I. PROLOGUE#The prologue states the main themes of the gospel: life, light, truth, the world, testimony, and the preexistence of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Logos, who reveals God the Father. In origin, it was probably an early Christian hymn. Its closest parallel is in other christological hymns, Col 1:15–20 and Phil 2:6–11. Its core (Jn 1:1–5, 10–11, 14) is poetic in structure, with short phrases linked by “staircase parallelism,” in which the last word of one phrase becomes the first word of the next. Prose inserts (at least Jn 1:6–8, 15) deal with John the Baptist.
1In the beginning#In the beginning: also the first words of the Old Testament (Gn 1:1). Was: this verb is used three times with different meanings in this verse: existence, relationship, and predication. The Word (Greek logos): this term combines God’s dynamic, creative word (Genesis), personified preexistent Wisdom as the instrument of God’s creative activity (Proverbs), and the ultimate intelligibility of reality (Hellenistic philosophy). With God: the Greek preposition here connotes communication with another. Was God: lack of a definite article with “God” in Greek signifies predication rather than identification. was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.#a. [1:1] 10:30; Gn 1:1–5; Jb 28:12–27; Prv 8:22–25; Wis 9:1–2; 1 Jn 1:1–2; Col 1:1, 15; Rev 3:14; 19:13.
2He was in the beginning with God.
3#What came to be: while the oldest manuscripts have no punctuation here, the corrector of Bodmer Papyrus P75, some manuscripts, and the Ante-Nicene Fathers take this phrase with what follows, as staircase parallelism. Connection with Jn 1:3 reflects fourth-century anti-Arianism. All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.#b. [1:3] Ps 33:9; Wis 9:1; Sir 42:15; 1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:16; Heb 1:2; Rev 3:14.
What came to be 4through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;#c. [1:4] 5:26; 8:12; 1 Jn 1:2.
5#The ethical dualism of light and darkness is paralleled in intertestamental literature and in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Overcome: “comprehend” is another possible translation, but cf. Jn 12:35; Wis 7:29–30. the light shines in the darkness,#d. [1:5] 3:19; 8:12; 9:5; 12:35, 46; Wis 7:29–30; 1 Thes 5:4; 1 Jn 2:8.
and the darkness has not overcome it.
6#John was sent just as Jesus was “sent” (Jn 4:34) in divine mission. Other references to John the Baptist in this gospel emphasize the differences between them and John’s subordinate role. A man named John was sent from God.#e. [1:6] Mt 3:1; Mk 1:4; Lk 3:2–3. 7He came for testimony,#Testimony: the testimony theme of John is introduced, which portrays Jesus as if on trial throughout his ministry. All testify to Jesus: John the Baptist, the Samaritan woman, scripture, his works, the crowds, the Spirit, and his disciples. to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.#f. [1:7] 1:19–34; 5:33. 8He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.#g. [1:8] 5:35. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.#h. [1:9] 3:19; 8:12; 9:39; 12:46.
10He was in the world,
and the world came to be through him,
but the world did not know him.
11He came to what was his own,
but his own people#What was his own…his own people: first a neuter, literally, “his own property/possession” (probably = Israel), then a masculine, “his own people” (the Israelites). did not accept him.
12#i. [1:12] 3:11–12; 5:43–44; 12:46–50; Gal 3:26; 4:6–7; Eph 1:5; 1 Jn 3:2. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, 13#Believers in Jesus become children of God not through any of the three natural causes mentioned but through God who is the immediate cause of the new spiritual life. Were born: the Greek verb can mean “begotten” (by a male) or “born” (from a female or of parents). The variant “he who was begotten,” asserting Jesus’ virginal conception, is weakly attested in Old Latin and Syriac versions. #j. [1:13] 3:5–6. who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.
14And the Word became flesh#Flesh: the whole person, used probably against docetic tendencies (cf. 1 Jn 4:2; 2 Jn 7). Made his dwelling: literally, “pitched his tent/tabernacle.” Cf. the tabernacle or tent of meeting that was the place of God’s presence among his people (Ex 25:8–9). The incarnate Word is the new mode of God’s presence among his people. The Greek verb has the same consonants as the Aramaic word for God’s presence (Shekinah). Glory: God’s visible manifestation of majesty in power, which once filled the tabernacle (Ex 40:34) and the temple (1 Kgs 8:10–11, 27), is now centered in Jesus. Only Son: Greek, monogenēs, but see note on Jn 1:18. Grace and truth: these words may represent two Old Testament terms describing Yahweh in covenant relationship with Israel (cf. Ex 34:6), thus God’s “love” and “fidelity.” The Word shares Yahweh’s covenant qualities.
