1
The Prologue to the Gospel
1 In the beginning#sn In the beginning. The search for the basic “stuff” out of which things are made was the earliest one in Greek philosophy. It was attended by the related question of “What is the process by which the secondary things came out of the primary one (or ones)?,” or in Aristotelian terminology, “What is the ‘beginning’ (same Greek word as beginning, John 1:1) and what is the origin of the things that are made?” In the New Testament the word usually has a temporal sense, but even BDAG 138 s.v. ἀρχή 3 lists a major category of meaning as “the first cause.” For John, the words “In the beginning” are most likely a conscious allusion to the opening words of Genesis – “In the beginning.” Other concepts which occur prominently in Gen 1 are also found in John’s prologue: “life” (1:4) “light” (1:4) and “darkness” (1:5). Gen 1 describes the first (physical) creation; John 1 describes the new (spiritual) creation. But this is not to play off a false dichotomy between “physical” and “spiritual”; the first creation was both physical and spiritual. The new creation is really a re-creation, of the spiritual (first) but also the physical. (In spite of the common understanding of John’s “spiritual” emphasis, the “physical” re-creation should not be overlooked; this occurs in John 2 with the changing of water into wine, in John 11 with the resurrection of Lazarus, and the emphasis of John 20-21 on the aftermath of Jesus’ own resurrection.) was the Word, and the Word was with God,#tn The preposition πρός (pros) implies not just proximity, but intimate personal relationship. M. Dods stated, “Πρός …means more than μετά or παρά, and is regularly employed in expressing the presence of one person with another” (“The Gospel of St. John,” The Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1:684). See also Mark 6:3, Matt 13:56, Mark 9:19, Gal 1:18, 2 John 12. and the Word was fully God.#tn Or “and what God was the Word was.” Colwell’s Rule is often invoked to support the translation of θεός (qeos) as definite (“God”) rather than indefinite (“a god”) here. However, Colwell’s Rule merely permits, but does not demand, that a predicate nominative ahead of an equative verb be translated as definite rather than indefinite. Furthermore, Colwell’s Rule did not deal with a third possibility, that the anarthrous predicate noun may have more of a qualitative nuance when placed ahead of the verb. A definite meaning for the term is reflected in the traditional rendering “the word was God.” From a technical standpoint, though, it is preferable to see a qualitative aspect to anarthrous θεός in John 1:1c (ExSyn 266-69). Translations like the NEB, REB, and Moffatt are helpful in capturing the sense in John 1:1c, that the Word was fully deity in essence (just as much God as God the Father). However, in contemporary English “the Word was divine” (Moffatt) does not quite catch the meaning since “divine” as a descriptive term is not used in contemporary English exclusively of God. The translation “what God was the Word was” is perhaps the most nuanced rendering, conveying that everything God was in essence, the Word was too. This points to unity of essence between the Father and the Son without equating the persons. However, in surveying a number of native speakers of English, some of whom had formal theological training and some of whom did not, the editors concluded that the fine distinctions indicated by “what God was the Word was” would not be understood by many contemporary readers. Thus the translation “the Word was fully God” was chosen because it is more likely to convey the meaning to the average English reader that the Logos (which “became flesh and took up residence among us” in John 1:14 and is thereafter identified in the Fourth Gospel as Jesus) is one in essence with God the Father. The previous phrase, “the Word was with God,” shows that the Logos is distinct in person from God the Father.sn And the Word was fully God. John’s theology consistently drives toward the conclusion that Jesus, the incarnate Word, is just as much God as God the Father. This can be seen, for example, in texts like John 10:30 (“The Father and I are one”), 17:11 (“so that they may be one just as we are one”), and 8:58 (“before Abraham came into existence, I am”). The construction in John 1:1c does not equate the Word with the person of God (this is ruled out by 1:1b, “the Word was with God”); rather it affirms that the Word and God are one in essence. 2 The Word#tn Grk “He”; the referent (the Word) has been specified in the translation for clarity. was with God in the beginning. 3 All things were created#tn Or “made”; Grk “came into existence.” by him, and apart from him not one thing was created#tn Or “made”; Grk “nothing came into existence.” that has been created.#tc There is a major punctuation problem here: Should this relative clause go with v. 3 or v. 4? The earliest mss have no punctuation (Ì66,75* א* A B Δ al). Many of the later mss which do have punctuation place it before the phrase, thus putting it with v. 4 (Ì75c C D L Ws 050* pc). NA25 placed the phrase in v. 3; NA26 moved the words to the beginning of v. 4. In a detailed article K. Aland defended the change (“Eine Untersuchung zu Johannes 1, 3-4. Über die Bedeutung eines Punktes,” ZNW 59 [1968]: 174-209). He sought to prove that the attribution of ὃ γέγονεν (}o gegonen) to v. 3 began to be carried out in the 4th century in the Greek church. This came out of the Arian controversy, and was intended as a safeguard for doctrine. The change was unknown in the West. Aland is probably correct in affirming that the phrase was attached to v. 4 by the Gnostics and the Eastern Church; only when the Arians began to use the phrase was it attached to v. 3. But this does not rule out the possibility that, by moving the words from v. 4 to v. 3, one is restoring the original reading. Understanding the words as part of v. 3 is natural and adds to the emphasis which is built up there, while it also gives a terse, forceful statement in v. 4. On the other hand, taking the phrase ὃ γέγονεν with v. 4 gives a complicated expression: C. K. Barrett says that both ways of understanding v. 4 with ὃ γέγονεν included “are almost impossibly clumsy” (St. John, 157): “That which came into being – in it the Word was life”; “That which came into being – in the Word was its life.” The following stylistic points should be noted in the solution of this problem: (1) John frequently starts sentences with ἐν (en); (2) he repeats frequently (“nothing was created that has been created”); (3) 5:26 and 6:53 both give a sense similar to v. 4 if it is understood without the phrase; (4) it makes far better Johannine sense to say that in the Word was life than to say that the created universe (what was made, ὃ γέγονεν) was life in him. In conclusion, the phrase is best taken with v. 3. Schnackenburg, Barrett, Carson, Haenchen, Morris, KJV, and NIV concur (against Brown, Beasley-Murray, and NEB). The arguments of R. Schnackenburg, St. John, 1:239-40, are particularly persuasive.tn Or “made”; Grk “that has come into existence.” 