John’s Gospel: The Way It Happened

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Lee Harmon, the author of John’s Gospel, is eminently qualified to write about this topic. His specialty is in studies of Jesus, and he has previously written a book about Revelation. He understands first century Jewish and Greek culture, as well as the biblical and historical context of the gospels.

Lee is a self-confessed liberal, but labels seldom tell the whole story. For that matter, even evangelical scholars can be liberal while rejecting that label. Every Christian should first know the Bible, then exercise discernment in all matters. I must note, however, that some of Lee’s other writings indicate that he thinks any religion can be a path to God. This unorthodox belief is solidly refuted by Bible verses such as John 14:6 and Acts 17:30.

Too often, liberal historians try to turn us all into skeptics, or perhaps even into unbelievers. Lee has enough respect for the Bible and the Person of Jesus Christ to not do that. Like John himself, Lee has written "so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God" (Jn. 20:31).

Lee is well-read enough to have taken conservative scholarship into account. Too many scholars get into a rut in which they limit their education mainly to either conservative or liberal views. Like most conservatives, Lee credits the same John with having been a disciple (later an apostle) of Jesus, and with having written both Revelation and John.

I don’t agree with Lee’s dating of the writing of Revelation and the gospels. However, this is an area in which even conservative scholars often disagree. Like Lee, I think some New Testament passages refer to the fall of Jerusalem. I believe these passages were prophetic, not written after the fact. Incidentally, my perspective is known as preterism.

In John’s Gospel: The Way It Happened, Lee treats the gospel of John objectively, with due consideration to the aforementioned biblical and historical context. Lee appreciates that John claims that his gospel is an eyewitness account (Jn. 21:24), and that he intentionally made it quite different from the other three gospels.

The primary way in which Lee emphasizes the differences is by having made Matthew, the author of the first gospel, present at the dictation of John’s gospel. Even though their conversations are fictional, it’s easy to imagine Matthew being surprised or shocked at some of John’s teachings. We easily miss these important differences if our main interest is in harmonizing the gospels.

The inclusion of the story about the writing of John’s gospel keeps this book from being another boring dissertation on the Bible. This story helps us appreciate the real people who deliberated on what we now know quite literally as “gospel truth.” Lee interrupts the story periodically to present some of the most professional and scholarly views on the gospels.

Lee appreciates the symbolism in John, which can often be a stumbling block to biblical literalists. They tend to be biased against non-literal meaning in the Bible, even when it can be supported from other Scripture passages. This is further explained in my own book, Return to Genesis.

Lee also understands that the Jews expected their Messiah to establish an earthly kingdom. This is far different from the belief of modern Christians that this world is (and always will be) evil, and that we must place all our hopes on entering an other-worldly heaven after death.

Even though Lee and I would disagree on the relevance and meaning of the kingdom of God for Christians today, he appreciates the rich history behind this concept. Personally, I fail to see how God is glorified by theories that He plans to judge the world; trash this earth; and start over again with a physically “new” earth. A non-literal reading of the Bible reveals that God intended to renew the earth through believers, for we are His “new creations” (2 Cor. 5:17).

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Lee has achieved a formidable accomplishment, in that John’s Gospel should have nearly universal appeal. Everyone from curious unbelievers to devout Christians will find much to admire about the fourth gospel, and little reason to be offended—unless it be from the life and message of Christ Himself.



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


  1. antonietta says:

    Thanks. Very interesting blog!