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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
John 1



Other Authors

Ἰωάνην is preferred by the best recent editors to Ἰωάννην. The title of the Gospel is found in very different forms in ancient authorities, the earliest being the simplest; κατὰ Ἰωάννην or -άνην (אBD). εὐαγγ. κ. . (ACLX); later MSS. have τὸ κ. εὐαγγ.; and very many have τὸ κ. . ἅγιον εὐαγγ. On Εὐαγγ. κατά see notes on S. Matthew, p. 80.

Verses 1-5


ἐν ἀρχῇ. In the beginning. The meaning must depend on the context. In Genesis 1:1 it is an act done ἐν ἀρχῇ; here it is a Being existing ἐν ἀρχῇ, and therefore prior to all beginning. That was the first moment of time; this is eternity, transcending time. S. John insists on this and repeats it in John 1:2; the Λόγος in Gnostic systems was produced in time. Thus we have an intimation that the later dispensation is the confirmation and infinite extension of the first. Ἐν ἀρχῇ here equals πρὸ τοῦ τὸν κόσμον εἶναι, John 17:5. Cf. John 17:24; Ephesians 1:4; and especially ὃ ἦν ἀπ' ἀρχῆς in 1 John 1:1, which seems clearly to refer to this opening of the Gospel. Contrast ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰ. Χρ. Mark 1:1, which is the historical beginning of the public ministry of the Messiah. Cf. John 6:64. The ἀρχή here is prior to all history. The context shews that ἀρχή cannot mean God, the Origin of all.

ἦν. Note the difference between ἦν and ἐγένετο. Εἶναι is ‘to be’ absolutely: γίγνεσθαι is ‘to come into being.’ The Word did not come into existence, but before the creation of the world was already in existence. The generation of the Word or Son of God is thus thrown back into eternity. Hence St Paul speaks of Him as πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως (Colossians 1:16), ‘born prior to’ (not ‘first of’) ‘all creation.’ Cf. Hebrews 1:8; Hebrews 7:3; Revelation 1:8. On these passages is based the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son: see Articles I. and II. The Arians maintained that there was a period when the Son was not (ἦν ὅτε οὐκ ἦν); but S. John says distinctly that the Son, or Word, was existing before time began, i.e. from all eternity.

ὁ λόγος. As early as the second century Sermo and Verbum were rival translations of this term. Tertullian (fl. A.D. 198–210) gives us both, but seems himself to prefer Ratio. Sermo first became unusual and finally was disallowed in the Latin Church. The Latin versions without exception adopted Verbum, and from it comes our translation ‘the Word,’ translations which have greatly affected Western theology. None of these translations are at all adequate; but neither Latin nor any modern language supplies anything really satisfactory. Verbum and ‘the Word’ do not give even the whole of one of the two sides of ὁ λόγος. The other side, which Tertullian tried to express by Ratio, is not touched at all. For ὁ λόγος means not only ‘the spoken word,’ but ‘the thought’ expressed by the spoken word; it is the spoken word as expressive of thought. Λόγος in the sense of ‘reason’ does not occur anywhere in the N.T.

The word is a remarkable one; all the more so because S. John assumes that his readers will at once understand it. This points to the fact that his Gospel was written in the first instance for his own disciples, who would be familiar with his teaching, in which the doctrine of the Logos was conspicuous.

But on what was this doctrine based? whence did S. John derive the expression? There can be little doubt that it has its origin in the Targums, or paraphrases of the Hebrew Scriptures, in use in Palestine, rather than in the mixture of Jewish and Greek philosophy prevalent at Alexandria and Ephesus. [1] In the Old Testament we find the Word or Wisdom of God personified, generally as an instrument for executing the Divine Will, as if it were itself distinct from that Will. We have the first faint traces of it in the ‘God said’ of Genesis 1:3; Genesis 1:6; Genesis 1:9; Genesis 1:11; Genesis 1:14, &c. The personification of the Word of God begins to appear in the Psalms 33:6; Psalms 107:20; Psalms 119:89; Psalms 147:15. In Proverbs 8, 9 the Wisdom of God is personified in very striking terms. This Wisdom is manifested in the power and mighty works of God; that God is love is a revelation yet to come. [2] In the Apocrypha the personification is more complete than in the O.T. In Ecclesiasticus (B.C. 150–100) Sirach 1:1-18; Sirach 24:1-22; and in the Book of Wisdom (B.C. 100) Wisdom of Solomon 6:22 to Wisdom of Solomon 9:18 we have Wisdom personified. In Wisdom of Solomon 18:15 the ‘Almighty Word’ of God (ὁ παντοδύναμός σου λόγος) appears as an agent of vengeance. [3] In the Targums, or Aramaic paraphrases of the O.T., the development is carried still further. These, though not yet written down, were in common use among the Jews in our Lord’s time; and they were strongly influenced by the growing tendency to separate the Divine Essence from immediate contact with the material world. Where Scripture speaks of a direct communication from God to man, the Targums substituted the Memra, or ‘Word of God.’ Thus in Genesis 3:8-9, instead of ‘they heard the voice of the Lord God,’ the Targums read ‘they heard the voice of the Word of the Lord God;’ and instead of ‘God called unto Adam’ they put ‘the Word of the Lord called unto Adam,’ and so on. It is said that this phrase ‘the Word of the Lord’ occurs 150 times in a single Targum of the Pentateuch. And Memra is not a mere utterance or ῥῆμα; for this the Targums use pithgama: e.g. ‘The word (pithgama) of the Lord came to Abram in prophecy, saying, Fear not, Abram, My Word (Memra) shall be thy strength’ (Genesis 15:1); ‘I stood between the Word (Memra) of the Lord and you, to announce to you at that time the word (pithgama) of the Lord’ (Deuteronomy 5:5). In what is called the theosophy of the Alexandrine Jews, which was a compound of Judaism with Platonic philosophy and Oriental mysticism, we seem to come nearer to a strictly personal view of the Divine Word or Wisdom, but really move farther away from it. Philo, the leading representative of this school (fl. A.D. 40–50), summed up the Platonic ἰδέαι, or Divine archetypes of things, in the single term λόγος. His philosophy contained various, and not always harmonious elements; and therefore his conception of the λόγος is not fixed or clear. On the whole his λόγος means that intermediate agency, by means of which God created material things and communicated with them. But whether this agency is one Being or more, whether it is personal or not, we cannot be sure, and perhaps Philo himself was undecided. Certainly his λόγος is very different from that of S. John; for it is scarcely a Person, and it is not the Messiah.

To sum up, the personification of the Divine Word in the O.T. is poetical, in Philo metaphysical, in S. John historical. The Apocrypha and the Targums serve to bridge the chasm between the O.T. and Philo: history fills the chasm which separates all from S. John. Between Jewish poetry and Alexandrine speculation on the one hand, and the Fourth Gospel on the other, lies the historical fact of the life of Jesus Christ, the Incarnation of the Logos.

The Logos of S. John, therefore, is not ‘the thing uttered’ (ῥῆμα); nor ‘the One spoken of’ or promised (ὁ λεγόμενος); nor ‘He who speaks the word’ (ὁ λέγων); nor a mere attribute of God (as σοφία or νοῦς). But the Logos is the Son of God, existing from all eternity, and manifested in space and time in the Person of Jesus Christ, in whom had been hidden from eternity all that God had to say to man, and who was the living expression of the Nature and Will of God. (Cf. the impersonal designation of Christ in 1 John 1:1.) Human thought had been searching in vain for some means of connecting the finite with the Infinite, of making God intelligible to man and leading man up to God. S. John knew that he possessed the key to the hitherto insoluble enigma. Just as S. Paul declared to the Athenians the ‘Unknown God’ whom they worshipped, though they knew Him not, so S. John declares to all the Divine Word, who had been so imperfectly understood. He therefore took the phrase which human reason had lighted on in its gropings, stripped it of its philosophical and mythological clothing, fixed it by identifying it with the Person of Christ, and filled it with that fulness of meaning which he himself had derived from Christ’s own teaching.

πρὸς τὸν θεόν. Πρός = ‘apud’ or the French ‘chez’; it expresses the distinct Personality of the Λόγος, which ἐν would have obscured. We might render ‘face to face with God,’ or ‘at home with God.’ So, ‘His sisters, are they not all with us (πρὸς ἡμᾶς)?’ Matthew 13:56. Cf. 1 Corinthians 16:7; Galatians 1:18; 1 Thessalonians 3:4; Philemon 1:13. Τὸν θεόν having the article, means the Father.

θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. Ὁ λόγος is the subject in all three clauses. The absence of the article with θεός shews that θεός is the predicate (though this rule is not without exceptions); and the meaning is that the Logos partook of the Divine Nature, not that the Logos was identical with the Divine Person. In the latter case θεός would have had the article. The verse may be thus paraphrased; the Logos existed from all eternity, distinct from the Father, and equal to the Father.’ ‘Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance.’

Verses 1-18

1–18. The Prologue or Introduction in three parts. 1–5: The Word in His own nature. 6–13: His Revelation to men and rejection by them. 14–18: His Revelation of the Father. The three great characteristics of this Gospel, simplicity, subtlety, sublimity, are conspicuous in the prologue: the majesty of the first words is marvellous. The Gospel of the Son of Thunder opens with a peal.

Verse 2

2. οὖτος ἦν κ.τ.λ. Takes up the first two clauses and combines them. Such recapitulations are characteristic of S. John. Οὗτος, He or This (Word), illustrates S. John’s habit of using a demonstrative pronoun to sum up what has preceded, or to recall a previous subject, with emphasis. Comp. John 1:7, John 3:2, John 6:46, John 7:18.

Verse 3

3. πάντα. Less definite and more comprehensive than τὰ πάντα, which we find 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16; Romans 11:36; Hebrews 2:10; texts which should all be compared. See Lightfoot on Colossians 1:16.

δι' αὐτοῦ. The Universe is created ὑπὸ τοῦ πατρὸς διὰ τοῦ υἱοῦ, by the Father through the agency of the Son. See the texts just quoted.

ἐγένετο. Comp. the frequent ἐγένετο in Genesis 1. Note the climax: the sphere contracts as the blessing enlarges: existence for everything, life for the vegetable and animal world, light for men.