4 In him was life,#tn John uses ζωή (zwh) 37 times: 17 times it occurs with αἰώνιος (aiwnios), and in the remaining occurrences outside the prologue it is clear from context that “eternal” life is meant. The two uses in 1:4, if they do not refer to “eternal” life, would be the only exceptions. (Also 1 John uses ζωή 13 times, always of “eternal” life.)sn An allusion to Ps 36:9, which gives significant OT background: “For with you is the fountain of life; In your light we see light.” In later Judaism, Bar 4:2 expresses a similar idea. Life, especially eternal life, will become one of the major themes of John’s Gospel. and the life was the light of mankind.#tn Or “humanity”; Grk “of men” (but ἄνθρωπος [anqrwpo"] is used in a generic sense here, not restricted to males only, thus “mankind,” “humanity”). 5 And the light shines on#tn To this point the author has used past tenses (imperfects, aorists); now he switches to a present. The light continually shines (thus the translation, “shines on”). Even as the author writes, it is shining. The present here most likely has gnomic force (though it is possible to take it as a historical present); it expresses the timeless truth that the light of the world (cf. 8:12, 9:5, 12:46) never ceases to shine.sn The light shines on. The question of whether John has in mind here the preincarnate Christ or the incarnate Christ is probably too specific. The incarnation is not really introduced until v. 9, but here the point is more general: It is of the very nature of light, that it shines. in the darkness,#sn The author now introduces what will become a major theme of John’s Gospel: the opposition of light and darkness. The antithesis is a natural one, widespread in antiquity. Gen 1 gives considerable emphasis to it in the account of the creation, and so do the writings of Qumran. It is the major theme of one of the most important extra-biblical documents found at Qumran, the so-called War Scroll, properly titled The War of the Sons of Light with the Sons of Darkness. Connections between John and Qumran are still an area of scholarly debate and a consensus has not yet emerged. See T. A. Hoffman, “1 John and the Qumran Scrolls,” BTB 8 (1978): 117-25. but#tn Grk “and,” but the context clearly indicates a contrast, so this has been translated as an adversative use of καί (kai). the darkness has not mastered it.#tn Or “comprehended it,” or “overcome it.” The verb κατέλαβεν (katelaben) is not easy to translate. “To seize” or “to grasp” is possible, but this also permits “to grasp with the mind” in the sense of “to comprehend” (esp. in the middle voice). This is probably another Johannine double meaning – one does not usually think of darkness as trying to “understand” light. For it to mean this, “darkness” must be understood as meaning “certain people,” or perhaps “humanity” at large, darkened in understanding. But in John’s usage, darkness is not normally used of people or a group of people. Rather it usually signifies the evil environment or ‘sphere’ in which people find themselves: “They loved darkness rather than light” (John 3:19). Those who follow Jesus do not walk in darkness (8:12). They are to walk while they have light, lest the darkness “overtake/overcome” them (12:35, same verb as here). For John, with his set of symbols and imagery, darkness is not something which seeks to “understand (comprehend)” the light, but represents the forces of evil which seek to “overcome (conquer)” it. The English verb “to master” may be used in both sorts of contexts, as “he mastered his lesson” and “he mastered his opponent.”
6 A man came, sent from God, whose name was John.#sn John refers to John the Baptist. 7 He came as a witness#tn Grk “came for a testimony.”sn Witness is also one of the major themes of John’s Gospel. The Greek verb μαρτυρέω (marturew) occurs 33 times (compare to once in Matthew, once in Luke, 0 in Mark) and the noun μαρτυρία (marturia) 14 times (0 in Matthew, once in Luke, 3 times in Mark). to testify#tn Or “to bear witness.” about the light, so that everyone#tn Grk “all.” might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify#tn Or “to bear witness.” about the light. 9 The true light, who gives light to everyone,#tn Grk “every man” (but in a generic sense, “every person,” or “every human being”). was coming into the world.#tn Or “He was the true light, who gives light to everyone who comes into the world.” The participle ἐρχόμενον (ercomenon) may be either (1) neuter nominative, agreeing with τὸ φῶς (to fw"), or (2) masculine accusative, agreeing with ἄνθρωπον (anqrwpon). Option (1) results in a periphrastic imperfect with ἦν (hn), ἦν τὸ φῶς… ἐρχόμενον, referring to the incarnation. Option (2) would have the participle modifying ἄνθρωπον and referring to the true light as enlightening “every man who comes into the world.” Option (2) has some rabbinic parallels: The phrase “all who come into the world” is a fairly common expression for “every man” (cf. Leviticus Rabbah 31.6). But (1) must be preferred here, because: (a) In the next verse the light is in the world; it is logical for v. 9 to speak of its entering the world; (b) in other passages Jesus is described as “coming into the world” (6:14, 9:39, 11:27, 16:28) and in 12:46 Jesus says: ἐγὼ φῶς εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἐλήλυθα (egw fw" ei" ton kosmon elhluqa); (c) use of a periphrastic participle with the imperfect tense is typical Johannine style: 1:28, 2:6, 3:23, 10:40, 11:1, 13:23, 18:18 and 25. In every one of these except 13:23 the finite verb is first and separated by one or more intervening words from the participle.sn In v. 9 the world (κόσμος, kosmos) is mentioned for the first time. This is another important theme word for John. Generally, the world as a Johannine concept does not refer to the totality of creation (the universe), although there are exceptions at 11:9. 