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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

John 1


The Prologue to this Gospel determines in general outlines, with reference not only to His human life, but also to His premundane existence, the Person, whose history forms the principal part of the subsequent narrative. In accordance with the statement in John 20:31, with regard to the object of the whole Gospel, viz., that it was written that its readers might believe that Jesus is the Christ, and believing might have life through His name, the attention is chiefly directed to the majesty of the Person of Jesus, with the design of awakening a deep feeling of reverence for the same in the hearts of the readers, that thus they may approach the narrative following with the consciousness that here they must put their shoes from off their feet, for the place whereon they stand is holy ground: this is the design which pervades the whole.

The assertion of Olshausen, that the beginning of John’s Gospel contains, as it were, a history of the Logos, i.e., of the various gradually ascending forms of its revelation, will not at first commend itself, as it accords little with the character of an introduction, and, on closer examination of the particulars, it is seen that the Prologue does not form an uninterrupted historical narrative, but is completed in three periods.

John 1:1-5 give the grander features m the history of the Word,—relating how He, before all created things, was with God, and was God; how the world was made by Him; how from the beginning He was the only source of life and light; how this life and light was revealed, but was rejected. In John 1:6-13 are further details in reference to this revelation: the announcement by the Baptist, 6-8; the personal advent of the light, John 1:9; how the darkness comprehended it not, 10, 11; how to those, however, who received it, it proved to be the light shining in darkness, rendering them partakers of the highest happiness which exists for men, even sonship unto God, 12, 13. In John 1:14-18 is the most marked expression of the fact, the Word was made flesh, and of exultation at the fulness of gifts and graces imparted to the human race in immediate connection with this fact. Here is more than John the Baptist; for the Baptist himself testifies, that there is One coming after him, who was before him. Here is more than Moses; for by Moses was only the outward letter of the law, but by Jesus Christ grace and truth have come in place of the shadow. By Him the invisible God, to whom no created being has direct and immediate access, has been brought nigh, and revealed to the human race.

The historical name of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, does not occur till near the end of the Prologue, in John 1:17, in transition to the historical narration. All that has been previously said of the Word that was in the beginning, of the true light, of the life, is here at once connected with this well-known historical personage.

This representation of the clauses of the Prologue is opposed to the view which obtains almost universally, according to which John 1:1-5 are referred exclusively to the history of the Word previous to His incarnation. Thus Luther remarks on John 1:6: “Such has been thus far the commencement of the Gospel of John: the Evangelist has described our dear Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, that He is the Word of the everlasting Father, and real very God with Him from eternity. . . . The same Word is also a light and life of men; therefore all that lives, especially man, receives life from Him, and all men who are at any time enlightened, become still and further enlightened, they are and shall be enlightened, by Him, who is the true light: those who thus have light and life must receive it all from Him. And also that the Word, from the beginning of the world, has at all times spoken by the patriarchs and prophets, even until John the Baptist.

Now John descends to the humanity of Christ, and says, that the Word, the Creator of all created things, the life and light of men, has become flesh; Christ has taken upon Him the human nature. And now the Evangelist begins the New Testament, the preaching of the Gospel, of Christ our Saviour, before whom goes John the Baptist, to be a witness to the Light, and to point Him out with his finger.” According to Calvin also, John 1:4 refers to the natural life, and to the light of reason. But because, he remarks on John 1:5, man by his stupidity and wickedness obscures the light which still exists within him, the Son of God must take a new office, viz., that of the Mediator, who renews the corrupt man by the Spirit of regeneration. According to Quesnel, the Holy Ghost here makes known the glory of Christ, beginning with that which the Word is in Himself, John 1:1-2; then remarking what He is to created things in general, John 1:3; and to living, spiritual, and rational creatures, John 1:4; then with respect to man, who has fallen into sin, John 1:5. According to Bengel, in John 1:1-2, is described the condition of things before the creation of the world; in John 1:3, at the creation of the world; in John 1:4, at the time of the Fall; in John 1:5, in the time after the Fall. According to Lücke, the contents of John 1:1-5 are “the original being and essence of the Divine Logos with God, His creating, animating, and enlightening agency, in contest with the irreceptive darkness of the world.” According to Frommann, “the statement that the Logos is the bearer of life, in John 1:4 (ἐ?ν αὐ τῷ? ζωὴ?ἦ?ν ), can have in this connection no other meaning than this: that the Logos is the possessor of life in reference to the universe created by Him; i.e., He bestows on the universe its life, on organic and inorganic nature, and by this means preserves it in being and secures its continuance.” In the following words, “And the life was the light of men,” rational creatures are separated from the universe of things. The same life in the Logos, by virtue of which He is Creator in the universe, bears to humanity the relation of light—or reason.

To these views we oppose another: John 1:4 speaks, in the first instance, not of what the Word in fact affords, but designates the Logos as the only source of life and light, of blessedness and salvation; so that he who is not in communion with Him, must be without blessedness and light. And John 1:5 says, that with the appearance of the Word in the flesh, the light shone into the darkness of human existence, but was not comprehended by the darkness.

The following reasons are decisive in favour of this view, and against the opposite views:—1. According to the original passages in the prophets and the usage of John, the life mentioned in John 1:4 can mean no other than eternal life or blessedness, and light can only mean salvation.—2. If by life is to be understood natural life, it is difficult to see how the life can be designated the light of men. On the other hand, if we take the life and light as spiritual, the sense is clear. Christ, in bestowing life, bestows at the same time light and salvation; for in life consists the salvation of men: so long as they are in death, they are also in the darkness of misery.—3. With the opposite explanation it is necessary to supply limitations, which are not at all intimated in the text. According to Bengel, we must supply, in John 1:4, in the time before the Fall; in John 1:5, in the time after the Fall. John 1:5 is restricted to the latter by all these expositors. But if such a limitation were to be made, it would be distinctly stated. Since this is not done, we must suppose that the outline here is filled up in what follows. That the Logos was from the beginning of the creation the life and light of men, was proved by the fact, that on His appearance in the flesh. He gave to those who received Him power to become the sons of God, thus also giving them life and light. That the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not, finds its complement in the words, “And the world knew Him not,” in John 1:10, and “His own received Him not,” in John 1:11.—4. If in John 1:5 that which is wholly past were spoken of, then it must at least have been said: The light shone. The present tense shows, that here a shining of the light is spoken of, which continued to that present time; consequently, that which began with the incarnation, and continued in the agency of Him who is exalted to the right hand of the Father, and in the present existence of His Church. It may not be objected that, because in John 1:4 it is said, “in Him was life,” the present, shineth, in John 1:5, is thus proved to be a mere historical present. John 1:4 certainly does not speak of a manifestation of the Word as life and salvation which is already past and concluded; it speaks rather of what the Logos was in Himself, without regard to the question, whether He was the source of creative energy.—5. If John 1:4-5 are to be referred to what the Logos is supposed to have accomplished for the entire human race before the incarnation, they are devoid of any analogy in the whole Gospel of John. In this Gospel, a shining of the light in the darkness of heathenism is never spoken of. An activity of the Logos in Israel before Christ is, of course, assumed by John. This is shown by the very doctrine of the Logos in connection with the Old Testament doctrine of the Angel of the Lord, and it is placed beyond a doubt by John 1:11. How otherwise could it be said that the Logos came unto His own? But, even if we should stop generally at the time of the incarnation, the words need not be restricted to this activity of the Logos in Israel before Christ; and then, also, the Apostle would not have designated this agency as one bestowing life and light. If, before the advent of Christ, life and salvation already existed in the flesh, how is it that the incarnate Word is first designated as the true Light in John 1:9? how is it that there is a direct opposition between Moses and Christ in John 1:17? how is it that the sonship of God, grace and truth, and the knowledge of God, are connected with the historical appearance of Christ? How can life and light exist, or how can it be said that the light has shined in the darkness, where all this was wanting, and where access thereto was denied even to those who desired it?

The Logos

John sets the majesty of the Person of Christ before us in the strongest light, by leading our view into the depths of the Divine Being, and pointing us to the hidden background, which is thus formed to the earthly appearance of Christ.

The important question here arises: Does John found his doctrine of the Logos, who was in the beginning with God, and was God, by whom all things were made, on the Old Testament, or is this doctrine based rather on human speculations? Does John here walk hand in hand with Moses and the prophets, or rather with the Alexandrine Philo?

Thus much is certain to every one who is versed in Scripture, that if points of support for this doctrine are to be found in the Old Testament, it is to be traced to these. For all analogies favour this course. The New Testament, as regards doctrine itself, and not its mere form of expression, stands in immediate connection with the canonical books of the Old Testament; and in no case do we find ourselves referred to a middle term, and compelled, or even permitted, to go back to apocryphal or generally uncanonical literature. It is a characteristic of Old Testament prophecy, that it ceases with the prediction of the messenger who should prepare the way of the Lord before Him,—the second Elias, who should turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and of the children to their fathers; and the New Testament begins with the appearance of this same messenger, even John, who comes in the spirit and the power of Elias. Least of all in the Apostle John should we expect an exception to the rule, a departure from the consecrated ground of the Old Testament. There is in his nature a holy ruggedness, a sharp discrimination between that which comes from above and that which is of the world, the mere product of natural development.

On closer investigation, it is seen that the Old Testament does completely furnish the necessary points of connection, and that we have no reason whatever to seek such elsewhere.

We must, first of all, consider the Old Testament doctrine of the Angel of God, or of Jehovah, who is represented as far exalted above the sphere of the inferior angels, of whom are predicated all the attributes of the true God, who speaks in His name, claims for Himself the honours due to the Eternal, and is addressed and treated as God. In Exodus 23:21, He is designated as the Angel in whom is God’s name, i.e., His nature as historically unfolded and attested; in Isaiah 48:9, He is spoken of as the Angel of His presence (or face), i.e., the Angel in whom God Himself appears, in opposition to the inferior, created angels; in Joshua 5:14, as Captain of the Lords host, because, on account of his Godlike majesty and glory (He attributes Divine honours to Himself immediately afterwards, in John 1:15, commanding Joshua to loose his shoe from his foot, because the place was holy; and in John 6:2 He is called Jehovah), the powers of heaven, material and spiritual, the stars and the angels, are subject to Him. He appears surrounded by the latter, who are attentive to His words, in the first vision of Zechariah, where He is represented as the Protector of the covenant-people (cf. John 1:11), the Mediator between them and God, their Intercessor at the throne of grace.

The Angel of the Lord occurs first in Genesis 16. We perceive from this passage, that wherever an appearance of Jehovah is spoken of, we are to consider this as accomplished through the medium of His Angel. In Genesis 16:7, we receive for the later form of expression, “and Jehovah appeared unto him,” the supplementary words, “in His angel; “as also, e.g., in John 18:1. We are also led to the same result by other facts. In Genesis 28:11-22, Jehovah appears to Jacob. In Genesis 31:13, the Angel of God calls Himself the God of Bethel, in reference to the occurrence related in chap. 28. In Hosea 12:3, He who wrestled with Jacob is called Elohim, as in Genesis, but in John 1:4, “the Angel,” מלאך . Since the prophet had surely no intention of introducing a new historical particular, the ground for the mention of the Angel must lie in the presupposition, that all revelations of God occur through the medium of His Angel.

The Angel of the Lord occurs in Zechariah and Malachi, in connection with the doctrine concerning Christ. The former, in chap. 11, announces a personal appearance of the Angel of the Lord in the midst of His people, and the taking of the office of shepherd under Him. Malachi, in Malachi 3:1, foretells that the Angel of the covenant will come to His temple.

That John's doctrine of the Logos is related to the Old Testament doctrine of the Angel of the Lord, can be the less doubted, since the Apostle himself elsewhere refers frequently and unquestionably to this doctrine. Christ, in his writings, appears with unusual frequency as sent by God. By this expression, is everywhere intimated the personal identity of Christ with the Old Testament Angel or Messenger of the Lord; for the more immediate references, cf. my Christology, vol. iv. p. 285 (Eng. Tr.). John rests on the doctrine of the Angel of the Lord, when here, in John 1:11, he designates the covenant-people as the property of Christ; and when, in John 12:41, he says, without further explanation, that Isaiah saw the glory of Christ, while in the Old Testament it is the glory of Jehovah which is spoken of.