χωρὶς αὐτοῦ κ.τ.λ. Emphatic repetition by contradicting the opposite of what has been stated: frequent in Hebrew. Cf. John 5:20, John 3:16, John 10:5; John 10:18, John 18:20, John 20:27; 1 John 1:5-6; 1 John 2:4; 1 John 2:10-11; 1 John 2:27-28; Revelation 2:13; Revelation 3:9; Psalms 89:30-31; Psalms 89:48, &c. &c. One of many instances of the Hebrew cast of S. John’s style. The technical name is ‘antithetic parallelism.’

οὐδὲ ἕν. No, not one; not even one: stronger than οὐδέν. Every single thing, however great, however small, throughout all the realms of space, came into being through Him. No event in the Universe takes place without Him,—apart from His presence and power. Matthew 10:29; Luke 12:6. “Such a belief undoubtedly carries us into great depths and heights … It gives solemnity and awfulness to the investigations of science. It forbids trifling in them. It stimulates courage and hope in them. It makes all superstitious dread of them sinful” (Maurice).

ὃ γέγονεν. That hath been made. The A.V. makes no distinction between the aorist and the perfect: ἐγένετο refers to the moment and fact of creation; γέγονεν to the permanent result of that fact. Everything that has reached existence must have passed through the Will of the Λόγος: He is the Way to life. We find the same thought in the Vedas; ‘the Word of Brahm has begotten all.’

Contrast both ἐγένετο and γέγονεν with ἦν in John 1:1-2. The former denote the springing into life of what had once been non-existent; the latter denotes the perpetual pre-existence of the Eternal Word.

Most early Christian writers and some modern critics put a full stop at οὐδὲ ἕν, and join ὃ γέγονεν to what follows, thus; That which hath been made in Him was life; i.e. those who were born again by union with the Word felt His influence as life within them. This seems harsh and not quite in harmony with the context; but it has an overwhelming amount of support from the oldest versions and MSS. Tatian (Orat. ad Graecos XIX.) has πάντα ὑπ' αὐτοῦ καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ γέγονεν οὐδὲ ἕν. See last note on John 1:5.

Verse 4

4. ἐν αὐτῷ ζωή. He was the well-spring of life, from which every form of life—physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, eternal,—flows.

Observe how frequently S. John’s thoughts overlap and run into one another. Creation leads on to life, and life leads on to light. Without life creation would be unintelligible; without light all but the lowest forms of life would be impossible.

ἦν. Two important MSS. (אD. with old Latin and old Syriac Versions) have ἐστίν; but the weight of authority is against this reading, which would not be in harmony with the context. The Apostle is not contemplating the Christian dispensation, but a period long previous to it. The group of authorities which supports ἐστίν has a tendency to insert interpretations as readings.

καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς. Not φῶς, but τὸ Φῶς, the one true Light, absolute Truth both intellectual and moral, free from ignorance and free from stain. The Source of Life is the Source of Light: He gives the power to know what is morally good.

τὸ φῶς τ. ἀν. Man shares life with all organic creatures: light, or Revelation, is for him alone; but for the whole race, male and female, Jew and Gentile (τῶν ἀνθρώπων). Luke 2:32. What is specially meant is the communication of Divine Truth before the Fall.

Verse 5

5. φαίνει. The elementary distinction between φαίνειν, ‘to shine,’ and φαίνεσθαι, ‘to appear,’ is not always observed by our translators. In Acts 27:20 φαίνειν is translated like φαίνεσθαι; in Matthew 24:27 and Philippians 2:15 the converse mistake is made. Here note the present tense, the only one in the section. It brings us down to the Apostle’s own day: comp. ἤδη φαίνει (1 John 2:8). Now, as of old, the Light shines, and shines in vain. In John 1:1-2 we have the period preceding Creation; in John 1:3 the Creation; John 1:4 man before the Fall; John 1:5 man after the Fall.

καὶ ἡ σκοτία. Note the strong connexion between John 1:4-5, as between the two halves of John 1:5, resulting in both cases from a portion of the predicate in one clause becoming the subject of the next clause. Such strong connexions are very frequent in S. John.

ἡ σκοτία. All that the Divine Revelation does not reach, whether by God’s appointment or their own stubbornness, ignorant Gentile and unbelieving Jew. Σκοτία in a metaphorical sense for moral and spiritual darkness is peculiar to S. John 8:12; John 12:35; John 12:46; 1 John 1:5; 1 John 2:8-9; 1 John 2:11.

οὐ κατέλαβεν. Did not apprehend: very appropriate of that which requires mental and moral effort. Cf. Ephesians 3:18. The darkness remained apart, unyielding and unpenetrated. The words ‘the darkness apprehendeth not the light’ (ἡ σκοτία τὸ φῶς οὐ καταλαμβάνει) are given by Tatian as a quotation (Orat. ad Graecos, XIII.). As he flourished c. A.D. 150–170, this is early testimony to the existence of the Gospel. We have here an instance of what has been called the “tragic tone” in S. John: he frequently states a gracious fact, and in immediate connexion with it the very opposite of what might have been expected to result from it. ‘The Light shines in darkness, and (instead of yielding and dispersing) the darkness shut it out.’ Cf. John 1:10-11; John 3:11; John 3:19; John 3:32, John 5:39-40, John 6:36; John 6:43, &c. Καταλαμβάνειν sometimes = ‘to overcome,’ which makes good sense here, as in John 12:35.

Verse 6

6. ἐγένετο ἄν. The contrast between ἐγένετο and ἦν is carefully maintained and should be preserved in translation: not ‘there was a man’ but ‘there arose a man;’ ἄνθρωπος, ‘a human being,’ in contrast to the Logos and also as an instance of that race which was illuminated by the Logos (John 1:4); comp. John 3:1. Note (as in John 1:1) the noble simplicity of language, and also the marked asyndeton between John 1:5-6. Greek is so rich in particles that asyndeton is generally remarkable.

ἀπεσταλμένος παρὰ θεοῦ. A Prophet. Cf. ‘I will send my messenger,’ Malachi 3:1; ‘I will send you Elijah the prophet,’ John 4:5. John’s mission proceeded, as it were, from the presence of God, the literal meaning of παρά with the genitive.

ὄνομα αὐτῷ Ἰωάννης. The clause is a kind of parenthesis, like Νικόδημος ὄνομα αὐτῷ, John 3:1. In the Fourth Gospel John is mentioned twenty times and is never once distinguished as ‘the Baptist.’ The other three Evangelists carefully distinguish ‘the Baptist’ from the son of Zebedee: to the writer of the Fourth Gospel there is only one John. This in itself is strong incidental evidence that he himself is the other John.

Verses 6-13


Verse 7

7. οὗτος sums up the preceding verse as in John 1:2. ἦλθεν refers to the beginning of his public teaching: ἐγένετο in John 1:6 refers to his birth.

εἰς μαρτυρίαν. For witness, not ‘for a witness;’ to bear witness, not ‘to be a witness.’ What follows, ἵνα μ. π. τ. φ., is the expansion of εἰς μαρτυρίαν. The words μαρτυρία and μαρτυρεῖν are very frequent in S. John’s writings (see on John 1:34). Testimony to the truth is one of his favourite thoughts; it is inseparable from the idea of belief in the truth. Testimony and belief are correlatives.

ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ. The subjunctive with ἵνα after a past tense, where in classical Greek we should have the optative, prevails throughout the N.T. The optative gradually became less and less used until it almost disappeared. When the pronunciation of οι became very similar to that of η, it was found that a distinction not discernible in speaking was not needed at all. On ἵνα see next verse.

πιστεύσωσιν. Used absolutely without an object expressed: comp. John 1:51, John 4:41-42; John 4:48; John 4:53, John 5:44, John 6:36; John 6:64, John 11:15; John 11:40, John 12:39, John 14:29, John 19:35, John 20:8; John 20:29; John 20:31.

δι' αὐτοῦ. Through the Baptist, the Herald of the Truth. Cf. John 5:33; Acts 10:37; Acts 13:24.

Verse 8

8. ἐκεῖνος. A favourite pronoun with S. John, often used merely to emphasize the main subject instead of denoting some one more remote, which is its ordinary use. ‘It was not he who was the Light, but &c.’ Comp. John 2:21, John 5:19; John 5:35; John 5:46-47, John 6:29, John 8:42; John 8:44, John 11:9; John 11:11; John 11:25; John 11:36, &c. As in John 1:3, though not quite in the same way, S. John adds a negation to his statement to give clearness and incisiveness.

τὸ φῶς. The Baptist was not τὸ φῶς but ὁ λύχνος ὁ καιόμενος καὶ φαίνων (John 1:35); he was lumen illuminatum, not lumen illuminans. At the close of the first century it was still necessary for S. John to insist on this. At Ephesus, where this Gospel was written, S. Paul in his third missionary journey had found disciples still resting in ‘John’s Baptism;’ Acts 19:1-6. And we learn from the Clementine Recognitions (I. LIV., LX) that some of John’s disciples, perhaps the Hemerobaptists, proclaimed their own master as the Christ, for Jesus had declared John to be greater than all the Prophets. Translate ‘the Light,’ not ‘that Light,’ as A.V.

ἀλλ' ἵνα. No need to supply anything: ἵνα may depend on ἦν. ‘John was in order to bear witness.’ If anything is supplied, it should be ‘came’ rather than ‘was sent.’ Ἵνα is one of the particles of which S. John is specially fond, not only in cases where another particle or construction would have done equally well, but also where ἵνα is apparently awkward. This is frequently the case where the Divine purpose is indicated, as here. Cf. John 4:34; John 4:47, John 6:29, John 11:50, John 12:23, John 13:1, John 15:8; John 15:12-13; John 15:17, and Winer, p. 425. For the elliptical ἀλλ' ἵνα comp. John 1:31, John 9:3, John 13:18, John 14:31, John 15:25; 1 John 2:19.

Verse 9

9. ἦν τὸ φῶς κ.τ.λ. Most Ancient Versions, Fathers, and Reformers take ἐρχόμενον with ἄνθρωπον, every man that cometh into the world; a solemn fulness of expression and not a weak addition. A number of modern commentators take ἐρχ. with ἦν; the true Light, which lighteth every man, was coming into the world. But ἦν and ἐρχ. are somewhat far apart for this. There is yet a third way; There was the true Light, which lighteth every man, by coming into the world. Observe the emphatic position of ἦν. ‘There was the true Light,’ even while the Baptist was preparing the way for Him.