17:5, 24, 21:25, but to the world of human beings and human affairs. Even in 1:10 the world created through the Logos is a world capable of knowing (or reprehensibly not knowing) its Creator. Sometimes the world is further qualified as this world (ὁ κόσμος οὗτος, Jo kosmos Joutos) as in 8:23, 9:39, 11:9, 12:25, 31; 13:1, 16:11, 18:36. This is not merely equivalent to the rabbinic phrase “this present age” (ὁ αἰών οὗτος, Jo aiwn Joutos) and contrasted with “the world to come.” For John it is also contrasted to a world other than this one, already existing; this is the lower world, corresponding to which there is a world above (see especially 8:23, 18:36). Jesus appears not only as the Messiah by means of whom an eschatological future is anticipated (as in the synoptic gospels) but also as an envoy from the heavenly world to this world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was created#tn Or “was made”; Grk “came into existence.” by him, but#tn Grk “and,” but in context this is an adversative use of καί (kai) and is thus translated “but.” the world did not recognize#tn Or “know.” him. 11 He came to what was his own,#tn Grk “to his own things.” but#tn Grk “and,” but in context this is an adversative use of καί (kai) and is thus translated “but.” his own people#tn “People” is not in the Greek text but is implied. did not receive him.#sn His own people did not receive him. There is a subtle irony here: When the λόγος (logos) came into the world, he came to his own (τὰ ἴδια, ta idia, literally “his own things”) and his own people (οἱ ἴδιοι, Joi idioi), who should have known and received him, but they did not. This time John does not say that “his own” did not know him, but that they did not receive him (παρέλαβον, parelabon). The idea is one not of mere recognition, but of acceptance and welcome. 12 But to all who have received him – those who believe in his name#tn On the use of the πιστεύω + εἰς (pisteuw + ei") construction in John: The verb πιστεύω occurs 98 times in John (compared to 11 times in Matthew, 14 times in Mark [including the longer ending], and 9 times in Luke). One of the unsolved mysteries is why the corresponding noun form πίστις (pistis) is never used at all. Many have held the noun was in use in some pre-Gnostic sects and this rendered it suspect for John. It might also be that for John, faith was an activity, something that men do (cf. W. Turner, “Believing and Everlasting Life – A Johannine Inquiry,” ExpTim 64 [1952/53]: 50-52). John uses πιστεύω in 4 major ways: (1) of believing facts, reports, etc., 12 times; (2) of believing people (or the scriptures), 19 times; (3) of believing “in” Christ” (πιστεύω + εἰς + acc.), 36 times; (4) used absolutely without any person or object specified, 30 times (the one remaining passage is 2:24, where Jesus refused to “trust” himself to certain individuals). Of these, the most significant is the use of πιστεύω with εἰς + accusative. It is not unlike the Pauline ἐν Χριστῷ (en Cristw) formula. Some have argued that this points to a Hebrew (more likely Aramaic) original behind the Fourth Gospel. But it probably indicates something else, as C. H. Dodd observed: “πιστεύειν with the dative so inevitably connoted simple credence, in the sense of an intellectual judgment, that the moral element of personal trust or reliance inherent in the Hebrew or Aramaic phrase – an element integral to the primitive Christian conception of faith in Christ – needed to be otherwise expressed” (The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, 183). – he has given the right to become God’s children 13 – children not born#tn The Greek term translated “born” here also involves conception. by human parents#tn Grk “of blood(s).” The plural αἱμάτων (Jaimatwn) has seemed a problem to many interpreters. At least some sources in antiquity imply that blood was thought of as being important in the development of the fetus during its time in the womb: thus Wis 7:1: “in the womb of a mother I was molded into flesh, within the period of 10 months, compacted with blood, from the seed of a man and the pleasure of marriage.” In John 1:13, the plural αἱμάτων may imply the action of both parents. It may also refer to the “genetic” contribution of both parents, and so be equivalent to “human descent” (see BDAG 26 s.v. αἷμα 1.a). E. C. Hoskyns thinks John could not have used the singular here because Christians are in fact ‘begotten’ by the blood of Christ (The Fourth Gospel, 143), although the context would seem to make it clear that the blood in question is something other than the blood of Christ. or by human desire#tn Or “of the will of the flesh.” The phrase οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος σαρκός (oude ek qelhmato" sarko") is more clearly a reference to sexual desire, but it should be noted that σάρξ (sarx) in John does not convey the evil sense common in Pauline usage. For John it refers to the physical nature in its weakness rather than in its sinfulness. There is no clearer confirmation of this than the immediately following verse, where the λόγος (logos) became σάρξ. or a husband’s#tn Or “man’s.” decision,#tn The third phrase, οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος ἀνδρός (oude ek qelhmato" andros), means much the same as the second one. The word here (ἀνηρ, anhr) is often used for a husband, resulting in the translation “or a husband’s decision,” or more generally, “or of any human volition whatsoever.” L. Morris may be right when he sees here an emphasis directed at the Jewish pride in race and patriarchal ancestry, although such a specific reference is difficult to prove (John [NICNT], 101). but by God.