But we meet with a not unimportant difference also between the Logos and the Angel of the Lord. The latter appears only as a mediator between God and His people, never as He by whom God has created all things. It is, however, easily perceived, that He could not be represented as such under this name. The name of angel or messenger presupposes the existence of those to whom he can be sent. It is not a designation of nature, but the name of a special office. If, therefore, in the Old Testament, a participation in the work of creation is ascribed to the same person who, from his mediatorial relation to the covenant-people, bears the name of Angel of the Lord (as we should beforehand regard as probable, since they stand in intimate connection with each other). He must in this other relation be represented under a different name.

Now, it cannot be doubted that the Logos does occur as a partaker in the creation of the world in the passage, Proverbs 8:22-31, which for this subject is a locus classicus, under the name of the pre-mundane and world-forming Wisdom of God. It has been variously assumed that this is a purely poetical personification of one of the Divine attributes. But opposed to such a view is the fact, that what is pronounced here, according to the realistic rendering, of the second Person of the Godhead as sharing in the creation of the world, coincides with the distinction occurring elsewhere, in the doctrine of the Angel of God, between the hidden God and His Revealer. Add to this, that it could not be declared of wisdom, as an attribute of God, that it had been formed and brought forth from eternity. The realistic rendering has also the later national view in its favour. In the apocryphal Book of Wisdom, e.g., we meet with Wisdom manifestly as a person. It appears as the brightness of the everlasting light ( Wis_7:26 ), the efflux of the glory of the Almighty; the worker, who made all things, Wis_7:22 .

Cf. Wis_8:6 , where it is said of Wisdom, τίς αὐ τῆτῶ?ν ὄ?ντων μᾶ λλον ἐ?στι τεχνίτης , the masculine, as in the original passage in Proverbs 8:30; and Proverbs 9:9, “Wisdom, which knoweth Thy works, and I was present when Thou madest the world;”—and as she who lives with God, and whom the Lord of all things loves, John 8:3. Grimm, in his Commentary on the Book of Wisdom, p. 202, says, the author regards “the Divine Wisdom as a substance which has emanated from God, though standing in the most intimate connection with Him, to which also are ascribed Divine attributes and operations.” Besides Jesus Sirach,—whose words, e.g., in Sir_1:4 , προτέρα πάντων ἔ?κτισται σοφία , and John 1:9 κύριος αὐ τὸ?ς ἔ?κτισεν αὐ τήν , do not suit a mere personification of Wisdom as an attribute of God,

Philo also may be regarded as a voucher for the national view. Finally, the authority of Christ is in favour of the realistic rendering. If Luke 11:49-50 be compared with Matthew 23:34, it cannot be a subject of doubt, that in the former passage Christ represents Himself (with reference to Proverbs 8) as the Wisdom which has appeared in the flesh: διὰ? τοῦ το καὶ? ἡ? σοφία τοῦ? Θεοῦ? εἶ πε ,—q.d.: Therefore say I, the Wisdom of God.

Against the realistic rendering only this one objection can be brought to bear, that the second Person of the Godhead cannot be represented as feminine. But the Divine Mediator of creation appears as personal Wisdom (fem.), because here He is considered according to His wisdom unfolded in the creation; as similarly, in Ecclesiastes, Solomon is represented as incarnate Wisdom (fem.), and as Christ also designates Himself as Wisdom. That the use of the feminine has this ground only, is indicated by the fact, that in John 1:30 the world-forming Wisdom is designated as אמון , work-man, and not in the feminine.

But we will enter somewhat more particularly into the details of this important passage. It comprises ten verses, which are divided into equal parts. In the first half is declared the existence of Wisdom before all created things; in the second, her participation in the creation of the world, and that all things were created by her.

John 1:22. “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old.” Instead of, He possessed me, many render, He created me. So the LXX. ἐ?̓?κτισε ; Jesus Sirach, Sir_1:4 ; Sir_1:9 ; Sir_24:8 ; the Syriac and the Chaldee; while the Vulgate has, possedit me in initio viarum suarum. The rendering created cannot, however, be justified by the usage of the language, קנה meaning only to possess, and to acquire. In Genesis 14:19, Deuteronomy 32:6 (in the Eng. Version), Psalms 139:13, also, the meaning created is assumed by some without good reason: ראשית דרכו is explained as His first act, or the earliest of His works, with reference to Job 40:19, where “He is the chief [beginning] of the ways [works] of God” is said as of the most eminent of created beings. But the following sentence, “before His works,” is decisive against this view. Hitzig’s rendering: as the earliest of His works, cannot be allowed, since קדם can only be taken in the sense of before. Either we must translate, as the beginning, and take beginning in the sense of living beginning, in whom is the cause of the beginning, the original source of all existence, in comparison with Revelation 3:14, where Christ is designated as ἡ? ἀ?ρχὴ? τῆκτίσεως τοῦ? Θεοῦ? , or we must supply the preposition ב , as, indeed, it must be imderstood with קדם

Vulg.: in initio viarum suarum; so also the Syriac and the Chaldee. This latter view is favoured by comparison with Genesis 1:1. Here we obtain an exact correspondence with the ἐ?ν ἀ?ρχῇ? ἦ?ν ὀ? λόγος : when the creation began, God already possessed Wisdom, the Logos was already with Him; so that He was before all things, and only by Him did all things consist. Colossians 1:17.

John 1:23. “I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.” מקדמי ארץ ,

Vulg.: antequam terra fieret; not in the first period of the earth, but before the earth, from the time which preceded the earth. It seems that the words, “I was set up,” refer not to the beginning of existence in general, but to the beginning of existence as creative Wisdom; as the Vulg.: ordinata sunt; or as the older expositors remark, in reginam ac principem, per quem crearentur ac gubernarentur omnia. נסך occurs in the sense of set also in Psalms 2:6. The same remarks hold good of the being brought forth, in John 1:24.

John 1:24. “Where there were no depths, I was brought forth; where there were no fountains abounding with water. 25. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth.” There is an allusion to this passage in Job 15:7-8: “Art thou the first man that was born, or wast thou made before the hills? Hast thou heard the secret of God (cf. ὁ? λόγος ἦ?ν πρὸτὸΘεόν , in John 1:1; and ὁ? ὢ?ν εἰτὸκόλπον τοῦ? πατρὸ?ς , in John 1:18), and dost thou restrain wisdom to thyself?” Eliphaz asks Job whether he, in disgraceful self-exaltation, lays claim to the dignity which belongs to the eternal Wisdom—whether, indeed, he be himself incarnate wisdom, that he should make such assumptions.

John 1:26. “While as yet He had not made the earth, nor the streets, nor the sum of the clods of the earth.” חוצות occurs too frequently and exclusively with the meaning of streets for it to be taken in any other here. The streets are considered on account of the multitude of people which animate them. Regarded as to this, their soul, they are made by God. The parallel תבל also signifies the earth, in so far as it is inhabited by men, the οἰ κουμένη .

John 1:27. “When He prepared the heavens, I was there; when He set a compass to the flood.” This presence was not an idle one—the writerʼ? s purpose would not have led him to mention such—but an active one. Since תהום always stands for the waters on the earth, especially of the sea, and also from its etymology is referred to the noise and roaring of the waves, the second clause can refer only to the work of the third day. Genesis 1:9, and the first clause to the work of the second day, Genesis 1:6-8.

John 1:28. “When He established the clouds above, when He strengthened the fountains of the deep.” Here again is a contrast of the highest and deepest parts of creation.

John 1:29. “When He gave to the sea His decree, that the waters should not pass His commandment; when He appointed the foundations of the earth.” Here sea and earth are opposed, as the heavens and earth, in the previous verse.

John 1:30. “Then I was with Him as workman; I was daily delighted, rejoicing always before Him.” אמון has the same meaning as אמן , workman, artificer, in Song of Solomon 7:1. The view on which this pointing is based, is shared, as Hitzig remarks, by the LXX., Vulgate, and Syriac Versions, and is confirmed by Wis_7:22 , ἡ? γὰπάντων τεχνίτις ἐ?δίδαξέ με σοφία . According to Von Hofmann, אמון is to be taken as adverbial infinitive absolute, with the meaning of continually. In such forced assumptions are those compelled to take refuge who maintain the view of a mere personification. The second clause designates the joy and sacred pleasure of the creating work, which manifests itself in the endless variety of created forms. With the phrase, I was delight, compare Isaiah 5:7; Jeremiah 31:20. The Vulg. has, delectabar; the LXX., incorrectly, ἐ?γὼ? ἠ?μην ἦ? προσέχαιρε , He had His delight in Me.

John 1:31. “Rejoicing in the habitable parts of the earth, and My delight was with the sons of men.” The pleasure of creation is continued in the joy of intercourse with the children of men, in which is contained an invitation to those whom Wisdom so lovingly condescends to visit, to the equal delight of meeting her.

If now it is settled that the Old Testament affords points of connection for the doctrine of a Divine Revealer of God, and especially also of the creation of the world by Him, only one point remains in question: whether for the name Logos, under which the Divine Mediator is here spoken of, there be likewise an Old Testament foundation; or whether for this we must search for an extra-biblical point of connection.

The first question is, How is this name to be interpreted? And, in the first place, it is beyond doubt that Logos can mean only the Word. This interpretation is demanded simply by the usage of the language. “Ὁ? λόγος ,” says Lücke, “is never used, either by John or by any other biblical author, of the reason or understanding of God, or even of man.” If a doubt still remained, it would be removed by the unmistakeable relation in which the Logos stands to the history of creation, where all is created by the Word of God. “All things were made by Him,” coincides unmistakeably with “By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made,” in Psalms 33:6, where the LXX. has, τῷ? λογῷ? τοῦ? κυρίου οἱ? οὐ ρανοὶ? ἐ?̓?στερεώθησαν .

But in what sense is the Divine Revealer called the Word? There are decisive grounds against the supposition that He is so called as “the Messenger of God, who utters what He is commanded to speak, and reveals to men, in part, what they are to believe, in part, what they are to do,” so that the explanation of the name is to be sought in John 1:18; or that He is so named as the subject of evangelical announcements, or as foretold by the prophets of the Old Testament, etc. All such assumptions cannot be justified by the facts. It is not then perceived why just here a designation is chosen, which, outside of the Prologue, descending, as it does, into the heavenly depths of the origin of Christ, nowhere recurs in this Gospel, and must therefore stand in intimate relation to the specific contents of the Prologue. Here such a name only is appropriate, as designates pre-mundane existence, intimate communion with God and Divinity, and from which directly follows a participation in the creation of the world. That by the name Logos, the highest is designated that can be said of Christ, is shown by the antithesis of flesh in John 1:14; particularly when the Old Testament parallels are compared, in which flesh and God are opposed to each other. According to the same verse, the Logos, as such, has a δόξα , a glory, which He reveals. Further, according to 1 John 1:1, the Logos is the incarnate Life. But of special significance is Revelation 19:13, which, in the recurrence of the name peculiar to John, has a signature of its Johannine origin. It is there said of Christ, “And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood; and His name is called the Word of God.” The name here must be the explanation of vesture; the destructive character being common to both, both must announce Christ as the hero, whom no created thing can withstand. A polemic name, one threatening destruction and indicating the clothing of Christ with omnipotence, is alone appropriate to this whole section.

Wherever the name Logos occurs, it is in connection with the highest and most divine that can be declared of Christ. This is inexplicable if the name were of itself such as could be given to a human mediator; it shows, that the name itself designates Christ’s fulness of Divine attributes.

Now, this is in fact the case, if the name be traced back to Genesis 1 and Psalms 33:6, to which latter passage John 1:3 here so plainly refers. In the history of creation, the external appearance of God, His creative agency, is designated as His speaking. For this reason, He, who is the medium of every external act of God, is designated by John the personal Word of God. If Christ be the personal Word of God, if all which is elsewhere called the Word of God be only a single fragment of His being, how could it then be conceived that any created thing could stand before Him? “I fear not what flesh can do unto me,” is the watchword of all those who have the Logos on their side. “Undismayed, and without fear, shall the Christian e’er appear,”—this is the requirement which is laid on all members of the Church, because the Logos is their head. If single words of God have called the world into existence from nothing, how glorious must then be the Word of God,—how lively must be our fear of displeasing Him,—how unconditional our obedience to every one of His words,—how must there be given to us in connection with Him the unconditional warrant of victory over all ungodly powers, the security for the assertion, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world,”—how must all longing and desire of the soul yearn to be firmly grounded and rooted in this Word of God, and thus to become partaker of all His treasures of salvation and blessedness! Christ—the Word of God: in this is contained, on the one hand, that without Him there can be no true connection with God, as certainly as among men the word alone forms a bridge of connection; and, on the other hand, that in connection with Him an entrance is abundantly ministered to all the treasures of salvation which are laid up in Him for needy creatures. Excellently remarks Bengel: “The name Jesus shows especially His grace, and the name, Word of God, His majesty. How deeply must that which is designated by this name lie in the unsearchable Godhead! The word of a man is not only that which he speaks with his mouth, and which is perceived by the sense of hearing; but that also which he has within himself, in his mind, and which he cherishes in his thoughts. If there were not this inner word, it could not be comprised in any speech or language. And if such word is so deep within man, how deep within God, in a manner incomprehensible to us, must be His Word! To Him, whose name is the Word of God, His enemies are all as stubble before the fire. With the spirit or breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked, Isaiah 11:4. Therefore no sinner or liar can stand before Him.”