τὸ ἀληθινόν. Ἀληθής = verax, ‘true’ as opposed to ‘lying:’ ἀληθινός = verus, ‘true’ as opposed to ‘spurious.’ Ἀληθινός is just the old English ‘very;’ e.g. in the Creed, ‘Very God of very God’ is a translation of θεὸν ἀληθινὸν ἐκ θεοῦ ἀληθινοῦ. Ἀληθινός = ‘genuine,’ ‘that which comes up to its idea,’ and hence ‘perfect.’ Christ is ‘the perfect Light,’ just as He is ‘the perfect Bread’ (John 6:32) and ‘the perfect Vine’ (John 15:1); not that He is the only Light, and Bread, and Vine, but that others are types and shadows, and therefore inferior. All words about truth are characteristic of S. John. Ἀληθινός occurs 9 times in the Gospel, 4 times in the First Epistle, 10 times in the Apocalypse; elsewhere only 6 times: ἀληθής, 14 times in the Gospel, twice in the First Epistle, once in the Second; elsewhere 9 times. Ἀλήθεια and ἀληθῶς are also very frequent.

πάντα ἄνθρωπον. The Light illumines every man, but not every man is the better for it; that depends on himself. Moreover it illumines ‘each one singly,’ not ‘all collectively’ (πάντα not πάντας). God deals with men separately as individuals, not in masses.

Verse 10

10. καὶ ὁ κόσμος. Close connexion obtained by repetition, as in John 1:4-5; also the tragic tone, as in John 1:5. Moreover, there is a climax: ‘He was in the world;’ (therefore it should have known Him;) ‘and the world was His creature;’ (therefore it should have known Him;) ‘and (yet) the world knew Him not.’ Καί = καίτοι is very frequent in S. John, but it is best to translate simply ‘and,’ not ‘and yet:’ cf. John 1:5; John 1:11. It is erroneous to suppose that καί ever means ‘but’ either in S. John or elsewhere. Ὁ κόσμος is another of the expressions characteristic of S. John: it occurs nearly 80 times in the Gospel, and 22 times in the First Epistle.

Observe that ὁ κόσμος has not exactly the same meaning John 1:9-10 : throughout the New Testament it is most important to distinguish the various meanings of κόσμος. Connected with κομεῖν and comere, it means [1] ‘ornament;’ 1 Peter 3:3 : [2] ‘the ordered universe,’ mundus; Romans 1:20 : [3] ‘the earth;’ John 1:9; Matthew 4:8 : [4] ‘the inhabitants of the earth;’ John 1:29; John 4:42 : [5] ‘the world outside the Church,’ those alienated from God; John 12:31, John 14:17 and frequently. In this verse the meaning slips from [3] to [5].

αὐτόν. The masculine shews that S. John is again speaking of Christ as ὁ Λόγος, not (as in John 1:9) as τὸ Φῶς.

οὐκ ἔγνω. ‘Did not acquire knowledge’ of its Creator. Γιγνώσκειν is ‘to get to know, recognise, acknowledge.’ Cf. Acts 19:15.

Verse 11

11. εἰς τὰ ἴδια. The difference between neuter and masculine must be preserved: He came to His own inheritance; and His own people received Him not. In the parable of the Wicked Husbandmen (Matthew 21:33-41) τὰ ἴδια is the vineyard; οἱ ἴδιοι are the husbandmen, the Chosen people, the Jews. Or, as in John 19:27, we may render εἰς τὰ ἴδια unto His own home: cf. John 16:32, John 19:27; Acts 21:6; Esther 5:10; Esther 6:12. The tragic tone is very strong here, as in John 1:5; John 1:10.

παρέλαβον. A stronger word than ἔγνω. Παραλαμβάνειν is ‘to take from the hand of another, accept what is offered.’ Mankind in general did not recognise the Messiah; the Jews, to whom He was specially sent, did not welcome Him. There is a climax again in 9, 10, 11;—ἦνἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἦνεἰς τὰ ἴδια ἦλθε.

Verse 12

12. ἔλαβον. As distinguished from παρέλαβον, denotes the spontaneous acceptance of individuals, Jews or Gentiles. The Messiah was not specially offered to any individuals as He was to the Jewish nation: παρέλαβον would have been less appropriate here.

ἐξουσίαν. This word (from ἔξεστι) means ‘right, liberty, authority’ to do anything; potestas. Δύναμις, which is sometimes coupled with it, is rather ‘capability, faculty’ for doing anything; potentia. Δύναμις is innate, an absence of internal obstacles; ἐξουσία comes from without, a removal of external restraints. We are born with a capacity for becoming the sons of God: that we have as men. He gives us the right to become such: that we receive as Christians.

τέκνα θεοῦ. Both S. John and S. Paul insist on this fundamental fact; that the relation of believers to God is a filial one. S. John gives us the human side, the ‘new birth’ (John 3:3); S. Paul the Divine side, ‘adoption’ (Romans 8:23; Galatians 4:5). But τέκνα θεοῦ expresses a closer relationship than υἱοθεσία: the one is natural, the other is legal. Both place the universal character of Christianity in opposition to the exclusiveness of Judaism. Note γένεσθαι. Christ is from all eternity the Son of God; men are enabled to become sons of God.

τοῖς πιστ. εἰς. Epexegetic of αὐτοῖς; ‘namely, to those who believe on.’ Such epexegetic clauses are common in S. John; comp. John 3:13, John 5:18, John 7:50. The test of a child of God is no longer descent from Abraham, but belief in His Son. The construction πιστεύειν εἰς is characteristic of S. John; it occurs about 35 times in the Gospel and 3 times in the First Epistle; elsewhere in N.T. about 10 times. It expresses the very strongest belief; motion to and repose upon the object of belief. It corresponds to S. Paul’s πίστις, a word which S. John uses only once (1 John 5:4), and S. Paul about 140 times. On the other hand S. Paul very rarely uses πιστεύειν εἰς. Πιστεύειν τινί without a preposition has a weaker meaning, ‘to give credence to,’ or ‘accept the statements of.’

τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ. This is a frequent phrase in Jewish writings, both in the O. and N.T. It is not a mere periphrasis. Names were so often significant, given sometimes by God Himself, that a man’s name served not merely to tell who he was, but what he was: it was an index of character. So also of the Divine Name: τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ Κυρίου is not a mere periphrasis for ὁ Κύριος; it suggests His attributes and His relations to us as Lord. The ‘name’ specially meant here is perhaps that of Logos; and the full meaning would be to give entire adhesion to Him as the Incarnate Son, the expression of the Will and Nature of God.

Verse 13

13. S. John denies thrice most emphatically that human generation has anything to do with Divine regeneration. Man cannot become a child of God in right of human parentage: the new Creation is far more excellent than the first Creation; its forces and products are spiritual not physical.

αἱμάτων. The blood was regarded as the seat of physical life. Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:11; Leviticus 17:14. The plural is idiomatic (cf. τὰ ὕδατα, ‘the waters,’ τὰ γάλακτα), and does not refer to the two sexes. In Eur. Ion, 693 we have ἄλλων τραφεὶς ἀφ' αἱμάτων. Winer, p. 220.

οὐδὲ ἐκ θ. σαρκός. Nor yet from will of flesh, i.e. from any fleshly impulse. A second denial of any natural process.

οὐδὲ ἐκ θ. ἀνδρός. Nor yet from will of man, i.e. from the volition of any human father. Ἀνήρ is not here put for ἄνθρωπος, the human race generally; it means the male sex, human fathers in contrast to the Heavenly Father. A third denial of any natural process.

ἐγεννήθησαν. Were begotten. There is an interesting false reading here. Tertullian (circ. A.D. 200) read the singular, ἐγεννήθη, which he referred to Christ; and he accused the Valentinians of falsifying the text in reading ἐγεννήθησαν, which is undoubtedly right. These differences are most important: they shew that as early as A.D. 200 there were corruptions in the text, the origin of which had been lost. Such corruptions take some time to grow: by comparing them and tracing their ramifications we arrive with certainty at the conclusion that this Gospel cannot have been written later than towards the end of the first century, A.D. 85–100. See on John 1:18, John 3:6; John 3:13, John 9:35.

Verse 14

14. καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο. This is the gulf which separates S. John from Philo. Philo would have assented to what precedes; but from this he would have shrunk. From John 1:9-13 we have the subjective side; the inward result of the Word’s coming to those who receive Him. Here we have the objective; the coming of the Word as a historical fact. The Logos, existing from all eternity with the Father (John 1:1-2), not only manifested His power in Creation (John 1:3), and in influence on the minds of men (John 1:9; John 1:12-13), but manifested Himself in the form of a man of flesh.—The καί is resumptive, taking us back to the opening verses.

σάρξ. Not σῶμα, nor ἄνθρωπος. There might have been a σῶμα without σάρξ (1 Corinthians 15:40; 1 Corinthians 15:44), and there might have been the form of a man, and yet no σάρξ (Matthew 14:26; Luke 24:37-39). Docetism is by implication excluded: John 6:21, John 7:10, John 19:35. The important point is that the Logos became terrestrial and material; the creative Word Himself became a creature. The inferior part of man is mentioned, to mark His humiliation: He took the whole nature of man, including its frailty; all that nature in which He could grow, learn, struggle, be tempted, suffer, and die.

ἐσκήνωσεν. Tabernacled among us. The σκηνή, or Tabernacle, had been the seat of the Divine Presence in the wilderness. When God became incarnate, to dwell among the Chosen People, σκηνοῦν ‘to tabernacle’ was a natural word to use. We have here another link (see above on ἀληθινός, John 1:9) between this Gospel and the Apocalypse. Σκηνοῦν occurs here, four times in the Apocalypse, and nowhere else. Revelation 7:15; Revelation 12:12; Revelation 13:6; Revelation 21:3. There is perhaps an association of ideas, suggested by similarity of sound, between σκηνή and the Shechinah or δόξα mentioned in the next clause. “The idea that the Shechinah, the σκηνή, the glory which betokened the Divine Presence in the Holy of Holies, and which was wanting in the second temple, would be restored once more in Messiah’s days, was a cherished hope of the Jewish doctors during and after the Apostolic ages.… S. John more than once avails himself of imagery derived from this expectation.… The two writings (this Gospel and the Apocalypse) which attribute the name of the Word of God to the Incarnate Son, are the same also which especially connect Messiah’s Advent with the restitution of the Shechinah, the light or glory which is the visible token of God’s presence among men.” Lightfoot, On Revision, pp. 56, 57. See on John 11:44, John 15:20, John 19:37, John 20:16.