14 Now#tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “now” to indicate the transition to a new topic, the incarnation of the Word. Greek style often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” but English style generally does not. the Word became flesh#tn This looks at the Word incarnate in humility and weakness; the word σάρξ (sarx) does not carry overtones of sinfulness here as it frequently does in Pauline usage. See also John 3:6. and took up residence#tn Grk “and tabernacled.”sn The Greek word translated took up residence (σκηνόω, skhnow) alludes to the OT tabernacle, where the Shekinah, the visible glory of God’s presence, resided. The author is suggesting that this glory can now be seen in Jesus (note the following verse). The verb used here may imply that the Shekinah glory that once was found in the tabernacle has taken up residence in the person of Jesus. Cf. also John 2:19-21. The Word became flesh. This verse constitutes the most concise statement of the incarnation in the New Testament. John 1:1 makes it clear that the Logos was fully God, but 1:14 makes it clear that he was also fully human. A Docetic interpretation is completely ruled out. Here for the first time the Logos of 1:1 is identified as Jesus of Nazareth – the two are one and the same. Thus this is the last time the word logos is used in the Fourth Gospel to refer to the second person of the Trinity. From here on it is Jesus of Nazareth who is the focus of John’s Gospel. among us. We#tn Grk “and we saw.” saw his glory – the glory of the one and only,#tn Or “of the unique one.” Although this word is often translated “only begotten,” such a translation is misleading, since in English it appears to express a metaphysical relationship. The word in Greek was used of an only child (a son [Luke 7:12, 9:38] or a daughter [Luke 8:42]). It was also used of something unique (only one of its kind) such as the mythological Phoenix (1 Clem. 25:2). From here it passes easily to a description of Isaac (Heb 11:17 and Josephus, Ant., 1.13.1 [1.222]) who was not Abraham’s only son, but was one-of-a-kind because he was the child of the promise. Thus the word means “one-of-a-kind” and is reserved for Jesus in the Johannine literature of the NT. While all Christians are children of God, Jesus is God’s Son in a unique, one-of-a-kind sense. The word is used in this way in all its uses in the Gospel of John (1:14, 1:18, 3:16, and 3:18). full of grace and truth, who came from the Father. 15 John#sn John refers to John the Baptist. testified#tn Or “bore witness.” about him and shouted out,#tn Grk “and shouted out saying.” The participle λέγων (legwn) is redundant is English and has not been translated. “This one was the one about whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is greater than I am,#tn Or “has a higher rank than I.” because he existed before me.’” 16 For we have all received from his fullness one gracious gift after another.#tn Grk “for from his fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” The meaning of the phrase χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος (carin anti carito") could be: (1) love (grace) under the New Covenant in place of love (grace) under the Sinai Covenant, thus replacement; (2) grace “on top of” grace, thus accumulation; (3) grace corresponding to grace, thus correspondence. The most commonly held view is (2) in one sense or another, and this is probably the best explanation. This sense is supported by a fairly well-known use in Philo, Posterity 43 (145). Morna D. Hooker suggested that Exod 33:13 provides the background for this expression: “Now therefore, I pray you, if I have found χάρις (LXX) in your sight, let me know your ways, that I may know you, so that I may find χάρις (LXX) in your sight.” Hooker proposed that it is this idea of favor given to one who has already received favor which lies behind 1:16, and this seems very probable as a good explanation of the meaning of the phrase (“The Johannine Prologue and the Messianic Secret,” NTS 21 [1974/75]: 53).sn Earlier commentators (including Origen and Luther) took the words For we have all received from his fullness one gracious gift after another to be John the Baptist’s. Most modern commentators take them as the words of the author. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but#tn “But” is not in the Greek text, but has been supplied to indicate the implied contrast between the Mosaic law and grace through Jesus Christ. John 1:17 seems to indicate clearly that the Old Covenant (Sinai) was being contrasted with the New. In Jewish sources the Law was regarded as a gift from God (Josephus, Ant. 3.8.10 [3.223]; Pirqe Avot 1.1; Sifre Deut 31:4 §305). Further information can be found in T. F. Glasson, Moses in the Fourth Gospel (SBT). grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. The only one,#tc The textual problem μονογενὴς θεός (monogenh" qeo", “the only God”) versus ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός (Jo monogenh" Juio", “the only son”) is a notoriously difficult one. Only one letter would have differentiated the readings in the mss, since both words would have been contracted as nomina sacra: thus qMs or uMs. Externally, there are several variants, but they can be grouped essentially by whether they read θεός or υἱός. The majority of mss, especially the later ones (A C3 Θ Ψ Ë1,13 Ï lat), read ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός. Ì75 א1 33 pc have ὁ μονογενὴς θεός, while the anarthrous μονογενὴς θεός is found in Ì66 א* B C* L pc. The articular θεός is almost certainly a scribal emendation to the anarthrous θεός, for θεός without the article is a much harder reading. The external evidence thus strongly supports μονογενὴς θεός. Internally, although υἱός fits the immediate context more readily, θεός is much more difficult. As well, θεός also explains the origin of the other reading (υἱός), because it is difficult to see why a scribe who found υἱός in the text he was copying would alter it to θεός. Scribes would naturally change the wording to υἱός however, since μονογενὴς υἱός is a uniquely Johannine christological title (cf. John 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9). But θεός as the older and more difficult reading is preferred. As for translation, it makes the most sense to see the word θεός as in apposition to μονογενής, and the participle ὁ ὤν (Jo wn) as in apposition to θεός, giving in effect three descriptions of Jesus rather than only two. (B. D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, 81, suggests that it is nearly impossible and completely unattested in the NT for an adjective followed immediately by a noun that agrees in gender, number, and case, to be a substantival adjective: “when is an adjective ever used substantivally when it immediately precedes a noun of the same inflection?” This, however, is an overstatement. First, as Ehrman admits, μονογενής in John 1:14 is substantival. And since it is an established usage for the adjective in this context, one might well expect that the author would continue to use the adjective substantivally four verses later. Indeed, μονογενής is already moving toward a crystallized substantival adjective in the NT [cf. Luke 9:38; Heb 11:17]; in patristic Greek, the process continued [cf. PGL 881 s.v. 7]. Second, there are several instances in the NT in which a substantival adjective is followed by a noun with which it has complete concord: cf., e.g., Rom 1:30; Gal 3:9; 1 Tim 1:9; 2 Pet 2:5.) The modern translations which best express this are the NEB (margin) and TEV. Several things should be noted: μονογενής alone, without υἱός, can mean “only son,” “unique son,” “unique one,” etc. (see 1:14). Furthermore, θεός is anarthrous. As such it carries qualitative force much like it does in 1:1c, where θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος (qeo" hn Jo logo") means “the Word was fully God” or “the Word was fully of the essence of deity.” Finally, ὁ ὤν occurs in Rev 1:4, 8; 4:8, 11:17; and 16:5, but even more significantly in the LXX of Exod 3:14. Putting all of this together leads to the translation given in the text.tn Or “The unique one.” For the meaning of μονογενής (monogenh") see the note on “one and only” in 1:14. himself God, who is in closest fellowship with#tn Grk “in the bosom of” (an idiom for closeness or nearness; cf. L&N 34.18; BDAG 556 s.v. κόλπος 1). the Father, has made God#tn Grk “him”; the referent (God) has been specified in the translation for clarity. known.#sn Has made God known. In this final verse of the prologue, the climactic and ultimate statement of the earthly career of the Logos, Jesus of Nazareth, is reached. The unique One (John 1:14), the One who has taken on human form and nature by becoming incarnate (became flesh, 1:14), who is himself fully God (the Word was God, 1:1c) and is to be identified with the ever-living One of the Old Testament revelation (Exod 3:14), who is in intimate relationship with the Father, this One and no other has fully revealed what God is like. As Jesus said to Philip in John 14:9, “The one who has seen me has seen the Father.”