Although John 1:18 is not to be regarded as an explanation of the deeper and more comprehensive name of Logos, yet what is here said of Christ, that He, as the only-begotten Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, has revealed the nature of God, in Himself invisible, is included in the name Logos. If Christ be the eternal Word of God, there must be given in Him the only medium for the knowledge of God; so that every one sees just so much of God as He has seen of Him, perceives just so much as Christ has granted him to perceive.

From the detailed account which has been given it is clear that all which John teaches concerning the Logos, both as to the thing signified and the name, rests on an Old Testament foundation, and that we have no reason to look elsewhere points of connection. The Logos of John is connected with the Logos of Philo only in so far as that of Philo, which proceeded from an obscure mingling, rests likewise on an Old Testament basis. This basis is especially evident where Philo designates the Logos as the Archangel, and the ταξιάρχης , or Leader of the host, in reference to the angel of the Lord, who, e.g., in Zechariah 1 appears surrounded by troops of inferior angels and in Joshua 5 is designated as Captain of the Lord's host With those particulars of his doctrine of the Logos, which Philo derived from Plato or from the Stoics, the doctrine of St John, the source of which rises only in the sanctuary, has nothing whatever in common.

Verse 1

Ver. 1. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Such words must be used of the true Saviour, of whom nothing higher can be said; otherwise there cannot be an entire and undivided consecration of the heart to Him, such as can alone bear the true fruits of righteousness, and sustain itself in trouble and in death the Apostle, in here making the loftiest ascriptions to the Redeemer, speaks the confident language of revelation and inspiration, the language of one who testifies of what he has seen and heard, who is not a debtor to some philosopheme or theologumenon, but derives from God Himself the truth which is to conduct to God. Quesnel has admirably designated the proper treatment of this utterance. “He contents himself with demonstrating to our faith His eternity, His life-communion with His Father, and His deity, without unfolding these mysteries to us. Our faith must also be content with this. In reference to this eternal, unspeakable, and inconceivable mystery, we must believe more than we reason, adore more than we define, think more than we investigate, love more than we know, humble ourselves more than we speak.”

The three clauses of the verse form a climax: only the third expresses the highest that can be said, the deity of the Word, to which the two first clauses lead indirectly, and on the presupposition of which they are based. Existence before all creatures is first ascribed to the Word, thus already preparing the way for the third clause. “Something was before the world and the creation of all things,” says Luther: “that must be God.” That the words, “in the beginning,” are equivalent to, “when as yet there was no created thing,” and that “was “here stands in the emphatic sense of, in the beginning, when God created the heavens and earth, the Word already was,—is clear only in comparison with the opening words of Genesis. From the manifest designedness of this reference, with which it is coincident that the other Apostle among the Evangelists also takes the first words of His Gospel from Genesis,̔? it would be perplexing if the Apostle John had understood by the beginning something different from the original passage, the beginning of created things, of finite existence. Beginning occurs in the same sense also elsewhere in the New Testament: Matthew 19:4 (ὁ? ποιήσας ἀ?πʼ? ἀ?ρχῆ?ς ), 8 (ἀ?πʼ? ἀ?ρχῆδὲ? οὐ? γέγονε ); John 8:44, where Satan is called ἀ?νθρωποκτόνος ἦ?ν ἀ?πʼ? ἀ?ρχῆ?ς in reference to an event which took place in the beginning of the world, and of the human race; 1 John 1:1; 1 John 2:13-14; 1 John 3:8. In these passages, the same thing is designated by mere beginning as by beginning of the world in Matthew 24:21, and beginning of the creation in Mark 10:6 (ἀ?πὸ? δὲ? ἀ?ρχῆκτίσεως ἄ?ρσεν καὶ? θῆ λυ ἐ?ποίησεν αὐ τούς ὁ? Θεός ), John 13:19, 2 Peter 3:4. Κόσμον or κτίσεως is also here to be supplied in thought. We must dismiss entirely the interpretation of Olshausen and others: “not in the beginning of creation, but in the absolute beginning, i.e., from eternity.” It is contrary to the original passage, and contrary to usage. It is true that, according to the interpretation established, it is only declared of the Logos, that He already was at the time of creation (ἤ?ν , in opposition to create of the heavens and earth in Genesis 1:1, and to ἐ?γένετο , as used of created things in the verses immediately following); but that this is no unimportant declaration, is seen from the fact that the same thing, existence before created beings, is declared even of God in Psalms 90:2, and thus existence from eternity and creative activity are determined as inseparably connected: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, art Thou, God.” If the Logos existed already at the beginning of creation, He cannot be a part of that which is created; and this being so. He must be from everlasting, and therefore God. For there is nothing intermediate between existence before the beginning, or from the beginning, and eternal existence—between creature and God. With this corresponds what Christ declares of Himself: “Before the world was,” John 17:5; “before the foundation of the world,” John 17:24; and also, “I am the first,” Revelation 1:17; Revelation 2:8; Revelation 22:13,—to which is immediately added, “and (for this reason) the last.” The whole creation must necessarily at last lie at the feet of Him who was before it all. Only in the interim may it boast itself sometimes, during the respite which He allows it. To Him who was in the beginning belongs also the end, and he who remains in Him should not be troubled. He can regard with sacred irony the opposition of the creature to Him who was in the beginning. He who has truly taken to heart the words of the text, his whole meditation and endeavour will be directed to this one end, that he may gain and keep Him for a friend who was in the beginning; and he will trouble himself little concerning the favour or disfavor of others, being convinced that they cannot really help or really injure him, that their favour is as the flower of the field, and their anger as the foam of water.

“And the Word was with God.”

Since πρὸ?ς is used more frequently in the New Testament than in the Classics analogously to πάρα with the accusative, even in the relation, of rest and without the connected idea of aim ( Mark 6:3; Mark 9:19; Galatians 4:18; Buttmann’s N. T. Gramm. p. 292), there is no ground for retaining, with Bengel and others, by a laboured interpretation, the idea of “motion.” (Bengel: πρὸ?ς denotat perpetuam quasi tendentiam Filii ad Patrem in unitate essentiae.) With the text correspond the words, “with Thee,” in John 17:5, and “in the bosom of the Father,” in John 1:18. To the determination of His relation to the creature, is here added the determination of His relation to the Creator. This, as immediately follows from the former, since the separation from created things can rest only on the basis of connection with God, is one of most intimate communion: and from this follows the practical result, that he who would enter into a closer relation to the Most High God, must seek above all things the favour of the Logos; and that all attacks, which are directed against the Church of the Logos, can only recoil from the omnipotence of Him who stands in the most intimate communion with God. The original passages of the Old Testament are Proverbs 8:30, and Zechariah 13:7: “Awake, sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man that is My fellow;” where Jehovah, on the ground of most intimate communion with Him—a communion which cannot be one merely of will, but must originally have been one of essence—designates the Messiah as His fellow. The words of the text are of special importance, because they plainly testify the personal distinction of the Logos from God the Father, with whom He is connected by community of essence. To be with some one, can only stand of a relation between two persons. Cf. the passages already cited, Mark 6:3; Mark 9:19; Galatians 4:18. He who is with some one, must be distinct from him, with whom he is. Coincident with this passage, in its testimony to the independent personality of the Logos, is ver. 18, which speaks of the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father.

“And the Word was God.”

In this the confidence of victory for the people, whose head is Jesus Christ, He in whom the Logos became flesh, receives its conclusion, its final completion. If Christ be God, all fear is folly. If God be for us, who can be against us? But then equally foolish is all dividing of the heart, all half-heartedness. Ourselves we leave, to Christ we cleave, and thus eternal joy receive: this is the immediate practical result of the truth, the Word was God. There can be no doubt that God is the predicate. For the Logos is the subject in the two preceding sentences, and also in ver. 2. The question throughout is, Who is the Logos? not, Who is God? After what precedes, we here expect a more precise determination of the relation which the Logos, as an independent personal being, sustains to God. Further, if God were the subject, then, in opposition to the second clause, the personality of the Logos, as a special one, would be cancelled: if God is the Logos, the independence of the Logos ceases. But why is the predicate placed first? The answer is: in order to indicate that the emphasis rests upon it. That the Logos is God, this forms the antithesis to the preceding vaguer determination of the glory dwelling in Him; this is a high word, to be rendered emphatically prominent, by which the believer may overcome doubt, anxiety, and pain; this is the magic formula, by which he may banish all temptation which would seduce him from the pure essence in Christ, Θεός must necessarily stand without the article. With the article, it would be declared that the Logos fills up the whole sphere of the Godhead, which would be inconsistent, since the very name of Logos presupposes an original cause which pronounced the Word. On the other hand, without the article, Θεός designates the idea of species,

God, in opposition to men or angels; and the words declare that the Logos, who according to the second clause is personally distinct from God the Father, is in His essence one with God; that not only the Father, but also the Son, is God. The decided emphasis laid on the unity of God, from the beginning to the end of Scripture, requires, with the distinction of persons, the mention also of the unity of essence in the Father and the Son. To every derogatory rendering of Θεός ,—an inclination to which, inherited by us from the Deists, can only be radically extirpated when the time Godhead of Christ has been recognised by personal heart-experience—true regeneration can proceed only from the true Godhead,—is already opposed the Old Testament doctrine of the Angel of the Lord, to which John variously refers: e.g., here in ver. 11; and in John 12:41, where he says that Isaiah (chap. 6) saw the glory of Christ, while Isaiah himself says that he saw the glory of Jehovah, that is, of His Angel. The Angel of the Lord is in Exodus 23:21 designated as He in whom is the name of the Lord,” His essence, as historically unfolded and attested; in Exodus 33:14, as the presence (face) of the Lord; in Isaiah 53:9, as the Angel of His presence (face);—as much as to say. He in whom Jehovah appears in person, in antithesis to the inferior created angels.

Verse 2

Ver. 2. “The same was in the beginning with God.”

The words do not contain any new particular. They are only to hold fast, during the consideration of the profound and pregnant truth, that the Saviour who appears in the weakness of the flesh, and the form of a servant, was in the beginning with God; that also behind this foreground of weakness there lies hidden a richer background of omnipotence. In all the calamities of the Church, whenever it is apparently overthrown, it confidently opposes to the assaults of the world and their prince these words: The same was in the beginning with God. He who has on his side Him who was in the beginning with God, can sleep calmly under all circumstances: he says, I fear not tens of thousands that are encamped about me. How wretched appear the Jews, who would not receive Him who was in the beginning with God! They become the object of sacred irony, as in Psalms 2:4. How poor and ridiculous also the attacks of the heathen, which had doubtless commenced when John wrote his Gospel! To Him, who was in the beginning with God, the heathen are but as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance, Isaiah 40:15. He who has really taken to heart the words, “The same was in the beginning with God,” will recognise it as the highest aim of his life to enter into most intimate fellowship with the Logos, that every breath may be consecrated to Him. “O eternal Word,” exclaims Quesnel, “inseparable from Thine everlasting foundation, adorable Son, who never leavest the bosom of Thy Father, may I never be separated from Thee, and unite me in Thyself with Thy Father!” In Revelation 3:14, Christ is called “the beginning of the creation of God.” If He was in the beginning with God, when as yet there was no created thing, He must also be the beginning, He in whom the beginning is grounded, the living beginning;.

Verse 3

Ver. 3. “All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.”

