Bauckham, Richard. "Historiographical Characteristics of the Gospel of John." New Testament Studies 53 (2007), 17-36.
Bauckham observes that within Johannine scholarship there is a temptation to make a sharp distinction between history and theology, and to treat John's Gospel as a work of theology which takes little or no interest in history (Bauckham 2007, 17). Bauckham attempts to deal with the question by considering whether the work fits into the broader category of historiography. While the Gospels have recently been broadly considered to belong to a biographical genre, they may fit into that category less well than into the category of history. Bauckham notes that about the time of the first century, historiography had been developing an interest in biographical details (Bauckham 2007, 18). Bauckham moves on to evaluate John's Gospel in terms of important characteristics of historical writing.
Topographical and other geographical concerns are a salient feature of historical writing. John's Gospel provides numerous topographical references (Bauckham 2007, 20). While there is some doubt about some of the references, John does appear to have known the territory where the events of the Gospel took place. He writes as someone who is well informed on these matters. Further, an attempt to see the topographical material as uniformly theological in its importance becomes forced and difficult to maintain (Bauckham 2007, 21). Further, Bauckham notes that while John's Gospel records fewer distinct events than do the Synoptics, he has a large number situated at places not recorded in the Synoptics. Yet they tend to have relatively precise locations. This further suggests historical writing (Bauckham 2007, 23).
John's Gospel also has clear time indicators, mostly centered around Jewish festivals but also a week with counted days at the start and end of the events (Bauckham 2007, 24). The dating in John is more precise than in the Synoptic Gospels. While biographical writing frequently provides some chronology, it is normally more topical. This is the recognized pattern of the Synoptics, but not of John (Bauckham 2007, 25).
Bauckham freely concedes that John's Gospel is highly theological in nature. Yet he sees that theology to be rooted in an historical account, for the most part (Bauckham 2007, 25). Biographies, especially those of philosophers or teachers, normally do not emphasize topography or chronology to any great extent, as John's Gospel does. Bauckham explains, "The Johannine Jesus, however, is not primarily a teacher. His teaching is ancillary to his deeds"