The Testimony of John the Baptist
19 Now#tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “now” to indicate the transition to a new topic. Greek style often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” but English style generally does not. this was#tn Grk “is.” John’s#sn John’s refers to John the Baptist. testimony#tn Or “witness.”sn John the Baptist’s testimony seems to take place over 3 days: day 1, John’s testimony about his own role is largely negative (1:19-28); day 2, John gives positive testimony about who Jesus is (1:29-34); day 3, John sends his own disciples to follow Jesus (1:35-40). when the Jewish leaders#tn Or “the Jewish authorities”; Grk “the Jews.” In NT usage the term ᾿Iουδαῖοι (Ioudaioi) may refer to the entire Jewish people, the residents of Jerusalem and surrounding territory, the authorities in Jerusalem, or merely those who were hostile to Jesus. Here the author refers to the authorities or leaders in Jerusalem. (For further information see R. G. Bratcher, “‘The Jews’ in the Gospel of John,” BT 26 [1975]: 401-9.) sent#tc ‡ Several important witnesses have πρὸς αὐτόν (pro" auton, “to him”) either here (B C* 33 892c al it) or after “Levites” (Ì66c vid A Θ Ψ Ë13 579 al lat), while the earliest mss as well as the majority of mss (Ì66*,75 א C3 L Ws Ë1 Ï) lack the phrase. On the one hand, πρὸς αὐτόν could be perceived as redundant since αὐτόν is used again later in the verse, thus prompting scribes to omit the phrase. On the other hand, both the variation in placement of πρὸς αὐτόν and the fact that this phrase rather than the latter αὐτόν is lacking in certain witnesses (cf. John 11:44; 14:7; 18:31), suggests that scribes felt that the sentence needed the phrase to make the sense clearer. Although a decision is difficult, the shorter reading is slightly preferred. NA27 has πρὸς αὐτόν in brackets, indicating doubt as to the phrase’s authenticity. priests and Levites from Jerusalem#map For location see Map5-B1; Map6-F3; Map7-E2; Map8-F2; Map10-B3; JP1-F4; JP2-F4; JP3-F4; JP4-F4. to ask him, “Who are you?”#sn “Who are you?” No uniform Jewish expectation of a single eschatological figure existed in the 1st century. A majority expected the Messiah. But some pseudepigraphic books describe God’s intervention without mentioning the anointed Davidic king; in parts of 1 Enoch, for example, the figure of the Son of Man, not the Messiah, embodies the expectations of the author. Essenes at Qumran seem to have expected three figures: a prophet, a priestly messiah, and a royal messiah. In baptizing, John the Baptist was performing an eschatological action. It also seems to have been part of his proclamation (John 1:23, 26-27). Crowds were beginning to follow him. He was operating in an area not too far from the Essene center on the Dead Sea. No wonder the authorities were curious about who he was. 20 He confessed – he did not deny but confessed – “I am not the Christ!”#tn Or “the Messiah” (Both Greek “Christ” and Hebrew and Aramaic “Messiah” mean “one who has been anointed”).sn “I am not the Christ.” A 3rd century work, the pseudo-Clementine Recognitions (1.54 and 1.60 in the Latin text; the statement is not as clear in the Syriac version) records that John’s followers proclaimed him to be the Messiah. There is no clear evidence that they did so in the 1st century, however – but Luke 3:15 indicates some wondered. Concerning the Christ, the term χριστός (cristos) was originally an adjective (“anointed”), developing in LXX into a substantive (“an anointed one”), then developing still further into a technical generic term (“the anointed one”). In the intertestamental period it developed further into a technical term referring to the hoped-for anointed one, that is, a specific individual. In the NT the development starts there (technical-specific), is so used in the gospels, and then develops in Paul to mean virtually Jesus’ last name. 21 So they asked him, “Then who are you?#tn Grk “What then?” (an idiom). Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not!”#sn According to the 1st century rabbinic interpretation of 2 Kgs 2:11, Elijah was still alive. In Mal 4:5 it is said that Elijah would be the precursor of Messiah. How does one reconcile John the Baptist’s denial here (“I am not”) with Jesus’ statements in Matt 11:14 (see also Mark 9:13 and Matt 17:12) that John the Baptist was Elijah? Some have attempted to remove the difficulty by a reconstruction of the text in the Gospel of John which makes the Baptist say that he was Elijah. However, external support for such emendations is lacking. According to Gregory the Great, John was not Elijah, but exercised toward Jesus the function of Elijah by preparing his way. But this avoids the real difficulty, since in John’s Gospel the question of the Jewish authorities to the Baptist concerns precisely his function. It has also been suggested that the author of the Gospel here preserves a historically correct reminiscence – that John the Baptist did not think of himself as Elijah, although Jesus said otherwise. Mark 6:14-16 and Mark 8:28 indicate the people and Herod both distinguished between John and Elijah – probably because he did not see himself as Elijah. But Jesus’ remarks in Matt 11:14, Mark 9:13, and Matt 17:12 indicate that John did perform the function of Elijah – John did for Jesus what Elijah was to have done for the coming of the Lord. C. F. D. Moule pointed out that it is too simple to see a straight contradiction between John’s account and that of the synoptic gospels: “We have to ask by whom the identification is made, and by whom refused. The synoptic gospels represent Jesus as identifying, or comparing, the Baptist with Elijah, while John represents the Baptist as rejecting the identification when it is offered him by his interviewers. Now these two, so far from being incompatible, are psychologically complementary. The Baptist humbly rejects the exalted title, but Jesus, on the contrary, bestows it on him. Why should not the two both be correct?” (The Phenomenon of the New Testament [SBT], 70). “Are you the Prophet?”#sn The Prophet is a reference to the “prophet like Moses” of Deut 18:15, by this time an eschatological figure in popular belief. Acts 3:22 identifies Jesus as this prophet. He answered, “No!” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you? Tell us#tn The words “Tell us” are not in the Greek but are implied. so that we can give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
