Differences between the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John

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Over the centuries the concept of Jesus being both divine and human has been highly debated amongst scholars and philosophers and even Christians. The author of the gospel of John deliberately starts the book with a prologue ‘John 1:1-3,14’ which introduces readers to a person called the ‘Word’, which translates ‘λόγος’, or ‘logos’ in the original Greek. Jesus according to gospel of John is depicted as the eternal Word of God ‘John 1:1-3’ whom God used as his agent to create all things which became flesh (human) ‘John 1:14’ in the person of Jesus who ‘dwelt among us’(Jh1:14). However, according to the synoptic gospels Jesus is not depicted as the preincarnate God, and never with his own lips did he say that I am God but is revealed as ‘The son of God’ Mt 3:7, Mr1:11, Lk10:28 or ‘The son man’ Mt20:28, Mark8:38 Luke8:18. The author of the Gospel of Matthew records the birth of Jesus in ‘Matthew 1:18-25’ which suggest to the readers that Jesus was a special child because he was born of a virgin which is scientifically impossible hence why readers can only presume this can only be God’s intervention. He was also given the name Emmanuel ‘Matt 1:23’ which is interpreted “God with us”.

The word ‘logos’ has many interpretation and meanings in different types of context. However, many ancient Greek philosophers have been engaging with the idea ‘logos’ even before the book of John was written which can be traced back to one of the first recognised Greek philosopher named Heraclitus, who lived 500BC before Jesus4. Heraclitus created compiles of writings, which is known as the fragments of Heraclitus followed by the Stoics philosophers founded by Zeno of Citium 335-263 BC who was a Hellenistic thinker and teacher, followed by Philo Alexandra who was a Jewish philosopher 25BC-41AD who wrote a range of writings about Greek and Jewish theology and philosophy. Daniel (author) argues that according to the philosophical writings of Heraclitus, Stoics and Alexandra the concept of the ‘logos’ was certainly a reference to the creator of the universe in Greek philosophy4. He also implies that the ‘logos’ was not a reference to the physical Word of God (Torah) which the Orthodox Jews had at the particular time. He also states the gospel of John was written in Greek in the Hellenistic period hence why he uses the word ‘logos’ to depict the preincarnation of Jesus Christ to its intended readers. Although there are no clear indications as to the word ‘logos’ referring specifically to God himself according to ancient Greek philosophy, these statements made by Daniel suggest a real sense of surety that the author of John is depicting Jesus is God and not just a man


The word Exorcism comes from the Greek word ‘εξορκισμός’ or ‘exorkismós’ which means “binding oath” which is an ancient practice that involves expelling demons or supernatural entities from an individual who is believed to be possessed. This practise has been practiced over the centuries, even in many religions and cultures today.

The first account of exorcism recorded in the synoptic gospels is the gospel according to Mark where Jesus publicly enters into the synagogue with his disciples on the sabbath day where he encounters a man with an unclean spirit and ‘he cried out saying “Let us alone; what do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? (Mk 1:21-25) I know who you are, the Holy One of God”’. And Jesus rebuked him saying “Hold thy peace and come out of him” (Mk 1:21-25) and so it happened according to the words of Jesus. Another account documented in the synoptics gospel is the gospel according to Luke where Jesus encounters a man possessed with legions of demons whom Jesus commands the demons to enter the herds of swine’s (Luke 8:26-33). However, the absence of exorcism in the gospel of John has left many scholars to question why the forth evangelist would leave it out?

Graham H. states that the simplest reason why John didn’t include the accounts of Jesus’s exorcisms is because John didn’t recognise Jesus as an exorcist which he claims it’s highly unlikely because Jesus was a well-known exorcist who had a strong reputation. He also states that Mary Magdalene plays a significant role in John’s narrative ‘Jh 19:25, 20:1, 18’ which is why Graham suggests this it is possible that John was aware that Jesus was certainly an exorcist because of Mary Magdalene the lady whom Jesus casted seven spirits out off in the synoptic gospel of Luke (Luke 8:2)6. However, it doesn’t quite answer the question as to why exorcism was left out? I would assume the reason why John thought it wasn’t necessary to add the exorcism is because there’s already some references to possession within the narrative amongst one of the twelfth disciples Judas Iscorite John 13:2 which also refers to Luke’s account luke3:3 (Satan enters Judas).

