New Testament Studies


The Destination and Purpose of St John's Gospel

J. A. T. Robinson

For whom and for what, to what audience and to what purpose, were the four Gospels written? This is one of the most elementary questions of New Testament study, and one might think that by now the answers could be given with some degree of certainty and consent. And of the first three Gospels I think this is broadly true. Naturally there will always be room for fresh lines of development and approach, but they are unlikely to modify very radically the conclusions which can be found set out in any text-book. If one had to reduce these conclusions to their barest summary, one could say, without immediate fear of contradiction, that St Matthew's Gospel was evidently written for a Jewish-Christian community, and that its overall purpose was broadly speaking catechetical; that St Mark's Gospel was composed for a predominantly Gentile community and that its primary purpose was kerygmatic, setting out, for the use of the Church, a summary of its proclamation; and that St Luke's Gospel, as he himself indicates, was again addressed, though more generally, to the Graeco-Roman world, and that its purpose was instructional, with the defence and confirmation of the Gospel as a dominant motif.