23 John#tn Grk “He”; the referent (John the Baptist) has been specified in the translation for clarity. said, “I am the voice of one shouting in the wilderness, ‘Make straight#sn This call to “make straight” is probably an allusion to preparation through repentance. the way for the Lord,’#sn A quotation from Isa 40:3. as Isaiah the prophet said.” 24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.#sn Pharisees were members of one of the most important and influential religious and political parties of Judaism in the time of Jesus. There were more Pharisees than Sadducees (according to Josephus, Ant. 17.2.4 [17.42] there were more than 6,000 Pharisees at about this time). Pharisees differed with Sadducees on certain doctrines and patterns of behavior. The Pharisees were strict and zealous adherents to the laws of the OT and to numerous additional traditions such as angels and bodily resurrection.)#sn This is a parenthetical note by the author. 25 So they asked John,#tn Grk “And they asked him, and said to him”; the referent (John) has been specified in the translation for clarity, and the phrase has been simplified in the translation to “So they asked John.” “Why then are you baptizing if you are not the Christ,#tn Or “the Messiah” (Both Greek “Christ” and Hebrew and Aramaic “Messiah” mean “one who has been anointed”).sn See the note on Christ in 1:20. nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
26 John answered them,#tn Grk “answered them, saying.” The participle λέγων (legwn) is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated. “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not recognize,#tn Or “know.” 27 who is coming after me. I am not worthy#tn Grk “of whom I am not worthy.”sn The humility of John is evident in the statement I am not worthy. This was considered one of the least worthy tasks of a slave, and John did not consider himself worthy to do even that for the one to come, despite the fact he himself was a prophet. to untie the strap#tn The term refers to the leather strap or thong used to bind a sandal. This is often viewed as a collective singular and translated as a plural, “the straps of his sandals,” but it may be more emphatic to retain the singular here. of his sandal!” 28 These things happened in Bethany#tc Many witnesses ([א2] C2 K T Ψc 083 Ë1,13 33 pm sa Or) read Βηθαβαρᾷ (Bhqabara, “Bethabara”) instead of Βηθανίᾳ (Bhqania, “Bethany”). But the reading Βηθανίᾳ is strongly supported by {Ì66,75 A B C* L Ws Δ Θ Ψ* 565 579 700 1241 1424 pm latt bo as well as several fathers}. Since there is no known Bethany “beyond the Jordan,” it is likely that the name would have been changed to a more etymologically edifying one (Origen mistakenly thought the name Bethabara meant “house of preparation” and for this reason was appropriate in this context; see TCGNT 171 for discussion). On the other hand, both since Origen’s understanding of the Semitic etymology of Bethabara was incorrect, and because Bethany was at least a well-known location in Palestine, mentioned in the Gospels about a dozen times, one has to wonder whether scribes replaced Βηθαβαρᾷ with Βηθανίᾳ. However, if Origen’s understanding of the etymology of the name was representative, scribes may have altered the text in the direction of Bethabara. And even if most scribes were unfamiliar with what the name might signify, that a reading which did not contradict the Gospels’ statements of a Bethany near Jerusalem was already at hand may have been sufficient reason for them to adopt Bethabara. Further, in light of the very strong testimony for Βηθανίᾳ, this reading should be regarded as authentic. across the Jordan River#tn “River” is not in the Greek text but is supplied for clarity. where John was baptizing.
29 On the next day John#tn Grk “he”; the referent (John) has been supplied in the translation for clarity. saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God#sn Gen 22:8 is an important passage in the background of the title Lamb of God as applied to Jesus. In Jewish thought this was held to be a supremely important sacrifice. G. Vermès stated: “For the Palestinian Jew, all lamb sacrifice, and especially the Passover lamb and the Tamid offering, was a memorial of the Akedah with its effects of deliverance, forgiveness of sin and messianic salvation” (Scripture and Tradition in Judaism [StPB], 225). who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one about whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who is greater than I am,#tn Or “has a higher rank than I.” because he existed before me.’ 31 I did not recognize#tn Or “know.” him, but I came baptizing with water so that he could be revealed to Israel.”#sn John the Baptist, who has been so reluctant to elaborate his own role, now more than willingly gives his testimony about Jesus. For the author, the emphasis is totally on John the Baptist as a witness to Jesus. No attention is given to the Baptist’s call to national repentance and very little to his baptizing. Everything is focused on what he has to say about Jesus: so that he could be revealed to Israel.
