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Bible Commentaries

Godet's Commentary on Selected Books

John 1



This title appears in the MSS. in different forms. The simplest is that which we find in א B D: κατὰ᾿Ιωάννην ( according to John). The majority of the Mjj. and א (at the end of the book): εὐαγγέλιον κατὰ᾿Ιωάννην , Gospel according to John. T. R., with a large number of Mnn.: τὸ κατὰ᾿Ι . εὐαγγ . , The Gospel according to John. Stephen's third edition adds ἅγιον ( holy) before εὐαγγ . , with several Mnn. Some Mnn. read: ἐκ τοῦ κ . ᾿Ι . εὐαγγ . The Vss. vary also: evang. Johannis (Syr.); ev. per Joh. (Goth.); ev. secundum Joh. (Cop.); ev. sanctum praedicationis Joh. praeconis (according to certain edd. of the Syriac).

All these variations seem to prove that this title did not proceed from the hand of the author or the editors of the Gospel. Had it belonged originally to the body of the work, it would be the same, or nearly the same, in all the documents. It was doubtless added when the collection of the Gospels was made in the churches, which formation of a collection was brought about more or less spontaneously in each locality, as is shown by the different order of our four Gospels and of the New Testament writings in general in the canons of the churches. The differences in the titles are, doubtless, explained by the same cause.

But what is the exact sense of this formula: “ according to John? ” From the time of the Manichean Faustus (Augustine, contra Faustum, 32.2) even to our day, scholars have been found who have given to κατά , according to, a very broad sense: Gospel drawn up according to the type of preaching of Matthew, John, etc. It is thus that Reuss ( Gesch. der heil. Schr. N. T., § 177) and Renan ( Vie de Jesus,, p. xvi.), appear to understand the word. The result of this would be that these four formulas, instead of attesting the fact of the composition of our Gospels by the four men designated in the titles, would, on the contrary, exclude it. But no one in the primitive church ever dreamed of assigning other authors to these four writings than those who are named in the titles; the thought of those who formulated these titles cannot therefore, have been that which is thus ascribed to them. Moreover, this sense of according to cannot be at all suitable to the second or the third Gospel; since Mark and Luke have never been regarded as the founders of an independent personal tradition, but only as the redactors of narrations proceeding from Peter and Paul. The title of these two writings should therefore have been: Gospels according to Peter and according to Paul, if the word according to had really had in the thought of the authors of the titles, the meaning which the learned authorities whom we are opposing give to it. The error of these authorities arises from the fact that they give to the term Gospel a sense which it did not have in the primitive Christian language. In that language, in fact, this word did not at all designate a book, a writing relating the coming of the Saviour, but the good-tidings of God to mankind, that is to say, that coming itself; comp. e.g., Mark 1:1; Romans 1:1. The meaning of our four titles, then, is not: “Book compiled according to the tradition of,” but: “The blessed coming of Jesus Christ, related by the care or the pen of...” We find the preposition κατά frequently employed as it is here, to designate an author himself; so in Diodorus Siculus, when he calls the work of Herodotus “The history according to Herodotus ( ἡ καθ᾿῾Ηρ . ἱστορία )” or in Epiphanius (Haer. Joh 8:4 ), when he says “The Pentateuch according to Moses ( ἡ κατὰ Μωϋσέα πεντάτευχος ).” Reuss presents by way of objection the title of the apocryphal Gospel, εὐαγγ . κατὰ Πέτρον . But it is very evident that the one who wished to make this Gospel pass under the name of Peter intended to attribute the redaction to this apostle, and so gave to the word according to the same sense which we give. As for the well-known phrases εὐαγγ . κατὰ τοὺς δώδ . ἀποστόλους , καθ᾿῾Εβραίους , κατ᾿ Αἰγυπτίους ( according to the twelve Apostles, the Hebrews, the Egyptians), it is clear that κατά designates, in these cases, the ecclesiastical circle from which these writings were supposed to proceed, or that in the midst of which they were current.



THE leading thoughts respecting the Logos which are presented in the Prologue are those of Joh 1:1 and John 1:14. The former verse sets forth what He was antecedent to the time of His incarnation, and in the beginning; the latter declares that He became flesh.

A. With reference to the first verse the following points may be noticed:

1. The object of the whole Prologue being to make certain declarations respecting the Logos, there can be no doubt that ὁ λόγος is the subject in all the three clauses of which the verse is composed in the third, no less than in the other two. This is indicated also by the parallelism, with slight variation, which seems to belong to the rhetorical style of this author. The clauses are parallel, but the predicate stands first in two of them, while in the intermediate one the subject has its natural position.

2. In the third clause, the predicate θεός , being different from that in the second, ὁ θεός , must be intended to suggest to the reader a different idea. This different idea, however, being expressed by the same substantive, cannot reasonably be held to be of an entirely different order. The word without the article must move in the same sphere with that which has it. The Logos, according to the statement of the writer, must be God in a similar sense to that in which the one with whom He is is God, and yet not in precisely the same sense. So far as the book may properly be regarded as an unfolding, in any degree, of the thoughts of the Prologue, we may naturally expect to find in the chapters which follow, the answer to the question thus presented: in what sense are the words to be understood, when it is said that the Logos is θεός and not θεός ?

3. In the verses ( Joh 1:2-4 ), which are immediately connected with John 1:1, the last of the three clauses of that verse does not appear, but the other two are repeated. The explanation of this fact is, doubtless, to be found in the purpose of these verses. The author is moving, in these verses, along the line of revelation. This line is presented in the three terms: creation, life and light. The Logos was the instrumental agent through whom all created things were brought into being. To that portion of creation which is animate or rational, as contrasted with the inanimate or irrational part, He is the life-principle, which gives it life. To that part which has the higher element, the πνεῦμα , and thus has the capacity for the action of the life-principle in the higher region, He is the light. What the idea of light is may best be understood by the use of the word in 1 John 1:5, where it is said that God is light, and it is added, with the same contrast of φῶς and σκοτία which we have here, that in Him is no darkness at all. The divine Spiritual illumination for man comes in and through the Logos.

4. As the world of beings capable of receiving spiritual light failed, by reason of their moral darkness, to see and take to themselves the enlightening revelation, which the Logos was ever making to all even from the hour of creation, some clearer mode of making the light known to them was necessary, and for this purpose the Logos became incarnate ( Joh 1:14 ).

5. The person in whom He became incarnate is Jesus Christ, John 1:17. Such is the development of the thought connected with the Logos as the revealer of God. The Logos was in the beginning with God. Thus He is the one by means of whom God gives the true light to men. That they may have it as fully as is needful in order to their possessing it in the soul's life, He enters into a human mode of existence and appears in Jesus. The first and second clauses of John 1:1, repeated in John 1:2, are the starting-point of this development, and are all that are essential to its beginning.

6. It cannot be doubted, however, that the statement of the third clause, which is added to the other two, and which must have a deeper meaning than the others because it declares what the Logos was, while they only, as it were, tell where and when He was, is intended by the writer to hold even a more prominent place than they. They are repeated, and the thought for which they open the way is unfolded, because the discussions and questionings which occasioned the writing of the book required the idea of revealing God to be presented. But that this revelation of which the book is to speak is and must be the true one, the only true one, is a point of greatest importance to the end which the author has in view. For thus only can it exclude every other and become the undoubted answer to the question which all were raising. To the completeness of His power to reveal, He must be, not only πρὸς τὸν θεόν , but θεός . Since He is θεός , He must, in some sense, become ἄνθρωπος in order that the revelation may be perfectly apprehended by men. He must be the θεὸς ἄνθρωπος . In this view of the author's thought, the third clause of Joh 1:1 unites itself with the suggestion of John 1:14, and then these two leading ideas pass on to John 1:17; and, joining that verse with themselves, they find their full expression in the words: Jesus Christ is the θεὸς - ἄνθρωπος . Hence it is, as we may believe, that the Prologue closes with the last statement of the 18th verse: The only-begotten Son (or if that be the true reading God only begotten) who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.

7. While, therefore, in one view of the Prologue and the whole Gospel, this final proposition of Joh 1:1 may hold only a secondary place in the plan, or even, perhaps, be unessential to it, in another and a most important sense, these words are the primary words of the entire book, to which everything else is subordinate. That he may prove that Jesus is the Son of God, and thus that that life which is the living of the human soul in the light of God, having in it no darkness at all, may be realized by every reader through faith in Him, is the object and purpose of his writing his story of Jesus. 8. It is on this third clause, not on the first two only, that the expressions in the Gospel which have the deepest meaning rest. As being θεός and in the bosom of the Father, He has life in Himself, even as the Father has life in Himself; He is the living bread and the life-giving bread; He and His Father are one; to know Him is to know God and to have the eternal life of the soul. This deepest meaning must be gathered from all the words of the book which have any teaching in them with reference to it, and they must all be centered in this word θεός , if we are in any true sense to comprehend its significance.

B. With respect to John 1:14, it may be said:


That the word σάρξ must be interpreted in connection, not only with its use in the writings of this author, and, as would also seem probable, with that of the other authors of the New Testament, but with the words or clauses in the context which evidently belong in the same circle of thought. The Logos, as He became flesh, is said to have tabernacled among us; to have been beheld by the writer and others; to have imparted from His own fullness that grace which came through Jesus Christ; apparently, in some true conception of the words, to have become Jesus Christ (see Joh 1:17 in its relation to Joh 1:14 and John 1:16, on the one hand, and to Joh 1:18 on the other). Σάρξ must, therefore, in some sense, be the equivalent of ἄνθρωπος ; and, as in the case of θεός of John 1:1, already alluded to, every indication which the book presents before us points to the end that we should make our attempt to determine in what sense it is thus equivalent, by means of the representation given in subsequent chapters respecting Jesus.

The term Logos is laid aside by the author immediately at the close of the Prologue, but we cannot fail to see that he never loses sight of the two statements as to what the Logos was and became. Jesus the friend and master of whom he writes is not merely a messenger of God to the world to bring to it a revelation, but he is the one in whom the Logos, who was θεός , has become ἄνθρωπος , the one who is able perfectly to reveal because of the θεός side or relation of His being, and to make His revelation understood by those around Him because of the ἄνθρωπος side or relation. Thus, and thus only, is He the true light of the world, bringing it into the actual experience of the eternal life.


In what relation to the leading ideas of the Prologue do the statements respecting grace and truth stand? The answer to this question may be sought in connection with Joh 1:17 and the contrast with the law which is there presented. It will be noticed that these words are first introduced at the end of John 1:14, that immediately after them follows the second reference to the testimony of John the Baptist, and that then they are taken up again as if for further explanation. From these peculiar characteristics of the passage, it would seem not improbable that the writer was thinking of John the Baptist, who, as the last of the prophets, was also, in a certain sense, the one who brought the Old Testament legal system to its end, and, by turning the minds of the people to the righteousness which the true idea of the law required, as opposed to that which its Pharisaic expounders preached, prepared them for the new system which was about to be introduced. The office of John the Baptist, as he proclaimed the advent of the Messiah, was to set forth the necessity of a radical change of character ( μετάνοια ), to make known with a new power and impressiveness the vital importance of being, not merely externally, but internally right, to demand on behalf of the kingdom of God a new life. Repentance and reformation were the burden of his message. This message, as we may say, was the final word of the legal system, as it passed away and opened the door for the faith-system. The work of Jesus was to make this reformation and new life possible, through the proclamation of the fullness of Divine truth, the revealing and imparting of Divine grace, the teaching of the way of salvation through forgiveness and that righteousness which grows up in the pardoned soul by means of faith. This revelation made by Jesus Christ was that which justifies the expression used in John 1:18. The law, even in its spiritual application to the inner life, might be revealed through a man, like Moses or John the Baptist. But, in order to reveal the fullness of God's grace and truth, the appearance of a greater than man was needed. To this end one must have seen God, in the highest sense of that word as no man has ever seen Him. The only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, the Logos who was with God in the beginning and was God, and who, by becoming flesh, brings God into closest communion with men, can alone make this revelation.


Why is the testimony of John the Baptist referred to and made so prominent in the Prologue? We find it alluded to not only after the verse (14) in which the incarnation is set forth, but even in John 1:5 f. immediately following the statements respecting the Logos in His pre-existent state. The distinct presentation of its contents, however, is evidently deferred until the beginning of the historical introduction (John 1:19 ff.). The true explanation of this peculiar fact may, not improbably, be suggested by the plan of the book, as already indicated in the Introductory Remarks on the internal evidence for the fourth Gospel. As the earliest disciples, according to the representation of the book, were brought to Jesus by the testimony of John the Baptist, and the object of the book is to induce the readers to believe on the same grounds on which these disciples believed, it was natural to give a peculiar prominence to John's testimony at the beginning. His testimony was, in a certain sense, the foundation of all that followed, and hence it was not unsuitable it was, on the other hand, especially impressive to place it in connection with the great fundamental propositions which were designed to arrest the attention of those for whom the book was primarily written. That the testimony of John is regarded by the author as having a very prominent place, in its direct bearing upon Jesus' position and His relation to God, is shown by the reference to it in John 5:33-34. In the author's selection, in that chapter, of the expressions of Jesus which set forth the evidence for His claims respecting Himself, he chooses for his narrative this one which points to John. And though Jesus in the surrounding words declares that He has a higher and greater testimony, the witness of John is pressed upon the thought of the hearers.

John's testimony, as it is introduced in John 1:6 f., has immediate reference to the Logos as the light, and thus to the last point in the statements of John 1:1-4. We may believe, however, that, though not directly, yet in an indirect way, it is mentioned in just this place in order to carry the mind of the reader back to the first great propositions of John 1:1, which lie at the foundation of the declaration that He is the light.

The second mention of John's testimony (after Joh 1:14 ) evidently bears upon that verse. As it includes the words “He was before me,” and as these words are even the ones which have special emphasis, so far at least as relates to the depth of the meaning of the sentence, the suggestion just made with regard to the previous allusion, in John 1:6 ff., may also be applicable here. That John the Baptist comprehended fully, when He bore witness to Jesus, all that John the Apostle knew of His Divine nature, we need not affirm. But that the witness which he gave was a significant element in the proof that Jesus Christ is the Logos, of whom what is said in Joh 1:1 and what is said in Joh 1:14 are both true, we alike believe; and this is the reason for including what John had testified in the Prologue.


The reference of John 1:5, by reason of the position which the verse holds in immediate connection with Joh 1:1-4 and before the allusion to the testimony of John is probably to the general and permanent illuminating power of the light before the incarnation. The Logos was with God and was God; as being thus, He was the source of existence to the creation, of life to creatures endowed with life, of light to those having the spiritual faculty. So far John 1:1-4. It is now declared that this light permanently shines from the beginning ever onward but that the darkness did not apprehend it in the earlier times, and hence the necessity is suggested of a clearer shining or revelation (that of Joh 1:14 ). The past tense of the verb apprehended seems to show that the permanent present (which would hold true of all time) is limited, so far as the thought of this verse is concerned, to the time indicated by its associate verb. We may hold, therefore, with reasonable confidence, that the entire passage Joh 1:1-5 has reference to the Logos before His incarnation, as Joh 1:14-16 relate to Him as incarnate. But what shall we say of Joh 1:6-13 ? The intermediate position of this passage suggests a pointing in both directions. The antecedent probabilities, also, as to what the writer would do in moving from Joh 1:5 to Joh 1:14 indicate the same thing. Finally, the proper interpretation of different individual verses in the passage may, not improbably, confirm us in the conclusion. Certainly, Joh 1:11 must be taken as referring to the period following the incarnation, as of course the actual witness-bearing of John must be located in this period. But John 1:9, by reason of the emphatic ἦν and also by reason of the correspondence in the permanent present φωτίζει of this verse with φαίνει of John 1:5, is most naturally interpreted as preceding the ἐγένετο of John 1:14. There seems, also, to be a natural progress in John 1:10-12, of such a nature that, within the sphere of the general present φωτίζει , Joh 1:10 points to what was before the earthly appearance of the Logos, and Joh 1:11-12 point to what followed after that appearance. John was not the light, but He came to testify of it. The true light was always in the early ages, bearing witness for itself and shining through and in the creation, physical and spiritual, which He had brought into existence; and in the later time, through His manifestation of Himself as a man of the Jewish race. In both periods alike, however, the darkness in which men were, because of evil, prevented His being known and received. The presence of faith was needed in order to the receptivity of the soul for the light, and that it might be secured, so far as to bring men to look to Jesus as the revealer of God in the highest sense, John the Baptist had appeared as a divinely-appointed witness-bearer. He came, that all might believe through him.


Following upon this intermediate passage, which has thus a progressive movement from the pre-existent to the incarnate period, the second great idea of the entire Prologue is distinctly stated, in a proposition standing in a parallelism with those in John 1:1. The Word became flesh. The Logos entered into human life. The light which had previously been shining in creation and, in some sense, in the soul of every man, but which had not been apprehended, is now revealed in the clearest possible manner by means of the indwelling of the Logos in a man, and by thus bringing God and man into immediate communication. The word light now passes away, but it gives place to the expressions: We beheld His glory; full of grace and truth. The idea is therefore preserved, though the mode of presenting it changes. The change, however, is in sympathy with the advance movement of the thought. The revelation of the Logos is now so perfect that those who see it behold His glory. The darkness has passed, and He is looked upon face to face. And, moreover, the revelation is of grace and truth it is of that deepest part of God's nature which He alone who was with Him in the beginning, and who is in His bosom as the Son with the Father, can make known. The light thus shines from the beginning to the end, only more clearly at last than at first. It is apprehended, as it shines, by the souls that are susceptible to it. But the susceptibility comes always through faith, and only through faith. And at the end the believers behold, with undimmed vision, the glory of the light. To this more glorious manifestation John the Baptist bears testimony, and, pointing to the man in whom the Logos is revealed, he says “He that cometh after me is become before me, for He was before me.” This man is Jesus Christ.


If this view of the Prologue, which has been set forth in the preceding notes, is correct, the plan of the author, so far from presenting serious difficulties, becomes a thoroughly artistic one the different lines of thought being most carefully interwoven with one another; the progress is plain, not only from Joh 1:1 to John 1:14, but from Joh 1:1 to Joh 1:4 and John 1:5, from Joh 1:6 to John 1:13, from Joh 1:6-13 to John 1:14, and from Joh 1:14 to what follows; and finally the insertion of the testimony of John is accounted for in a way which most naturally and satisfactorily explains what seems, at first sight, so peculiar, and yet in a way which shows that it, in no proper sense, breaks the line of development of the ideas of light and revelation.

With reference to the individual words and phrases of the Prologue the following points may be briefly noticed:

1. The idea of the author in connection with several of the leading words is, undoubtedly, to be discovered from the main portion of the Gospel, rather than from the introductory passage alone. We may infer, however, from the statements of the Prologue itself, and from the origin of some of them, or their use elsewhere, what their significance as here employed is. This is true of λόγος , ἐν ἀρχῇ , ζωή , φῶς , σάρξ , et sec.

2. That the word λόγος was derived from the Old Testament a growth of the idea which is indicated even in the first chapter of Genesis, and which is developed gradually, as Godet shows, in the later times is very widely admitted by the best scholars. That it was suggested to the writer, partly, if not wholly, by its use in the discussions of the time and region in which he wrote, seems altogether probable. In any case, the idea fundamental to it is that of God as revealing Himself. The Logos is the one through whom (or that by means of which), God is revealed. Introduced, as it is, as connected with the discussions alluded to and for the purpose of answering the question which was the central one in them, it is natural that its precise meaning should be left for the reader to determine from the propositions of which it is made the subject, and from the story of the one who is declared to be the Logos. Of these propositions, the first two which appear in John 1:1, affirm, in the first place, that the Logos was in the beginning which, from the relation of the words to John 1:3, must, at least, mean that He existed before the creation, so that all things created have their origin through Him; and secondly, that He was with God which expression is further explained by the words of John 1:18: who is in the bosom of the Father. They show that the revealing one existed antecedently to all revelation of God in or to the world, and that what He reveals comes from the inmost heart and being of God. But the third proposition goes beyond these, and declares that He was θεός . Of this word it may be said: ( a) That it is not used elsewhere in this Gospel or in the other writings of this author, or indeed in any case in the New Testament, which can be compared with this, to indicate a being inferior to God; ( b) That the absence of the article does not indicate any such inferiority, because, in the first place, as the writer desired to throw especial emphasis on this predicate by placing it at the beginning of the clause, it became necessary to omit it in order that the reader might not, by any means, misapprehend the meaning, and in the second place, because he evidently did not mean to say that the Logos was God in precisely the same sense in which that word is used in the phrase: He was with God. He was not the one with whom He was. He was θεός , but not, as the term is here used, ὁ θεός . If he desired to express what in theological language is set forth in such a sentence as: He was of the essence of God, but not the same person with the Father, and if he desired to do this by the use of the word θεός , there would seem to have been no more simple or better way of formulating his thought than by saying: He was πρὸς τὸν θεόν , and was θεός . But it is the declarations of Jesus Himself, and His miraculous signs which are given in the following chapters, which are intended by the writer to determine the full significance of both of these sentences.

3. It is worthy of notice that, while the word Logos disappears, so far as this special use of it is concerned, as soon as the Prologue reaches its end, the words ζωή and φῶς occur many times in the subsequent chapters. These words also draw closely together and intermingle with one another, as it were, in their idea. This fact, which at the first glance seems remarkable, is easy of explanation when the plan and purpose of the book are understood. To prove that Jesus is the Logos, in the mere sense that He answers to that which was a matter of philosophical inquiry to those around him, is a thing of little consequence to the writer. But that, as being the true Logos, He is the revealer and source of life and light, is the message which He has to give to the world, the εὐαγγέλιον of God. The satisfying of philosophical questioning is nothing to his view, we may say; the bringing of the human soul into union with God is everything. The close connection of the ideas of life and light is also very natural, for, as we learn from the author's first epistle, the life of God represents itself to him under the figure of light that pure and perfect light which has no intermingling of darkness and the ζωή or ζωὴ αἰώνιος of man is the participation in this same light-life. These words, accordingly, are not merely terms of philosophy and, as such, appropriate only to the Prologue, but living expressions of experience. The life is that of the soul illuminated by pure spiritual light. Its atmosphere in which it lives is light. The form of expression in the closing sentences of the Gospel ( Joh 20:30-31 ) is thus explained where the term Son of God takes the place of Logos, but the term life remains.

So also in the First Epistle John 1:2, we have the words, “And the life was manifested...the eternal life which was with the Father.” The word life in John 1:4, occurring as it does in the progressive development of thought from Joh 1:1 to John 1:5, probably has a more general meaning. But in its use afterwards it moves into the sphere of the spiritual, which is the only sphere in which the writer would have his own and his readers' minds abide. 4. That the verb κατέλαβεν of Joh 1:5 means apprehended, and not overcame, is rendered probable by the following considerations:

( a) The former meaning lies nearer to the fundamental signification of the word to lay hold of, seize upon. The thought here moves in the spiritual region, and to lay hold of spiritually is to apprehend.

( b) The other explanation of the word would indicate that the darkness is here looked upon as a hostile power contending with the light for the mastery. This is the sense perhaps in John 12:35, where darkness is viewed as seizing upon the man, as a power hostile to him. But such a conception does not seem to be in the writer's mind in this passage. The whole movement of thought is in the line of the revelation of God, which needs to become clearer because it had not before been laid hold of. The darkness is not a hostile force struggling with the light, but a blinding power for the human mind, preventing it from seeing the light. This verse corresponds, in this regard, with John 1:10, “the world knew him not.”

( c) The prevailing sense of σκοτία as used by John is that of darkness as preventing men from seeing the light, rather than that of a hostile power contending with the light; comp. the First Epistle John 1:6, John 2:9; John 2:11, Gosp. John 8:12. Indeed, the use of the word in John 12:35 a seems only a sort of passing figure, for in John 12:35 b the common meaning returns: “he that walketh in the darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.” 5. The construction of ἐρχόμενον in Joh 1:9 is quite uncertain. The following considerations favor the connection of the word with πάντα ἄνθρωπον :

( a) The position which it has in the sentence points to its union as an adjective-word with this noun.

( b) This connection gives to this verse its most natural meaning, as descriptive of the permanent work of the light in all ages the following verses dividing this work with reference to the time before and the time after the incarnation.

( c) The emphatic position of ἦν at the beginning of the sentence is better accounted for if it is an independent verb; John was not the light, yet the light was.

( d) If the author's intention had been to connect the participle with ἦν , the form of the sentence would probably have been different.

If his idea was was coming as equivalent to came, no satisfactory reason can be given for his not using the word came. If it was was about to come, some more clear expression of the idea and one less liable to misapprehension would have been chosen. In either case, the participle, as we may believe, would have been placed nearer to the verb. On the other hand, the principal objection to connecting the participle with ἄνθρωπον does not seem to be well-founded. This objection, which urges that the expression every man coming into the world is the same in meaning with every man, and therefore the participle is superfluous, might be of force as bearing against such a phrase in a book of the present day. But such modes of expression belong to the simple, primitive style of the narrative writers of the Bible and have a sort of emphasis peculiar to that style. Moreover, it is not necessary to regard the two expressions as equivalent to each other, for the participle may convey the idea: as he was coming, or, on his coming. 6. In John 1:14, the words full of grace and truth are to be connected with the subject of the main proposition, the Logos.

The intervening words, and we beheld his glory, etc., are thus to be taken, as by R. V. and many commentators, including Godet, as a parenthesis. This is rendered probable not only by the fact that the adjective πλήρης is in the nominative case, but also by the evident immediate connection of the similar words in Joh 1:16-17 with the Logos and Jesus Christ. The 15th verse, again, is with relation to the idea expressed by these words, a parenthetical passage, so that the thought moves directly on from Joh 1:14 to John 1:16. In relation to the matter of testimony, however, Joh 1:15 is parallel with John 1:6 f., and has a similar emphasis and importance. 7. There is apparently somewhat of the same carefulness and accuracy of expression, within the limits of popular language, in the use of σάρξ , which we have noticed in the use of θεός as distinguished from ὁ θεός in John 1:1.

The writer did not wish to say that the Logos became a man ( ἄνθρωπος ), which might be understood as indicating more than could be affirmed. The Logos did not lay aside the essence, but the μορφή , of God. He did not pass from the Divine state into that of a mere man. But He entered into human nature, taking upon Himself the μορφὴ δούλου . He did not, on the other hand, merely assume the σχῆμα ἀνθρώπου , but He became flesh, ἐγένετο σάρξ . Precisely what this involved is suggested by the peculiar expression used; but the fullness of the author's idea must, here again, be sought in the subsequent chapters. 8. Not improbably Godet's view of the words μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός : that they mean (as rendered in A. V. and R. V.) the only begotten from the Father, is correct. But his argument against Weiss, who understands the words as meaning an only begotten from a father, and as referring to the only son as inheriting the rank and fortune of his father, namely, that this explanation would suppose that every father who has an only son has also a great fortune to give him, can hardly be regarded as having any considerable force. We do not measure our thought in such phrases by the lower cases, but by the higher. The glory belonging to our idea of an only son is not affected by the fact that there are many individual instances in which there is no glory for him. 9. The fact that Joh 1:18 is added at the end of the Prologue, and immediately after John 1:17 (which declares that the revelation of grace and truth, of which in Joh 1:14 the Logos was said to be full as He became flesh, was made through Jesus Christ), plainly connects the end with the beginning and shows that, in the view of the writer, Jesus is more than a man that He is the one who is in the bosom of the Father, and who both was with God and was God. 10. It does not seem to the writer of this note that Godet's view of the plan and thought of the Prologue is the true one that the three ideas are, The Logos, unbelief, faith, the first being presented in John 1:1-4, the second in John 1:5-11, and the third in John 1:12-18.

On the other hand, the true view seems rather to be that which has been already suggested. The great doctrine of the book is, that Jesus is what is represented by the word Logos the Divine revealer of God having entered into our humanity. The Prologue presents as its chief point the two propositions, John 1:1; John 1:14, which contain the statements respecting the Logos, and Joh 1:17 which adds that concerning Jesus. From Joh 1:1 to Joh 1:14 there is a passage subordinate to the two main propositions, which shows the necessity of what is stated in John 1:14. The other two leading ideas of the book are testimony and believing, the former to the end of the latter (see Joh 20:30-31 ) and these two ideas are suggested in the Prologue, though only in a secondary way. They are both mentioned; but the former is made more prominent (John 1:6 f., John 1:15, Joh 1:14 we beheld, comp. 1 John 1:1 ff.), because testimony belongs rather to the beginning, and faith reaches its fullness of believing only at the end. Yet the testimony is always to the end of believing on the part of those who hear it as truly in the case of John the Baptist at the first, as in that of John the evangelist at the last (comp. Joh 1:7 with Joh 20:31 ).


The passage from Joh 1:19 to Joh 2:11 is the Historical Introduction, as it may be called. The object which it has in view is to bring before the readers the personages who are to act the principal part in the story. The σημὲῖα are done ( ἐποίησεν ) in the presence of the disciples ( Joh 20:30 ). In this passage the disciples are introduced on the scene.

As to the disciples here mentioned, they were, not improbably, all of them disciples of John the Baptist. Of the first two who are mentioned this fact is distinctly recorded. Were these two persons present with John on the day preceding that on which they went to see Jesus? This question is not a vital one to our determination of the plan and object of this latter portion of the first chapter. But, if it is answered in the affirmative, it proves the connection between the testimonies of John to which reference has been made on page 497 above. That it should be thus answered is shown by the improbability that they would have taken the course they did if they had heard nothing more from John than the words of John 1:36. The additional unfolding of the idea here suggested, which was given on the preceding day, accounts for the impression produced by the mere pointing to Jesus when He appears again. But without this, there is a blank which needs to be filled. Moreover, as these disciples were temporarily absent from their homes for the purpose of hearing John the Baptist and following him, there is every reason to believe that they were present with him on each day of the time at their command. For this reason also, as well as because of the apparent close connection between the several testimonies of John, we may believe that these two persons had, in like manner, heard his conversation with the deputation of the Sanhedrim. Their going to Jesus, accordingly, is the first instance of πιστεύειν which answers to the μαρτυρία .

In the verses which contain the first two testimonies of John, 19-34, the following points may be noticed:

1. The record of John the Baptist here is quite different, and for quite a different purpose, from that of the other Gospels. The story of John's preaching as given by the Synoptics, is a representation of the character and substance of that preaching. This is true of the passing allusion to it in Mark, and also of the longer accounts in Matthew and Luke. But to this writer, John is of importance only as related to his testimony, and in the plan of this introductory passage this testimony only bears towards one result. We have not here, therefore, the general utterances of John, but only a few words which he said on three successive days. The circumstances of these occasions, however, called him to explain his peculiar mission and his relation to the Messiah. Hence it is not strange that he should have used some of the expressions which he used in addressing the people, and the presence here of the quotation from Isaiah, or the allusion to the baptism with water and to the mightier one who was to follow, cannot be urged as, in any measure, inconsistent with the other Gospels, which represent these words as used at a different time. These words must have been often on the Baptist's lips and have been spoken to various hearers.

2. In the second testimony ( Joh 1:30 ), we find the words already mentioned in the Prologue ( Joh 1:15 ) alluded to as having been spoken on a former occasion. This was not on the preceding day apparently, for no such words are introduced in the account of that day. We must conclude, therefore, that the hearers present on this occasion, and probably the two disciples, had been also present when John preached before the beginning of what is here narrated. These disciples had been, for a brief period at least, under the educating influence of the forerunner in a certain kind of preparation for belief in Jesus.

3. That the baptism of Jesus must be placed before John 1:19, is clear from the fact that it must have occurred at an earlier time than the day indicated in John 1:29, because of the allusion to it ( Joh 1:33-34 ) as already past. But if it preceded John 1:29, it must also have preceded John 1:19, because the forty days of the temptation followed the baptism and during this period Jesus could not have been accessible to others as he was here. Moreover, if He had been baptized on the day mentioned in John 1:19, that is, only a single day before John 1:29, it is scarcely possible that the words used by John the Baptist respecting the event should be only what we have here.

4. As to the meaning of the words I knew him not (John 1:31; Joh 1:33 ), Godet holds that they declare that John did not know Jesus a man, for if he had known Him thus, he must have known Him also as the Messiah. Meyer, on the other hand, says that this expression leaves it quite uncertain whether he had any personal acquaintance with Jesus. Westcott regards the story in Luke as leaving it doubtful whether any such personal acquaintance existed. But, if the narrative in Luke is to be accepted, it seems almost impossible that John should not have had some such knowledge of Jesus as would prevent his saying so absolutely, I did not know him. The circumstances of Jesus' birth, and of John's own birth as related to that of Jesus, were so remarkable, that John could hardly have lost sight of Him altogether. Moreover, the words addressed to Jesus by John in Mat 3:14 are very difficult to be accounted for, if Jesus was altogether unknown personally to him. Weiss attempts to explain the difficulty by supposing that the ᾔδειν does not refer to the time of the baptism, but to the time of the verb ἦλθον which follows, that is to say, the time when John entered upon his public office. But this seems wholly improbable in the case of ᾔδειν of John 1:33, which occurs in the midst of the account of what he saw at the baptism, and appears to be contrasted with the knowledge which he gained by seeing the fulfillment of the sign he was without this knowledge even at the baptismal scene, until the moment when he saw the dove descending. It would seem, therefore, that the explanation must be sought for in connection with the idea of the Baptist's testimony, for which the whole matter is introduced. He did not know Jesus, in such a sense that he could go forth as the witness sent from God ( Joh 1:6 ), and testify that Jesus was the Son of God, until the divinely promised proof had been given. However much the friends, or even the mother of Jesus herself, may have thought of a glorious mission as awaiting Him in life, they could not have felt sure that He was to hold the Messianic office, until they saw the evidences which came with His entrance upon His public career. But John to be the great witness, giving the assurance of a Divine word must certainly have waited for the sign, before he could feel that he knew as he ought to know. In this connection, also, it may be noticed that John's testimony seems to take hold, in some measure, upon the thoughts which the writer brings out in the Prologue (comp. John 1:30, he was before me, John 1:34, the Son of God), and surely, for the knowledge of these things, he needed a divine communication. He may have believed in Jesus' exaltation above himself ( Mat 3:14 ) by reason of what he had heard of the story of His birth or the years that followed. He may, thus, have felt that he might rather be baptized by Jesus than baptize Him. He may even have had little doubt that He was the Messiah. But he could not know Him as such, until the word of God which had come to him was fulfilled.


In connection with the third testimony of John, the result in believing is given; the two disciples go to Jesus. With respect to the one of them who is not named, we may notice:

1. That he is, beyond any reasonable doubt, one of the apostolic company as afterwards constituted. This is proved by his connection with Andrew; by the fact that he is undoubtedly to be included among those disciples who went to Cana ( Joh 2:2 ), and to Capernaum ( Joh 2:12 ), and so, also, among those who are referred to as being present with Jesus at Jerusalem (John 2:17; Joh 2:22 ); and by the fact that in the subsequent history the “disciples,” who are made thus especially prominent, are clearly the apostles.

2. That he is particularly connected with Andrew and Peter. He must, therefore, have been one of the apostolic company who had this relation to those two brothers before their discipleship to Jesus began. It appears probable, also, that he is the same unnamed person who has similar intimacy with Peter after their entrance upon their apostolic office.

3. That the only persons whom the Synoptic Gospels present to us as thus united with Andrew and Peter are the two sons of Zebedee.

4. That there is, to say the least, a possible and not improbable allusion to his having a brother whom he introduced to Jesus. If so, the evidence that the two were James and John is strengthened, but this point is not essential to the proof.

5. That, if the companion of Andrew was either James or John, and if he is the one who is alluded to, but not named, in subsequent chapters, there can be no question as to which of the two he was. If he was the author, he could not be James, who was dead long before the book was written.

Whether he was the author or not, James had died too early, as Godet has remarked, for any such report to spread abroad as that which is referred to in John 21:23. Weiss, in his edition of Meyer's Commentary (as also Westcott and Hort), holds that πρῶτον , and not πρῶτος , is the true reading in John 1:41, and Weiss maintains, that, with either reading, the word does not suggest the finding of the brother of Andrew's companion, but that, on the other hand, it simply marks the finding of Peter as the first instance to which John 1:43; John 1:45, answer as a second and third. Meyer, however, reads πρῶτος , and agrees with Godet, that there is here a reference to James. Westcott, also, who adopts πρῶτον as the text, agrees with these writers in the opinion that James is probably alluded to. It is observed that the indication of the verse is found not only in this word, but also in the emphatic ἴδιον , and in the fact that the verse follows and is apparently connected with John 1:40 ( one of the two he first findeth his own), and that the specifying of the finding of Peter as the first case of finding seems wholly unnecessary, and, considering the separation of the verses which give the account of the other findings from this one, antecedently improbable. Weiss also holds, that the finding of Peter took place on a different day from that of the visit of the two disciples to Jesus. But, while this is possible, it seems more probable that it occurred on the same day at evening, the days being reckoned by the daylight hours. In so carefully marked a narrative, we can hardly suppose a new day to be inserted with no designation of it. The result in faith of this first day was a conviction on the part of these disciples that they had found in Jesus the Messiah. Even this conviction could not, probably, in so short an interview, have reached its highest point. On the other hand, as related to the full belief of the later days with respect to all that Jesus was, this must have been only the earliest beginning of the development of years.


In connection with Joh 1:43-51 the following points may be noticed:

1. The impression produced upon the mind of Nathanael is occasioned (at least, so far as the record goes), by something beyond what occurred in the other cases. There is an exhibition of what seemed to him miraculous knowledge on Jesus' part. As to what this was precisely, there is a difference of opinion among commentators, as Godet states in his note. That Godet is right here, as against Meyer and others, is rendered probable by the very deep impression which evidently was made on Nathanael, and by the fact that the recording of what Jesus says of him, in John 1:47, can scarcely be explained unless we hold that these words, as well as those of John 1:48, affected his mind.

2. The answer of Nathanael, also, expresses more than what we find in the other cases. He says, indeed, what they say: Thou art the king of Israel (the Messiah). But he also says: Thou art the Son of God. We may believe that this second expression answers to the second element in the manifestation which Jesus made to him: namely, the miraculous insight into his character. Jesus awakened, by this means, a conviction in Nathanael's mind, that He had a peculiar relation to God; in some sense, at least, a divine side in His nature or character. The view that the title Son of God here is simply equivalent to Messiah is improbable, when we consider the peculiarities of this story, as compared with the others. But we cannot hold that Nathanael grasped at once the fullness of the significance of this term, as it is used in John 20:31.

3. The words of Joh 1:51 are evidently spoken with reference, not only to Nathanael, but to all the disciples who were now with Jesus. It is quite probable that, in the plan of the book, they are inserted here as looking forward to all the σημεῖα which are to be recorded afterwards, and which, beginning with the one at Cana, proved to the disciples the union between Jesus and God.

4. That this gathering of disciples about Jesus is quite independent of any story in the Synoptics, and is antecedent to the call of which the account is given in Matthew 4:18-22, Mar 1:16-20 and Luke 5:1-11, is evident from the fact that the Synoptic narratives begin the history at a later date. Moreover, the readiness with which the four disciples (Andrew, Peter, James and John) left their business and their homes immediately upon the (Synoptic) call, is almost inexplicable unless there was some previous acquaintance and impression such as we discover here. Meyer affirms that John and the Synoptics are irreconcilable with each other in respect to this matter, because these five or six disciples are with Jesus in Joh 2:2 and remain with Him. Weiss, in his edition of Meyer, takes the opposite ground. He, however, maintains that we cannot assert that the μαθηταί , who are spoken in Joh 2:17 to John 4:54, are the same with these five or six or that they include all of these. He even goes so far as to say that there is no indication in this chapter that Simon joined Jesus, and calls attention to the fact that in Luke 5:1 ff. the story of the call is centered upon Peter. Both of these writers have taken wrong positions; Meyer, in insisting that no place can be found for the call in John's narrative after the first chapter, and Weiss, in supposing that Peter may not have acted at this time as the others did, and that μαθηταί of John 2:17, etc., is not intended by the author to designate the same persons or, at least, to give them a prominence who are mentioned in ch. 1. As Keil remarks, the statements with regard to the disciples in the second chapter, if we suppose them to be the same with those mentioned in ch. 1, do not exclude the possibility of intervals of separation from Jesus, after their first meeting with Him, and of return to their former employments. It must be borne in mind that John's narrative is a selection of stories made for the purpose of setting forth proofs and the growth of faith, and not a complete or altogether continuous record of Jesus' life.

Verse 1

[See also the "General Considerations on the Prologue" in the comments of John 1:18.]

At John 1:1, John finds in eternity the subject of the history which he is going to relate, the Logos; at John 1:2, he takes his place with Him at the beginning of time; in the 3d verse, he shows Him to us cooperating in the work of creation, which is the condition of that of Redemption; finally, in the 4th verse, he unveils the relation which from all time has existed between that divine being and humanity, down to the moment when He Himself appeared as a member of this race.

Vv. 1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

These three propositions follow each other like oracles; they enunciate, each of them, one of the features of the greatness of the Logos before His coming in the flesh. The ascending progression which binds them together is indicated, after the Hebrew manner, by the simple copula καί , καί , and, and. The ἐν ἀρχή , in the beginning, manifestly is a reproduction of the first word of Genesis (bereschith). It therefore naturally designates the beginning of the existence of created things. Some Fathers applied it to that divine wisdom which the book of Proverbs describes as the principle of the universe; but nothing could justify such an extraordinary sense. Several modern writers, such as Olshausen, de Wette, Meyer, understand by this beginning eternity. In fact, eternity is, not the temporal beginning, but the rational principle, of time. And it is in this sense that the word ἀρχή seems to be taken in Proverbs 8:23: “In the beginning, before creating the earth,” perhaps also in 1 John 1:1: “That which was from the beginning ( ἀπ᾿ ἀρχῆς ).”

Indeed, as Weiss observes, the absolute beginning can be only the point from which our thought starts. Now such a point is not found in time, because we can always conceive in time a point anterior to that which we represent to ourselves. The absolute beginning at which our minds stop can therefore only be eternity a parte ante. It is none the less true, however, that, as this same author acknowledges, the allusion to Gen 1:1 determines the word ἀρχή as the temporal beginning of things. But if the notion of eternity is not found in the word itself, it is nevertheless implied in the logical relation of this dependent phrase to the verb ἦν , was (see farther on; comp. Keil). The Socinians, in the interest of their doctrine, have applied this word ἀρχή to the beginning of the Gospel preaching, as Mark 1:1; Luke 1:2. This sense is evidently incompatible with all that follows; no one any longer defends it at the present day. The imperfect ἦν , was, must designate, according to the ordinary meaning of this tense, the simultaneousness of the act indicated by the verb with some other act. This simultaneousness is here that of the existence of the Word with the fact designated by the word beginning. “When everything which has begun began, the Word was. ” Alone then, it did not begin; the Word was already. Now that which did not begin with things, that is to say, with time, the form of the development of things, belongs to the eternal order. Reuss objects, it is true ( Hist. de la theol . chretienne, p. 439), that, “if we infer from these words the eternity of the Word, we must infer also from the beginning of Genesis the eternity of the world.” This argument is without value. Since in Genesis we do not have the imperfect was, but the perfect definite created. When John passes to the act of creation ( Joh 1:3 ), he also abandons the imperfect to make use of the aorist ( ἐγένετο ). The notion of eternity, as we have seen, is not in the term in the beginning, but only in the relation of this term to the imperfect was. The term Word, no less than the term in the beginning, serves to recall the narrative in Genesis; it alludes to the expression: and God said, repeated eight times, which is as it were the refrain of that magnificent poem. All these sayings of God John gathers as if into one single, living word, endowed with intelligence and activity, from which emanates each one of those particular orders. At the foundation of all those spoken divine words, he discovers the divine speaking Word. But while those resound in time, this exists above and beyond time. The idea of this first proposition is, therefore, that of the eternity of the Logos.

The salient word of the second proposition is the preposition πρός , which, with the objective word in the accusative, denotes the movement of approach towards the object or the person serving to limit it. The meaning is, therefore, quite different from what it would have been, if John had said μετά , in the society of, or σύν , in union with, or ἐν , in the bosom of, or παρά , near to ( Joh 17:5 ). This preposition is chosen in order to express under a local form, as the prepositions in general do, the direction, the tendency, the moral movement of the being called the Word. His aspiration tends towards God. The form, apparently incorrect, by which John connects a preposition of motion ( towards) with a verb of rest ( was), signifies that this motion was His permanent state, that is to say, His essence. Comp. 2 Corinthians 5:8; Galatians 1:18. This use of the preposition πρός has evidently no meaning except as it is applied to a personal being. We believe that we hear in this an echo of that plural of Genesis which indicates intimate communion ( Joh 1:26 ): “Let us make man in our image.” So in the 18th verse the term Son will be substituted for Word, as Father will take the place of God. It is not of abstract beings, of metaphysical principles, that John is here pointing out the relation, but of persons. The end to which the Logos incessantly tends is τὸν θεόν , God (with the article); God is thereby designated as a being complete in Himself, independently of the Word Himself. It is not the Logos who makes Him God, even though He is inseparable from His Logos. Hence it results that the existence of the Logos rests on another principle than that of a metaphysical necessity. The idea of this second proposition is that of the personality of the Logos and of His intimate communion with God. But thus there is found lying in the Divine existence a mysterious duality. This duality is what the third proposition is designed to resolve.

In this third proposition we must not make θεός ( God) the subject, and ὁ λόγος (the Word) the predicate, as if John meant to say: And God was the Word. John does not propose in this prologue to explain what God is, but what the Word is. If the word θεός ( God), although the predicate, is placed at the beginning of the proposition, it is because in this word is contained the progress of the idea relatively to the preceding proposition. An anonymous English writer has recently proposed to place a period after ἦν was, and to make ὁ λόγος , the Word, the subject of John 1:2. The meaning would thus be:

“The Word was in relation with God and was God.” Then would follow in John 1:2: “And this Word ( ὁ λόγος οὖτος ) was in the beginning with God.” He has not perceived that the threefold repetition of the word ὁ λόγος , the Word, in these three first propositions was intentional, and that this form has a peculiar solemnity; comp. the similar repetition of the word κόσμος , Joh 1:10 and John 3:17. We find here the same grammatical form as in John 4:24 ( πνεῦμαθεός ), where the predicate is also placed at the beginning of the clause. The word θεός , God, is used without an article, because it has the sense of an adjective and designates, not the person, but the quality. Undoubtedly we must guard against giving it, for this reason, the meaning divine, which is the signification of the word θεῖος . The apostle does not mean to ascribe to the Logos that which this adjective would express, a quasi-divinity, a condition intermediate between God and the creature. This idea would be incompatible with the strict monotheism of the Scriptures. The Logos is something different from the most perfect of men or the most exalted of angels; He partakes of θεότης ( deity). It is when this proposition is thus understood, that it answers its purpose, that of bringing back to unity the duality posited in God in the preceding clause. The idea contained in the third proposition is thus that of the essential divinity of the Word.

To the plenitude of the divine life, therefore, there appertains the existence of a being eternal like God, personal like Him, God like Him; but dependent on Him, aspiring towards Him, living only for Him. And this being it is whom John has recognized in that Jesus whom he knew as the Christ, and who is to be the subject of the following narrative ( Joh 1:14 ).

We have given to the word Logos the meaning Word, and not reason which it ordinarily has with the Greek philosophers. This word signifies two things: 1, the reason, as being by its very nature in the line of manifestation; and 2, the word, as the instrument of the reason. But the first of these two meanings is foreign to the N. T. Besides, it is excluded in this passage by the relation to Genesis 1:1. We cannot therefore, as has sometimes been attempted, give to this word here the philosophical sense of divine reason and apply it to the consciousness which God has of Himself. Storr and others have taken it in the sense of ὁ λέγων , he who speaks, the supreme interpreter of the thought of God; others ( Beza, etc.) in that of ὁ λεγόμενος , the one announced, the one promised. These two senses are grammatically inadmissible. Hofmann and Luthardt, with the desire of removing from John's Prologue every element of philosophical speculation, have taken this word in the sense which the expression Word of God ordinarily has in the N. T.: the message of salvation. According to Hofmann, Jesus is thus designated because He is the true subject of all the divine messages; according to Luthardt, as being the personified proclamation, the message and the messenger identified. But what becomes of the allusion to Genesis 1:1, according to these two views? Then, in the following verses the work of creation is spoken of, not that of redemption. Finally, if the term Word had this sense, could the proposition of John 1:14: the Word was made flesh, be any longer understood? Is it allowable to suppose that John meant thereby: The contents or the agent of the gospel proclamation was made flesh? The fact is that Jesus did not become these contents or this agent except as following upon and by means of the incarnation. The anonymous English writer of whom we spoke, who evidently belongs to a party professing the Unitarian (anti-Trinitarian) doctrine, gives to the word Logos the sense of divine declaration. This is, in fact, the divine decree proclaimed as a command which produced the universe ( Joh 1:1-5 ), then the prophetic revelations ( Joh 1:6-13 ), finally, the Christian redemption ( Joh 1:14 ). All personality of Jesus anterior to His earthly appearance is thus eliminated from the text of John. But how, with this sense of the term Word, is the ἦν , was, of Joh 1:1 to be explained? The declaration of the divine will is not eternal; ἐγένετο must have been used, as in John 1:3; since this is an historical fact. No more comprehensible are the second and third propositions of John 1:1.

They would signify, according to this view, that the creative command has relation to God ( πρός ), in the sense that the creation is designed to reveal God, and other strange ideas of the same kind. Beyschlag, and several others after him, recognized clearly in Joh 1:1 the idea of the eternity of the Logos; but they deny to this being personality and would see in Him only an abstract principle, pre- existing in the divine understanding, and which is realized in time in the person of Jesus Christ. To this sense the Socinian explanation comes, according to which the Logos pre-existed only in the divine decree; also that of Ritschl and his school, which reduces the pre-existence of Christ to the eternal election of His person as the agent in the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth. Exegetically speaking, all these explanations come into collision with the second and third propositions of our verse, which, as we have seen, both of them imply the personality of the Logos. They are equally in contradiction to the words of Jesus, reported by our evangelist, from which he has also himself derived the idea formulated in this Prologue, particularly that of John 6:62: “When ye shall see the Son of man ascending where he was before,” John 8:58: “Before Abraham was, I am,” John 17:5: “Restore to me the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” Either Jesus used this language or the evangelist ascribed it to Him. In the first case, Jesus gave a false testimony respecting His person, even as the Jews accused Him of doing. In the second, the apostle allowed himself to make Him speak according to his own fancy, and this on a subject of capital importance. For ourselves, we regard both of these suppositions alike morally impossible. Meyer has modified the preceding view by supposing that the Logos, essentially impersonal, assumed the character of a person at the moment of creation and for the purpose of performing that act. This view has no basis in the text of the Prologue and none in the rest of the Scriptures. The three ἦν , was, of Joh 1:1 much rather indicate a permanent condition and one identical with itself. Finally, Neander saw in the Logos the organ by which God reveals Himself, as in the Holy Spirit he saw the force by which He communicates Himself. We do not contest the relative truth of this conception; we only find it incomplete. And for this reason: The second proposition of Joh 1:1 shows us the Logos turned primordially, not ad extra, towards the world in order to reveal God, but ad intra towards God Himself. The Logos reveals God to the world only after being immersed in God. He interprets in time the revelation of God which he receives or rather which He Himself is eternally.

To the divine essence, then, there appertains a being who is for God that which the word is for the thought, that which the face is to the soul. A living reflection of God within, it is He who reveals Him outwardly. This relation implies at once the most intimate personal communion and the most perfect subordination. How can these two facts be reconciled? Only on one condition:

That this eternal existence of the Logos is a matter, not of metaphysical necessity, but of the freedom of love. “God is love.” Now what He is, He is altogether, freely and essentially. It is the same with the Logos. His existence is a matter of eternal essence, and of free divine will, or, what unites these two ideas, of moral necessity (comp. Joh 17:24 ). It becomes one to remember that word of Christ Himself: “No one knoweth the Father except the Son” (Luke 10:22; Mat 11:27 ), and that other word of the Apostle Paul: “We see now only darkly and as in a mirror; then we shall know as we have been known.” (See further the General Considerations on the Prologue, at the end of John 1:18.)

Verses 1-14

First Section: The Logos. 1:1-14.

It would be difficult not to recognize in these first verses an allusion to the beginning of Genesis. The first words of the two writings manifestly correspond with each other. The beginning of which John here speaks can only be that which Moses had made the starting-point of his narrative. But, immediately afterwards, the two sacred writers separate from each other. Starting from the fact of the creation, Moses descends the stream of time and reaches the creation of man ( Joh 1:26 ). John, having started from the same point, follows the reverse course and ascends from the beginning of things to eternity. It is because his end in view is more remote and because in order to reach farther he must start from a point farther back. The Jewish historian has in view only the foundation of the theocratic work in Abraham, while the evangelist would reach the redemption of humanity by Jesus Christ. To find Him who shall be the agent of this second creation, instead of descending the course of things, he must ascend even beyond the beginning of the first creation.

[See also the "ADDITIONAL NOTES BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR" section in the Book Comments for John.]

Verses 1-18

PROLOGUE: 1:1-18.

EACH evangelist begins his book in a manner appropriate to the aim of his narrative. Matthew proposes to prove the right of Jesus to the Messianic throne. He opens his story with His genealogy. Mark desires quite simply to collect memorials fitted to give a comprehension of the greatness of the personage whose active work he describes; he throws himself in mediam rem, by relating, without an exordium, the beginning of the public ministry of John and of Jesus. Luke proposes to write a history in the proper sense of the word: he introduces his narrative, after the manner of the Greek historians, by a preface in which he gives an account of his sources, his method, and his aim. The prologue of John is likewise in close connection with the aim of his narrative. We shall be brought to the understanding of this fact by the study of this remarkable passage which has exercised so decisive an influence on the conception of Christianity even to our own day.

How far does this prologue extend? Only to John 1:5, answers Reuss. The words: There was a man called John, in John 1:6, are the beginning of the narrative; this is continued in John 1:14, by the mention of the incarnation of the Word; in Joh 1:19 by the account of the ministry of the Baptist, and finally with Joh 1:35 it reaches the ministry of Jesus.

But a glance at the whole passage Joh 1:6-18 shows that this arrangement does not correspond with the thought of the evangelist. The appearance of the Messiah is already mentioned before John 1:14; since Joh 1:11-13 directly relate to it; then, if the narrative had really commenced with the mention of John the Baptist in John 1:6, why should his testimony be placed much later (in Joh 1:15 )? The quotation made in Joh 1:15 comes either too early, if it should be placed in its historical situation which will be exactly described in John 1:27; John 1:30, or too late, if the author wishes to connect it with the mentioning of the appearance of the forerunner in John 1:6. No more can we understand, on Reuss' view, the appropriateness of the religious reflections contained in John 1:16-18, which would strangely interrupt the narrative already begun. It is evident that Joh 1:18 forms the pendant of John 1:1, and thus closes the cycle which is opened by that verse. The narrative, then, does not begin till John 1:19, and Joh 1:1-18 form a whole of a peculiar character.

What is the course of the ideas expressed in this preamble? For it is clear that we do not have here a mere pious effusion without any fixed plan.

Lucke supposes two parts: The first, John 1:1-5, describing the primordial existence of the Logos; the second, John 1:6-18, tracing summarily His historical appearance. This division does not explain the two-fold mention of the historical appearance of the Word John 1:11 ( came) and John 1:14 ( was made flesh). It is alleged, no doubt, that the fact is taken up, the second time, more profoundly than the first. But if the progress is to be historical, this does not solve the difficulty.

Olshausen and Lange suppose three sections: 1 John 1:1-5; 1 John 1:1-5, The primordial activity of the Logos; 2 John 1:6-13; 2 John 1:6-13, His activity during the course of the Old Covenant; 3. Joh 1:14-18 , His incarnation; then, His activity in the Church. There would be here an historical plan which is complete and rigorously followed. But the question is whether the idea of this progress is truly derived from the text, or whether it is not imported into it. In Joh 1:6-8 John the Baptist is named alone; there is no indication that he is intended to represent all the prophets, and still less the Old Covenant in general. Besides it would be necessary, according to this plan, to refer the coming of the Logos, described in John 1:11, to the revelations of the Old Covenant, and its regenerating effects which are spoken of in John 1:12-13, to the spiritual blessings bestowed upon faithful Jews before the coming of Christ. Now it is manifest that the terms employed by John reach far beyond any such application.

Luthardt and Hengstenberg, rejecting the idea of an historical progress, suppose a series of cycles which have each of them reference to the totality of the Gospel-history, but reproducing it under different aspects. The first, John 1:1-5, embodies in a summary way, the activity of the Logos up to His coming in the flesh, comprehending therein the general unsuccessfulness of His ministry here on earth. The second cycle, John 1:6-13, takes up the same history again, calling to mind especially the part of the forerunner, with the purpose of coming thereby to the fact of the Jewish unbelief. The third, finally, John 1:14-18, decribes a third time the work of Jesus Christ, and that from the point of view of the extraordinary blessings which it has brought to believers. This plan certainly approaches more nearly to the truth than the preceding ones. Nevertheless, it would be a quite strange procedure to open a narrative by making a threefold summation of it. Moreover, if these three cycles are really intended to present each time the same subject, how does it happen that they have points of departure and ending-points which are altogether different. The starting point of the first is the eternal existence of the Logos; that of the second, the appearance of John the Baptist ( Joh 1:6 ); that of the third, the incarnation of the Logos ( Joh 1:14 ). The first ends in the unbelief of the world ( Joh 1:5 ); the second, in the Israelitish unbelief ( Joh 1:11 ); the third, in the perfect revelation of God in the person of the Son ( Joh 1:18 ). Three paragraphs beginning and ending so differently can scarcely be three summaries of the same history.

Westcott divides into two parts: I. The Logos in His eternal existence ( Joh 1:1 ); II. The Logos in His relation to the creation ( Joh 1:2-18 ). This second part contains three subdivisions: 1. The fundamental facts ( Joh 1:2-5 ); 2. The historical manifestation of the Word in general ( Joh 1:6-13 ); 3. The incarnation as the object of individual experience ( Joh 1:14-18 ). This subdivision presents a fair progress, but the great disproportion between the two principal parts does not prepossess one in favor of this outline. And its chief difficulty is that of not sufficiently setting in relief the central idea, the fact of the incarnation of the Logos, and of establishing between the coming of Christ in general and His coming as the object of individual experience, a distinction which is scarcely natural and is not sufficiently indicated in the text.

The Commentary of Milligan and Moulton proposes the following plan:

1. The Word in Himself and in His general manifestations ( Joh 1:1-5 );

2. The Word appearing in the world ( Joh 1:6-13 );

3. The Word fully revealed by His incarnation ( Joh 1:14-18 ). But the difference between the last two parts does not distinctly appear.

Gess supposes four parts: 1. The primordial relation of the Logos to God and to the creation ( Joh 1:1-4 ); 2. The behavior of the darkness towards Him ( Joh 1:5-13 ); 3. His dwelling as Logos incarnate among men ( Joh 1:14-15 ). 4. The happiness which faith in Him procures ( Joh 1:16-18 ). There would be, according to this view, a correspondence between the first and the third part (the Logos before and after the incarnation) and in the same way also between the second and the fourth (unbelief and faith). This arrangement is ingenious. But does it correspond well with the divisions which are marked in the text itself, especially so far as the last part is concerned? It seems not. Besides, it would appear that the Logos before His incarnation met nothing but unbelief, and as incarnate nothing but faith, which is certainly not the evangelist's thought.

Let us mention finally the arrangement presented by Dusterdieck; 1. The Logos and the critical nature of His appearance ( Joh 1:1-5 ); 2. The Logos from His divine existence down to His historical appearance ( Joh 1:6-13 ); 3. The Logos since His historical appearance, as the object of experience and of the testimony of the Church. This plan is broad and simple. But where do we find in the prologue the mentioning of the Old Covenant which answers to the second part? The person of John the Baptist is mentioned on account of his personal role, and not as the representative of the entire Israelitish epoch. Besides, no account is given, according to this course, either of the double mention of the appearance of the Logos (John 1:11; Joh 1:14 ), or of the quotation of the testimony of John the Baptist, in John 1:15.

In spite of the criticism of which the arrangement of the prologue which I have proposed has been the object, I can do no otherwise than reproduce it here, as that which, according to my view, corresponds most exactly with the thought of the evangelist. It is summed up in these three words: the Logos, unbelief, faith. The first part presents to us the eternal and creative Logos, as the person who is to become in Jesus Christ the subject of the Gospel-history ( Joh 1:1-4 ). The second describes human unbelief with reference to Him, as it was realized in the most tragic manner in the midst of the people best prepared to receive Him ( Joh 1:5-11 ). Finally, the third glorifies faith, by describing the blessedness of those who have recognized in Christ the Word made flesh, and have thus gained reentrance into the communion with the Logos and recovery of the life and the truth which man derived from Him before he separated himself from Him ( Joh 1:12-18 ).

We shall see, by studying the Gospel, that these three fundamental ideas of the prologue are precisely those which preside over the arrangement of the entire narrative, and which determine its grand divisions.

It is undoubtedly difficult, to tell whether we must assign to Joh 1:5 its place in the first or in the second passage. This verse is the transition from the one to the other, and, at the foundation, it appertains to both. The twelfth and thirteenth verses occupy an analogous position between the second and the third passage. Let us notice, however, that at the beginning of John 1:12 a δέ ( but) is found, the only adversative particle of the prologue. The apostle seems to have wished, by this means, to mark clearly the opposition between the picture of unbelief and that of faith. This is a point which seems to me not to be taken into account by the numerous interpreters who, like Weiss and Gess, connect John 1:12-13, with the second part, in order to begin the third at John 1:14; this circumstance induces us rather to begin the third part (that of faith) at John 1:12.

As the overture of an oratorio causes all the principal themes to be sounded which will be developed in the sequel of the work, and forms a prelude thus to the entire piece, so John in this preamble has brought out at the outset the three essential factors of the history which he is going to trace: the Logos, then the unbelief and the faith of which his appearance has been the object.

The general questions to which this passage gives rise will be treated in an appendix following upon the exegesis.

Verse 2

[See also the "General Considerations on the Prologue" in the comments of John 1:18.]

Vv. 2. This Word was in the beginning with God.

With this Logos which John has in a manner just discovered in eternity, he takes his place at that beginning of time ( Joh 1:1 ) from which he went backward even to what was before time, and now he comes down the course of the ages, to the end of showing the Logos operating in the history of the world as the organ of God, before the moment when He is Himself to appear on the earth. The pronoun οὗτος , this Logos, reproduces more particularly the idea of the third proposition of John 1:1: this Word-God; but the apostle joins with it that of the first two, in such a way as to resume in this verse the substance of the three propositions of John 1:1, and thus to explain the part of Creator which he is about to ascribe to the Logos in John 1:3. There is, therefore, no contrast in the pronoun οὖτος to any other being whatever, as Meyer supposes, and as the translation of Rilliet would indicate: “ It is he who was...” The allusion to the account in Genesis in the words: with God, is no less evident here than in John 1:1; comp. Genesis 1:26 ( let us make,...our image,... our likeness).

Verse 3

[See also the "General Considerations on the Prologue" in the comments of John 1:18.]

Vv. 3. All things were made through Him, and not one of the things which exist was made without Him.

The work of creation was the first act of the divine revelation ad extra. The preposition διά , through, does not lower the Logos to the rank of a mere instrument. For this preposition is often applied to God Himself (Romans 11:36; Galatians 1:1; Heb 2:10 ). Nevertheless it has as its object to reserve the place of God beside and above the Logos. This same relation is explained and more completely developed by Paul, 1 Corinthians 8:6: “We have but one God, the Father from whom ( ἐκ ) are all things, and we are for him ( εἰς ); and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through ( διά ) whom are all things, and we are through him.” So, then, no being has come into existence without having passed through the intelligence and will of the Logos. But, also, the Logos derives everything from the Father, and refers everything to the Father. This is what is at once indicated by διά , through, which leaves room for ἐκ with relation to the Father.

The word πάντα , all things, differs from τὰ πάντα all the things, in that the second phrase can designate a particular totality which must be determined according to the context (comp. 2Co 5:18 ), while the first indicates the most unlimited universality. The term γίνεσθαι , to become, forms a contrast with εἰναι , to be, in John 1:1-2; it indicates the passage from nothing to existence, as opposed to eternal existence; comp. the same contrast, John 8:58: Before Abraham became, I am.

The second proposition repeats in a negative form the idea which is affirmatively stated in the first. This mode of expression is frequently found in John, especially in the first Epistle; it is intended to exclude any exception. The reading οὐδέν , nothing, instead of οὐδὲ ἕν , not even one thing, is not sufficiently supported. It is, undoubtedly, connected with the explanation which places a period immediately after this word ἕν (see on Joh 1:4 ).

Some modern writers, Lucke, Olshausen, de Wette, Baumlein, suppose that by this expression: Not even one thing, John meant to set aside the Platonic idea of eternal matter ( ὕλη ). But eternal matter would not be a ἕν , one thing; it would be the foundation of everything. It is no less arbitrary to claim, as has been claimed, that in this passage the apostle aims to make the world proceed from an eternally pre-existing matter. Where in the text is the slightest trace of such an idea to be found? Far from holding that a blind principle, such as matter, co-operated in the existence of the universe, John means to say, on the contrary, that every existence comes from that intelligent and free being whom he has for this reason designated by the name Word. There is not an insect, not a blade of grass, which does not bear the trace of this divine intervention, the seal of this wisdom. “The foundation of the universe,” as Lange says, “is luminous.” It is the Word!

We have, in the translation, joined the last words of the Greek phrase: ὅ γέγονεν ( which exists) to John 1:3, and not, as many interpreters, to John 1:4 (see on that verse). These words seem, it is true, to mak a useless repetition in connection with the verb ἐγένετο ( became). This apparent repetition has been explained by a redundancy peculiar to the style of John. But it must not be forgotten that the Greek perfect is, in reality, a present, and that the sense of ο ' γέγονεν is consequently, not: nothing of what has come to be, has come to be without Him; but nothing of what subsists, of what now is ( γέγονε ), came to be ( ἐγένετο ) without Him. There is here, therefore, neither redundance nor tautology. The apostle here has nothing to do with theological speculation; his aim is practical. He has in view the redemptive work ( Joh 1:14 ); he wishes to make it understood that He who is become our Saviour is nothing less than the divine and personal being who was associated with God in the work of creation. But the Word has not been the organ of God simply for bringing all beings from nothing into existence; it is He, also, who, when the world is once created, remains the principle of its conservation, and of its ulterior development, both physical and moral.

Verse 4

[See also the "General Considerations on the Prologue" in the comments of John 1:18.]

Vv. 4: “ In Him there was life, and the life was the light of men. ” A large number of authorities join with this verse the words ὃ γέγονεν ( that which subsists), which we have united with the preceding verse; so already the Gnostic Heracleon, then Origen, the Syriac versions, the MSS. A C D ( א B, have no punctuation), and the Latin Fathers. Several modern editors ( Wetstein, Lachmann, Westcott, etc.), do the same. On this view, we can translate in three ways. Either, with Cyril of Alexandria: “That which exists...there was life in him” (in that existing being); or: “That which exists in him was living” (placing the comma after αὐτῷ ); or finally: “That which exists, had life (was living) in him” (the comma before αὐτῷ ). The first meaning is grammatically forced; the thought, moreover, is an idle one. Of the other two constructions, the simplest, the one also which gives the most natural meaning, is certainly the second. For the idea which needs to be determined and explained by the defining words ἐν αὐτῷ ( in him), is not the subject, that which subsists, which is made sufficiently plain by John 1:3, but the predicate was life. This last interpretation, however, is also inadmissible. With this meaning, John would have said, not: was life (a far too strong expression), but: “ had life in him.” The expression ζωὴν ἔχειν is familiar to him in the sense of participating in life ( Joh 3:15-16 ; John 5:24; John 6:47, etc.).

The words ὅ γέγονεν , therefore, cannot in any way belong to John 1:4; and the subject of the first proposition of this verse is, consequently, the word ζωή , life: “Life was in Him.” But what meaning is to be given to these words? Must we, with Weiss, apply the term life to the life of the Logos Himself. The Logos had life, as unceasingly in communication with the Father ( Joh 1:1 ). But why return to the description of the nature of the Logos, already described in John 1:1-2, and after His first manifestation, the act of creation, had already been mentioned? Weiss answers that, as John 1:1-2, had prepared the way for the mentioning of the creative work ( Joh 1:3 ), Joh 1:4 returns to the nature of the Logos in order to prepare for that which is about to be said in Joh 1:5 of His illuminating activity. But this alleged symmetry between Joh 1:4 and Joh 1:1 is very forced. There is constant progress, and no going backward. It is an altogether simple course to regard Joh 1:4 as continuing the description of the work of the Logos. The world, after having received existence through Him ( Joh 1:3 ), gained in Him the life which it enjoyed. There is here a double gradation: first, from the idea of existence to that of life, then from “ through Him” to “ in Him.” Compare an analogous double gradation in Colossians 1:16-17: “All things have been created through Him ( δἰ αὐτοῦ ἔκτισται )...; and they subsist in Him ( ἐν αὐτῷ συνέστηκε ).”

Life, indeed, is more than existence. It is existence saturated with force, existence in its state of normal progress towards the perfect destination of being. And this first gradation is connected with the second: It is through the Logos that the world exists; it is in intimate relation with Him (“in Him”) that it receives the life-giving forces by means of which it subsists and is developed. With the same meaning, Gess says: “The creation has not been abandoned by the Logos subsequently to the act of creation; but He penetrated it with forces which were able to make it prosper, make it move onward with success.” Some interpreters apply the term life here solely to the physical life ( Calvin, etc.); others, to the spiritual life ( Origen, Hengstenberg, Weiss). But this distinction is out of place in this passage. For, as the question in hand is as to what the Logos was for created beings, it follows from this fact that He communicates life to each one of them in a different measure, and in a form appropriate to its aspirations and capacities; to some, physical life only; to others, that life, and besides one or another degree of the higher life, Thus, the want of the article before the word ζωή ( life), is very fully explained; the purpose being to leave this word in its most unlimited and most variously applicable sense. The reading ἐστι ( is), instead of ἦν ( was), in the Sinaitic and Cambridge manuscripts, has been wrongly adopted by Tischendorf, in his eighth edition; it is incompatible with the ἦν of the following clause. It is, undoubtedly, a correction arising from the interpretation of those who connect the words ὃ γέγονε with John 1:4; since this perfect γέγονε , being in sense a present, demands in the verb of the principal clause the present ( is), and not the imperfect ( was).

To what moment of history must we refer the fact declared in this proposition? Hengstenberg and Brucknerthink that the question is of a purely ideal relation; the first, in this sense: “The Logos must one day (at the moment of His incarnation) become the life, that is to say, the salvation of the world;” the second: “The Logos would have been the life of the world, had it not been for sin, which has broken the bond between the world and Him.” But these two explanations violate the sense of the word was, which must express a reality, as well as the was in John 1:1-2.

In the first editions of this Commentary, suffering myself to be guided by the connection between Joh 1:3 and John 1:4, I referred John 1:4, with Meyer, to the time which immediately followed the creation, to that moment of normal opening to life when the Word, no longer meeting any obstacle to His beneficent action in nature and in humanity, poured forth abundantly to every being the riches of life; these words designated thus the paradisaical condition. In this way, Joh 1:4 answered to Genesis 2:0, as Joh 1:3 to Genesis 1:0, and Joh 1:5 to Genesis 3:0 (the fall). The two imperfects was, in this verse, are in harmony with this view. I am obliged, however, to give up this view now, in consequence of a change which I have felt compelled, since the second edition, to make in my interpretation of John 1:5 (see on that verse). If the 5th verse is referred, as I now refer it, not to the fall and the condition which followed it, but to the appearance of the Logos at His coming in the flesh, and to the rejection of Him by mankind, the interval between John 1:4 (Paradise) and John 1:5 (the rejection of Christ) would be too considerable to be included in the simple καί , and, at the beginning of John 1:5. We must therefore necessarily extend the epoch described in Joh 1:4 to the whole time which elapsed from the creation ( Joh 1:3 ) to the coming of Christ ( Joh 1:5 ). During all that period of the history of humanity, the world subsisted and was developed only by virtue of the life which was communicated to it by the Logos. The Logos was, as Schaff says, “the life of every life.” Not only all existence, but all force, all enjoyment, all progress in the creation were His gift.

The meaning of the second proposition naturally follows from that which has been given to the first. If, as Weiss thinks, the first referred to the life which the Logos possesses in Himself, the second would signify that this same Logos, in so far as He possesses the spiritual life through the perfect knowledge which He has of God, became the light of men by communicating it to them. But John does not say in Joh 1:4 that the Logos was Himself the light of men; he makes the light proceed from the life which the Logos communicated to them. And this is the reason why he limits the word life in the second proposition by the article: That life, which the world received from the Logos become light in men, it opened itself in them and in them alone, in virtue of their inborn aptitudes, in the form of light.

Light, with John, is one of those extremely rich expressions which it is difficult accurately to define. It does not designate an exclusively moral idea, salvation, as Hengstenberg thinks, or holiness, the true mode of being, as Luthardt says; for in these two senses it could not be sufficiently distinguished from life. No more is it a purely intellectual notion: reason ( Calvin, de Wette), for John could not say, in this sense: God is light, ( 1Jn 1:5 ). In this last passage, John adds: “And there is in him no darkness. ” If he means by this last term moral evil, the depravity of the will uniting with it the inward falsehood, the darkening of the intelligence which results from it, the light will be, to his thought, moral good, holiness, together with the inward clearness, the general intuition of the truth which arises from a good will; let us say: the distinct consciousness of oneself and of God in the common sphere of good, the possession of the true view-point with respect to all things through uprightness of heart, holiness joyously contemplating its own reality and thereby all truth. This inward light is an emanation of the life, of the life as moral life. Here is the explanation of the objective phrase: of men; for men alone, as intelligent and free beings, as moral agents, are capable of the enjoyment of such light. This word would certainly have a very natural application to the primitive state of man in paradise. But it can be extended to the human condition in general, even after the fall. God has continued to reveal to man “the end and the way” ( Gess). From existence, as it appeared in man, determined by the consciousness of moral obligation, there has sprung up in all times and in all places a certain light concerning man, concerning his relations with God, concerning God Himself, and concerning the world; comp. as to the Jews John 7:17, and as to the Gentiles John 10:16; John 11:52; so also in Paul: Romans 1:19; Romans 1:21; 1 Corinthians 1:21; Acts 14:17. The various forms of worship and the indisputable traces of a certain moral sense, even among peoples the most degraded, are the proofs of this universal light emanating from the Logos. All the rays of the sentiment of the beautiful, the true and the just which have illuminated and which ennoble humanity, justify the expression of John (comp. Joh 1:10 ). It is this fundamental truth which was formulated by the Fathers (Justin, Clem. Alex.) in their doctrine of the λόγος σπερματικός . There is nothing more contrary to the idea of an original dualism which Baur and his school ascribe to John, than this expression: of men, which embraces all humanity without any distinction.

Verse 5

[See also the "General Considerations on the Prologue" in the comments of John 1:18.]

Vv. 5: “ And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness apprehended it not.

What, then, is this darkness ( σκοτία ) which all at once fills the scene of the world created and enlightened by the Word? It is impossible, with some interpreters of Baur's school, to think of eternal darkness, of a kingdom of evil co-eternal with that of good. Joh 1:3 is positively opposed to this: everything that is, without exception, is the work of the Logos. But John, as Joh 1:3-4 have proved, wrote for readers who were acquainted with the account in Genesis. We must also explain Joh 1:5 according to this account. The darkness of which the evangelist speaks is the subjection to sin and falsehood in which humanity lives in consequence of the fact of the fall, narrated in Genesis 3:0. As the Logos was the principle of life and light for the world, moral obscurity invaded it, as soon as humanity had ceased to live in Him ( Joh 1:3 ); there was darkness. The Logos, however, none the less perseveres in His office of illuminator ( Joh 1:4 ), and He ends by appearing Himself on this theatre which He has never ceased to enlighten. Formerly, I referred the present φαίνει , it shines, to the beneficent action of the Logos before His incarnation: this is the thought which I have just shown to be contained in the second clause of John 1:4. This view approaches the explanation of de Wette, who refers the φαίνει , shines, to the revelations of the O. T., and that of the interpreters who apply it to the moral light granted to the heathen by means of reason and conscience. Three reasons have made me give up this explanation:

1. The present φαίνει , shines, is only naturally explained, especially in contrast to the two past tenses of John 1:4, if we refer it to a present fact; now this fact contemporaneous with the moment when the evangelist writes can only be the earthly appearance of Christ and of the Gospel proclamation which perpetuates the glory of it here on earth.

2. The very striking parallel passage, 1 John 2:8: “Because the darkness is passing away, and the true light already shineth” ( ἤδη φαίνει ), can apply only, according to the context, to the Gospel era, and it thus determines the meaning of the same expression in the Prologue.

3. The truly decisive reason, to my view, is the significant asyndeton between Joh 1:5 and John 1:6. The absence of a logical particle most frequently indicates, in Greek, a more emphatic and more developed reaffirmation of the thought already expressed. Now, it does not appear to me possible to interpret otherwise this form of expression in this passage. The historical fact so abruptly introduced in Joh 1:6 by the words: “There appeared a man....,” can only be thus mentioned with the design of giving through history the proof of the thought declared in John 1:5; and as the development which opens at Joh 1:6 and closes in Joh 1:11 relates wholly to the rejection of Christ by Israel, it follows that the second part of John 1:5, the theme of this development, can only relate to this same fact. Thus the φαίνει , shines, is understood by Ewald, Hengstenberg, Luthardt, Weiss. Some interpreters think that the act of shining can apply to the action of the Logos alike before and during His earthly life; so Olshausen, Meyer, Westcott, the last writer extending the meaning of the present shines from the moment of the creation even to the consummation of things. But the two modes of illumination, internal and external, which would be thus attributed to the Logos here, are of too heterogeneous a nature to make it possible to unite them in the same term. We have, moreover, already seen that the present shines cannot naturally apply to the time which preceded the incarnation.

The καί , and, simply indicates the calm continuity of the work of the Logos throughout these different stages; the office which He accomplished in the depths of the human soul ( Joh 1:4 ) has ended in that which He has just accomplished as Messiah in the midst of the Jewish people ( Joh 1:5-11 ). Weiss and Gess object to this explanation, that it forces us to give to the word τὸ φῶς , the light, a different sense in Joh 1:4 and John 1:5: there, the light as a gift of the Logos; here, the light as being the Logos Himself. But in Joh 1:4 the question is of a light emanating from the life, and consequently impersonal, while in John 1:5, John speaks of the light as visibly and personally present. This, then, is his meaning: that that moral good the ideal of which the Logos caused to shine in the human soul, He has come to realize in Himself here on earth, and thus to display it in all its brightness ( Joh 1:5 ). John uses this notion of light with great freedom. We find the same two senses united in the same verse in John 8:12: “I am the light of the world” this is the sense of the light in our Joh 1:5 and “He that followeth me shall have the light of life” this is the sense of the word in John 1:4. The active form φαίνει , shines, is purposely employed rather than the middle φαίνεται , which would signify: appears, shows itself. John means, not that it has appeared, but that from this time forward it pours forth its brilliancy in the darkness of humanity, striving to dissipate the darkness.

The second part of Joh 1:5 is explained in two opposite ways, according to the two opposite meanings which are given to the verb, κατέλαβεν . This verb, which signifies to lay hands on, to seize, may denote a hostile act: to seize in order to restrain, to overcome, or a friendly act: to seize in order to appropriate to oneself, to possess. The first of these meanings is that which the ancient Greek interpreters ( Origen, Chrysostom, etc.), adopt: for a long time abandoned, it is now again preferred by some modern writers ( Lange, Weiss, Westcott); “And the darkness did not succeed in restraining, in extinguishing this light.” In favor of this meaning the expression in Joh 12:35 is cited: “Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you ( καταλάβῃ in the hostile sense).” But even in that passage, the meaning of this verb is not overcome; Jesus speaks of the night, not as restraining the day, but as overtaking the traveler who started on his journey too late. This single example which is cited, therefore, is not really one. Besides, this meaning is excluded by the context when properly understood. We have seen that the asyndeton between John 1:5-6, implies a very close relation of thought between them. Now, this relation exists only as Joh 1:5 states a fact which already refers, like all that which follows, to the development of unbelief, not of faith. This it is which prevents us from translating: “and the darkness did not restrain it.” In order to find in what follows the evidence of a similar idea, we must pass beyond the entire development of John 1:6-11, and proceed to discover it in the fact mentioned in John 1:12-13: “To all those who received him...;” which is, of course, impossible, and the more so as Joh 1:12 is connected with Joh 1:11 by the adversative particle δέ . Besides, if the apostle wished to express the idea which is attributed to him, he had for this purpose the very natural word κατέχειν , to check, to repress: comp. Romans 1:18. It is fitting, therefore, to apply to the word here the other meaning which is the prevailing one throughout the whole New Testament. Comp. Philippians 3:12-13 (to attain the end); 1 Corinthians 9:24 (to lay hold of the prize); Romans 9:30 (to obtain the righteousness of faith). In the same sense it is also used in Sir 15:1-7 : καταλαμβάνειν σοφίαν (to attain to wisdom). I lay stress only on the passages where the verb is used, as it is here, in the active. The sense of comprehend in which it is taken in the middle (Acts 4:13; Acts 10:34; Eph 3:18 ) rests also on the meaning of the verb which we here adopt. John means, accordingly, that the darkness did not suffer itself to be penetrated by the light which was shining in order to dissipate it. To understand this somewhat strange figure, we must recall to mind the fact that the word darkness here denotes, not an abstract principle, but living and free beings, corrupted humanity. Understood in this sense, this second proposition is the summary statement which is developed in the following passage, John 1:6-11; it has its counterpart in the second proposition of John 1:11. The choice of the slightly different term παρέλαβεν received ( Joh 1:11 ), in order to express nearly the same idea as κατέλαβεν of John 1:5, will be easily explained. The καί , and, which joins this proposition to the preceding one, takes the place, as is often the case, of a δέ , but. John presents the course of things, not from the point of view of the changing conduct of mankind towards God, but from that of the faithful and persevering conduct of the Logos towards mankind. The aorist κατέλαβεν stands out in relief on the general basis of the present φαίνει , as a particular and unique act, an attitude taken once for all. To the view of the evangelist, the refusal of the mass of mankind to allow themselves to be enlightened by the Gospel is already an accomplished fact. Comp. the saying of Jesus in John 3:19, which is, as it were, the text from which are derived the present words: “The light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light, because their works were evil.” The apostle passes now to the account of the manner in which this decisive moral fact stated in Joh 1:5 was accomplished and how it was consummated in Israel. And that he may make the gravity of it thoroughly apprehended, he begins by calling to mind the extraordinary means which God adopted, in order, as it would seem, to render it impossible, John 1:6-8.

Verses 5-11

Second Section: Unbelief. 1:5-11.

This Logos, light of the world, appears in the world buried in the darkness of sin; He is not recognized and is rejected ( Joh 1:5 ). And yet God had taken all precautions to prevent such a result ( Joh 1:6-8 ). But the impossible is realized ( Joh 1:9-11 ).

Verse 6

[See also the "General Considerations on the Prologue" in the comments of John 1:18.]

Ver. 6. “ There appeared a man sent from God; his name was John.

The forerunner is not mentioned here as representing, either the whole of the Jewish economy, or prophetism in particular, as is thought by the interpreters who endeavor to find an historical plan in the Prologue. The apostle speaks of the forerunner only with respect to his personality and from the point of view of his relation to that of the Saviour.

The mention of the forerunner in this place with such particularity is, as Weiss observes, characteristic of the Apostle John, to whom the Baptist had served as a guide to conduct him to Christ.

The word ἐγένετο , became, appeared, points to an historical fact, and might thus form a contrast with the verbs ἠν , was, which in Joh 1:1 designated the eternal existence of the Word; but between them the two ἠν of Joh 1:4 have intervened. The word ἅνθρωπος , a man, might also be the antithesis to the divine subject who has alone been brought forward up to this point; yet there is nothing which indicates this with sufficient positiveness.

The analytic form ἐγένετο ἀπεσταλμένος sets forth the importance of the person of John in a better way than the simple ἀπεστάλη , which would have reference only to his mission. He was the first prophetic person raised up by God since a time long past. On the word sent, comp. John 3:28: “Because I am sent before him,” as well as Malachi 3:1, from which passage this expression is certainly drawn. The name John ( God shows grace) marked the character of the era which was about to open. Yet it is not for this reason that the evangelist mentions the name here. He means simply to say: “This man, of whom I speak to you, is the one who is known by you all under the name of John.” It is remarkable that our evangelist uses simply the name John, without adding the epithet Baptist, which had early become inseparable from this name, as we see from the Synoptics, and even from the Jewish historian, Josephus. Does not Meyer reasonably conclude from this omission (Introd. p. 31), that the author of our Gospel must have known the forerunner otherwise than through the general tradition of the Church? If he had really known him before the public voice had given him this title, it was very natural that he should designate him simply by his name. Credner thought that, inasmuch as the title Baptist served in the Church to distinguish the forerunner from another person of the same name (John the apostle), the latter omitted the title in order that he might not attract attention to himself by the contrast; an ingenious observation, but, perhaps, less well- founded than the preceding. After having introduced this personage, the author describes his role:

Verse 7

[See also the "General Considerations on the Prologue" in the comments of John 1:18.]

Ver. 7. “ This one came as a witness, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him.

The pronoun οὖτος , this one, sums up all the statements of the preceding verse, as οὗτος of Joh 1:2 summed up all those of John 1:1. The verb ἦλθε , came, indicates a more advanced step than the ἐγένετο , appeared, of John 1:6; the entrance of John upon his public activity. This character of witness has such importance, in the view of the evangelist, that he presents it, the first time, without an object: as a witness or (more literally), for testimony; the second time, with an indication of the object of the testimony. The first expression makes prominent the quality of witness in itself (in contrast to the superior dignity of the personage who is to follow). The second completes the idea of this testimony.

This idea of testimony is one of the fundamental notions of our Gospel. It is correlative to and inseparable from that of faith. Testimony is given only with a view to faith, and faith is impossible except by means of testimony. The only faith worthy of the name is that which fastens itself upon a divine testimony given either in act or in word. Testimony resembles the vigorous trunk of the oak; faith, the slender twig which embraces this trunk and makes it its support. But did the light need to be attested, pointed out? Does not the sun give its own proof of itself? Certainly, if the Word had appeared here below in the glory which belongs to Him ( the form of God, Php 2:6 ), the sending of a witness would not have been necessary. But He was obliged to appear enveloped in a thick veil ( the flesh, Joh 1:14 ); and, in the condition of blindness into which sin had plunged man (John 1:5, the darkness), he could not recognize Him except with the help of a testimony. The evangelist adds: That all might believe through him; evidently: Believe on Christ through John, and not on God through Christ, as Grotius and Ewald thought. The question in this verse is not of the office of Christ, but of that of John. When the critics of Baur's school charge our author with setting up, in agreement with the Gnostics, two kinds of men, of opposite origins and destinies, the psychical and the pneumatical, they seem to be forgetful of these words: “That all might believe through him.”

We find here a new indication of the part which the forerunner had played in the development of the writer's own faith. To the affirmation of the fact, John adds, as in John 1:3, a negative proposition, designed to exclude every opposite idea.

Verse 8

[See also the "General Considerations on the Prologue" in the comments of John 1:18.]

Ver. 8. “ He was not the light; but [he came] to bear witness to the light.

The emphasis is not, as Meyer and Weiss think, on the verbal idea, was, but on the subject He, in contrast with the other personage ( Joh 1:9 ). Hence the choice of the pronoun ἐκεῖνος , which has always with John a strongly emphatic and even oftentimes exclusive sense. It is in vain, as it seems to me, that Weiss denies this special use of the pronoun ἐκεῖνος in our Gospel. In a multitude of cases, this commentator is obliged to have recourse to veritable feats of skill in order to maintain that this pronoun always designates a subject or an object which is more remote, in opposition to one that is nearer; comp. e.g., Joh 1:40 ; John 5:39; John 7:45, and many other passages which we shall notice, and where the sense which is claimed by Weiss is not applicable. The ἵνα , in order that, depends, according to Meyer and Weiss, on an ἦλθε ( came) understood, or it is even, according to Luthardt, independent of any verb, as often in John (John 9:3; John 13:18; Joh 15:25 ). But this independence can never be other than apparent; a purpose must always depend on some action. And it is unnatural to go very far in search of the verb ἦλθε , came, while the verb ἦν , was, can easily take the sense of “was there ” ( aderat) and serve as a point of support for the in order that; comp. John 7:39, where Weiss himself renders ἦν by aderat.

It appears to me scarcely admissible that by this remark John desires simply to set forth the absolute superiority of Jesus to John the Baptist, ( Meyer, Hengstenberg); or that, as Weiss thinks, we have here again a point merely describing the experience of the author himself as an old disciple of the forerunner. The negative form is too emphatic to be explained thus, and the analogous passages John 1:20; John 3:25 ff., compared with Acts 13:25, and with the remarkable fact related in Acts 19:3-4, lead us rather to suppose a polemic design in opposition to persons who attributed to the forerunner the dignity of Messiah (comp. Introd. pp. 213, 214).

The testimony of John should have opened the door of faith to all, and rendered unbelief impossible. And yet the impossibility is realized, and even under the most monstrous form. This is what is developed in John 1:9-11.

Verse 9

[See also the "General Considerations on the Prologue" in the comments of John 1:18.]

Ver. 9. “ The true light, which enlightens every man, came into the world.

I think I must positively decide for this interpretation, making the participle ἐρχόμενον , coming, the predicate of the verb ἦν , was: was coming, for: came. This analytic form implies an idea of continuance. At the moment when John bore witness of the light, it was in course of coming; it was properly coming; thus Bengel, Lucke, de Wette, Weiss, Westcott. This verse, thus understood, leaves to the expression to come into the world the ordinary, and in some sort technical, sense which it has in John (John 3:19; John 6:14; John 9:39; John 18:37, etc.). Some interpreters, while adopting the same construction, refer this term: came into the world to the long coming of the Logos through the ages, by means of His revelations during the whole course of the Old Covenant ( Keim, Westcott). But this sense would lead, as we shall see, to a tautology with the first proposition of the following verse. Other meanings given to ἦν ἔρχόμενον by Tholuck: “He was going to come,” and by Luthardt, “He was to come,” are hardly natural. Meyer, with some ancient and modern interpreters ( Origen, Chrysostom, Augustine, Calvin, Beza, etc.), adopts an entirely different construction; he joins the ἐρχόμενον with the substantive ἄνθρωπον : “which enlightens every man coming into the world. ” In this case τὸ φῶς , the light, is taken as the subject of ἦν , which is translated in the sense of aderat “was present.” “The true light, which enlightens every man coming into the world, was present;” or τὸ φῶς is made the predicate of ἦν , by giving to this verb as its subject a φῶς to be supplied from the preceding verse: “This light (to which John bore witness, Joh 1:8 ) was the true light which enlightens every man coming into the world.” The uselessness of this appended phrase, which is self-evident, has been often alleged against this connection of ἐρχόμενον , coming, with the substantive every man; but wrongly, as I showed in my first edition, where I adopted this explanation. For these words thus understood would signify that the light of the Logos is a divine gift which every man brings with him when he is born, that the matter in question is, accordingly, an innate light. This idea, however, is not lost in the other construction; it is still found in the words: which enlightens every man. The two constructions of ἦν , either in the sense of was present, or by supplying with it a subject derived from the preceding verse, are not very natural. Finally, the logical connection with Joh 1:8 is closer with the first meaning: John came to testify of the light ( Joh 1:8 ): for at that very moment it was on the point of appearing in the world ( Joh 1:9 ). In my second edition, I attempted a third, or even a fourth construction, by attaching the participle ἐρχόμενον , not to ἦν , nor to ἄνθρωπον , but to φωτίζει , to enlighten, making it a sort of Latin gerundive: “which enlightens every man by coming (itself) into the world.” But this use of the participle can scarcely be justified by sufficient examples.

The word ἀληθινός , veritable, appears here for the first time. It is one of the characteristic terms of John's style. Of twenty-eight passages in which we meet with it in the N.T., twenty-three belong to John, nine in the Gospel, four in the first Epistle, and ten in the Apocalypse ( Milligan). It is also used in the classics. It designates the fact as the adequate realization of the idea. It contrasts, therefore, not the true with the false, but the normal appearance with the imperfect realization. The light of which John speaks, consequently, is characterized by it as the essential light, in opposition to every light of an inferior order. The expression: which enlightens every man, if applied to the Gospel revelation, would designate the universalistic character of the Gospel; the present enlightens would be that of the idea. It is more natural, however, to find here again the notion which was expressed in John 1:4: the Logos, as the internal light, enlightening every man, illuminating him by the sublime intuitions of the good, the beautiful and the true. The term every man gives again a formal contradiction to the assertion of Baur's school which makes John a dualistic philosopher.

The Logos when coming into the world did not arrive there as a stranger. By profound and intimate relations with humanity, He had prepared for His advent here on earth, and seemed to be assured of a favorable reception:

Verse 10

[See also the "General Considerations on the Prologue" in the comments of John 1:18.]

Ver. 10. “ He was in the world and the world had been made by Him, and the world knew Him not.

A contrast is evidently intended between the first words of this verse and the last words of John 1:9. This contrast is the occasion of the asyndeton. “The Logos came into the world” ( Joh 1:9 ); “and yet he had long been there” (John 1:10 a); “and also the world was His work” (John 1:10 b). The first two propositions set forth that which is incredible, apparently impossible, in the result which is stated in the third (John 1:10 c): “and the world did not know him.” Weiss regards the being in the world (John 1:10 a) as the consequence of coming into the world indicated in John 1:9. But the asyndeton between the two Joh 1:9-10 does not suit this logical relation (see Keil); and, in this case, to what fact does the expression: “He was in the world” refer? It must necessarily be to a fact posterior to the birth of Jesus. This is held, indeed, by de Wette, Meyer, Astie, Weiss, and others; they apply the first proposition (John 1:10 a) to the presence of Jesus in Israel at the moment when John the Baptist was carrying on his ministry, and the third (John 1:10 c) to the ignorance in which the Jews still were at that moment of the fact so important of the presence of the Messiah; so, in the same sense, where John himself says to them ( Joh 1:26 ): “There is present in the midst of you one whom you do not know.

I do not believe it possible to suggest a more inadmissible interpretation. In the first place, that ignorance in which the people then were with regard to the presence of the Messiah had nothing reprehensible in it, since this presence had not yet been disclosed to them by the forerunner; it could not therefore be the ground of the tone of reproach which attaches to this solemn phrase: “And the world knew him not!” Then, the imperfect would have been necessary: “And the world was not knowing him,” and not the aorist, which denotes an accomplished and definite fact. Moreover, it would be necessary to give to the word world an infinitely narrower meaning than in the preceding clause, where it was said: “and the world (the universe) had been made by him.” Finally, how are we to justify the juxtaposition of two facts so heterogeneous as that of the creation of the world by the Word (John 1:10 b) and that of His presence, then momentarily unknown, in Israel! There is no harmony between the three clauses of this verse except by referring the first and the third to facts which are no less cosmic and universal than that of the creation of the world, mentioned in the second. This is the reason why we do not hesitate to refer the first to the presence and action of the Logos in humanity before His coming in the flesh, and the third to the criminal want of understanding in humanity, which, in its entirety, failed to recognize in Christ the Logos, its creator and illuminator, who had appeared in its midst. This return backward to that which the Logos is for the universe (comp. Joh 1:3 ), and especially for man (comp. Joh 1:4 ), is intended to make conspicuous the unnatural character of the rejection of which He was the object here on earth. The world was His work, bearing the stamp of His intelligence, as the master-piece bears the stamp of the genius of the artist who has conceived and executed it; He was filling it with His invisible presence, and especially with the moral light with which He was enlightening the human soul...and behold, when He appears, this world created and enlightened by Him did not recognize Him! One might be tempted to apply the words: “ did not know him,” to the fact indicated in Romans 1:21-23; Acts 14:16; Acts 17:30; 1 Corinthians 1:21, the voluntary ignorance of the heathen world with respect to God as revealed in nature and conscience. In that case we should be obliged to translate: “ had not known him,” and to see in this sin of the heathen world the prelude to that of the Jewish world, indicated in the following verse. But the non-recognition and rejection of the Logos as such cannot be made a reproach to the world before His personal incarnation in Jesus Christ. The matter in question, then, is the rejection of the Logos in His earthly appearance. This general and cosmic rejection was already regarded by Jesus as a consummated fact in the time of His ministry (John 3:19; Joh 15:18 ); how much more must it have seemed so at the moment when John was writing! The Church formed among mankind only an imperceptible minority, and this proportion between the true believers and the unbelievers has remained the same in all times and in all places.

The masculine pronoun αὐτόν , him, refers to the neuter term τὸ φῶς , the light, which proves that αὐτοῦ also must be taken as masculine. This grammatical anomaly arises from the fact that the apostle has now in view the light in so far as it had personally appeared in Jesus. This is, likewise, the reason why he substitutes the word ἔγνω knew, for κατέλαβε laid hold of ( Joh 1:5 ), although the idea is fundamentally the same. One lays hold of a principle, one recognizes a person.

The failure to recognize the Logos as He appeared in Jesus is stated at first, in the third proposition of John 1:10, in an abstract and summary way as a general fact. Then, the fact is described in Joh 1:11 under the form of its most striking historical and concrete realization.

Verse 11

[See also the "General Considerations on the Prologue" in the comments of John 1:18.]

Ver. 11. “ He came to His own and they that were His own received Him not.

A relation of gradation might be established between this verse and the preceding, if this verse were applied to the rejection of the natural revelation by the heathen: “And there was something still worse!” But the asyndeton is unfavorable to this sense, which we have already refuted. It leads us rather to find here a more emphatic reaffirmation of the fact indicated in John 1:10: “The world did not know Him.” Yes; that rejection took place, and where it seemed the most impossible in the dwelling-place which the Logos had prepared for Himself here below! The words His home, His own, by setting forth the enormity of the Jewish crime, characterize it as the climax of the sin of humanity. The word ἦλθε , came, refers to the public ministry of Jesus in Israel. Τὰ ἴδια , literally: His home (comp. Joh 19:27 ). Before coming to the earth, the Logos prepared for Himself there a dwelling-place which peculiarly belonged to Him, and which should have served Him as a door of entrance to the rest of the world. Comp. Exodus 19:5, where Jehovah says to the Jews: “ You shall be my property among all peoples,” and Psalms 135:4: “ The Lord hath chosen Jacob for Himself. ” Malachi had said of Jehovah, in describing the Messianic advent as His last appearance: “And the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to His temple; behold, he cometh” ( Joh 3:1 ).

But this door was closed to Him, and even by those who should have opened it to Him: οἱ ἴδιοι , His own, His servants, the dwellers in His house, which He had Himself established. In the same way as τὰ ἴδια His home designates Canaan together with the entire theocratic institution, οἱ ἴδιοι , His own, designates all the members of the Israelitish nation. Paul also calls them οἰκεῖοι , members of the household, domestici, familiares, in contrast with ξένοι and πάροικοι , strangers and sojourners. Never, it seems, had the Jews better deserved that title of honor from Jehovah, “His people,” than at the moment when Jesus appeared. Their monotheistic zeal and their aversion to idolatry had reached at that epoch the culminating point. The nation in general seemed to form a Messianic community altogether disposed to receive “Him who should come,” as a bride welcomes her bridegroom. The word παραλαμβάνειν , receive to oneself ( Joh 14:3 ), well expresses the nature of the eager welcome which the Messiah had a right to expect. That welcome should have been a solemn and official reception on the part of the whole nation hailing its Messiah and rendering homage to its God. If the home prepared had opened itself in this way, it would have become the centre for the conquest of the world. Instead of this, an unheard of event occurred. Agamemnon returning to his palace and falling by the stroke of his faithless spouse this was the tragic event par excellence of pagan history. What was that crime in comparison with the theocratic tragedy! The God invoked by the chosen nation appears in His temple, and He is crucified by His own worshipers. Notice the finely shaded difference between the two compound verbs, καταλαμβάνειν , to apprehend, John 1:5, which corresponds with the light as a principle, and παραλαμβάνειν , to welcome, which characterizes the reception given to the master of the house. Respecting the καί , and, the same observation as in John 1:5; John 1:10. The writer has reached the point of contemplating with calmness the poignant contrast which the two facts indicated in the two propositions of this verse present.

Two explanations opposed to that which we have just been developing have been offered. Some interpreters, Lange, for example, refer the coming of the Word indicated in this verse, to the manifestations of Jehovah and the prophetic revelations in the Old Testament. Others, as Reuss, while applying the words “ He came,” just as we do, to the historical appearing of Jesus Christ, think that the ἴδιοι , His own, are not the Jews, but “men in general, as creatures of the pre-existent Word” ( Hist. de la theolchret t. II., p. 476). Reuss even describes the application of the words τὰ ἴδια , οἱ ἴδιοι , to the Jews, as “a strange error of the ordinary exegesis.” He is, however, less positive in his last work; he merely says: “An interpretation may be maintained according to which there is no question here of the Jews. So far as the first view is concerned, it is excluded by the word ἦλθε , He came, which can only designate, like the same word in John 1:7, an historical fact, the coming of Christ in the flesh. We shall see, moreover, that the following verses cannot be applied to the time of the Old Covenant, as must be the case according to the sense which Lange gives to John 1:11. Reuss' interpretation seems to him to be required, first, by a difficulty which he finds in the ὅσοι , all those who, of John 1:12, if by His own, of John 1:11, the Jews are to be understood we shall examine this objection in its proper place and then, by the general fact that, according to our Gospel, “there are no special relations between the Word and the Jews as such.” We believe that we can prove, on the contrary, that the fourth Gospel, no less than the first, establishes from the beginning to the end an organic relation between the theocracy and the coming of Christ in the flesh. The following are some of the principal passages which do not allow us to question this: John 2:16, “The house of my Father;John 4:22, “Salvation is from the Jews; ”5:39, “The scriptures bear witness of me; ”5:45-47; John 8:35; John 8:56; John 10:2-3; John 12:41; John 19:36-37. All these sayings are incompatible with the thought of Reuss and prove that the expressions His abode, His own, are perfectly applicable to the land of Israel and the ancient people of God.

Verses 12-18

Third Section: Faith, 1:12-18.

[See also the "General Considerations on the Prologue" in the comments of John 1:18.]

The appearance of the Word, therefore, did not succeed in scattering the darkness of mankind and overcoming the resistance of Israel as a nation. Nevertheless, His mission could not fail. At the moment when the people which He had prepared for Himself turns away from Him, a family of believers, divinely begotten, appears and clusters about Him.

This is the contrast pointed out by 3 John 1:14; 3 John 1:143 John 1:14 a explains the regenerating power of this faith: it is that its object is nothing less than the absolutely unique fact of the incarnation of the Word. And the sequel proves that this fact, wonderful as it is, is nevertheless certain; certain, because He was beheld with rapture by eye-witnesses, to whose number the author belongs (John 1:14 b); certain, because He was pointed out by a divine herald, who had received the mission to proclaim Him ( Joh 1:15 ); certain, because He is an object of experience for the whole Church, which through all the heavenly gifts which it receives from this unique man, called Jesus Christ, verifies in Him all the characteristics of the Divine Logos ( Joh 1:16-18 ). This triple testimony of eye-witnesses, of the official witness, and of the Church itself is the immovable foundation of faith.

This third part of the Prologue, then, is indeed the demonstration of the certainty and the riches of faith. The majority of the commentators make this third part begin only at John 1:14, with the words: “And the Word was made flesh.” But this way of separating the sections has two serious difficulties: 1, Joh 1:12-13 become a dragging appendage to the preceding section into which they do not enter logically, since the dominant idea of that section is the unbelief which the Logos encountered here on earth; and 2, this third mention of the coming of the Word (comp. John 1:5; Joh 1:11 ), not having any introduction, has somewhat of an abrupt and accidental character. It is quite otherwise when Joh 1:12-13 are joined with the following section, which treats of faith. They form the antithesis to Joh 1:11 and thus the transition from the first to the second section of the Prologue. Thus the third and principal mention of the fact of the incarnation is occasioned by the expression of the idea of faith in 3 John 1:12; 3 John 1:123 John 1:12. But, to all those who received Him, to them He gave the power of becoming children of God, to those who believe on His name. Δέ , but, expresses not merely a gradation, but an opposition. This is confirmed by the antithesis of the verb ἔλαβον , received, to οὐ παρέλαβον , did not welcome ( Joh 1:11 ); as well as by that of the subject ὅσοι (literally, as many as there are who), to οἱ ἴδιοι , His own ( Joh 1:11 ). This last term designated the nation as a body; the pronoun ὅσοι indicates only individuals. By its official representatives, the nation, as such, refused to welcome Jesus; from that moment faith took on the character of a purely individual and, so to speak, sporadic act. This is expressed by the pronoun ὅσοι , all those who. But the ὅσοι are not, therefore, only the few members of the Jewish people who did not share the national unbelief; they are all believers ( τοῖς πιστεύουσιν John 1:12 b), whether Jews or Greeks, whom John contemplates as united into one family of the children of God ( ἡμεῖς πάντες , we all, Joh 1:16 ). Reuss ( Hist. de la theol . chret . t. ii., p. 475) thinks that if the term His own ( Joh 1:11 ), designates the Jews, and not men in general, we must also conclude from this fact that the believing ὅσοι are only Jews.

But John does not say ὅσοι ἐξ αὐτῶν , all those from among them, but: all those who, in general. When the Messiah is once rejected by unbelieving Israel, there is henceforth only humanity, and in it individual believers or unbelievers. This substitution of individual faith for the collective and national welcome of the chosen people, which was wanting, is precisely that which occasions, in this verse, the use of the simple verb ἔλαβον , received, instead of the compound παρέλαβον , welcomed ( Joh 1:11 ). The compound had in it something grave and solemn, which was suited to an official reception, such as the Israelitish authorities should have given in the name of the entire theocratic nation joyously introducing its divine King into His palace, the temple at Jerusalem; while the simple λαμβάνειν , which signifies to take, to seize in passing and, as it were, accidentally, is perfectly apposite to the notion of individual faith. In this verse, therefore, John substitutes, in the same manner as St. Paul does in all his epistles, the great idea of Christian individualism, with its universal and human character, for Jewish nationalism, with the narrow particularism in which it remained confined. By marking the contrast ( δέ , but) between the unbelief of the Israelite nation and the faith of individual believers, whoever they may be, Jews or heathen, the apostle would succeed in making the greatness of the blessings understood of which the rebellious people were deprived, although they had been called first of all to enjoy them. Through rejecting the Word, they were deprived of a participation in the life of God which He brought in Himself. In fact, this divine guest, the Logos, conferred on those who received Him two privileges worthy of Himself: first, a new position in relation to God, and then, by reason of this position, the power to participate in His divine life.

The word ἐξουσία , authority, competency, denotes more than a simple possibility, and less than a power properly so called. What is meant is a new position, that of being reconciled, justified, which the believer gains through faith, and through this it is that he receives the power of asking for and receiving the Holy Spirit, by means of which he becomes a child of God. The expression τέκνον θεοῦ ( child of God), which is used by John, includes more than υἱός ( son), which is used by Paul. The meaning of this latter word does not go beyond the idea of adoption ( υἱοθεσία ), the right of sonship which is accorded to the believer, while the word τέκνον ( child), from τίκτειν ( to beget), implies the real communication of the divine life. Comp. Galatians 4:6: “ Because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts; ” a sentence which is equivalent to saying: “Because you are sons ( υἱοί ) by adoption God has made you children ( τέκνα ) by regeneration.” This ὅτι ( because), of Paul, expresses precisely the relation of the idea contained in the word ἐξουσία in John. How can Hilgenfeld venture, in the face of the word γενέσθαι ( become), to impute to John the dualistic system, according to which the children of God are such by nature, and before all faith in the historical Christ!

The idea of child of God, in the concrete sense in which it here appears, is foreign to the Old Testament. The words father and child, in the rare cases in which they are there employed (Psalms 103:13; Isaiah 63:16; Jeremiah 31:20; Hos 11:1 ), express only the sentiments of affection, tenderness, compassion. This observation is sufficient to set aside the opinion of the interpreters, who, like Lange, with the purpose of reserving the idea of the incarnation for John 1:14, refer these Joh 1:12-13 to the faithful ones of the Old Covenant. The expressions receive the Word and become children of God are far too strong to be applied to the Israelitish saints and would be in flagrant contradiction to the declaration of Jesus ( Mat 11:11-12 ); and to the reflections of John himself ( Joh 1:17 and Joh 7:39 ).

The figurative, and consequently, somewhat vague, term receive, required to be explained, precisely defined; for the readers must know accurately the means by which they may place themselves among the number of the ὅσοι ( all those who). Hence the appended phrase: τοῖς πιστεύουσιν .... ( to those who believe on His name). To believe this is the means of the λαμβάνειν , the mode of this individual reception. Only, instead of connecting this explanation with the verb, they received, the author unites it with the persons of the ὅσοι ( to those who). “It is one of the peculiarities of John's style,” Luthardt observes, to define the moral condition by means of which an act is accomplished, by an explanatory appendix added to one of the words which depend on the principal verb. As a point of style, this is perhaps heavy; but as an expression of thought, it is forcible. See the same construction in Joh 3:13 ; John 5:18; John 7:50, etc. We have sought to give the force of this turn in the translation. The relation between these two acts, to receive and to believe, is a close one; the first is accomplished by the very fact of the second. But why, then, is an act of faith necessary for the reception of the Word? Because His divine character is hidden from sight by the veil of the flesh which envelops it. It can only be discerned, therefore, by a perception of a moral nature. Made attentive by the testimony, the man fixes his gaze upon Christ, and, discerning in Him the divine stamp of holiness, he surrenders himself personally to Him. This is faith.

The object of faith, as here indicated, is not the Logos; it is His name. The name, the normal name of the being, is the true expression of His essence, the perfect revelation of His peculiar character. This name is thus the means which other beings have of knowing Him, of forming their idea of His person. Hence it is that this idea is sometimes called the name, in a relative and secondary sense, as in the prayer: Hallowed be thy name. In our passage, John means: those who believe in the revelation which He has given of Himself, as Logos, who have discerned under the veil of the flesh the manifestation of that divine being, the only-begotten Son (John 1:14; Joh 1:18 ), and have, because of this perception, surrendered themselves to Him. After having thus explained the term received, the apostle develops in Joh 1:13 the idea of the expression children of God.

Verse 13

[See also the "General Considerations on the Prologue" in the comments of John 1:18.]

Ver. 13. “ Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

It seems, at the first glance because of the past verb: who were born that the apostle places regeneration before faith, which is, of course, impossible. But, as Meyer rightly observes, the relative οἵ ( who), does not refer to the words τοῖς πιστεύουσιν ( those who believe), but, by a constructio ad sensum, to the neuter substantive τέκνα θεοῦ ( children of God). Joh 1:13 unfolds this term: children of God, first in a negative relation, by means of three cumulative phrases which have a somewhat disdainful and even contemptuous character. Does John mean thereby to stigmatize the false confidence of the Jews in their character as children of Abraham? This does not seem to me probable. Three expressions to set forth the idea of the theocratic birth would be useless. Besides, the Prologue has too lofty a flight, too universal a bearing, to admit of so paltry a polemic. John means rather to set forth with emphasis the superiority of the second creation which the Logos comes to accomplish on the foundation of the first. There are two humanities, one which propagates itself in the way of natural filiation; the other, in which the higher life is communicated immediately by God Himself to every believer. It is, therefore, ordinary birth, as the basis of natural humanity, which John characterizes in the first three expressions. The first phrase: not of blood, denotes procreation from the purely physical point of view; the blood is mentioned as the seat of natural life ( Lev 17:1 ).

The plural αἱμάτων has been applied either to the duality of the sexes, or to the series of human generations. It should rather be interpreted as the plural γάλαξι , in the words of Plato (Legg. x., p. 887, D): ἔτι ἐν γάλαξι τρεφόμενοι the plural suggesting the multiplicity of the elements which form the blood (see Meyer). The two following phrases are not subordinate to the first, as St. Augustine thought, who, after having referred the latter to the two sexes, referred the two others, the one to the woman and the other to the man. The disjunctive negative, neither...nor ( οὔτε ... οὔτε ), would be necessary in that case. The last two expressions designate, like the first, the natural birth; but this, while introducing, in the one phrase, the factor of the will governed by the sensual imagination ( the will of the flesh), in the other, that of a will more independent of nature, more personal and more manlike, the will of man. There is a gradation in dignity from one of these terms to the other. But, to whatever height the transmission of natural life may rise, this communication of life- power cannot pass beyond the circle traced out at the first creation that of the physico-psychical life. That which is born of the flesh, even in the best conditions, is, and remains flesh. The higher, spiritual, eternal life is the immediate gift of God. To obtain it, that divine begetting is needed by which God communicates His own nature. The limiting phrase, ἐκ θεοῦ ( of God), contains, in itself alone, the antithesis to the three preceding phrases. By its very conciseness it expresses the beauty of that spiritual birth which is altogether free from material elements, from natural attraction, from human will, and in which the only cooperating forces are God acting through His Spirit on the one side, and man's faith on the other.

But how are we to explain the virtue of this faith which fits the man to be begotten of God? Does it have in itself, in its own nature, the secret of its power? No, for it is only a simple receptivity, a λαμβάνειν , receive: its virtue comes from its object. The apostle had already intimated this by the words: “who believe on His name; ” and he now expressly declares it:

Verse 14

[See also the "General Considerations on the Prologue" in the comments of John 1:18.]

Ver. 14. “ And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, a glory as of the only-begotten Son coming from the presence of the Father full of grace and truth.

The connection between this verse and the preceding, which is involved in καί , and, is expressed in the following thought: If faith can make of a man born of the flesh a child of God, it is because it has for its object the Word made flesh. The coming of Christ upon earth in the flesh had been already mentioned in John 1:11, from the point of view of its relation to Israel, and of the unbelief by which it had been met. John proclaims again the great fact, the subject of his narrative, from the point of view of all mankind, and as the object of the faith of the Church. There is, therefore, no tautology in this repetition. It even reflects very faithfully the phases of the development of faith in the heart of those who were formerly Jews, like John and the apostles. They first witness the appearance of the Messiah in Israel ( to His own) John 1:11, and they see Him ignominiously rejected. But far from joining in this rejection, they receive Him as the promised Messiah, and through their faith in Him find the privileges of adoption and regeneration ( Joh 1:12-13 ).

Then sounding in all its depths the object of a faith which is capable of effecting such wonders, they cry out: “This is the Word who has been made flesh!” The idea of the national Messiah was thus gradually transformed in them into that of the Son of God, the Saviour of mankind. The καί , and, is not, therefore, here a simple connecting copula. How, indeed, can we connect with one another by an and or an and also two ideas which are as unlike as those of 13b and 14a: “They are born of God,” and (and also): “the Word became flesh.” We do not think that the thought of the evangelist is any more successfully apprehended by paraphrasing this καί , as Luthardt does, “and to tell the whole truth,” or, as Bruckner, “and in these circumstances. ” The paraphrase of Weiss-Meyer: “And this is the way in which faith in Him was able to take form and produce such happy fruits....,” amounts to nearly the same thing with our own explanation, which was already that of Chrysostom, Grotius, etc.

The emphasis is not on the subject: the Word; this noun is repeated (instead of the simple pronoun) only with the purpose of better emphasizing the contrast between the subject and the predicate became flesh. The Word to which everything owes its existence, which created us ourselves, became a member of the human race. The word flesh properly denotes, in its strict sense, the soft parts of the body, as opposed either to the hard parts, the bones; thus when it is said, “Flesh of my flesh, bone of my bones” ( Gen 2:23 ), or to the blood ( Joh 6:54 ). From this more restricted sense, a broader one is derived: the entire body, regarded from the view-point of its substance, the animated matter; so 1 Corinthians 15:39. Finally, as the flesh is properly the seat of physical sensibility, this word, by metonomy, often designates the entire human being, in so far as he is governed in his natural state by sensibility with respect to pleasure and pain. “ For also they are but flesh,” is said of men before the deluge, Genesis 6:3. Comp. John 17:11; Psalms 65:1; Romans 3:20: all flesh, no flesh, for: every man, no man. Undoubtedly, the desire of enjoyment and the dread of suffering are not in themselves criminal instincts. They are often the precious means by which man escapes from a multitude of losses and injuries of which he would otherwise not be conscious. Still more: without this double natural sensibility, man would never be able to offer to God anything but “sacrifices which cost him nothing.” He could not himself become “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God” ( Rom 12:1 ), and thereby fulfill his noblest destiny, that of glorifying God by the sacrifice of himself. But, on the other hand, it cannot be denied that in these two natural propensities lies the possibility of temptation and sin.

Human nature in this critical condition: such is the form of existence which the Word has consented to take for himself. The expression became flesh, accordingly signifies, first of all, that the Word left the immaterial state of divine being to assume a body, and to confine Himself, like the creature, within the limits of time and space. But the word flesh expresses much more than this. Since the work of Zeller ( Theol. Jahrb. 1842), the Tubingen school makes John say that the Logos borrowed from humanity only the material body, while He Himself filled, in Jesus, the office of the spirit in every other man (the old theory of Apollinaris). But John does not dream of any such thing. We have just proved that the word flesh often designates the entire human person ( spirit, soul and body, 1Th 5:23 ). This is certainly the case in this passage. The expression: “ the Word became body,” would have no meaning. It would have been necessary to say: took a body.

Jesus sometimes speaks in our Gospel of His soul, and of His soul as troubled ( Joh 12:27 ). It is related of Him that He groaned or that He was troubled in His spirit (John 11:33; Joh 13:21 ), that He gave up His spirit ( Joh 19:30 ); all this implies that the Logos does not play the part of the spirit in the person of Jesus. The spirit of Jesus is, as in every man, one of the elements of the human nature, like the soul and the body. It follows from this that the flesh denotes, in our passage, complete human nature. Consequently, this term flesh is not intended to describe merely the visibility or corporeity of Jesus ( de Wette, Reuss, Baur), or even the poverty and weakness of His earthly manifestation ( Olshausen, Tholuck). It designates the reality and integrity of the human mode of existence into which Jesus entered. In virtue of this incarnation, He was able to suffer, to enjoy, to be tempted, to struggle, to learn, to make progress, to love, to pray, exactly like us; comp. Hebrews 2:17. The phrase ἄνθρωπος ἐγένετο , became man, would have expressed nearly the same idea; only it would have described Jesus as a particular personality, as a definite representative of the human type, and it might have been imagined that this man had reserved for Himself an exceptional position in the race. The term flesh, which denotes only the state, the mode of existence, more clearly affirms the complete homogeneity between His condition and ours. Moreover, Jesus does not hesitate to apply to Himself the word ἄνθρωπος , man, John 8:40; and the name by which in preference to all others He described Himself, was Son of man (see on Joh 1:51 ).

The word which fills the interval between the subject, the Word, and the predicate, flesh, is the verb ἐγένετο , became. The word become, when it has a substantive for its predicate, implies a profound transformation in the subject's mode of being. Thus John 2:9: “The water became wine” ( τὸ ὗδωρ οἶνον γεγενημένον ). When a person is in question, this word become, without implicating his identity, indicates that he has changed his condition; for example, in the expression: The king become a shepherd. Baur and Reuss affirm that, in the evangelist's thought, the Logos, though becoming flesh, remained in possession not only of His consciousness, but also of His attributes as Logos. He clothed Himself, indeed, with a body, according to them, but as if with a temporary covering. “This incarnation was for Him only something accessory” (Reuss, ii., p. 456). Yet this scholar cannot help saying (p. 451): “There is nothing but the word become which positively affirms that, in coming, He changed the form of His existence.” Certainly! And we affirm nothing more, but nothing less. The word become shows, indeed, that this change reached even the foundation of the existence of the Logos. This natural sense of the word become is not invalidated by the expression is come in the flesh, 1 John 4:2, in which Reuss finds the affirmation of the preserving of His original nature with all its attributes, but which really involves only the continuity of His personality. The personal subject in the Logos remained the same when He passed from the divine state to the human state, but with the complete surrender of all the divine attributes, the possession of which would have been incompatible with the reality of the human mode of existence. And if He ever recovers the divine state, it will not be by renouncing His human personality, but by exalting it even to the point where it can become the organ of the divine state. This, as it seems to us, is the true Christological conception, as it appears in the Scriptures generally, and in our passage in particular.

The content of John's declaration, therefore, is not: Two natures or two opposite modes of being co-existing in the same subject; but a single subject passing from one mode of being to another, in order to recover the first by perfectly realizing the second. The teaching of John, as thus understood, is in complete harmony with that of Paul. That apostle says, indeed, Philippians 2:6-8: “He who was in the form of God...emptied (divested) Himself, having taken the form of a servant and having become like to men;” and 2 Corinthians 8:9: “Though He was rich, He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich.” These passages express, in a form which is completely independent of that of John, a conception which is identically the same: The incarnation by means of a divesting ( κένωσις ). We shall see that the whole Gospel history, and especially the picture of Jesus which is traced by our evangelist, accords perfectly, notwithstanding all the contrary assertions of Reuss, with the thesis of the Prologue as thus understood.

After having entered the human life, the Word took up His abode there and appropriated it to Himself even to the end; this is expressed by the following clause. The word σκηνοῦν , literally, to dwell in a tent, contains, according to Meyer, Reuss, etc., an allusion to a technical word in the religious philosophy of the later Jews, Shechinah ( the dwelling-place), which denoted the visible forms by which Jehovah manifested His presence in the midst of His people. We might see thus in this word σκηνοῦν , to live in a tent, especially with the limiting phrase ἐν ημῖν , among us, an allusion to the Tabernacle in the wilderness, which was, as it were, the tent of Jehovah, Himself a pilgrim among His pilgrim people. To this conformity between the sort of habitation which Jehovah had and that of His people answers the complete community in the mode of existence between the incarnate Word and men, His brethren. Perhaps, these allusions are somewhat refined and John's thought is merely that of comparing the flesh of Jesus (His humanity) to a tent like ours ( 2Co 5:1 ).

This word σκηνοῦν , to camp, denotes, in any case, all the familiar relations which He sustained with His fellow-men; varied relations like those which a pilgrim sustains towards the other members of the caravan. It is as if John had said: “We ate and drank at the same table, slept under the same roof, walked and journeyed together; we knew Him as son, brother, friend, guest, citizen. Even to the end, He remained faithful to the path on which He entered when He became a man.” This expression, therefore, calls to mind all the condescension of that divine being, who thus veiled His majesty in order to share in the existence of the companions of His journey. The limiting phrase ἐν ἡμῖν , among us, does not refer to men in general, nor even to the Church in its totality. In connection with the word σκηνοῦν , to live in a tent, and with the following phrase, we beheld, it can only designate the immediate witnesses of the earthly existence of Jesus, who sustained towards Him the familiar relations comprised in the notion of life in common. The expression of the general feeling of the Church will come later, John 1:16-18.

According as this spectacle presents itself to the thought of the evangelist, and assumes, in the words among us, the character of the most personal recollection, it becomes to him the object of delightful contemplation. The phrase is broken. The word us, of the limiting phrase, suddenly becomes the subject, while the subject, the Word and His glory, passes into the position of the grammatical object: “ And we beheld His glory. ” How easily may this change of construction be understood in the writing of an eye-witness! We observe the reverse change in the first verses of 1 John: “ That which we have heard, that which we beheld of the Word of life..., for the life was manifested and we have seen it, this it is which we declare unto you. ” Here, the apostle begins with the impression received it is a letter to pass from this to the fact itself. But in the Gospel, where he speaks as a historian, after having started from the fact, he describes the ineffable joy which the witnesses experienced in this sight.

The word θεᾶσθαι ( to behold), is richer than ὁρᾶν ( to see, to discern); it is the restful seeing, as Luthardt says, with an idea of satisfaction, while to ὁρᾶν attaches rather the idea of knowledge. Baur, Keim, Reuss, apply this word behold here to a purely spiritual act, the inward sight of Christ which is granted to every believer; comp. 1 John 3:6: “He that sinneth hath not seen him;” and 2 Corinthians 3:18. We may understand the design of this interpretation. These critics refuse to recognize in the evangelist a witness, and yet they would not wish to make him an impostor. This expedient, therefore, alone remains. But this expedient involves inextricable difficulty, as we have shown in the Introduction (pp. 201-202). How could there be a question here of the glorified Christ, as an object of the spiritual contemplation of believers? Are we not at the opening of the narrative of the earthly life of Christ, at the moment when the coming of the Logos in the flesh and His condescension towards the companions of His earthly career have just been pointed out? To attribute to the word behold in such a context a purely spiritual sense, is to set at nought the evidence. Undoubtedly, the witnesses had more than the sight of the body. This beholding was an internal perception. But the first was the means of the second.

The object of the beholding was the glory of the Word. The glory of God is the beaming forth of His perfections before the eyes of His creatures. This glory is really unique; every glory which any being whatsoever possesses is only the participation in some measure of the splendor which is sent forth by the perfection of God Himself. The glory which the witnesses of the earthly life of the Logos beheld in Him could not be the splendor which He enjoyed in His pre-existent state. For this glory Jesus asks again in John 17:5: “And now, Father, glorify thou me with thyself, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” One does not ask again for what one still possesses. Reuss claims that it is only “the most arbitrary harmonistic,” which can ascribe to John the idea that the Logos divested Himself of the divine attributes when he became incarnate (Theol . johann., p. 120). But as for this harmonistic, it is John himself who suggests it in the prayer of Jesus which we have just quoted, and this is in full harmony with Paul (Philippians 2:6 ff.). What must we understand, then, by that glory of Jesus, of which John here speaks, and which is not that of the pre-existent Logos? In Chap. 2, John 1:11, after the miracle of Cana, John says: “And he manifested his glory.” We might conclude from this that, as Weiss thinks, the earthly glory of the Logos consisted in the works of omnipotence, as well as in the words of omniscience, which the Father gave Him to do and to utter.

Nevertheless, in chap. John 17:10, Jesus says: “I am glorified in them,” and this expression leads us to a more spiritual idea of the glory which He possessed here on earth. Even in our verse, the words: full of grace and truth, describe the Word and give us a much more moral notion of His glory than the explanation of Weiss implies. The essential character of this earthly glory of the Logos was, as it appears to me, the stamp of sonship impressed upon the whole human life of Jesus, the intimate communion with the Father which so profoundly distinguished His life from every other. Jesus puts us upon the right path when, before uttering the words: “I am glorified in them,” He says ( Joh 17:10 ): “All things that are mine are thine, and all things that are thine are mine.” Such a relation with God is the most complete glory which can irradiate the face of a human being. It comprehends, of course, all the manifestations of such a relation, thus works of power, words of wisdom, the life of holiness and charity, all of divine grandeur and beauty, that the disciples beheld in Jesus. This explanation agrees with that of John himself in the following words: “A glory as of the only- begotten from the Father.” The conjunction ὡς , as, does not certainly express here a comparison between two similar things, but, as is often the case, the absolute agreement between the fact and the idea: a glory as (must be) that of the Son coming from the presence of the Father. Weiss urges against this explanation the absence of the article τοῦ , of the, before the words: only- begotten Son and Father; and further, the most natural sense of ὡς , as, which is that of comparison.

He translates accordingly, “A glory like to that of an only-begotten Son coming from a father,” in the sense that every only son inherits the rank and fortune of his father. Thus in this case it was seen that God had conveyed all His glory to Jesus. But this explanation would imply that every father, who has an only son, possesses also a great fortune to convey to him, which is by no means true. The absence of the article, which leads Weiss to an explanation which is so forced, is much better explained by the fact that the terms only Son and Father are treated here as proper names, or at least as substantives designating single beings of their kind ( Winer's Grammar, § 18). Indeed, the Father in question is the Father, in the absolute sense, the one from whom every one who is called father in heaven and on earth derives his paternal character ( Eph 2:15 ); and this only Son is the only one, not merely as the sole son of this father, but inasmuch as He is the absolute model and prototype of every one who among the sons of men bears the name of only son, With reference to ὡς , as, used to indicate the complete agreement of the fact with the idea, comp. the quite similar ὡς in Matthew 7:29; 1 Corinthians 5:3; 2 Corinthians 2:17; Galatians 3:16, etc. The glory of the incarnate Logos was undoubtedly, therefore, a humbler glory than that of his pre-existent state, but a glory which, nevertheless, marked Him as united to God by the bond of an unparalleled filial intimacy.

There was seen in Him, as never in any man, the assurance of being loved paternally by God, of the power of asking everything of Him with the certainty of being heard, and at the same time the most perfect filial fidelity towards Him. This unique glory of the Word made flesh the apostle describes, when he characterizes the entire earthly manifestation of the Word by that last stroke of his pencil: Full of grace and truth. We refer these words to the principal subject of the whole sentence, the Word. This is the simple and correct construction of the nominative πλήρης , full; it is also that which gives the best sense. Undoubtedly, this adjective might be made a nominative absolute, with Grotius, Meyer, Luthardt, Weiss and others, by referring it either to δόξαν : “ glory full of grace...” (hence the reading πλήρη in D), or rather to αὐτοῦ of him, “His glory, His who was full of grace...” (hence the reading pleni in Augustine). But these explanations, which are grammatically possible, appear to me to misconceive the true movement of the sentence. Carried away by the charm of the recollection, the evangelist interrupted the historical description of the relations which the Word sustained to those who surrounded Him; he now takes up again the picture which remained unfinished, not that a parenthesis must be supposed including the words from καί to πατρός ; there is no deliberate interruption; the ardor of feeling caused the break in the sentence, which is now completed. In the Old Testament, the two essential features of the character of God were grace and truth ( Exo 34:6 ): “ abundant in grace and truth.

These are also the two features which, in John's view, distinguished the human life of the Word made flesh, and which served to reveal to Him His filial relation to the Father. Grace: the divine love investing the character with affableness towards friends, with condescension towards inferiors, with compassion towards the wretched, with pardon towards the guilty; God consenting to give Himself. And as it is from grace that life flows forth, the Word became anew for believers, by reason of this first characteristic, what He had been originally for the world ( Joh 1:4 ), the source of life. The second feature, truth, is the reality of things adequately brought to light. And, as the essence of things is the moral idea which presides over the existence of each one of them, truth is the holy and good thought of God completely unveiled; it is God revealed. Through this attribute the incarnate Word also became anew what He originally was, the light of men ( Joh 1:4-5 ). By these two essential attributes of Jesus' character, therefore, the witnesses of His life were able to recognize in Him the only Son coming from the presence of the Father. Their feeling was this: This being is God given, God revealed in a human existence.

As a man who has made an important discovery recalls with satisfaction the suggestions which caused the first awakening of his thought and set his mind on its way forward, so from this experience, which he had had, the apostle transports himself to the decisive moment when he heard the first revelation of the fact of the incarnation. Not understood at the beginning, but afterwards made clear. For it is to this divine fact that the word of the forerunner which he is about to cite refers. John detaches this testimony from the historical situation in which it was declared, and which will be expressly recalled in John 1:30; and he makes use of it, at this time, simply with a didactic purpose, confirming by its means the capital fact of the incarnation, set forth in John 1:14. It is the second testimony, that of the official divine herald, following after that of the eye-witnesses.

Verse 15

[See also the "General Considerations on the Prologue" in the comments of John 1:18.]

Ver. 15. John bears witness of him, and cries, saying:This is he of whom I spoke when I said, He who comes after me hath preceded me, because he was before me.

The present, bears witness is ordinarily explained by the permanent value of this testimony; but perhaps it is due rather to the fact that the author transports himself in a life-like way backward to the moment when he heard this mysterious saying coming from such lips; he seems to himself to hear it still. The perfect κέκραγε is always used in Greek in the sense of the present: he cries; this declaration was made with the solemnity of an official proclamation.

According to the reading of B. C. and Origen, we must, in order to give sense to these words: it was he who spake, put them in a parenthesis, as Westcott and Hort do, and thus ascribe to the evangelist the most inept of repetitions. See where these critics lead us by the critical system which they have once for all adopted! The reading of א is equally inadmissible. According to John 1:30, the forerunner uttered this saying on the next day after the deputation of the Sanhedrim had officially presented to him the question relating to his mission. After having expressly declined the honor of being the Messiah in the presence of these delegates, he had added in mysterious words, that that personage was already present and was immediately to succeed him, although in reality He had been already present before him ( Joh 1:26-27 ).

The next day, he made this declaration again before the people, but this time designating Jesus positively as the one of whom he had spoken on the preceding day, and adding an explanation with reference to that previous existence which he attributed to Him as compared with himself ( Joh 1:30 ). This second more full declaration the evangelist quotes in John 1:15; because it was the first which referred personally and intelligibly to Jesus, Jesus not being present on the previous day. It may be asked why there is this slight difference between the cited declaration and that of John 1:15, that there John the Baptist says οὖτός ἐστι , “this is he,” while, in John 1:15, the evangelist makes him say: οὖτος ἦν , “this was he.” The first form seems more in harmony with the immediate presence of the one to whom the testimony refers: “This is he of whom I was saying yesterday...You see him there!” This form perfectly suits the original testimony. The form: This was, might have been also suitable in the Baptist's mouth. It only called up the fact that it was He of whom he had thought on the preceding day, when speaking as he had done. But it proceeds rather from the evangelist; for it is natural from the standpoint more remote from the fact, at which he now is.

The testimony here reproduced by the apostle has a paradoxical cast in harmony with the original character of John the Baptist: “He who follows me has preceded me.” There was something in the apparent contradiction of these two verbs to excite the attention and stimulate the mental activity of those to whom the saying was addressed. Many interpreters, as if making a point of depriving this saying of what in fact gives it its point, have assigned to the word has preceded me the sense of has surpassed me ( Chrysostom, Tholuck, Olshausen, de Wette, Lucke, Luthardt). But what is there surprising in the fact that he who comes afterward should be superior to the one who goes before him? Is it not so in ordinary life? Does not the herald precede the sovereign? A platitude, therefore, is ascribed to John the Baptist. Hofmann has felt this. And instead of referring one of these verbs to time and the other to dignity, he applies them both to dignity, in this sense: “He who was at first inferior to me (who went behind me as my disciple) has become my superior (goes before me now as my master).”

But Jesus was never in the position of a disciple with relation to John, and no more did He become his master. Besides, the words μείζων and ἐλάσσων would have presented themselves much more naturally for the expression of this idea. Let us remember that the evangelist has as his aim to prove by the testimony of the forerunner the dignity of the Logos incarnate, which is attributed to Jesus; now it is precisely the temporal sense which is adapted to this aim, and if one of the two prepositions refers to time, the other must refer to it also: for the apparent contradiction of the two terms is what gives this saying all its meaning. “He who is my successor preceded me” ( Luther, Meyer, Baumlein, Weiss, Keil, etc.). My successor: as to the Messianic work; Jesus appeared on the stage after John. And yet He was before Him. How so? By His presence and activity in the whole period of the Old Covenant. The Christ really preceded His forerunner in the world; comp. John 12:41; 1 Corinthians 10:4, and the passage in Malachi ( Joh 3:1 ), where John the Baptist found this idea, as we shall see. The perfect γέγονε does not mean existed, but was there (in fact); comp. John 6:25.

On repeating this enigmatical word on the next day, John added to it the phrase which should give a glimpse of the solution of the enigma: because he was before me, or more literally, “ my first. ” Here also, many refer the word first to superiority of rank, not of time, ( Chrysostom, Beza, Calvin, Hofmann, Luthardt); but the imperfect was is opposed to this sense; is would have been necessary. Objection is made to the tautology between this proposition and the preceding one, if both refer to time. But it is forgotten that there is a difference between γέγονε , which places us on the ground of history: was there, and ἦν , was, which refers to the essence of the Logos, to the eternal order to which He by nature belongs. He did not pass from nothingness into being, like His forerunner.

If He preceded the latter on the field of history, it was because, in reality, He belonged to an order of things superior to that of time. Many interpreters ( Meyer, Baumlein), who take the word first in the same sense as ourselves, say that the superlative πρῶτος is put here for the comparative πρότερος , anterior to, and they cite as an example John 15:18. But John avoids the comparative because it would refer to the relation of two persons, who both belonged to the same order of things, and consequently might be compared with each other. Now it is not so in this case; and any comparison is impossible. Jesus is not only anterior to John; He is, speaking absolutely, first with relation to him and to everything that is in time. Hence the expression: my first. And such, indeed, is also the meaning in John 15:18. For Jesus was not merely persecuted before the disciples, as their equal; He it is who in them is the real object of the persecution. This last clause contains, accordingly, the solution of the apparent contradiction presented by the two preceding clauses. It was possible for Him to be the predecessor of His forerunner, since He appertains to the eternal order.

It is alleged that John the Baptist cannot have uttered such a saying, which already implies knowledge of the divinity of the Messiah, a knowledge which was developed only afterwards in the Church. It is the evangelist, then, who puts it into his mouth ( Strauss, Weiss, de Wette), or who, at least, modifies in this way some expression which he had heard from his mouth, and in which the forerunner proclaimed the superior dignity of Jesus ( Weiss). On the other hand, Lucke, Meyer, Bruckner and others, defend the historical accuracy of this saying. And, in fact, the pre-existence of the Messiah already forms a part of the teaching of the Old Testament; comp. Isaiah 9:5; Micah 5:1; Daniel 7:13-14. Bertholdt, in his Christologia Judaeorum, p. 131, has demonstrated the presence of this idea in the Rabbinical writings. It is found in the book of Enoch and in the fourth book of Esdras (Schurer, Lehrb. der N. T. Gesch., § 29, 3).

Far from having borrowed it from the Christians, the Jewish theology turned away from it rather, in its struggle with Christianity (Schurer, ibid.). If this saying were, either in whole or in part, a composition of the evangelist, it would be sufficient for him to place it in his Prologue; he would not allow himself to return to it again twice in the course of the following narrative, in order to point out the historical situation in which John had uttered it, fixing exactly the place, the moment, the occasion (John 1:26-27; Joh 1:30 ), and marking the progress in its terms from one occasion to the other. Besides, the original and enigmatical form in which it is presented would be enough to guarantee its authenticity. In this respect, it offers a full analogy to the indisputably authentic saying of the forerunner in John 3:30. Let us not forget that there was in the Old Testament a passage which, more than any other, contained, as it were, the programme of John the Baptist's mission, a passage which he must have read again and again, and which was the text of the declaration which occupies our attention. It is Malachi 3:1: “Behold, I send my messenger before me, and he prepares my way.” If the Messiah sends His messenger before Him, that is, in order Himself soon to follow him, and if this sending consists in a birth, it is clear that the Messiah must necessarily exist before His successor. Simple common sense forces upon us this conclusion, which John the Baptist well knew how to draw. Finally, even independently of all this, the forerunner had received special revelations, instructions relative to his mission: “He who sent me to baptize with water, he said to me; ” thus he expresses himself, alluding to a direct communication, a sort of theophany which had been granted to him ( Joh 1:33 ). It is impossible, therefore, that, with the vision of the baptism to crown this special prophetic preparation, he should not have had his eyes open to understand fully the superior dignity of the One whom God Himself saluted with the title of His well-beloved Son.

The evangelist has made us hear the testimony of the immediate witnesses of the life of Christ ( Joh 1:14 ), then, that of the herald sent to prepare the way for Him ( Joh 1:15 ); it only remains for him to formulate that which comes forth from the experience of the whole Church.

Verse 16

[See also the "General Considerations on the Prologue" in the comments of John 1:18.]

Ver. 16. “ And of his fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.

By that first feature of the divine character, grace, the Church recognized in Jesus the Word made flesh. The two words, χάρις ( grace), and πλήρωμα ( fullness), closely connect this sentence with the last words of John 1:14. The experience which the Church has had, has come to set the seal upon the testimony of those who surrounded Jesus when on earth. Since Heracleon and Origen, many ( Luther, Melanchthon, etc.), have made Joh 1:16 the continuation of John the Baptist's discourse ( Joh 1:15 ). And it is possible that from this explanation the reading ὅτι ( because), arose, which the Alexandrian authorities, Origen, and some other documents substitute for καί ( and) read by T. R. at the beginning of the verse. The we all of John 1:16, which implies the existence of the Church, in any case excludes the supposition that John the Baptist is still speaking in John 1:16.

As to ὅτι ( because), if it were the true reading, it would be necessary to make it relate either to the testimony of the apostles in John 1:14, or to that of the Baptist in John 1:15. The first reference is not possible, since it would force us to make John 1:15 a simple parenthesis, which is inadmissible; the second is no more possible; since it would be necessary in that case to refer this because, as Weiss attempts to do, not to the contents of John's testimony ( Joh 1:15 ), but to the very act of the testimony, and thus to the verb he testifies: “John testifies thus of Jesus, because indeed we have all received...” A connection which is, grammatically and logically speaking, more unnatural cannot be imagined. Nothing is more natural, on the contrary, than the connection through καί ( and) in the T. R.; this and expresses very simply the addition of the third testimony, that of the Church, to the two others. This reading, therefore, is certainly the true one; it is found already in the oldest Syriac version, the Curetonian Syriac. The other is due to Heracleon's false interpretation, which was followed by Origen.

The word πλήρωμα which properly denotes that which serves to fill an empty space, refers to the inexhaustible fullness of grace and truth by which the person of the Logos is filled and with which it overflows. This word πλήρωμα is used here in the most simple and natural way, in the same sense as in Romans 15:29 ( πλήρωμα εὐλογίας , fullness of blessing), and without the least analogy to the mythological sense, which the Gnostics of the second century gave to it in their systems. In the words we all are included all the believers mentioned in John 1:12, the Church already extended through every country of the East and the West at the time when John wrote this Prologue. The verb: we have received is left without an object. The question at first is not of such or such a gift received, but only of the act of receiving. “We have all drawn, richly drawn from this invisible source.” The witnesses had beheld ( Joh 1:14 ); the Church has received. In the following words, John states precisely what it has received.

First, grace that first sign by which it had recognized in Him the divine Logos; then, truth; this second sign will be noticed in John 1:17-18. The καί , and, signifies here: “and this is the way.” The words “grace for grace” are ordinarily translated “grace upon grace.” That would simply mean, grace added to previous grace. But, with this sense, would not John rather have used the preposition ἐπί ( Php 2:27 )? In the following verse, grace is opposed to the law. It must, therefore, be supposed that John has this antithesis already present to his mind, and that this is the reason why he seeks to bring out with emphasis in Joh 1:16 the peculiar character of the grace. Under the rule of the law each new grace must be obtained at the cost of a new work. In the economy of grace which faith in the Word made flesh opens, the gift already received is the one title to the obtaining of a new gift: “To him who hath, more is given.”

There is enthusiasm in this paradoxical formula which exalts the system of grace by setting it in such complete opposition to that of the law. No one defends any longer, at the present day, the explanation of the ancient Greek interpreters, who thought they saw here the supplying the place of the gift of the Old Covenant by the superior gift of the New Covenant. The following verse, where grace, as such, is opposed to the law, would be sufficient to exclude such an interpretation. That of Calov, who imagined he could see here the grace of salvation replacing the happy state which man possessed before the fall, is still more unfortunate.

Vv. 16 describes grace; Joh 1:18 will describe truth; Joh 1:17 which connects them, unites grace and truth:

Verse 17

[See also the "General Considerations on the Prologue" in the comments of John 1:18.]

Ver. 17. “ For the law was given by Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

John, who had reached the light of the new revelation through the preparatory system of the old, could not fail to point out in this Prologue, at least summarily, the relation between the two; and he does it naturally in this place, where the mention of the two divine gifts obtained through Jesus Christ summons him to a comparison with those which the ancient people of God had received, especially with the law. The for refers to the idea of grace, which has been so forcibly expressed in John 1:16: “grace upon grace; for the legal system has given place henceforth to that of free grace which is, at the same time, that of truth.” We meet again, in this verse, the parallel construction peculiar to the Hebrew; a Greek writer would not have failed to mark the antithesis between the two clauses of this verse by the particles μέν and δέ . The office of the law is to command and to demand; the peculiarity of grace, the essence of the Gospel, is to offer and to give.

The law connects salvation with a work which it exacts; Christ gives gratuitously a salvation which is to become the cause of works. Now this whole manifestation of grace fully reveals at last the true character of God, which remained veiled in the law, and consequently it reveals truth which is the perfect knowledge of God. Bengel explains the opposition between the law and the two following terms by this ingenious formula: lex iram parans et umbram habens; but perhaps this is the mark of Paul rather than of John. Weiss makes grace consist in the revelation of truth; that is to say, of God as love. Keil, in the opposite way, makes the truth of God consist in the revelation of His grace, which is more true. But John seems to me rather to place these two gifts in juxtaposition and to regard them as distinct from each other; grace is God possessed; truth is God known. These two gifts are joined together, but they are distinct. So John, after having developed the first in John 1:16, sets forth the second in John 1:18.

The term was given, ἐδόθη , recalls the positive and outward institution of the law, its official promulgation. The expression came, literally became, suits better the historical manifestation of grace and truth in the person and in the ministry of Jesus Christ. Moses may disappear; the law given by him remains. But take away Jesus Christ, and the grace and truth manifested in Him disappear. “John,” says Bengel on this point, “chose his expressions with the strictness of a philosopher.” Let us rather say, with the emphatic precision which is the characteristic of inspiration.

It is at this point of the Prologue that the apostle introduces, for the first time, the name so long expected, Jesus Christ. He descends gradually from the divine to the human: the Logos ( Joh 1:1 ), the only-begotten Son ( Joh 1:14 ), finally, Jesus Christ, in whom the heavenly world fully assumes for us life and reality. The apostle now passes to the second characteristic of the divine glory of Jesus Christ: truth, John 1:18.

Verse 18

Ver. 18. “ No one has ever seen God; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has revealed him to us.

The absence of a particle between Joh 1:17-18 is the proof of a very intimate relation of thought or feeling between the two. The second becomes thus, as it were, an energetic reaffirmation of the preceding. And in fact, what is this truth born for the earth in the person of Jesus Christ, according to John 1:17, if it is not the perfect revelation of God described in Joh 1:18 ?

The true knowledge of God is not the result of philosophical investigation; our reason can seize only some isolated rays of the divine revelation shed abroad in nature and in conscience. It does not succeed in making of them a whole, because it cannot ascend to the living focus from which they emanate. The theocratic revelations themselves, which were granted to the saints of the Old Covenant, contained only an approximate manifestation of the divine being, as the Lord caused Moses to understand, at the very moment when He was about to make him behold something of His glory: “Thou shalt see my back; but my face shall not be seen” ( Exo 33:23 ). This central and living knowledge of God which is the only true knowledge, and which has as its symbol sight, was not possessed by any man, either within or outside of the theocracy, not even by Moses.

The word God is placed at the beginning, although it is the object, because it is the principal idea. One can know everything else, not God! The perfect ἑώρακε , has seen, denotes a result, rather than an act, which would be indicated by the aorist: “No one is in possession of the sight of God, and consequently no one can speak of Him de visu. ” The full truth does not exist on earth before or outside of Jesus Christ; it truly came through Him. The Alexandrian reading God only-begotten, μονογενὴς θεός , or, according to א , the ( ὁ ) only-begotten God, long since abandoned, has found in Hort a learned and sagacious defender, who has gained the assent of two such scholars as Harnack and Weiss. The received reading has been defended, with at least equal erudition and skill, by the American eritic, Ezra Abbot, in an article in the Bibliotheca Sacra, Oct., 1861, and in a more recent essay in the Unitarian Review, 1875. The result of these studies with reference to the external testimonies, is:

1. That the two readings must have already co-existed in the second century. It is probable that both of the two are found already in Irenaeus. The received reading was read in the Itala and by Tertullian; the other, that of the Alexandrian authorities, by Clement of Alex.;

2. That the latter is found only in the Egyptian documents (Fathers, versions and manuscripts), and that the documents of all other countries present the received reading; thus for the West, the Itala, Tertullian and all the Latin Fathers without exception, the only exception which has been cited, that of Hilary, is only apparent, as Abbot proves: in Syria and Palestine, the ancient Syriac translation of Cureton, Eusebius, Chrysostom, Theodoret, etc.; and, what is more surprising, in Egypt Athanasius himself, the most inflexible defender of the divinity of Christ.

Does it not seem to follow from this, that the Alexandrian reading is due to a purely local influence, which goes back even to the second century? As to internal reasons, as favoring the Alexandrian reading, stress may be laid upon its unique and wholly strange character; for it is said to be more improbable that it should be replaced by the received reading, which has a more simple and common character, than that the contrary could have taken place. But it may also be asked whether a reading which does not find its counterpart in any writing of the New Testament, and in any passage of John himself, does not become by reason of this fact very suspicious. To account for its rejection it is enough that an explanation be given as to how it may have originated and been introduced, and Abbot does this by reminding us how early readings like the following were originated: the Logos-God, which is found in the second century in Melito and Clement of Alexandria, and the epithet θεοτόκος , mother of God, given to Mary. Hence, readings like these: the body of God, instead of the body of Jesus, John 19:40, in A; or all were waiting for God, instead of all were waiting for Him (Jesus), Luke 8:40, in; or the Church of God which He purchased with His own blood, instead of the Church of the Lord, etc. ( Act 20:28 ), in א and B. It is curious that it is precisely these same two MSS., which especially support the reading God, instead of Son, in our passage. It would be difficult, on the other hand, to explain the dogmatic reason which could have substituted here the word Son for God. The Arians themselves, as Abbot has well shown, had no interest in this change; for they were able to make use of the Alexandrian reading to prove that the word God could be taken in a weakened sense, and designate a divine being of second rank, inferior to the Father; it was for them the best means of getting rid of the word God applied to the Word in John 1:1.

So Athanasius himself does not hesitate to use the received reading; as for ourselves, we cannot hesitate. The absence of any parallel to the Alexandrian reading and its very pronounced doctrinal savor seem to us, independently of external criticism, sufficient reasons for rejecting it. It is true that Hort and Weiss urge against the received reading the article ὁ , the, before the title only-begotten Son, for the reason that Jesus, not having been yet called by this name in the Prologue, could not be thus designated with the definite article. This objection falls to the ground through the true explanation of John 1:14, where the words only-begotten Son cannot denote an only-begotten Son in general, as Weiss will have it, and can only be applied to the Word made flesh. Moreover, even without this preceding expression, no reader, when reading the words: “The only-begotten Son has revealed him to us” could for an instant doubt concerning whom John meant to speak.

The character of complete revelator ascribed here to Jesus is explained by His intimate and personal relation with God Himself, such as is described in the following words: who is in the bosom of the Father. The participle ὁ ὤν , who is, is connected in a very close logical relation with the following verb: He has revealed. As Baumlein says, it is equivalent to ὅτι ὤν , inasmuch as He is; thereupon rests His competency to reveal.

The figure which John employs might be derived from the position of two nearest guests at a banquet ( Joh 13:23 ); but it seems rather to be borrowed from the position of a son seated on his father's knees and resting on his bosom. It is the emblem of a complete opening of the heart; he who occupies this place in relation to God must know the most secret thoughts of the Father and His inmost will. The word κόλπος , bosom, would by itself prove that the mystery of the Son's existence is a matter, not of metaphysics, but of love, comp. John 17:24: “Thou didst love me before the foundation of the world.” The omission of the words ὁ ὤν in א is a negligence condemned by all the other MSS. Must we, with Hofmann, Luthardt and Weiss, refer the words: “who is in the bosom of the Father” to the present glorified condition of Jesus? But the heavenly state which Jesus now enjoys cannot explain how He was able to reveal the Father perfectly while He was on the earth. We must then, in that case, refer the revealing act of Jesus to the sending of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, which is implied by nothing in the text. Or is John thinking especially of the divine condition of the Logos before His coming to the earth? But that would be to say, that the knowledge of God which Jesus communicated to men was drawn from the recollections of His anterior existence. We cannot admit this. In fact, everything which Jesus revealed on earth concerning God passed through His human consciousness (see on John 3:13, Joh 6:46 ). I agree, therefore, in opinion rather with Lucke, that this present participle ὁ ὤν , who is, refers to the permanent relation of the Son to the Father through all the stages of His divine, human and divine-human existence. He ever presses anew with an equal intimacy into the bosom of the Father, who reveals Himself to Him in a manner suitable to His position and His work at every moment. The form εἰς κόλπον , instead of ἐν κόλπῳ (the prep. of motion, instead of that of rest), expresses precisely this active and living relation. The bosom of the Father is not a place, but a life; one is there only in virtue of a continual moral act.

If John substitutes εἰς here for πρός of John 1:1, this arises simply from the difference between the object κόλπος , the bosom, which denotes a thing, and the object θεόν , God, which designated a person. The word τοῦ πατρός , of the Father, is not merely a paraphrase of the name of God; this term is chosen in order to make the essential contents of the revelation brought by the Son understood. He manifested God as Father, and for this He did not need to give speculative teaching; it was enough for Him to show Himself as Son. To show in Himself the Son, was the simplest means of showing in God the Father. Thus, by His filial relation with God, Jesus has initiated earth into the most profound secret of heaven, a secret which the angels themselves perchance did not yet sound completely. Outside of this revelation of the divine character, every idea which man forms of God is incomplete or imaginary in a certain measure, an idol, as John says ( 1Jn 5:20 ).

The pronoun ἐκεῖνος , he, has here, as ordinarily in John, a pregnant and even exclusive sense: “he and he alone!” It is impossible to explain the use of this pronoun, as Weiss would do, by the contrast with a nearer subject, which would be the Father Himself. The employment of the word ἐξηγεῖσθαι to explain, to make known, is often explained by the technical use of it which was made by the Greeks, with whom it denoted the explanation of divine things by men charged with this office, the ἐξηγηταί . The simplicity of John's style hardly harmonizes with this comparison, which, besides, is not necessary in order to the explanation of the word. The apostle uses it absolutely, without giving it any complement. It is to the act, rather than its object, that he desires to draw attention, as in the first clause of John 1:16 ( we have received): “He has declared; really declared!” Every one understands what is the object of this teaching: God first, then in Him all the rest. To reveal God, is to unveil everything.

With this 18th verse we evidently come back to the starting-point of the Prologue, to the idea of John 1:1. Through faith in Christ as only-begotten Son, the believer finds again access to that eternal Word from whom sin ( the darkness, Joh 1:5 ) had held him apart. He obtains anew, in the form of grace and truth ( Joh 1:16-18 ), those treasures of life and light, which the Word has spread abroad in the world ( Joh 1:4 ). Sin's work is vanquished; the communion with heaven is re-established. God is possessed, is known; the destiny of man begins again to be realized. The infinite dwells in the finite and acts through it; the abyss is filled up.

At the same time, these last words of the Prologue form, as Keil says, the transition to the narrative which is about to begin. How did Jesus Christ reveal the Father? This is what the story to which the apostle passes from Joh 1:19 onward is to relate.

General Considerations on the Prologue.

I. The Plan.

Three thoughts sum up this remarkable passage and determine its progress: The Logos ( Joh 1:1-4 ); the Logos unrecognized ( Joh 1:5-11 ); the Logos received ( Joh 1:12-18 ). Between the first and second subjects Joh 1:5 forms the transition, in the same manner as Joh 1:12-13 form that between the second and third. Finally, the last verses of the Prologue bring back the mind of the reader to the first words of the passage.

This plan seems to us the only one which is harmony with the apostle's thought. We shall convince ourselves of this by recognizing, in the sequel of this study, the fact that the entire narrative is founded upon the three factors which have been indicated and that its phases are determined by the appearance, and the successive preponderance of these three essential elements of the history.

II. The Intention of the Prologue.

There are three very different ways of viewing this subject.

I. The Tubingen School think that the author proposed to himself to acclimate in the Church the doctrine of the Logos. Finding that speculative idea in the systems of his time, he wished to build the bridge between the Church and the reigning philosophy. And as, in his whole narrative, he had no other aim except to realize this design by illustrating this dominant idea of the Logos, by means of certain acts and discourses more fictitious than real, he did not hesitate to inscribe at the beginning of his book the great thought which forms its synthesis namely, that of an eternal being intermediate between the infinite God and the finite world.

If it is so, it must be acknowledged that the theorem of the Logos is the end of the work, and that the person of Jesus is nothing more than the means. Is this, indeed, the meaning of this Prologue? Who can think, in comparing Joh 1:1 and John 1:14, that the second of these verses is there for the sake of the first, and not the reverse? No; the author does not wish to take us on a metaphysical walk in the depths of Divinity, in order to discover there the being called Logos; he wishes to make us feel all the grandeur and all the value of the person and work of Jesus Christ, by showing us in this historical personage the manifestation of the divine Logos. It is not the fact of the incarnation ( Joh 1:14 ) which is at the service of the thesis of the Logos ( Joh 1:1 ); it is this thesis which prepares the way for the account of this capital fact of human history. By nothing is the opposition between the speculative intention which Baur ascribes to the Prologue (as to the whole Gospel) and the real aim of this passage, better indicated, than by the explanation which that scholar is obliged to give of John 1:14. To that verse, which is the centre of the whole passage, Baur gives an altogether subordinate place. John does not mean that the Logos becomes incarnate, but simply that He is made visible by a kind of theophany. This fact, according to Baur, has no value for the accomplishing of salvation; it serves only to make us perceive more clearly all its sweetness. This explanation is sufficient to show the contradiction between the thought of the Tubingen professor and that of the evangelist.

II. Reuss avoids such an exaggeration; he understands that the historical person of Jesus is the end and that the theory of the Logos can, in any case, be only a means. The author, in possession of the Gospel faith, seeks to give a rational account to himself of his new belief, and for this purpose he undertakes to draw, outside of the Gospel, from the contemporary philosophy an idea capable of becoming for him the key of Jesus' history, and of raising his faith and that of his readers to the full height of religious speculation. Our Prologue is the initiation of the Church into the true Gnosis. This is also the result of Lucke's study. To explain the Prologue thus, whether one wills it or not, is to give up the authenticity of the entire work. For it is impossible to ascribe to an apostle of Jesus such an amalgam of contemporary metaphysics with the conception of the person of his Master. So the author of this explanation has ended, after much hesitation, by placing himself in the number of the adversaries of the authenticity. By a fatality he was obliged to come to this point. There was, indeed, for the Apostle John, if he was really desirous to deposit in a written work the theory of the Logos, which had thrown a clear light for him upon his own faith, a simple means of establishing for the Church this new view. It was that of setting it before the Church in an epistle; there was no need of using for this purpose the means very equivocal in a moral point of view of a Gospel narrative.

Reuss regards the procedure which he attributes to the author as unconscious on his part and, consequently, as innocent. But the fact that the author all along avoids putting the word Logos into the mouth of Jesus, clearly proves that he acted with reflection, and that he had the consciousness of not having this name from the lips of Him to whom he applied it. As to the innocence of this matter, history has passed judgment, and its judgment is severe. History says, indeed, that among all the writings of the New Testament, the Gospel of John and particularly the Prologue have especially contributed to establish in the Church Jesus-worship, that is to say from the standpoint of those who think after this manner a remnant of paganism. Julian the Apostate could well say: “This John who declared that the Word was made flesh must be regarded as the source of all the evil.” This is the result of John's speculative desires; he has thrown into the Gospel the leaven of idolatry, corrupted the worship in spirit and truth, and even troubled at its source the purity of the Christian life, for eighteen centuries. Only at the present day does the Church awake from this long infatuation of which he was the author, and return to a sound mind. Thus so far as he is concerned has the Master's promise been verified: “He who heareth you, heareth me!”

When we penetrate the thought of the Prologue we see clearly that the doctrine of the Logos is not to the author's mind superimposed upon his faith, but that it forms the foundation and essence of it. If Jewish unbelief with regard to Jesus was something so monstrous, it is because He was not only the Messiah, but the Word who had come into the midst of His own. If the faith of the Church is so great a privilege for itself, it is because, by uniting it with Jesus, it puts the Church again in communication with the divine source of life and light, with the Word Himself. This Logos-idea, then, belongs to the essence of John's faith; it is no longer for him a means, as Reuss claims, but an end, as Baur would have it.

III. This idea was simply a result. It was evolved for John from the sum of his reflections on the person of Jesus. He himself describes to us in Joh 1:14 the way in which this work was accomplished in him. The Son of God was revealed to him in the person of Jesus through the glory full of grace and truth which distinguished this man from every other man; and he inscribed this discovery at the beginning of his narrative, in order that he might make the reader understand the decisive importance of the history, which was about to pass under his eyes; here is not one of those events which we leave after having read it, that we may pass on to another: “These things have been written, that you may believe, and that believing you may have life” ( Joh 20:31 ). The question in this history is of eternal life and death; to accept, is to live; to reject, is to perish. This is the nota bene by which John opens his narrative and guides the reader.

But why employ so singular a term as Logos?

III. The Idea and Term Logos.

We have here to study three questions: 1. Whence did the evangelist derive the notion of the Logos? 2. What is the origin of this term? 3. What is the reason of its use? Having discussed these questions in the Introduction (pp. 173-181), we will notice here only that which has a special relation to the exegetical study which we are about to undertake.

1. First of all we establish a fact: namely, that the Prologue only sums up the thoughts contained in the testimony which Christ bears to Himself in the fourth Gospel. Weiss mentions two principal points in which the Prologue seems to him to go beyond the testimony of Christ: 1. The notion of the Word by which John expresses the pre-historic existence of Christ; 2. The function of creator which is ascribed to Him ( Joh 1:3 ).

Let us for a moment lay aside the term Logos, to which we will return. The creative function is naturally connected with the fact of the eternal existence of the Logos in God. He who could say to God: “ Thou didst love me before the creation of the world,” certainly did not remain a stranger to the act by which God brought the world out of nothing. How is it possible not to apply here the words of John 5:17: “As the Father...I also work,” and John 5:19-20: “The Father showeth the Son all that he doeth...,” and: “Whatsoever things the Father doeth, these doeth the Son in like manner.” Add the words of Genesis 1:26: “Let us make man in our image,” to which John certainly alludes in the second clause of Joh 1:1 of the Prologue. All the other affirmations of this passage rest equally on the discourses and facts related in the Gospel; comp. John 1:4: “ In Him was life...,” with John 5:26: “ As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;John 1:9: “ There was the true light,” with Joh 8:12 and John 9:5: “ I am the light of the world...He that followeth me shall have the light of life;John 1:7: “ John came to bear witness,” with John 1:34:

And I have seen, and have borne witness that this is the Son of God,” and John 1:33: “ Ye have sent unto John, and he hath borne witness to the truth; ” what is said of the presence and activity of the Logos in the world in general ( Joh 1:10 ), and in the theocracy in particular ( to His home, His own, Joh 1:11 ), previous to His incarnation, with what Jesus declares in chap. 10 of the Shepherd's voice which is immediately recognized by His sheep, and this not only by those who are already in the fold of the Old Covenant ( Joh 1:3 ), but also by those who are not of that fold ( Joh 1:16 ), or what is said of the children of God scattered throughout the whole world ( Joh 11:52 ); the opposition made in the Prologue ( Joh 1:13 ) between the fleshly birth and the divine begetting, with the word of Jesus to Nicodemus ( Joh 3:6 ): “ That which is born of the flesh is flesh; that which is born of the Spirit is spirit; ” the notion of Christ's real humanity, so earnestly affirmed in the Prologue ( Joh 1:14 ), with the perfectly human character of the person and affections of the Saviour in the whole Johannean narrative; He is exhausted by fatigue ( Joh 4:6 ); He thirsts ( Joh 4:7 ); He weeps over a friend ( Joh 11:35 ); He is moved, even troubled (John 11:33, Joh 12:27 ); on the other hand, His glory, full of grace and truth, His character as Son who has come from the Father ( Joh 1:14-18 ), with His complete dependence (John 6:38 f.), His absolute docility (John 1:30, etc.), His perfect intimacy with the Father ( Joh 1:20 ), the divinity of the works which it was given Him to accomplish, such as: to give life, to judge ( Joh 1:21-22 ); the perfect assurance of being heard, whatsoever He might ask for ( Joh 11:41-42 ); the adoration which He accepts ( Joh 20:28 ); which He claims even as the equal of the Father ( Joh 1:23 ); the testimony of John the Baptist quoted in John 1:15, with the subsequent narrative (John 1:27; Joh 1:30 ); the gift of the law, as a preparation for the Gospel ( Joh 1:17 ), with what the Lord says of His relation to Moses and his writings ( Joh 1:46-47 ); John 1:18, which closes the Prologue with the saying in John 6:46: “ Not that any one hath seen the Father, except He that is from the Father, He hath seen the Father; ” the terms Son and only-begotten Son, finally, with the words of Jesus in John 6:40: “ This is the Father's will, that He who beholds the Son...;” John 3:16: “ God so loved the world, that He gave His only- begotten Son,” and John 3:18: “ Because he hath not believed on the name of the only-begotten Son of God. ” It is clear: the Prologue is an edifice which is constructed wholly out of materials furnished by the words and the facts of Jesus' history. It contains of what is peculiar to John only the idea and term Logos applied to His pre-existent state. It is certainly this term, used in the philosophical language of the time, which has led so many interpreters to transform the author of the Prologue into a disciple of Philo. We shall limit ourselves here to the mentioning of the essential differences which distinguish the God of Philo from the God of John, the Logos of the one from the Logos of the other. And it shall be judged whether the second was truly at the school of the first.

1. The word λόγος , in John, signifies, as in the whole Biblical text, word. In Philo, it signifies, as in the philosophical language of the Greeks, reason. This simple fact reveals a wholly different starting-point in the use which they make of the term.

2. In Philo, the existence of the Logos is a metaphysical theorem. God being conceived of as the absolutely indeterminate and impersonal being, there is an impassable gulf between Him and the material, finite, varied world which we behold. To fill this gulf, Philo needed an intermediate agent, a second God, brought nearer to the finite; this is the Logos, the half-personified divine reason. The existence of the Logos in John is not the result of such a metaphysical necessity. God is in John, as in all the Scriptures, Creator, Master, Father. He acts Himself in the world, He loves it, He gives His Son to it; we shall even see that it is He who serves as intermediate agent between men and the Son (John 6:37; Joh 6:44 ), which is just the opposite of Philo's theory. In a word, in John everything in the relation of the Logos to God is a matter of liberty and of love, while with Philo everything is the result of a logical necessity. The one is the disciple of the Old Testament interpreted by means of Plato and Zeno; the other, of the same Old Testament explained by Jesus Christ.

3. The office of the Logos in Philo does not go beyond the divine facts of the creation and preservation of the world. He does not place this being in any relation with the Messiah and the Messianic kingdom. In John, on the contrary, the creating Logos is mentioned only in view of the redemption of which He is to be the agent; everything in the idea of this being tends towards His Messianic appearance.

4. To the view of Philo, as to that of Plato, the principle of evil is matter; the Jewish philosopher nowhere dreams, therefore, of making the Logos descend to earth, and that in a bodily form. In John, on the contrary, the supreme fact of history is this: “ The Logos was made flesh,” and this is also the central word of the Prologue.

The two points of view, therefore, are entirely different, and are even in many respects the antipodes of each other. Nevertheless, we notice in Philo certain ideas, certain terms, which establish a relation between him and John. How are we to explain this fact?

The solution is easy: it is not difficult to find a common source. John and Philo were both Jews; both of them had been nourished by the Old Testament. Now three lines in that sacred book converge towards the notion of an intermediate being between God and the world. 1. The appearances of the Angel of the Lord ( Maleach Jehovah), of that messenger of God, who acts as His agent in the sensible world, and who sometimes is distinguished from Jehovah, sometimes is identified with Him; comp. e.g., Gen 16:7 with John 1:13; again, Gen 32:28 with Hosea 12:4-5. God says of this mysterious being, Exodus 23:21: “ My name (my manifested essence) is in him. ” According to the Old Testament (comp. particularly Zechariah 12:10, and Mal 3:1 ), this divine personage, after having been the agent of all the theophanies, is to consummate His office of mediator by fulfilling here on earth the function of Messiah. 2. The description of Wisdom, Proverbs 8:22-31; undoubtedly this representation of Wisdom in Proverbs appears to be only a poetic personification, while the Angel of the Lord is presented as a real personality.

3. The active part ascribed to the Word of the Lord. This part begins with the creation and continues in the prophetic revelations comp. Psalms 107:20; Psalms 147:15, and Isaiah 55:11, where the works accomplished by this divine messenger are described.

From the time of the Babylonish captivity, the Jewish doctors united these three modes of divine manifestation and activity in a single conception, that of the permanent agent of Jehovah in the sensible world, whom they designated by the name of Memra (Word) of Jehovah ( מיממרא דיהוה ). It cannot be certainly determined whether these Jewish learned men established a relation between this Word of the Lord and the person of the Messiah.

This idea of a divine being, organ of the works and the revelations of Jehovah in the sensible world could not, therefore, fail to have been known both by John and by Philo. This is the basis common to the two authors. But from this starting-point their paths diverge. John passing into the school of Jesus, the idea of the Word takes for him a historical significance, a concrete application. Hearing Jesus affirm that He is before Abraham; that the Father loved Him before the creation of the world,...he applies to Him this idea of the Word which in so many different ways strikes its roots into the soil of the Old Testament, while Philo, living at Alexandria, becomes there the disciple of the Greek philosophers, and seeks to interpret by means of their speculations and their formulas the religious ideas of the Jewish religion. We thus easily understand both what these two authors have in common, and what distinguishes them and even puts them in opposition to each other.

II. With respect to the term Word, frequently used, as it already was, in the Old Testament, then employed in a more theological sense by the Jewish doctors, it must have presented itself to the mind of John as very appropriate to designate the divine being in the person of his Master. What confirms the Palestinian, and by no means Alexandrian, origin of this term, is that it is used in the same sense in the Apocalypse, which is certainly by no means a product of Alexandrian wisdom; comp. Acts 19:13: “And his name was the Word of God. ” Philo, as he laid hold of this Jewish term Logos, in order to apply it to the metaphysical notion which he had borrowed from Greek philosophy, could not do so without also modifying its meaning and making it signify reason instead of word. This is what he did in general with regard to all the Biblical terms which his Jewish education had rendered familiar to him, such as archangel, son, high-priest, which he transferred to speculative notions according to the method by which he applied the word angels to the ideas of Plato.

We see, therefore: it is the same religion of the Old Testament, which, developed on one side in the direction of Christian realism, on the other in that of Platonic idealism, produced these two conceptions of John and of Philo, who differ even more in the central idea than they resemble each other in that which envelops it.

In applying to Jesus the name Word, John did not dream, therefore, of introducing into the Church the Alexandrian speculative theorem which had for him no importance. He wished to describe Jesus Christ as the absolute revelation of God to the world, to bring back all divine revelations to Him as to their living centre, and to proclaim the matchless grandeur of His appearance in the midst of humanity.

III. But can the employment of this extraordinary term on his part have occurred without any allusion to the use which was made of it all about him in the regions where he composed his Gospel? It seems to me difficult to believe this. Asia Minor, particularly Ephesus, was then the centre of a syncretism in which all the religious and philosophical doctrines of Greece, Persia and Egypt met together. It has been proved that in all those systems the idea of an intermediate divine being between God and the world appears, the Oum of the Indians, the Hom of the Persians, the Logos of the Greeks, the Memar of the Jews. If such were the surroundings in the midst of which the fourth Gospel was composed, we easily understand what John wished to say to all those thinkers who were speculating on the relations between the infinite and the finite, namely: “That connecting link between God and man, which you are seeking in the region of the idea, we Christians possess in that of reality, in that of history; we have seen, heard, touched this celestial mediator. Listen and believe! And by receiving Him, you will possess, with us, grace upon grace. ” In introducing this new term into the Christian language, therefore, John had the intention, as Neander thought, of opposing to the empty idealism on which the cultivated and unchristian persons around him were feeding, the life-giving realism of the Gospel history which he was proposing to set forth.

IV. The Truth and Importance of the Teaching of the Prologue Respecting the Person of Jesus Christ.

If the Prologue is the summary of the testimonies which Jesus bore to Himself in the course of His ministry, the teaching of John in this passage can no longer be regarded as the last term of a series of phases by means of which the Christological conception passed into the midst of the Church; it is at once the most normal and the richest expression of the consciousness which Jesus had of His own person. Renan is not indisposed to accept this result. Only in this estimation of Himself which Jesus allowed Himself to indulge, he sees the height of self-exaltation. But this explanation is incompatible with the moral character of Jesus. If He overrated Himself even to folly, how are we to understand that inward calm, that profound humility, that unalterably sound judgment, that so profoundly true appreciation of all the moral relations, whether between God and man, or between man and man, which Renan himself recognizes in Him? The kingdom of truth and holiness which has come from the appearance of Jesus is enough to set aside the suspicions of His modern biographer and to decide in the evangelist's favor. The critic might limit himself to calling in question the historical accuracy of the discourses which John puts into the mouth of Jesus. But we think that we have demonstrated the full confidence which we are obliged to accord to them (Introd., pp. 93-134). They cannot be separated from the facts with which they are closely connected, and these facts are as well, not to say better, guaranteed than those of the Synoptics (Introd., pp. 68-93).

Reuss urges, as an objection, a contradiction between the Prologue, in which the perfect equality of the Father and Son (such as ecclesiastical orthodoxy professes) is taught, and the authentic words of Jesus in the Gospel, starting from the idea of the subordination of the Son. The exegesis of the Prologue has proved that this contradiction does not exist, since subordination is taught in the Prologue, as clearly as in the discourses. Let us recall the expressions: “ he was with God,” John 1:1; “the only-begotten Son,” John 1:14; “ who is in the bosom of the Father,” John 1:18; these expressions imply subordination as much as any saying related in the Gospel. Reuss' mistake is that of wishing by all means to identify the conception of the Prologue with the Nicene formulas.

Baur does not believe in the possibility of reconciling the notion of the incarnation with that of the miraculous birth taught in the Synoptics. But if we take this expression, became flesh, seriously, as Baur does not the alleged contradiction is solved of itself. As in this case the subject of the Gospel hisory is not longer, as Baur claims, the Logos continuing in His divine state, but a true man, the fact of a real birth of this man, whether miraculous or natural, becomes a necessary condition of his human existence.

The most serious objection is derived from the difficulty of reconciling the pre-existence of Christ with His real humanity. Thus Lucke, while fully recognizing that there is something dangerous in the rejection of the pre- existence, thinks, nevertheless, that this dogma implies a difference of essence between the Saviour and His brethren, which seriously compromises both His character as Son of man, and His redemptive function. Weizsacker takes his position at the same point of view. He acknowledges that the communion of the Son with the Father is not simply moral; that Jesus did not gain His dignity as Son by His fidelity; but that it is, much rather, the presupposition of all that He did and said; that His moral fidelity maintained this original relation, but did not produce it; that, it is the unacquired condition of the consciousness which He had of Himself. On the other hand, he maintains that the superior knowledge which Christ possessed, could not be the continuation of that which He brought from above; for that origin would take away from it the progressive character, limited to the task of each moment, which we recognize in it and which makes it a truly human knowledge. And, as for the moral task of Jesus, it would also lose its truly human character; for where would be the moral conflict in the Son, if He still possessed here below that complete knowledge of the divine plan which He had had eternally in the presence of the Father? There are, therefore, in the fourth Gospel according to this critic, two Christs placed in juxtaposition: the one, truly man, as Jesus Himself teaches in harmony with the Synoptics; the other, divine and pre-existent the Christ of John. In attempting to resolve this difficulty, we do not conceal from ourselves that we are entering upon one of the most difficult problems of theology. What we shall seek after, in the lines which follow, is not the reconciliation of Scripture with any orthodoxy whatever, but the agreement of Scripture with itself.

The Scriptures, while teaching the eternal existence of the Word, do not, by any means, teach the presence of the divine state and attributes in Jesus during the course of His earthly life. They teach, on the contrary, the complete renouncing by Jesus of that state, with a view to His entrance into the human state. The expression: the Word was made flesh ( Joh 1:14 ), speaks of the divine subject only as reduced to the human state; it does not at all, therefore, suppose the two states, divine and human, as co-existent in Him. The impoverishment of Christ of which Paul speaks 2 Corinthians 8:9, and His voluntary emptying of Himself described in Philippians 2:6-7, have no meaning except as we see in this renunciation of the divine state and the entrance into the human mode of existence two facts which were coincident. The Gospel history confirms these declarations. Jesus does not on earth any longer possess the attributes which constitute the divine state. Omniscience He does not have. He Himself declares His ignorance on a particular point ( Mar 13:32 ). In our Gospel, also, the expression: “ When he heard that the Jews had cast him out...” ( Joh 9:35 ), proves the same thing. In general, every question put by Him would have been only a pretence, if He had still possessed omniscience. He possessed a superior prophetic vision, undoubtedly ( Joh 4:17-18 ); but this vision was not omniscience. And I do not think that the facts by any means confirm the opinion of Weizsacker, that John's narrative ascribes to Jesus a knowledge which was a reminiscence of His heavenly knowledge. The exegesis will show that Jesus never enunciated anything whatsoever which did not pass through His human consciousness. No more does He possess omnipotence. For He prays and is heard ( Joh 11:42 ); as for His miracles, it is the Father who works them on His behalf ( Joh 1:36 ). He is equally bereft of omnipresence. He rejoices in His absence at the time of the sickness of Lazarus ( Joh 11:15 ). His love, perfect as it is, is nevertheless not divine love. This is immutable; but who will maintain that Jesus in His cradle loved as He did at the age of twelve, and at the age of twelve, as He did on the cross? Relatively perfect, at each given moment, His love increased from day to day, both in intensity and with reference to voluntary self-sacrifice, and in extent and with reference to the circle which it embraced, at first His family, then His people, then the whole of mankind. It was a truly human love. For this reason, St. Paul says: “The grace of one man, Jesus Christ” ( Rom 5:15 ). His holiness was, also, a human holiness; for it was realized at every moment only at the cost of a struggle, through renouncing lawful enjoyment and the victory over the no less lawful dread of pain (John 12:25; John 12:27; John 17:19 a.). This holiness is so human that it is to pass into us and become ours (John 17:19 b.). All these texts clearly prove that Jesus did not possess, while on earth, the attributes which constitute the divine state. And, indeed, how could He otherwise terminate His earthly career by asking back again the glory which He had before His incarnation ( Joh 17:5 )?

Can we conceive of such an emptying of Himself on the part of a divine being? Keil, while acknowledging that there is here a problem which has not yet been solved, thinks that the emptying of the divine attributes took place through the very fact of the entrance of the subject who possessed them into a more limited nature. Steinmeyer, likewise says: The very fact of the entrance into a material body had the effect of reducing to the condition of latency the qualities which befit an absolute personality. We might carry back to this idea the saying of Paul ( Php 2:7 ): “He divested himself ( emptied), having taken the form of a servant,” by making the act expressed in the participle having taken the antecedent and condition of that which is expressed by the finite verb: “ he divested himself. ” But we may also conceive of the act of voluntary divesting as preceding the entrance into the human state, and as being the condition of it. And it is rather to this idea, as it seems to me, that the passage in Philippians leads us. However this may be, Scripture does not, by any means, teach that He came to earth with His divine attributes a fact which implies that He had renounced not only their use, but also their possession. Even the consciousness of His anterior existence as a divine subject would have been incompatible with the state of a true child and with a really human development. The word which He uttered at the age of twelve years ( Luk 2:49 ) is alleged; but it simply expresses the feeling which Jesus had already at that age of being entirely devoted to the cause of God, as a well-disposed son is to the interests of his father. With a moral fidelity like His, and in the permanent enjoyment of a communion with God which sin did not impair, the child could call God His Father in a purely religious sense, and without resulting in a consciousness within Him of a divine pre-existence. Certainly the feeling of His redemptive mission must have developed itself from his early age, especially through the experience of the continual contrast between His moral purity and the sin by which He saw all those who surrounded Him affected, even the best of them such as Joseph and Mary. The only one in health in this caravan of sick persons with whom He made His journey, He must early have had a glimpse of His task as physician and have inwardly consecrated Himself wholly to it. But there is in the Gospel history not a word, not an act attributed to Jesus which leads us to suppose in the child or the youth the consciousness of His divine nature, and of His previous existence. It is to the apocryphal gospels that we must go to seek this contra- natural and antihuman Jesus. It was, if we mistake not, on the day of His baptism, when the moment arrived at which He was to begin to testify of Himself, of what He was for God and of what God was for Him and for the world, that God thought it fit to initiate Him into the mystery of His life as Son anterior to His earthly existence. This revelation was contained in the words: “Thou art my Son,” which could not refer only to His office as Messiah, since they were explained by the following words: “In thee I am well-pleased.” He recovered at that time that consciousness of Sonship which He had allowed to become extinguished in Him, as at night, as we surrender ourselves to sleep, we lose self-consciousness; and He was able from that moment to make the world understand the greatness of the gift which was made to it and of the love of which He was the object on God's part.

The following, therefore, as it seems to me, are the constituent elements of this mysterious fact:

1. As man was created in the image of God and for the divine likeness, the Logos could, without derogation, descend even to the level of a human being and work out His development from that moment in truly human conditions.

2. Receptivity for the divine, aspiration towards the divine, being the distinctive feature of man among the other natural beings, the essential characteristic of the life of the Logos made man must be incessant and growing assimilation to the divine in all its forms.

3. This religious and moral capacity of the Logos having entered into human existence is not to be measured by that which each particular man possesses. Through the fact of His miraculous birth, He reproduces not the type of a determinate father, but that of the race itself which He represents a second time, as it had been represented the first time by the father of all mankind. In Him, therefore, is concentrated the aspiration of the whole race, the generic and absolute receptivity of humanity for the divine. Hence the incomparable character of this personality, to which all are forced to render homage.

4. Having arrived at the consciousness of His eternal relation to God, the Logos can only aspire to recover the divine state in harmony with the consciousness which He has of Himself; but, on the other hand, He is too closely connected with humanity to consent to break the bond which unites Him to it. There remains, therefore, only one thing: to raise humanity with Himself to His glory and thus to realize in it the highest thought of God, that which St. Paul calls “the purpose of the wisdom of God for our glory” ( 1Co 2:7 ), the elevation of man, first, to communion with Christ, and then, in Him, to the possession of the state of the Man-God. This is the accomplishment of the eternal destiny of believers, as St. Paul also states it in Romans 8:29-30.

The course of the development of the earthly life of Jesus is easily understood when we place ourselves at this point of view. By His birth as a member of the race, as Son of man, humanity finds itself replaced in Him at its normal starting-point; it is fitted to begin anew its development, which sin had perverted. Up to the age of thirty, Jesus accomplishes this task. He elevates humanity in His own person, by His perfect obedience and the constant sacrifice of Himself, from innocence to holiness. He is not yet conscious of Himself; perhaps, in the light of the Scriptures, He begins to have a presentiment of that which He is in relation to God. But the distinct consciousness of His dignity as Logos would not be compatible with the reality of His human development and with the accomplishment of the task assigned to this first period of His life. This task being once fulfilled, the conditions of His existence change. A new work opens for Him, and the consciousness of His dignity as well-beloved Son, far from being incompatible with the work which He has still to accomplish, becomes the indispensable foundation of it. Indeed, in order to bear witness of God as Father, He must necessarily know Himself as Son. The baptism is the decisive event which opens this new phase. Meeting the aspirations and presentiments of the heart of Jesus, the Father says to Him: “ Thou art my Son. ” Jesus knows Himself from this moment as the absolute object of the divine love. He can say now what He could not have said before: “ Before Abraham was, I am. ” This consciousness of His dignity as Son, the recompense for His previous fidelity accompanies Him everywhere from this hour. It forms the background of all His manifestations in acts and words (see Weizsacker's fine passage, pp. 120, 121). Heaven is opened to Him and He testifies of what He sees there. The baptism, however, while giving to Jesus His consciousness of Sonship, did not give back to Him His state of Sonship, His form of God. There is still an immense disproportion between that which He knows Himself to be and that which He really is. Herein, especially, there is for Him the possibility of temptation: “ If thou art the Son of God...” Master of all, He disposes of nothing, and must at every moment address Himself with a believing and filial heart to the paternal heart of God. It is only through the resurrection and the exaltation which follows it, that His position is placed on the level of the consciousness which He has of Himself, and that He recovers the divine state. Henceforth, all the fullness of the divinity dwells in Him, and that humanly, and even, as Paul says, bodily ( Col 2:9 ). Finally, ten days after His personal assumption into the divine glory, He begins from the day of Pentecost to admit believers to a participation in His state of sonship. He thus prepares the day on which, by His Parousia, He will consummate outwardly their participation in His glory, after having re-established in them the perfect holiness which was the basis of His own exaltation. Living images of the Logos from our creation, we shall then realize that type of divine-human existence which we at present behold in Him. Such was the divine plan, such was the last wish of Jesus Himself ( Joh 17:24 ): “ Father, I will that where I am, they also may be with me.

The true formula of the incarnation, according to our Gospel, would, therefore, be the following: That filial communion with God which the Logos realized before His incarnation in the glorious and permanent form of the divine life, He has realized in Jesus since His incarnation in the humble and progressive form of human existence.

The school of Baur think that they discover an essential difference between John's conception and that of Paul respecting this point. The latter could have seen in the pre-existent Christ only the prototypic man, but not a divine being. This view is rested upon 1 Corinthians 15:47: “The first man, derived from the earth, is earthy; the second man is from heaven.” But this conclusion, which is founded upon no other passage, has really no support in this one. The whole fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians has an eschatological bearing, for it treats of the resurrection of the body. The words cited, therefore, apply to the now glorified Christ, and not to the pre-existent Christ; this is also proved by the words which immediately follow: “ As is the earthly (Adam), such are they also that are earthly (men in their present state): as is the heavenly (Christ), such are they also that are heavenly (the believers risen from the dead). For as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. ” Certainly, Paul does not mean to say that we shall bear the image of the pre-existent Christ, but that of the Christ as man raised from the dead and glorified. Even the term second ( man) would be sufficient to prove this; since the pre-existent Christ would be the first Adam, the Adam Kadmon of Jewish theology. The idea which Baur finds in this passage is, moreover, incompatible with two other expressions of the same epistle, in which two divine functions, the creation of the universe and the leading of Israel through the wilderness, are ascribed to the pre-existent Christ ( Joh 8:6 and Joh 10:4 ). These functions surpass the idea of a mere heavenly man.

When Paul calls Christ “ the image of the invisible God,” “the first-born before every creature,” the one “in whom all things have been created and all things subsist” ( Col 1:15-16 ), he says exactly what John says, when he calls Him the Word (the image of the invisible thought), and when he adds: “All things were made by Him, and nothing which has been made was made without Him.” The two terms, image and Word, express, under two different figures, the same notion: God affirming with an affirmation which is not a simple verbum volens, but a living person, all that He thinks, all that He wills, all that He loves that is most perfect, giving thus in this being the word of His thought, the reflection of His being, the end of His love, almost His realized ideal. Let us picture to ourselves an artist capable of giving life to the master- piece of his genius, and entering into personal relation with this child of his thought; such is the earthly representation of the relation between God and the Word. This word is divine; for the highest affirmation of God cannot be less than God Himself. It is eternal; for God cannot have begun at any time to affirm Himself. It is single; for it is His absolute saying, the perfect enunciation of His being, consequently His primordial sovereign utterance, in which are included, in advance, all His particular sovereign utterances which will re-echo successively in time. It is, accordingly, this Word who, in his turn, will call forth all beings. They will be His free affirmation, as He is Himself that of God. He will display in the universe, under the forms of space and time, all the riches of the divine contents which God has eternally included in Him. The creation will be the poem of the Son to the glory of the Father.

This notion of the Word, as a creative principle, has the greatest importance as related to the conception of the universe. The universe rests thereby on an absolutely luminous basis, which secures its final perfection. Blind and eternal matter, fatal necessity, are banished from a world which is the work of the Word. The ideal essence of all things is absolutely protected by this view.

The notion of the person of Christ which is contained in the Prologue is of decisive importance for the Church.

If the supreme dignity ascribed to Jesus is denied Him, however worthy of admiration this Christ may be, humanity may and should always “ look for another; ” for the path of progress is unlimited. The gate thus remains open for one who comes afterward: “I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not; another shall come in his own name, and him ye will receive” ( Joh 1:43 ).

But if in Jesus the Word was really made flesh, there is no higher one to be looked for. The perfect revelation and communication of God are accomplished; eternal life has been realized in time; there is nothing further for every man but to accept and live, or to reject and perish.

We understand, therefore, why John has placed this preamble at the head of his narrative. Faith is not faith that is to say, absolute, without reserve except so far as it has for its object that beyond which it is impossible to go.


As compared with the two parts which are to follow, of which one specially traces out the development of unbelief (v.-xii.), the other, that of faith (xiii.-xvii.), this First Part has a character which may be called neutral. It serves as the starting-point for the two others. It contains the first revelations of the object of faith and unbelief, of Jesus as Son of God. Jesus is declared to be the Messiah and Son of God by John the Baptist; a first group of disciples is formed about Him. His glory beams forth in some miraculous manifestations within the circle of His private life. Then He inaugurates His public ministry in the temple, at Jerusalem. But this attempt having failed, He limits Himself to teaching, while performing miracles and collecting about Himself adherents by means of baptism. Finally, observing that, even in this more modest form, His activity gives umbrage to the dominant party at Jerusalem, He withdraws into Galilee, after having sowed by the way the germs of faith in Samaria. This summary justifies the title which we give to this First Part, and the more general character which we ascribe to it as compared with those which follow.

The evangelist himself seems to have wished to divide it into two cycles by the distinctly marked correlation between the two remarks, Joh 2:11 and John 4:54, which are placed, one at the end of the story of the wedding at Cana:

This was the beginning of Jesus' miracles which took place at Cana in Galilee; and He manifested His glory, and His disciples believed on Him; ” the other, which closes this whole Part, after the healing of the nobleman's son, “ Again, Jesus did this second miracle when He came from Judea into Galilee. ” By the manifest correlation of these two sentences the evangelist calls attention to the fact that there were, in this first period of Jesus' ministry, two sojournings in Judea, each of which terminated with a return to Galilee, and that both of these returns were alike marked by a miracle performed at Cana. This indication of the thought of the historian should be our guide. Accordingly, we divide this Part into two cycles the one comprising the facts related Joh 1:19 to John 2:11; the other, the narratives Joh 2:12 to John 4:54. In the first, Jesus, introduced into His ministry by John the Baptist, fulfills it without as yet going out of the inner circle of His first disciples and His family. The second relates His first steps in His public ministry.

Verse 19

Ver. 19. “ And this is the testimony which John gave when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?

It is quite strange to see a narrative beginning with the word and. This fact is explained by the relation which we have just indicated between Joh 1:19 and John 1:15. What gives an especial importance to this declaration of John the Baptist, is its official character. It was uttered in presence of a deputation of the Sanhedrim, and as a reply to a positive inquiry emanating from that body, the religious head of the Jewish nation. The Sanhedrim, of whose existence we find the first traces only in the times of Antipater and Herod (Josephus, Antiq. 14.9, 4), was undoubtedly the continuation or renewal of a very ancient institution. We are reminded of the tribunal of the seventy-two elders established by Moses ( Num 11:16 ). Under Jehoshaphat ( 2Ch 19:8 ), mention is also made of a supreme tribunal sitting at Jerusalem and composed of a certain number of Levites, priests and fathers of Israel. Comp., perhaps, also Ezekiel 8:11 f., “ seventy men of the elders of Israel. ” In Maccabees ( 1Ma 12:5 ; 2Ma 1:10 ; 2Ma 4:44 , etc.), the body called γερουσία , senate, plays a part analogous to that of these ancient tribunals, yet without the possibility of establishing a historic continuity between these institutions. At the time of Jesus, this senate, called Sanhedrim, was composed of 71 members, including the president (Tract. Sanhedr. 1.6). These members were of three classes: 1. The chief-priests ( ἀρχιερεῖς ), a term which probably designates the high-priests who had retired from office, and the members chosen from the highest priestly families; 2. The elders of the people ( πρεσβύτεροι , ἄρχοντες τοῦ λαοῦ ), a term which undoubtedly comprehends the other members in general, whether lay members or Levites; 3. The scribes ( γραμματεῖς ), a term designating especially the experts in the law, the jurists by profession. The high-priest was ex-officio the president. The Sanhedrim had up to this time closed its eyes to John the Baptist's work. But observing that things were daily taking a more serious turn, and that the people were beginning even to ask themselves whether John were not the Christ (comp. Luk 3:15 ), they felt at length that they must use their authority and officially present to him the question respecting his mission. Jesus alludes to this step ( Joh 1:33 ); afterwards, He Himself answered a similar inquiry with a refusal (Matthew 21:23 f.). The Mishna says expressly: “The judgment of a tribe, of a false prophet and of a high-priest belongs to the tribunal of the seventy- one.” Sanh. 1.5. We meet here, for the first time, the title, “ the Jews,” which plays an important part in the fourth Gospel. This name, by its etymology, properly designates only the members of the tribe of Judah; but after the return from the captivity it is applied to the whole people, because the greater part of the Israelites who returned to their own land belonged to this tribe. It is in this general sense that we find it in John 2:6, “ After the Jews' manner of purifying;John 2:13, “ The passover of the Jews;John 3:1, “ One of the rulers of the Jews.

In this purely political sense, this term may even include the Galileans ( Joh 6:52 ). But the name has most frequently in our Gospel a religious coloring. It designates the nation as an unbelieving community, which, in the majority of its members and through its authorities, had rejected the Messiah. This particular sense is explained by the history; for the focus of the hatred and rejection of Jesus was found at Jerusalem and in Judea. This unfavorable sense attached to the name the Jews in our Gospel, has been adduced for the purpose of proving that the author of this book could not have been himself of Jewish origin. But after the fall of Jerusalem the Jewish nation had ceased to exist as a political body; this name of Jews thus became a purely religious title; and as John himself belonged to a different religious community, it is quite natural that he speaks of them as people who were henceforth foreigners to him. The Jewish-Christian author of the Apocalypse expresses himself still more severely with respect to his old fellowcountrymen, when he calls them “the Synagogue of Satan” ( Joh 3:9 ); and Mark, in spite of his Jewish origin, also designates them by this word, the Jews, absolutely as John does ( Joh 7:3 ). The words: from Jerusalem depend, not on the substantive the Jews, but on the verb sent. The design of this limiting phrase is to make the solemnity of the proceeding appear; it had an official character, because it emanated from the centre of the theocracy. Levites were joined with the priests. It has been often supposed that they merely played the part of bailiffs. But, in several passages of the Old Testament (2 Chronicles 17:7-9; 2 Chronicles 35:3; Neh 8:7 ), we see that it was the Levites who were charged with instructing the people in the law, from which fact Hengstenberg has, not without reason, concluded, that the scribes, so frequently mentioned in the New Testament, generally belonged to this order, and that it is in this character, and consequently as members of the Sanhedrim, that some of their number figured in the deputation. The question which they address to John the Baptist relates to the expectation, prevailing at that epoch in Israel, of the Messiah and of the extraordinary messengers who, according to the popular opinion, were to precede His coming. “ Who art thou? ” signifies in the context, Art thou one of these expected personages, and what one? We shall see in Joh 1:25 what embarrassment this question was preparing for John, in case he refused to declare his title.

Origen thought that with the second clause of John 1:19 ( ὅτε ἀπέστειλεν ) a new testimony of John the Baptist began. The first was, according to him, that of John 1:15 f, to which John 1:19 a refers. Consequently, he appears to have read τότε , then, instead of ὅτε ( when). To complete this series of misconceptions, he only needed to find further on a third testimony addressed to a new deputation; he succeeded in this through his interpretation of John 1:24 (see on that verse). Cyril and some modern writers begin with the when of John 1:19 a new sentence, of which the principal clause is found in John 1:20: “When the Jews sent....he declared.” But the καί , and, before the verb ὡμολόγησε , he declared, renders this construction inadmissible. The particle καί , and, is never in John the sign of the apodosis, not even in John 6:57. The words πρὸς αὐτόν , to him, which are added by a portion of the Alexandrian authorities, and which two Mjj. place after λευΐτας , are probably interpolated. Meyer and Weiss wrongly make καὶ ὡμολόγησε , and he declared, depends on ὄτε , when; this construction makes the sentence a dragging one. It is better to translate: “And this is the testimony...( Joh 1:19 )...and he declared.”

Verses 19-28

I. First Testimony: John 1:19-28 .

In unfolding in the Prologue the contents of faith, the apostle had adduced two testimonies of John the Baptist ( Joh 1:6-8 and Joh 1:15 ); the second contains, as Baur well says, “the idea of the absolute preexistence of the Messiah,” and consequently the true thought of the author that of the divinity of Christ. But when was the testimony, cited at John 1:15, given? This is what the apostle proceeds to relate.

Verses 19-34

II. Second Testimony: vv. 29-34.

How can we comprehend the fact that the deputies of the Sanhedrim left John without asking him who the person was of whom he intended to speak? Either they did not care to know, or they affected to despise the declaration of the one who spoke to them in this way. In both cases, here is their first positive act of unbelief. After their departure, the forerunner remained with his disciples and the multitude who had been present at this scene; and from the next day his testimony assumed a still more precise character. He no longer merely said, “He is there,” but seeing Jesus approaching him, he cries out: “There He is.” He characterizes first the work ( Joh 1:29 ), then the person of Christ ( Joh 1:30 ); afterwards, he relates how he attained the knowledge of Him, and on what foundation the testimony which He gives to Him rests ( Joh 1:31-33 ); finally, he sets forth the importance which the act that he has just performed in disburdening himself of such a message in their presence has for his hearers ( Joh 1:34 ).

Verses 19-37

First Section: 1:19-37. The Testimonies of John the Baptist.

These testimonies are three in number and were given on three successive days (see John 1:29; John 1:35, “ the next day).” These three days, eternally memorable for the Church, had left on the heart of the evangelist an ineffaceable impression. On the first he had heard that solemn declaration made before a deputation of the Sanhedrim: The Messiah is present! (ver.

26); and this word, no doubt, had thrilled him as it had the multitude who were there. The next day, the forerunner, pointing out Jesus, had changed his first declaration into that still more important one: Behold Him! and faith in Jesus, prepared for on the preceding day, had illuminated with its first ray the heart of John and that of the Baptist's hearers. Finally, on the third day, by repeating his declaration of the day before, the Baptist evidently meant to say: Follow Him! John immediately leaves the Baptist, to attach himself to the new Master whom he points out to him.

Why did the author make the first of these three days the starting-point for his narration? If his intention was to make us witness the opening, not only of his own faith and that of the apostles, but of faith itself in the midst of mankind, he could not choose another starting-point. The Messiah announced, then pointed out, then followed; this certainly is the normal beginning of such a narrative.

Verses 19-51

First Cycle: 1:19-2:11.

This cycle comprises three sections: 1. The testimonies borne by John the Baptist to Jesus, John 1:19-37; John 2:0. The first personal manifestations of Jesus and the faith of His first disciples, John 1:38-51; John 3:0. His first miraculous sign, John 2:1-11. The facts related in these three sections fill a week which forms, as Bengel has remarked, the counterpart of the final Passion-week. The one might be called the week of the betrothal of the Messiah to His people; the other the time of the absolute rupture long since announced by Jesus: “ When the bridegroom shall be taken away, then shall the friends of the bridegroom fast.

Verse 20

Ver. 20. “ And he confessed, and denied not, and confessed:I am not the Christ.

Before pointing out the contents of the response of John the Baptist, the evangelist sets forth its characteristics: it was ready, frank, categorical. The first he confessed, indicates spontaneity, eagerness. By the negative form: he denied not, the evangelist means to say he did not for an instant yield to the temptation which he might have had to deny. The second he confessed is added in order to connect with it the profession which is to follow. This remarkable form of narrative (comp. Joh 1:7-8 ) seems to us, whatever Weiss may say of it, to be more naturally explained if we suppose an allusion to people who were inclined to give to the person of John the Baptist an importance superior to his real dignity. According to the reading of the Alexandrian authorities and Origen, we must translate: “ It is not I who am the Christ ( ἐγὼ οὐκ εἰμί ).” This reply would have been suitable, if the question had been, “ Is it thou who art the Christ?” But the question is merely, “ Who art thou? ” and the true response is consequently that which is found in the T. R. following the Byzantine authorities: “I am not the Christ ( οὐκ εἰμί ἐγώ ),” that is, “I am indeed something, but not the Christ.”

Verse 21

Ver. 21. “ And they asked him: what then?Art thou Elijah? And he said I am not. Art thou the prophet? And he answered, No.

Some interpreters understand the question τί οὖν ( what then?) in the same or nearly the same sense as the preceding: “If thou art not the Christ, what art thou then? ” But the two following questions: “ Art thou Elias...?” would imply τίς rather than τί in this sense. De Wette sees in these words an adverbial expression: “ What then! ” This sense is pointless. We must, rather, supply ἐστί , with Meyer: “What then is the case? What extraordinary thing, then, is happening?” This form of question betrays impatience. There was, indeed, in the unprecedented behavior of John the Baptist something which seemed to indicate an exceptional condition. Malachi had announced ( Joh 4:5 ) the coming of Elijah as the one preparing for the great Messianic day, and we know from Justin's Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, that, according to a popular opinion, the Messiah was to remain hidden until he had been pointed out and consecrated by this prophet. Several passages of the Gospels (Matthew 16:14; Mar 6:15 ) prove that there was, besides this, an expectation of the reappearance of some other prophet of the ancient times, Jeremiah for example. Among these expected personages, there was one who was especially called the prophet. Some distinguished him from the Messiah ( Joh 7:40-41 ); others confounded him with the Messiah ( Joh 6:14 ). The question was, evidently, as to the personage announced by Moses (“a prophet like unto me”), in the promise in Deuteronomy 18:18. Of course, the people did not picture to themselves a second Elijah or a new Moses in the spiritual sense, as when the angel says of John the Baptist ( Luk 1:17 ), “ He shall go in the spirit and power of Elijah. ” It was the person himself who was to reappear in flesh and bones. How could John the Baptist have affirmed, in this literal sense, his identity with the one or the other of these ancient personages? On the other hand, how could he enter into the domain of theological distinctions? Besides, this mode of discussion would be scarcely in accordance with his character. His reply, therefore, must be negative.

Verses 22-23

Vv. 22, 23. “ They said then to him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to those who sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? 23. He said, I am a voice crying in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaiah.

The deputies have now exhausted the suppositions which were furnished by the accepted Messianic programme of their time. Nothing remains for them but to propose to John again the question which shall make him abandon the negative attitude to which he is limiting himself: “ Who art thou? ” that is to say, “ What personage art thou? ” For his extraordinary conduct must be occasioned by an exceptional mission. John replies to it by a passage from Isaiah, which contains at once the explanation asked for and the guarantee of his mission. The sense of the prophetic passage is this: Jehovah is on the point of appearing in order to manifest His glory. At the moment which precedes His appearance, without the appearing of any person on the scene, a voice is heard which invites Israel to make straight the way by which the Lord is to come.

The question in this description is not of the return from the captivity, but of the Messianic appearance of Jehovah. As in the East, before the arrival of the sovereign, the roads are straightened and leveled, so Israel is to prepare for its divine King a reception worthy of Him; and the function of the mysterious voice is to engage her in carrying out this work of preparation, lest the signal grace of which she is to be the object may turn into judgment. John applies to himself so much more willingly these words of Isaiah, because it fully accords with his desire to put his own person into obscurity and to let nothing but his message appear: “ A voice. ” The words in the wilderness can be referred, in Hebrew as in Greek, either to the verb to cry, or to the verb to make straight. As regards the sense, it amounts to the same thing, since the order sounds forth in the place where it is to be executed. The reference to the preceding verb is more natural, especially in the Greek. The wilderness designates in the East uncultivated lands, the vast extents of territory which serve for pasturage, and which are crossed by winding paths, and not by roads worthy of a sovereign. Such is the emblem of the moral state of the people; the royal way by which Jehovah is to enter is not yet prepared in their hearts. The feeling of national repentance is still wanting. The sojourning of the forerunner in the wilderness indicated clearly, through this literal conformity to the prophetic emblem, the moral accomplishment of the prophecy. Does the formula of citation, “ as said,” also belong to the reply of the Baptist? Or is it a remark of the evangelist? What makes us incline to the first alternative is, that the forerunner had more need of legitimating himself than the evangelist had of legitimating him so long afterwards. To reply as John does was to enunciate his commission, and to declare his orders. It was to say, in fact, to these deputies, experts in the knowledge of the law and the prophets, that, if he was not personally one of the expected ancient personages, his mission was, nevertheless, in direct connection with the approaching manifestation of the Messiah. This was all which the Sanhedrim and the people practically needed to know.

The inquiry had borne, at first, upon the office of John the Baptist. The deputation completed it by a more special interrogation respecting the rite of baptism, which he is allowing himself to introduce into the theocracy without the authorization of the Sanhedrim. The evangelist prepares the way for this new phase of the conversation by a remark having reference to the religious character of the members of the deputation.

Verse 24

Ver. 24. “ And those who were sent were of the Pharisees.

We translate according to the T. R., which is in conformity with the majority of the Mjj., with the Mnn., and with the greater part of the Vss. According to this reading, the participle ἀπεσταλμενοι , sent, is defined by the article οἱ , the; it is the subject of the sentence. The design of this remark added here by John is easily understood; it is to explain the question which is to follow. John likes to supply in this way, as a narrative progresses, the circumstances, omitted at first, which serve gradually to explain it; comp. John 1:41; John 1:45; John 4:30; John 9:14; John 11:5; John 11:18; John 13:23, etc. The Pharisees were the ultra conservatives in Israel; no one could have been shocked more than they by the innovation which John the Baptist had taken it upon himself to make in introducing baptism. Lustrations undoubtedly formed a part of the Jewish worship. It is even maintained that the pagan proselytes were subjected to a complete bath, on occasion of their passing over to Judaism. But the application of this symbol of entire pollution to the members of the theocratic people was so strange an innovation, that it must have awakened in the highest degree the susceptibility of the authorities who were guardians of the rites, and very particularly that of the party most attached to tradition. The Pharisaic element also was the main one in the deputation which the Sanhedrim had chosen.

We see how skillfully the plan of the examination had been laid; first of all, the question relative to the mission; then, that which concerned the rite; for the latter depended on the former. Nothing can be more simple than the course of the narrative, as thus understood. This mode of explaining the intention of the remark in Joh 1:24 appears to me more natural than that of Weiss and Keil, according to which John would thereby characterize the spirit of unbelief which animated the interrogators of the Baptist. The fact of their unbelief not being noticed in the narrative, did not demand explanation. Opposed to the reading of the T. R. there is another supported by the Alexandrian authorities and by Origen, and adopted by Tischendorf, and Westcott and Hort, which rejects the article οἱ before ἀπεσταλμένοι ; the meaning is: “and they had been sent from the Pharisees,” or, as Origen understood it: “and there were persons sent (come) from the Pharisees,” as if the question were of another deputation than that of John 1:19. Neither the one nor the other of these meanings is possible. For the Pharisees did not form an officially constituted body, from which a proceeding like this which is here spoken of could have started. The Alexandrian reading is, therefore, indefensible, as, in this instance, Weiss and Keil themselves acknowledge. It is, probably, as is so frequently the case, an arbitrary correction by Origen, to serve his false interpretation of this whole passage, from the end of the Prologue. Weiss and Keil see here a mere case of negligence of a copyist arising from the preceding καί , in which the οἱ was lost. But how many similar errors should we not have, in that case, in the New Testament!

Verse 25

Ver. 25. “ And they asked him and said unto him; why baptizest thou then, if thou art not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet.

The strictest guardians of rites conceded, indeed, to the Messiah or to one of His forerunners the right of making innovations in the matter of observances; and if John had declared himself one of these personages, they would have contented themselves with asking for his credentials, and would have kept silence respecting his baptism, sufficiently legitimated by his mission. In fact, it seems to follow from this verse itself that, on the foundation of words such as those of Ezekiel 36:25-26, and Zechariah 13:1, a great national lustration was expected as an inauguration of the kingdom of the Messiah. But John the Baptist having expressly declined the honor of being one of the expected prophets, the deputation had the right to say to him: “Why then dost thou baptize?” According to the reading of the T. R. nor, nor, the thought is this: “The supposition that John is the Christ is set aside; there remains, therefore, no other way of explaining his baptism except that he is either the one or the other of the two expected forerunners; now he declares that he is neither the one nor the other; why then...etc. This delicate sense of the disjunctive negative was not understood; hence, in our view, the Alexandrian reading οὐδέ , οὐδέ , nor even, which puts the three cases on a common level. The partisans of the Alexandrian text ( Weiss, Keil, Westcott, etc.), judge otherwise. The position of John the Baptist, in presence of this question and after his previous answer, became a difficult one. His interrogators, indeed, had counted on this result.

Verses 26-27

Vv. 26, 27. “ John answered them saying, Yea, I baptize with water;in the midst of you there standeth one whom you know not; 27. He who comes after me but who was before me the latchet of whose sandal I am not worthy to loose.

This reply has been regarded as not very clear and as embarrassed. De Wette even thinks that it does not correspond altogether with the question proposed. The generally adopted explanation is the following: “My baptism with water does not, in any case, encroach upon that of the Messiah, which is of an altogether superior nature; it is only preparatory for it.” John would in some sort excuse his baptism by trying to diminish it, and by reminding them that beyond this ceremony the Messianic baptism maintains the place which belongs to it. But, first of all, this would be to evade the question which was put; and the criticism of de Wette would remain a well- founded one. For the baptism of John was attacked in itself and not as being derogatory to that of the Messiah. Then, the words ἐν ὕδατι , with water, should be placed at the beginning: “It is only with water that I baptize,” and the baptism of the Spirit would necessarily be mentioned in the following clause, as an antithesis. Finally, it would scarcely be in harmony with the character of the Baptist to shelter himself under the insignificance of his office and to present his baptism as an inoffensive novelty. This reply, properly understood, is, on the contrary, full of solemnity, dignity, even threatening; it makes apparent the importance of the present situation, into the mystery of which John alone, until now, is initiated. “The Messiah is present: this is the reason why I baptize!” If the Messianic time has really come, and he is himself charged with inaugurating it, his baptism is thereby justified (see Joh 1:23 ).

This feeling of the gravity of the situation and of the importance of his part is expressed in the ἐγώ , I, placed at the beginning of the answer, the meaning of which, as the sequel proves, is this: “ I baptize with water, and in acting thus I know what I do: for He is present who...” We have given the force of this pronoun by the affirmation Yea! The ἐγώ , I, is ordinarily contrasted with the Messiah, by making an antithesis between the baptism of water and the baptism of the Spirit. But this latter is not even mentioned, and this interpretation results from a recollection of the words of the Baptist in the Synoptics. Hence also probably came the introduction of the particle δέ , but (in what follows after the word μέσος ), which is rightly omitted by the Alexandrian authorities. It is precisely because he knows that the Messiah is present among them, that he baptizes with water and that he has the right to do so. This reply, accompanied as it undoubtedly was, with a significant look cast upon the crowd, in which the mysterious personage of whom he was thinking could be found, must have produced a profound sensation among his hearers. The two readings ἕστηκεν and στήκει , although one is in the perfect and the other in the present, have the same sense: He stands there. The important words are these: Whom you know not. The word you contrasts John's hearers, who are still ignorant, with John himself, who already knows. This expression necessarily assumes that, at the time when the forerunner was speaking, the baptism of Jesus was already an accomplished fact. For it was by means of that ceremony that, in conformity with the divine promise ( Joh 1:33 ), the person of the Messiah was to have been pointed out to him.

In John 1:31; John 1:33, He Himself affirms that, up to the moment of the baptism, he did not know Him. It is impossible, then, to place the baptism of Jesus, with Olshausen and Hengstenberg, on this same day or the next, with Baumlein, between Joh 1:28 and John 1:29, or, with Ewald, between Joh 1:31 and John 1:32. Moreover, this testimony, whatever Weiss may say of it, is wholly different from the preachings of John which are reported in the Synoptics, and which had preceded the baptism of Jesus. The very terms which the forerunner here employs contain a very clear allusion to previous declarations in which he had announced a personage who was to follow him; this is especially evident if we read ὁ before ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος , “ the one coming after me whom I have announced to you.” This testimony has an altogether new character: “The Messiah is present, and I know him.” This is the first declaration which refers personally to Jesus; it is for his hearers the true starting-point of faith in Him. The words it is he ( αὐτός ἐστιν ), omitted by the Alexandrian authorities, sometimes omitted and sometimes read by Origen, are not indispensable, and may have been added either by copyists who wrongly identified this testimony with that of John 1:15 ( οὖτος ἦν ), or by others who wished to bring out better the allusion to the previous testimonies related by the Synoptics.

It is otherwise with the words, who was before me, which the Alexandrian authorities, Origen and the Curetonian Syriac omit, but which 15 Mjj. and the two ancient versions, Itala and Peschito, read. The relation between this testimony and that of John 1:30, which will follow, renders these words indispensable in John 1:27. For in John 1:30, John reproduces expressly (“ he it is of whom I said [yesterday]”), the testimony of John 1:27, and not, as is imagined, that of John 1:15, which is itself only a quotation of our John 1:30 (see on Joh 1:15 ). The first day, John uttered, without yet designating Jesus, the declaration of John 1:26-27; the second day, he repeated it, as it is related in John 1:30, this time applying it to Jesus as present. Gess rightly says, “If the shorter reading of Joh 1:27 were the true one, the evangelist would refer in Joh 1:30 to a fact which had not been related by him” (i. p. 345). These words: who was before me, are, in John 1:27, a sort of parenthesis inserted by the forerunner: “Come after me? Yes, and yet in reality, my predecessor!” (See on Joh 1:15 ).

By the expression “to loose the latchet of the sandals,” John means to designate the humble office of a slave. On the pleonasm of οὗ and αὐτοῦ Baumlein rightly says: “imitation of the Hebrew construction.” Philologues discuss the question whether the form ἄξιος ἵνα implies a weakening of the sense of the conjunction ἵνα , which becomes here, according to some, a simple paraphrase of the infinitive ( worthy to loose), so Baumlein, or whether this conjunction always retains the idea of purpose ( Meyer). Baumlein rests upon the later Greek usage and on the νά of the modern Greek, which, with the verb in the subjunctive mood, supplies the place of the infinitive. Nevertheless, we hold, with Meyer, that the idea of purpose is never altogether lost in the ἵνα of the New Testament; he who is worthy of doing a thing, is, as it were, intended to do it.

Verse 28

Ver. 28. “ These things were done at Bethany, beyond the Jordon, where John was baptizing.

The notice of Joh 1:28 is certainly not suggested to John by a geographical interest; it is inspired by the solemnity of this whole scene, and by the extraordinary gravity of this official testimony given in presence of the representatives of the Sanhedrim as well as of the entire nation. It was, indeed, to this declaration that the expression of the Prologue applied: “ in order that all might believe through him. ” If the people had been ready for faith, this testimony coming from such lips, would have been enough to make the divine fire break forth in Israel.

As for the two readings Bethany and Bethabara, Origen relates that nearly all the ancient MSS. read Bethany, but that, having sought for a place of this name on the banks of the Jordan, he had not found it, while a place was pointed out called Bethabara (comp. Jdg 7:24 ), where tradition alleged that John had baptized. It is, therefore, certain that the reading Bethabara was substituted for the primitive reading Bethany in a certain number of documents, and that it was under the influence of Origen; as the Roman war had caused a large number of ancient places to disappear even as to their names, we may easily understand the disappearance of Bethany at the time of Origen. We must, therefore, conclude from the text which is established by evidence, that there existed in the time of Jesus, in the vicinity of the Jordan, a place by the name of Bethany, which was consequently different from the city of this name near Jerusalem. As there were two Bethlehems, two Antiochs, two Ramas, two Canas, why should there not have been, also, two Bethanies? Perhaps this name had, in the two cases, different etymologies. Bethany may signify, indeed, either place of dates, or place of poverty, etc., a meaning which suits Bethany near Jerusalem; or place of the ferry-boat ( Beth-Onijah), a meaning which would well suit the Bethany which is here in question.

Verse 29

Ver. 29. “ The next day he sees Jesus coming to him, and he says: Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

The very next day after the day when John had proclaimed the presence of the Messiah in the midst of the people, Jesus approaches His forerunner, who recognizes Him and declares Him to be the Messiah. The words, coming to Him, have troubled the interpreters. Some have understood that He came to be baptized, which is impossible, since the following verses ( Joh 1:31-33 ), and even John 1:26, imply that the baptism was already accomplished. Baur thinks that Jesus came to John for the purpose of receiving his testimony, and he, of course, finds in this fact, thus understood, a proof of the purely ideal character of the narrative. But this detail implies simply that Jesus, after having been baptized, had, previously to this meeting, separated Himself from John for a certain time, and that after this interval He, on this very day, returned to the presence of His forerunner, hoping to find in His presence those whom God should give to Him in order to begin His work. And we know, in fact, from the Synoptical account, that Jesus, after His baptism, had withdrawn into the solitude of the desert, where He had passed several weeks; it was now the moment, therefore, when He reappeared to take up His work as Redeemer. Nothing is more natural than that, with this design, He should return to the presence of John. Was not he the one who had been sent to open the way for Him to Israel? Was it not at his hands that He could hope to receive the instruments which were indispensable to Him for the accomplishment of His task? Jesus Himself ( Joh 10:3 ) designates John as the porter who opens to the Shepherd the door of the sheepfold, so that He does not have to climb over the wall of the inclosure like the robber, but can enter without violence into the sheepfold.

Lucke also places this return of Jesus in connection with the narrative of the temptation.

We may be surprised that for the purpose of designating Jesus as the Messiah John does not employ one of the titles which were commonly used for this end: Christ, Son of God, or King of Israel. The term Lamb of God is so original that, if it is historical, it must have its ground in some particular impression which the Baptist had received at the time of his previous meeting with Jesus. And indeed, we must remember that when an Israelite came to have himself baptized by John, he began by making confession of his sins (Matthew 3:6; Mar 1:5 ). Jesus could not have dispensed with this preparatory act without arrogating to Himself from the first an exceptional position, and nothing was farther from His thought than this: He wished to “fulfill all righteousness” ( Mat 3:15 ). What, then, could His confession be? Undoubtedly a collective confession, analogous to that of Daniel (Daniel 9:0), or that of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 9:0), a representation of the sin of Israel and of the world, as it could be traced by the pure being who was in communion with the perfectly holy God, and at the same time the tenderly loving being, who, instead of judging His brethren, consecrated Himself to the work of saving them. If, as we cannot doubt, this was the spirit in which Jesus spoke and perhaps prayed at that moment, we may understand that the expression which the forerunner uses here to designate Him, is indeed the reflection of what he had experienced when hearing and seeing this unique man, who, by His tender sympathy and His intercession, took upon Himself the burden of the sin of the world. On the other hand, in order that the title of which the Baptist made use might be intelligible for his hearers, it was indispensable that it should connect itself with some well-known word or some well-known fact of the Old Covenant, which was generally referred to the Messiah. This is implied by the article ὁ , the, before the term Lamb of God, an article which signifies the Lamb known and expected by the hearers. The thought which presents itself most naturally to the mind is that of seeing here an allusion to the Servant of the Lord described in Isaiah 53:0, under the figure of a lamb which allows itself “to be led to the slaughter without opening its mouth.” On the preceding day, the Baptist had already appealed to a saying of the same prophet ( Isa 40:3 ). Before the polemic against the Christians had driven the Jewish interpreters to another explanation, they did not hesitate to apply that sublime representation ( Isa 52:13 to Isa 53:12 ) to the Messiah. Abarbanel says expressly: “Jonathan, the son of Usiel, referred this prophecy to the Messiah who was to come, and this is also the opinion of our sages of blessed memory.” (See Eisenmenger, Entdeckt, Judenth, II. Th. p. 758; Lucke, I. p. 406).

We need not here prove the truth of this explanation of Isaiah 53:0 and the insoluble difficulties in which every contrary interpretation is involved. The fact is sufficient for us that it was the prevalent one among the ancient Jews. From this it follows that the allusion of John the Baptist could be easi!y understood by the people who were present. Some interpreters have claimed that the term, Lamb, represents, in the mouth of the forerunner as well as in the book of Isaiah, only the meekness and patience of the just one suffering for the cause of God. Thus Gabler: “Here is the man full of meekness who will support patiently the evils which human perversity shall occasion him;” and Kuinoel: “Here is the innocent and pious being who will take away wickedness from the earth.” But these explanations do not account for the article ὁ , the well-known, expected, Lamb, and they entirely efface the manifest relation which the text establishes between the figure of lamb and the act of taking away sin. Weiss explains, almost as the preceding writers do, by emphasizing the allusion to Isaiah 53:7, but without finding here the least notion of sacrifice. This last view seems to us not defensible. The idea of sacrifice is at the foundation of the whole passage Isaiah 53:0; comp. especially, John 1:10-12: “When his soul shall have offered the expiatory sacrifice ascham),” and: “He shall bear their iniquities,” words to which precisely John the Baptist alludes in these last words: “ who takes away the sin of the world. ” The Lamb of God designates Jesus, therefore, as realizing the type of the Servant of Jehovah, Isaiah 53:0, charged with delivering the world from sin by His sacrifice. Some interpreters, especially Grotius, Lampe, Luthardt and Hofmann, believe that the Baptist is thinking only of the sacrifices of the Old Covenant in which the lamb was used as a victim, specially of that of the Paschal lamb. It is, indeed, indisputable that, among the clean animals used as victims, the lamb was the one which, by its character of innocence and mildness, presented the emblem most suited to the character of the Messiah as John the Baptist here describes Him (comp. Leviticus 4:32; Leviticus 5:6; Leviticus 14:12; Num 6:12 ), and that, in particular, the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb really possessed an expiatory value (comp. Exo 12:13 ).

It appears to me indubitable, therefore, notwithstanding all that Weiss and Keil still say, that, in expressing himself as he does here, the forerunner is thinking of the part of the lamb, not in the daily Jewish worship, but in the Paschal feast. And this allusion seems to me to be perfectly reconcilable with the reference to that saying of Isaiah 53:0 since in this chapter Isaiah represents the Servant of the Lord precisely under the figure of the lamb sacrificed as an expiatory and delivering victim. The complement θεοῦ , of God, is the genitive of possession, and at the same time of origin. In this sacrifice, indeed, it is not man who offers and slays, it is God who gives, and gives of His own. Comp. 1 Peter 1:19-20; Romans 8:32. It is remarkable that this title of lamb, under which the evangelist learned to know Jesus for the first time, is that by means of which the Saviour is by preference designated in the Apocalypse. The chord which had vibrated, at this decisive hour, in the deepest part of John's heart resounded within him even to his latest breath.

Exegetes are not agreed as to the sense which the word αἴρων , who takes away, has here. The verb αἴρειν sometimes signifies to raise a thing from the ground, to lift it, sometimes to take it away, to carry it away. For the first sense, comp. John 8:29 (stones); Matthew 11:29 (the yoke): John 16:24 (the cross). For the second: John 11:39; John 11:48; John 15:2; John 17:15, etc., and especially 1 John 3:5: “Jesus Christ appeared to take away our sins.” The second sense would lead rather to the idea of the destruction of sin; the first, to that of expiation, as in some expressions of the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. But if John had thought especially of expiation, he would probably have employed the term βαστάζειν , to bear, which the LXX. used in the words quoted from Isaiah 53:0. He is probably, therefore, thinking of the taking away of sin. Let us not forget, however, that, in accordance with Isaiah 53:0 and the Israelitish worship in general, this end cannot be attained except by means of expiation. In order to take away sin, it was necessary that Christ should begin by taking upon Himself the burden of it, to the end that he might be able afterwards to remove it by the work of sanctification. The idea of removing includes, therefore, implicitly that of bearing. The present participle αἴρων might be referred to the idea of the mission of Jesus. But it is more simple to see in it an historical present; since the first act of His ministry, Jesus has labored for the taking away of sin on earth.

The burden to be taken away is designated in a grand and sublime way: the sin of the world. This substantive in the singular presents the sinful error of humanity in its profound unity. It is sin in the mass, in which all the sins of all the sinners of the world are comprehended. Do they not all spring from the same root? We must guard against understanding by ἁμαρτία , as de Wette does, the penalty of sin. This idea, “the sin of the world,” has been judged too universal for the Baptist's mouth. So Weiss ascribes it solely to the evangelist. Reuss says: “We have here an essentially Christian declaration.” But in Isaiah 52:13-15, it was already said that the sight of the suffering Servant would startle many peoples ( rabbim) and would strike their kings with astonishment. And who, then, were these many individuals ( rabbim) whom, according to Isaiah 53:11, this same Servant was to justify, after Israel had rejected Him ( Joh 1:1 )? Comp. also the wonderful prophecy, Isaiah 19:24-25, where the Assyrians, the Egyptians and Israel are represented as forming the three parts, perfectly equal in dignity, of the kingdom of God. Could Isaiah have surpassed in clearness of vision the Baptist, who was not only a prophet, but the greatest of the prophets? This expression the world says no more, in reality, than that threatening or promise which the Synoptics put into the mouth of the forerunner: “Even of these stones God will raise up children to Abraham.” Let us also recall that first word of the Lord to Abraham ( Gen 12:3 ): “All the families of the earth shall be blessed (or shall bless themselves) in thee.”

The forerunner, after having described the work of Jesus, designates Him Himself as the one to whom, notwithstanding His humble appearance, his declaration of the day before applies:

Verse 30

Ver. 30. “ This is he concerning whom I said: After me cometh a man who has preceded me, because he was before me.

This saying, while applying to Jesus as present ( this is he) the testimony uttered on the preceding day in His absence ( Joh 1:26-27 ), is designed to solve the enigma which that declaration contained: “He who follows me was before me.” The last clause explains it; see on John 1:15. It is difficult to decide between the two readings περί , in respect to, and ὑπέρ , on behalf of, both of which are suitable. The word ἀνήρ (a man in the strength of his age) which is not found in the quotation of this saying in John 1:15, is suggested to the forerunner by the sight of Jesus present before his eyes. Lucke, Meyer, Keil think that in Joh 1:30 the Baptist refers, not to the testimony of the day before ( Joh 1:26-27 ), but to some other previous saying which is not mentioned, either in our Gospel or in the Synoptics.

They are condemned to this absurd supposition by their servile dependence on the Alexandrian text, which in Joh 1:27 omitted the words: who has preceded me. Weiss attempts to escape this difficulty by making the formula of quotation: he of whom I said, John 1:30, relate simply to the words: cometh after me, and not to those which follow, who has preceded me, an unfortunate expedient which cannot satisfy any one. For the emphasis, as the end of the verse shows, is precisely on the words which Weiss thus treats as insignificant. The systematic partisans of the Alexandrian text must, therefore, bring themselves to acknowledge, in this case also, that that text is no more infallible than the Byzantine or the Greco-Latin.

But how can John the Baptist have the boldness to give such a testimony to this mere Jew, like all the rest whom he had before him there, and to proclaim Him as the Redeemer of men, the being whom God had drawn forth from the depth of eternal existence that He might give Him to the world? He explains this himself in John 1:31-33:

Verse 31

Ver. 31. “ And neither did I know him; but that he might be manifested to Israel, I am come baptizing with water.

The word κἀγώ , and neither I, placed at the beginning and repeated, as it is in John 1:33, has necessarily an especial emphasis. The meaning is obvious; he has just said to his hearers: “ He whom you know not. ” When, therefore, he adds: “And neither did I know him,” it is clear that he means: “And neither did I, when he came to present himself to me to be baptized, know him any more than you now know him.” Weiss and Keil object to this meaning, that it cannot be applied to the two κἀγώ of John 1:33-34. We shall see that this is not correct. According to these interpreters the “ and I ” signifies: “ I, for my part, that is, according to my mere human individuality, and independently of the divine revelation.” But it is this meaning which is inapplicable to John 1:34; and besides, it is very far-fetched. John means: I did not know him absolutely when he came to present himself to me; I did not know, therefore, that He was the Messiah. But we must not neglect to draw from this only natural meaning the important consequence which is implied in it: that John also did not know Jesus as a man, as the Son of Mary; for, if he had known Him as such, it would have been impossible for him not to know Him also as the Messiah.

He could not be ignorant of the circumstances which had accompanied his own birth and that of Jesus. If, therefore, he did not know Jesus as Messiah, no more did he know Him personally. And this can be understood: having lived in the wilderness up to the time of his manifestation to Israel ( Luk 1:80 ), he might indeed have heard the marvelous circumstances of his own birth and of the birth of the Son of Mary related by his parents, but without having ever seen Him. It must necessarily, even, have been so, in order to his not recognizing Jesus as the Messiah, when He presented Himself to Him for baptism. And it is only in this way that the testimony given by him to Jesus is raised above all suspicion of bias. This is the reason why John brings out this circumstance with so much stress by the three successive κἀγώ . Here is the guarantee of the truth of his testimony. But, in this case, how can we explain the word which John addresses to Jesus in the narrative of Matthew ( Mat 3:14 ): “I have need to be baptized of thee.” To resolve this difficulty, it is not necessary to resort to the expedient, which was found already in the Gospel of the Hebrews and which Lucke has renewed, that of placing this conversation between John and Jesus after the baptism of the latter. We have already recalled the fact that, according to Mat 3:6 and Mark 1:5, the baptism of John was preceded, on the part of the neophyte, by an act of confession of sins. The confession which the forerunner heard proceeding from the mouth of Jesus might easily convince him that he had to do with a more holy being than himself, who had a deep sense of sin and condemned it, as he had never felt and condemned it himself, and could thus extort from him the exclamation which Matthew relates. Not knowing Jesus personally, John received Him as he did every other Israelite; after having heard Him speak of the sin of the world, he caught sight of the first gleam of the truth; finally, the scene which followed completed his conviction.

The logical connection between this clause and the following one is this: “And that I might bring to an end that ignorance in which I still was, even as you are now, is the very reason why God has sent me to baptize.” The Baptist's ministry had undoubtedly a more general aim: to prepare the people for the Kingdom of God by repentance, or, as he has said himself in John 1:22: “to make straight the way of the Lord.” But he makes prominent here only that which forms the culminating point of his ministry, the testimony borne to the person of the Messiah, without which all his labor would have been useless. The article τῷ before ὕδατι ( the water) appears to me to have been wrongly rejected by the Alexandrian authorities; there is something dramatic in it: “I am come to baptize with that water ” (pointing to the Jordan). Without the article, there would be a tacit contrast between the baptism of water and another (that of the Spirit), which is not in the thought of the context. John now explains how that ignorance ceased for him on the occasion of the baptism which he began to solemnize by the command of God.

Verse 32

Ver. 32. “ And John bore witness saying: I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove, and it abode upon Him.

This declaration is introduced with a peculiar solemnity by the words: “ And John bore witness. ” Here, indeed, is the decisive act, as Hengstenberg calls it, the punctum saliens of the entire ministry of John the Baptist, his Messianic testimony properly so called. With what sense had John seen? With the bodily eye, or with the inner sense? This is to ask whether the fact mentioned here took place only in the spiritual world, or also in the external world. According to the narratives of Mark ( Mar 1:10-11 ), and of Matthew ( Mat 3:16-17 ), it was the object of the perception of Jesus only. “And behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit...” (Matt.): “And straightway coming out of the water he saw...” (Mark). In Luke the narrative is completely objective: “ It came to pass that.....the heaven was opened ” ( Luk 3:21-22 ). But the narrative in Matthew makes the Baptist also participate in this heavenly manifestation by the form of the declaration of God: “ This is my Son;” not as in Mark and Luke: “ Thou art my Son.” The divine declaration in Matthew addresses itself, therefore, not to Jesus who is the object, but to him who is the witness of it, namely, John. Now, if it was perceived simultaneously by Jesus and by John, it must have had an objective reality, as the narrative of Luke says. The following is, perhaps, the way in which we can represent to ourselves the relation between the perception of Jesus and that of John: The divine communication, properly so called (the declaration of the Father and the communication of the Spirit), was given from God to Jesus, and the latter had knowledge of the fact at once by the impression which He received, and by a vision which rendered it sensible to him. As to John, he was associated in the perception of this symbolic manifestation, and thereby initiated into the spiritual fact, of which it was as if the covering. Thus the voice which said to Jesus: “ Thou art my Son,” sounded within him in this form: “ This is my Son.” Neander cannot admit that a symbolic communication, a vision, could have found a place in the relation between Jesus and God. But this rule is applicable only to the time which followed the baptism. It has been wrongly concluded from the expression, I have seen, that, according to the fourth Gospel, the vision was only perceived by John, to the exclusion of Jesus. It is forgotten that the forerunner, in his present account, has no other aim but to justify his testimony. For this purpose he does not have to speak of anything else than that which he has himself seen. This is the reason why he relates the fact of the baptism only from the point of view of his own perception.

In the fact here described, we must distinguish the real gift made to Jesus, which is indicated by the narrative in these words: the Spirit descending and abiding upon Him; and the symbolic representation of this gift intended for the consciousness of Christ and for that of John: the visible form of the dove. The heaven as we behold it with the bodily eye, is the emblem of the state perfect in holiness, in knowledge, in power, in felicity. It is, consequently, in the Scriptures the symbol of the place where God manifests His perfections, in all their splendor, where His glory shines forth perfectly, and from which the supernatural revelations and forces proceed. John sees descending from the sky, which is rent, a luminous form like a dove, which rests and abides upon Jesus. This symbol is nowhere employed in the Old Testament to represent the Holy Spirit. In the Syrian religions, the dove was the image of the force of nature which broods over all beings. But this analogy is too remote for the explanation of our passage. The words of Matthew 10:16:

Be ye harmless as doves,” have no direct relation to the Holy Spirit. We find some passages in the Jewish Rabbis, where the Spirit who hovered over the waters ( Gen 1:3 ) is connected with the Spirit of the Messiah, and compared to a dove, which hovers over its young without touching them (see Lucke, p. 426). Perhaps this comparison, familiar to the Jewish mind, is that which explains for us, most naturally, the present form of the divine revelation. This emblem was admirably adapted to the decisive moment of the baptism of Jesus. It was a matter, indeed, of nothing less than the new creation, which was to be the consummation of the first creation. Humanity passed at that instant from the sphere of the natural or psychical life to that of the spiritual life, with a view to which it had been created at the first, 1 Corinthians 15:46. The creative Spirit which had of old brooded with His life-giving power over chaos, to draw from it a world full of order and harmony, was going, as if by a new incubation, to transform the first humanity into a heavenly humanity. But that which must here be observed is the organic form which the luminous apparition assumes. An organism is an indivisible whole. At Pentecost, the Spirit descends in the form of “ cloven tongues ( διαμεριζόμεναι γλῶσσαι )” which distribute themselves among the believers. This is the true symbol of the way in which the Holy Spirit dwells in the Church, distributing to each one His gifts according as He pleases ( 1Co 12:11 ). But at the baptism of Jesus, the fact is another and the emblem is different. The Spirit descends upon Christ in His fullness. “ God,” it is said in John 3:34, “ gives not to Him the Spirit by measure. ” Comp. Isaiah 11:1-2, where the seven forms of the Spirit, enumerated in order to designate His fullness, come to rest upon the Messiah. We must notice, finally, the term to abide, which is a precise allusion to the word נוּחַ , H5663, in this passage of Isaiah ( Joh 11:2 ). The prophets received occasional inspirations: the hand of the Lord was upon them; then, withdrawing Himself, the Spirit left them to themselves. It was thus, also, with John the Baptist. But Jesus will not only be visited by the Spirit; the Spirit will dwell in Him, and will even one day be poured forth from Him, as if from His source, upon believers; this is the reason why in Joh 1:33 the idea of abiding is placed in close connection with that of baptizing with the Holy Spirit. The reading ὡσεί emphasizes more strongly even than the simple ὡς the purely symbolic character of the luminous appearance. The μένον of the Sinaitic MS. is a correction arising from the καταβαῖνον which precedes. The proposition is broken off designedly ( καὶ ἔμεινεν ), in order to make more fully apparent the idea of abiding, by isolating it from what precedes. The construction of the accusative ἐπ᾿ αὐτόν , upon Him, with the verb of rest to abide, springs from the living character of the relation, (comp. John 1:1; Joh 1:18 ). But had John the Baptist properly interpreted the vision? Had he not ascribed to it a meaning which it did not have? This last possible doubt is answered by the fact related in the following verse.

Verses 32-33

The Gift Made to Jesus in the Baptism.

Vv. 32, 33, suggest an important question: Did Jesus really receive anything at His baptism? Meyer denies this, alleging that this idea has no support in our Gospel, and that, if the Synoptics say more, it is because they contain a tradition which had been already altered. The real fact was solely the vision granted to John in view of the testimony which he was to render to Jesus. This vision was transformed by tradition into the event related by the Synoptics. The idea of the real communication of the Holy Spirit to Jesus would be incompatible with that of the incarnation of the Logos. Lucke and de Wette think, also, that Jesus received nothing new at that moment. John was only instructed, by means of the vision, as to a permanent fact in the life of Jesus, His communion with the Holy Spirit. Neander, Tholuck and Ebrard think that there was simply progress in the consciousness which Jesus had of Himself.

Baumgarten-Crusius, Kahnis Luthardt, Gess, allow a real communication, but only with reference to the task which Jesus had to fulfill, that of His own ministry, and of the communication of the Holy Spirit to other men. The opinion of Meyer, as well as that of Lucke, sacrifices the narrative of the Synoptics, and even that of John to a dogmatic prejudice; for John saw the Spirit not only abiding, but descending, and this last feature must correspond to a reality, as well as the other. The view of Neander is true, but inadequate. There was certainly wrought, at that moment, a decided advance in the consciousness of Jesus, as is indicated by the fact of the divine address: Thou art my Son; but the symbol of the descent of the dove must also correspond to a real fact. Finally, the view which admits an actual gift, but only in relation to the public activity of Jesus, appears to me superficial. In a life so completely one as that of Jesus, where there is nothing purely ritual, where the external is always the manifestation of the internal, the beginning of a new activity supposes a change in His own personal life.

When we lay hold of the idea of the incarnation with the force with which it is apprehended and presented by Paul and John (see John 1:14, and the Appendix to the Prologue), when we recognize the fact that the Logos divested Himself of the divine state, and that He entered into a really human state, in order to accomplish the normal development originally assigned to every man, there is nothing further to prevent us from holding that, after having accomplished the task of the first Adam on the pathway of free obedience, He should have seen opening before Him the sphere of the higher life for which man is destined, and that, as the first among the violent who take the kingdom of heaven by force, He should have forced the entrance into it for Himself and for all.

Undoubtedly, His entire existence had passed on under the constant influence of the Holy Spirit which had presided over his birth. At every moment, He had obeyed this divine guide, and each time this docility had been immediately rewarded by a new impulse. The vessel was filled in proportion as it enlarged, and it enlarged in proportion as it was filled. But to be under the operation of the Spirit is not to possess the Spirit ( Joh 14:17 ). With the hour of the baptism, the moment came when the previous development was to be transformed into the definite state, that of the perfect stature ( Eph 4:13 ). “First, that which is psychical,” says Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:46, “afterwards that which is spiritual.” If the incarnation is a verity, this law must apply to the development of Jesus, as much as to that of every other man. Till then, the Spirit was upon Him ἑπ᾿ αὐτό [ τὸ παιδίον ] Luke 2:40; He increased, under this divine influence, in wisdom and grace. From the time of the baptism, the Spirit becomes the principle of His psychical and physical activity, of His whole personal life; He can begin to be called Lord-Spirit ( 2Co 3:17-18 ); life-giving Spirit ( 1Co 15:45 ).

The baptism, therefore, constitutes in His interior life as decisive a crisis as does the ascension in His external state. The open heaven represents His initiation into the consciousness of God and of His designs. The voice: Thou art my Son, indicates the revelation to His inmost consciousness of His personal relation with God, of His eternal dignity as Son, and, at the same time, of the boundlessness of divine love towards Him, and towards humanity on which such a gift is bestowed. He fully apprehends the name of Father as applied to God, and can proclaim it to the world. The Holy Spirit becomes His personal life, makes Him the principle and source of life for all men. Nevertheless, His glorification is not yet; the natural life, whether psychical or physical, still exists in Him, as such. It is after the ascension only that His soul and body will be completely spiritualized ( σῶμα πνευματικόν , 1Co 15:44 ).

But, it is asked, does not the gift of the Holy Spirit form a needless repetition of the miraculous birth? By no means; for in this latter event the Holy Spirit acts only as a life-giving force in the stead and place of the paternal principle. He wakens into the activity of life the germ of a human existence deposited in the womb of Mary, the organ prepared for the Logos that He may realize there a human development; in the same way as, on the day of creation, the soul of the first man, breath of the creating God, came to dwell in the bodily organ prepared for its abode and for its earthly activity ( Gen 2:7 ).

Some modern theologians, in imitation of some of the Fathers, think that the Logos is confounded by John with the Spirit. But undoubtedly every one will acknowledge the truth of this remark of Lucke : “No more could we say, on the one hand, ‘The Spirit was made flesh,’ than we could say, on the other, ‘I have seen the Logos descend upon Jesus.’” The distinction between the Logos and the Spirit, scrupulously observed by John, even in chaps. 14-16, where Reuss thinks it is sometimes wholly effaced ( Hist. de la th. chret . ii., p. 533f.), is the following: The Logos is the principle of objective revelation, and, through his incarnation, the culminating point of that revelation, while the Spirit is the principle acting internally by which we assimilate to ourselves that revelation subjectively. Hence it results that, without the Spirit, the revelation remains for us a dead letter, and Jesus a simple historical personage with whom we do not enter into any communion. It is by the Spirit alone that we appropriate to ourselves the revelation contained in the word and person of Jesus. Thus, from the time when the Spirit begins to do His work in us, it is Jesus Himself who begins to live within us. As, through the Spirit, Jesus lived on earth by the Father, so, through the Spirit, the believer lives by Jesus ( Joh 6:57 ). This distinction of offices between Christ and the Spirit is steadily maintained throughout our whole Gospel.

This solemn testimony being given, the forerunner expresses the feeling of satisfaction with which this grand task accomplished inspires him, yet so as, at the same time, to make his hearers understand that their own task is beginning.

Verse 33

Ver. 33. “ And neither did I know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water, he said to me: The man on whom thou shalt see the Spirit descend and abide, is he who baptizeth with the Holy Spirit.

Not only was a sign given ( Joh 1:32 ); but this sign was that which had been promised, and the meaning of which had been indicated beforehand. No human arbitrariness can, therefore, mingle itself with this testimony which John renders to Jesus. Κἀγώ : And I repeat it to you: When He presented Himself, I did not know Him any more than you now know Him. I have then placed here nothing of my own. The expression ὁ πέμψας , He who sent me, has something solemn and mysterious in it; John evidently means to designate thereby God Himself who had spoken to him in the desert and given him his commission. This commission included: 1. The command to baptize; 2. The promise to reveal to him the Messiah on the occasion of the baptism; 3. The indication of the sign by which He should be manifested to him; 4. The command to bear testimony to Him in Israel. The emphatic resumption of the subject by the pronoun ἐκεῖνος , he, with its meaning which is so emphatic in John, makes prominent this idea: That everything in this testimony proceeds from Jehovah, and Jehovah only. Weiss, who is not willing to acknowledge the special and commonly exclusive sense which this pronoun has in the fourth Gospel, thinks that it serves here to place God, as the more remote subject, in contrast with Jesus, as the nearest object.

But to what purpose mark a contrast between Jesus and God? The pronoun indisputably signifies: “He and not another.” The sign had been announced by God Himself. The words ἐφ᾿ ὃν ἄν ( on whom), indicate the most unlimited contingency: Whoever he may be, though he be the poorest of the Israelites. The act of baptizing with the Holy Spirit is indicated here as the peculiar work of the Messiah. By the baptism of water, John gives to the repentant sinner the pledge of pardon and the promise of sanctification; by the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Messiah realizes this last promise, and accomplishes thereby the highest destiny of the human soul.

Verse 34

Ver. 34. “ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.

The ἐγώ , I, in κἀγώ , distinguishes, as in John 1:31; John 1:33, him who alone was to see, and who also ( καί ) has seen, from all the others who were to believe on the ground of his testimony. The perfects: I have seen and I have testified indicate facts accomplished once for all and abiding for the future. The ὅτι , that, depends on the second verb only; the verb to see is without an object; it is the act which is of importance, as the condition of that of testifying. The term Son of God characterizes a being as a representative of the divinity in a particular function. It is applied in the Old Testament to angels, to judges, to kings, and, finally, to the Messiah: “ Thou art my Son; to-day have I begotten thee ” (Psalms 2:7; Psa 2:12 ); but there is a difference in the mode of representation in each case. An ambassador represents his sovereign, but otherwise than does the son of the latter, for the son, while representing the sovereign, represents in him also his father. Joh 1:30 proves that John the Baptist takes the word Son here in the loftiest sense which can be attached to it; the being whose existence is united to that of God by an incomparable bond, and who comes to fulfill here on earth the function of Saviour.

Verses 35-36

III. Third Testimony: vv. 35-37.

Vv. 35, 36. “ On the next day, John was again standing there, and two of his disciples with him; 36, and fixing his eyes upon Jesus as he passed he saith: Behold the Lamb of God.

Holy impressions, great thoughts, an unutterable expectation doubtless filled, even on the following day, the hearts of those who had heard the words of the forerunner. The next day, John is at his post ready to continue his ministry as the Baptist. We are not at all authorized to suppose, with de Wette, that the two disciples who were with him had not been present at the scene of the preceding day. Far from favoring this idea, the brevity of the present testimony leads us rather to suppose that John confines himself to recalling that of the day before to persons who had heard it. The expression ἐκ τῶν μαθητῶν , of his disciples, intimates that he had a very considerable number of them. Of these two disciples, one was Andrew ( Joh 1:40 ); it is difficult to suppose that the other was not the author of the narrative which is to follow. All the subsequent details have no special importance except for the one to whom they recalled the most decisive and happiest hour of his life. The fact that his person remains anonymous, while the four others who play a part in the narrative are all named, confirms this conclusion ( Introd. p. 203). We may notice a certain difference between this day and the day before in the relation of Jesus to John. The day before, Jesus came to John, as to the one who was to introduce Him to future believers. On this day, the testimony is officially given; He has only in a sense to receive from the hands of His forerunner the souls which His Father has prepared through him. Like the magnet which one moves through the sand to attract metallic particles, He simply approaches the group which surrounds the Baptist, for the purpose of deciding some of those who compose it to follow Him. The conduct of Jesus is, therefore, perfectly intelligible. It is regulated according to the natural course of the divine work. The Church is not torn, it is gathered, from the tree of the theocracy. This easiness in the course is the seal of God.

As Jesus enters into the plan of God, John the Baptist enters into the thought of Jesus. A tender and respectful scruple might detain the two disciples near their old master. John the Baptist himself frees them from this bond, and begins to realize that saying, which from this moment becomes his motto: “ He must increase, but I must decrease. ” The word ἐμβλέψας indicates a penetrating look which searches its object to its depths (see Joh 1:42 ). The practical meaning of this new declaration of John was evidently this: “Go to Him.” Otherwise, to what purpose this repetition which adds nothing to the testimony of the day before, which, on the contrary, abridges it? Only this invitation is expressed in an indirect form, that of an affirmation respecting the person of Jesus, because, as Luthardt says, attachment to Jesus was to be on their part an act of freedom based upon a personal impression, not a matter of obedience to their old master.

Verse 37

Ver. 37. “ And the two disciples heard him speak thus, and they followed Jesus.

John's word, which was an exclamation, was understood. It is very evident that, in the thought of the evangelist, these words: “ And they followed Jesus,” conceal, under their literal sense, a richer meaning. This first step in following Jesus decided their whole life; the bond, apparently accidental, which was formed at that hour, was, in reality, an eternal bond.

The Testimonies of the Forerunner.

We have still to examine three questions which criticism has raised in regard to these testimonies.

I. Baur and Keim maintain that the narrative of the fourth Gospel denies, by its silence, the fact of the Baptism of Jesus by John; and this for the dogmatic reason, that it would have been contrary to the dignity of the Logos to receive the Holy Spirit. Hilgenfeld himself rejects this view ( Einl. pp. 702 and 719): “The baptism of Jesus,” he says, “is supposed, not related.” The second testimony of John John 1:31 f., mentions it as an accomplished fact, and Joh 1:32-33 imply it, since their meaning can only be this: “Among the Israelites who shall come to thy baptism, there shall be found one on whom, when thou shalt baptize him, thou shalt see the Spirit descend....” Holtzmann has recognized the indisputable bearing of this passage. But if the fact is not related, it is simply, because, as we have discovered, the starting point of the narrative is chosen subsequently to the baptism. If the Logos-theory in our Gospel were to play the part which, in this case, Baur and Keim attribute to it, it would exclude from the history of Jesus many other facts which are related at full length by our evangelist.

II. It has been regarded as inconceivable, that, after such a sign and such declarations, the Baptist could have addressed to Jesus, from the depths of his prison, this question: “ Art thou he that should come, or are we to look for another ” ( Mat 11:3 )? Strauss has derived from this proceeding of John, a ground for denying the whole scene of the baptism. Some of the Fathers supposed that the forerunner wished thereby only to strengthen the faith of his disciples by calling forth a positive declaration, on Jesus' part, respecting His Messianic character. But the terms of the Synoptical account do not allow this meaning. Two circumstances may be alleged which must have exercised an unfavorable influence upon John's faith; first, his imprisonment ( Meyer), then the malevolent disposition of his disciples with regard to Jesus ( Joh 3:26 ), which might have reacted at length on the already depressed spirit of their master.

These two circumstances undoubtedly prepared the way for the shaking of faith produced in John; but they cannot suffice to explain it; we must add, withBaumlein, the fact that there was in John, besides the prophet, the natural man who was by no means secure from falling. This is what Jesus gives us to understand when, in His reply, He said, evidently thinking of John: “ Blessed is he who is not offended in me ” ( Mat 11:6 comp. with Joh 1:11 ). Lucke has explained this fall by the striking contrast between the expectation, which John had expressed, of a powerful and judicial activity of the Messiah in order to purify the theocracy, and the humble and patient labor of Jesus. A comparison of the reply of the latter to the messengers of John ( Mat 11:4-6 ) with the proclamations of John (Matthew 3:10; Mat 3:12 ) is enough to convince us of the justice of this observation. But to all this we must still add a last and more decisive fact. It is this: John did not for an instant doubt concerning the divine mission of Jesus and concerning this mission as higher than his own. This follows, first, from the fact that it is to Jesus Himself that he addresses himself in order to be enlightened, and then, from the very meaning of his question: “Art thou he that should come or are we to look for another (literally, a second)?” We must recall to mind here the prevailing doubt, at that time, in relation to the prophet, like to Moses, whose coming was to prepare the way for that of the Messiah (according to Deu 18:18 ). Some identified him with the Messiah himself; comp. John 6:14-15: “It is of a truth the prophet....They were going to take him by force, to make him king. ” Others, on the contrary, distinguished this prophet par excellence, from the Messiah properly so-called; comp. John 7:40-41.

They attributed, probably, to the first of these personages the spiritual side of the expected transformation, and to the Messiah, as King descended from David, the political side of this renovation. John the Baptist had, at first, united these two offices in the single person of Jesus. But learning in his prison that the work of Jesus limited itself to working miracles of healing, to giving forth the preachings of a purely prophetic character, he asks himself whether this anointed one of the Holy Spirit would not have as His part in the Messianic work only the spiritual office, and whether the political restoration and the outward judgment announced by him would not be devolved upon a subsequent messenger; to the divine prophet, the work of pardon and regeneration; to the King of a Davidic race, the acts of power which were destined to realize the external triumph of the Kingdom of God.

This is precisely what the form of the question in Matthew expresses: ἕτερον , not ἄλλον : a second (Messiah); not: another (as Messiah): this expression really ascribes to Jesus the Messianic character, only not exclusively. At the foundation, this distinction which was floating before the eyes of the Baptist had in it nothing erroneous. It answers quite simply to the two offices of Jesus, at His first and second coming. At the first coming, pardon and the Spirit; at the second, judgment and royalty. The Jewish learned men were led by the apparently contradictory prophecies of the Old Testament, to an analogous distinction. Buxtorf ( Lexic. Chaldaic. p. 1273) and Eisenmenger ( Entdeckt, Judenth. pp. 744f.) cite a mass of rabbinical passages which distinguish two Messiahs, the one, whom they call the son of Joseph, or of Ephraim, to whom they ascribe the humiliations foretold respecting the Messiah; the other, whom they name the son of David, to whom they apply the prophecies of glory. The first will make war, and will perish; for him the sufferings; the second will raise the first to life again and will live eternally. “Those who shall escape from the sword of the first, will fall under that of the second.” “The one shall not bear envy against the other, juxta fidem nostram,” says Jarchi ( ad. Jes. 11.13). These last words attest the high antiquity of this idea.

III. Renan ( Vie de Jesus, pp. 108f.) draws a poetic picture of the relation between “these two young enthusiasts, full of the same hopes and the same hates, who were able to make common cause and mutually to support each other.” He describes Jesus arriving from Galilee with “a little school already formed,” and John fully welcoming “this swarm of young Galileans,” even though they do not attach themselves to him but form a separate band around Jesus. “We have not many examples, it is true,” observes Renan, “of the head of a school eagerly welcoming the one who is to succeed him;” but is not youth capable of all self-abnegations? Behold the romance: the history shows us Jesus arriving alone and receiving from John himself these young Galileans who are for the future to accompany Him. We can understand how there is in this story a troublesome fact for those who are unwilling to explain the history except by natural causes.

The manner in which John the Baptist, at the height of his ascendant and his glory, throws himself immediately and voluntarily into the shade that he may leave the field free for one younger than himself, who until then was completely obscure, cannot be explained by the natural generosity of youth. Conscious, as he was, of the divinity of his mission, John could not thus retire into the shade except before a divine demonstration of the higher mission of Jesus. The conduct of John the Baptist, as attested by our four evangelists, remains for the historian, who does not recognize here the work of God, an insoluble problem. Before closing, one word more on a fancy of Keim. This scholar alleges (I., p 525) that, in opposition to the Synoptical account (comp. especially Luk 3:21 ), our Gospel makes Jesus the first of all the people to come to the baptism of John. Where do we find in John's narrative a word which justifies this assertion? But: sic volo, sic jubeo!

IV. We are now able to embrace the Messianic testimony of the Baptist in its totality. First, the calling of the people to repentance and baptism, with the vague announcement of the nearness of the Messiah. He comes! (See the Synoptics.) Then, the three days which form the beginning of the narrative of John: He is present! Behold Him! Follow Him! Finally, the last summons: Woe unto you, if you refuse to follow Him! (John 3:28-36.) This totality is so much the more remarkable as the particular elements of it are scattered in several writings and different narratives.

Verses 38-39

Vv. 38, 39. “ Then Jesus turned and saw them following and saith unto them, What seek ye? 39. They said unto Him: Rabbi ( which is to say, Master) where dwellest thou?

Jesus, hearing footsteps behind Him, turns about. He sees these two young men who are following Him with the desire to accost Him, but who do not venture to begin the conversation by addressing Him. He anticipates them: “ What seek ye? ” He who thus interrogates them knows full well what they are seeking after. He knows to whom the desire of Israel and the sighing of humanity tend; He is not ignorant that He is Himself their object. By their answer, the disciples modestly express the desire to speak with Him in private. The title Rabbi is undoubtedly quite inferior to that which the testimony of John had revealed to them concerning Jesus. But discretion prevents them for the moment from saying more. This title, at the same time, expresses indirectly the intention to offer themselves to Him as disciples. The translation of this term, which is added by the evangelist, proves that the author is writing for Greek readers.

Verses 38-43

I. First Group: vv. 38-43.

We have just mentioned John. Almost all the adversaries of the authenticity themselves acknowledge that the author, in relating his story as he does here, wishes to pass himself off as one of the apostles. Even Hilgenfeld says: “Andrew and an unnamed person who is assuredly John.”

Verses 38-51

Second Section: 1:38-52. Beginnings of the Work of Jesus. Birth of Faith.

Testimony is the condition of faith. For faith is, at the outset, the acceptance of a divine fact on the foundation of testimony. But there is here only an external relation between the believer and the object of faith. In order to become living, faith must enter into direct contact with its object. In the case which occupies our thought, this contact demanded personal manifestations of Jesus, fitted to change believers into witnesses, and to form a direct connection between their hearts and Jesus. This is precisely what the following narratives describe to us. They are divided into two groups; the first comprising that which relates to the three earliest disciples, Andrew, John and Peter ( Joh 1:38-43 ); the second, that which concerns Philip and Nathanael ( Joh 1:44-51 ).

Verse 40

Ver. 40. “ He saith unto them: Come, and you shall see.They came and saw where he abode: and they remained with him that day; it was about the tenth hour.

The disciples made inquiries as to His dwelling, that they might afterwards visit Him there. Jesus invites them to follow Him at once: “Come immediately. ” This is, indeed, what the present ἔρχεσθε indicates: the continuance of the going. It has been said that this sense would require the aorist. This is an error. The aorist would signify: set about going. Is the reading of the Vatican MS.: “Come and you shall see,” preferable to that of the greater part of the other documents? We may suppose that the latter comes from John 1:47. Where was Jesus dwelling? Was it in a caravansary, or in a friend's house? We do not know. No more do we know what was the subject of their conversation. But we do know the result of it. Andrew's exclamation in Joh 1:42 is the enthusiastic expression of the effect produced on the two disciples. When we remember what the Messiah was to the thought of a Jew, we understand how powerful and profound must have been the impression produced upon them by Jesus, to the end that they should not hesitate to proclaim as Messiah this poor and unostentatious man. In the remark: “ And they remained with Him that day, ” all the sweetness of a recollection still living in the heart of the evangelist at the moment of his writing, finds expression. The tenth hour may be understood in two ways: either as four o'clock in the afternoon; John would thus reckon the hours as they were generally reckoned among the ancients, beginning from six o'clock in the morning, we shall see that this is the most natural interpretation in John 4:6; John 4:52, and also in John 19:14; or as ten o'clock in the morning; he would, thus, adopt the mode of reckoning of the Roman Forum, which has become that of modern nations, and according to which the reckoning is from midnight. Rettig, Ebrard, Westcott, etc., think that the author of our Gospel reckons throughout in this way. It would give a satisfactory account of the expression that day. But this expression is also very well explained, if the question is of four o'clock in the afternoon; and that by the contrast with the idea of the mere visit which the two youths had thought of making. Instead of continuing a few moments, the interview was prolonged until the end of the day. Comp. the remarks John 4:6, John 4:52, John 19:14. This indication of the tenth hour has sometimes been applied, not to the moment when the disciples arrived, but that when they left Jesus. In this case, however, John would undoubtedly have added a limiting expression, such as ὅτε ἀπῆλθον , when they departed. It is the hour when he found, not that when he left, that the author wished to indicate. Faith is no sooner born of testimony, than it extends itself by the same means:

Verses 41-42

Vv. 41, 42. “ Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard John's words and followed Jesus. 42. As the first, he findeth his own brother Simon, and saith to him: We have found the Messiah ( which means: the Christ).”

At this point of the narrative, the author names his companion Andrew. It is because the moment has come to point out his relationship to Simon Peter, a relationship which exercised so decisive an influence on the latter and on the work which is beginning. The designation of Andrew as Simon Peter's brother, is so much the more remarkable, since Simon Peter has not as yet figured in the narrative, and since the surname Peter did not as yet belong to him. This future apostle, is, therefore, treated from the first as the most important personage of this history. Let us remark, also, that this manner of designating Andrew assumes a full acquaintance already on the part of the readers with the Gospel history. Did Peter's visit to Jesus take place on the same evening? Weiss and Keil declare that this is impossible, because of the expression that day ( Joh 1:40 ), which leaves no place for this new visit. Westcott, on the contrary says: “All this evidently happened on the same day.” This second view, which is that of Meyer and Bruckner, seems to me the only admissible one. It follows, by a kind of necessity, from the exact enumeration of the days in this passage. See: the next day, John 1:29; John 1:35; John 1:44, and also John 2:1. Towards evening, the two disciples left Jesus for some moments, and Peter was brought by Andrew to Him while it was not yet night.

How are we to explain the expressions “ first ” (or in the first-place) and “ his own brother”? These words have always presented a difficulty to interpreters. They contain, in fact, one of those small mysteries with which John's narrative, at once so subtle and so simple, is full. The Mjj. which read the adverb or the accusative πρῶτον , are six in number, among them the Vatican: “He finds his own brother first (or in the first-place).” But with what brother would he be contrasted by this first? With the disciples who were found later, Philip and Nathanael? But it was not Andrew who found these; Jesus found Philip, and Philip Nathanael. And yet this would be the only possible sense of the accusative or the adverb πρῶτον . The nominative πρῶτος , therefore, must necessarily be read, with the Sinaitic MS. and the majority of the Mjj.: “As the first, Andrew finds his own brother.” This might strictly mean that they both set about seeking for Simon, and that Andrew was the first to find him, because, Simon being his brother, he knew better where to seek him; this would in a manner explain the τὸν ἴδιον , his own, but in a manner very far-fetched. As it is impossible to make this very emphatic expression a mere periphrasis of the possessive pronoun his, the author's thought must be acknowledged to have been as follows: “On leaving, each one of them seeks his own brother: Andrew seeks Simon, and John his brother James; and it is Andrew who first succeeds in finding his own. ” The πρῶτον may have been substituted for πρῶτος under the influence of the four following words in ον .

The term Messiah, that is, the Anointed, from maschach, to anoint, was very popular; it was used even in Samaria ( Joh 4:25 ). The Greek translation of this title, Χριστός , again implies Greek readers. John had twice employed the Greek term in the preceding narrative (John 1:20; Joh 1:25 ); but here, in this scene of so personal a character, he likes to reproduce the Hebrew title (as he had done at John 1:39, as he is to do again in Joh 4:25 ), in order to preserve for his narrative its dramatic character. If we have properly explained this verse, we must conclude from it that James, the brother of John, was also among the young Galilean disciples of John the Baptist, and that John is not willing to name him any more than he is to name himself, or afterwards to name his mother, John 19:25.

Verse 43

Ver. 43. “ And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus, looking upon him fixedly, saith, Thou art Simon, son of Jonas, thou shalt be called Cephas ( which means: Peter).”

The pres. he finds and he says ( Joh 1:42 ) were descriptive; the aor. he brought indicates the transition to the following act: the presentation of Peter. The word ἐμβλέπειν denotes a penetrating glance which reaches to the very centre of the individuality. This word serves to explain the following apostrophe; for the latter is precisely the consequence of the way in which Jesus had penetrated the character of Simon, and had discovered in him, at the first look, the elements of the future Peter. It is not necessary to suppose that Jesus in a miraculous way knew the names of Simon and his father; Andrew, in presenting his brother, must have named him to Jesus. Instead of Jona, the three principal Alexandrian authorities read John. The received reading is, perhaps, a correction according to Matthew 16:17 ( son of Jonas), where there is no variation of reading and where the name Jonas might be itself an abbreviation of ᾿Ιωάννου ( John), as Weiss supposes. A change of name generally marks a change of life or of position. Genesis 17:5: “ Thy name shall be no more Abram ( exalted father), but Abraham ( father of a multitude).” Genesis 32:28: “ Thy name shall be no more Jacob ( supplanter), but Israel ( conqueror of God, in honorable combat).” The Aramaic word Kepha (Hebrew, Keph), denotes a piece of rock. By this name, Jesus characterizes Simon as a person courageous enough and decided enough to become the principal support of the new society which He is about to found. There was surely in the physiognomy of this young fisherman, accustomed to brave the dangers of his profession, the expression of a masculine energy and of an originating power. In designating him by this new name, Jesus takes possession of him and consecrates him, with all his natural qualities, to the work which He is going to entrust to him.

Baur regards this story as a fictitious anticipation of that in Matthew 16:18; the author, from his dogmatic standpoint hastens to show forth in Jesus the omniscience of the Logos. But the ἐμβλέψας , having regarded him fixedly, is by no means consistent with such an intention; and as for the expression:

Thou art Peter,” Matthew 16:0, it implies precisely a previous expression in which Jesus had already conferred this surname upon him. Jesus starts, in each case, from that which is, to announce that which is to be; here: “ Thou art Simon; thou shalt be Peter;” in Matthew: thou art Peter; thou shalt really become what this name declares. Availing himself of the fact that Peter is mentioned here third, Hilgenfeld draws up his argument as prosecutor against the author, and says: “Peter is thus deprived by him of the position of the first- called!” And he finds here a proof of the evangelist's ill will towards this apostle. Reuss says, with the same idea, “Peter is here very expressly put in the second place.” But the designation of Andrew as Peter's brother ( Joh 1:41 ), before the latter has appeared on the scene, and the magnificent surname which Jesus confers upon him at first sight, while no similar honor had been paid to his two predecessors are there not here, in our narrative, so many points designed to exalt Simon Peter to the rank of the principal personage among all those who formed the original company, who surrounded Jesus? And if this narrative had been invented with the purpose of depreciating Peter, in order to give the first place to John, why make Andrew so prominent and place him even before the latter? And besides, of what consequence is the order of arrival here? Does not every unprejudiced reader feel that the narrative is what it is, simply because the event happened thus. Comp., moreover, Joh 6:68 and Joh 21:15-19 for the part ascribed to Peter in this Gospel.

A contradiction has been found between this account and that of the calling of the same disciples in Galilee, after the miraculous draught of fishes (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luk 5:1-11 ). De Wette, Bruckner, Meyer himself, regard any reconciliation as impossible, and give preference to the narrative of the fourth Gospel. To the view of Baur, on the contrary, it is our narrative which is an invention of the author. Lucke thinks that the two narratives can be harmonized; that of John having reference to the call of the disciples to faith, that of the Synoptics, to their calling as preachers of the Gospel, in conformity with the words: “ I will make you fishers of men. ” The first view cannot positively explain how the Synoptical narrative could arise from the facts related here by John and altered by the oral tradition. Everything is too completely different in the two scenes; the place: here, Judea; there, Galilee; the time: here, the first days of Jesus' ministry; there, a period already farther on; the persons: in the Synoptics, there is no reference either to Philip or Nathanael; on the other hand, James, who is not named here, is there expressly mentioned; the situation: here, a simple meeting; there, a fishing; finally, the mode: here, a spontaneous attachment; there, an imperative summons.

The view of Baur, on the other hand, cannot explain how the author of the fourth Gospel, in the face of the Synoptical tradition received throughout the whole Church, could attempt to create a new history in all points of the calling of the principal apostles, and a history which positively glorifies Jesus much less than that of the Synoptics. For instead of gaining His disciples by the manifestation of His power, He simply receives them from John the Baptist. The view of Lucke is the only admissible one (see also Weiss, Keil and Westcott). Having returned to Galilee ( Joh 1:44 ), Jesus went back for a time to the bosom of His own family, which transferred its residence, probably in order to accompany Him, to Capernaum (Matthew 4:13; John 2:12; comp. Mar 3:31 ). In these circumstances, He naturally left His disciples also to return to the bosom of their families (Peter was married); and He called them again, afterwards, in a complete and decisive manner when the necessities of His work and of their spiritual education for their future task required it. The very readiness with which these young fishermen followed His call at that time (Synoptic account), leaving, at His first word, their family and their work to unite themselves with Him, implies that they had already sustained earlier relations to Him. Thus the account of the Synoptics, far from excluding that of John, implies it. Let us remember that the Synoptic narratives had for their essential object the public ministry of Jesus, and that, consequently, these writings could not omit a fact of such capital importance as the calling of the earliest disciples to the office of preachers. The fourth Gospel, on the contrary, having as its aim to describe the development of apostolic faith, was obliged to set in relief the scene which had been the starting point of this faith. We shall prove in many other cases this reciprocal relation between the two writings, which is explained by their different points of view and aims.

Verses 44-45

Vv. 44, 45: “ The next day he resolved to set out for Galilee, and finds Philip; and Jesus says to him: Follow me. 45. Now Philip was of Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter.

The aorist, ἠθέλησεν ( wished), indicates quite naturally, a realized wish. The words: “ He wished to set out and He finds, ” are thus, equivalent to: “ At the moment when He decides to set out, He finds.” Here is the juxtaposition of propositions which is so frequent in John ( Introd., p. 135). This mode of expression is irreconcilable with the idea that Jesus only met Philip at a later time in Galilee; the latter was, therefore, in the same region with Andrew, John and Peter, and for the same reason. It was of importance to Jesus to surround Himself particularly with young men who had gone through with the preparation of the ministry and baptism of John the Baptist. The notice of John 1:45, intercalated here, gives us to understand that it was through the intervention of the two brothers, Andrew and Peter, that Philip was brought into connection with Jesus. On the other hand, the expression: He finds, is incompatible with the idea that they had positively brought him to Him. At the time of His setting out, Jesus probably found him conversing with his two friends; whereupon He invited him to join himself to them. The words, “ Follow me,” merely signify, “Accompany me on this journey.” But Jesus well knew what must result from this union once formed; and it is impossible that this invitation should not have had in His thought a higher import. The verb ἠθέλησεν ( wished), denotes a deliberate wish, and leads us to inquire what was the motive of the resolution, which Jesus formed, of setting out again for Galilee. Hengstenberg thinks that He wished to conform to the prophecies which announced that Galilee would be the theatre of the Messianic ministry. This explanation would give to the conduct of Jesus somewhat of artificiality. According to others, He desired to separate His sphere of action from that of John the Baptist, or also to withdraw from the seat of the hierarchy which had just shown itself unfavorably disposed towards the forerunner. The subsequent narrative ( Joh 2:12-22 ) appears to me to lead to another solution. Jesus must inaugurate His Messianic ministry at Jerusalem; but, in order to this, He desired to wait for the solemn season of the Passover feast. Before this time, therefore, He decided to return to His family, and to close, in the days which remained until the Passover, the period of His private life.

Verses 44-51

II. Second Group: John 1:44-51 .

The following narrative seems to be contrived for the purpose of driving to despair, by its conciseness, the one who attempts to account for the facts from an external point of view. Does Joh 1:44 express merely the intention of setting out for Galilee? Or does it indicate an actual departure? Where and how did Jesus find Philip and Nathanael? Were they also in Judea among the disciples of John the Baptist? Or did He meet them on His arrival in Galilee?

Evidently, a narrative like this could proceed only from a man pre- occupied above all with the spiritual element in the history which he relates, and who, in consequence, simply sketches as slightly as possible the external side of the facts related. This is the general character of the narrative of the fourth Gospel.

Verse 46

Vv. 46: “ Philip finds Nathanael and says to him: We have found Him of whom Moses, in the law, and the prophets did write, Jesus, the son of Joseph, of Nazareth.

Philip's part in the calling of Nathanael is like that of Andrew in the calling of Peter, and that of Peter and Andrew in his own. One lighted torch serves to light another; thus faith propagates itself. Luthardt sets forth finely the heavy and complicated form of Philip's profession; those long preliminary considerations, that full and formal Messianic certificate, which is in contrast with the lively and unconstrained style of Andrew's profession ( Joh 1:42 ). The same traits of character are met with again in the two disciples in John 6:1-13, and perhaps also in John 12:21-22. From the fact that Philip designates Jesus as the son of Joseph, and as a native of Nazareth, Strauss, de Wette, and others, conclude that the fourth evangelist either was ignorant of, or did not admit, the miraculous origin of Jesus and His birth at Bethlehem; as if it were the evangelist who was here speaking, and not Philip! And that disciple, after exchanging ten words with Jesus, must have been already thoroughly acquainted with the most private circumstances of His birth and infancy! Is it Andrew and Peter who must have informed him of them?

But whence could they have got the knowledge of them themselves? Or Jesus? We must suppose, then, that this was the first thing that Jesus hastened to communicate to them: that He was not the son of the man who was said to be His father, that He was miraculously born! How criticism can become foolish, through its desire of being sagacious! The place where Nathanael was met by Jesus and His disciples, when returning to Galilee, is not pointed out. The most probable supposition is, that they met each other in the course of the journey. Philip, who was his fellow-citizen Nathanael was also of Cana ( Joh 21:2 ) became the connecting-link between him and Jesus. We may suppose that Nathanael was returning home from the presence of John the Baptist, or that, like all his pious fellow-countrymen, he was going to be baptized by him. At all events, he had just rested for a few moments in the shade of a fig-tree, when he met Jesus and His companions (comp. Joh 1:48 ).

Ewald wrongly supposes the meeting to have taken place at Cana. The circumstantial account of the calling of Nathanael leads us to believe that he afterwards became one of the apostles: for this is the case with all the disciples mentioned in this narrative. It appears, moreover, from John 21:2, where the apostles are distinguished from the mere disciples, and where Nathanael is placed among the former. As this name does not figure in the apostolic catalogues (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14; Act 1:13 ), it is generally admitted that Nathanael is no other than Bartholomew, whose name is connected with that of Philip in almost all these lists. Bartholomew being only a patronymic (son of Tolmai or Ptolemy), there is no difficulty in this supposition. As for the hypothesis of Spath, that Nathanael is a symbolic name (this word signifies gift of God), invented by the later author to designate the apostle John, it is one of those fancies of the criticism of the day, which, if it needed any refutation, would be refuted by its insoluble inconsistency with John 21:2.

Verse 47

Vv. 47: “ And Nathanael said unto him: Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Philip says to him: Come and see.

According to Meyer, Nathanael's answer alludes to the reputation which the town of Nazareth had had for immorality; according to Lucke and de Wette, to the smallness of the place. But there is nothing in history to prove that Nazareth was a place of worse fame, or less esteemed than any other village of Galilee. Nathanael's answer does not at all require such suppositions. Is it not more simple to connect this reply closely with the words of Philip? Nathanael, not recollecting any prophetic passage which asscribes to Nazareth so important a part, is astonished; the more so, since Cana is only at the remove of a league from Nazareth, and it is difficult for him to imagine this retired village, near his own, raised all at once to so high a destiny. We are well aware of the paltry jealousies which frequently exist between village and village. The expression, anything good, signifies, therefore, in this case: “anything so eminent as the Messiah!” We notice here, for the first time, a peculiarity of the Johannean narrative: the author seems to take pleasure in mentioning certain objections raised against the Messianic dignity of Jesus, to which he makes no reply because every reader instructed in the Gospel history could dispose of them on the spot (comp. John 7:27; John 7:35; John 7:42, etc.). At the time when John wrote, every Christian knew that Jesus was not actually from Nazareth. The answer of Philip: “ Come and see,” is at once the most simple and the most profound apologetic. To every upright heart Jesus proves Himself by showing Himself. This rests on the truth expressed in John 1:9. (Comp. John 3:21.)

Verse 48

Ver. 48. “ Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him and says of him: Behold a true Israelite, in whom there is no guile.

Nathanael is one of those upright hearts who have only to see Jesus in order to believe in Him; Philip is not mistaken. Jesus Himself, as He sees him, also signalizes in him this quality. Penetrating him, as He had penetrated Simon, he utters aloud this reflection with regard to him ( περὶ αὐτοῦ ): “Behold...” We can make the adverb ἀληθῶς , truly, qualify ἴδε , Behold really an Israelite without guile;” in this case, the idea without guile is not placed in connection with the national Israelitish character; it is applied to Nathanael personally. But we can make the adverb ἀληθῶς qualify the word Israelite: a true ( truly) Israelite, and that as being without guile.” In that case, it is the national character, as well as that of Nathanael, which Jesus signalizes, and there may be, perhaps, an allusion to the name Israel ( conqueror of God) which was substituted for Jacob ( supplanter), after the mysterious scene, Genesis 32:0, where the new way of struggling took the place, in the patriarch's case, of the deceitful methods which were natural to him. However, Joh 6:5 and John 8:31, where the adverb qualifies the verb to be, must not be cited for this meaning.

Verse 49

Ver. 49. “ Nathanael says to Him: whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said to him: Before Philip called thee, when thou wert under the fig-tree, I saw thee.

This reply by which Nathanael seems to appropriate to himself the eulogy contained in Joh 1:48 has been criticised as not modest. But he wishes simply to know on what grounds Jesus, who sees him for the first time, forms this judgment of him. Certainly, if we take account of the extraordinary effect which Jesus' answer produced upon Nathanael ( Joh 1:50 ), it must contain to his view the indubitable proof of the supernatural knowledge which Jesus has of him. Lucke thinks that this knowledge applies only to the inward moral state of Nathanael; Meyer, on the contrary, that it applies only to the external fact of his sitting under the fig-tree. But thoroughly to comprehend the relation of this saying of Jesus, on the one side, to his previous declaration ( Joh 1:48 ), and, on the other, to the exclamation of Nathanael ( Joh 1:50 ), it is indispensable to unite the two views. Not only does Nathanael note the fact that the eye of Jesus had followed him in a place where His natural sight could not reach him, but he understands that the eye of this stranger has penetrated his interior being, and has discerned there a moral fact which justifies the estimate expressed by Jesus in John 1:48.

Otherwise, the answer of Jesus does not any the more justify that estimate, and we cannot understand how it can call forth the exclamation of Nathanael in John 1:50, or be presented, in John 1:51, as the first of the Lord's miraculous works. What had taken place in Nathanael, at that moment when he was under the fig-tree? Had he made to God the confession of some sin ( Psa 32:1-2 ), taken some holy resolution, made the vow to repair some wrong? However this may be, serious thoughts had filled his heart, so that, on hearing the word of Jesus, he feels that he has been penetrated by a look which participates in the divine omniscience. The words: before Philip called thee, are connected by Weiss with what follows, in this sense: “When thou wert under the fig-tree before Philip called thee.” But they much more naturally qualify the principal verb: I saw thee. And the same is true of the second limiting phrase: “ when thou wert under the fig-tree,” which refers rather to what follows than to what precedes. For the situation in which Jesus saw him is of more consequence than that in which Philip called him. The construction of ὑπό , with the accusative ( τὴν συκήν ), with the verb of rest, is owing to the fact that to the local relation there is joined the moral notion of shelter. I saw denotes a view such as that of Elisha (2 Kings 5:0). In Jesus, as in the prophets, there was a higher vision, which may be regarded as a partial association with the perfect vision of God. At this word, Nathanael feels himself, as it were, penetrated by a ray of divine light:

Verse 50

Ver. 50. “ Nathanael answered and said to him:Master, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.

By the title Son of God, he expresses the thrilling impression which was made within his mind by the intimate relation between Jesus and God, of which he had himself just had experience. Lucke, Meyer, and most others maintain that this title is here equivalent to that of Messiah. They regard this as proved by the following expression: the King of Israel.

But it is precisely this juxtaposition which implies a difference of meaning. At all events, if the two titles had exactly the same sense, the second would be joined to the first as a simple apposition, while the repetition of the pronoun σύ , thou, and of the verb εἶ , art, before the second title, absolutely excludes this synonymy. Besides, the title which Nathanael here gives must be the vivid and fresh expression of the moral agitation which he has just experienced, and not, like that of Messiah, the result of reflection. If the latter is added afterwards, it is to do justice to the affirmation of Philip ( Joh 1:46 ); but still, it can only come in the second place. In general, we believe that the equivalence of the term, Son of God, with that of Messiah, even in the form in which Weiss makes it out, who understands by Son of God the man well-beloved of God, never wholly corresponds with reality. In this passage, in particular, the title Son of God, can only be connected with the proof of supernatural knowledge which Jesus has just given, and consequently, it contains the feeling of an exceptional relation between Jesus and God. Undoubtedly, it is a vague impression; but it is, nevertheless, rich and full, as is everything which is a matter of feeling, even more than if it were already reduced to a dogmatic formula.

As Luthardt observes: “Nathanael's faith will never possess more than that which it embraces at this moment” (the living person of Jesus), it will only be able to possess it more distinctly. The seeker for gold puts his hand on an ingot; when he has coined it he has it better, but not more. The two titles complete each other: Son of God bears on the relation of Jesus to God; King of Israel on His relation to the chosen people. The second title is the logical consequence of the first. The personage who lives in so intimate a relation with God can only be the King of Israel. This title is undoubtedly the response to that of true Israelite, with which Jesus had saluted Nathanael. The faithful subject has recognized and salutes his King. Jesus feels indeed, that he has just taken the first step in a new career that of miraculous signs, of which His life had been completely destitute up to this time; and His answer breathes the most elevated feeling of the grandeur of the moment.

Verse 51

Ver. 51. “ Jesus answered and said to him: Because I said unto thee that I saw thee under the fig-tree, thou believest; thou shalt see greater things than these.

Since Chrysostom, most interpreters (Lucke, Meyer, etc.), editors and translators ( Tischendorf, Rilliet), give to the words: Thou believest, an interrogative sense. They put into this question either the tone of surprise ( Meyer) because of a faith so readily formed, or even that of reproach ( de Wette), as if Nathanael had believed before he had sufficient grounds for it. I think, notwithstanding the observations of Weiss and Keil, that there is a more serene dignity in the answer of Jesus, if it is taken as an affirmation. He recognizes and approves the nascent faith of Nathanael; He congratulates him upon it; but He promises him a succession of increasing miraculous manifestations, of which he and his fellow-disciples will be witnesses, and which from this moment onward will develop their nascent faith. This expression proves that from that day Nathanael remained with Jesus. Up to this point, Jesus had spoken to Nathanael alone: “ Thou believest...thou shalt see. ” What He now declares, although also promised to him, concerns, nevertheless, all the persons present.

Ver. 52. “ And he says to him: Verily, verily, I say unto you, From this time onward you shall see the heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.

We meet for the first time the formula amen, amen, which is found twenty-five times in John ( Meyer), and nowhere else in the New Testament. Matthew says amen (not repeated) thirty times. This expression amen, serving as an introduction to a declaration which is about to follow, is found nowhere either in the Old Testament, or in the Rabbinical writings. It belongs exclusively to the language of Jesus. Hence is the fact more easily explained that Jesus is Himself called the Amen in the Apocalypse ( Joh 3:14 ). This word (coming from the Hebrew aman, firmum fuit) is properly a verbal adjective, firm, worthy of faith; it is used as a substantive in Isaiah 65:16: Elohe8 amen, “the God of truth. ” It also becomes an adverb in a large number of passages in the Old Testament, to signify: that remains sure; or: let it be realized! This adverb is doubled, as in St. John, in the two following passages: Numbers 5:22: “ Then the woman (accused of adultery) answered: Amen, amen; Nehemiah 8:6: All the people answered: Amen, amen. ” This doubling implies a doubt to be overcome in the hearer's mind. The supposed doubt arises sometimes, as here, from the greatness of the thing promised, sometimes from a prejudice against which the truth affirmed has to contend (for example, John 3:3; Joh 3:5 ).

The words ἀπ᾿ ἄρτι , from now on, are rejected by three of the ancient Alexandrian authorities; they were, in general, adopted by the moderns, and by Tischendorf himself who said in 1859 (7th ed.): cur omissum sit, facile dictu; cur additum, vix dixeris. But the omission in the Sinaitic MS. has caused him to change his opinion (8th ed.). The rejection can be easily understood, as the Gospel history does not contain any appearance of an angel in the period which followed these first days. It would be very difficult, on the contrary, to account for the addition. Weiss and Keil allege the words of Matthew 26:64. But there is no resemblance either in situation or thought between that passage and this one, which can explain such an importation; and I persist in thinking, with the Tischendorf of 1859, that the rejection is much more easily explained than the addition. Jesus means to say that heaven, which was opened at the time of His baptism, is not closed. The communication re- established between heaven and earth continues, and the two regions form for the future only one, so that the inhabitants of the one communicate with those of the other; comp. Eph 1:10 and Colossians 1:20. The expression ascend and descend is a very clear allusion to the vision of Jacob ( Gen 28:12-13 ).

There it represented the continual protection of divine providence, and of its invisible agents assured to the patriarch. What the disciples are about to behold from now on will be a higher realization of the truth represented by that ancient symbol. Jesus certainly does not mean to speak of certain appearances of angels which occurred at the close of His life. The question is of a phenomenon which from this moment is to continue uninterruptedly. Most moderns, putting themselves at the opposite spiritualistic extreme to the literal interpretation, see here only an emblem of the heavenly and holy character of the daily activity of Jesus and, as Lucke and Meyer say, of the living communion between God and His organ, in which the divine forces and revelations are concentrated. Reuss says, with the same meaning: “Angels are the divine perfections common to the two persons...,” together with this observation: “The literal explanation would here be as poor as it is absurd.” Luthardt (following Hofmann): “the (personified) forces of the Divine Spirit.” If the explanation of the Fathers was too narrow, that of the moderns is too broad. There is no passage where the spiritual activity of Jesus is referred, even symbolically, to the ministry of angels. It is derived from the Spirit (John 1:32; Joh 3:34 ), or, still more commonly, from the Father dwelling and acting in Jesus ( Joh 6:57 ). Angels are the instruments of the divine force in the domain of nature (see the angel of the waters, Revelation 16:5; of the fire, Rev 14:18 ).

This expression refers, therefore, to phenomena, which, while taking place in the domain of nature, are due to a causality superior to the laws of nature. Could Jesus characterize His miracles more clearly without naming them? It is also the only sense which connects itself with what has just passed, even at this moment, between Nathanael and Himself: “Thou believest because of this wonder of omniscience; this is only the prelude of more remarkable signs of the same kind.” By this Jesus means the works of power of which the event that follows, the miracle of Cana, will be the first example ( from now on). This explanation is confirmed, moreover, by the remarkable parallel, Matthew 8:9-10. It is difficult to explain why the angels who ascend are placed before those who descend. Is it simply owing to a reminiscence of Genesis? But there, there was a special reason: Jacob must understand that the angels were already near him at the moment when he was receiving that revelation.

According to Meyer and Lucke, Jesus would here also mean that, at the moment when the “ you shall see ” shall take place, this relation with heaven shall be already in full activity. I think, rather, that the angels are here presented by Jesus as an army grouped around their chief, the Son of man, who says to one, Go, and to another, Do this. These servants ascend first, to seek power in the presence of God; afterwards, they descend again to accomplish the work.

Were not these two allusions, one to the name of Israel ( Joh 1:48 ), the other to the dream of Jacob, suggested by the sight of the very localities through which Jesus was, at this moment, passing? He was going from Judea to Galilee, either by the valley of the Jordan or by one of the two plateaus which extend along that valley on the east and the west. Now Bethel was on the eastern plateau, the very locality in which Jacob's dream had occurred, and whose name perpetuated the remembrance of that event; on the eastern plateau Mahanaim was situated (the double camp of angels) and the ford of Jabbok, two places which equally recalled appearances of angels (Genesis 32:1-2; Genesis 32:24 ff.). It is possible that, in passing through these places which were classic for every Israelitish heart, Jesus conversed with His disciples concerning those scenes precisely which they recalled, and that this circumstance was the occasion of the figure which He makes use of at this moment.

What are the purpose and meaning of the expression: Son of man, by which Jesus here describes Himself? We examine this question here only in its relation to the context (see the following appendix). It is manifest that this title has a relation to the two titles which Nathanael has just given to Jesus. This is intended to make His disciples sensible of the fact that, besides His particular relation to God and to Israel, He sustains a third no less essential one, His relation to the whole of humanity. It is to this last that this third title refers. By making this designation His habitual title and by avoiding the use of the title of Christ, which had a very marked political and particularistic hue, Jesus wished from the first to establish His ministry on its true and broad foundation, already laid by that saying of His forerunner: “who takes away the sin of the world. ” His task was not, as Nathanael imagined, to found the Israelitish monarchy: it was to save the world. He did not come to complete the theocratic drama, but to bring to its consummation the history of man.

This title, thus, completes the two others; the three relations of Jesus to God, to men, and to the people of Israel exhaust, indeed, His life and His history.

The Son of Man.

Jesus designates Himself here, for the first time, by the name Son of man, and it is quite probable that this occasion was really the first on which He assumed this title. We find it thirty-nine times in the Synoptics (by connecting the parallels: most frequently in Matt. and Luke); ten times in John (John 1:51; John 3:13-14; John 5:27 (without the article); John 6:27; John 6:53; John 6:62; John 8:28; John 12:23; John 12:34; Joh 13:31 ). Three very different opinions prevail respecting the meaning, the origin and the purpose of this designation. We can, however, arrange these in two principal classes.

I. Some think that Jesus here borrows from the Old Testament a title in some measure technical, which was adapted to designate Him either as prophet there would thus be an illusion to the name son of man by which God often designates Ezekiel, when addressing His word to him or as Messiah, in allusion to Daniel 7:13: “And I saw one like unto a son of man coming on the clouds of heaven.” This Messianic prophecy had become popular in Israel, to such an extent that the Messiah had received the name Anani, א , the man of the clouds. It would thus be natural to suppose that Jesus made choice of this term as in a popular way designating his Messianic function; the more so, as there exists a saying of Jesus, in which He solemnly recalls this description of Daniel, applying it to Himself, Matthew 26:64: “Henceforth ye shall see the Son of man seated at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Of these two alleged allusions, the first cannot be sustained. For it is not as a prophet that God calls Ezekiel son of man, but as a creature completely powerless to perform the divine work of which he is inviting him to become the agent thus, as a man. Would it not be contrary to all logic to maintain that, because God on one occasion has called a prophet son of man, it follows that this name is the equivalent of the title prophet.

The allusion to Daniel, as the foundation of this peculiar name of Jesus, is admitted by almost all modern interpreters, Lucke, Bleek, Ewald, Hilgenfeld, Renan, Strauss, Meyer, Keil, Weiss, etc. This is also, apparently, the opinion of M. Wabnitz.

If the question were this: Did Jesus, in designating Himself thus, bring together in His own mind this name and the: as a son of man, of Daniel? it would seem difficult to deny it, at least as to the time when He proclaimed Himself the Messiah in reply to the high-priest before the Sanhedrim. But this is not the question. The point in hand is to determine whether, in choosing this title as His habitual name, as His title by predilection, Jesus meant to say: “I am the Messiah announced by Daniel.” As for myself, I think that this name is rather an immediate creation of His own heart, with which He was inspired by the profound feeling of what He was for humanity. The following are the reasons which impel me to reject the first view; and to prefer the second to it:

1. The borrowings of Jesus from the O. T. have, in general, a character of formal accommodation rather than that of a real imitation. The idea always springs up as perfectly original from His heart and mind; and if He connects it with some saying of Scripture, it is that He may give it support with His hearers, rather than that He may cite it as a source. How, then, could the name of which Jesus, by preference, makes use to designate His relation to humanity be the product of a servile imitation? If anything must have come forth from the depths of His own consciousness, it is this name.

2. Throughout the whole course of the Gospel of John, Jesus, as we shall see, carefully avoids proclaiming Himself as the Messiah, Χριστός , before the people, because He knows too well the political meaning commonly attached to this term, and that the least misunderstanding on this point would have been immediately fatal to His work. He makes use, therefore, of all kinds of circumlocutions to avoid designating Himself as the Messiah: comp. John 8:24-25; John 10:24-25, etc. Comp. also, in the Synoptics, Luke 4:41; Luke 9:21, where he forbids the demons and His disciples to declare Him to be the Christ. And in direct contradiction to this procedure, He would have chosen, for His habitual name, a designation to which the popular opinion had attached this sense of Messiah!

3. Two passages in John prove, moreover, that the name Son of man was not generally applied to the Messiah: John 12:34, where the people ask Jesus who this personage is whom He designates by the name Son of man (see the exegesis); and John 5:27, where Jesus says that the Father has committed the judgment to Him because He is Son of man. Certainly, if this expression had here meant: the Messiah, the article the could not have been wanting It was necessary, in that case, since the question was of a personage well-known and designated under this name. Without the article, there is here a mere indication of quality: God makes Him judge of men as having the quality of man. Besides, let us not forget that in Daniel judgment is exercised, not, as Renan wrongly says, by the Son of man, but by Jehovah Himself; and it is only after this act is wholly finished, that the Son of man, to whom the title is given, appears on the clouds.

4. In the Synoptics, also, there are passages where the meaning Messiah does not suit the term Son of man. It is sufficient to cite Matthew 16:13; Matthew 16:15, where Jesus asks His disciples: “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?...And you, who do you say that I am?” Had this term been equivalent to Messiah, would not the first question contain an intolerable tautology, and would not Holtzmann have ground for asking how Jesus, after having designated Himself a hundred times as Son of Man, could still propose to His disciples this question, “Whom do you take me to be?”

5. The appearance of the Son of man in the prophecy of Daniel has an exclusively eschatological bearing. The question is of the glorious establishment of the final kingdom. Now one cannot comprehend how from such a representation, especially, Jesus could have derived the title of which He makes use to designate His person during the period of His earthly abasement. But one can easily understand that, when this title had once been adopted by Him for other reasons, He should have made express allusion to this term employed by Daniel, at the solemn moment when, before the Sanhedrim, He wished to affirm His glorious return and His character as judge of His judges. Let us add, finally, that Daniel had not said: I saw the Son of man, or even a Son of man, but vaguely: like [the figure of] a son of man; and could Jesus have derived from such a vague expression His title of Son of man?

6. If we believe the common exegesis, the term Son of God had the sense of Messiah. Now, according to the same exegesis, this also is the meaning of the term Son of man, and it would follow from this that these two titles, which are evidently antithetic, would both have the same sense a thing which is impossible. They do not, either the one or the other, properly designate the office of the Messiah, but rather two aspects of the Messianic personage, which are complementary of each other.

II. We are led thus to the second class of interpretations, that which finds in this title a spontaneous expression of the consciousness which Jesus had of Himself some finding the feeling of His greatness expressed in it, and others, the feeling of His humiliation.

1. There is no longer any need of refuting the explanation of Paulus and Fritzsche, according to which Jesus simply meant to say: This individual whom you see before you homo ille quem bene nostis. Jesus would not, by so exceptional a term, have paraphrased more than fifty times the simple pronoun of the first person.

2. Chrysostom, Tholuck and others explain this title by a deliberate antithesis to the feeling which Jesus had of His own essential sonship to God. To choose, as His characteristic name, the title of descendant of the human race, He must feel Himself a stranger by nature to that race. This explanation is ingenious: but only too much so for the simplicity of the feeling of Jesus.

3. Keerl thought that Jesus meant to designate Himself thereby as the eternal man, pre-existent in God, of whom the Rabbis spoke, the Messiah differing from that heavenly man only through the flesh and blood with which He clothed Himself when He came to the earth. But no others than the Scribes could have attached such a sense to this title which Jesus habitually used, and nothing in His teaching indicates that He Himself shared in that Rabbinical opinion. Moreover, the term Son of man would be very ill adapted to a heavenly man.

4. Gess expresses an analogous idea, but less extra-Biblical. According to him, Jesus wished to express thereby the idea of “the divine majesty as having appeared in the form of human life.” He rests upon the passages in which divine functions are ascribed to the Son of man, as such; thus the pardon of sins (Matthew 9:6, and parallels), lordship over the angels ( Mat 13:41 ), judgment (Matthew 16:27; Matthew 25:31, Joh 5:27 ). But, if the destiny of man is to be exalted even to participate in the functions and works of God, there is nothing in the acts cited which surpasses that sublime destiny, and consequently the limits of the human life when it has reached the summit of its perfection. Besides, is the idea of the Kenosis, which Gess adopts, compatible with that of the divine majesty realized in Jesus in Jesus in the form of the human life?

5. De Wette and others think, on the contrary, that by this name Jesus meant to make prominent the weakness of His earthly state. It seems to us that the words of Joh 5:27 are altogether opposed to this sense. It is not because of the meanness of His earthly state, that the judgment is committed to Christ.

6. Only one explanation remains for us, in itself the most simple and natural one, which in various forms has been given by Bohme, Neander, Ebrard, Olshausen, Beyschlag, Holtzmann, Wittichen, Hofmann, Westcott, Schaff, etc., which we have already set forth in the first edition of this work, aud which we continue to defend. Jesus meant to designate by this title, in the first place, His complete participation in our human nature. A son of man is not the son of such or such a man, but an offspring of the human race of which He presents an example; a legitimate representative. It is in this sense that this expression is used in Psalms 8:5: “What is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou visitest him?” The same is true in the frequent addresses of the Lord to Ezekiel. It is also the same in Daniel 7:13, where the being who appeared like a Son of man represents the human, gentle, holy character of the Messianic kingdom, just as the wild beasts, which preceded him, were figures of the violent, harsh, despotic character of earthly empires. Jesus, therefore, above all, obeyed the instinct of His love in adopting this designation of His person, which expressed the feeling of His perfect homogeneousness with the human family of which He had made Himself a member.

This name was, as it were, the theme of which those words of John: “ the Word was made flesh,” are the paraphrase. But Jesus does not merely name Himself: a son of man; a true man; He names Himself the Son of man; He declares Himself, thereby, the true man, the only normal representative of the human type. Even in affirming, therefore, His equality with us, He affirms, by means of the article, the, His superiority over all the other members of the human family, who are simply sons of men; comp. Mark 3:28; Ephesians 3:5. To designate Himself thus was, indeed, to affirm, yet only implicitly, His dignity as Messiah. He expressed the idea, while yet avoiding the word whose meaning was falsified. Without saying: “I am the Christ,” He said to every man: “Look on me, and thou shalt see what thou oughtest to have been, and what, through me, thou mayest yet become.” He succeeded thus in attaining two equally important ends: to inaugurate the pure Messianism separated from all political alloy, and to present Himself as the chief of a kingdom of God, comprehending, not only Israel, but all the human race. This is what has led Bohme to say ( Versuch das Geheimniss des Menschensohns zu enthullen, 1839), that the design of Jesus in choosing this designation was to de-judaize the idea of the Messiah.

We see with what admirable wisdom Jesus acted in the choice of this designation, the creation of His own consciousness and of His inner life. It was His love which guided Him wonderfully in this matter, as it did in everything. Perhaps His inward tact was directed in this choice by the recollection of the most ancient of all the prophecies the one which was the germ of the tree of the Messianic revelations: “The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head.” As the term ἄνθρωπος , man, refers equally to the two sexes, and as the woman represents the human nature, rather than the human individuality, the term Son of man is not far removed from the term seed of the woman. Jesus would designate Himself, thus, as the normal man, charged with accomplishing the victory of humanity over its own enemy and the enemy of God.

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Bibliographical Information
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on John 1". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books".