Rummaging through old blog posts, I came across this one from a few years ago.  It is on a topic that I continue to be fascinated by, the significant differences between the Gospel of John and the “Synoptic” Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.   These three have numerous differences among themselves, of course.  But the differences of the three over against John are really quite striking.   Here is one key instance of that, on a major issue connected with the life of Jesus.  Did he try to prove that he was the messiah, or not?


For many decades now there have been scholars who have been convinced that the Gospel of John is based, in large part, on written, but no-longer surviving, sources.   It is much debated whether John relied on the Synoptic Gospels for any of its stories, or whether in fact its author had ever read (or even heard of) Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

There are very few verbatim overlaps between John and the others, and outside of the Passion narrative there is not a lot of overlap in the stories told.  Somewhat like the Synoptics John does have the healing of a Capernaum official’s son, the feeding of the 5000, and the walking on the water – all told in striking different ways.  John’s four other miracles (which he doesn’t call miracles, but “signs”) are unique to his account (including the favorite miracle on college campuses everywhere, the turning of water into wine, and the favorite of most Hollyood screen writers, the raising of Lazarus).

Moreover, the teachings of Jesus are highly distinctive in John.  Almost nothing that Jesus teaches in the Synoptics can be found in John (there is not a single parable in John!) and almost nothing of Jesus’ teaching in John can be found in the Synoptics.

I’m among the scholars who thinks that John probably had not read the Synoptics.  If he had read them, then he wasn’t following them for his accounts.   I may change my mind about this one.  It’s not a view I’m completely convinced by.  But it’s been my view for many years.

That doesn’t mean, however, that John was without its own sources though.   One source that scholars have isolated (this too is much debated) ….

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