Today’s martyrology speaks of John the Apostle in a way unlike all the other apostles: “In his Gospel and other writings he shows himself to be a theologian….” Tradition holds all the apostles to be the foundation of theology, and the evangelists to be the model of the theologian, but even among the evangelists the Fathers single out John as the “eagle,” the one who soars high into the realm of mystery.
In the earliest days of the Church, Matthew’s Gospel was the most popular gospel, but from the days of scholasticism onward theologians of all stripes and denominations have preferred John’s Gospel together with the letters of Paul. Theologians like arguments more than stories, and John has long, wonderful discourses in which Jesus gives theological arguments. If you look for example of St. Thomas Aquinas’s commentary on John, you’ll see that his exposition of the story parts is OK while his unpacking of the discourses is marvelous. He is just more comfortable with argument.
But of course John’s Gospel blends story and argument, and both elements earn him the title “theologian”. That’s one reason I have a special devotion to him at this season: in the coming year, I hope to write stories and I hope to write arguments, and some of the arguments I hope to write are arguments about stories. As a tribute to St. John, I’d like to share with you an outline of John’s Gospel that I developed over a few years of teaching sophomores at Wyoming Catholic College. On my account, if you take time and place as dividers of the text, you end up with a liturgically themed chiastic structure–maybe a bit bold, but a lot more fun than what you’ll find in standard commentaries! Click here for a .pdf file; the outline is on the first page and some explanatory notes on the second.