32 Then#tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events in the narrative. Greek style often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” but English style generally does not. John testified,#tn Grk “testified, saying.” The participle λέγων (legwn) is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated. “I saw the Spirit descending like a dove#sn The phrase like a dove is a descriptive comparison. The Spirit is not a dove, but descended like one in some sort of bodily representation. from heaven,#tn Or “from the sky.” The Greek word οὐρανός (ouranos) may be translated “sky” or “heaven,” depending on the context. and it remained on him.#sn John says the Spirit remained on Jesus. The Greek verb μένω (menw) is a favorite Johannine word, used 40 times in the Gospel and 27 times in the Epistles (67 together) against 118 times total in the NT. The general significance of the verb μένω for John is to express the permanency of relationship between Father and Son and Son and believer. Here the use of the word implies that Jesus permanently possesses the Holy Spirit, and because he does, he will dispense the Holy Spirit to others in baptism. Other notes on the dispensation of the Spirit occur at John 3:5 and following (at least implied by the wordplay), John 3:34, 7:38-39, numerous passages in John 14-16 (the Paraclete passages) and John 20:22. Note also the allusion to Isa 42:1 – “Behold my servant…my chosen one in whom my soul delights. I have put my Spirit on him.” 33 And I did not recognize him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining – this is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have both seen and testified that this man is the Chosen One of God.”#tc ‡ What did John the Baptist declare about Jesus on this occasion? Did he say, “This is the Son of God” (οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, |outo" estin Jo Juio" tou qeou), or “This is the Chosen One of God” (οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ ἐκλεκτὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, outo" estin Jo eklekto" tou qeou)? The majority of the witnesses, impressive because of their diversity in age and locales, read “This is the Son of God” (so {Ì66,75 A B C L Θ Ψ 0233vid Ë1,13 33 1241 aur c f l g bo as well as the majority of Byzantine minuscules and many others}). Most scholars take this to be sufficient evidence to regard the issue as settled without much of a need to reflect on internal evidence. On the other hand, one of the earliest mss for this verse, {Ì5} (3rd century), evidently read οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ ἐκλεκτὸς τοῦ θεοῦ. (There is a gap in the ms at the point of the disputed words; it is too large for υἱός especially if written, as it surely would have been, as a nomen sacrum [uMs]. The term ἐκλεκτός was not a nomen sacrum and would have therefore taken up much more space [eklektos]. Given these two variants, there is hardly any question as to what Ì5 read.) This papyrus has many affinities with א*, which here also has ὁ ἐκλεκτός. In addition to their combined testimony Ì106vid b e ff2* sys,c also support this reading. Ì106 is particularly impressive, for it is a second third-century papyrus in support of ὁ ἐκλεκτός. A third reading combines these two: “the elect Son” (electus filius in ff2c sa and a [with slight variation]). Although the evidence for ἐκλεκτός is not as impressive as that for υἱός, the reading is found in early Alexandrian and Western witnesses. Turning to the internal evidence, “the Chosen One” clearly comes out ahead. “Son of God” is a favorite expression of the author (cf. 1:49; 3:18; 5:25; 10:36; 11:4, 27; 19:7; 20:31); further, there are several other references to “his Son,” “the Son,” etc. Scribes would be naturally motivated to change ἐκλεκτός to υἱός since the latter is both a Johannine expression and is, on the surface, richer theologically in 1:34. On the other hand, there is not a sufficient reason for scribes to change υἱός to ἐκλεκτός. The term never occurs in John; even its verbal cognate (ἐκλέγω, eklegw) is never affirmed of Jesus in this Gospel. ἐκλεκτός clearly best explains the rise of υἱός. Further, the third reading (“Chosen Son of God”) is patently a conflation of the other two. It has all the earmarks of adding υἱός to ἐκλεκτός. Thus, ὁ υἱός τοῦ θεοῦ is almost certainly a motivated reading. As R. E. Brown notes (John [AB], 1:57), “On the basis of theological tendency…it is difficult to imagine that Christian scribes would change ‘the Son of God’ to ‘God’s chosen one,’ while a change in the opposite direction would be quite plausible. Harmonization with the Synoptic accounts of the baptism (‘You are [This is] my beloved Son’) would also explain the introduction of ‘the Son of God’ into John; the same phenomenon occurs in vi 69. Despite the weaker textual evidence, therefore, it seems best – with Lagrange, Barrett, Boismard, and others – to accept ‘God’s chosen one’ as original.”
35 Again the next day John#sn John refers to John the Baptist. was standing there#tn “There” is not in the Greek text but is implied by current English idiom. with two of his disciples. 36 Gazing at Jesus as he walked by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”#sn This section (1:35-51) is joined to the preceding by the literary expedient of repeating the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus being the Lamb of God (1:36, cf. 1:29). This repeated testimony (1:36) no longer has revelatory value in itself, since it has been given before; its purpose, instead, is to institute a chain reaction which will bring John the Baptist’s disciples to Jesus and make them Jesus’ own disciples. 37 When John’s#tn Grk “his”; the referent (John) has been specified in the translation for clarity. two disciples heard him say this,#tn Grk “And the two disciples heard him speaking.” they followed Jesus.#sn The expression followed Jesus pictures discipleship, which means that to learn from Jesus is to follow him as the guiding priority of one’s life. 38 Jesus turned around and saw them following and said to them, “What do you want?”#tn Grk “What are you seeking?” So they said to him, “Rabbi” (which is translated Teacher),#sn This is a parenthetical note by the author. “where are you staying?” 39 Jesus#tn Grk “He”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity. answered,#tn Grk “said to them.” “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. Now it was about four o’clock in the afternoon.#tn Grk “about the tenth hour.” sn About four o’clock in the afternoon. What system of time reckoning is the author using? B. F. Westcott thought John, unlike the synoptic gospels, was using Roman time, which started at midnight (St. John, 282). This would make the time 10 a.m., which would fit here. But later in the Gospel’s Passover account (John 19:42, where the sixth hour is on the “eve of the Passover”) it seems clear the author had to be using Jewish reckoning, which began at 6 a.m. This would make the time here in 1:39 to be 4 p.m. This may be significant: If the hour was late, Andrew and the unnamed disciple probably spent the night in the same house where Jesus was staying, and the events of 1:41-42 took place on the next day. The evidence for Westcott’s view, that the Gospel is using Roman time, is very slim. The Roman reckoning which started at midnight was only used by authorities as legal time (for contracts, official documents, etc.). Otherwise, the Romans too reckoned time from 6 a.m. (e.g., Roman sundials are marked VI, not XII, for noon).