ἐθεασάμεθα. Contemplated or beheld: cf. 1 John 1:1. It is a stronger word than ὁρᾷν, implying enjoyment in beholding.

τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ. Cf. John 2:11; John 11:40; John 12:41; John 17:5; John 17:24; 2 Corinthians 3:7-18; Revelation 21:10. Although the Word in becoming incarnate laid aside His Divine prerogatives, and not merely assumed but ‘became flesh,’ yet the moral and spiritual grandeur of His unique relationship to the Father remained and was manifest to His disciples. There is probably a special reference to the Transfiguration (Luke 9:32; 2 Peter 1:17); and possibly to the vision at the beginning of the Apocalypse.

ὡς. This particle does not necessarily signify mere likeness. Here and Matthew 7:29 it indicates exact likeness: the glory is altogether such as that of the only-begotten Son of God; He taught exactly as one having full authority.

μονογενοῦς. Only-begotten, ‘unigenitus.’ The word is used of the widow’s son (Luke 7:12), Jairus’ daughter (John 8:42), the demoniac boy (John 9:38), Isaac (Hebrews 11:17). As applied to our Lord it occurs only in S. John’s writings; here, John 1:18, John 3:16; John 3:18; 1 John 4:9. It marks off His unique Sonship from that of the τέκνα θεοῦ (John 1:12). It refers to His eternal generation from the Father, whereas πρωτότοκος refers to His incarnation as the Messiah and His relation to creatures. See Lightfoot on Colossians 1:15.

παρὰ πατρός. (See on παρὰ θεοῦ, John 1:6.) From a father: S. John never uses πατήρ for the Father without the article: see on John 4:21. The meaning is, ‘as of an only son sent on a mission from a father.’

πλήρης. There is no need to make the preceding clause a parenthesis: πλήρης, in spite of the case, may go with αὐτοῦ. In Luke 20:27; Luke 24:47, we have equally irregular constructions.—Πλήρης looks forward to πλήρωμα in John 1:16. Winer, p. 705.

χάριτος. Χάρις from χαίρω means originally ‘that which causes pleasure.’ Hence [1] comeliness, winsomeness; from Homer downwards. In Luke 4:22 λόγοι τῆς χ. are ‘winning words.’ [2] Kindliness, good will; both in classical Greek and N.T. Luke 2:52; Acts 2:47. [3] The favour of God towards sinners. This distinctly theological sense has for its central point the freeness of God’s gifts: they are not earned, He gives them spontaneously through Christ. This notion of spontaneousness is not prominent in classical Greek: it is the main idea in N.T. Χάρις is neither earned by works nor prevented by sin; it is thus opposed to ἔργα, νόμος, ὀφείλημα, ἁμαρτία, and branches out into various meanings too wide for discussion here. ‘Grace’ covers all meanings. The third meaning, at its deepest and fullest, is the one in this verse.

ἀληθείας. It is as τὸ Φῶς that the Logos is ‘full of truth,’ as ἡ Ζωή that He is ‘full of grace,’ for it is ‘by grace’ that we come to eternal life. Ephesians 2:5. Moreover the ἀληθεία assures us that the χάρις is real and steadfast: comp. the combination of ἔλεος and ἀληθεία in the LXX. of Psalms 89:1-2.

Verses 14-18


Verse 15

15. μαρτυρεῖ. Present tense; beareth witness. At the end of a long life this testimony of the Baptist still abides fresh in the heart of the aged Apostle. He records three times in twenty verses (15, 27, 30) the cry that was such an epoch in his own life. The testimony abides as a memory for him, as a truth for all.

κέκραγεν. Perfect with present meaning; cries. See on John 5:42. The word indicates strong emotion, as of a prophet. Cf. John 7:28; John 7:37, John 12:44; Isaiah 40:3.

ὃν εἶπον. As if his first utterance under the influence of the Spirit had been hardly intelligible to himself. For ὅν = ‘of whom’ cf. John 6:71, John 8:27.

ὁ ὀπίσω κ.τ.λ. The first and last of these three clauses must refer to time; ὀπίσω = ‘later in time,’ πρῶτος = ‘first in time.’ The middle clause is ambiguous: ἔμπροσθεν = ‘before’ either [1] in time, or [2] in dignity. Γέγονεν seems to be decisive against [1]. Christ as God was before John in time, as the third clause states; but John could not say, ‘He has come to be before me,’ or ‘has become before me,’ in time. Moreover, to make the second clause refer to time involves tautology with the third. It is better to follow the A.V. ‘is preferred before me,’ i.e. ‘has become before me’ in dignity: and the meaning will be, ‘He who is coming after me (in His ministry as in His birth) has become superior to me, for He was in existence from all eternity before me.’ Christ’s pre-existence in eternity a great deal more than cancelled John’s pre-existence in the world: and as soon as He appeared as a teacher He at once eclipsed His forerunner.

πρῶτός μου ἦν. Cf. John 1:30 and John 15:18, where we again have a genitive after a superlative as if it were a comparative. It is not strange that ‘first of two,’ or ‘former,’ should be sometimes confused with ‘first of many,’ or ‘first,’ and the construction proper to the one be given to the other. Explained thus the words would mean ‘first in reference to me,’ or ‘my first.’ But perhaps there is more than this; viz., ‘He was before me, as no other can be,’ i.e. ‘He was before me and first of all,’ πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως.

Verse 16

16. The Baptist’s witness to the incarnate Logos confirmed by the experience of all believers. The Evangelist is the speaker.

πληρώματος. “A recognised technical term in theology, denoting the totality of the Divine powers and attributes.” See Lightfoot on Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9, where this meaning is very marked. This fulness of the Divine attributes belonged to Christ (John 1:14), and by Him was imparted to the Church, which is His Body (Ephesians 1:23); and through the Church each individual believer in his degree receives a portion.

ἡμεῖς πάντες. Shews that the Evangelist and not the Baptist is speaking. This appeal to his own experience and that of his fellows is natural as coming from the Apostle; it would not be natural in a writer of a later age. Another indication that S. John is the writer.

καί. Epexegetic, = ‘namely’ or ‘even,’ explaining what we all received. Comp. 1 Corinthians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 15:38; Ephesians 6:18. Winer, p. 545.

χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος. Literally, Grace in the place of grace, one grace succeeding another and as it were taking its place. (On χάρις see John 1:14.) There is no reference to the New Testament displacing the Old: that would have been χάριν ἀντὶ τοῦ νόμου; see next verse. Possibly the ἀντί may imply that one grace leads on to another, so that the second is, as it were, a reward for the first. Winer, p. 456.

Verse 17

17. The mention of χάρις reminds the Evangelist that this was the characteristic of the new dispensation and marked its superiority to the old: the Law condemned transgressors, χάρις forgives them.

διὰ ΄ωυσέως. It is regrettable that the translation of διὰ in this prologue is not uniform in the A.V. In John 1:3; John 1:10; John 1:17 we have ‘by,’ in John 1:7 ‘through.’ ‘By means of’ is the meaning in all five cases. Moses did not give the Law any more than he gave the manna (John 6:32); he was only the mediate agent, the μεσίτης by whose hand it was given (Galatians 3:19). The form ΄ωυσέως is rightly given in the best MSS. The derivation is said to be from two Egyptian words mo = aqua, and ugai = servari. Hence the Septuagint, which was made in Egypt, and the best MSS., which mainly represent the text current in Egypt, keep nearest to the Egyptian form.

ἐδόθη. Not ἐγένετο. The Law given through Moses was not his own; the grace and truth that came through Christ were His own.

ἡ χάρις. The asyndeton is remarkable: the Coptic and Peshito supply an equivalent for δέ, but this is a common insertion in versions, and no proof that a δέ has dropped out of the Greek texts.

ἡ ἀλήθεια. Like χάρις, ἀλήθεια is opposed to νόμος, not as truth to falsehood, but as a perfect to an imperfect revelation.

Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. “To us ‘Christ’ has become a proper name, and as such rejects the definite article. But in the Gospel narratives, if we except the headings, or prefaces, and the after comments of the Evangelists themselves (e.g. Matthew 1:1; Mark 1:1; John 1:17) no instance of this usage can be found. In the body of the narratives we read only of ὁ Χριστός, the Christ, the Messiah, whom the Jews had long expected.… The very exceptions (Mark 9:41; Luke 2:11; John 9:22; John 17:3) strengthen the rule.” Lightfoot, On Revision, p. 100. Note that S. John no longer speaks of the Logos: the Logos has become incarnate (John 1:14) and is spoken of henceforth by the names which He has borne in history.

Verse 18

18. The Evangelist solemnly sums up the purpose of the Incarnation of the Logos,—to be a visible revelation of the invisible God. It was in this way that ‘the truth came through Jesus Christ,’ for the truth cannot be fully known while God is not fully revealed. Πάσῃ θνητῇ φύσει ἀθεώρητος, ἀπ' αὐτῶν τῶν ἔργων θεωρεῖται ὁ Θεός (Aristotle).

οὐδείς. Not even Moses. Until we see πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον (1 Corinthians 13:12) our knowledge is only partial. Symbolical visions, such as Exodus 24:10; Exodus 33:23; 1 Kings 19:13; Isaiah 6:1, do not transcend the limits of partial knowledge.

ἑώρακεν. Of actual sight. S. John uses no tense of ὁράω but the perfect either in the Gospel or Epistle: in John 6:2 the true reading is ἐθεώρουν.

μονογενὴς θεός. The question of reading here is of much interest. Most MSS. and versions read ὁ μονογενὴς υἱος or μον. υἱός. But the three oldest and best MSS. and two others of great value read μονογενὴς θεός. The test of the value of a MS., or group of MSS., on any disputed point, is the extent to which it admits false readings on other points not disputed. Judged by this test, the group of MSS. reading μονογενὴς θεός is very strong, while the far larger group of MSS. reading υἱός for θεός is comparatively weak, for the same group-might be quoted in favour of a multitude of readings which no one would think of defending. Again, the revised Syriac, which is among the minority of versions supporting θεός, is here of special weight, because it agrees with MSS. from which it usually differs. The inference is that the very unusual expression μονογενὴς θεός is the original one, which has been changed into the usual ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός (John 3:16; John 3:18; 1 John 4:9); a change easily made, as ΘΣ (= ΘΕΟΣ) is very like ΥΣ (= ΥΙΟΣ). Both readings can be traced back to the second century, which again is evidence that the Gospel was written in the first century. Such differences take time to spread themselves so widely. See on John 1:13, John 3:6, and John 9:35.

ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον. The preposition of motion (comp. John 1:32-33; John 1:51) may point to Christ’s return to glory, after the Ascension. Comp. Mark 2:1; Mark 13:16; Luke 9:61. On the other hand ὤν seems to point to a timeless state; ‘Whose relation to the Father is eternally that of one admitted to the deepest intimacy and closest fellowship.’ But ὤν may be imperf. (‘who was’ rather than ‘who is’), as in John 5:13, John 11:31; John 11:49, John 21:11. Winer, pp. 429, 517.

ἐκεῖνος. S. John’s peculiar retrospective use, to recall and emphasize the main subject: see on John 1:8, and comp. John 1:33, John 5:11; John 5:37; John 5:39; John 5:43, John 6:57, John 9:37, John 12:48, John 14:12; John 14:21; John 14:26, John 15:26.

ἐξηγήσατο. Declared, not ‘hath declared.’ Only-begotten God as He is, He that is in the bosom of the Father, He interpreted (God), supplying an accusative from the beginning of the verse. Ἐξηγεῖσθαι is used both in the LXX. and in classical writers for interpreting the Divine Will.

In this Prologue we notice what may be called a spiral movement. An idea comes to the front, like the strand of a rope, retires again, and then reappears later on for development and further definition. Meanwhile another idea, like another strand, comes before us and retires to reappear in like manner. Thus the Logos is presented to us in John 1:1, is withdrawn, and again presented to us in John 1:14. The Creation passes next before us in John 1:3, to reappear in John 1:10. Then ‘the Light’ appears in John 1:4, and withdraws, to return John 1:8-9. Next the rejection of the Logos is introduced in John 1:5, and reproduced in in John 1:10-11. Lastly, the testimony of John is mentioned in John 1:6-7, repeated in John 1:15, taken up again in John 1:19 and developed through the next two sections of the chapter.

We now enter upon the first main division of the Gospel, which extends to the end of chap. 12, the subject being CHRIST’S MINISTRY, or, HIS REVELATION OF HIMSELF TO THE WORLD, and that in three parts; THE TESTIMONY (John 1:19 to John 2:11), THE WORK (John 2:13 to John 11:57), and THE JUDGMENT [12].

Verse 19

19. καί. The narrative is connected with the prologue through the testimony of John common to both. Comp. 1 John 1:5.

οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι. The history of this word is interesting. [1] Originally it meant members of the tribe of Judah. After the revolt of the ten tribes, [2] members of the kingdom of Judah. After the captivity, because only the kingdom of Judah was restored to national existence, [3] members of the Jewish nation (John 2:6; John 2:13, John 3:1, John 6:4, John 7:2). After many Jews and Gentiles had become Christian, [4] members of the Church who were of Jewish descent (Galatians 2:13). Lastly [5] members of the nation which had rejected Christ; the special usage of S. John. With him οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι commonly means the opponents of Christ, a meaning not found in the Synoptists. With them it is the sects and parties (Pharisees, Scribes, &c.) that are the typical representatives of hostility to Christ. But John writing later, with a fuller consciousness of the national apostasy, and a fuller experience of Jewish malignity in opposing the Gospel, lets the shadow of this knowledge fall back upon his narrative, and ‘the Jews’ to him are not his fellow-countrymen, but the persecutors and murderers of the Messiah. He uses the term about 70 times, almost always with this shade of meaning.

ἐξ Ἱεροσολύμων. After ἀπέστειλαν. S. John never uses the form Ἱερουσαλήμ excepting in the Apocalypse, where he never uses the form Ἱεροσόλυμα. S. Matthew, with the single exception of Matthew 23:27, and S. Mark, with the possible exception of Mark 11:1, never use Ἱερουσαλήμ. Both forms are common in S. Luke and the Acts, Ἱερουσαλήμ being predominant. As distinguished from Ἱεροσόλυμα it is used wherever the name has a religious significance, e.g. ἡ ἄνω Ἱερουσαλήμ (Galatians 4:25), cf. Matthew 23:27; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 3:12; Revelation 21:2; Revelation 21:10. Ἱερουσαλήμ is found throughout the LXX. It was natural that the sacred name should be preserved in its Hebrew form; but equally natural that the Greek form should be admitted when it was a mere geographical designation.

ἱερεῖς. The Baptist himself was of priestly family (Luke 1:5).

Λευείτας. The Levites were commissioned to teach (2 Chronicles 35:3; Nehemiah 8:7-9) as well as wait in the Temple; and it is as teachers, similar to the Scribes, that they are sent to the Baptist. Probably many of the Scribes were Levites. The mention of Levites as part of this deputation is the mark of an eyewitness. Excepting in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:32), Levites are not mentioned by the Synoptists, nor elsewhere in N.T. excepting Acts 4:36. Had the Evangelist been constructing a story out of borrowed materials, we should probably have had ‘scribes’ or ‘elders’ instead of Levites. These indications of eyewitness are among the strong proofs of the authenticity of this Gospel.

Verses 19-28

19–28. This section describes a crisis in the ministry of the Baptist. He had already attracted the attention of the Sanhedrin. It was a time of excitement and expectation respecting the Messiah. John evidently spoke with an authority beyond that of other teachers, and his success was greater than theirs. The miracle which had attended his birth, connected as it was with the public ministry of Zacharias in the Temple, was probably known. He had proclaimed the approach of a new dispensation (Matthew 3:2), and this was believed to be connected with the Messiah. But what was to be John’s relation to the Messiah? or was he the Messiah himself? This uncertainty determined the authorities at Jerusalem to send and question John as to his mission. Apparently no formal deputation from the Sanhedrin was sent. The Sadducee members would not feel so keen an interest in the matter. Their party acquiesced in the Roman dominion and scarcely shared the intense religious and national hopes of their countrymen. But to the Pharisees, who represented the patriotic party in the Sanhedrin, the question was vital; and they seem to have acted for themselves in sending an informal though influential deputation of ministers of religion (John 1:19) from their own party (John 1:24). The Evangelist was probably at this time among the Baptist’s disciples and heard his master proclaim himself not the Messiah but His Herald. It was a crisis for him as well as for his master, and he records it as such.

Verses 19-37


Verse 20

20. ὡμολόγησεν καὶ οὐκ ἠρνήσατο. Antithetic parallelism (John 1:3).

ἐγὼ οὐκ εἰμί. So the best MSS., making ἐγώ emphatic; the Received Text having οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐγώ. The Baptist hints that though he is not the Messiah, the Messiah is near at hand.

ὁ Χριστός. The Evangelist has dropped the philosophic term Λόγος and adopted the Jewish title of the Messiah. He was familiar with both aspects of Jesus and makes the transition naturally and easily. See above on John 1:17.

Verse 21

21. τί οὖν; ‘What art thou then?’ or, ‘What then are we to think?’

Ἡλίας εἶ σύ; The Scribes taught that Elijah would return before the coming of the Messiah (Matthew 17:10), and this belief is repeatedly alluded to in the Talmud. Cf. Malachi 4:5.

οὐκ εἰμί. A forger would scarcely have written this in the face of Matthew 11:14, where Christ says that John is Elijah (in a figurative sense). John here denies that he is Elijah in a literal sense; he is not Elijah returned to the earth.

ὁ προφήτης. ‘The (well-known) Prophet’ of Deuteronomy 18:15, who some thought would be a second Moses, others a second Elijah, others the Messiah. We see from John 7:40-41, that some distinguished ‘the Prophet’ from the Messiah; and from Matthew 16:14, it appears that there was an impression that Jeremiah or other prophets might return. Here as in John 7:40, the translation should be ‘the Prophet’ not ‘that prophet.’ We have a similar error John 1:25; John 6:14; John 6:48; John 6:69.

This verse alone is almost enough to shew that the writer is a Jew. Who but a Jew would know of these expectations? If a Gentile knew them, would he not explain them?

Verse 22

22. εἶπαν οὖν. See on John 3:25. Their manner has the peremptoriness of officials.

τίς εἶ; They continue asking as to his person; he replies as to his office,—that of Forerunner. In the presence of the Messiah his personality is lost.

Verse 23

23. ἐγὼ φωνὴ κ.τ.λ. I am a voice, &c. The Synoptists use these words of John as fulfilling prophecy. From this it seems that they were first so used by himself. The quotation is from the LXX. with the change of ἐτοιμάσατε into εὐθύνατε. John was a Voice making known the Word, meaningless without the Word. There is a scarcely doubtful reference to this passage in Justin Martyr (c. A.D. 150); οὐκ εἰμὶ ὁ Χριστὸς, ἀλλὰ φωνὴ βοῶντος. Trypho, lxxxviii. Comp. John 3:3.

Verse 24

24. ἀπεσταλμένοι ἦσαν. The οἱ before the participle is of doubtful authority. Omitting it, we translate And they had been sent from the Pharisees, or better (as we have ἐκ and not παρά), and there had been sent (some) of the Pharisees. For this use of ἐκ τῶν comp. John 7:40, John 16:17; 2 John 1:4; Revelation 2:10. We are not to understand a fresh deputation, as the οὖν in the next verse shews. It was precisely the Pharisees who would be jealous about innovations in religious rites. S. John mentions neither Sadducees nor Herodians. Only the sect most opposed to Christ is remembered by the Evangelist who had gone furthest from Judaism.

Verse 25

25. τί οὖν βαπτίζεις. What right have you to treat Jews as if they were proselytes and make them submit to a rite which implies that they are impure? Comp. Zechariah 13:1. Βαπτίζω is the intensive form of βάπτω: βάπτω, ‘I dip,’ βαπτίζω, ‘I immerse:’ so ὁφλήμασι βεβαπτισμένος, ‘over head and ears in debt,’ Plut. Galb. xxi.

οὐκ εἶ ὁ Χριστός. Art not the Christ.

