XLIX. To call John’s Gospel historical does not mean that every word of Jesus’ discourses is presented as an accurate and word-for-word transcript of speeches made by Him. Rather, it is historical in that it faithfully communicates the substance of Jesus’ words and actions in time, things that actually occurred. We too recount stories and conversations that may lack detailed precision but are nonetheless true accounts of reality. As the Pope puts it: “the Gospel … has correctly rendered the substance of the discourses, so that the readers really do encounter the decisive content of this message and, therein, the authentic figure of Jesus” (p. 229).
He adds further explanation, analogous to Luke’s comments about Mary who “kept all these things and reflected on them in her heart (Luke 2:51). By prayerful remembrance open to the Holy Spirit, Mary understood more than just the events that had happened; she penetrated their inner meaning. This is the kind of remembering that John presents in the Gospel: events that occurred presented after prayerful reflection that reveals their inner meaning. John is not simply writing words about Jesus; he is communicating the Word made flesh Who has come into time and brought eternity into our world.
John’s purpose is that we would do the same: the Spirit comes to remind us of all that Jesus told us and to lead us into all truth (see John 14:26). Reading the Gospel in the midst of the Church that received this inspired Word brings it to life and we encounter Jesus Himself.