Andrew’s Declaration
40 Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two disciples who heard what John said#tn Grk “who heard from John.” and followed Jesus.#tn Grk “him”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 41 He first#tc Most witnesses (א* L Ws Ï) read πρῶτος (prwtos) here instead of πρῶτον (prwton). The former reading would be a predicate adjective and suggest that Andrew “was the first” person to proselytize another regarding Jesus. The reading preferred, however, is the neuter πρῶτον, used as an adverb (BDAG 893 s.v. πρῶτος 1.a.β.), and it suggests that the first thing that Andrew did was to proselytize Peter. The evidence for this reading is early and weighty: Ì66,75 א2 A B Θ Ψ 083 Ë1,13 892 al lat. found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah!”#sn Naturally part of Andrew’s concept of the Messiah would have been learned from John the Baptist (v. 40). However, there were a number of different messianic expectations in 1st century Palestine (see the note on “Who are you?” in v. 19), and it would be wrong to assume that what Andrew meant here is the same thing the author means in the purpose statement at the end of the Fourth Gospel, 20:31. The issue here is not whether the disciples’ initial faith in Jesus as Messiah was genuine or not, but whether their concept of who Jesus was grew and developed progressively as they spent time following him, until finally after his resurrection it is affirmed in the climactic statement of John’s Gospel, the affirmation of Thomas in 20:28. (which is translated Christ).#tn Both Greek “Christ” and Hebrew and Aramaic “Messiah” mean “the one who has been anointed.”sn This is a parenthetical note by the author. See the note on Christ in 1:20. 42 Andrew brought Simon#tn Grk “He brought him”; both referents (Andrew, Simon) have been specified in the translation for clarity. to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon, the son of John.#tc The reading “Simon, son of John” is well attested in Ì66,75,106 א B* L 33 pc it co. The majority of mss (A B2 Ψ Ë1,13 Ï) read “Simon, the son of Jonah” here instead, but that is perhaps an assimilation to Matt 16:17. You will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).#sn This is a parenthetical note by the author. The change of name from Simon to Cephas is indicative of the future role he will play. Only John among the gospel writers gives the Greek transliteration (Κηφᾶς, Khfas) of Simon’s new name, Qéphâ (which is Galilean Aramaic). Neither Πέτρος (Petros) in Greek nor Qéphâ in Aramaic is a normal proper name; it is more like a nickname.
The Calling of More Disciples
43 On the next day Jesus#tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity. Jesus is best taken as the subject of εὑρίσκει (Jeuriskei), since Peter would scarcely have wanted to go to Galilee. wanted to set out for Galilee.#sn No explanation is given for why Jesus wanted to set out for Galilee, but probably he wanted to go to the wedding at Cana (about a two day trip). He#tn Grk “and he.” Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation. found Philip and said#tn Grk “and Jesus said.” to him, “Follow me.” 44 (Now Philip was from Bethsaida,#sn Although the author thought of the town as in Galilee (12:21), Bethsaida technically was in Gaulanitis (Philip the Tetrarch’s territory) across from Herod’s Galilee. There may have been two places called Bethsaida, or this may merely reflect popular imprecision – locally it was considered part of Galilee, even though it was just east of the Jordan river. This territory was heavily Gentile (which may explain why Andrew and Philip both have Gentile names). the town of#tn Probably ἀπό (apo) indicates “originally from” in the sense of birthplace rather than current residence; Mark 1:21, 29 seems to locate the home of Andrew and Peter at Capernaum. The entire remark (v. 44) amounts to a parenthetical comment by the author. Andrew and Peter.) 45 Philip found Nathanael#sn Nathanael is traditionally identified with Bartholomew (although John never describes him as such). He appears here after Philip, while in all lists of the twelve except in Acts 1:13, Bartholomew follows Philip. Also, the Aramaic Bar-tolmai means “son of Tolmai,” the surname; the man almost certainly had another name. and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law, and the prophets also#tn “Also” is not in the Greek text, but is implied. wrote about – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael#tn Grk “And Nathanael.” replied,#tn Grk “said to him.” “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”#sn Can anything good come out of Nazareth? may be a local proverb expressing jealousy among the towns.map For location see Map1-D3; Map2-C2; Map3-D5; Map4-C1; Map5-G3. Philip replied,#tn Grk “And Philip said to him.” “Come and see.”
47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and exclaimed,#tn Grk “said about him.” “Look, a true Israelite in whom there is no deceit!#tn Or “treachery.”sn An allusion to Ps 32:2. 48 Nathanael asked him, “How do you know me?” Jesus replied,#tn Grk “answered and said to him.” This is somewhat redundant in English and has been simplified in the translation to “replied.” “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree,#sn Many have speculated about what Nathanael was doing under the fig tree. Meditating on the Messiah who was to come? A good possibility, since the fig tree was used as shade for teaching or studying by the later rabbis (Ecclesiastes Rabbah 5:11). Also, the fig tree was symbolic for messianic peace and plenty (Mic 4:4, Zech 3:10.) I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king#tn Although βασιλεύς (basileus) lacks the article it is definite due to contextual and syntactical considerations. See ExSyn 263. of Israel!”#sn Nathanael’s confession – You are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel – is best understood as a confession of Jesus’ messiahship. It has strong allusions to Ps 2:6-7, a well-known messianic psalm. What Nathanael’s exact understanding was at this point is hard to determine, but “son of God” was a designation for the Davidic king in the OT, and Nathanael parallels it with King of Israel here. 50 Jesus said to him,#tn Grk “answered and said to him.” This has been simplified in the translation to “said to him.” “Because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”#sn What are the greater things Jesus had in mind? In the narrative this forms an excellent foreshadowing of the miraculous signs which began at Cana of Galilee. 51 He continued,#tn Grk “and he said to him.” “I tell all of you the solemn truth#tn Grk “Truly, truly, I say to you.” – you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”#sn The title Son of Man appears 13 times in John’s Gospel. It is associated especially with the themes of crucifixion (3:14; 8:28), revelation (6:27; 6:53), and eschatological authority (5:27; 9:35). The title as used in John’s Gospel has for its background the son of man figure who appears in Dan 7:13-14 and is granted universal regal authority. Thus for the author, the emphasis in this title is not on Jesus’ humanity, but on his heavenly origin and divine authority.
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