St. John’s Gospel: Spiritual Depths of a Master Story-Teller

by Steve Ray on June 19, 2017

St. John’s Gospel: the Theological and Spiritual Gospel

By Steve Ray

Eagles soar high above the surface of the earth. Their eyes survey the farthest reaches of the horizon — the connection of heaven to earth is in perspective from their lofty vantage point. From our earthbound perspective, the eagle is suspended between heaven and earth. It is difficult for us to see the connection physically. That is why artists have often painted St. John the Evangelist, writing with an eagle at his side. Mystic, philosopher, disciple, one of the Twelve, bishop, “beloved of the Lord”; St. John wrote the fourth gospel, which soars to the heavens and gives perspective to the earthbound.

The Gospel of St. John—the last of the gospels to be written—contains the theology and spiritual insights of a man filled with the Holy Spirit; a man who, during his younger years, actually knew Jesus personally. Jesus had promised him that He would remind John of all that He had taught him, and through the Holy Spirit lead him into all truth. After seventy years of contemplation, the aged Apostle took up his pen, to write the life of Christ and reveal the deepest spiritual realities.

John penned his masterpiece between ad 90–100. St. Irenaeus (c. 120-c. 200) writes, “The Church in Ephesus, founded by Paul, and having John remaining among them permanently until the times of Trajan, is a true witness of the tradition of the apostles” (Endnote 1). Emperor Trajan reigned in Rome from ad 98–117. Irenaeus also writes, “John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon his breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia” (Endnote 2) Tradition also informs us that the Blessed Virgin stayed with John in Ephesus (see Jn 19:26).

Internal evidence demonstrates that John wrote the gospel bearing his name; however, it is Catholic history and the unanimous consent of apostolic tradition that provide the clear certainty as to his authorship (see CCC 120). Eusebius, writing around ad 300, quoting ancient sources said, “When Mark and Luke had already published their Gospels, they say that John, who had employed all his time in proclaiming the Gospel orally, finally proceeded to write for the following reason.

The three Gospels already mentioned having come into the hands of all and into his own too, they say that he accepted them and bore witness to their truthfulness; but that there was lacking in them an account of the deeds done by Christ at the beginning of his ministry. . . . the apostle John, being asked to do it for this reason, gave in his Gospel an account of the period which had been omitted by the earlier evangelists” (Endnote 3).

Most New Testament books are written to a specific audience, but John addresses no one in particular. He doesn’t limit his gospel. He pulls back the curtain on eternity and addresses the whole world—Jew, Gentile and all subsequent peoples. His is truly a cosmic, universal gospel.

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