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth.#k. [1:14] Ex 16:10; 24:17; 25:8–9; 33:22; 34:6; Sir 24:4, 8; Is 60:1; Ez 43:7; Jl 4:17; Heb 2:14; 1 Jn 1:2; 4:2; 2 Jn 7.
15#This verse, interrupting Jn 1:14, 16 seems drawn from Jn 1:30. John testified to him and cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said,#l. [1:15] 1:30; 3:27–30. ‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’” 16From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace,#Grace in place of grace: replacement of the Old Covenant with the New (cf. Jn 1:17). Other possible translations are “grace upon grace” (accumulation) and “grace for grace” (correspondence). 17because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.#m. [1:17] 7:19; Ex 31:18; 34:28. 18No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God,#The only Son, God: while the vast majority of later textual witnesses have another reading, “the Son, the only one” or “the only Son,” the translation above follows the best and earliest manuscripts, monogenēs theos, but takes the first term to mean not just “Only One” but to include a filial relationship with the Father, as at Lk 9:38 (“only child”) or Heb 11:17 (“only son”) and as translated at Jn 1:14. The Logos is thus “only Son” and God but not Father/God. who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.#n. [1:18] 5:37; 6:46; Ex 33:20; Jgs 13:21–22; 1 Tm 6:16; 1 Jn 4:12.
II. THE BOOK OF SIGNS
John the Baptist’s Testimony to Himself.
19#The testimony of John the Baptist about the Messiah and Jesus’ self-revelation to the first disciples. This section constitutes the introduction to the gospel proper and is connected with the prose inserts in the prologue. It develops the major theme of testimony in four scenes: John’s negative testimony about himself; his positive testimony about Jesus; the revelation of Jesus to Andrew and Peter; the revelation of Jesus to Philip and Nathanael. And this is the testimony of John. When the Jews#The Jews: throughout most of the gospel, the “Jews” does not refer to the Jewish people as such but to the hostile authorities, both Pharisees and Sadducees, particularly in Jerusalem, who refuse to believe in Jesus. The usage reflects the atmosphere, at the end of the first century, of polemics between church and synagogue, or possibly it refers to Jews as representative of a hostile world (Jn 1:10–11). from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites [to him] to ask him, “Who are you?” 20#Messiah: the anointed agent of Yahweh, usually considered to be of Davidic descent. See further the note on Jn 1:41. he admitted and did not deny it, but admitted,#o. [1:20] 3:28; Lk 3:15; Acts 13:25. “I am not the Messiah.” 21So they asked him, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?”#Elijah: the Baptist did not claim to be Elijah returned to earth (cf. Mal 3:19; Mt 11:14). The Prophet: probably the prophet like Moses (Dt 18:15; cf. Acts 3:22). And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.”#p. [1:21] Dt 18:15, 18; 2 Kgs 2:11; Sir 48:10; Mal 3:1, 23; Mt 11:14; 17:11–13; Mk 9:13; Acts 3:22. 22So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?” 23He said:
“I am ‘the voice of one crying out in the desert,#q. [1:23] Is 40:3; Mt 3:3; Mk 1:2; Lk 3:4.
“Make straight the way of the Lord,”’#This is a repunctuation and reinterpretation (as in the synoptic gospels and Septuagint) of the Hebrew text of Is 40:3 which reads, “A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord.”
as Isaiah the prophet said.” 24Some Pharisees#Some Pharisees: other translations, such as “Now they had been sent from the Pharisees,” misunderstand the grammatical construction. This is a different group from that in Jn 1:19; the priests and Levites would have been Sadducees, not Pharisees. were also sent. 25They asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet?”#r. [1:25] Ez 36:25; Zec 13:1; Mt 16:14. 26John answered them, “I baptize with water;#I baptize with water: the synoptics add “but he will baptize you with the holy Spirit” (Mk 1:8) or “…holy Spirit and fire” (Mt 3:11; Lk 3:16). John’s emphasis is on purification and preparation for a better baptism. but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,#s. [1:26] Mt 3:11; Mk 1:7–8; Lk 3:16; Acts 13:25. 27the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” 28This happened in Bethany across the Jordan,#Bethany across the Jordan: site unknown. Another reading is “Bethabara.” where John was baptizing.
John the Baptist’s Testimony to Jesus.
