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A common assertion is that the Gospel of John uniquely presents Jesus as "the Son of God", while Matthew presents Him as "the King of the Jews", Mark as the "Servant", and Luke as "the Son of Man".

What is peculiar in the Gospel of John that gives rise to this particular distinction?

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Maybe part of it is how he is presented as the Word in John? – SSumner Apr 9 '13 at 22:01
There are also a lot of "I AM" references in John. The last prayers in John also have a more "Divine" feel (triumphant, emphasis on glory) while the other gospels present a more human feel recognizing that (both spiritual and physical) pain hurts (please, if there is any other way). – Paul A. Clayton Apr 9 '13 at 22:25
Also John 3:16"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son,................" – user10209 Mar 1 '14 at 7:38

2 Answers 2

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This idea comes primarily from the presentation of Jesus throughout the Gospel, which is summarized nicely by the Biblical author himself:

Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. -John 20:30-31

For example, consider the closing statement in the first section (1:1-18):

No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. -John 1:18

...or the climactic statement of John the Baptist at the end of the second section (1:19-34):

I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” -John 1:34

...or the climactic testimony of Nathanael at the end of the third section (1:35-51):

Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” -John 1:49

The trend continues throughout the Gospel.

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Although Mark only contains about 7 direct and indirect specific references to Jesus as the Son of God, this short gospel possibly places greater emphasis on Jesus as the Son of God than any other New Testament gospel, with its opening words containing this description of Jesus (*):

Mark 1:1: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;

The audience of Mark's Gospel is kept aware throughout that Jesus is the Son of God. In contrast, Mark does not specifically refer to Jesus as Servant, although all four gospels do include echoes of the Suffering Servant passages in the Book of Isaiah. There are at least 14 references to Son of Man, comparable to the approximately 26 references in the much longer Gospel of Luke.

John does contain at least 25 references to Jesus as the Son of God, which is nearly double the number (13) in Matthew and substantially more than in the other gospels, but this gospel does not emphasise this relationship in the way Mark's Gospel does. It also contains more than double the number of references to Jesus as King of the Jews than any other gospel.

Interestingly, while there are only about 5 references in Matthew, I count at least 11 references in John to Jesus as King of the Jews, including the dramatic account of Pontius Pilate insisting on this being placed on the sign at the crucifixion:

John 19:19-22: And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews. Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.

In the same way as Mark uses its prologue to identify Jesus as the Son of God, John uses the prologue to identify him as the Word (Logos):

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The concept that Jesus Christ is the Word has been important in establishing the doctrine of Jesus' divinity, as well as that of the Trinity. But many scholars are aware that the synoptic gospels did not see Jesus as God. For example, Rhoads, Dewey and Michie say in Mark as Story, page 104, that in Mark, Jesus is the son of God, not by virtue of a special birth or a divine nature - he becomes God's son at his baptism and is neither God nor a divine being. In Matthew and Luke, Jesus is the son of God by virtue of a special birth, but he is not yet God. So, it is only in John's Gospel that Jesus is fully divine. Throughout John's Gospel, there are references that point to Jesus as divine, including his use of the term "I am" that in Greek was understood to mean 'God'.

So, compared to any other gospel, John's Gospel has around twice as many references to Jesus as either King of the Jews or as Son of God, but the real emphasis is on Jesus' divinity.

(*) Some early manuscripts, including Sinaiticus, omit 'Son of God' in Mark 1:1, so there is no certainty that the phrase is original to Mark's Gospel.

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