December 06, 2005

Is John a Good Starting Point?

Have you seen this sort of thing before? It’s a copy of just the Gospel of John as a “starter” text; a primer even, for Christianity. Its thought for whatever reason that John is a good starting point, perhaps as John 3:16 is thought of as a great summation on Christianity.

However, I disagree. Not so much with the verse, but with John being a good starting point, I actually think it’s a rather bad one.

The Gospel of John assumes a lot. An understanding of Judaism (especially Festivals, and the Law,) a knowledge of the Old Testament and more importantly it assumes a general knowledge of events in the other Gospels. Countless times John puts a twist or out right doesn’t explain events laid out in the Synoptic Gospels, yet then goes on to narrate events which make little sense without this prior knowledge.

For these reasons I think it make far more sense to start off with Mark or Luke, then go on to Acts or Romans. Later on it’s wonderful to come back to John, with all this in mind and see another perspective.


At December 06, 2005 10:42 AM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

Luke's good because it begins with the Christmas story which lots of folks still have a vague recollection of. Mark is good because it's short. Matthew's difficult because it starts with a genealogy and focuses on prophetic fulfillment which is of no immediate interest to a non-Christian today, unless perhaps they are deeply rooted in Jewish thought.

I think John has been so overused because after the prologue it makes for the easiest to read narrative, but your cautions are valid.

Back in the eighties, I was in college working in a small Christian bookstore. Around the time when Tyndale was still working on the Life Application Bible, they sent stores samples of the Gospel of Mark with the Life Application notes included. The translation was the original Living Bible as this was in the days before the NLT. We sat them on the counter for anyone who was interested.

Our mailman walked in to drop off our mail and asked if he could have one. I gave it to him, and later learned that after he was off work, he went to a diner and read the entire gospel of Mark in one sitting, including the application notes, and accepted Christ all by himself. Seems amazing as it rarely works that way, but he was able to get involved in a church, and last I heard was doing quite well in his spiritual journey.

At December 06, 2005 2:47 PM, Blogger Michael F. Bird said...

Djo you start with "Christology from below" (i.e. historical Jesus and Synoptics) so Pannenberg? Or do you start with "Christology from Above" (i.e. heavenly perspective from John's Gospel) so Barth and Erickson. I think first up I'd prefer a non-believer to get the heavenly perspective of Jesus - and that's coming from a historical Jesus specialist!

At December 06, 2005 3:22 PM, Blogger Justin Jenkins said...


That’s a neat story. I personally like reading Luke, and how it flows into Acts there is kind of a funnel.


World -> Judea > Samaria > Jerusalem


Jerusalem > Samaria > Judea > World

At December 06, 2005 3:22 PM, Blogger Justin Jenkins said...


That’s a good point; I suppose there is an issue either way. What I’m getting at is there is less of a need for “pre-requisites.” I think something like Mark gets straight to the point, however you make a good point yourself --- that one major concern is Jesus’ divinity, etc. --- and that is an important factor to weigh.


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