Unlike the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which are known as the Synoptic Gospels (they correlate many of their stories), John's gospel is set apart, standing alone with several stories that are not found in the Synoptic Gospels.
Many scholars today believe that Matthew and Luke were written, based upon Mark's gospel (considered the earliest written gospel) and a separate source called Q (for the German word Quelle, meaning Source). It would be a document of sayings, much like the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas.
There still are many scholars that believe the gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, or perhaps by some of their disciples. Many of the Christian writings were originally given as oral histories. Matthew and Luke were not present at Jesus' birth, and so would have later heard two different stories of the event. Could there have been angels, Gabriel, shepherds AND wisemen and an escape to Egypt both occur, but preserved in different oral histories? Of course. Still, there are discrepancies. Luke has Joseph and Mary come from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and return after the birth of Jesus. Matthew seems to have them already living in Bethlehem in a house, they escape to Egypt, and only afterward go to Nazareth. Considering that decades separated the original birth of Christ and the writing down of these stories, we should not be surprised that some conflicts occur in the stories.
In John 1:19, we find that even John the Apostle, who was in the center of the Lord's ministry, depended upon others' records to write his gospel.
And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?Here, we see that the apostle John notes that he gets his record of Jesus' baptism from John the Baptist. We don't know whether this is a written or oral history. As John was likely one of the two disciples of John the Baptist (along with Andrew), it may be that John learned of this the day after Jesus' baptism. It seems when the Baptist baptized Jesus, his disciples were not with him at the time, as the next day when Jesus walked by, John proclaimed him as Messiah to his two disciples, and they followed Jesus thereafter.
In the Beginning wasThe Logos
John begins his testament differently than the other three: "In the beginning was the Word/Logos..." In this, John links the birth of Christ with the Creation story in Genesis 1. John speaks of Christ creating the world, as God did in the beginning. John notes the darkness that does not comprehend the light of Christ, as the Lord commanded, "Let there be Light" and controlled the chaos of Darkness, so with the coming of Christ would come a spiritual light that would dissipate the darkness and chaos in the world. Of course, in Genesis, the culmination of God's creation is man and woman. So it is in the new spiritual creation Christ would bring, making us all sons and daughters of God.
John is directly linking the coming of the Savior in the flesh with the Creation of the World. With the Creation came mortal life. In the atonement and resurrection of Jesus would come Immortality and Eternal Life.
The Power of Christ's Grace
As part of his power, Christ would give light, life and the gift of grace. Linked to John 1 is D&C 93, which begins by saying we can see Christ face to face. It then discusses that Christ "did not receive a fullness at first," but that he went from "grace to grace", receiving "grace for grace", "until he received a fullness." This same path is established for us to take. We can't be perfect now, but as we turn to Christ, we are infused with his grace through the Holy Ghost, which sanctifies us and makes us more holy. It is a cycle, based on the Doctrine of Christ (2 Nephi 31, 3 Nephi 11), which states that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one God, and we are to be optismne with them and each other, by growing in Faith in Christ, Repentance, Baptism/Ordinances, and Receiving the Holy Ghost. As we grow in faith, we desire more to repent. We partake of ordinances and covenants, and then receive a greater infusion of the Holy Ghost. This lifts us up to a higher level of righteousness and grace. We are then ready to go through the cycle again and again, until we receive a fullness: receiving all that the Father has as full heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.
As important as Jesus' birth is to us, for the gospel writers, his baptism seems to be of greater import. All four write about John the Baptist (Luke writes of Gabriel's annunciation of John and his birth), and note his importance as the forerunner of the Messiah, long ago prophesied by Isaiah.
We get some conflict in the stories, as some note John proclaiming Jesus as Messiah before his baptism, while John's Gospel insists that the Baptist did not know beforehand.
And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. (John 1:33)John was able to proclaim Jesus the Son of God, but only after seeing the Holy Ghost descend and remain with Jesus. Interesting to note, John the Baptist states that someone sent him to baptize with water, but we aren't told exactly whom that is. Was it an angel? Was it a believing prophet/priest who preceded the Baptist? We aren't told, but it is interesting to note that John the Baptist didn't just start baptizing one day, but was sent forth to do so.
Come and See
John didn't retain his two disciples very long, The day after baptizing Jesus, as John was with his two disciples (Andrew and the future apostle John), he witnessed of the Messiah walking past and sent them to Jesus. When they spoke with Jesus of where he was staying, Jesus' invitation was, "Come and see."
Later as the disciple Philip would tell his friend, Nathanael, about the Messiah, and Nathanael had doubts, Philip would also say, "Come and see."
For those with an open mind, who will accept the invitation, Jesus is waiting to bring them in. For Nathanael, who had heard bad things about Nazareth his entire life, his open mind and heart were quickly converted, when Jesus noted that the young man had prayed for guidance under a fig tree. Nathanael, being an "Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile," would easily believe and be promised to see even more. In other words, Jesus was already giving grace to his new disciples, and promising more as they continued to follow in Christ's footsteps.
Here is a link to my previous blog post on John 1: https://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com/2010/12/gospel-doctrine-new-testament-lesson-1.html
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