So after much thought and deliberation (including input from older, wiser brothers), I’ve settled on the Gospel of John as our first book to look through. This is a particularly good book to study because it was written directly to people like you, Frank. John the apostle writes in 20:31 that, “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (ESV).
This book includes the most famous summary of the gospel in John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”), and is one of the Four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke being the other three). Basically, it’s a really good starting place for us, especially if we’re going to look at the life of Jesus and what the gospel really means to sinners like us.
As always, we should start with context; that is, we should start with the setting that this book was written in. Any notable study bible (a bible with a commentary, concordance, index, notes, maps, definitions, etc.) should be able to provide at least a vague context for when and where the book was written. I’m using the ESV (English Standard Version) Study Bible, a gift I received for my birthday in January from a good friend, as a reference for context. The book of John was most likely written between A.D. 70 and A.D. 100, evidenced by different references made throughout the book. Obviously, this was written long after Jesus’ death and resurrection and was probably written in the latter years of John’s life and ministry. Scholars believe that the most likely place of writing is Ephesus in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), a significant metropolis of the Roman Empire. The book itself describes three main aspects of Jesus–what he did, what he said, and how people responded.
Another thing to be careful of during a bible study is who the audience is: we need to identify who the author is writing to. By identifying the audience, we have a more accurate picture of what the author is trying to say based on who he’s saying it to; it’s much like the way we act differently during a job interview than when we’re around close friends, we have different demeanor and ways of saying things. Likewise, the authors of the bible had different writing styles to reach different demographics. Now, the first thing to do is identify the author: John, an apostle and disciple of Jesus of Nazareth, son of Zebedee, and a Palestinian Jew. Then we can establish who the defined author is writing to. Usually in New Testament epistles or books the author will address the audience directly or provide enough evidence for the target demographics to be inferred. As noted above, John wrote this Gospel with an awareness for non-Jewish (non-believing) readers though he shows awareness for Jewish readership as well. Again, the purpose statement in 20:30-31 pretty much breaks it down for us.
That’s the basic, bare-bones of studying the bible so far. Sorry about the late post, but I was pretty swamped with midterms this week. Next week we’ll dive right into the text. I’m excited, and you should be too! (P.S. I’m pretty sure you have one, but if you need a bible to follow along with, let me know and I’ll hook you up with one) Anyways, as always, shoot me an email if you have questions, but otherwise, I’ll see you in class on Wednesday!
Responding to the Love of Christ,