Who are the intended recipients of the fourth gospel (John)?

For example, is it for:

  1. The Jewish community who had questions about the identity of Jesus?
  2. The Gentiles who need to know the relationship between Jesus and God?

A good answer should explain what the gospel was intended to communicate to this audience.

Please provide your answers, including clear citations if possible.

  • Welcome to BHSX. Thanks for your question. Please remember to take the tour (link below left) to better understand how this site works. We need a specific Bible passage to analyze for a question to be valid.
    – Dottard
    Commented Sep 25, 2022 at 21:39
  • 1
    I'd take the line that it's perfectly valid to take the text of John's Gospel as a whole and ask who the intended recipients are. Asking about its purpose is a bit more abstract and likely to end in conjecture, and rolling in theological questions is more problematic. But there's definitely a good solid nugget here.
    – Steve can help
    Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 7:25
  • Hi Joy, welcome to BH.SE! I've edited your question to bring it more cleanly on-topic and avoid the question being closed. Feel free to edit it further if I haven't captured your intent correctly. A good question should focus on one thing, though it's understandable that it's difficult to talk about audience without also talking about the purpose of the text.
    – Steve can help
    Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 7:47
  • for me, questions about purpose should be considered kosher. Parsing the "meaning" of a biblical writer's text is not significantly different from attempting to understand the purpose of his book. Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 15:11
  • we can deduce purpose from the text. In Galatians we know that Paul sought to counter the Judaizers because we analyze it in the context of other things we know. Although it involves a bit of speculation, we can do the same for the Gospel of John. Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 15:18

2 Answers 2


The Gospel of John was written for a particular community of Christians, often thought to be located in Asia Minor. Professor Paul Anderson of George Fox University writes

What was “the Johannine community”? It was a network of churches located in Asia Minor responsible for the production of four New Testament writings: the Gospel of John and the three letters known as 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John. Together, those books reveal how a particular Christian community dealt with religious tensions during the last few decades of the first century C.E. The Johannine community may have included Christians who migrated to Asia Minor from Palestine after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. There is also material in the Gospel of John that would have been written or used by earlier Palestinian Christians when arguing religion with other Jews of Judea, including ones who had been followers of John the Baptist, sometimes understood as Jesus’s predecessor in ministry.

Others, such a Bart Ehrman, believe that Palestine is not only the community's origin but also it location when its literature was first produced. On the other hand some argue that such a community did not actually exit. Says Hugo Mendez:

the “Johannine community”—-at least as scholars have conceptualized it—never existed. By this, I mean that there was probably no coherent, distinct movement of “Johannine Christians” in the first century, as scholars have assumed for at least a half-century.


The Gospel of John's purpose was basically to present Jesus from the unique viewpoint of the author and his community. It was not concerned with the facts of Jesus life nearly as much as the synoptic gospels are. It presents a high Christology in which no one could mistake Jesus as the Jewish Messiah who was tragically rejected and crucified. Instead, he is the pre-existent Son of God. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, not the preacher of an imminent and possibly literal Kingdom of God. His human birth is not mentioned. He is not tempted by the devil in the wilderness, nor does he experience doubt in Gethsemane and ask for the cup of suffering to be removed from him. There is no cry of anguish from the Cross. His only words from the Cross are "I thirst," and "It is finished." (19:28-30)

Although other purposes may be mentioned, two more are special to John. First, he emphasized the sacraments as the means to eternal life, while the synoptic gospels present the Golden Rule as the key. This leads to the idea that one of John's purposes was to teach his community that sacraments were to be at the center of their worship. This teaching is somewhat similar to Paul's, in that both downplay good works in favor of faith, but in John's case sacraments are more important.

Secondly, John presents the Jews in a particularly unfavorable light in relation to Jesus, so much that Jesus hardly appears to be Jewish himself in some scenes. This leads to the idea one of the Gospel's original purposes was to strengthen the faith of Jewish Christians in the last part of the first century, by encouraging them to identify primarily as Christians and not as Jews.


John originally wrote mainly for Jewish Christians who had recently experienced persecution by their fellow Jews. The likely location of his community was Asia Minor, where both Jews and Gentiles spoke Greek and were familiar with Greek philosophical language of its first chapter. Its main purpose was probably more pastoral than evangelical. This is particularly evident in its last chapter, which lacks an instruction to the disciples to spread the gospel and instead instructs Peter to "feed my sheep." It also goes out of its way to denigrate Thomas, depict Jesus as questioning Peter's love him, and exalt the Beloved Disciple, who is portrayed as still living when the final lines are written.

  • Could you provide the footnote for your comments please?
    – Joy John
    Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 4:12
  • I provided links in the body of the text. Will provide biblical refs. and a few more links soon. Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 13:42
  • system is not letting me edit right now. Here is a ref. form my claim about John's high Christology. See min 38 or the transcript for info on conflict with Judaism. (oyc.yale.edu/religious-studies/rlst-152/lecture-11) Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 13:55

The Gospel of John is generally recognized distinctive from the Synoptic Gospels, amongst all possible perspectives of the reason, there is one reason very significant.

Just as a current historian can only write what was happening, a historian in a later time is able to provide insight of why it was happening. The Gospel of John was written 30-40 years after the Synoptic Gospels, by then John lived long enough to observe many of Jesus's prophecies became true, together with his spiritual mind, he was capable to connect things together.

While the Synoptic Gospels has 30% of events emphasizing on miracles and parables, the Gospel of John has only 10%, with 90% on Jesus's narrative and event description, more than 70% are focus in the last 6 months of Jesus's ministry, versus the Synoptic Gospels of around 40%. The number of events in the Gospel of John is not that many, just barely more than half recorded in Matthew and Luke, but it contains more details in the same event. For example, all four gospels had the witness of John the Baptist about Jesus, but the synoptic gospels only keep the key sentences (Matthew 3:11-12; Marks 1:7-8; Luke 3:16-18), whereas John provide full detail (John 1:19-28).

The gospel of John also contains a lot of John's own perspective and his retrospective narrative. So readers had to be careful not to confuse with the past and the "then" present. It is from his perspective, and his retrospective narrative, we have a deeper knowledge of Jesus, the son of God.

Who are the intended recipients of the fourth Gospel?

Though there is no internal evidence in Bible the condition of Christians in the late 1st century, but it is pretty clear that the external threats, such as the persecution by the Roman authorities, or the hostile Jews were never been a main concern, as it had never been a main theme in the letters of the New Testament. The major threat of Christianity came from the Christian circle, i.e. the false teaching from self-boosted apostles, false prophets and teachers, as well as the personal temptation from the current social atmosphere. We must know, this threat to the Gospel has been taking momentum 60 years after the crucifixion, it has became a strong current after 2000 years.

From the time the book was written until now, there is only one kind of intended recipient for the book, that is, those who can see and hear that Jesus is the Lord, who is the son of God and the origin of love, our faith and hope.

John marked his purpose in John 20:31

But these are written that you may believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (NIV)

*(b) an alternative translation to "believe", is "continue to believe", which is more accurate to describe "faith on Jesus never end".

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