Although it is not necessary in order to experience and appreciate the depth of God's transforming love through His Son Jesus, it is, on the other hand, both rewarding and at the same time stimulating to know of the people and events in the history of the life and times of our Lord Jesus Christ. A wealth of this information
awaits the Bible student who wishes to delve into this wonderful yet tragic and diverse period. For our study, however, we are limited in what can be incorporated for an overall understanding of the setting of John's gospel. But when we do have a working grasp of these times, people, and events, names on pages explode into full
dimensional personalities. Standing as a spectator before their lives as they unfold upon the page, afresh to them then, yet seen in total by ourselves today, we can all but sense their presence, hear their voices, perceive their appearances, and discern their spirit. Aided by the Holy Spirit, we catch a glimpse back in time into
their hopes, fears, motives, aspirations, and all the other complexities common to people of every generation, even ours today, thus making our reading relevant to our own personal lives. We are transformed by what we learn, never to be the same once having read it. Make no mistake, God intends and without respect or failure, does touch one who opens and reads His Word. Of this, be assured! (Isaiah 55:11) Our darkness becomes brighter, our eyes clearer, our understanding
greater, our hope strengthened, our faith stronger, and our link to the chain of the continuity of Christ's Church since He walked the earth, more visible. And, when He begins doing His work through it, you will discover a profound love for Him unimaginable, only to grow the more you feed!
Therefore, it is hoped that included in the text of this limited study of John's gospel will be enough information written in such a way that it will bring these times, people, and events to life for this illuminating process to occur within each reader. It is also hoped that before anything is read of this writer the reader will
first prayerfully immerse him or herself in the words of the Holy Scripture for His illumination process to begin. To read these words alone, yes, one may learn, but illumination essential for personal spiritual growth comes only through His Word.
Though there were many groups present in Jesus' day, both political and religious, and each was not isolated from the context of the whole, only those major Jewish groups thought to be more germane to the scriptural setting are here considered. The order in which these Jewish groups are chosen to be examined is done to allow a
natural development of the material as to their probable chronological appearance in history. In each group, we will look at its name and possible origins, trace its development and activities, identify its nature and some beliefs, compare or contrast its relation to other groups, and conclude with their role, if any, in Christ's death.
Although some of the events and characters seen within this time are inspirational, some, however, are quite disturbing. I tell you these things that you might know that our Lord did not live within a sterile social vacuum. Like all humans, if we are to believe scripture
), He was touched by the surroundings
in which He lived that He might, with full understanding and compassion, reach out to us in our own time and circumstances. This was evidenced time and again in His encounter with hurting people wherever He went. To the blind, He gave sight; to the hungry, He fed by the thousands; to the mourners standing at the side of their deceased
loved ones, He wept and restored life; to a thief who cursed Him in death, he gave the treasures of Paradise; even to those responsible for His physical crucifixion, as we shall see, He offered forgiveness and life.
In part two, we will look at a group, or sect, that evolved out of the Christian movement itself, that began in John's day and peaked in the second century. This group was an ever-constant antagonist to John (in particular its Ephesian leader, Cerinthus), as seen in his writings and reported by early church historians. Gnosticism is
considered to be the first major heresy of the church of Christ that evolved in the first century. John's gospel is a clear treatise on the refutation of this heresy and the presentation of Jesus the Man as Christ the Messiah
In part three, a chapter by chapter summary is provided to give an overview of the gospel before beginning in the textual study. It is suggested that the entire gospel be read before reading this summary, and then allow the summary to encapsulate the events in the reader's mind that the student or reader might better make their own
connections to other known related scripture, events, or truths personally seen as the study unfolds. It is also suggested that one avail oneself, if possible, of a good copy of a synoptic version of the gospels for easier comparison and insight into those additional details incorporated by the other three gospel writers.
And finally, realizing through John's own words that there were many things he could have selected for his record, and that those selected were by no means incorporated without design and purpose, it is not our purpose to begin to discern the fine points upon which his thoughts pivoted. However, included in this short study is a simple
working outline intended merely as a handy reference, or index, to his gospel material.
Let us begin now with the major Jewish groups in Jesus' day, the Scribes.