οὐδὲ Ἡλίας οὐδὲ ὁ πρ. Nor yet Elijah, nor yet the Prophet.

Verse 26

26. The Baptist’s words seem scarcely a reply to the question. Perhaps the connexion is—‘You ask for my credentials; and all the while He who is far more than credentials to me is among you.’

ἐν ὕδατι. In water: note the preposition here and John 1:26; John 1:33.

Verse 27

27. ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος. This is the subject of the sentence; He that cometh after me … is standing in the midst of you, and ye know Him not. Ὑμεῖς is emphatic; ‘Whom ye who question me know not, but whom I the questioned know.’

ἄξιος ἵνα. Literally, worthy in order that I may unloose. An instance of S. John’s preferring ἵνα where another construction would have seemed more natural: see on John 1:8, and comp. John 2:25, John 5:40, John 6:7, John 11:50, John 15:8, &c.

αὐτοῦ. This is redundant after οὗ, perhaps in imitation of Hebrew construction.

Verse 28

28. Βηθανίᾳ. This, which is the true reading, was altered to Βηθαβαρᾷ owing to the powerful influence of Origen, who could find no Bethany beyond Jordan in his day. In 200 years the very name of an obscure place might easily perish. Origen says that almost all the old MSS. had Βηθανίᾳ. This Bethany or Bethabara must have been near Galilee: comp. John 1:29, with John 1:43, and see on the ‘four days,’ John 11:17. It is possible to reconcile the two readings. Bethabara has been identified with ’Abârah, one of the main Jordan fords about 14 miles S. of the sea of Galilee: and ‘Bethania beyond Jordan’ has been identified with Bashan; Bethania or Batanea being the Aramaic form of the Hebrew Bashan, meaning ‘soft level ground.’ Bethabara is the village or ford; Bethania the district E. of the ford. Conder, Handbook of the Bible, pp. 315, 320. The Jordan had grand historical associations: to make men pass through its waters might seem to some a preparation for conquests like those of Joshua.

Verse 29

29. τῇ ἐπαύριον. These words prevent us from inserting the Temptation between John 1:28-29. The fact of the Baptist knowing who Jesus is, shews that the Baptism, and therefore the Temptation, must have preceded the deputation from Jerusalem. S. John omits both, as being events well known to his readers. The Baptist’s announcements are not a continuous discourse. They come forth like sudden intuitions, of which he did not himself know the full meaning.

ἴδε. S. John uses this form about 20 times (John 1:36; John 1:47-48, John 3:26, John 5:14, &c.), and ἰδού only four times (John 4:35, [John 12:15,] John 16:32, John 19:5). The Synoptists use ἴδε about 10 times (not in Luke) and ἰδού more than 120 times. Both words are interjections, ‘Lo! Behold!,’ not imperatives, ‘See, Look at.’ Hence the nominative case. Comp. John 19:14.

ὁ ἀμνὸς τοῦ θεοῦ. The article shews that some Lamb familiar to the Baptist’s hearers must be meant, and probably the Lamb of Isaiah 53 (comp. Acts 8:32), with perhaps an indirect allusion to the Paschal Lamb (John 19:36). The addition τοῦ θεοῦ may remind us of Genesis 22:8. The figure of the Lamb for Christ appears in N.T. elsewhere only 1 Peter 1:19, and throughout the Apocalypse; but in the Apocalypse the word is always ἀρνίον, never ἀμνός (John 5:6; John 5:8; John 5:12, &c.).

ὁ αἴρων. This seems to make the reference both to Isaiah 53 esp. John 1:4-8; John 1:10, and also to the Paschal Lamb, more clear. The Paschal Lamb was expiatory (Exodus 12:13). Taketh away, rather than beareth (margin), is right; comp. 1 John 3:5. ‘Bear’ would rather be φέρω, as in the LXX. in Isaiah 53:4. Christ took away the burden of sin by bearing it; but this is not expressed here, though it may be implied. Τὴν ἁμαρτίαν. Regarded as one great burden or plague.

τοῦ κόσμου. Isaiah sees no further than the redemption of the Jews: ‘for the transgression of my peopleτοῦ λαοῦ μου—was He stricken’ (Isaiah 53:8). The Baptist knows that the Messiah comes to make atonement for the whole human race, even His enemies.

Verses 29-34


Verse 31

31. κἀγὼ οὐκ ἤδειν αὐτόν. I also knew Him not; I, like you (John 5:26), did not at first know Him to be the Messiah. This does not contradict Matthew 3:14. [1] ‘I knew Him not’ need not mean ‘I had no knowledge of Him whatever.’ [2] John’s declaration of his need to be baptized by Jesus does not prove that he had already recognized Jesus as the Messiah, but only as superior to himself.

ἀλλ' ἵνα. See on John 1:8. This is the second half of the Divine purpose respecting the Baptist. He was [1] to prepare for the Messiah by preaching repentance; [2] to point out the Messiah.

φανερωθῇ. One of S. John’s favourite words; John 2:11, John 3:21, John 7:4, John 9:3, John 17:6, John 21:1; John 21:14; 1 John 1:2; 1 John 2:19; 1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:2; 1 John 3:5; 1 John 3:8-9; Revelation 3:18; Revelation 15:4. See on John 2:11.

διὰ τοῦτο. For this cause (John 12:18; John 12:27) came I: comp. John 5:16; John 5:18, John 7:22, John 8:47, John 19:11. In translation we must distinguish διὰ τοῦτο from S. John’s favourite particle οὖν.

ἐν [τῷ] ὕδατι. Placed before βαπτίζων for emphasis, because here he contrasts himself as baptizing with water with Him who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.

Verse 32

32. ἐμαρτ. The Evangelist insists again and again on this aspect of the Baptist: he bears witness to the Messiah; 7, 8, 15, 19, 34.

τεθέαμαι. I have beheld (John 1:14; John 1:38; 1 John 4:12; 1 John 4:14). The testimony of the vision still remains; hence the perfect.

ὡς περιστερὰν. Perhaps visible only to Jesus and the Baptist. A real appearance is the natural meaning here, and is insisted on by S. Luke (Luke 3:22); just as a real voice is the natural meaning in John 12:29. And if we admit the ‘bodily shape,’ there is no sound reason for rejecting the dove. The marvel is that the Holy Spirit should be visible in any way, not that He should assume the form of a dove or of ‘tongues of fire’ (Acts 2:3) in particular. This symbolical vision of the Spirit seems to be analogous to the visions of Jehovah granted to Moses and other Prophets.

The descent of the Spirit made no change in the nature of Christ: but possibly it awoke a full consciousness of His relation to God and to man: He had been increasing in favour with both (Luke 2:52). It served two purposes; [1] to make the Messiah known to the Baptist and through him to the world; [2] to mark the official beginning of His ministry, like the anointing of a king. As at the Transfiguration, Christ is miraculously glorified before setting out to suffer, a voice from heaven bears witness to Him, and ‘the goodly fellowship of the Prophets’ shares in the glory. For ἔμεινεν see next verse.

ἐπ' αὐτόν. Pregnant construction; a preposition of motion with a verb of rest. Thus both the motion and the rest are indicated. Comp. John 1:18, John 3:36, John 19:13, John 20:19, John 21:4; Genesis 1:2.

Verse 33

33. κἀγὼ οὐκ ᾔ. αὐ. I also knew Him not. The Baptist again protests that but for a special revelation he was as ignorant as others that Jesus was the Messiah. Therefore he is here giving not his own opinion about Jesus, but the evidence of a sign from heaven.

ὁ πέμψας. In John 1:6 the verb used was ἀποστέλλω. Πέμπειν is the most general word for ‘send,’ implying no special relation between sender and sent: ἀποστέλλειν adds the notion of a delegated authority constituting the person sent the envoy or representative of the sender (John 1:19; John 1:24). Both verbs are used of the mission of Christ and of the mission of the disciples, as well as that of John. Ἀποστέλλειν is used of the mission of Christ, John 3:17; John 3:34, John 5:38, John 6:29; John 6:57, John 7:29, John 8:42, John 10:36, John 11:42, John 17:3; John 17:8; John 17:18; John 17:21; John 17:23; John 17:25; of the mission of the disciples, John 4:38, John 17:18. Πέμπειν is used of the mission of Christ (always in the aorist participle) John 4:34, John 5:23-24; John 5:30; John 5:37, John 6:38-40; John 6:44, John 7:16; John 7:18; John 7:28; John 7:33, &c. &c.; of that of the disciples, John 13:20, John 20:21. Πέμπειν is also used of the mission of the Spirit, John 14:26, John 16:7.

ἐκεῖνος. ‘That one Himself and no other;’ see on John 1:8; John 1:18. Ἐφ' ὃν ἄν. The widest possibility; ‘whosoever he may be on whom.’

μένον. Another of S. John’s favourite words, a fact which the A.V. obscures by translating it in seven different ways. ‘Abide’ is the most common and the best translation (John 1:32, John 3:36, John 4:40): besides this we have ‘remain’ (here, John 9:41, John 15:11; John 15:16), ‘dwell’ (John 1:39, John 6:56, John 14:10; John 14:17) ‘continue’ (John 2:12, John 8:31), ‘tarry’ (John 4:40, John 21:22-23), ‘endure’ (John 6:27), ‘be present’ (John 14:25). In John 1:39, John 4:40, 1 John 3:24, it is translated in two different ways; in 1 John 2:24 in three different ways.—The Baptist and the Prophets were moved by the Spirit at times; ‘the Spirit of the Lord came upon’ them from time to time. With Jesus he abode continually.

ὁ βαπτ. ἐν πν. ἁγ. This phrase introduced without explanation assumes that the readers are well aware of this office of the Messiah, i.e. are well-instructed Christians. Βαπτίζων is appropriate, [1] to mark the analogy and contrast between the office of the Baptist and that of the Messiah; the one by baptism with water awakens the longing for holiness; the other by baptism with the Spirit satisfies this longing: [2] because the gift of the Spirit is an out-pouring.

ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ. The epithet ἅγιον is given to the Spirit thrice in this Gospel; here, John 14:26, and John 20:22 (in John 7:39 the ἅγιον is very doubtful). It is not frequent in any Gospel but the third; 5 times in S. Matthew , 4 in S. Mark 12 in S. Luke. S. Luke rarely omits the epithet, which he uses about 40 times in the Acts. Here and John 20:22 neither substantive nor epithet has the article, in John 14:26 both have it.

