The Temple’s Destruction and John’s Gospel

The quest for the most plausible historical setting surrounding the composition of the Fourth Gospel has had a colorful history in Johannine scholarship. Traditionally, it was thought that the Apostle John, at the urging of some of his disciples, put pen to papyrus and recorded his personal reminiscences of the life and times of Jesus’ earthly ministry toward the end of the first century AD (Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 3.1.2).

The spirit of the Enlightenment with its emphasis on the independent investigation of the biblical documents as “books like any other” led to a variety of different readings of John’s gospel, including views regarding its likely setting.

This article argues that the destruction of the second temple in AD 70 provides an important contemporary historical datum that likely impacted the composition of the Fourth Gospel, and that reading the gospel in light of this then-recent event makes excellent sense especially of the Gospel’s treatment of the temple and related Jewish festival symbolism as fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah.