Bible Commentaries
John 1

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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The prologue .

The first eighteen verses contain a preface, or as it is usually called, the prologue to the Gospel. In this prologue the writer identifies the person, Jesus Christ, whom he is about to introduce on the field of history, with the Logos. He first describes the Logos in His relation to God and to the world, and then presents in abstract the history of His reception among men, which he is about to give in detail. That the Eternal Divine Word, in whom was the life of all things, became flesh and was manifested among men; that some ignored while others recognised Him; that some received while others rejected Him that is what John means to exhibit in detail in his Gospel, and this is what he summarily states in this prologue.

The prologue may be divided thus: John 1:1-5 , The Logos described; John 1:6-13 , The historic manifestation of the Logos and its results in evoking faith and unbelief; John 1:14-18 , This manifestation more precisely defined as incarnation, with another aspect of its results. Cf. Westcott’s suggestive division; and especially Falconer in Expositor , 1897.

Verse 1

John 1:1 . In the first verse three things are stated regarding the Logos, the subject ὁ λόγος being repeated for impressiveness. Westcott remarks that these three clauses answer to the three great moments of the Incarnation declared in John 1:14 . He who was ( ἦν ) in the beginning, became ( ἐγένετο ) in time; He who was with God, tabernacled among men; He who was God, became flesh.

(1) ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος . ἐν ἀρχῇ is here used relatively to creation, as in Genesis 1:1 and Proverbs 8:23 , ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸ τοῦ τὴν γῆν ποιῆσαι ; cf. 1 John 1:1 . Consequently even in the time of Theophylact it was argued that this clause only asserts that the Logos was older than Adam. But this is to overlook the ἦν . The Logos did not then begin to be, but at that point at which all else began to be He already was . In the beginning, place it where you may, the Word already existed. In other words, the Logos is before time, eternal. Cf. Colossians 1:18 (the article is absent because ἐν ἀρχῇ is virtually an adverbial expression). ὁ λόγος . The term Logos appears as early as Heraclitus to denote the principle which maintains order in the world (see passages in Ritter and Preller). Among the Stoics the word was similarly used, as the equivalent of the anima mundi ( cf. Virgil, Æn., vi., 724). Marcus Aurelius (iv. 14 21) uses the term σπερματικὸς λόγος to express the generative principle or creative force in nature. The term was familiar to Greek philosophy. In Hebrew thought there was felt the need for some term to express God, not in His absolute being, but in His manifestation and active connection with the world. In the O. T. “the Angel of the Lord” and “the wisdom of God” are used for this purpose. In the Apocryphal books and the Targums “the word of Jehovah” is similarly used. These two streams of thought were combined by Philo, who has a fairly full and explicit doctrine of the Logos as the expression of God or God in expression (see Drummond’s Philo ; Siegfried’s Philo ; Reville, Doctrine du Logos ; Bigg’s Bampton Lec. ; Hatch’s Hibbert Lec. ). The word being thus already in use and aiding thoughtful men in their efforts to conceive God’s connection with the world, John takes it and uses it to denote the Revealer of the incomprehensible and invisible God. Irrespective of all speculations which had gathered around the term, John now proceeds to make known the true nature of the Logos. ( Cf. The Primal Will, or Universal Reason of the Babis; Sell’s Faith of Islam , 146.)

(2) If the Word was thus in the beginning, what relation did He hold to God? Was He identical or opposed? ὁ λόγος ἦν πρός τὸν θεόν . πρός implies not merely existence alongside of but personal intercourse. It means more than μετά or παρά , and is regularly employed in expressing the presence of one person with another. Thus in classical Greek, τήν πρός Σωκράτην συνουσίαν , and in N. T. Mark 6:3 , Matthew 13:56 , Mark 9:19 , Galatians 1:18 , 2 John 1:12 . This preposition implies intercourse and therefore separate personality. As Chrysostom says: “Not in God but with God, as person with person, eternally”.

(3) The Word is distinguishable from God and yet Θεὸς ἧν ὁ λόλος , the Word was God, of Divine nature; not “a God,” which to a Jewish ear would have been abominable; nor yet identical with all that can be called God, for then the article would have been inserted ( cf. 1 John 3:4 ). “The Christian doctrine of the Trinity was perhaps before anything else an effort to express how Jesus Christ was God ( Θεός ) and yet in another sense was not God ( ὁ θεός ), that is to say, was not the whole Godhead.” Consult Du Bose’s Ecumenical Councils , p. 70 73. Luther says “the Word was God” is against Arius: “the Word was with God” against Sabellius.

Verses 1-5

John 1:1-5 . The Logos described . The first five verses describe the pre-existence, the nature, the creative power of the Logos, who in the succeeding verses is spoken of as entering the world, becoming man, and revealing the Father; and this description is given in order that we may at once grasp a continuous history which runs out of an unmeasured past, and the identity of the person who is the subject of that history.

Verse 2

John 1:2 . οὑτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν . Not a mere repetition of what has been said in John 1:1 . There John has said that the Word was in the beginning and also that He was with God: here he indicates that these two characteristics existed contemporaneously. “He was in the beginning with God.” He wishes also to emphasise this in view of what he is about to tell. In the beginning He was with God, afterwards, in time, He came to be with man. His pristine condition must first be grasped, if the grace of what succeeds is to be understood.

Verse 3

John 1:3 . Πάντα διʼ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο . The connection is obvious: the Word was with God in the beginning, but not as an idle, inefficacious existence, who only then for the first time put forth energy when He came into the world. On the contrary, He was the source of all activity and life. “All things were made by Him, and without Him was not even one thing made which was made.”

The double sentence, positive and negative, is characteristic of John and lends emphasis to the statement. πάντα , “grande verbum quo mundus, i.e. , universitas rerum factarum denotatur” (Bengel). The more accurate expression for “all things” taken as a whole and not severally is τὰ πάντα (Colossians 1:16 ) or τὸ πᾶν ; and, as the negative clause of this verse indicates, created things are here looked at in their variety and multiplicity. Cf. Marcus Aurelius, iv. 23, ὧ φύσις , ἐκ σοῦ πᾶντα , ἐν σοὶ πάντα , εἰς σέ σοί πάντα , εἰς σέ πάντα . διʼ αὐτοῦ . The Word was the Agent in creation. But it is to be observed that the same preposition is used of God in the same connection in Romans 11:36 , ὅτι ἐξ αὐτοῦ καὶ διʼ αὐτοῦ καὶ εἰς αὐτὸν τὰ πάντα ; and in Colossians 1:16 the same writer uses the same prepositions not of the Father but of the Son when he says: τὰ μάντα διʼ αὐτοῦ καὶ εἰς αὐτὸν ἔκτισται . In 1 Corinthians 8:6 Paul distinguishes between the Father as the primal source of all things and the Son as the actual Creator. (In Greek philosophy the problem was to ascertain by whom, of what, and in view of what the world was made; ὑφʼ οὗ , ἐξ οὗ , πρὸς ὅ . And Lücke quotes a significant sentence from Philo ( De Cherub. , 35): εὑρήσεις αἴτιον μὲν αὐτοῦ ( τοῦ κόσμου ) τὸν θεὸν , ὑφʼ οὗ γέγονεν · ὓλην δὲ τὰ τέσσαρα στοιχεῖα , ἐξ ὧν συνεκράθη · ὄργανον δὲ λόγον θεοῦ διʼ οὗ κατεσκευάσθη ·)

Verse 4

John 1:4 . ἐν αυτῷ ζωὴ ἦν . “In Him was life”; that power which creates life and maintains all else in existence was in the Logos. To limit “life” here to any particular form of life is rendered impossible by John 1:3 . In John ζωή is generally eternal or spiritual life, but here it is more comprehensive. In the Logos was life, and it is of this life all things have partaken and by it they exist. Cf. Philo’s designation of the Logos as πηγὴ ζωῆς . καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἧν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων , “and the life was the light of men”; the life which was the fountain of existence to all things was especially the light of man Lücke). It was not the Logos directly but the life which was in the Logos which was the light of men. O. Holtzmann thinks this only means that as men received life from the Logos they might be expected in the gift to recognise the Giver. Godet says: “The Logos is light; but it is through the mediation of life that He must become so always; this is precisely the relation which the Gospel restores. We recover through the new creation in Jesus Christ an inner light which springs up from the life.” Stevens says: “The Word represents the self-manifesting quality of the Divine life. This heavenly light shines in the darkness of the world’s ignorance and sin.” The words seem to mean that the life which appears in the variety, harmony, and progress of inanimate nature, and in the wonderfully manifold yet related forms of animate existence, appears in man as “light,” intellectual and moral light, reason and conscience. To the Logos men may address the words of Psalms 36:9 , παρὰ σοὶ πηγὴ ζωῆς , ἐν τῷ φωτί σου ὀψόμεθα φῶς .

Verse 5

John 1:5 . καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει , “and the light shineth in the darkness”. Three interpretations are possible. The words may refer to the incarnate, or to the pre-incarnate experience of the Logos, or to both. Holtzmann and Weiss both consider the clause refers to the incarnate condition ( cf. 1 John 2:8 ). De Wette refers it to the pre-incarnate operation of the Logos in the O. T. prophets. Meyer and others interpret φαίνει as meaning “present, i.e. , uninterruptedly from the beginning until now”. The use of the aorist κατέλαβεν seems to make the first interpretation impossible; while the second is obviously too restricted. What “shining” is meant? This also must not be limited to O. T. prophecy or revelation but to the light of conscience and reason ( cf. John 1:4 ). ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ , in the darkness which existed wherever the light of the Logos was not admitted. Darkness, σκότος or σκοτία , was the expression naturally used by secular Greek writers to describe the world’s condition. Thus Lucian: ἐν σκότῳ πλανωμένοις πάντες ἐοίκαμεν . Cf. Lucretius:

“Qualibus in tenebris vitae, quantisque periclis,

Degitur hoc aevi quodcunque est”.

καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν . The A. V [23] renders this “and the darkness comprehended it not”; the R. V [24] has “apprehended” and in the margin “overcame”. The Greek interpreters understood the clause to mean that the darkness did not conquer the light. Thus Theophylact says: ἡ σκοτία … ἐδίωξε τὸ φῶς , ἀλλʼ εὗρεν ἀκαταμάχητον καὶ ἀήττητον . Some modern interpreters, and especially Westcott, adopt this rendering. “The whole phrase is indeed a startling paradox. The light does not banish the darkness: the darkness does not overpower the light.” This rendering is supposed to find support in chap. John 12:35 , where Christ says, “Walk while ye have the light,” ζνα μὴ σκοτία ὑμᾶς καταλὰβῃ ; and καταλαμβάνειν is the word commonly used to denote day or night overtaking any one (see Wetstein). But the radical meaning is “to seize,” “to take possession of,” “to lay hold of”; so in Romans 9:30 , 1 Corinthians 9:24 , Philippians 3:12 . It is also used of mental perception, as in the Phaedrus , p. 250, D. See also Polybius, iii. 32, 4, and viii. 4, 6, δυσχερὲς καταλαβεῖν , difficult to understand. This sense is more congruous in this passage; especially when we compare John 1:10 ( ὁ κάσμος αὐτὸν οὐκ ἔγνω ) and John 1:11 ( οἱ ἴδιοι αὐτὸν οὐ παρέλαβον ).

[23] Authorised Version.

[24] Revised Version.

Verse 6

John 1:6 . In this verse John passes to the historical; and like the other evangelists begins with the Baptist. So Theodore Mops: μετεληλυθὼς ἐπὶ τὴν ἐπιφάνειαν τοῦ υἱοῦ , τίνα ἄν εὗρεν ἀρχὴν ἑτέραν ἤ τὰ κατὰ τὸν Ἰωάννην ; ἐγένετο ἄνθρωπες , “not there was (chap. John 3:1 ), but denoting the appearing , the historical manifestation,” Meyer. Cf. Luke 1:5 . The testimony of John is introduced not only as a historical note but in order to bring out the aggravated blindness of those who rejected Christ. This man was ἀπεσταλμένος παρὰ θεοῦ . Holtzmann says “an historical appearance is characterised as Godsent”. It might rather be said that an historical appearance sent to fulfil a definite Divine purpose is so characterised. There is no designation our Lord more frequently applies to Himself. In the prayer of chap. 17. some equivalent occurs six times. And in the epistle to the Hebrews He is called “the Apostle of our confession”. No distinguishing title is added to the common name “John”, Westcott says: “If the writer of the Gospel were himself the other John of the Gospel history, it is perfectly natural that he should think of the Baptist, apart from himself, as John only”. Watkins says: “The writer stood to him in the relation of disciple to teacher. To him he was the John.” Afterwards the disciple became the John.

Verses 6-13

John 1:6-13 . The historic manifestation of the Logos and its results .

Verse 7

John 1:7 . οὗτος ἦλθεν εἰς μαρτυρίαν … δι αὐτοῦ . “The same (or, this man) came for witness,” etc. “John’s mission is first set forth under its generic aspect: he came for witness; and then its specific object ( ἵνα μαρτ . περὶ τ . φ .) and its final object ( ἵνα παντ . πιστ .) are defined co-ordinately,” Westcott. John was not to do a great work of his own but to point to another. All his experience, zeal, and influence were to be spent in testifying to the true Light. This he was to do “that all might believe through him”. The whole of this Gospel is a citing of witnesses, but John’s comes first and is of most importance. At first sight it might seem that his mission had failed. All did not believe. No; but all who did believe, speaking generally, believed through him. The first disciples won by Jesus were of John’s training; and through them belief has become general.

Verse 8

John 1:8 . οὐκ ἦν ἐκεῖνος … φωτός , the thought of the previous verse is here put in a negative form for the sake of emphasis; and with the same object οὐκ ἦν is made prominent that it may contrast with the ἵνα μαρτυρήση . He (or, that man) was not the light, but he appeared that he might bear witness regarding the light. Why say this of John? Was there any danger that he should be mistaken for the light? Some did think he was the Christ. See John 1:19-20 .

Verse 9

John 1:9 . ἦν τὸ φῶς … εἰς τὸν κόσμον . ἦν stands first in contrast to the οὐκ ἦν of John 1:8 . The light was not …: the light was … In this verse the light is also further contrasted with John. The Baptist was himself a light (John 1:35 ) but not to τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν . This designation occurs nine times in John, never in the Synoptists. It means that which corresponds to the ideal; true not as opposed to false, but to symbolical or imperfect. The light is further characterised as ὃ φωτίζει πάντα ἄνθρωπον . This is the text on which the Quakers found for their doctrine that every man has a day of visitation and that to every man God gives sufficient grace. Barclay in his Apology says: “This place doth so clearly favour us that by some it is called ‘the Quakers’ text,’ for it doth evidently demonstrate our assertion”. It was also much used by the Greek Fathers, who believed that the Logos guided the heathen in their philosophical researches (see Justin’s Dial. , ii., etc., and Clement, passim ). ἐρχόμενον has been variously construed, with ἄνθρωπον , with τὸ φῶς , or with ἦν . (1) The first construction is favoured by Chrysostom, Euthymius, the Vulgate, and A. V [25] , “ that was the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world”; or with Meyer, “the true light which lightens every man coming into the world was present” ( ἦν = aderat). To the objection that ἐρχόμ .… κόσμον is thus redundant, Meyer replies that there is such a thing as a solemn redundance, and that we have here an “epic fulness of words”. But the “epic fulness” is here out of place, emphasising πάντα ἄνθρωπον . Besides, in this Gospel, “coming into the world” is not used of human birth , but of appearance in one’s place among men. And still further ἐρχόμενον of this verse is obviously in contrast with the ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἦν of the next, and the subject of both clauses must be the same. (2) The second construction, with τὸ φῶς , was advocated by Grotius (“valde mihi se probat expositio quae apud Cyrillum et Augustinum exstat, ut hoc ἐρχόμενον referatur ad τὸ φῶς ,” cf. John 3:19 , John 12:46 , John 18:37 ), and has been adopted by Godet, who renders thus: “(That light) was the true light which lighteth every man, by coming (itself) into the world”. If this were John’s meaning, it is difficult to see why he did not insert οὗτος as in the second verse or τοῦτο . (3) The third construction, with ἦν , has much to recommend it, and has been adopted by Westcott, Holtzmann, and others. The R. V [26] margin renders as if ἧν ἐρχόμενον were the periphrastic imperfect commonly used in N. T., “the true light which enlighteneth every man was coming into the world,” i.e. , at the time when the Baptist was witnessing, the true light was dawning on the world. Westcott, however, thinks it best to take it “more literally and yet more generally as describing a coming which was progressive, slowly accomplished, combined with a permanent being, so that both the verb ( was ) and the participle ( coming ) have their full force and do not form a periphrasis for an imperfect”. And he translates: “There was the light, the true light which lighteth every man; that light was, and yet more, that light was coming into the world”.

[25] Authorised Version.

[26] Revised Version.

Verse 10

John 1:10 . ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ … οὐκ ἔγνω . John 1:10-11 briefly summarise what happened when the Logos, the Light, came into the world. John has said: “The Light was coming into the world”; take now a further step, ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἦν , and let us see what happened. Primarily rejection. The simplicity of the statement, the thrice repeated κόσμος , and the connecting of the clauses by a mere καί , deepens the pathos. The Logos is the subject, as is shown by both the second and the third clause.

Westcott thinks that the action of the Light which has been comprehensively viewed in John 1:9 is in John 1:10-11 divided into two parts. “The first part (John 1:10 ) gathers up the facts and issues of the manifestation of the Light as immanent. The second part (John 1:11 ) contains an account of the special personal manifestation of the Light to a chosen race.” That is possible; only the obvious advance from the ἐρχόμενον of John 1:9 to the ἦν of John 1:10 is thus obscured. Certainly Westcott goes too far when he says: “It is impossible to refer these words simply to the historical presence of the Word in Jesus as witnessed to by the Baptist”.

Verse 11

John 1:11 . εἰς τὰ ἴδια ἧλθεν , “He came to His own”. In the world of men was an inner circle which John calls τὰ ἴδια , His own home. (For the meaning of τὰ ἴδια cf. John 19:27 , John 16:32 , Acts 21:6 , 3Ma 6:27-37 , Esther 5:10 , Polybius, Hist. , ii. 57, 5.) Perhaps in this place “His own property” might give the sense as accurately. Israel is certainly signified; the people and all their institutions existed only for Him. (See Exodus 19:5 , Deuteronomy 7:6 , “The Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people, a peculium , unto Himself”; also Matthew 21:33 .) οἱ ἴδιοι , those of His own home (His intimates, cf. John 13:1 ), those who belonged to Him, αὐτὸν οὐ παρέλαβον “gave Him no reception”. The word is used of welcoming to a home, as in John 14:3 , πάλιν ἔρχομαι καὶ παραλήμψομαι ὑμᾶς πρὸς ἐμαυτόν . Even those whose whole history had been a training to know and receive Him rejected Him. It is not said of “His own” that they did not “know” Him, but that they did not receive Him. And in the parable of the Wicked Husbandmen our Lord represents them as killing the heir not in ignorance but because they knew him.

Verse 12

John 1:12 . But not all rejected Him. ὅσοι δὲ ἕλαβον … ὄνομα αὐτοῦ . ὅσοι , as many as, as if they were a countable number (Holtzmann), or, rather, suggesting the individuality of exceptional action on the part of those who received Him. ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς , to them (resuming ὅσοι by a common construction) He gave ἐξουσίαν , not equivalent to δύναμις , the inward capacity, nor just equivalent to saying that He made them sons of God, but He gave them title, warrant, or authorisation, carrying with it all needed powers. Cf. John 5:27 , John 10:18 , John 19:10 , Luke 9:1 , Mark 6:7 , where ἐξουσία includes and implies δύναμις . τέκνα θεοῦ γενέσθαι , to become children of God. Weiss ( Bibl. Theol. , § 150) says.: “To those who accept Him by faith Christ has given not sonship itself, but the power to become sons of God; the last and highest realisation of this ideal, a realisation for the present fathomless, lies only in the future consummation”. Rather, with Stevens, “to believe and to be begotten of God are two inseparable aspects of the same event or process” ( Johan. Theol. , p. 251). John uses τέκνα rather than the Pauline υἱοὺς τ . θ ., because Paul’s view of sonship was governed by the Roman legal process of adopting a son who was not one’s own child: while John’s view is mystical and physical, the begetting of a child by the communication of the very life of God (1 John, passim ). This distinction underlies the characteristic use of υἱός by the one writer and τέκνον by the other ( cf. Westcott, Epistles of St. John , p. 123). By the reception of Christ as the Incarnate Logos we are enabled to recognise God as our Father and to come into the closest possible relation to Him. Those who thus receive Him are further identified as τοῖς πιστεύουσιν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ , “those who believe (believers, present participle) in His name”. πιστεύειν εἴς τινα is the favourite construction with John, and emphasises the object on which the faith rests. Here that object is τὸ ὅνομα αὐτοῦ , the sum of all characteristic qualities which attach to the bearer of the name: “quippe qui credant esse eum id ipsum, quod nomen declarat” (Holtzmann). It is impossible to identify this “name” with the Logos, because Jesus never proclaimed Himself under this name. Other definite names, such as Son of God or Messiah, can here only be proleptic, and it is probably better to leave it indefinite, and understand it in a general sense of those who believed in the self-manifestation of Christ, and were characterised by that belief.

Verse 13

John 1:13 . οἳ οὐκ ἐξ αἱμάτων … ἐγεννήθησαν . This first mention of τέκνα θεοῦ suggests the need of further defining how these children of God are produced. The ἐκ denotes the source of the relationship. First he negatives certain ordinary causes of birth, not so much because they could be supposed in connection with children of God (although thoughts of hereditary rights might arise in Jewish minds) as for the sake of emphasising by contrast the true source. οὐκ ἐξ αἱμάτων ; that is, not by ordinary physical generation. αἵμα was commonly used to denote descent; Acts 17:26 , Odys. iv. 611, αἵματος εἰς ἀγάθοιο . This is rather a Greek than a Hebrew expression. The plural αἱμάτων has given rise to many conjectural explanations; and the idea currently received is that it suggests the constituent parts of which the blood is composed (Godet, Meyer). Westcott says: “The use of the plural appears to emphasise the idea of the element out of which in various measures the body is formed”. Both explanations are doubtful. The plural is used very commonly in the Sept [27] , 2 Samuel 16:8 , ἀνὴρ αἱμάτων σύ ; Psalms 25:9 , μετὰ ἀνδρῶν αἱμάτων ; 2 Chronicles 24:25 , etc.; and especially where much slaughter or grievous murder is spoken of. Cf. Eurip., Iph. in Taur. , 73. It occurs in connection with descent in Eurip., Ion. , 693, ἄλλων τραφεὶς ἐξ αἱμάτων (Lücke). The reason of John’s preference for the plural in this place is not obvious; he may perhaps have wished to indicate that all family histories and pedigrees were here of no account, no matter how many illustrious ancestors a man could reckon, no matter what bloods united to produce him. οὐδὲ … ἄνδρος . The combination of these clauses by οὐδὲ … οὐδὲ and not by οὔτε … οὔτε excludes all interpretations which understand these two clauses as subdivisions of the foregoing. οὐδέ adds negation to negation: οὔτε divides a single negation into parts (see Winer, p. 612). “Nor of the will of the flesh,” i.e. , not as the result of sexual instinct; “nor of the will of a man.” i.e. , not the product of human purpose (“Fortschritt von Stoff zum Naturtrieb und zum persönlichen Thun,” Holtzmann). Cf. Delitzsch, Bibl. Psych. , p. 290, note E. Tr. ἀλλʼ ἐκ θεοῦ ἐγεννήθησαν . The source of regeneration positively stated. Human will is repudiated as the source of the new birth, but as in physical birth the life of the child is at once manifested, so in spiritual birth the human will first manifests regeneration. In spiritual as in physical birth the origination is from without, not from ourselves; but just because our spiritual birth is spiritual the will must take its part in it. Nothing is spiritual into which the will does not enter.

[27] Septuagint.

Verse 14

John 1:14 . καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο , “and the Word became flesh”. This is not a mere repetition. John has told us that the Logos came into the world, but now he emphasises the actual mode of His coming and the character of the revelation thus made, καί “simply carrying forward the discourse” (Meyer) and now introducing the chief statement (Luthardt). It is this great statement to which the whole prologue has been directed; and accordingly he names again the great Being to whom he at first introduced us but whom he has not named since the first verse. As forcibly as possible does he put the contrast between the prior and the subsequent conditions, ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο ; he does not even say ἄνθρωπος but σάρξ . He wishes both to emphasise the interval crossed, λόγος , σάρξ ; and to direct attention to the visibility of the manifestation. Cf. 1 Timothy 3:16 , ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί ; 1 John 4:2 , ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθώς ; also Hebrews 2:14 . “Flesh expresses here human nature as a whole regarded under the aspect of its present corporal embodiment, including of necessity the ‘soul’ (John 12:27 ) and the ‘spirit’ (John 11:33 , John 13:21 ) as belonging to the totality of man” (Westcott). The copula is ἐγένετο , and what precisely this word covers has been the problem of theology ever since the Gospel was written. The Logos did not become flesh in the sense that He was turned into flesh or ceased to be what He was before; as a boy who becomes a man ceases to be a boy. By his use of the word ἐκένωσεν in connection with the incarnation Paul intimates that something was left behind when human nature was assumed; but in any case this was not the Divine essence nor the personality. The virtue of the incarnation clearly consists in this, that the very Logos became man. The Logos, retaining His personal identity, “became” man so as to live as man. καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν , “and tabernacled among us”; not only appeared in the flesh for a brief space, manifesting Himself as a Being apart from men and superior to human conditions, but dwelt among us (“non tantum momento uno apparuisse, sed versatum esse inter homines,” Calvin). The “tent,” σκηνή , suggests no doubt temporary occupation, but not more temporary than human life. Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:1 , 2 Peter 1:13 . And both in classical and N.T. Greek σκηνοῦν had taken the meaning “dwell,” whether for a long or a short time. Cf. Revelation 7:15 ; Revelation 12:12 , and Raphel, Annot. in loc . From the use of the word in Xenophon to denote living together and eating together Brentius would interpret in a fuller sense: “Filius ille Dei came indutus, inter nos homines vixit, nobiscum locutus est, nobiscum convivatus est”. But the association in John’s mind was of course not military, but was rather with the Divine tabernacle in the wilderness, when Jehovah pitched His tent among the shifting tents of His people, and shared even in their thirty-eight years of punishment. Whether there is an allusion to the שְׁבִינָה has been doubted, but it is probable. The Shekinah meant the token of God’s presence and glory, and among the later Jews at all events it was supposed to be present not only in the temple but with individuals. See Schoettgen in loc. and Weber, Die Lehren des Talmud , § 39. What the tabernacle had been, the dwelling of God in the midst of the people, the humanity of the Logos now was. καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ , we, among whom He lived, beheld by our own personal observation the glory of the incarnate Logos. “Beheld,” neither, on the one hand, only by spiritual contemplation (Baur), nor, on the other, merely with the bodilyeye, by which the glory could not be seen. This “beholding” John treasured as the wealth and joy of his life. The “glory” they saw was not like the cloud or dazzling light in which God had manifested His glory in the ancient tabernacle. It was now a true ethical glory, a glory of personality and character, manifesting itself in human conditions. It is described as something unique, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός , “a glory as of an only begotten from a father”. ὡς introduces an illustrative comparison, as is indicated by the anarthrous μονογενοῦς . Holtzmann expands thus: “The impression which the glory made was of so specific a character that it could be taken for nothing less than such a glory as an only son has from a father, that is, as the only one of its kind: for besides the μονογενής a father has no other sons”. But the expression is no doubt suggested by the immediately preceding statement that as many as received Christ were born of God. The glory of the Incarnate Logos, however, is unique, that of an only begotten. In the connection, therefore, the application of the relation of Father and Son to God and Christ is close at hand and obvious, although not explicitly made. “The thought centres in the abstract relation of Father and Son, though in the actual connection this abstract relation passes necessarily into the relation of the Son to the Father.” Westcott. παρὰ πατρός more naturally follows δόξαν than μονογενοῦς . The glory proceeds from the Father and dwells in the only begotten wholly , as if there were no other children required to reflect some rays of the Divine glory. Accordingly He is πλήρης . With what is πλήρης to be construed? Erasmus thinks with Ἰωάννης following. Codex Bezae reads πλήρη and joins it to δόξαν . Many interpreters consider it to be one of those slight irregularities such as occur in Mark 12:40 and Philippians 3:19 and in the Apoc., and would unite it either with αὐτοῦ or μονογενοῦς . But ( pace Weiss) there is no good reason why we should not accept it as it stands and construe it in agreement with the nominative to ἐσκήνωσε . χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας . His glory consisted in the moral qualities that appeared in Him. What these qualities were will appear more readily from John 1:17 .

Verses 14-18

John 1:14-18 . The manifestation of the Logos defined as Incarnation .

Verse 15

John 1:15 . Ἰωάννης μαρτυρεῖ … πρῶτός μοῦ ἦν . At first sight this verse seems an irrelevant interpolation thrust in between the πλήρης of John 1:14 and the. πλήρωμα of John 1:16 . Euthymius gives the connection: εἰ καὶ μὴ ἐγώ , φησι , δοκῶ τισιν ἴσως ἀξιόπισ · τος , ἀλλὰ πρὸ ἐμοῦ ὁ Ἰωάννης μαρτυρεῖ περὶ τῆς θεότητος αὐτοῦ · Ἰωάννης ἐκεῖνος οὗ τὸ ὄνομα μέγα καὶ περιβόητον παρὰ πᾶσι τοῖς Ἰονδαίοις . “John witnesses and cries, saying οὗτος ἦν ὃν εἶπον . This was He of whom I said ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος ,” etc. This testimony was given to Andrew and John, John 1:30 ; but when the previous “saying” occurred we do not know, unless it be referred to the answer to the authorities, John 1:27 . The meaning of the testimony will be considered in the next section of the Gospel, which is entitled “The Testimony of John”.

Verse 16

John 1:16 . ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ πληρώματος … χάριτος , “because out of His fulness have we all received”. The ὅτι does not continue the Baptist’s testimony, but refers to πλήρης in John 1:14 . In Colossians 2:9 Paul says that in Christ dwelleth all the πλήρωμα of the Godhead, meaning to repudiate the Gnostic idea that this pleroma was distributed among many subordinate beings or æons. But what John has here in view is that the fulness of grace in Christ was communicable to men. By ἡμεῖς πάντες he indicates himself and all other Christians. He had himself experienced the reality of that grace with which Christ was filled and its inexhaustible character. For he adds καὶ χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος , “grace upon grace”. Beza suggests the rendering: (“ut quidam vir eruditus explicat,” he says): “Gratiam supra gratiam; pro quo eleganter dixeris, gratiam gratia cumulatam,” but he does not himself adopt it. It is, however, adopted by almost all modern interpreters: so that ever and anon fresh grace appears over and above that already received. This rendering, as Meyer points out, is linguistically justified by Theognis, Sent. , 344, ἀντʼ ἀνιῶν ἀνίας , sorrows upon sorrows; and it receives remarkable illustration from the passage quoted by Wetstein from Philo, De Poster. Cain. , where, speaking of grace, he says that God does not allow men to be sated with one grace, but gives ἑτέρας ἀντʼ ἐκείνων (the first) καὶ τρίτας ἀντι τῶν δευτέρων καὶ ἀεὶ νέας ἀντὶ παλαιοτέρων . Harnack ( Hist. of Dogma , i., 76, E. Tr.) asks: “Where in the history of mankind can we find anything resembling this, that men who had eaten and drunk with their Master should glorify Him, not only as the Revealer of God, but as the Prince of Life, as the Redeemer and Judge of the world, as the living power of its existence, and that a choir of Jews and Gentiles, Greeks and barbarians, wise and foolish, should along with them immediately confess that out of the fulness of this one man they have received grace for grace?”

Verse 17

John 1:17 . ὅτι ὁ νόμος … ἐγένετο . What is the connection? His statement that the Incarnate Logos was the inexhaustible supply of grace might seem to disparage Moses and the previous manifestations of God. He therefore explains. And he seems to have in view the same distinction between the old and the new that is so frequently emerging in the Pauline writings. Through Moses, here taken as representing the pre-Christian dispensation, was given the law, which made great demands but gave nothing, which was a true revelation of God’s will, and so far was good, but brought men no ability to become liker God. But through Jesus Christ (here for the first time named in the Gospel, because we are now fully on the ground of history) came grace and truth. In contrast to the inexorable demands of a law that brought no spiritual life. Jesus Christ brought “grace,” the unearned favour of God. The Law said: Do this and live; Christ says: God gives you life, accept it. “Truth” also was brought by Christ. ἀλήθεια here means “reality” as opposed to the symbolism of the Law ( cf. John 4:23 ). In the Law was a shadow of good things to come: in Christ we have the good things themselves. Several good critics find a contrast between ἐδόθη and ἐγένετο ; the law being “given” for a special purpose, “grace and truth” “coming” in the natural course and as the issue of all that had gone before.

Verse 18

John 1:18 . θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν … ἐξηγήσατο . This statement, “God no one has ever seen,” is probably suggested by the words διὰ Ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ . The reality and the grace of God we have seen through Jesus Christ, but why not directly? Because God, the Divine essence, the Godhead, no one has ever seen. No man has had immediate knowledge of God: if we have knowledge of God it is through Christ.

A further description is given of the Only Begotten intended to disclose His qualification for revealing the Father in the words ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρός . Meyer supposes that John is now expressing himself from his own present standing point, and is conceiving of Christ as in His state of exaltation, as having returned to the bosom of the Father. But in this case the description would not be relevant. John adds this designation to ground the revealing work which Christ accomplished while on earth ( ἐξηγήσατο , aorist, referring to that work), to prove His qualification for it. It must therefore include His condition previous to incarnation. ὁ ὤν is therefore a timeless present and εἰς is used, as in Mark 13:16 , Acts 8:40 , etc., for ἐν . εἰς τὸν κόλπον , whether taken from friends reclining at a feast or from a father’s embrace, denotes perfect intimacy. Thus qualified, ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο “He” emphatic, He thus equipped, “has interpreted” what? See John 8:32 ; or simply, as implied in the preceding negative clause, “God”. The Scholiast on Soph., Ajax , 320, says, ἐξήγησις ἐπὶ θείων , ἑρμηνεία ἐπὶ τῶν τυχόντων , Wetstein.

Verse 19

John 1:19 . With this verse begins the Gospel proper or historical narrative of the manifestation of the glory of the Incarnate Logos.

Verses 19-28

John 1:19-28 . The witness of John to the deputation from Jerusalem, entitled αὕτη ἐστὶν … Λευείτας . The witness or testimony of John is placed first, not only because it was that which influenced the evangelist himself, nor only because chronologically it came first, but because the Baptist was commissioned to be the herald of the Messiah. The Baptist’s testimony was of supreme value because of (1) his appointment to this function of identifying the Messiah, (2) his knowledge of Jesus, (3) his own holiness, (4) his disinterestedness. αὕτη , this which follows, is the testimony given on a special occasion ὅτε ἀπέστειλαν … Λευείτας , “when the Jews sent to him from Jerusalem priests and Levites”. Ἰουδαῖοι [ יִהוּרִים ], originally designating the tribes of Judah and Benjamin which formed the separate kingdom of Judah, but after the exile denoting all Israelites. In this Gospel it is used with a hostile implication as the designation of the “entire theocratic community as summed up in its official heads and as historically fixed in an attitude of hostility to Christ” (Whitelaw). Here “the Jews” probably indicates the Sanhedrim, composed of priests, presbyters, and scribes. ἱερεῖς καὶ Λευείτας , the higher and lower order of temple officials (Holtzmann). Why were not scribes sent? Possibly because John’s father was himself a priest. The priests were for the most part Sadducees, but John tells us this deputation was strong in Pharisees (John 1:24 ). Lampe says: “Custodibus Templi incumbebat, Dominum Templi, cujus adventum exspectabant, nosse”. They were sent ἵνα ἐρωτήσωσιν αὐτόν , “that they might interrogate him,” not captiously but for the sake of information. Lk. tells us (John 3:15 ) that the people were on the tiptoe of expectation, and were discussing whether John were not the Christ; so it was time the Sanhedrim should make the inquiry. “The judgment of the case of a false prophet is specially named in the Mishna as belonging to the council of the Seventy One” (Watkins). “This incident gives a deep insight into the extraordinary religious life of the Jews their unusual combination of conservatism with progressive thought” (Reynolds’ John the Baptist , p. 365). Σὺ τίς εἶ , “Who art thou?” Not, what is your name, or birth, but, what personage do you claim to be, what place in the community do you aspire to? with an implied reference to a possible claim on John’s part to be the Christ. This appears from John’s answer, ὡμολόγησεν καὶ οὐκ ἠρνήσατο καὶ ὡμολόγησεν . Schoettgen says the form of the sentence is “judaico more,” citing “Jethro confessus, et non mentitus est”. Cf. Romans 9:1 and 1 Timothy 2:7 . The iteration serves here to bring out the earnestness, almost horror, with which John disclaimed the ascription to him of such an honour. His high conception of the office emphasises his acknowledgment of Jesus. ὅτι , here, as commonly, “recitative,” serving the purpose of our inverted commas or marks of quotation. ἐγὼ οὐκ εἰμὶ ὁ Χριστός , the reading adopted by Tisch [28] and W.H [29] , bringing the emphasis on the “I”. “ I am not the Christ,” but another is. The T.R. οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐγὼ ὁ χριστός , by bringing the ἐγὼ and ὁ Χριστός together, accentuates the incongruity and the Baptist’s surprise at being mistaken for the Christ. This straightforward denial evokes another question (John 1:21 ), τί οὖν ; which Weiss renders, “What then art thou?” Better “what then?” “what then is the case?” quid ergo, quid igitur? Ἡλείας εἶ σύ ; If not the Christ Himself, the next possibility was that he was the forerunner of the Messiah, according to Malachi 4:5 , “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord”. [Among the Fathers there seems to have been a belief that Elias would appear before the second Advent. Thus Tertullian ( De anima , 50) says: “Translatus est Enoch et Elias, nec mors eorum reperta est, dilata scilicet. Caeterum morituri reservantur, ut Antichristum sanguine suo exstinguant.” Other references in Lampe.] But to this question also John answers οὐκ εἰμί , because the Jews expected Elias in person, so that although our Lord spoke of the Baptist as Elias (Matthew 17:10-13 ), John could not admit that identity without misleading them. If people need to question a great spiritual personality, replies in their own language will often mislead them. Another alternative presented itself: ὁ προφήτης εἶ σύ ; “art thou the prophet?” viz. , the prophet promised in Deuteronomy 18:15 , “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, like unto me”. Allusion is made to this prophet in four places in this Gospel, the present verse and John 1:25 of this chapter; also in John 6:14 and John 7:40 . That the Jews did not see in this prophet the Messiah would appear from the present verse, and also from John 7:40 : “Some said, Of a truth this is the prophet; others said, This is the Christ”. The Jews looked for “a faithful prophet” ( 1Ma 14:41 ) who was to terminate the prophetic period and usher in the Messianic reign. But after Peter, as recorded in Acts 3:22 , applied the prophecy of Deut. to Christ, the Christian Church adopted this interpretation. The use of the prophecy by Christ Himself justified this. But the different interpretations thus introduced gave rise to some confusion, and as Lightfoot points out, none but a Jew contemporary with Christ could so clearly have held the distinction between the two interpretations. (See Deane’s Pseudepig. , p. 121; Wendt’s Teaching of Jesus , E. Tr., i., 67; and on the relation of “the prophet” to Jeremiah, see Weber, p. 339.) To this question also John answered “No”; “quia Prophetis omnibus erat praestantior” (Lampe). This negation is explained by the affirmation of John 1:23 . Thus baffled in all their suggestions the deputies ask John to give them some positive account of himself, that they might not go back to those who sent them without having accomplished the object of their mission. To this second τίς εἶ ; τί λέγεις περὶ σεαυτοῦ ; (John 1:23 ) he replies in words made familiar by the Synoptists, ἐγώ φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ … ὁ προφήτης ; John applies to himself the words of Isaiah 40:3 , blending the two clauses ἑτοιμάσατε τὴν ὁδὸν Κυρίου and εὐθείας ποιεῖτε τὰς τρίβους τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν into one: εὐθύνατε τὴν ὁδὸν Κυρίου . By appropriating this prophetic description John identifies himself as the immediate precursor of the Messiah; and probably also hints that he himself is no personage worthy that inquiry should terminate on him, but only a voice. [Heracleon neatly graduates revelation, saying that the Saviour is ὁ λόγος , John is φωνή , the whole prophetic order ἦχος , a mere noise; for which he is with some justice rebuked by Origen.] “The desert,” a pathless, fruitless waste fitly symbolises the spiritual condition of the Messiah’s people. For the coming of their King preparation must be made, especially by such repentance as John preached. “If Israel repent but for one day, the Messiah will come.” Cf. Weber, p. 334.

[28]isch. Tischendorf.

[29] Westcott and Hort.

Verses 19-42

John 1:19-42 . The witness of John and its result .

Verse 24

John 1:24 . καὶ ἀπεσταλμένοι ἦσαν ἐκ τῶν Φαρισαίων . This gives us the meaning “And they had been sent from,” which is not so congruous with the context as “And they who were sent were of the Pharisees”; because apparently this clause was inserted to explain the following question (John 1:25 ): τί οὖν βαπτίζεις … ὁ προφήτης ; Founding on Zechariah 13:1 , “In that day there shall be a fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness,” and on Ezekiel 36:25 , “then will I sprinkle clean water upon you,” they expected a general purification before the coming of the Messiah. Hence their question. If John was not the Messiah, nor the prophet, nor Elias in close connection with the Messiah, why did he baptise? Lightfoot ( Hor. Heb. , p. 965) quotes from Kiddushin “Elias venit ad immundos distinguendum et ad purificandum”. See also Ammonius and Beza quoted in Lampe. In reply to this objection of the Pharisees (John 1:26 ) John says: ἐγὼ βαπτίζω … τοῦ ὑποδήματος , “I for my part baptise with water”; the emphatic “I” leading us to expect mention of another with whom a contrast is drawn. This contrast is further signified by the mention of the element of the baptism, ἐν ὕδατι ; a merely symbolic element, but also the element by baptism in which preparation for the Messiah was to be made. And John’s administration of this precursory baptism is justified by the fact he immediately states, μέσος ὑμῶν στήκει ὃν ὑμεῖς οὐκ οἴδατε . Had they been aware of this presence ( ὑμεῖς emphatic) as John was aware of it, they could not have challenged the baptism of John, because it was the divinely appointed preparation for the Messiah’s advent. This scarcely amounts to what Lampe calls it, “nova exprobratio ignorantiae Pharisaeorum” (Isaiah 42:19 ; Isaiah 29:14 ), because as yet they had had no opportunity of knowing the Christ. μέσος ὑμῶν . There is no reason why the words should not be taken strictly. So Euthymius, ἦν γὰρ ὁ Χριστὸς ἀναμεμιγμένος τότε τῷ λαῷ . ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος , denoting the immediate arrival of the Messiah and John’s close connection with Him. He is further described relatively to John as inconceivably exalted above him, οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ … ὑποδήματος . The grammatical form admitting both the relative and pers. pronoun is Hebraistic. ἄξιος ἵνα also stands instead of the classical construction with the infinitive. Talmudists quote the saying: “Every service which a servant will perform for his master, a disciple will do for his Rabbi, except loosing his sandal thong”.

Verse 28

John 1:28 . ταῦτα ἐν Βηθανίᾳ … βαπτίζων . The place is mentioned on account of the importance of the testimony thus borne to Jesus, and because the evangelist himself in all probability was present and it was natural to him to name it. But where was it? There is no doubt that the reading Βηθανίᾳ is to be preferred. The addition πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου confirms this reading; as the existence of Bethany near Jerusalem rendered the distinguishing designation necessary. Bethany = בֵּת אֲנִיָּה meaning “boat-house,” and Bethabara having the same meaning [ עֲבָרָה a ferry boat] is it not possible that the same place may have been called by both names indifferently? Henderson ( Palestine , p. 154) suggests that possibly the explanation of the doubtful reading is that the place referred to is Bethabara which led over into Bethania, that is, Bashan. Similarly Conder ( Handbook , p. 320) says Bethania beyond Jordan is evidently the province of Batanea, and the ford Abârah now discovered leads into Batanea. At this place “John was, baptising,” rather than “John was baptizing”.

Verse 29

John 1:29 . τῇ ἐπαύριον , the first instance of John’s accurate definition of time. Cf. 35, 43, John 2:1 . The deputation had withdrawn, but the usual crowd attracted by John would be present. “The inquiries made from Jerusalem would naturally create fresh expectation among John’s disciples. At this crisis,” etc. (Westcott). βλέπει τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἐρχόμενον πρὸς αὐτόν . Jesus had quite recently returned from the retirement in the wilderness, and naturally sought John’s company. Around John He is more likely to find receptive spirits than elsewhere. And it gave His herald an opportunity to proclaim Him, ἴδε ὁ ἀμνὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ὁ αἴρων τὴν αμαρτίαν τοῦ κόσμου . The article indicates that a person who could thus be designated had been expected; or it may merely be introductory to the further definition of the succeeding clause. τοῦ θεοῦ , provided by God; cf. “bread of God,” John 6:33 ; also Romans 8:32 . It is impossible to suppose with the author of Ecce Homo that by this title “the lamb of God” the Baptist merely meant to designate Jesus as a man “full of gentleness who could patiently bear the ills to which He would be subjected” ( cf. Aristoph., Pax , 935). The second clause forbids this interpretation. He is a lamb αἴρων τὴν ἁμαρτίαν , and there is only one way in which a lamb can take away sin, and that is by sacrifice. The expression might suggest the picture of the suffering servant of the Lord in Isaiah 53:0 , “led as a lamb to the slaughter,” but unless the Baptist had previously been speaking of this part of Scripture, it is doubtful whether those who heard him speak would think of it. In Isaiah it is as a symbol of patient endurance the lamb is introduced; here it is as the symbol of sacrifice. It is needless to discuss whether the paschal lamb or the lamb of daily sacrifice was in the Baptist’s thoughts. He used “the lamb” as the symbol of sacrifice in general. Here, he says, is the reality of which all animal sacrifice was the symbol. ὁ αἴρων , the present participle, indicating the chief characteristic of the lamb. αἴρω has three meanings: (1) to raise or lift up, John 8:59 , ἦραν λίθους ; (2) to bear or carry, Matthew 16:24 , ἀράτω τὸν σταυρὸν αὑτοῦ ; (3) to remove or take away, John 20:1 , of the stone ἠρμένον from the sepulchre; and 1 John 3:5 , ἵνα τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἄρῃ , that He might take away sins. In the LXX φέρειν , not αἴρειν , is regularly used to express the “bearing” of sin (see Leviticus, passim ). In 1 Samuel 15:25 Saul beseeches Samuel in the words ἆρον τὸ ἁμάρτημά μου , which obviously means “remove” (not “bear”) my sin. So in 1 Samuel 25:28 . But a lamb can remove sin only by sacrificially bearing it, so that here αἴρειν includes and implies φέρειν . τοῦ κόσμου , cf. 1 John 2:2 , αὐτὸς ἱλασμός ἐστὶ … περὶ ὅλου τοῦ κόσμου , and especially Philo’s assertion quoted by Wetstein that some sacrifices were ὑπὲρ ἅπαντος ἀνθρώπων γένους .

In this verse Holtzmann finds two marks of late date. (1) The Baptist was markedly a man of his own people, whose eye never ranged beyond a Jewish horizon; yet here he is represented as from the first perceiving that the work of Jesus was valid for all men. And (2) the allusion to the sacrificial efficacy of Christ’s death could not have been made till after that event. Strauss stated this difficulty with his usual lucidity. “So foreign to the current opinion at least was this notion of the Messiah that the disciples of Jesus, during the whole period of their intercourse with Him, could not reconcile themselves to it; and when His death had actually taken place their trust in Him as the Messiah was utterly confounded.” Yet Strauss himself admits that “a penetrating mind like that of the Baptist might, even before the death of Jesus, gather from the O.T. phrases and types the notion of a suffering Messiah, and that his obscure hints on the subject might not be comprehended by his disciples and contemporaries”. The solution is probably to be found in the intercourse of John with Jesus, and especially after His return from the Temptation. These men must have talked long and earnestly on the work of the Messiah; and even though after his imprisonment John seems to have had other thoughts about the Messiah, that is not inconsistent with his making this statement under the direct influence of Jesus. We must also consider that John’s own relation to the Messianic King must have greatly stimulated his thought; and his desire to respond to the cravings he stirred in the people must have led him to consider what the Messiah must be and do.

Verses 29-34

John 1:29-34 . The witness of John based on the sign at the baptism of Jesus .

Verse 30

John 1:30 . οὗτος … πρῶτός μου ἦν . Pointing to Jesus he identifies Him with the person of whom he had previously said ὀπίσω μοῦ , etc. Cf. John 1:15 . “After me comes a man who is before me because He was before me.” The A.V [30] “which is before me” is preferable though not so literal as the R.V [31] “which is become before me”. The words mean: “Subsequent to me in point of time comes a man who has gained a place in advance of me, because He was eternally prior to me”. ὀπίσω μου ἔρχεται refers rather to space than to time, “after me,” but with the notion of immediacy, close behind, following upon. As certainly, ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν refers to position or dignity; He has come to be in front of me, or ahead of me. So used sometimes in classic writers; as ἔμπροσθ . τοῦ δικαίου , preferred before justice. Dem., 1297, 26. ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν , assigning the ground of this advanced position of Jesus: He was before me. For πρῶτός μου see chap. John 15:18 , “If the world hateth you, ye know ὅτι ἐμὲ πρῶτον ὑμῶν μεμίσηκεν ,” and Justin Martyr, 1 Apol. , 12. It is difficult to escape the impression that something more is meant than πρότερος would have conveyed, some more absolute priority. As οἱ πρῶτοι στρατοῦ are the chief men or leaders, it might be supposed that John meant to say that Christ was his supreme, in virtue of whom he himself lived and worked. But it is more probable he meant to affirm the pre-existence of the Messiah, a thought which may have been derived from the Apocalyptic books (see Deane’s Pseud. and Drummond’s Jewish Mess. ).

[30] Authorised Version.

[31] Revised Version.

Verse 31

John 1:31 . κἀγὼ οὐκ ἤδειν αὐτόν , i.e. , I did not know Him to be the Messiah. Matthew 3:14 shows that John knew Jesus as a man. This meaning is also determined by the clause added: ἀλλʼ ἵνα … ἐν ὕδατι βαπτίζων . The object of the Baptist’s mission was the manifestation of the Christ. It was the Baptist’s preaching and the religious movement it initiated which summoned Jesus into public life. He alone could satisfy the cravings quickened by the Baptist. And it was at the baptism of Jesus, undergone in sympathy with the sinful people and as one with them, that the Spirit of the Messiah was fully imparted to Him and He was recognised as the Messiah. How John himself became convinced that Jesus was the Messiah he explains to the people, John 1:32-34 .

Verse 32

John 1:32 . τεθέαμαι τὸ πνεῦμα … ἐπʼ αὐτόν . “I have seen the Spirit coming down like a dove out of heaven, and it remained upon Him.” “I have seen, perfect, in reference to the sign divinely intimated to him, in the abiding fulfilment of which he now stood.” Alford. τεθέαμαι is used (as in John 1:14 ) in its sense of seeing with intelligence, with mental or spiritual observation and inference ( cf. Aristoph., Clouds , 363, “Have you ever seen it rain without elouds?”). In what sense did the Baptist “see” the Spirit descending? Origen distinctly declared that these words οἰκονομὶας τρόπῳ γέγραπται οὐχ ἱστορικὴν διήγησιν ἔχοντα ἀλλὰ θεωρίαν νοητήν , ii. 239. The ὡς περιστερὰν ἐξ οὐρανοῦ does not necessarily involve that an actual dove was visible. It was not the dove which was to be the sign; but, as the Baptist affirms in John 1:33 , the descent and abiding of the Spirit. John was scarcely the type of man who would be determined in an important course of action by the appearance of a bird. What he saw was the Spirit descending. This he can best have seen in the demeanour of Jesus, in His lowliness and sympathy and holiness, all of which came to their perfect bloom at and in His baptism. It was the possession of this spirit by Jesus that convinced John that He could baptise with the Holy Spirit. That this conviction came to him at the baptism of Christ with a clearness and firmness which authenticated it as divine is guaranteed by the words of this verse. It was as plain to him that Jesus was possessed by the Spirit as if he had seen the Spirit in a visible shape alighting upon Him. To a mind absorbed in this one idea it may have actually seemed as if he saw it with his bodily eyes. Ambrose, De Sacram. , i., 5, “Spiritus autem sanctus non in veritate columbae, sed in specie columbae descendit de coelo”. The dove was in the East a sacred bird, and the brooding dove was symbolic of the quickening warmth of nature. In Jewish writings the Spirit hovering over the primeval waters is expressly compared to a dove: “Spiritus Dei ferebatur super aquas, sicut columba, quae fertur super pullos suos nec tangit illos”. Cf. also Noah’s dove as symbol of the new creation. (See Suicer, s.v. , περιστερά , and Strauss, i., 362.) Such a symbol of the Spirit would scarcely have been imagined by the Baptist, who was all for stern and violent methods.

Verse 33

John 1:33 . κἀγὼ οὐκ ᾔδειν … ἐκεῖνός μοι εἶπεν . Because of the importance of the identification of the Messiah the Baptist reiterates that his proclamation of Jesus was not a private idea for which he alone was responsible. On the contrary, He who had sent him to baptise had given him this sign by which to recognise the Christ. ἐφʼ ὃν ἂν ἴδῃς … πνεύματι ἁγίῳ . Lk. (Luke 3:16 ) adds καὶ πυρί , which occasions the well-known utterance in Ecce Homo : “Baptism means cleansing, and fire means warmth. How can warmth cleanse? The answer is that moral warmth does cleanse. No heart is pure that is not passionate; no virtue is safe that is not enthusiastic. And such an enthusiastic virtue Christ was to introduce.” In affirming that the Christ baptises with the Holy Spirit, and that this is what distinguishes the Christ, the Baptist steps on to grouud where his affirmations can be tested by experience. This is the fundamental article of the Christian creed. Has Christ power to make men holy? History gives the answer. The essence of the Holy Spirit is communication: Jesus being the Christ, the anointed with the Spirit, must communicate it.

Verse 34

John 1:34 . κἀγὼ ἑώρακα … ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ . “And I have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” The Synoptists tell us that a voice was heard at the baptism declaring “this is my beloved Son”; and in the Temptation Satan uses the title. Nathanael at the very beginning of the ministry, and the demoniacs very little later, use the same designation. This was in a rigidly monotheistic community and in a community in which the same title had been applied to the king, to designate a certain alliance and close relation between the human representative and the Divine Sovereign. Whether the Baptist in his peculiar circumstances had begun to suspect that a fuller meaning attached to the title, we do not know. Unquestionably the Baptist must have found his ideas of the Messianic office expanding under the influence of intercourse with Jesus, and must more than ever have seen that this was a unique title setting Jesus apart from all other men. The basis of the application of the title to the Messiah is to be found in 2 Samuel 7:14 , “I will be to him a Father and he will be to me a Son”. In the second and eighty-ninth Psalms the term is seen passing into a Messianic sense, and that it should appear in the N.T. as a title of the Messiah is inevitable.

Verse 35

John 1:35 . τῇ ἐπαύριον … αὐτοῦ δύο . On the morrow John was again standing ( ἱστήκει , pluperfect with force of imperfect) and two of his disciples. [Holtzmann uses this close riveting of day to day as an argument against the historicity of this part of the Gospel. He says that no room is left for the temptation between the baptism and the marriage in Cana. But these repeated “morrows” take us back, not to the baptism, which is nowhere in this Gospel directly narrated, but to the Baptist’s conversation with the deputation from Jerusalem, in which it is implied that already the baptism of Jesus was past; how long past this Gospel does not state, but, quite as easily as not, six weeks may be inserted between the baptism of Jesus and the deputation.] πάλιν looks back to John 1:29 . Then no results followed John’s testimony: now results follow. Two of his disciples stood with him, Andrew (John 1:41 ) and probably John.

Verses 35-42

John 1:35-42 . Witness of John to two of his disciples and first self-manifestation of Jesus as the Christ . Bengel entitles the section, John 1:35-42 , “primae origines Ecclesiae Christianae”; but from the evangelist’s point of view it is rather the blending of the witness of John with the self-manifestation of Jesus. His kingly lordship over men He reveals (1) by making Himself accessible to inquirers: Andrew and John; (2) by giving a new name, implying new character: Simon becomes Peter; (3) by summoning men to follow Him: Philip; (4) by interpreting and satisfying men’s deepest desires and aspirations: Nathanael.

Verse 36

John 1:36 . The Baptist, ἐμβλέψας τῷ Ἰησοῦ , having gazed at, or contemplated (see Matthew 6:26 , ἐμβλέψατε εἰς τὰ πετεινά , and especially Mark 14:67 , καὶ ἰδοῦσα τὸν Πέτρον … ἐμβλέψασα ) Jesus as He walked, evidently not towards John as on the previous day, but away from him. λέγει Ἴδε ὁ ἀμνὸς τοῦ θεοῦ without the added clause of John 1:29 .

Verse 37

John 1:37 . καὶ ἤκουσαν … τῷ Ἰησοῦ . “And the two disciples heard him speaking” possibly implying that the day before they had not heard him “and they followed Jesus”; the Baptist does not bid them follow, but they feel that attraction which so often since has been felt.

Verse 38

John 1:38 . στραφεὶς δὲ … τί ζητεῖτε ; Jesus, hearing their steps behind Him, turns. To all who follow He gives their opportunity. Having turned and perceived that they were following Him, He asks τί ζητεῖτε ; the obvious first inquiry, but perhaps with a breath in it of that Fan which the Baptist had warned them to expect in the Messiah; as if, Are you seeking what I can give? They reply Ῥαββεί … μένεις ; Lightfoot ( Hor. Heb. ) tells us that “Rabbi” was a new title which had not been used long before the Christian era, and possibly arose during the rivalries of the schools of Hillel and Shammai. “The word means “my greatness”. Cf. His Majesty, etc., and for the absorption of the pronoun cf. monsieur or madame. See Lampe. As it occurs here for the first time John translates it, and renders by διδάσκαλε , Teacher; so that as yet they were scarcely prepared to give Him the greater title Lord, or Messiah. Unready with are answer to His question they put another which may stand for an answer, ποῦ μένεις ; where are you staying , where are you dwelling? So used in N.T., Luke 19:5 , and in later Greek, Polybius, 30, 4, 10, and 34, 9, 9, of dwelling for a short time in a place; not so much implying, as Holtzmann suggests, that they wished to go to His lodging that they might have more uninterrupted talk with Him; for that scarcely fits Oriental habits; but rather implying that they were shy of prolonging intercourse and wished to know where they might find Him another time. From this unsatisfactory issue they are saved by His frank invitation (John 1:40 ) ἔρχεσθε καὶ ὄψεσθε . “Come and ye shall see.” Use the opportunity you now have. Christ’s door is ever on the latch: He is always accessible. ἦλθαν οὖν … ὡς δεκάτη . The two men remained in conversation with Jesus during the remainder of the day [but Grotius gives the sense as “ibidem pernoctarunt, quia jam serum erat”], a day so memorable to John that he recalls the very hour when they first approached Jesus, four o’clock in the afternoon. It seems that at this time throughout the Græco-Roman world one system of reckoning the hours prevailed. There is indisputable evidence that while the Romans calculated their civil day, by which leases and contracts were dated, as extending from midnight to midnight, the hours of each day were reckoned from sunrise to sunset. Thus on the Roman sun-dials noon is marked VI. (see Becker’s Gallus , p. 319). Martial’s description of the manner in which each hour was spent ( Ep. , iv., 8) leads to the same couclusion; and for proof that no different method was followed in the provinces, see Prof. Ramsay’s paper “On the Sixth Hour” in the Expositor , 1893. Cf. also paper by Mr. Cross in Classical Review , June, 1891.

Verse 41

John 1:41 . ἦν Ἀνδρέας … Σίμωνος . One of the two who thus first followed Christ was Andrew, known not so much in his own name as being the brother of Simon Πέτρου is here proleptic. We are left to infer that the other disciple was the evangelist.

Verse 42

John 1:42 . εὑρίσκει οὗτος πρῶτος . If with T. R. and Tischendorf we read πρῶτος , the meaning is that Andrew, before John , found his brother; if with W.H [32] we read πρῶτον the meaning is that before Andrew did anything else, and perhaps especially before the other men afterwards named were called, he first of all finds his own brother. Reading πρῶτον , we cannot gather that John went in search also of his brother, and as there is no mention of him at this time the probability is that he was not at hand. πρῶτον is the note of warning that this was but the beginning of a series of calls. εὑρήκαμεν τὸν Μεσσίαν . “We have found,” perhaps, as Weiss suggests, with reference to the expectations produced by the Baptist’s teaching. The result of their conversation with Jesus is summed up in these words. They were now convinced that He was the Christ. In Jewish lips “we have found the Messiah” was the most comprehensive of all Eurekas. That John gives the actual words, though he has immediately to translate one of them for his Greek readers, is not without significance in regard to his accuracy in reporting.

[32] Westcott and Hort.

Verse 43

John 1:43 . καὶ ἤγαγεν αὐτὸν πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν . He was not content to allow his report to work in his brother’s mind, but induced him there and then, though probably on the following day, as now it must have been late, to go to Jesus. ἐμβλέψας … Πέτρος . Jesus may have known Simon previously, or may have been told his name by Andrew. “Thou art Simon, Jonah’s son, or better, John’s son. Thou shalt be called Kephas.” This name, Kephas or Peter, stone or mass of rock, Simon did receive at Caesarea Philippi on his confession of Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 16:17-18 ); a confession prompted not by “flesh and blood,” that is, by his brother’s experience, but by his own inwrought and home-grown conviction. The reason of this utterance to Simon is understood when it is considered that the name he as yet bore, Simon Barjona, was identified with a character full of impulsiveness; which might well lead him to suppose he would only bring mischief to the Messiah’s kingdom. But, says Christ, thou shalt be called Rock. Those who enter Christ’s kingdom believing in Him receive a character fitting them to be of service.