The Berleburger Bibel says: “Hitherto the Word has been described as in the bosom of the Father; now He is described as He reveals Himself in creation.” The answer to the question, “Why this express testimony, that all things were made through the mediation of the Logos?” is given by Luther in the words: “If Christ does not remain truly and by nature God, born of the Father in eternity, and Creator of all things, then we are lost. For how could we be helped by the sufferings and death of Christ, if He were only a man like you and I? Then He could not have overcome devil, death, and sin; He would have been too weak for them: He would also have been unable to help us. Therefore we must have a Saviour who is very God, and Lord over sin, death, and devil. If we allow the devil to subvert this foundation, and hold that Christ is not very God, then His passion, death, and resurrection are of no use to us, and we have no hope of obtaining eternal life and happiness; in fine, we cannot at all comfort ourselves by all the consoling promises of Scripture. But if we are to be helped from the devils violence and death-blows, also from sin and death, we must have an everlasting Good, to which nothing is wanting, and in which is no fault. So this article, that Christ is by nature very God and very man, is our rock, on which our salvation and bliss are founded, on which we are baptized, on which we live and die. And St John, as the pattern Evangelist, has powerfully described the deity of the Lord Christ; and that the world, heaven, earth, all creatures, visible and invisible, were created by Him, and that nothing was made but by this Word of the Father.” We have here before us no idle speculation,—much rather an anchorage-ground of hope for the mind that is troubled through fear of the creature, the basis for that word of the Lord: “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” To the all things made by the Logos,—which must therefore serve Him unconditionally, and pay homage to Him, either willingly or by compulsion,—belong also the angels, whose ministering relation to Christ and His kingdom is rendered expressly prominent by ver. 51, and Satan, the prince of this world, which he is continually exciting against the kingdom of Christ. But the practical signification reaches still further. “All creatures,” says Quesnel, “owe allegiance to Him, both on account of their existence, whose ground He is, through the power which He has in common with His Father, and on account of the manner of their existence, for which He is the archetype, and the Divine skill, as the eternal Wisdom, from which all creatures have all that they possess of beauty, order, and proportion, among each other, and in relation to the plans of God. O that I may seek Thee, study Thee, adore Thee, in all Thy creatures! Grant that they may lead me to Thee,—that I may ever give all the glory to Thee,—that I may not be deaf to so many voices, which unceasingly tell me, that it is Thou who hast created them, that it is Thou and not they whom we must follow.” It is clear from the comparison of 1 Corinthians 8:6 and Hebrews 1:2, that the preposition διά is used to indicate that the Logos occupies a mediatorial position in the creation of the world, God the Father being the original cause of the creative work. Διά does indeed occur of God the Father in Galatians 1:1, Hebrews 2:10; but never ἐ?ξ of Christ. Together with the accomplishment of the creation through Christ, it is immediately granted, that to Him belong also the preservation and government of the world. Luther says, “He is not a master, who, like a carpenter or builder, when he has prepared, completed, arranged a house, ship, or any other work that he may please, leaves the house for its owner to dwell in, or commits the ship to the mariners that they may traverse the sea in it, and he himself goes whither he may. It is not so here; but God the Father has begun and finished the creation of all things by His word, and preserves it also continually by the same, and remains with His work, which He creates, until He wills that it shall no longer exist. For this reason, says Christ ( John 5:13), ‘My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.’ For, as we were made by Him, without our assistance and power, so also we cannot be preserved of ourselves. Therefore, as heaven, earth, sun, moon, stars, men, and all that lives, were created by the Word in the beginning, so they are wonderfully governed and preserved by the same Word, Thus, when St John says, all that is made was made by the Word, we are to understand that all things so created are preserved in being, otherwise they would not long remain created.”

The second clause adds no new matter; the repetition only directs attention to the deep significance of the truth, as for the same reason such repetitions occur in the history of the flood, e.g., Genesis 7:13-16. If without Christ nothing was made that was made, then nothing made by Him can do any injury to His kingdom. Fear loves to make exceptions, it allows all else to be innocuous; only that one thing which is directly in view, appears to threaten danger. This is met by the Holy Spirit with the assurance, that all things without exception were made by the Logos; therefore, every fear is unreasonable in him who has the Word on his side. If to be made, and to be made by Him, are the same thing, there can be no enemy that is to be feared, either in heaven or earth. The same practical tendency, to show that no force in heaven or earth is a match for Christ, that all are under obligation to serve and honour Him, an equally emphatic designation of all and every, and also a certain pleonasm of expression, are found in the parallel passage. Colossians 1:16: ἐ?ν αὐ τῷ? ἐ?κτίσθη τὰ? πάντα ἐ?ν τοῖοὐ ρανοῖκαὶ? ἐ?πὶ? τῆγῆ?ς , τὰ? ὁ?ρατὰ? καὶ? τὰ? ἀ?όρατα , εἴ τε θρόνοι εἴ τε κυριότητες εἴ τε ἀ?ρχαὶ? εἴ τε ἐ?ξουσίαι· τὰ? πάντα διʼ? αὐ τοῦ? καὶ? εἰαὐ τὸ?ν ἔ?κτισται . It is a poor supposition, that John here placed himself in opposition to the Judaistic Gnosis, which excluded the ὕ?λη , or matter, from the Divine creation. It is not the Divine creation which is here treated of, but the participation of the Logos in the creation; and it is more consonant that the Apostle should wish to afford consolation in a trial common to all Christian hearts, than that he should have regard to some obscure hypercritic. Included in that which is made, are also the enemies of Christ and His Church. And of how great practical significance is it, that even from our birth we are under obligation to our Redeemer and Saviour, as our Creator,—that the Creator of all things has taken upon Him our nature, and has come to seek the lost! The words, “that was made,” ὃ? γέγονεν , are not absolutely necessary to the sense. Yet this redundancy of expression bears the character of solemnity, and rouses the attention to the great importance of the thought. The logical unnecessariness of ὃ? γέγονεν has led some to join it to what follows. This punctuation is quite ancient. It is found in Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, and Clement of Alexandria. But since the science of exegesis has passed its infancy, all approved expositors have declared themselves in decided opposition to it. We should then either connect, ὃ? γέγονεν , ἐ?ν αὐ τῷ? ζωὴ? ἦ?ν , or, ὃ? γέγονεν , ἐ?ν αὐ τῷ? , ζωὴ? ἦ?ν . The former is the more ancient reading. As to sense, both amount to the same. For even in the latter reading, the Logos, or the creation by Him, is to be regarded as the ground of the life of creatures,—q.d., that which was created by Him, was on this very account life. Both readings, however, rest on the false assumption, that ver. 4 refers to creation, instead of to redemption. They give way of themselves when it is perceived that ζωὴ? is not natural life, but eternal life or salvation. The thought, that all things made have their life, the source of their life, in the Logos, even were it a reasonable one, is impossible here, since ζωὴ? , according to the usage of John, cannot be the natural life. The second decisive reason against it is, that then the words, “And the life was the light of men,” are not suitable. These words require that the life be not, as according to this interpretation, the creaturely life, but the life which has its source in the Logos. Himself. The interpretation owes its origin, as it seems, to those who, mistaking the simple practical meaning of the Prologue, misinterpreted it in the sense of their speculative tendencies.

It is a poor supposition, that John here placed himself in opposition to the Judaistic Gnosis, which excluded the ὕ?λη , or matter, from the Divine creation. It is not the Divine creation which is here treated of, but the participation of the Logos in the creation; and it is more consonant that the Apostle should wish to afford consolation in a trial common to all Christian hearts, than that he should have regard to some obscure hypercritic. Included in that which is made, are also the enemies of Christ and His Church. And of how great practical significance is it, that even from our birth we are under obligation to our Redeemer and Saviour, as our Creator,—that the Creator of all things has taken upon Him our nature, and has come to seek the lost! The words, “that was made,” ὃ? γέγονεν , are not absolutely necessary to the sense. Yet this redundancy of expression bears the character of solemnity, and rouses the attention to the great importance of the thought. The logical unnecessariness of ὃ? γέγονεν has led some to join it to what follows. This punctuation is quite ancient. It is found in Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, and Clement of Alexandria. But since the science of exegesis has passed its infancy, all approved expositors have declared themselves in decided opposition to it. We should then either connect, ὃ? γέγονεν , ἐ?ν αὐ τῷ? ζωὴ? ἦ?ν , or, ὃ? γέγονεν , ἐ?ν αὐ τῷ? , ζωὴ? ἦ?ν . The former is the more ancient reading. As to sense, both amount to the same. For even in the latter reading, the Logos, or the creation by Him, is to be regarded as the ground of the life of creatures,—q.d., that which was created by Him, was on this very account life. Both readings, however, rest on the false assumption, that ver. 4 refers to creation, instead of to redemption. They give way of themselves when it is perceived that ζωὴ? is not natural life, but eternal life or salvation. The thought, that all things made have their life, the source of their life, in the Logos, even were it a reasonable one, is impossible here, since ζωὴ? , according to the usage of John, cannot be the natural life. The second decisive reason against it is, that then the words, “And the life was the light of men,” are not suitable. These words require that the life be not, as according to this interpretation, the creaturely life, but the life which has its source in the Logos. Himself. The interpretation owes its origin, as it seems, to those who, mistaking the simple practical meaning of the Prologue, misinterpreted it in the sense of their speculative tendencies.

Verse 4

Ver. 4. “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”

Luther says: “When he says, in Him was life, and the life was the light of men, these are thunder-claps against the light of reason, free will, human ability, etc. As if he would say: All men who are out of Christ, lack life before God, are dead and damned.” Köstlin has admirably developed the idea of life (Joh. Lehrbegr. S. 235): “The expression ζωὴ? denotes that life which is really life, the direct opposite of death,—one absolutely efficient, disturbed by no obstruction to its course, by no disgust, but a blessed life, a life which is raised above all creaturely perishability and weakness.” In this emphatic sense, in which the conception of life is closely connected with that of salvation, life occurs in Deuteronomy 30:20, where it is said by God to Israel, “For He is thy life;” as much as to say, only through Him canst thou find an existence which really deserves the name of life, and of which it could not be declared, “Thou hast a name to live, but art dead.” What is there said of Jehovah, is here transferred to Christ. The same remark holds good of Psalms 36:9; the more so, since there, as here, life is connected with light: “For with Thee is the fountain of life: in Thy light shall we see light.” He who derives it not from Thee, the only source of life and salvation, loses it, in spite of all the human means which he possesses for preserving and gaining it. But, on the other hand, he who has this fountain at command, the wickedness of the whole world cannot take the life from him; he preserves his life, and drinks with delight in the presence of his enemies. In Proverbs 3:18, it is said of Wisdom, between whom and the Logos there is so intimate a relation, “She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her;” and in Proverbs 8:35-36, Wisdom says, “For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord. But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.” According to Calvin and others, preservation is here ascribed to Christ, as creation in the previous verse. The life is natural life. “If His constant influence did not quicken the world, all things that have power must immediately fall to ruin or be destroyed.” That which Paul ascribes to God in Acts 17:28, that in Him we live and move, takes place, according to the Evangelist, through the beneficence of the Word. Lücke also is of opinion that “John has not yet any thought of the historical Christ;” and by life, he understands the physical and ethical life, which exists apart from Christ. But, on the other hand, Köstlin has already remarked, the words are to be explained, not from Philo, but from John himself, who everywhere represents life as coming into the world only with Christ, and does not see fit to say anything of the continued preservation of the world by the Logos. Even in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, ζωὴ? , life, is generally used of spiritual eternal life, or salvation,—of natural life, only in Luke 16:25. ζωὴ? alone is interchanged with ζωὴ? αἰ ώνιος , which alone can be called a true life, as certainly as in Genesis 2:17 it is said, “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” according to which the natural life is only a concealed death. In John, ζωὴ? occurs more than thirty times, always of spiritual eternal life, or salvation, which can be obtained only by joining the Word, who has appeared in the flesh, the “historical Christ,” and can never be obtained apart from Him. In an entire series of passages ζωὴ? is used interchangeably with ζωὴ? αἰ ώνιος . So, e.g., in John 3:15; John 3:36: ἵ?να πᾶ?ς ὁ? πιστεύων ἐ?ν αὐ τῷ? ἔ?χῃ? ζωὴαἰ ώνιον . ὁ? πιστεύων εἰτὸυἱ?ὸ?ν ἔ?χει ζωὴαἰ ώνιον· ὁ? δὲ? ἀ?πειθῶτῷ? υἱ?ῷ? οὐ?κ ὄ?ψεται ζωήν . Here ζωὴ? is explained by the preceding ζωὴ? αἰ ώνιος . Cf. John 5:24-26, John 5:39-40, John 6:33; John 6:35; John 6:47-48; John 6:53; 1 John 1:1. Everywhere in these passages life is connected with the advent of Christ in the flesh. As it is here said, that in the Logos was the life, so Jesus, in John 14:6, calls Himself the Life. In the strikingly accordant passage, 1 John 5:11ζωὴαἰ ώνιον ἔ?δωκεν ἡ?μῖ?ν ὁ? θεός , καὶ? αὕ τη ἡ? ζωὴ? ἐ?ν τῷ? υἱ?ῷ? αὐ τοῦ? ἐ?στιν—life = salvation, and the life has its only source in Christ. According to all this, and since, according to proof yet to be adduced, the parallel light also cannot be separated from Christ, the words, “in Him was light,” must refer to the fact, that from the beginning of the rational creation, its life was in the Logos; so that it was excluded from life, so long as Christ had not appeared in the flesh. What a powerful practical impulse is there in the words, “in Him was life!” If the Logos—if Christ, in whom the Logos has become accessible to us—be the single point and source of life in the whole wide universe, the whole energy of the mind must be directed towards entering into, and persevering in, communion with Him.

“And the life was the light of men.”—Ἡ? ζωή ; is not life in the abstract, but personal life in the Word; q.d., He, the bestower of life, existed at the same time as such. The light is, according to vers. 8, 9, the Logos Himself. The thought cannot have been here of a beaming of the light into the intelligent creation in the times before Christ, “of a continued enlightening activity of the Logos in general history, and not merely among the Jews.” For of such a doctrine we can find no traces elsewhere in John. The assertion that, according to John 11:52, John 10:16, he is aware of a preparatory revelation in the heathen world, rests on an incorrect apprehension. In the first passage, the “scattered children of God” in the heathen world are brought into view, not according to their subjective condition, but according to the Divine choice and predetermination. “Divine life, preformed Christian sonship of God,” outside the boundaries of the kingdom of God, in the heathen world, is a representation current indeed with the modern accommodation-theology, but not with John. We are not to think of Israel alone, since men in general are spoken of; and even if there certainly were an activity of the Logos among the Jews, yet the Light of the Future was reserved even from them. If, according to ver. 17, grace and truth came to the covenant-people first by Christ, life and light are denied to them before Christ. In the New Testament, light is the ordinary designation of salvation. In Psalms 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation,” we have the interpretation of the figure. In Isaiah 49:6 ( Acts 13:47) it is said of Christ, “I will also give Thee to be a light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth.” When Israel, in Micah 7:8, says, “When I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me,” the thought is, when I am in misery, the Lord is my salvation. That light is to be taken in this sense here, is sufficiently proved by ver. 5, especially by the contrast of darkness, by which only wickedness can be understood. In this sense, Christ in various connections calls Himself the Light, and is so called by John, always in such a manner that it is either expressly stated or assumed that the light did not shine until His advent in the flesh. So, e.g., in John 3:19, to τὸ? φῶ?ς ἐ?λήλυθεν εἰτὸκόσμον : John 8:12, Ἐ?γώ εἰ μι τὸ? φῶτοῦ? κόσμου· ὁ? ἀ?κολουθῶ?ν ἐ?μοὶ? οὐ? μὴ? περιπατήσῃ? ἐ?ν τῇ? σκοτίᾳ? , ἀ?λλʼ? ἕ?ξει τὸ? φῶτῆζωῆ?ς , where, as here, light is connected with life: John 12:35, Ἔ?τι μικρὸχρόνον τὸ? φῶ?ς ἐ?ν ὑ?μῖ?ν ἐ?στιν . περιπατεῖ τε ὡ?ς τὸ? φῶ?ς ἔ?χετε , ἵ?να μὴ? σκοτία ὑ?μᾶκαταλάβῃ? : but especially John 9:5, ὅ?ταν ἐ?ν τῷ? κόσμῳ? ὦ? , φῶεἰ μι τοῦ? κόσμου , where to be light, and to be in the world, are represented as inseparably connected. We are also led to the view that light is here a designation of the salvation which should be brought to the human race by the advent of Christ, by the original passages in the prophets. We must first of all consider the passage in Isaiah 9:2, which Matthew expressly adduces, and which exercises a controlling influence over his representation. “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” Not only is the figure of light common to this passage and our text, but also the mention of darkness, in ver. 5 here, and the connection of life and light in John corresponds with the shadow of death in Isaiah. John would contradict this passage if he declared that the Logos had already made Himself known as light, before He became flesh. In Isaiah also light is the designation of salvation. The darkness which is to be dispelled by the light, is designated as at the same time external and spiritual wretchedness. “The sad companion of outward oppression by the Gentile world, is the spiritual misery of the inward dependence on it.” In Isaiah 42:6, also, the Lord speaks to His Servant, the Messiah, “I will give Thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles.” Only in the future is the Servant of God to become this. Light is here, according to the common usus loquendi of Scripture, a figurative designation of salvation. In the parallel passage, Isaiah 49:6, light is at once explained by salvation. The designation proceeds upon the supposition that the Gentiles, not less than Israel (cf. John 9:1), shall, until the appearance of the Servant of God, sit in darkness and the shadow of death;—that they are in misery, even though in some instances it maybe a brilliant misery.” If before Christ both Israel and the heathen are in darkness, the real enjoyment of the light cannot here be ascribed to men in the period before Christ. According to ver. 7, the Servant of God alone is to bring out those who sit in darkness. In addition to Isaiah 42:6, it is said in Isaiah 49:6, “And I will also give Thee for a light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My salvation to the end of the earth.” We must also take into view Isaiah 9:1-3, “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. 2. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. 3. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” In the words, “thy light is come,” light is a personal salvation; therefore, the Lord as Saviour. This is shown by vers. 19, 20, compared with the last clause, “and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” According to this passage also, until the advent of Christ darkness covers not merely the Gentiles, but also the Jews. Christ shines first as a clear light on the darkness of the Jews, and the Gentiles come to this light that they may be irradiated by its beams. In harmony with this does Zacharias ( Luke 1:78-79) rejoice that “the dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.” And John himself, while in vers. 7-11 he designates Christ as the light, the true light which is come into the world, to His own, proceeds on the conception that previously the world, and even the chosen people, were without the light, and sat in darkness. After all this, there can be no doubt of the correctness of Heumann’s remark, “But at what time He became this light, we are taught by ver. 9, from which we learn that He became the light of men when He came into the world. The Word therefore became, as Christ calls Himself ( John 8:12), the light of life.” The thought of the whole verse can only be this: that the Logos, from the beginning, was the virtual life and light of men; so that, before He appeared in the flesh, men were excluded from light and life. The words, “in Him was,” ἦ?ν , are certainly to be distinguished from those in 1 John 1:2, “for the life was manifested,” ἡ? ζωὴ? ἐ?φανερώθη . In the former, the being manifested forms an antithesis to the being from the beginning. Analogous is Revelation 12:11, where the words, “they overcame him,” refer to the power dwelling in the atoning death of Christ, and in substance are equivalent to: they can now overcome him. So also Revelation 4:5, where the lightnings, thunderings, and voices proceeding from the throne have a prefigurative sense, indicating the fulness of judgment dwelling in God which is to be manifested at its proper time. So here life and light are that which exists in the Logos for the whole human race, and which in its due time, when the day of salvation and grace is come ( Isaiah 49:8; 2 Corinthians 6:2), is to be poured out upon it. If the life and light of men have been from the beginning only in the Logos, this, as mans highest motive to Christ, seems to say: “Besides Thee there is nothing but folly and falsehood, darkness and sin, death and misery. Open and illumine my mind, penetrate and warm my heart, because my happiness consists in this, to know and to love Thee” (Quesnel).

Verses 5-6

Ver. 5. “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

We must unconditionally reject the remark of Olshausen: “We are in no case to refer φαίνει to the activity of the incarnate Word; this meets us first in ver. 14 as an historical fact.” That the agency here is not that “which was exercised by the Logos from the beginning,” but that which proceeded from the “historical Christ,” is shown by the Old Testament passages, Isaiah 9:1; Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 9:1, by the declaration of Zacharias, Luke 1:79, and of Christ Himself, John 8:12; John 8:36. That the present, φαίνει , here is to be taken as designating an activity which continues to the present time, is clear from the relation of the preceding ἦ?ν , “was,” and still more decisively from 1 John 2:8, ἡ? σκοτία παράγεται καὶ? τὸ? φῶτὸ? ἀ?ληθινὸ?ν ἤ?δη φαίνει . Darkness is the condition of the man who lives out of connection with God, or reprobacy, sin, and the evils inseparable therefrom. Σκοτία , correctly remarks Köstlin, “designates not only the deficient religious condition, but always, at the same time, also the dark fate of the subject consequent thereon,—the deficiency not only in the light of truth, but also in that of life.” Thus, as light is the personal Light, so darkness is here a designation of the men who are in darkness;—according to Isaiah 9:2, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light;” according to the explanation in the subsequent verse (“He came to His own, and His own received Him not”); and because the words, “comprehended it not,” indicate an accomplished fact, in which the heathen had as yet no part;—the Jews, the benighted people of the covenant and possession. Καταλαμβάνειν elsewhere in the New Testament always means to take: John 12:35; Mark 9:18; 1 Corinthians 9:24; Php_3:12-13 . In the sense of comprehend, perceive, it occurs only in the middle voice, Acts 4:13; Acts 10:34. Most analogous is Romans 9:30, κατέλαβεν δικαιοσύνην . Because the Jews had not stretched out the hand of faith to seize the light, therefore darkness had seized upon them, John 12:35. The reason why they had not received it, is disclosed by our Lord in Matthew 23:37, “and ye would not;” and still more clearly by John in John 3:19, “Light is come into the world, and men (represented by the Jews) loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” They would gladly have escaped the dark fate which weighed heavy upon them; but the dark disposition, of which this fate was the reflex, they would not renounce at any price, and thus their darkness was doubled by their own fault. “But although,” says Luther, “the bad, blind world desires not the dear light, nay, cannot endure it, but persecutes and reviles it, yet it shines from the special grace of the true eternal Light, for the sake of the little flock which is to be enlightened by it, and does not set on account of the thanklessness and disdain of the great godless multitude.”

The Apostle now carries out further, in vers. 6-13, what he had intimated in ver. 5, and shows how Christ, as the true Light, shone among the Jews, and was by them rejected, but proved Himself the true Light by imparting to those who received Him the highest of all gifts, the sonship of God. This was a necessary addition. It furnishes the warrant, that the apprehension on which the words, “The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not,” and their carrying out, are founded,—the conception according to which light is attributed to Christ, and darkness to the Jews,—rests not on a subjective view, but is founded in the matter itself. He who can raise to the dignity of sons of God, must be the Light and Life: He can be no other than the Creator Himself; for only the Creator can prove Himself the true Redeemer.

We are first told, in vers. 6-8, how John the Baptist prepares the way for the appearance of the Light. “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” The periphrasis, ἐ?γένετο ἀ?πεσταλμένος , may be used instead of the simple form of the tense, because the representation in the Prologue is characterized by a certain solemn grandeur. Perhaps, however, we must seek the reason for it in that ἀ?πεσταλμένος here, and ἐ?ρχόμενος in ver. 9, are both words referring to Malachi, which are to make themselves known as such by the unusual construction. The reference to Malachi 3:1, “Behold, I will send My messenger, and he shall prepare the way before Me,” and to John 4:5, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet,” cannot, of course, be subject to doubt. The Baptist refers to the same passage in John 3:28, αὐ τοὶ? ὑ?μεῖμοι μαρτυρεῖ τε ὅ?τι εἶ πον [ὅ?τι ] Οὐεἰ μὶ? ἐ?γὼ? ὁ? Χριστός , ἀ?λλʼ? ὅ?τι Ἀ?πεσταλμένος εἰ μὶ? ἔ?μπροσθεν αὐ τοῦ? : and our Lord, in Matthew 11:10, οὗ τός ἐ?στιν περὶ? οὗ? γέγραπται , Ἰ?δοὺ? ἐ?γὼ? ἀ?ποστέλλω τὸ?ν ἄ?γγελόν μου πρὸ? προσώπου σου , ὃ?ς κατασκευάσει τὴ?ν ὁ?δόν σου ἔ?μπροσθέν σου . It is a characteristic of John as an author, that he seldom gives express quotations from the Old Testament, but introduces references to it by way of gentle hint,—a phenomenon which is also found in the prophets of the old covenant in relation to the books of Closes. The reason lies in this, that frequent quotations would not suit the higher style in which this Gospel is written. Ἄ?νθρωπος in this connection, where all is directed to the end of exalting Christ in relation to John, is certainly not = τίς . In the original passage, Malachi 3:1, the heavenly Messenger and the earthly, the human and the divine, are opposed as strongly as possible. The name John, which was given him by the Lord Himself, Luke 1:13, signifies, the Lord is gracious; and was therefore well adapted to the messenger who should announce the dawn of that time of which the Psalmist had prophesied, “Thou shalt arise and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come:” Psalms 102:14. That the name was chosen on account of its significance, may be regarded as certain. But it is doubtful whether the Evangelist has regard to this significance here. Thus much is certain, that he laid great weight on his own name; that in the love of Jesus he perceived a realization of it, proceeding from the intuition that in Jesus Jehovah had been manifested. The passages, John 21:20, John 20:2, where John, in evident allusion to his own name, designates himself as ὃ?ν ἠ?γάπα ὁ? Ἰ?ησοῦ?ς , ὃ?ν ἐ?φίλει ὁ? Ἰ?ησοῦ?ς , plainly show this.

