THST 310 - The Gospel according to John - Fall 2003
Felix Just, S.J.

Exercise # 1

Impressions of the Fourth Gospel, in Contrast to the Synoptics
(due in stages, September 2003)


  • for you to gain a basic overview of the life, teachings, and actions of Jesus of Nazareth;

  • for you to reflect on how similar, yet also different, the four Gospels are from each other;

  • for you to begin thinking about the evangelists' roles in the production of the Gospels;

  • for me to get an initial sample of the quality of your academic reading and writing skills.

Preparation/Reading (due on Sept. 10):

You have already read at least two Synoptic Gospels (syllabus: Sept. 3-10); now read the entire Gospel according to John:

  • for now, read only the Gospel itself, not what any commentator or other scholar says about John;
  • for now, read only the text and the brief introduction in your HCSB, not all the detailed footnotes;
  • pick a time when you can read the entire Gospel without interruption (only 42 pages in the HCSB);
  • the reading should only take you between one and two hours, depending on how fast you read.
Right after you've read all of the Fourth Gospel, make some notes about your overall impressions of this text:
  1. What did you notice that surprised or impressed you about the way JESUS is portrayed here?
  2. How are the DISCIPLES and the OPPONENTS of Jesus generally portrayed in this Gospel?
  3. What do you think was the main message that the EVANGELIST (John) wanted to give his original readers?
  4. What major images and themes stood out as most important for YOU as you read this Gospel?
  5. Overall, how is this Gospel different from the Synoptics, not just in content, but in style and tone?

Note: If you have read John's Gospel before, or have heard most of its material in small pieces in the past (e.g., in church), then please read the whole Gospel again now, contrasting also your new impressions with your previous perceptions.

Main Writing (due on Sept. 17):

Write a short paper (about 1000 words) in which you address the five questions listed above:

  • do not just outline, list, or retell the contents of this Gospel; think about the impact of the Gospel as a whole;
  • do not restate what the HCSB or any scholar says about John's Gospel; write about your own impressions;
  • support your claims with some specific examples from the Gospels (give chapter and verse refs. in parentheses);
  • do not include a bibliography with this paper, since we are focusing only on the biblical text for now.

This assignment and all other short papers this semester should be:

  • in standard essay format (brief introduction with clear thesis statement, well-structured body, very brief conclusion);
  • composed in proper written English (please spell-check and proof-read, to check all spelling and grammar!);
  • within the specified length or word limit (if it says 1000 words, then 800 are not enough, but 1200 are too many);
  • word-processed (or typed) in any small but readable font (10 point type), with 1½ line spacing (not single or double);
  • bordered by one-inch margins all around (check your computer's settings; don't use the 1¼ inch default);
  • compactly headed with your name, the course number and name, the exercise number; and your paper title;
  • printed on both sides of each page, to save paper and trees (find out how your computer and printer can do this);
  • turned in on time (at the beginning of the class session on the specified due date).

Final Revising (due by Oct. 8):

Your papers will be read by the professor and returned as soon as possible (usually within one week).

  • You will receive a provisional grade, but should revise and resubmit your paper for a final grade (hopefully higher!)
  • But do not use this opportunity for revisions as an excuse for doing a poor job in your initial writing!

For detailed instructions about essay format, length, printing, grammar, and biblical references, see also the following webpages:

"General Guidelines and Writing Tips"

"Biblical References: Format and Examples"

"The Grading Pyramid"



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This page was last updated on October 22, 2003 .