Verse 34

34. ἑώρακα. I have seen, in joyous contrast to ‘I knew Him not,’ John 1:31; John 1:33. See on John 1:18. The perfects indicate that the results of the seeing and of the testimony remain: comp. John 1:51, John 3:21; John 3:26; John 3:29.

μεμαρτύρηκα. have borne witness. Our translators have obscured S. John’s frequent use of μαρτυρεῖν, as of μένειν, by capriciously varying the rendering. This is all the more regrettable, because these words serve to connect together the Gospel, the First Epistle, and the Apocalypse. ΄αρτυρεῖν is translated ‘bear witness,’ John 1:7; John 1:18; John 1:15, John 3:26; John 3:28, John 5:31-33; John 5:36-37, John 8:18, John 10:25, John 15:27, John 18:23; 1 John 1:2; 1 John 5:6; ‘bear record,’ John 1:32; John 1:34, John 8:13-14, John 12:17, John 19:35; 1 John 5:7; Revelation 1:2; ‘give record,’ 1 John 5:10; ‘testify,’ John 2:25, John 3:11; John 3:32, John 4:39; John 4:44, John 5:39, John 7:7, John 13:21, John 15:26, John 21:24; 1 John 4:14; 1 John 5:9; Revelation 22:16; Revelation 22:18; Revelation 22:20 : in John 15:26-27 the translation is changed in the same sentence. ΄αρτυρία is rendered ‘witness,’ John 1:7, John 3:11, John 5:31-33; John 5:36; 1 John 5:9-10; Revelation 20:4; ‘record,’ John 1:19, John 8:13-14, John 19:35, John 21:24; 1 John 5:10-11; ‘testimony,’ John 3:32-33, John 5:34, John 8:17; Revelation 1:2; Revelation 1:9; Revelation 6:9; Revelation 11:7; Revelation 12:11; Revelation 12:17; Revelation 19:10 : in 1 John 5:10 we have two different renderings in the same verse. Neither μαρτύριον nor μάρτυς, found in all three Synoptists, occurs in this Gospel.

ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ. The incarnate Λόγος, the Messiah (John 1:18). These words of the Baptist confirm the account of the voice from heaven (Matthew 3:17). The whole passage (John 1:32-34) shews that S. John does not, as Philo does, identify the Logos with the Spirit.

Verse 35

35. τῇ ἐπ. π. The next day again; referring to John 1:29. Thus far we have three days, full of moment to the Evangelist and the Church. On the first the Messiah is proclaimed as already present; on the second He is pointed out; on the third He is followed. In each case the Baptist takes the lead; it is by his own act and will that he decreases while Jesus increases.

The difference between this narrative and that of the Synoptists (Matthew 4:18; Mark 1:16; Luke 5:2) is satisfactorily explained by supposing this to refer to an earlier and less formal call of these first four disciples, John and Andrew, Peter and James. Their call to be Apostles was a very gradual one. Two of them, and perhaps all four, began by being disciples of the Baptist, who directs them to the Lamb of God (John 1:36), Who invites them to His abode (John 1:39): they then witness His miracles (John 2:2, &c.); are next called to be ‘fishers of men’ (Matthew 4:19); and are finally enrolled with the rest of the Twelve as Apostles (Mark 3:13). Their readiness to follow Jesus, as recorded by the Synoptists, implies previous acquaintance with Him, as recorded by S. John. See note on Mark 1:20.

ἐκ τῶν μαθ. αὐτοῦ δύο. One of these was Andrew (John 1:40); the other was no doubt S. John. The account is that of an eyewitness; and his habitual reserve with regard to himself accounts for his silence, if the other disciple was himself. If it was someone else, it is difficult to see why S. John pointedly omits his name.

There was strong antecedent probability that the first followers of Christ would be disciples of the Baptist. The fact of their being so is one reason for the high honour in which the Baptist has been held from the earliest times by the Church.

Verses 35-37


Verse 36

36. ἐμβλέψας. Indicates a fixed, penetrating gaze. Comp. John 1:42; Mark 10:21; Mark 10:27; Luke 20:17; Luke 22:61.

ἴδε κ.τ.λ. See on John 1:28. These disciples were probably present the previous day. Hence there is no need to say more. This is the last recorded meeting between the Baptist and the Christ.

Verse 37

37. ἤκουσαν. Although they had not been specially addressed.

ἠκολούθησαν. The first beginning of the Christian Church. But we are not to understand that they had already determined to become His disciples.

Verse 38

38. θεασάμενος. Comp. John 1:14; John 1:32. The context shews that He saw into their hearts as well.

Verses 38-42


Verses 38-51


This section falls into two divisions, each occupying a day; [1] the call of Andrew, John, Peter, and perhaps James; [2] that of Philip and Nathanael. Of these Peter and James were probably disciples of John. In this also he was the Elijah who was to come first.

Verse 39

39. Τί ζητεῖτε; i.e. in Me. He does not ask ‘Whom seek ye?’ It was evident that they sought Him.

Ῥαββί. A comparatively modern word when S. John wrote, and therefore all the more requiring explanation to Gentile readers. The ‘i’ termination in Rabbi and Rabboni (John 20:16) = ‘my,’ but had probably lost its special meaning; comp. ‘Monsieur.’ S. John does not translate ‘my Master.’ S. John often interprets between Hebrew and Greek; thrice in this section. (Comp. John 1:42-43.)

ποῦ μένεις; Where abidest thou? (See on John 1:33.) They have more to ask than can be answered on the spot. Perhaps they think Him a travelling Rabbi staying close by; and they intend to visit Him at some future time. He bids them come at once: now is the day of salvation. In the A.V. John 1:38 contains John 1:38-39 of the Greek.

Verse 40

40. ὄψεσθε. The reading ἴδετε perhaps comes from John 1:47.

ἐκείνην. That memorable day.

ὥρα ἧν ὡς δεκάτη. S. John remembers the very hour of this crisis in his life: all the details of the narrative are very lifelike.

It is sometimes contended that S. John reckons the hours of the day according to the modern method, from midnight to midnight, and not according to the Jewish method, from sunset to sunset, as everywhere else in N.T. and in Josephus. It is antecedently improbable that S. John should in this point vary from the rest of N.T. writers; and we ought to require strong evidence before accepting this theory, which has been adopted by some in order to escape from the difficulty of John 19:14, where see notes. Setting aside John 19:14 as the cause of the question, we have four passages in which S. John mentions the hour of the day, this, John 4:6; John 4:52 and John 11:9. None of them are decisive: but in no single case is the balance of probability strongly in favour of the modern method. See notes in each place. Here either 10 A.M. or 4 P.M. would suit the context: and while the antecedent probability that S. John reckons time like the rest of the Evangelists will incline us to 4 P.M., the fact that a good deal still remains to be done on this day makes 10 A.M. rather more suitable; and in that case ‘abode with him that day’ is more natural. Origen knows nothing of S. John’s using the modern method of reckoning.

Verse 41

41. ὁ ἀδελφὸς Σ. Π. Before the end of the first century, therefore, it was natural to describe Andrew by his relationship to his far better known brother. In Church History Peter is everything and Andrew nothing: but would there have been an Apostle Peter but for Andrew? In the lists of the Apostles Andrew is always in the first group of four, but outside the chosen three, in spite of this early call.

Verse 42

42. οὗτος. Comp. John 1:2; John 1:7, John 3:2; John 3:26.

πρῶτον. The meaning of ‘first’ becomes almost certain when we remember S. John’s characteristic reserve about himself. Both disciples hurry to tell their own brothers the good tidings, that the Messiah has been found: Andrew finds his own brother first, and afterwards John finds his: but we are left to infer the latter point.

Andrew thrice brings others to Christ; Peter, the lad with the loaves (John 6:8), and certain Greeks (John 12:22); and, excepting Mark 13:3, we know scarcely anything else about him. Thus it would seem as if in these three incidents S. John had given us the key to his character. And here we have another characteristic of this Gospel—the lifelike way in which the less prominent figures are sketched. Besides Andrew we have Philip, John 1:44, John 6:5, John 12:21, John 14:8; Thomas, John 11:16, John 14:5; John 20:24-29; Nathanael, John 1:45-51; Nicodemus, John 3:1-12, John 7:50-52, John 19:39; Martha and Mary, 11, John 12:1-3.

Εὑρήκαμεν. Does not prove that S. John is still with him, only that they were together when their common desire was fulfilled.

τὸν ΄εσσίαν. The Hebrew form of this name is used by S. John only, here and John 4:25. Elsewhere the LXX. translation, ὁ χριστός, is used; but here χριστός has no article, because S. John is merely interpreting the word, not the title. Comp. John 3:28, John 4:25; John 4:29, John 7:26; John 7:31; John 7:41, John 10:24, John 11:27, John 12:34, John 20:31.

Verse 43

43. ἐμβλέψας. Comp. John 1:36 and Luke 22:61 : what follows shews that Christ’s look penetrated to his heart and read his character.

Ἰωάννου. This, and not Ἰωνᾶ, seems to be the true reading here and John 21:15-17 : but Ἰωνᾶ might represent two Hebrew names, Jonah and Johanan = John. Tradition gives his mother’s name as Johanna. Andrew probably had mentioned his name and parentage.

Κηφᾶς. This Aramaic form occurs elsewhere in N.T. only 1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:22; 1 Corinthians 9:5; 1 Corinthians 15:5; Galatians 1:18; Galatians 2:9; Galatians 2:11; Galatians 2:14. The second Adam, like (Genesis 2:19) the first, gives names to those brought to Him. The new name, as in the case of Abraham, Sarah, and Israel, indicates his new position rather than his character; for he was ‘unstable as water’ (John 18:25; Galatians 2:11-12): Simon is designated for a new office. Matthew 16:18 presupposes the incident recorded here: here Simon shall be called, there he is, Peter.

Πέτρος. Translate, Peter, with ‘a stone,’ or ‘a mass of rock,’ in the margin.—It is quite clear from this narrative that S. Peter was not called first among the Apostles.

Verse 44

44. τῇ ἐπαύριον. We thus far have four days accurately marked; [1] John 1:19; [2] John 1:29; [3] John 1:35; [4] John 1:44. A writer of fiction would not have cared for minute details which might entangle him in discrepancies: they are thoroughly natural in an eyewitness profoundly interested in the events, and therefore remembering them distinctly.

