John 3 - Jesus teaches Nicodemus

John 4 - Woman @ the Well

John 17 - Jesus prays for his disciples + Believers

John 18 - Jesus and Pilate

Jesus' temptation(s) in the wilderness by Satan (in Matt. 4 & Luke 4)

2 Answers 2


There are two common answers to this question:

A. Inspiration

All scripture is given by inspiration of God (2 Tim. 3:16)

On this view the authors learned of these details by revelation from God, much like Peter learned of Jesus' identity in this way, as recorded in Matthew 16: 15-17

B. These people talked to each other

1. Nicodemus - we learn in John 19:39 that Nicodemus retained belief in Jesus; there is no reason to conclude that he forever kept the events of John 3 to himself.

2. The woman at the well - we learn in John 4:28,29,39 that the woman got right to work telling many other people about the experience.

3. The intercessory prayer - At least 3 of Jesus' disciples were within earshot the entire evening prior to the arrest. That they fell asleep at some point does not indicate they slept the entire time (compare John 18:1 with Matt. 26:36-40, suggesting Peter, James, and John did not fall asleep until after the aforementioned prayer). John may well have heard this prayer firsthand.

4. The trial - Roman trials were intentionally public. It is apparent from John chapters 18-19 that a dearly beloved disciple of Jesus (often taken to be John) stayed around and witnesses the events of the trial and crucifixion.

5. The temptations - the Gospels are silent on when/how this information was disseminated...but this does not mean Jesus didn't tell anyone the story. That the temptations show up in Matthew & Luke with slight variation suggests that Jesus related this story more than once, in different levels of detail, so multiple people would have heard the story.

Summary of probable circumstances for option B

  • For #'s 1 & 2, John could easily have heard of these events from those who were there

  • For #'s 3 & 4, I suggest that John was present

  • For #5, Matthew heard the story from Jesus and Luke heard it from "those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning"


I have no difficulty believing some combination of both options took place. Jesus also promised in John 14:26 that the Holy Ghost would bring His teachings to their memory, suggesting a bit of both A & B.

My own work on the history of the Gospels leads me decisively to the conclusion that notes were taken during Jesus' ministry, and that "there were many other things Jesus did", a small portion of which were extracted from contemporary notes, later reflections, and subsequent interviews, to form the Gospel record.

  • 1
    You should include John 14:26 Commented Jun 10, 2021 at 15:32
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    I have no problem in upvoting this A. Your 'own work' on the history of the gospels, made for compelling viewing, myself having just finished viewing same. Nice work indeed. No question. I too have long thought that Matthew came first, followed by Luke and then Mark and that Matthew was originally written in Hebrew, a copy of which to this day 'supposedly' resides in the library at Caesarea??? Commented Jun 10, 2021 at 18:49
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    Couldn't Jesus have written some passages himself?
    – tblue
    Commented Jun 10, 2021 at 20:09
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    Thank you all for the very thoughtful answers! I was reading Book of John yesterday and that question popped into my head. The John 14:26 verse was also extremely helpful.
    – user43684
    Commented Jun 10, 2021 at 23:50
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    @tblue I have no reason to claim He couldn't. I just don't have any textual basis to claim He did. It is an interesting possibility though. Commented Jun 11, 2021 at 0:51

I’m a bit late to this party, but don’t see this response yet: isn’t it possible that during the 40 days he was with the disciples after the Resurrection, Jesus went into significant detail about this and other events they had been oblivious to? After all, there are times in the Gospels where it relates the inner thoughts of Jesus, which they had no way of knowing about unless Jesus Himself had told them about it. Perhaps those insights, too, happened during those 40 days after the Resurrection?

  • @ Rachel-Good insight! Remember that Jesus also spent time talking with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, explaining a lot of things. (Luke 24:25-27). Jesus also spoke with the Apostles in their hide-away after the Resurrection (Luke 24:44-48).
    – ray grant
    Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 19:52
  • Ray Grant, Yes indeed! These are what I was referring to: the talk in Emmaus, in the locked room, at the seaside, with his brothers, and so on, along with all the other talks we aren’t given privy to, that occurred during those 40 days.
    – Rachel
    Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 20:39

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