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Salvation and the Kingdom

The concept of salvation is profoundly significant within Christian faiths. However, there seems to be some misconception as to the understanding of salvation. Most frankly in today’s generation where the issue lies within Christianity is not what salvation is, as most Christians are aware, but essentially what one must do in order to be saved? Many Christians over the years have argued that salvation is earned through good deeds, well some have argued that salvation is certainly not earnt but believed on through faith alone. This has left many scholars to question why such a concept has left many confused?

A Jailor askes Apostle Paul in the book of Acts, ‘what shall I do to be saved’, Paul replies that in order to be saved one must ‘believe in the Lord Jesus Christ Acts 16:30. He also makes it’s apparent to readers that ‘It is by grace you have been saved and not by works…not of yourself’Eph2:8. However, Jesus responds rather differently from Paul in the Synoptic gospels when a young rich ruler askes Jesus ‘what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’ Jesus then tells him to ‘sell all he has and give to the poor’ Mt19:16-22. A lawyer well-grounded in the Mosaic law askes Jesus a similar question. Jesus then reverts the question back to him and makes him read what is written in the law. The Lawyer responds according the law that you should love God and your neighbour in order to be saved which Jesus doesn’t dispute but rather agrees saying, ‘You have answered right, do this and you shall live’ Luke 10:25-28. It appears that just believing, according the synoptics gospels is simply not enough to inherit eternal life but requires substantial amount of works in order to be saved.

However, according to the gospel of John Jesus says quite the opposite, in fact Jesus diminishes the rule of works by telling his disciples that ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he hast sent’ John 6:29. Jesus also say’s “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, whoever disobeys shall not see life but must endure God’s wrath”. Does Jesus contradict himself within the synoptic gospel as suppose to the gospel of John? Matthew w. Bales argues that salvation is by no means earnt, self-righteousness is just a way to bribe God, he goes on to say that we have an unrealistic perception of a God’s holiness if we believe so. This statement suggests that there is nothing one can do to earn salvation, but it must be given by God which supports Paul’s words by being saved by ‘grace’.


For centuries the custom of crucifixion has been used to undergo punishment. This ancient method has been used within the roman emperor and other cultures such as the Persians and Mediterranean’s. The purpose of crucifixion was used to execute criminals in such a gory type of manner for anyone who broke the law. This method was performed in public in front of crowds, as a public assertion for warning. The most distinguished historical crucifixion taken place in history was undoubtingly Jesus who was brutally beaten by the Romans who was then led to be crucified on the cross under the provision of Pontius Pilate where he eventually dies. Mt 27:27-51

The Synoptic gospels makes it apparent to readers that a certain man from Cyrene named Simon who is mentioned three times in the synoptics Mt27:32, Luke23:26 and Mk15:21 helped bear the cross of Jesus. However, in the gospel of Jh19:17 Jesus Is seen carrying his own cross which is seems to be a contradiction to the Synoptic gospels.

Many Scholars agree that the Crucifixion of Jesus is Historical true. However, disputes amongst gnostic traditions as to if it was really Jesus on the cross has been vastly debated. Basilides, a Christian Gnostic teacher born in Alexandra, Egypt 140 AD claimed to be a pupil of one of the disciples of Peter (apostle of Jesus) named Glaucias. It’s claimed that historians know of Baslilides teachings through Irenaeus, Christian Apologist 120AD-202AD. According to Irenaeus, Basliliides taught a rather different doctrine about a laughing Jesus at the crucifixion as supposed to the gospel. He also claimed it was not Jesus who suffered but Simon of Cyrene, Jesus then returns to father in heaven laughing. Basliliides teachings clearly goes against the Synoptic gospels and John because both state the that crucifixion took place in Golgotha Mt27:32 Mk15:22 and depicts Jesus’s death on the cross Mt 27:50, Mk15:37 Luke23:46. Despite the fact that Simon was told by Roman soldiers according the book of John, to bear Jesus’s cross that doesn’t necessarily mean that Jesus wasn’t present. It could possibly mean that Jesus needed some assistance to carry his own cross because of the pain and agony that he was in prior to his crucifixion.

In conclusion, in this essay I’ve explored and pointed out some significant differences in the synoptic gospels and from the gospel according to John. I explained and provided arguments for each point concerning the divinity of Jesus, exorcisms, Salvation and the passion of Christ. I have provided historical evidence within the essay to support my points. I have attained to include scholarly interpretation of the points made and also my own personal interpretations to come to a conclusion as to the points made.

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