ἠθέλησεν. Willed or was minded to go forth: the ‘would’ of A.V. is too weak (comp. John 6:67, John 8:44). Jesus determined to go from Judaea to Galilee: on His way He finds Philip (see on John 9:35).

ἀκολούθει μοι. In the Gospels these words seem always to be the call to become a disciple: Matthew 8:22; Matthew 9:9; Matthew 19:21; Mark 2:14; Mark 10:21; Luke 5:27; Luke 9:59; John 21:19. With two exceptions they are always addressed to those who afterwards became Apostles.

Verses 44-51


Verse 45

45. ἀπὸ Βηθ. For the change of preposition see on John 11:1. The local knowledge displayed in this verse is very real. S. John would possess it; a writer in the second century would not, and would not care to invent. This is ‘Bethsaida of Galilee’ (John 12:21) on the western shore, not Bethsaida Julias (see on Matthew 4:13). In the Synoptists Philip is a mere name: our knowledge of him comes from S. John (see on John 1:42, John 6:7, John 12:21, John 14:8).

Verse 46

46. εὑρίσκει Φ. Thus the spiritual λαμπαδηφορία proceeds: the receivers of the sacred light hand it on to others, Et quasi cursores vitai lampada tradunt (Lucr. ii. 77).

Ναθαναήλ = ‘Gift of God.’ The name occurs Numbers 1:8; 1 Chronicles 2:14; 1 Esdras 1:9; 1 Esdras 9:22. Nathanael is commonly identified with Bartholomew; [1] Bartholomew is only a patronymic and the bearer would be likely to have another name (comp. Barjona of Simon, Barnabas of Joses); [2] S. John never mentions Bartholomew, the Synoptists never mention Nathanael; [3] the Synoptists in their lists place Bartholomew next to Philip, as James next his probable caller John, and Peter (in Matt. and Luke) next his caller Andrew; [4] all the other disciples mentioned in this chapter become Apostles, and none are so highly commended as Nathanael; [5] all Nathanael’s companions named in John 21:2 were Apostles (see note there). But all these reasons do not make the identification more than probable. The framers of our Liturgy do not countenance the identification: this passage appears neither as the Gospel nor as a Lesson for S. Bartholomew’s Day.

ὃν ἔγραψεν ΄. κ.τ.λ. Luthardt contrasts this elaborate profession with the simple declaration of Andrew (John 1:42). The divisions of the O.T. here given are quite in harmony with Jewish phraseology. Moses wrote of Him not merely in Deuteronomy 18:15, but in all the various Messianic types and promises.

τοῦ Ἰωσὴφ τ. ἀπὸ Ν. The words are Philip’s, and express the common contemporary belief about Jesus. As His home was there, τὸν ἀπὸ Ναζαρέτ was both natural and true: and τοῦ Ἰωσὴφ was natural enough, if untrue. That the Evangelist is ignorant of the birth at Bethlehem, or of its miraculous character, in no way follows from this passage. Rather he is an honest historian, who records exactly what was said, without alterations or additions of his own. “Here we observe for the first time a peculiarity in the narrative of S. John. It seems that the author takes pleasure in recalling certain objections to the Messianic dignity of Jesus, leaving them without reply, because every one acquainted with the Gospel history made short work of them at once; comp. John 7:27; John 7:35; John 7:42, &c.” (Godet.)

Verse 47

47. ἐκ Ναζ. κ.τ.λ. All Galileans were despised for their want of culture, their rude dialect, and contact with Gentiles. They were to the Jews what Bœotians were to the Athenians. But here it is a Galilean who reproaches Nazareth in particular. Apart from the Gospels we know nothing to the discredit of Nazareth; neither in O.T. nor in Josephus is it mentioned; but what we are told of the people by the Evangelists is mostly bad. Christ left them and preferred to dwell at Capernaum (Matthew 4:13); He could do very little among them, ‘because of their unbelief’ (Matthew 13:58), which was such as to make Him marvel (Mark 6:6); and once they tried to kill Him (Luke 4:29). S. Augustine would omit the question. Nathanael “who knew the Scriptures excellently well, when he heard the name Nazareth, was filled with hope, and said, From Nazareth something good can come.” But this is not probable. Possibly he meant ‘Can any good thing come out of despised Galilee?’ or, ‘Can anything so good come out of so insignificant a village?’

ἔρχου κ. ἴδε. The best cure for ill-founded prejudice; at once the simplest and the surest method. Philip shews the strength of his own conviction by suggesting this test, which seems to be in harmony with the practical bent of his own mind. See on John 12:21 and John 14:8. Here, of course, ἴδε is the imperative; not an interjection, as in John 1:29; John 1:35; John 1:48.

Verse 48

48. εἶδενἐρχόμενον. This shews that Jesus did not overhear Nathanael’s question. S. John represents his knowledge of Nathanael as miraculous: as in John 1:42 He appears as the searcher of hearts.

ἀληθῶς. In character as well as by birth. The guile may refer to the ‘subtilty’ of Jacob (Genesis 27:35) before he became Israel: ‘Lo a son of Israel, who is in no way a son of Jacob.’ The ‘supplanter’ is gone; the ‘prince’ remains. His guilelessness is shewn in his making no mock repudiation of Christ’s praise: he is free from ‘the pride that apes humility.’ It is shewn also in the manner of his conversion. Like a true Israelite he longs for the coming of the Messiah, but he will not too lightly believe in the joy that has come, nor does he conceal his doubts. But as soon as he has’ come and seen,’ he knows, and knows that he is known: thus ‘I know Mine and Mine know Me’ (John 10:14) is fulfilled beforehand.

S. John uses ἀληθῶς about 8 times, and in the rest of N.T. it occurs about 8 times (see on John 1:8).

Verse 49

49. ὑπὸ τὴν συκῆν. Note the case, implying motion to under, and comp. John 1:18; John 1:32-33. The phrase probably means ‘at home,’ in the retirement of his own garden (1 Kings 4:25; Micah 4:4; Zechariah 3:10). He had perhaps been praying or meditating, and seems to feel that Christ knew what his thoughts there had been. It was under a fig tree that S. Augustine heard the famous ‘tolle, lege.’

Verse 50

50. ὁ υἱὸς τ. θ. Experience of His miraculous knowledge convinces Nathanael, as it convinces the Samaritan woman (John 4:29) and S. Thomas (John 20:28), that Jesus must stand in the closest relation to God: hence he uses this title of the Messiah (John 11:27; Matthew 26:63; Mark 3:11; Mark 5:7; Luke 4:41) rather than the more common ‘Son of David.’

βας. εἶ τ. Ἰσρ. No article. The title is not synonymous with ‘the Son of God,’ though both apply to the same person, and it points to hopes of an earthly king, which since the destruction of Jerusalem even Jews must have ceased to cherish. How could a Christian of the second century have thrown himself back to this?

Verse 51

51. Ἀμὴν, ἀμὴν. The double ἀμήν occurs 25 times in this Gospel, and nowhere else, always in the mouth of Christ. It introduces a truth of special solemnity and importance. The single ἀμήν occurs about 30 times in Matthew , 14 in Mark , , 7 in Luke. Hence the title of Jesus, ‘the Amen’ (Revelation 3:14). The word is originally a verbal adjective, ‘firm, worthy of credit,’ sometimes used as a substantive; e.g. ‘God of truth’ (Isaiah 65:16) is literally ‘God of (the) Amen.’ In the LXX. ἀμήν never means ‘verily;’ in the Gospels it always does. The ἀμήν at the end of sentences (John 21:25; Matthew 6:13; Matthew 28:20; Mark 16:20; Luke 24:53) is in every case of doubtful authority.

ὑμῖν. Nathanael alone had been first addressed; now all present.

τ. οὐρ. ἀνεῳγότα. The heaven opened; made open and remaining so. What Jacob saw in a vision they shall see realised. The Incarnation brings heaven down to earth; the Ascension takes earth up to heaven. These references to Jacob (John 1:48) were possibly suggested by the locality: Bethel, Mahanaim, and the ford Jabbok, all lay near the road that Jesus would traverse between Judaea and Galilee.

τ. ἀγγέλους τ. θ. The reference is not to the angels which appeared after the Temptation, at the Agony, and at the Ascension; rather to the perpetual intercourse between God and the Messiah during His ministry, and afterwards between God and Christ’s Body, the Church; those ‘ministering spirits’ who link earth to heaven.

ἀναβαίνοντας. Placed first: prayers and needs ascend; then graces and blessings descend. But see Winer, p. 692.

τ. υἱὸν τ. ἀνθρώπου. This phrase in all four Gospels is invariably used by Christ Himself of Himself as the Messiah; upwards of 80 times in all. None of the Evangelists direct our attention to this strict limitation in the use of the expression: their agreement on this striking point is evidently undesigned, and therefore a strong mark of their veracity. See notes on Matthew 8:20; Mark 2:10. In O.T. the phrase ‘Son of Man’ has three distinct uses; [1] in the Psalms, for the ideal man; Psalms 8:4-8; Psalms 80:17; Psalms 144:3; Psalms 146:3. [2] in Ezekiel, as the name by which the Prophet is addressed by God; John 2:1; John 2:3; John 2:6; John 2:8, John 3:1; John 3:3-4, &c., &c., more than 80 times in all; probably to remind Ezekiel that in spite of the favour shewn to him, and the wrath denounced against the children of Israel, he, no less than they, had a mortal frailty: [3] in the ‘night visions’ of Daniel 7:13-14, where ‘One like a son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days … and there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve Him, &c.’ That ‘Son of man henceforth became one of the titles of the looked-for Messiah’ may be doubted. Rather, the title was a new one assumed by Christ, and as yet only dimly understood (comp. Matthew 16:13). Just as ‘the Son of David’ marked Him as the one in whom the family of David culminated, so ‘the Son of Man’ as the one in whom the whole human race culminates.

This first chapter alone is enough to shew that the Gospel is the work of a Jew of Palestine, well acquainted with the Messianic hopes, and traditions, and with the phraseology current in Palestine at the time of Christ’s ministry; able also to give a lifelike picture of the Baptist and of Christ’s first disciples.



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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on John 1:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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