Johannine Literature Critical Thinking Samples

Type of paper: Critical Thinking

Topic: Jesus Christ, Revelation, God, Literature, World, Religion, Life, Books

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2020/12/23

Johannine literature is generally referred to as the works of the apostle John, of which the Gospel of John, the epistle John, and the book of Revelation are attributed to. These books all touch on similar themes, which is why scholars have grouped these together. While there is debate as to whether or not John himself wrote all of these works, due to their similarities, these books of the Bible are considered part of the Johannine tradition (Johnson 466). The following descriptions present an overview of the basic theological and pastoral themes in Johannine literature.

Theological Handbook

What is the Trinity?
The books written by John each show overwhelming evidence for the concept of the trinity, and how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all work together. John 1 starts off with the creation account where Jesus was with God in the beginning, and is attributed with creating the universe. Revelation 1 begins with a greeting from John in which he references the trinity by mentioning the creator, seven spirits, and Jesus, which is Trinitarian language (Rev. 1:4 NIV).

What is Worship?

Revelation 4 paints a picture of true worship, that being all humanity approaching the throne of God and praising him. John 4:23-24 also show what worship is according to John. It describes how true worship will not be localized in Samaria and Jerusalem, thus being spread throughout the entire world, to be done in spirit and truth.

Portrayal of God the Father

In Revelation 4, John describes God as a creator of all things, and because of this he is worthy to be worshipped. John writes, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being (Rev. 4:11).”

The Divinity of Christ

There are many verses throughout Johannine literature which speak to Jesus’ divinity. John 1 directly states that Jesus is divine, and was the “Word became flesh.” Furthermore, John 5:16-29 speak to the divinity of Christ, as Jesus explains to the Jewish leaders how he and the Father are the same. Many verses in Revelation speak to Jesus being God and coming down to judge humanity (Bauckham 59). 1 John 4 also described the incarnation and divinity of Christ.

Eternal Life

John mentions eternal life frequently throughout his writing, as the famous John 3:16 lays the foundation for how eternal life is achieved. One of the Johannine themes is that through Christ, one can have eternal life. Many other passages throughout these four books speak to this theme, echoing the sentiments of John 3:16


John mentions the theme of light being brought into a world of darkness, especially in John 1. He writes, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (Jn 1:4-5).” John also mentions light in 1 John 2. He focuses on this theme in relation to Jesus and bringing light into the world of sin and darkness. Because of Jesus, the world now has hope, in spite of the sin and brokenness. Christians are now supposed to go out into the world and spread this light (“Theology of John”).

Holy Spirit

John frequently mentions the Holy Spirit, showing the unique and powerful role it plays in inspiring believers to live according to God’s word. John shows how it has been poured out for all believers, and that it is an equal part in the God-head. The spirit is described in several places, including John 1, 19, and 1 John 4. The spirit is present at Jesus’ baptism, showing its important role in the book of John.


The book of 1 John, especially in chapters two and three, describe the importance of love in the Christian life. It describes a selfless and sacrificial love, exemplified by Jesus that should be carried out and mirrored by all who believe. He writes, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us (1 Jn. 3:16).”


The concept of sin is portrayed in John as something that corrupts every aspect of human nature. Everyone is sinful and in need of salvation. John also stresses the importance of confessing sins. 1 John 1:5-10 describe the importance of admitting the sinful nature, confessing these sins, and the importance of the cross of Jesus.


The book of Revelation is often viewed as a set of prediction about the end times. This is not actually true; the book of Revelation is really about God’s redeeming work throughout history and his future promise of deliverance. However, it does paint a vivid picture of what perfection looks like, in the context of the Roman Empire and the covenant with Israel. Revelation 21 describes the New Jerusalem coming down onto the new earth, showing the heaven is a state of perfection and a return to the original world God intended in Eden. Everything is perfect and believers are to live with God in paradise (Baukham).

Pastoral Handbook

Times of hardship within the church
Revelation 2: 1-7 describe the problem of evil doers and believers enduring hardships for the cause of Christ in Ephesus. John commands the church in Ephesus to repent from their sins and remember how far they had come in forming a Christian community. This shows the importance of always striving to live a life pleasing to God (Veith).

Problem of Poverty

John also addresses the issue of poverty, showing that this was a major issue within the church. In Revelation 2: 8-11, John addresses the issue of poverty. However, instead of dwelling on the harshness of poverty, John shows that they should endure through it, and to focus on the bigger picture at hand. There will be an end to suffering.

Dispute over Food sacrificed to idols

Like many of the letters in Paul, John also addresses the issue of the early church sacrificing food to idols. He mentions in Revelation 2:14 that those is Pergamum were eating foods sacrificed to pagan idols. John provides a warning for this community reminding them to repent of this sin, otherwise judgment is near (Veith).

Dispute of Sexual Immorality

John addresses the sexual sins of the early church in several places among his letters. Revelation 2:20 describes this, as well as 2:14. This was something also mentioned in the Pauline letters, so this clearly was a major issue among many communities within the early church. John warns about harsh consequences for these action as well, promising judgment in the absence of repentance.

The issue of apathy or half-heartedness

In Revelation 3, John addresses several communities that had not been putting all of their heart into following Christ. John writes, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were one of the other! So because you are lukewarm I am about to spit you out of my mouth (Rev. 3:15-16).” John is showing the seriousness of not fully devoting one’s life to Christ. Christians cannot simply go through the motions. Actions are required.

How to deal with the major world powers

Since Christianity was a small religion in its beginning days, Christians were always under a threat of being persecuted, especially by the Roman Empire. Revelation describes many instances of encountering the major world power, showing how its empire will eventually crumble. Revelation 17 describes Rome as “Babylon the Great, the mother of prostitutes and of the abominations of the earth (Rev. 17:5).” Revelation points to an encouraging message for Christians that eventually God will overtake these world powers and there will be no more persecution.

Becoming Worldly

Another issue for the early Christian church was to blend in with the world and not be distinct in their lifestyle and in service to Christ. 1 John 2:15-17 reminds the early church on how they should not love the world, but rather focus on the will of God.

Dispute over False Teachers

Both 1 John 4 and Revelation 2-3 describe the prevalence of false teachers within the early Christian community. John reminds Christians to read God’s word and remember the sacrifice and life of Christ. Things in accordance with Christ and the Bible are to be adopted and nothing else, especially pagan rituals.

How to treat visitors

The book of 3 John describes an instance where a church is caring for people visiting the community, and the importance of showing hospitality to promote unity within the church. There appeared to be believers from another community visiting the audience of 3 John, which were instructed to show kindness to promote unity within the body.

How to Treat Women

The role of women in the early church is often disputed. However, in John 4, Jesus talks with a Samaritan woman, showing the importance women play within Jesus’ newly established kingdom. Samaritan’s were viewed negatively by the Jewish community, so this is a strong and meaningful action by Jesus. Women have important roles within the kingdom and they too can be used as agents of change for the cause of Christ (“Theology of John”).

Works Cited

Bauckham, Richard. The Theology of the Book of Revelation. Cambridge [England: Cambridge UP, 1993. Print.
Johnson, Luke Timothy. The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation. [Pbk. ed. Philadelphia: Fortress, 2010. Print.
NIV Bible. Large Print ed. London: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd :, 2007. Print.
Senior, Donald. The Catholic Study Bible. New York: Oxford UP, 1990. Print.
"Theology of John” Bible Study Tools. Web. 16 Mar. 2015. <>.
Veith, Walter. "Revelation 2-3: Letters to Seven Churches." 12 Aug. 2009. Web. 16 Mar. 2015. <>.

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