info This commentary was written by a volunteer for our Bible translation project. It’s not an official view of our project; we are not a religious denomination and we do not establish doctrine. These commentaries reflect a variety of views and some disagree with each other.
John (who wrote the Bible books of John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation) was apparently one of Jesus’ earliest followers. Although some Bible critics and commentators argue that John may not have written all the books attributed to him (because of language and style differences), remember that when he did his writing he was almost 100 years old.
So, like Paul, he likely used others as secretaries to do the actual writing, and this would easily explain variations in writing styles. John and his brother James, whom Jesus had appointed to be his Apostles (or Sent Ones), were Galileans. Such ones were considered ‘country bumpkins’ (as we might say today) by the people in Judea. They worked as fishermen for their father’s business, which seems to have been co-owned by Peter (Simon).
Some Bible critics have described John as a laid-back dreamer. However, notice that Jesus referred to him and his brother quite differently – as ‘the Sons of Thunder’ (Mark 3:17). So this common view of John having a passive personality doesn’t seem to be well founded.
It’s interesting that John appears to have been known and liked by the Jewish Chief Priest, CaiAphas, because John 18:15-16 says:
‘Now, Simon Peter (and another disciple) followed Jesus.
The Chief Priest was familiar with that disciple, so he went into the High Priest’s courtyard along with Jesus, while Peter stood outside at the door. Then the disciple that knew the High Priest went outside and spoke to the doorkeeper, and brought Peter in.’
Therefore, many of the things that happened and were said inside the Chief Priest’s house (as well as in the palaces of Pilate and Herod after Jesus’ arrest) may have come to us as the result of John being there and serving as an eyewitness. So, Peter wasn’t the only disciple that stayed with Jesus after his arrest, but John too.
It’s true that whenever Peter and John were together, as when they stood before the Jewish High Court, Peter did most of the talking. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Peter outranked John, or that John was tongue-tied or shy. Rather, it could easily be that John deferred to Peter because he was older and a friend and business partner of his father.
Just as Jesus prophesied, John lived the longest of all the Apostles, dying at around the age of 100, either by execution or as the result of old age or poor health (from his long stay in an ancient prison). It’s thought that it was shortly before his death that he did all his writing.
This explains why he Gospel of John is in quite a different format from the Gospels of Mark and Luke, which seem to be based on, and influenced by, the Gospel of Matthew. The Gospel of John provides us a far greater insight into who Jesus actually was, and of the things that he thought and did.
John appears to be greatly appreciative and awed by his privilege of being ‘the loved Apostle’ of the most important individual who ever walked this earth. So the opening words of the book of John reflect that awe, as he poetically tried to impress us with the full meaning of who Jesus had been in his pre-human life as ‘the one-and-only’ son of The God (John 1:1).
John’s wrote his three epistles, or letters, (1 John, 2 John, and 3 John) to nearby congregations while he was in prison in Asia Minor. He warned them of the dangers that they were facing from within their own ranks, since ‘the great turning away’ that Paul had foretold was already in progress. In fact, some may even have started to deny that Jesus was the ‘Anointed One,’ or perhaps that there ever was a Jesus. John labeled such ones as the ‘Antichrists,’ and he told Christians not to have anything to do with them.
In John’s Revelation, he recorded a vision of ‘the Lord’s Day,’ which he received from God through Jesus. Although some critics say that it was some sort of hallucination, Revelation provides a fitting climax to the entire Bible by bringing together the four mysterious characters mentioned in the first Bible prophecy (Genesis 3:16): the snake, its seed, the woman, and her seed. It fills in all the gray areas as to whom each of these individuals would prove to be, and it shows the full meaning of the roles they would play in God’s purposes.
So, far from being a mere hallucination, Revelation explains in detail what is really happening to us today, what will soon happen, and what hope there is for all obedient mankind. For a greater discussion of this, please see the commentary, The Seed – God’s Kingdom.
Some scholars say that John’s Bible books were really written by three different people, and the traditional view that John wrote them is in error. They say that one person wrote the Gospel of John, another wrote the epistles, and John (or someone claiming to be him) only wrote Revelation.
Part of their reasoning is that John didn’t identify himself by name in the books bearing his name, but he mentioned his name frequently in the Revelation. However, we feel that the common words used in all the writings do reasonably well to identify John as their author. They also suggest that John wrote all of the works around the same time.
For example, the unique description of Jesus as the Word at John 1:1 and Revelation 19:13 (a term that the other Gospel writers didn’t use), ties both of those writings to the same John. Also, there are a number of similar words and phrases found in the book of John and his epistles that suggest they were written by the same person. So it’s reasonably likely that the traditional view is correct, and John was responsible for writing all five of the books attributed to him.