Gospel of John
|Light iron-age reading|
|Gabbin' with God|
John was the last gospel to be written, and therefore it has the most developed Christology. None of the synoptic gospels hint that Jesus is God. The gospel of John does so in several passages, equating the Word who became flesh with God, having Jews attempt to kill him for his attempted apotheosis, having Jesus call himself "I AM", and having St. Thomas fall to his knees, calling Jesus, "My Lord and my God".
John is written not so much as an exhaustive biographical narrative, but a collection of incidents strung together to make a set of theological points. The other three gospels, the synoptic texts, all tell essentially the same story (often word-for-word), while John doesn't seem to have tried very hard to cross-check his version of Jesus with the Q document. As early as 1800 years ago, Clement of Alexandria implied that it should not be taken as a literal biography. The Gospel of John was a favorite of gnostics and other branches of early Christianity which favored mysticism and internal revelation. These factions eventually conquered the ideology that Jesus was in fact an ordinary man who was "adopted" as a Son of God.
The Gospel of John actually does not explicitly state that its author was John the Apostle. Rather, it claims to be composed by "the disciple whom Jesus loved," who may or may not have been John, or Mary Magdelene or a secret gay lover for that matter. Scholarly consensus is that it was not even written directly by this person, but rather a group of their followers after their death. Hence, like the other gospels, it is not a first-hand account of someone who personally knew Jesus.
One particular verse in the Gospel of John, John 3:16, has gained much notoriety because it nicely sums up one of the the central tenets of Christianity.
The opening of John, known as the Hymn of the Word, forms one of the most important pieces of mainstream theology: that Jesus is God, God is Jesus, separate yet in unison, so on and so forth. The splinter religion or denomination known as Jehovah's Witnesses has caused much consternation by deliberately choosing the translation "and the Word was a god" over "and the Word was God" -- a legal translation, given the dual purpose of the word theos in Greek writing, but contrary to how that word is used everywhere else in the New Testament. This tiny change completely alters one's understanding of the divine nature of Jesus, yanking out support for the Trinity and instead installing Jesus as a powerful but not omnipotent distinct entity.
- Possibly the last, that is - dating biblical texts is notoriously tricky and the Dead Sea Scrolls make a mess of things.