Verse 44

John 1:44 . τῇ ἐπαύριον … Γαλιλαίαν . “The day following He would go forth,” that is, from the other side of Jordan, into Galilee, probably to His own home. καὶ εὑρίσκει φίλιππον , “and He finds,” “lights upon,” Philip ( cf. John 6:5 , John 12:21 , John 14:3 ). To him He utters the summons, ἀκολούθει μοι , which can hardly have the simple sense, “accompany me,” but must be taken as the ordinary call to discipleship (Luke 9:59 , Matthew 19:21 , etc.).

Verses 44-51

John 1:44-51 . Further manifestations of Jesus as Messiah .

Verse 45

John 1:45 . ἦν δὲ ὁ φίλιππος … Πέτρου . This is inserted to explain how Jesus happened to meet Philip: he was going home also; and to explain how Philip’s mind had been prepared by conversation with Andrew and Peter. The exact position of Bethsaida is doubtful. There was a town or village of this name (Fisher-Home) on the east bank of Jordan, slightly above its fall into the Sea of Galilee. This place was rebuilt by Philip and named Julias, in honour of the daughter of Augustus. Many good authorities think that this was the only Bethsaida (see Dr. G. A. Smith’s Hist. Geog. of Palestine , p. 457). Others, however, are of opinion that the manner in which Bethsaida, here and in John 12:21 , is named with an added note of distinction, “the city of Andrew,” “of Galilee,” requires us to postulate two Bethsaidas. This is further confirmed by the movements recorded in John 6:16-22 . Cf. Mark 6:45 . Those who accept two Bethsaidas locate the one which is here mentioned either opposite Bethsaida Julias and as a kind of suburb of it or farther south at Ain Tabigha (see Rob Roy on the Jordan , 342 392).

Verse 46

John 1:46 . εὑρίσκει … Ναζαρέτ . Philip in turn finds Nathanael, probably on the road from the Bethany ford homewards. Nathanael is probably the same person as is spoken of in the Synoptical Gospels as Bartholomew, i.e. , Bar Tolmai, son of Ptolemy. This is usually inferred from the following: (1) Both here and in chap. John 21:2 he is classed with apostles; (2) in the lists of apostles given in the Synoptical Gospels Bartholomew is coupled with Philip; (3) while Nathanael is never mentioned by the Synoptists, Bartholomew is not mentioned by John. The two names might quite well belong to one man, Bartholomew being a patronymic. Nathanael means “God’s gift,” Theodore, or, like Augustine’s son, Adeodatus. Philip announces the discovery in the words ὃν ἔγραψεν … Ναζαρέτ . On which Calvin remarks: “Quam tenuis fuerit modulus fidei in Philippo hinc patet, quod de Christo quatuor verba profari nequit, quin duos crassos errores permisceat. Facit ilium filium Joseph, et patriam Nazareth falso illi assignat.” This is too stringent. He draws the conclusion that where there is a sincere purpose to do good and to proclaim Christ, success will follow even where there is error. Nazareth lies due west from the south end of the Sea of Galilee, and about midway between it and the Mediterranean.

Verse 47

John 1:47 . Philip’s announcement is received with incredulity. ἐκ Ναζαρὲτ δύναταί τι ἀγαθὸν εἶναι ; “Can anything good be from Nazareth.” Cf. John 8:52 , “out of Galilee ariseth no prophet”. Westcott, representing several modern interpreters, explains: “Can any blessing, much less such a blessing as the promised Messiah, arise out of a poor village like Nazareth, of which not even the name can be found in the O.T.?” But probably Nathanael was influenced by the circumstance that he himself was of Cana (John 21:2 ), only a few miles from Nazareth, and with the jealousy which usually exists between neighbouring villages (inter accolas odium) found it hard to believe that Nazareth could produce the Messiah ( cf. Isaiah 53:2 , “a root out of a dry ground”). From this remark of Nathanael’s light is reflected on the obscurity and unobtrusiveness of the youth of Jesus. Though living a few miles off, Nathanael never heard of Him. To his incredulity Philip wisely replies, ἔρχου καὶ ἴδε ; as Bengel says, “optimum remedium contra opiniones praeconceptas”. And Nathanael shows himself to be willing to have his preconceptions overcome. He goes with Philip.

Verse 48

John 1:48 . εἶδεν … δόλος οὐκ ἔστιν . The honesty shown in his coming to Jesus is indicated as his characteristic. He had given proof that he was guileless. In Genesis 27:35 Isaac says to Esau, “Thy brother has come and μετὰ δόλου ἔλαβε τὴν εὐλογίαν σου ”. And it was by throwing off this guile and finding in God his dependence that Jacob became Israel. So that in declaring Nathanael to be a guileless Israelite, Jesus declares him to be one who does not seek to win blessing by earthly means but by prayer and trust in God.

Verse 49

John 1:49 . The significance of this utterance is further shown by what follows. Naturally Nathanael is surprised by this explicit testimony from one with whom he has had no acquaintance and who has notwithstanding truly described him, and he asks, πόθεν με γινώσκεις ; “how do you know me?” perhaps imagining that some common friend had told Jesus about him. But Jesus ascribes it to another cause: πρὸ τοῦ σε φίλιππον φωνῆσαι ὄντα ὑπὸ τὴν συκῆν εἶδον σε , I saw thee under the fig tree before Philip called thee (not, I saw thee somewhere else before Philip called thee when you were under the fig tree). “Under the fig tree” is obviously significant. Such trees were planted by the wayside (Matthew 21:19 ), and the large thick leaf afforded shade. It was the favourite garden tree of the Jews, so that “sitting under one’s fig tree” meant being at home (Micah 4:4 , Zechariah 3:10 ). The tree formed a natural arbour affording shade and privacy. Thus Schoettgen quotes that it is related of Rabbi Jose and his disciples, “solebant summo mane surgere et sedere et studere sub ficu”. And Lightfoot ( Hor. Heb., in loc. ) says that Nathanael was “aut orans, aut legens, aut meditans, aut aliquid religiosum praestans, in secessu sub aliquâ ficu et extra conspectum hominum”. But evidently Nathanael understood that Jesus had not only seen him when he thought he was unobserved, but had penetrated his thought in retirement, and understood and sympathised with his prayer under the fig tree, for the impression made upon him by this knowledge of Jesus is profound.

Verse 50

John 1:50 . Ῥαββεί , he exclaims, σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ , σὺ βασιλεὺς εἶ του Ἰσραήλ . Nathanael had been praying for the manifestation of the Messiah: now he exclaims Thou art He. That Nathanael used both expressions, Son of God, and King of Israel, we may well believe, for he found both in the second Psalm. And it is probable that he used both as identifying Jesus with the Messiah (see chap. John 11:27 , John 12:13-15 ). It is not likely that he would pass from a higher designation to a lower; more probable that by the second title he means more closely to define the former. Thou art the Son of God, fulfilling the ideal of sonship and actually realising all that prophecy has uttered regarding the Son of God: Thou art the ideal, long-expected King of Israel, in whom God’s reign and kingdom are realised on earth. “The words are an echo of the testimony of the Baptist. Nothing can be more natural than to suppose that the language of John had created strange questionings in the hearts of some whom it had reached, and that it was with such thoughts Nathanael was busied when the Lord ‘saw’ him. If this were so, the confession of Nathanael may be an answer to his own doubts” (Westcott).

Verse 51

John 1:51 . ἀπεκρίθη … ὄψῃ . In accordance with the habit of this evangelist, who calls attention to the moving cause of faith in this or that individual, the source of Nathanael’s faith is indicated with some surprise that it should have proved sufficient: and with the announcement that his nascent faith will find more to feed upon: μείζω τούτων ὄψῃ .

John 1:52. What these things are is described in the words ὄψεσθε … ἀνθρώπου , introduced by the emphatic ἀμὴν , ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν , used in this double form twenty-five times in this Gospel (always single in Synop.) and well rendered “verily, verily”. Christ as the Faithful and True Witness is Himself called the Amen in Revelation 3:14 . The words ἀπʼ ἄρτι are omitted by recent editors. The announcement describes the result of the incarnation of Christ as a bringing together of heaven and earth, a true mediation between God and man, an opening of what is most divine for the satisfaction of human need. It is made in terms of Jacob’s dream (Genesis 28:10 ff.). In his dream Jacob saw a ladder fixed on earth with its top in heaven, οἱ ἄγγελοι τοῦ θεοῦ ἀνέβαινον καὶ κατέβαινον ἐπʼ αὐτῇ . What Jacob had dreamt was in Christ realised. The Son of Man, the Messiah or actual representative of God on earth, brings God to man and makes earth a Bethel, and the gate of heaven. What Nathanael under his fig tree had been longing for and unconsciously preparing, an open communication with heaven, a ladder reaching from the deepest abyss of an earth submerged in sin to the highest heaven of purity, Jesus tells him is actually accomplished in His person. “The Son of Man” is the designation by which Jesus commonly indicates that He is the Messiah, while at the same time He suggests that His kingdom is not founded by earthly power or force, but by what is especially human, sympathy, reason, self-sacrifice.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on John 1". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.