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Differences between the Gospel of John and the Synoptics

Studying the differences among the various Gospel is important for understanding the origin of these early Christian documents, and how and why they were written.There are several episodes, characters and themes in the Synoptic Gospels that are not included in the Gospel of John. These include:
  • The Genealogy of Jesus
  • The Nativity of Jesus.
  • The Baptism of Jesus.
  • The fate of John the Baptist. The Synoptics devote some space to the arrest, imprisonment and execution of John the Baptist. These events are not even mentioned in John.
  • The Temptation of Christ. In the Synoptics, the Temptation follows right after the Baptism. In John, it does not appear at all.
  • Satan, only mentioned once, in , versus 4 times in Matthew, 6 times in Mark, 5 times in Luke.
  • The name of the mother of Jesus. The other Gospels name Jesus' mother as Mary. John, for reasons unknown, never names her. Also, Jesus never addresses his mother as "Mother" but as "Woman."
  • The names of the brothers of Jesus. In the Synoptics, Jesus' brothers are named Iakobos ("James"), Simon, Jude and Joses. John avoids giving the name of any of them.
  • The Kingdom of God is only mentioned twice in John ( ). In contrast, the other gospels repeatedly use the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven as important concepts. John's Jesus claims a kingdom of his own, not of this world: . See also New Covenant.
  • "Hell" is named 8 times in Matthew, 3 times in Mark, 3 times in Luke. Zero times in John.
  • Technically, there are no parables in John. See Parables of Jesus.
  • Major synoptic speeches of Jesus are absent, including all of the Sermon on the Mount and the Olivet discourse and the instructions that Jesus gave to his disciples when he sent them out throughout the country to heal and preach (as in and ). Instead the major speeches according to John are at the Sea of Galilee , the temple , and the last supper .
  • Organization and list of the Twelve Apostles. The other Gospels describe Jesus organizing a special group of twelve apostles, (see also Disciple ), and provide lists of their names. John does not, though some of the names do appear. Furthermore, the Apostle (if he really is the author of the Gospel) never mentions himself by name.
  • The Publicans, tax collectors for the Roman Empire, figure prominently in the Synoptics, but are never mentioned by John. There are nine mentions of Publicans in Matthew, three in Mark, eleven in Luke, zero in John.
  • The Samaritan ban. Jesus in the Synoptics, primarily the Gospel of Matthew, forbids his disciples to preach to the Samaritans ( , , ). In John, he issues no such prohibition and even preaches to the Samaritans himself ( ). (Also in John, Jesus is accused of being a Samaritan - and never denies it — )
  • Jesus' Exorcisms. Several of the miracles in the Synoptics are exorcisms of demons. There are no exorcisms in John.
  • Beelzebub is mentioned in , , , and . Not one mention in John.
  • The visit to Nazareth. In the Synoptics, Jesus pays a crucial visit to his hometown of Nazareth. John omits this. See also Rejection of Jesus.
  • Legion. The Synoptic story about a man possessed by a whole legion of demons is missing in John.
  • The second miraculous multiplication of food. In the Synoptics, Jesus twice multiplies a few loaves of bread and a few fish into a meal for thousands of people. The two miracles occur in different localities, with different species of fish and different types of baskets being used. John mentions only one of the multiplications.
  • Banning of Jesus. John in the story of the healing of a blind man tells us that the followers of Jesus were banned from the synagogues - but there is no mention of Jesus himself being thus banned. The "Banning of the Christians from the Synagogues" is generally dated around 90 AD. See also Council of Jamnia. ( , , , )
  • The Transfiguration.
  • The proclamation "This is my beloved Son; hear him." It appears in , , and , but is found nowhere in John.
  • Bartimaeus. The synoptic story of the healing of a blind man of Jerichomarker is missing in John. Related is .
  • The outcome of the plot against Lazarus. John says there was a plot to kill Lazarus ( ), but says no more about it or even whether it was successful or not - and if not, why not.
  • Neaniskos, a Greek word meaning "young man," appears in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but not in John.
  • The Triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
  • The Passover Seder. The Synoptics describe the Last Supper as a Passover gathering, on Nisan 15, but John says that the supper was on the evening before Passover started, Nisan 14. See also Quartodecimanism.
  • The institution of the Eucharist is a prominent part of the accounts of the Last Supper in the Synoptics, but it is totally omitted by John. is related, see also Transubstantiation.
  • The agony of Gethsemanemarker. The other Gospels describe Jesus suffering great agony in the olive grove before his arrest. John describes him as praying a long and elaborate prayer, but has no mention of any suffering.
  • The Kiss of Judas is omitted.
  • The healing of Malchus' ear. In the Synoptics, an unnamed disciple cuts off the ear of a servant of the High Priest. John names the disciple as Peter and leaves out any mention of Jesus healing the injury. See also But to bring a sword.
  • The Tears of Peter. The Synoptics report that Peter wept when he realized he had denied knowing Jesus. John omits any mention of Peter crying.
  • The interrogation at the home of Caiaphas. John writes that Jesus was interrogated at the homes of both Annas and Caiaphas. However, only a very brief account of the first interrogation is included, and no account of the second.
  • The Sanhedrin Trial. The Synoptics have varying accounts of a trial of Jesus before a Sanhedrin. John does not.
  • Simon of Cyrene. A man named Simon, from Cyrene, was forced by the Romans to carry the cross of Jesus for part of the Via Dolorosamarker, as Jesus was too weak or weakened to carry it himself all the way. John, unlike the Synoptics, has no mention of this.
  • "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!" Matthew and Luke record a lament by Jesus over the fate of Jerusalem. Absent in John.
  • The cry of Jesus on the Cross, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" as written in the Synoptics, is omitted by John.
  • Jesus' promise to the repentant thief: "Today you'll be with me in Paradise" is also missing in John.
  • "Forgive them, Father, for they do not know what they are doing," is also omitted by John.
  • The earthquake and the darkening of the sky, prominent in the Synoptics, are entirely missing in John.
  • The other women at the tomb. In the synoptics, a group of five women come to the tomb of Jesus and find it empty. In John, only Mary Magdalene is mentioned.
  • The Ascension.
  • Faith. The word "faith," a very important and frequently used word in the Synoptics, is missing in John. So are "faithful," "faithfulness," etc. The concept is only expressed once: "Be not faithless but believing." ( ).
  • Repentance. Similarly the word "repent" is not found in the Book of John
  • Forgiveness. The words "forgive," "forgiving," "forgiven," and "forgiveness," all very prominent in the Synoptics, are not found in John.
  • Gospel. Also unlike the synoptics, John contains no instance of the word evangelion, meaning "good news," "good tidings," or "gospel."
  • Compassion. The word "compassion" appears six times in the Gospel of Matthew, five times in the Gospel of Mark, three times in the Gospel of Luke, but goes unmentioned in the Gospel of John.
  • Eternal sin.
  • Confession of Peter.
  • The Fig Tree.
  • Render unto Caesar....
  • Woes of the Pharisees.
  • You're either with us, or against us.
  • The Lord's Prayer.
  • The Teaching about Divorce.
  • Love, even of enemies. John has much to say about loving your friends, "love one another" - but nothing at all about loving or forgiving your enemies.
  • Details of the Second Coming of the Son of Man are largely absent in John. However, there is a related discussion of the Last Day ( , , ) and Jesus promises to Come Again in if he should ever leave his disciples.


  • Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible - ISBN 0-917006-01-1
  • Paula Fredriksen, From Jesus to Christ (2nd edition, 2000) - ISBN 0-300-08457-9

See also

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