Verse 7

Ver. 7. “The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.”—“Witness” is a favourite expression with John: it recurs with equal frequency in the Gospel, the Epistles, and the Apocalypse (fourteen times in the Gospel), while in Matthew it does not occur at all. “John has confined himself, as a pattern for us, to the testimony, and for this has given his life and his death. We have inherited all the favours which fell to the lot of the Jews, and we owe him the gratitude which they did not show.” (Quesnel.) It scarcely needs remarking, that αὐ τοῦ? refers to John, who should prepare the way before Christ, i.e., should awaken faith in Him,—not to the Light.

Verse 8

Ver. 8. “He was not that Light, but to bear witness of that Light.”—“No man can enlighten us, not even a St John; the Word of God, the everlasting Truth, is alone our Light.” Olshausen, with many other commentators, is of opinion that “the words are evidently directed polemically against too high an estimate of John.” Appeal is made to Luke 3:15, according to which, on his appearance, many mused in their hearts whether he were the Messiah or not, and to the sayings of the disciples of John, in John 3:26. But the assumption of such a polemic reference does not accord with the time of the composition of the Gospel. From the decided manner in which John pointed away from himself and to Christ, scarcely any perishing mortals could have thought of taking John himself for the Light or Saviour. And to have respect to such, is least of all suitable to the Prologue, which portrays only in outlines. The true ground of the remark is this, that the Apostle wishes to set the greatness of Christ in a clear light by showing that the greatest of men, the greatest of the prophets of the Old Covenant ( Matthew 11:11; Luke 7:28), in relation to Him, takes throughout a subordinate position. In John the whole human race lies at the feet of Christ. To testify of Him is the highest dignity to which man can attain, the highest object towards which man may or should aspire. Therefore the shading of John is to heighten the light of Christ; to bring His glory into view being the ultimate end of the whole Prologue.

Verse 9

In vers. 9-11 are related the appearance of the Light; and its rejection by those whose darkness it came first to illuminate.

Ver. 9. “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man, coming into the world.”

There can be no doubt that ἦ?ν ἐ?ρχόμενον stands for the simple “came.” Against the rendering, it teas to come, which rests on a view of the course of thought in the Prologue already refuted, Lücke has already remarked, “According to classical usage, ἦ?ν—ἐ?ρχόμενον would be impossible as a periphrastic future (erat venturum). In the New Testament also this would be the only instance. On the other hand, such a paraphrase of the imperfect has numerous analogies in its favour in the New Testament.” It is a question, however, why this is here chosen, why John uses a circumlocution to express what he could say more concisely and plainly by a single word; the rather, as elsewhere he uses the simple tense-form for the same matter, τὸ? φῶ?ς ἐ?λήλυθεν εἰτὸκόσμον , John 3:19, John 12:46, John 18:37. A sufficient reason for this here would be the breadth peculiar to the Prologue, which retains the reader, as it were, in these lofty truths, and invites him to reflection and meditation. Yet another explanation offers itself with some plausibility,—viz., that the phrase ἦ?ν— ἐ?ρχόμενον renders prominent the reference to the original prophecy of Malachi. The great “Coming One” of Malachi was in the mouth of all. ὁ? δὲ? ὀ?πίσω μου ἐ?ρχόμενος ,—thus speaks the Baptist in Matthew 3:11. Σὺ? εἶ? ὁ? ἐ?ρχόμενος ; he directs his disciples to inquire of Christ, Matthew 11:3. In this first chapter he speaks of the ὀ?πίσω μου ἐ?ρχόμενος , vers. 15, 27, 30. In John 3:31 he says, ὁ? ἄ?νωθεν ἐ?ρχόμενος ἐ?πάνω πάντων ἐ?στίν , and ὁ? ἐ?κ τοῦ? οὐ ρανοῦ? ἐ?ρχόμενος [ἐ?πάνω πάντων ἐ?στί . In John 6:14 the people say of Jesus, οὗ τός ἐ?στιν ἀ?ληθῶ?ς ὁ? προφήτης ὁ? ἐ?ρχόμενος εἰτὸκόσμον . Martha says to Christ in John 11:27, ἐ?γὼ? πεπίστευκα ὅ?τι σὺ? εἶ? ὁ? Χριστὸ?ς ὁ? υἱ?ὸ?ς τοῦ? θεοῦ? ὁ? εἰτὸκόσμον ἐ?ρχόμενος . The word ἐ?ρχόμενος is here, as it were, provided with marks of quotation. The expression, come into the world, is set apart, as it were, by John for the advent of Christ in the flesh. It is used by the people, John 6:14, John 11:27; by the Baptist, John 3:31; by Christ, John 12:46, John 18:37, John 16:28; by the Evangelist, John 3:19, Even this extended use leads to an Old Testament foundation, as the phrase is not sufficiently significant to explain of itself such an extended use. The reference to Malachi 3:1, “The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in; behold. He shall come, saith the Lord of hosts,” is the more apparent, since the word “come” is emphatically repeated here, and recurs once again in ver. 2, “But who may abide the day of His coming?” and since it is thus explained why precisely John the Baptist so repeatedly and so diligently designates Christ as the Coming One. For him, this passage was, as it were, the basis of his existence, the programme of his appearance, the defining of his position with respect to Christ. With reference to this passage, which again refers back to Genesis 49:10, “until Shiloh come” (so also, as it seems, the words, ὅ?τι Μεσσίας ἔ?ρχεται , of the Samaritan woman, in John 4:25), the Messiah is designated both merely as the Coming One, and as the One coming into the world. The mere coming is expanded into coming into the world, in intimation that in Malachi the covenant Angel had a heavenly existence prior to His advent into the sublunary world: it is the Lord of heaven who comes to the covenant people as to His own.

The true Light: Christ is so called, not so much in opposition to a false as to an imperfect light, such as was John the Baptist. “This is the difference,” says Calvin, “that which is light in the heavens and earth derives its brightness elsewhere. But Christ is the Light, which shines of itself; for the whole world is irradiated by its brightness, so that there is nowhere any other origin or cause of the radiance. He therefore calls that the true Light whose nature it is to shine.” But according to fact, the true Light is at the same time also the opposite “to false lights and ignes fatui, which lead people into harm and danger.” Calvin and others refer the words, “which lighteth every man,” to the “universal light of nature,” But it has been already shown that the Light in John never means the light of reason, or intellectual illumination, but is the designation of salvation and the Saviour: and that John represents this salvation as dawning only with the advent of Christ. How, then, can it be said of Christ as the Light, that He lighteth every man, in face of the fact, that the darkness did not comprehend the Light, ver. 5, and that He came to His own, and His own received Him not? The answer to this question, which would certainly be difficult for a believer in predestination, is this, that φωτίζει has reference to the idea and definition, and that the words declare that no one has light who has not received it from Him; every one receives light, who does not by his own fault exclude himself from it: that the words therefore designate the greatness of the gift of Christ, which does not lose its importance because ingratitude despises it. Luther says: “I preach to you all here at Wittenberg; but how many are there among you who will be better for my preaching, and will receive the blessed Light with faith, that they may be enlightened by it? Truly the lesser part believe my preaching. Still, I am and remain the teacher and preacher of you all. So, though all do not indeed believe the preaching of Christ, this does not take away His office. He is and remains equally the Light which lighteth all men. He is the true Light from the beginning to the end of the world; that is, whatever men have come or shall yet come into the world and be enlightened, they have had, and shall still have, no other Light or Saviour than Christ. In fine, the Evangelist will allow no other means by which people can be enlightened and blest; all the world is to have this light alone, or to remain eternally in darkness.” The words point first to Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6, “I will also give Thee for a light to the Gentiles.” Acts 4:12 corresponds in substance, “Neither is there salvation in any other.” Luther translated, in his first edition, “That was the true Light which lighteth all men, by His coming into the world.” But in the later editions he followed the Vulgate, “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that Cometh into the world.” Against this rendering, it has been repeatedly remarked that the phrase, “come into the world,” occurs indeed in rabbinical usage, but never in the New Testament, of common men who are born into their earthly existence; but, on the other hand, is used frequently, and especially by our Evangelist, of the advent of Christ into the world, and is set apart and consecrated to this use. A second reason is, that ἐ?ρχόμενον must be referred to φῶ?ς , because otherwise ἦ?ν , in ver. 10, does not receive its necessary complement from ver. 9: He was, in consequence of His coming.

Verse 10

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

The words, “He was in the world,” resume the contents of the previous verse, which tells us of the coming of the Light, the Saviour, into the world: so then He was in the world. Before the special scene of the Saviour’s advent, the covenant people, the Evangelist places the general scene, the world; because, even on account of the creation by Him, Christ had a right, in whatever part of the world He might appear, to be joyfully welcomed: how should not creatures meet their Creator with rejoicing, when He comes to redeem them! The Jews, in rejecting Christ, not only refused redeeming grace, but showed themselves ungrateful towards creating grace, as every man still does who despises Christ. According to many expositors, the words, “He was in the world,” refer to the time before the incarnation. “The Evangelist adds this,” says Bengel, “that no one may so understand the coming mentioned in the verse preceding, as though the Light had not been previously in the world.” But we have already shown that this—viz., that the Light was not in the world before the advent of Christ—is, in fact, the conception of the Evangelist; after it has been said just before, that the Light has come into the world, it cannot be said without further explanation, that it was already in the world,—then there must in some way be designated the difference of the being in the world before the coming, from the later being in the world: in any case, however, the words, already before, which all expositors insert, would necessarily have been expressed in the text. Finally, the λόγος was, according to ver. 1, with God before his advent in the flesh. Even in the previous verse, the coming into the world forms the antithesis to being with God. That κόσμος here is the sublunary world, the abode of men, is clear from the last clause. On this the Logos could certainly operate, while still being with God: but the Evangelist could not attribute to Him an existence in the world previous to the incarnation, without being false to his fundamental conception. On the words, “and the world was made by Him,” Luther remarks: “Because the Scripture ascribes the same title and divine almighty power to Christ our Lord, the Virgins natural Son, and that the world was made by Him, it follows unquestionably, that He is real very God and Creator of all things, and that therefore two natures, divine and human, are inseparably united in one Person, even in Christ.”

Verse 11

Ver. 11. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.”

This is the second contrast. It is disgraceful when the world despises its Creator; still more disgraceful when the people of the covenant despise their covenant Lord, who for so long a time has faithfully cared for them, to whom He has vowed and sworn love and fidelity. Luther says: “As Moses calls the Jews Gods possession, so the Evangelist here calls them our Lord Christ’s possession, thereby to show, that Christ is very God, equal with the Father.” Τὰ? ἴ?δια signifies what is any one’s own. Thus it stands of the home, which is one’s own, in John 19:27; Acts 21:6. The LXX. uses τὰ? ἴ?δια for ביתו , in Esther 5:10; Esther 6:12. The Israelites appear, throughout the Old Testament, as the possession or inheritance of Jehovah. Cf. ex. gr. Exodus 19:5, “Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people.” Deuteronomy 7:6, “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself above all people that are on the face of the earth.” Psalms 135:4, “For the Lord hath chosen Jacob unto Himself, and Israel for His peculiar treasure.” Exodus 4:22-23; 2 Samuel 7:24. The Old Testament connection between these passages and our text, where Israel suddenly appears as the possession of Christ, is formed by the doctrine of the Angel of the Lord, the God-equal Revealer of God. The latter appears as the Lord and possessor of Israel in Exodus 3:2; Exodus 3:7. The temple, according to Malachi 3:1, belongs to the Lord, and to His covenant Angel. We are led to the conclusion, that in Jesus the Jehovah of the Old Testament is represented, by the whole teaching of the Evangelist concerning the Logos, who is no other than the Old Testament Angel of the Lord; and by the passages, John 12:41, John 8:56. Cf. my Christology, i. p. 46 sq. The other apostles also transfer to Christ, without further remark, whatever is said of Jehovah in the Old Testament: Christology, p. 65 sq. That Christ was sent first to the covenant people, He Himself bears witness in Matthew 15:24: οὐ?κ ἀ?πεστάλην εἰ? μὴ? εἰτὰ? πρόβατα τὰ? ἀ?πολωλότα οἴ κου Ἰ?σραήλ . A paraphrase of our text is given by John himself in John 12:37: “But though He had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him.”