29The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God,#The Lamb of God: the background for this title may be the victorious apocalyptic lamb who would destroy evil in the world (Rev 5–7; 17:14); the paschal lamb, whose blood saved Israel (Ex 12); and/or the suffering servant led like a lamb to the slaughter as a sin-offering (Is 53:7, 10). who takes away the sin of the world.#t. [1:29] 1:36; Ex 12; Is 53:7; Rev 5–7; 17:14. 30#He existed before me: possibly as Elijah (to come, Jn 1:27); for the evangelist and his audience, Jesus’ preexistence would be implied (see note on Jn 1:1). He is the one of whom I said,#u. [1:30] 1:15; Mt 3:11; Mk 1:7; Lk 3:16. ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ 31I did not know him,#I did not know him: this gospel shows no knowledge of the tradition (Lk 1) about the kinship of Jesus and John the Baptist. The reason why I came baptizing with water: in this gospel, John’s baptism is not connected with forgiveness of sins; its purpose is revelatory, that Jesus may be made known to Israel. but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” 32John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove#Like a dove: a symbol of the new creation (Gn 8:8) or the community of Israel (Hos 11:11). Remain: the first use of a favorite verb in John, emphasizing the permanency of the relationship between Father and Son (as here) and between the Son and the Christian. Jesus is the permanent bearer of the Spirit. from the sky and remain upon him. 33I did not know him,#v. [1:33] Sg 5:2; Is 11:2; Hos 11:11; Mt 3:16; Mk 1:10; Lk 3:21–22. but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.’#w. [1:33] Is 42:1; Mt 3:11; Mk 1:8; Lk 3:16. 34#The Son of God: this reading is supported by good Greek manuscripts, including the Chester Beatty and Bodmer Papyri and the Vatican Codex, but is suspect because it harmonizes this passage with the synoptic version: “This is my beloved Son” (Mt 3:17; Mk 1:11; Lk 3:22). The poorly attested alternate reading, “God’s chosen One,” is probably a reference to the Servant of Yahweh (Is 42:1). #x. [1:34] Is 42:1; Mt 3:17; Mk 1:11; Lk 9:35. Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”
The First Disciples.
#y. [1:35–51] Mt 4:18–22; Mk 1:16–20; Lk 5:1–11. 35The next day John was there again with two of his disciples, 36and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”#John the Baptist’s testimony makes his disciples’ following of Jesus plausible. 37The two disciples#The two disciples: Andrew (Jn 1:40) and, traditionally, John, son of Zebedee (see note on Jn 13:23). heard what he said and followed Jesus. 38Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon.#Four in the afternoon: literally, the tenth hour, from sunrise, in the Roman calculation of time. Some suggest that the next day, beginning at sunset, was the sabbath; they would have stayed with Jesus to avoid travel on it. 40Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. 41He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah”#Messiah: the Hebrew word māśiâh, “anointed one” (see note on Lk 2:11), appears in Greek as the transliterated messias only here and in Jn 4:25. Elsewhere the Greek translation christos is used. (which is translated Anointed).#z. [1:41] 4:25. 42Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John;#Simon, the son of John: in Mt 16:17, Simon is called Bariona, “son of Jonah,” a different tradition for the name of Simon’s father. Cephas: in Aramaic = the Rock; cf. Mt 16:18. Neither the Greek equivalent Petros nor, with one isolated exception, Cephas is attested as a personal name before Christian times. you will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).#a. [1:42] Mt 16:18; Mk 3:16.
43The next day he#He: grammatically, could be Peter, but logically is probably Jesus. decided to go to Galilee, and he found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”#b. [1:45] 21:2. 46But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true Israelite.#A true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him: Jacob was the first to bear the name “Israel” (Gn 32:29), but Jacob was a man of duplicity (Gn 27:35–36). There is no duplicity in him.” 48#Under the fig tree: a symbol of messianic peace (cf. Mi 4:4; Zec 3:10). #c. [1:48] Mi 4:4; Zec 3:10. Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” 49Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God;#Son of God: this title is used in the Old Testament, among other ways, as a title of adoption for the Davidic king (2 Sm 7:14; Ps 2:7; 89:27), and thus here, with King of Israel, in a messianic sense. For the evangelist, Son of God also points to Jesus’ divinity (cf. Jn 20:28). you are the King of Israel.”#d. [1:49] 12:13; Ex 4:22; Dt 14:1; 2 Sm 7:14; Jb 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; Ps 2:7; 29:1; 89:27; Wis 2:18; Sir 4:10; Dn 3:92; Hos 11:1; Mt 14:33; 16:16; Mk 13:32. 50Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree?#Possibly a statement: “You [singular] believe because I saw you under the fig tree.” You will see greater things than this.” 51And he said to him, “Amen, amen,#The double “Amen” is characteristic of John. You is plural in Greek. The allusion is to Jacob’s ladder (Gn 28:12). I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”#e. [1:51] Gn 28:10–17; Dn 7:13.
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