as Spain.
Yes the church was growing, but the Apostles were teaching and raising up church leaders wherever they went, disciples were being made, but as the Apostles were getting older there was a need to write down the stories of Jesus so they could be passed on, there was also something else a bit more sinister that was going on.
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: if anybody is preaching to you a go— Apostle Paul
To write a hub about the Apostle John, but start with a quote from Paul! But it gets the point over. Right from the very beginning things were going on and people were coming out with some strange ideas that actually corrupted the faith right from the beginning, and in fact, most of the New Testament was written to try and stop what was going on!
In Peter and Paul's time, it was the Jewish believers who not only wanted to continue in the Jewish faith, but they tried to force that faith on the non-jews in the church! Paul was fighting against that and basically saying. "Guys, we couldn't live up to it, so why the heck are you expecting the non-jew to even try!"
Let's not kid ourselves here, this was a huge fight that went on, and the first 'council' of the early church was on whether the non-jew could even be 'saved'! It was only answered when Peter stood up and related what happened at Cornelius' house that the council gave a decision (under the guidance of the Holy Spirit).
This 'fight' was going to have huge consequences, and it's the reason we practice a different faith than what Jesus did!
By the time John wrote his Gospel, we Christians had been 'shown the door' to the Jewish faith and literally taken by the scruff of the neck and thrown out of it, then the proverbial door was slammed in our faces and bolted, we were locked out of the Jewish faith forever, or so it seemed.
By AD 70 things were beginning to change, the old 'fight' against the traditionalists who wanted to make the new believers in Jesus into 'just another part of Judaism' was largely over, Peter and Paul were both in Heaven and the Jews were furious that the first Christians hadn't joined them in the rebellion against Rome.
It had been a rebellion that had seen the Temple destroyed. Titus, the General in charge had given orders that the Temple wasn't to be destroyed, but as the attack took place the Temple had been set alight and had burned so hot that the Gold in the sanctuary had melted, in order to retrieve the Gold the Romans had been forced to prize every stone apart to recover the Gold so that Titus could pay his soldiers! Jewish anger was well beyond boiling point, but there wasn't any use taking it out on Rome, so the next target was those who'd refused to 'join the fight'! Those who were despised anyway, the Christians!
The Last Apostle
John was the last of the Apostles, but there were new threats on the horizon, threats that only an 'eyewitness' could deal with, only one who'd walked and talked with Jesus could argue for the truth of!
1. Was Jesus a real person?
It was only sixty or so years after the events, and some were already calling into question whether there really was a person who did all that the other three writers claimed Jesus did! John writes, "Yes, and so much more"
2. Was he really 'God'
Even today you'll hear a lot of scholars say that the whole idea of Jesus being 'God in the flesh' didn't come about until much later, John says it plainly. WRONG!!! and he argues it not just in the Gospels but in the other books that claim his name!
"In the Beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. He was with God in the beginning!" (John Chapter 1 verses 1-2 my own phrasing)
There's a story about John in his later years that he was in the Roman Baths one time when he heard that a man named 'Cerenthus' had come into the building, John got up and ran out of the building afraid that God might judge the building while Cerinthus was in there! And this is the guy who said 'Little children, love one another!' So much for the love for Cerinthus?
What was going on?
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.— Apostle John
Was Jesus really Human?
Believe it or not, that was one of the first ideas that the early church had to deal with, it was coupled with the question, "Well, if he was Human, then was he really divine?"
In other words, "You can't have your cake and eat it! he was one or the other, but not both!"
John writes that Jesus was both! Not only that but he physically came to the earth, he walked and talked amongst us and he did all the things that the Bible says he did, in fact, when we get to heaven, we're going to find so many more things that he did that we never knew about!
The idea of Jesus being 'Just a good teacher' but still only a man, is totally refuted by John, he rejects it to the extent that he won't even be caught in the same building as one who taught it (Cerinthus).
This wasn't some 'pagan' teacher like Emperor Domitian who thought he was 'divine' but one who'd one time claimed to be a follower of Jesus, he was teaching something that was totally false about Christ and John was standing up against the teaching.
This isn't an easy thing to write here on Hubpages because there are so many writers here who'd see things differently, but to really understand the Gospel of John and the man himself we do need to look at what he wrote and why he wrote what he did.
2 This is how you can recognise the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.— Apostle John
That's all for now
I'll be honest, this one I was more than a little reluctant to write, not because of lack of 'inspiration' but because so many could take the hub as a 'narrow-minded' argument, I didn't mean it that way, but feel that we really do need to examine sometimes why these men and women really lived their lives the way they did, what was the thing that motivated them to risk their very lives for something like belief in Jesus?
The early Christians changed their world, and I'd like to think they left it a much better place than they found it, but it was their core belief in Jesus that was the difference! Not that Jesus was such a 'cool dude' that he motivated them to be better, but that God loves Humanity so much that he's willing to get involved in the mess that we've made and he's willing to go through all that pain and hurt to help us build the world that reflects a God who loves humanity!
But it's only when we look at both sides, what they achieved, and the opposition (both external and internal) that we can get the real picture of whom they really were!
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