The offence, which the fact of the unbelief of the covenant people might afford, the Evangelist counteracts in vers. 12, 13, by the glorious legitimation which Christ possesses in the noble gifts which He has imparted to believers in Him. If He has raised them to the highest of all dignities, that of sons of God, then here certainly the words of Deuteronomy 32:5 (margin) hold good: “[They are not] His children, that is their blot, a perverse and crooked generation.”

Verse 12

Ver. 12. “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in His name.”

The exact meaning is: as many as took Him. The taking, says the Berleb. Bibel, would never have come to pass, unless Christ had given Himself. Faith is designated as the medium of the taking, and this faith is in the name of Christ. The name of one is in Scripture the totality of his deeds. That Christ has a name, indicates that He, like the Jehovah of the Old Testament, in distinction from the nameless gods of the heathen, has not come with empty pretensions, but has made known His nature in deeds of power and love, and has in this way erected a banner, around which His Church may rally. Wherever in the Old Testament the sonship of God is spoken of, the intimateness only of the relation of love is taken into view: the abridged comparison which finds place in all such passages, is extended in Psalms 103:13, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.” If Israel, for example, is called the son of God, this means, that God loves him as heartily as a father does his child. Here, on the other hand, the conception of sonship rests on the spiritual generation, in which God, by an immediate operation, renders men conceived and born in sin partakers of the divine life. Of such a sonship the Old Testament knows nothing. Cf. my Comm. on Psalms 2:7. The profound importance of this gift imparted through Christ, is indicated by the words, “to them gave He power to become the sons of God.” Power over a thing is the capability of obtaining possession of it. So in Revelation 22:14, “Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right (power) over the tree of life.” The power over the tree of life is the capability of obtaining possession of it. In Revelation 2:26, power over the heathen signifies that one may freely rule over them. Here power forms the antithesis to the absolute weakness and incapability of the man who lives out of Christ to attain to the sonship of God. If we rightly reflected what there is in this “high honour, this unspeakable dignity and greatness” conferred on us by Christ, we should, as Luther says, “not trouble ourselves much about that which the world alone esteems high and great, much less strive thereafter.”

Verse 13

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

The proper antithesis is that between man and God: the preceding words, “of blood, nor of the will of the flesh,” refer to how little man has of himself; how wretched he is, who has no other birth than that effected by the help of man; how necessary the birth from God; how glorious the beneficence of Christ, who alone can procure us this birth. Where man is regarded as flesh and blood, which play so preponderant a part in the work of generation since the Fall (Lücke: “Blood, according to the view of the ancients, was the element and seat of the bodily life, and therefore of propagation), it is usually in a derogatory sense. So, e.g., in Matthew 16:17, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father, which is in heaven.” 1 Corinthians 15:50; Ephesians 6:12; Galatians 1:16; from which passages ours should not be separated. It is the same contrast which our Lord institutes between those who are born of flesh, and therefore are flesh, and those which are born of the Spirit. According to a widely extended supposition, the Evangelist is here putting to shame the pride of the Jews in their descent from Abraham, by opposing to their pretended nobility of birth, the real nobility of birth from God. “Hence,” says Luther, “John the Baptist punishes them severely for such pride in boasting that they were Abraham’s seed, and says, Think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father.” But nothing indicates such a reference; and the parallelism with ch. 3 is against it. The antithesis is simply that of the natural birth and the spiritual. Only the latter gives to life its true value. Man, created for God, is only then in his right element when he has become partaker of the Divine nature; and such a participation cannot proceed from natural generation, since by the Fall the flesh and blood in man have been brought into the foreground: that which comes of flesh and blood is flesh and blood, incapable of the higher life, or of true communion with God.

That in ver. 14 we have before us a new proposition, the proper acme of the Prologue, is clear from the fact, that here the Logos of the beginning returns. To the fullest expression of the mystery of the advent of Christ in the flesh, is added in vers. 15-18 the most sublime statement of the honours of Christ, and of the glorious gifts and graces which have been conferred through Him on the human race.

Verse 14

Ver. 14. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.”

“And the Word was made flesh.”

The and prefixed indicates that we have here no absolutely new beginning, but only the completion of that already begun, the definitive following the preparatory disclosures. “Flesh,” remarks Luther, “means in the Scriptures the whole man, as below, in John 3:6, it is said, What is born of the flesh is flesh; but body and soul are born of a woman, not a dead lump of flesh, but a living child, which has flesh and blood.” In what immediately precedes our text, flesh and blood are considered not as a single part of man, but the whole man is thus designated, because since the Fall these elements in man have come into the foreground. In John 17:2, “As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh,” all flesh means all that man is. In the Old Testament also, flesh stands very frequently for the whole man. A soul is attributed to the flesh in Leviticus 17:11; Deuteronomy 12:15; a spirit, in Job 12:10 (margin). The New Testament views Jesus only as a complete man. Cf. John 8:40. As such, He frequently designates Himself the Son of man. He is especially set before us as a complete man by the resurrection of Lazarus, in chap. 11. But why does John say, The “Word was made flesh, instead of, The Word was made man? The answer is furnished us by the passages of the Old Testament where, as here, there is an antithesis between flesh and God. In all such passages flesh has connected with it the idea of fallibility and weakness. So, e.g., in Psalms 56:4, “In God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.” The Psalmist—it was remarked on this passage—calls man flesh in contempt, because where there is corporeity, there is no true strength. Jo. Arnd says, “He places in contrast to each other the strong God and feeble flesh, which is as grass and as the flower of the field.” In Psalms 78:39, it is said, “For He remembered that they were flesh, a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.” In Isaiah 31:3, “Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit.” In Isaiah 40:6-8, “All flesh (all mankind) is grass, and all the goodliness thereof as the flower of the field, etc.,—but the Word of our God shall stand for ever.” This passage is especially connected with our text, since here also occurs the opposition between the flesh and the Word of God, which there indeed is impersonal, but here personal. This hitherto rude and absolute opposition has been reduced by the incarnation. From all this there can be no doubt that man is here designated as flesh to call attention to the depth of condescension in the Logos

His inexpressible goodness in so descending to our wretchedness, and in taking upon and into Himself our wretchedness, in order to render us partakers of His glory. “In our pauper flesh and blood clothes Himself the eternal Good.” This is the strongest of all motives to grateful self-consecration. That the expression flesh has this meaning, has been at all times recognised by the best expositors. Luther, e.g., says, “The Evangelist might have said. The Word was made man; but he does say, according to Scripture usage. He became flesh, to indicate weakness and mortality.” Calvin: Cum autem tanta sit distantia inter spiritualem Sermonis Dei gloriam et putidas carnis nostrae sordes, eousque tamen se Filius Dei submisit, ut carnem istam tot miseriis obnoxiam susciperet. The Berleb. Bibel: “The so sublimely described and majestic Word became miserable despised Flesh from pitying love.” There is a fulness of consolation in this fact, a balsam for the poor, terrified conscience. He who has clone and undertaken so much for man, cannot reject the penitent sinner. “And dwelt among us.”

This is properly, And tabernacled among us. The word σκηνόω , occurring in the New Testament only in John,—here, and four times in the Apocalypse, John 7:15, σκηνώσει ἐ?πʼ? αὐ τούς , John 12:12, John 13:6, John 21:3, καὶ? σκηνώσει μετʼ? αὐ τῶ?ν ,—means properly to tabernacle, and stands for the Heb. אחל , in the LXX. Genesis 13:12, ἐ?σκήνωσεν ἐ?ν Σοδόμοις . The strangeness of the expression would lead us to suppose that the Evangelist had some special ground for using it here. This lies in the allusion to the Heb. שכן ; and this allusion has deep practical significance, indicating that certain passages of the Old Testament, in which this word occurs, stand in a deeper practical connection with the present fact. It is said in Exodus 25:8, “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them;” in Exodus 29:45, “And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God; in Exodus 29:46, “That brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them.” (Cf. Psalms 74:2, “This mount Zion, wherein Thou hast dwelt.”) This dwelling of God among His people, which is necessarily included in the conception of the people of God, attained its full truth only in Christ,—the former dwelling in the temple being only a typical one. It is coincident with the allusion to the passages in Genesis and Exodus, that in John 2:21 Jesus appears as the substance, of which the temple was the foreshadowing type. That σκηνόω is copied from שכן can be the less doubted, since Aquila, in Exodus 24:16, “And the glory of the Lord abode upon Mount Sinai,” for a like reason renders שכן by ἐ?σκήνωσε ; since Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion have σκήνωσω in Exodus 25:8; and since the temple in Ezra ( Ezra 2:68?), on account of the indwelling of God, the Shekinah, and in allusion to this word, is called σκήνωμα Θεοῦ? . As the words, “I will dwell among the children of Israel,” point forwards to our text, “and dwelt among us,” so this again contains the germ and warrant of the words, “He shall dwell among them,” Revelation 7:15, and “He will dwell with them,” in Revelation 21:3. That the Word has dwelt with us in this troubled world, is our guaranty that once in the heavenly blessedness, and finally in the kingdom of glory on the transfigured earth. He will dwell among His people. “In the New Jerusalem,” it was remarked on Revelation 21:3, “the presence of God among His people proves itself so glorious, as to put everything previous in the shade. The words, He will dwell with them, have regard to the words. He dwelt among us, John 1:14. The latter declaration is the secure foundation for the former.” The Berleburger Bibel says, “The thing itself points us back to all that occurs in the Old Testament of a dwelling-place, and stretches forward to the last times, when that will be accomplished in the members of Christ, for which He became man. Revelation 21:3.”

“And we beheld His glory.”

The Apostle speaks in the plural, because he wishes to designate not only his own personal experiences, but those of the entire Church, in so far as it consisted of “eye-witnesses of the Word,” Luke 1:2. A similar use of the plural is found in John 21:24, and 1 John 1:1. Luther remarks, “This His teaching, preaching, miracles, and marvellous deeds have shown us; so that, whoever was not blinded and hardened by the devil, as were the high priests and scribes, could perceive that He was by nature God; as He Himself proves by His words and deeds, in restoring the sick, and calling to life the dead, and, in fine, in performing so great and so many signs and wonders, as would be impossible for any other man.” Here, again, there is a significant resemblance to the Old Testament,—one of those fine “hints” in which the Gospel of John, in harmony with the Apocalypse, is so rich. Isaiah says, in chap. Isaiah 40:5, in the announcement of the Messianic times, “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together;” and in Isaiah 66:18, “It shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see My glory.” LXX.: καὶ? ἥ?ξουσιν καὶ? ὄ?ψονται τὴδόξαν μου . “The glory of the Lord which the heathen shall behold, is His glorious revelation and presence, which, hitherto concealed, is now unveiled.” Cf. also John 9:2: “But the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee.” The allusion to these passages rests on the intuition, that in Christ has appeared the Jehovah of the Old Covenant,—an intuition which the Apostle immediately afterwards expresses openly, in designating Christ as the only-begotten Son of God.

“The glory as of the only-begotten of the Father.”

