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Home > The New Testament > John

Subpages: Chapter 1a  •  1b-12  •  13-17  •  18-21

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Relationship to New Testament. The relationship of John to the New Testament as a whole is discussed at ____. The similarities and differences among the four gospels (and Acts) are discussed at ____.

Story. John consists of a short prologue followed by two or three major sections and, in the opinion of many, an epilogue:

  • John 1a: Prologue: The Word. John's Gospel does not begin the story of Jesus with his birth, but looks back to who Christ is in the eternities: already a God.
  • John 1b-12: Christ's public ministry. In the first half of John, Christ's teachings are generally directed to the public at large.
  • John 13-21: Christ's private ministry. In the second half of John, Christ's teachings are generally directed only to his apostles and other close associates.
  • John 21: Epilogue (?) In this final chapter Christ has fully worked out the atonement and resurrection. This chapter is therefore often treated as an epilogue paired with the prologue.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in John include:

Historical setting[edit]

This section should be brief and explain facts about the historical setting that will help a reader to understand the book. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

The Gospel of John is attributed to the apostle of that name, who was the brother of James (Matt 10:2; Mark 3:17; 10:35).

Author: John the Beloved Apostle. John and his brother James had a business partnership with Peter and his brother Andrew, all of them being fishermen plying their trade in the Sea of Galilee (Luke 5:10; cf. Mark 1:29). Jesus approached them while they were at work and told them to follow him and he would make them fishers of men (Matt 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20).

John, together with Peter and James was a chief apostle. Of the twelve, only these three were with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration (Matt 17:1; Mark 9:2; Luke 9:28), when he raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51), and when he went into the garden of Gethsemane to pray (Matt 26:37; Mark 14:33). On one occasion, Andrew joined them to ask Jesus about his second coming (Mark 13:3). In the lists of the twelve apostles, the names of these four fishermen appear first (Matt 10:2; Luke 6:13; Acts 1:13). In 1829, Peter, James, and John came to ordain Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and confer on them the keys of the Melchizedek priesthood (D&C 27:12; 128:20; JS-H 1:72).

Jesus called James and John by the title Boanerges, “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). They were noted among the apostles for being rather forward and impetuous. On one occasion, when a Samaritan village refused to accept Jesus and the apostles, the two brothers asked if they might call fire down from Heaven to destroy it (Luke 9:52-56)–a request that Jesus denied, reminding them that he had come to save men, not destroy them. On another occasion, they approached Jesus, asking that they might be allowed to sit on either side of him when he became king. As before, Christ used the occasion for teaching the principle of service to one’s fellow man (Mark 10:35-45). John’s impetuous nature is also illustrated by an event that took place on the day Christ rose from the dead. When Mary Magdalene came reporting that the tomb in which Christ’s body had been laid was empty, Peter and John ran to see. John outran Peter and looked in, becoming the first of the apostles to see the empty tomb (John 20:1-9), yet he waited at the entrance to let Peter go in first.

In the Gospel of John, his account of the life of Christ, John refers to himself in the third person as “the other disciple” or “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 18:15-16; 20:2-4, 8; 21:7, 20). At the last supper, as he was laying on Jesus’ bosom (John 13:23), Peter got John to ask Jesus which disciple would betray him. Jesus' profound trust in and love for John is expressed when Jesus does show John that it is Judas.

In one passage, John notes that he was personally acquainted with the high priest in Jerusalem (John 18:15-16). This seems a bit strange for a Galilean fisherman, but may find an explanation in the early tradition that he was himself a priest, which would bring him to Jerusalem periodically to serve in the temple. From the Bible, it appears that John had ties to Jerusalem and the surrounding territory as well. His acquaintance with the city might explain why Jesus sent him and Peter to procure a place where they could celebrate the last supper (Luke 22:8). John may have been a disciple of John the Baptist, who was baptizing in the Jordan River east of Jerusalem. He recorded John’s testimony of Christ in such a way as to suggest that he himself heard the words from the Baptist. He wrote that the day following Jesus’ baptism,

John [the Baptist] stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus, as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus . . . One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. (John 1:35-37)

It is tempting to suggest that the other, unnamed disciple was John himself. This reading suggests that John was one of the first to accept Jesus as the Messiah, having followed him almost from the time of his baptism.

Little is known of John’s life after the resurrection and ascension of Christ. Later books of the New Testament tend to concentrate on the missions of Saul (renamed Paul) and have very little to say about John and the other original apostles. An early Christian writer named Apollonius reported the tradition that John had raised a man from the dead at Ephesus. The fourth-century historian Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, noted that, according to earlier records, the apostle John was banished to the isle of Patmos in the time of the Roman emperor Domitian, who persecuted the Christians. It was here that John experienced the vision recorded in his book of Revelation (Revelation 1:9). When allowed to leave the island, John went to the nearby city of Ephesus, where there was a large Christian community. From there, he went through the region of Asia (western Turkey) organizing churches and ordaining leaders for the various congregations.

Section 7 of the D&C was written by John and makes clear that he has not died and will tarry until the coming of Christ in glory, and that he is even now prophesying to the nations, kindreds, tongues, and peoples of the earth.

At some point, John wrote the three New Testament epistles that bear his name. Both the book of Revelation and the epistles reflect verbiage from John’s gospel, usually in reference to Jesus’ teachings to his apostles.

Audience. The Gospel of John is widely thought to have been written for an audience of Christians. A comparison of the apparent intended audiences of each of the four gospels is treated at --page--.

Setting. The historical background setting of the four gospels is treated at --page--.

Chronology. A joint chronology of the four gospels is treated at --page--.


This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Outline and page map[edit]

This section contains an outline for the entire book. Items in blue or purple text indicate hyperlinked pages that address specific portions of the book. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

● Prologue: The Word (Chapter 1a) (1:1-18)

I. Christ's public ministry (Chapters 1b-12)

II. Christ's private ministry (Chapters 13-17)

  • The resurrection (Chapter 20)
  • Post-resurrection teachings (Chapter 21) (Epilogue?)

Unanswered questions[edit]

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Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →


This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Translations and Lexicons.

Related passages that interpret or shed light on John.

  • The Joseph Smith Translation made changes to 219, or 25%, of the 879 verses in John. With so many changes, readers just have to constantly consult the Joseph Smith Translation. Most significant changes are incorporated into the LDS edition of the Bible. All changes are noted in Wayment's Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible.[1]

References cited on this page.

  • Wayment, Thomas A., ed. The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the New Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2005. (ISBN 1590384393) BX8630 .A2 2005.

Other resources.


Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.

  1. Wayment, The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the New Testament, p. 224-247.

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