Is John The Most Jewish of The Four Gospels?

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In 1924, Israel Abrahams said in reference to the Gospel of John: “To us Jews, the Fourth Gospel is the most Jewish of the four!”. There are several reasons we can look at as to why a Jewish scholar would say this.

First, Leon Morris writes of Jesus in John: “He insisted that Moses, the great lawgiver of the Jews, wrote about Him (5:46) and that Abraham, the progenitor of the Jewish nation, rejoiced to see his day (8:56). He constantly appealed to the Jewish scriptures. John twice records the use of the title “King of Israel” (1:49; 12:13), and he puts some emphasis on the fact that Jesus was crucified as “King of the Jews” (19:19-22).”[1]

These facts demonstrate that Jesus was a fulfillment of Jewish prophecy and put a huge emphasis on His authority as King of Israel as mentioned by Morris. This would allow Jewish scholars an open window to trace a lineage for Jesus and come to know Him better. We also find that Nathaniel calls Jesus an Israelite in John 1:47 and Nicodemus called Him Israel’s teacher in John 3:10[2]. These instances are not by accident or the result of confusion, they are confirmation that the Promised One came for Israel that can be traced back to the protoevangelium[3].

Morris continues by highlighting the facts that Jesus remained a faithful Jew until His death as he observed the Jewish feasts and worshipped in the temple[4]. Jesus demonstrated that being obedient to Jewish customs was necessary as a spiritual discipline. Obviously no one can deny He made a case against many of the laws of the time, but He did observe many customs as it is well known He was a Palestinian Jew. We cannot expect less from the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy.

Elmer Towns in John compliments Morris when he states that John “puts Jesus in Jerusalem on at least five different occasions, these being the feast days. In so doing, John pictures Jesus as an obedient Jew who goes to Jerusalem as commanded (Deut. 16:16).”[5] This is in contrast with the other Gospels who only put Jesus in Jerusalem scarcely while focusing on His ministry in Galilee[6]. Putting so much emphasis on Jerusalem is necessary and only adds to the fact that He was their King and the Promised One. We cannot deny that He came to break barriers as demonstrated with the story of the Samaritan woman at the well[7], but God fulfilled His commitment to Eve, Abraham, and Moses, and the Jewish people through Jesus.

In Theology for Today, Elmer Towns writes: “The religion of the Jews was in part to point them to Christ who is fulfillment of the Law. It is only natural, then, to expect the various feasts of the Jewish calendar to be typical of Christ.”[8] Drawing on this analysis, I feel it can be said that the Jewish religion itself was instituted as a vessel to reveal Christ. My argument for this theory is based on the protoevangelium instituted well before Adam and Eve even had descendants. This would make the arrival of Christ the confirmation of the Jewish faith itself. That means the Jewish religion was given to man in order to guide them to Jesus.

Towns also notes: “One of the tests of the true prophet in the Old Testament was that his prophecies came to pass as predicted (Deut. 18:22). Jesus had been clearly demonstrated to be a genuine predictive prophet in Old Testament tradition.”[9]  One example of prophecy fulfilled in John is in John 19:34 where His side is pierced which is a prophecy found in Zechariah 12:10[10]. There would be no doubt to anyone who followed the prophecies in the Old Testament that Christ was indeed their prophet. We know that politics corrupted views during this time and blinded some Jews to the truth.

In On Guard, William Lane Craig writes on who Jesus was. He notes of Jesus that “His triumphal entry into Jerusalem seated on a donkey was a dramatic, provocative assertion of His messianic status.”[11] John 12:12-19 references this story. Craig continues: “One week before His death Jesus rode into Jerusalem seated on a colt and was hailed by the Passover festival crowds with shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” in anticipation of the coming of David’s kingdom.”[12]

We can see that the Jews were well aware that Jesus was one of them and He was still fulfilling their prophecies. Craig reminds us: “In mounting a colt and riding into Jerusalem, Jesus is deliberately fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9.”[13] He surely had knowledge of the prophecy, largely in part because He was the promised Son of God.

Some would argue that John is very hostile towards the Jewish people and I am familiar with assertions that John puts the blame for Jesus’s crucifixion on the Jewish people. No better display of this can be found than in Mel Gibson’s film Passion of the Christ. These notions are simply wrong. While John focuses a large part of the story in Jerusalem where the Jewish people ultimately turn against Him, it really is no different than any other Gospel in this respect. Consider that we have established that the other Gospels focused more on Galilee, yet the result was the same. The burden of denial is on all of man and that is why the blood of Christ covers us all.

I think we can all agree that “the Jews” referenced in John are the authorities who saw Jesus as a threat[14]. And we know that the Pharisees and the Sadducees were those authorities.

We are ultimately reminded through John that Christ is the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy and was a practicing Jew Himself.


[1] Morris, Leon.  Jesus is the Christ: Studies in the Theology of John.  Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989. p. 51.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Genesis 3:15: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (NIV). Largely considered to be the first prophecy concering Christ’s coming.

[4] Morris, p. 52.

[5] Towns, Elmer L.  The Gospel of John: Believe and Live.  Twenty-First Century Biblical Commentary Series, edited by Mal Couch and Ed Hindson.  Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002. p. xviii.

[6] Ibid.

[7] John 4:1-42.

[8] Towns, Elmer L.  Theology for Today.  Mason, OH: Thomson Custom Solutions Center, 2001.  p. 179.

[9] Ibid., p. 182.

[10] Ibid., p. 177.

[11] Craig, William L. On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2010. p. 199.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Towns, Elmer L.  The Gospel of John: Believe and Live.  Twenty-First Century Biblical Commentary Series, edited by Mal Couch and Ed Hindson.  Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002. p. xviii.

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charlestinsley

My name is Charlie Tinsley and I blog about The Bible. In particular, I post my thoughts, commentaries, and Bible Study teachings I have done. I hold a Bachelors Degree in Science in Religion Summa Cum Laude with a Biblical Studies Minor. I am currently studying for a Masters In Divinity at Eastern Mennonite Seminary with PhD ambitions in the study of Theology. I am married and have been for several years and I currently reside in Virginia.

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