The Berleb. Bibel says, “It was such as is conformable to so sublime a Person, and so sublime an office.” Ὡ?ς compares the reality with the idea, the experienced with what was to be expected. Μονογενής is the only-begotten in the sense of only Son. It occurs in the New Testament elsewhere, only of the only child of earthly parents: of Christ, only in John here, in John 3:16; John 3:18, 1 John 4:9. The ground of this usage is probably to be found in Zechariah 12:10, where Christ is not indeed directly called an only-begotten, but is yet compared with one: “And they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for the only [son]; and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for the first-born.” Christ being designated as the only-begotten, after that, shortly before, the dignity of all believers is placed in this, that they are sons of God, He must be the Son of God in a very special, only sense,—not by grace, but by nature; so that His sonship does not lie in a line with that of believers, but is its ground and condition. Luther says: “This is the first time that John calls the Word the only-begotten Son of the Father. In this thou hearest clearly and distinctly that the Word which was from everlasting with the Father, and is the light of men, is called the Son, yea, the only-begotten Son of God. . . . God has many other sons and children, but only One is the only-begotten, of whom it is said, that all was made by Him: the other sons are not the Word, by which all things were made; but they were created by this only-begotten Son, who, like the Father, is the Creator of heaven and earth. The others all become sons by this only-begotten Son, who is our Lord and God, and we are called many-begotten sons: but this is alone the only-begotten Son, whom He has begotten in the Godhead from everlasting. So now the Word by which all things are created and preserved, has become flesh, that is, man. And by this, that He has become man, and yet was the Lord of glory from everlasting, we poor men, who believe in His name, become sons of God, and God becomes our Father; but He is alone the only-begotten Son, as St Paul says, by whom God forms, rules, and makes all things. He is far above all adopted children. He has His own special glory from the Father.” The only-begotten of the Father, is the only-begotten who comes from the Father.

“Full of grace and truth.”

The expositors for the most part join these words to the beginning of the verse. But the assumption that the words καὶ? ἐ?θεασάμεθαπατρός are a parenthesis, is manifestly an unfounded one. They have an independent meaning as much as the other contents of the verse, and acquire especial significance by the reference to Isaiah 40:5. The nominative πλήρης does not require the assumption of a parenthesis. We have an abridged relative sentence; “(which is) full:” Buttmann, S. 68. The Apocalypse furnishes a large number of such constructions (e.g., John 1:5); and the Prologue is, for obvious reasons, that part of the Gospel which is most closely” connected in style with the Apocalypse. We have here again a noteworthy reference to the Old Testament. In Exodus 34:6, it is said, in the fundamental definition of the essence of Jehovah, which Moses receives from Jehovah Himself: Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth—רב חסד ואמת ; the LXX. πολυέλεος καὶ? ἀ?ληθινὸ?ς . Knobel renders: “great in love and faithfulness.” This, however, is not אמת , but אמונה . Truth is more comprehensive than fidelity. The words, “abundant in truth,” declare that in God there is no mere seeming; that He is entirely what He is; as it were, thoroughly God; therefore, is never behind the expectations which His own cherish of Him,—gives no promises which He does not keep, awakes no hopes which He does not satisfy, never forsakes His own in times of difficulty. Here, also, that is transferred to Christ, without further explanation, which in the Old Testament is declared of Jehovah, from the intuition expressed in ver. 18, that every revelation of the Father is through the medium of the Son; therefore, that the self-revealing Jehovah of the Old Covenant must be identical with Christ. It might be supposed that Micah 7:20 also is to be viewed as an original passage, together with Exodus 34:6, “Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which Thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.” But the truth is, our text refers only to Exodus 34, and ver. 17 to Micah. Here mercy and truth appear to be the property of the Person; but, on the other hand, in ver. 17, as in Micah, the gift which He bestows. As Christ is here designated as rich in truth, and as He calls Himself the Truth in John 14:6, so He appears in the Apocalypse, John 3:7, John 19:11, as the True. This is a designation which raises Him far above the stage of humanity, and presupposes omnipotence and true divinity. All that is created is lacking in truth, and is affected by the difference between being and seeming, between word and deed, between belief and reality. He who in the world of the seeming has a longing after the true existence, finds satisfaction only when he lifts his heart to the Father and the Son, who have the fulness of truth in common.

Verse 15

Ver. 15. “John bare witness of Him, and cried, saying, This was He of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me; for He was before me.”

The thought is the pre-mundane existence of Christ, His superhuman nature and dignity. That the testimony of John is subordinate, is shown by the manner in which the Evangelist, in ver. 16, connects his own train of thought with the declaration of the Baptist. The declaration, that Christ is unconditionally exalted above the humanity, whose highest bearer is John, stands very suitably between the words, “full of grace and truth,” and, “and of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.” The same declaration of John the Baptist, which is here applied in the connection of the Prologue, recurs in ver. 30, in the historical connection. From this we perceive, that it was made at the baptism of Christ, at which the Baptist received the divine certainty that Jesus was the Messiah, for whose advent he had prepared the way without knowing Him. Μαρτυρέω occurs some thirty times in the Gospel of John,—in the Gospel and the Epistles, more frequently than in all the other writings of the New Testament together. The verb is not found in this Apocalypse. The noun μαρτυρία , however, is a bond of connection between all the writings of John. The present tense stands here, because the ever valid testimony of John may be given as in the present. The perfect κέκραγεν designates the historical sphere, in which this testimony was first given. John cried: the loud voice is the outward representation of confidence and decision; indecision has a low voice. Cf. John 11:43; Revelation 7:2. John has said previously, before the baptism of Christ, and before he knew Him with divine certainty as the Messiah, “He who cometh after me, was before me.” After he had seen Christ, and had received the Divine revelation that it was He, he says: This is He of whom I said, etc.; for He was before me;” so that πρῶ τός μου ἦ?ν should be separated by a colon from the preceding words. “He was before me,” is covered in substance by “He is preferred before me,” and cannot therefore be considered as a part of the earlier speech of John. Christ, who now stands bodily before him, was, according to the testimony received from God, earlier than John, and this forms the ground of his identity with Him who was previously designated by John. The correctness of this view, which obviates the unpleasant necessity of subtilizing on the words ἔ?μπροσθέν μου γέγονεν , is favoured by the fact, that in ver. 27, where the earlier utterance of the Baptist is quoted, to which he here refers (ὃ?ν εἶ πον ), the words ὅ?τι πρῶ τός μου ἦ?ν are wanting, and are found only in ver. 30, where the declaration of John at the baptism of Christ is quoted.

The words, “He that cometh after me is preferred before me,” rest on Malachi 3:1, “Behold, I will send My messenger, and he shall prepare the way before Me.” On the one hand is the messenger, John, the forerunner of the Messiah; but on the other, the Messiah, as the predecessor of the messenger: for He it is who sends him, and causes His way to be prepared by him. The phrase, ἔ?μπροσθέν μου γέγονεν , is referred by many expositors to dignity. But ἔ?μπροσθέν , so frequent in the New Testament, never occurs of a precedence in dignity; and no ground is afforded for this interpretation, either by Genesis 48:20, or by the parallel passages from classic authors adduced by Lücke, after the example of Lampe. Moreover, besides the usage of the language, the reference to Malachi 3:1 is decisive against this interpretation. When the Baptist, on the basis of a profounder exposition of this passage, refers the ἔ?μπροσθέν , which in one place is applied to him, and in the other is assigned by him to Christ, to the Messiah (cf. Matthew 11:10; Luke 7:27, where also the declaration of Malachi is repeated: Ἰ?δοὺ? ἀ?ποστέλλω τὸ?ν ἄ?γγελόν μου πρὸ? προσώπου σου , ὃ?ς κατασκευάσει τὴ?ν ὁ?δόν σου ἔ?μπροσθέν σου ), the point of this reference would be lost, if ἔ?μπροσθέν were not used in the same meaning as in the prophecy. But that in this it is not a precedence in dignity which is spoken of, is manifest. Others interpret: “has been before me;” γίνομαι with the meaning of to be, as in Luke 1:5; 2 Peter 2:1. As to sense, this interpretation is correct. Even against this, however, there arise etymological considerations. Ἔ?μπροσθέν does indeed occur in the Apocrypha frequently as an adverb and preposition with the genitive—of time, e.g., ἔ?μπροσθέν ἐ?τῶπλειόνων , Esdr. John 6:14. In the New Testament, however, it occurs always of place, as Bengel has already pointed out. And if this reason is not fully decisive, it is strengthened by the fact, that even in the original passage, לפני , ἔ?μπροσθέν μου , stands in the local sense, designating the Baptist as the fore-runner of Christ. Accordingly, we must also render our text, “has preceded me,”—the relation of time being, as is so frequently the case, presented in the form of the relation of space. It does not appear that πρῶ τός stands for πρότερος , as is usually assumed (Buttmann 74). Much rather is designated the absolute priority which Christ has in relation to John. It seems evident that the sense would be a feeble one, if πρότερος stood here instead of πρῶ τός .

Verse 16

Ver. 16. “And of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.”

Instead of καὶ? is found ὅ?τι in important critical authorities. But the ὅ?τι before and after has doubtless attracted that in the middle. The assumption, that ver. 15 is a parenthesis, is harsh; and the ὅ?τι could not be suitably referred to ver. 15. But, on the other hand, the and is quite in place. After the Evangelist has quoted what John testified of Christ, he adds what the Saviour has procured, and is, in the experience of all believers; after he has designated Him by the words of the Baptist, as exalted above all men, he relates how this exaltation is proved in this, that His fulness, like that of God ( Psalms 65:10), suffices for all who will take of it. In ἐ?λάβομεν , the Evangelist speaks, as in John 21:24, in the name of all believers. After καὶ? χάριν we must supply ἐ?λάβομεν . That grace is received instead of grace, indicates that a new grace always comes in the place of the old one; that Christ is not rich once or occasionally for His people, and then allows them to hunger and suffer want again, but that they shall constantly drink anew of the good things of His house. It is parallel with “grace for grace,” when the praise is given to the Jehovah of the Old Covenant, that He is constantly giving to His people occasion to sing a new song, in consequence of a new work, a new revelation of His glory. It is a mistake to interpret here of the evangelical grace of the New Testament, which has succeeded the grace of the law under the Old Covenant. The expositions of Augustine

The grace of life for the grace of faith, and of Bernard

The grace of glory for the grace of the Church militant (gratiam gloriae pro gratia militiae), are too restricted, but are quite suitable, as a part or sample of the whole. In the transition from existence here to that beyond, which leads through the valley of the shadow of death, these words, “grace for grace,” prove especially glorious. It is a happy exchange of the one grace of preservation in the journey through the wilderness of life, for the other, when the believer stands before the throne of God, and serves Him day and night in His temple, where no sun shall smite him, nor any heat, but the Lamb shall lead him, and guide him by living waters. Cf. 1 John 3:2, Ἀ?γαπητοί , νῦτέκνα θεοῦ? ἐ?σμεν , καὶ? οὔ πω ἐ?φανερώθη τί ἐ?σόμεθα . οἴ δαμεν ὅ?τι ἐ?ὰ?ν φανερωθῇ? , ὅ?μοιοι αὐ τῷ? ἐ?σόμεθα , ὅ?τι ὀ?ψόμεθα αὐ τὸκαθώς ἐ?στι . That also is grace for grace, when in this earthly life we receive, instead of refreshing grace ( Psalms 23:3), the grace of the cross, in more efficient preparation for the grace of glory.

Verse 17

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

Even the giving of the law was accompanied by operations of grace, partly in order to render possible its fulfilment, partly to reward obedience. Even for the Old Testament it was no empty title, when God is designated in Exodus 34:6 as “abundant in goodness.” The prophet, in Isaiah 63:7, extols the Lord for His great goodness towards Israel during the whole course of history. How could the praise of the law, as sweeter than honey and the honey-comb, etc., in Psalms 19, be explained, if law and grace form an absolute antithesis? But in comparison with the grace which has come by Christ, that prevalent under the Old Covenant disappears so completely, that the Evangelist may ignore it, and represent the antithesis, relative in itself, as absolute, just as in the preceding verses light is represented as coming first into the world with the advent of Christ. In general, the law is given to men as a schoolmaster to Christ, Galatians 3:24—to make them feel their misery and need of redemption; but grace is offered to those, who have thus become weary and heavy laden, first by Christ. Such an opposition of the Old and New Covenants, of the law and Gospel, was already intimated by prophecy in Jeremiah 31:31-40. Cf. Christology, ii, p. 432. It was there remarked, among other things, “Since the New Covenant is not to be like the former, the advantages of the New must be so many deficiencies of the Old. Now, these advantages are all purely spiritual: first, forgiveness of sins; then, the writing of the law in the heart.” Luther says: “Thus John drives us from confidence and comfort in our own works and merit, and leads us to the grace of Christ and the love of God, not alone here in this text, but through his whole Gospel and Epistles. As if he would say: What does God regard I what moves Him to be favourable to you, to remit sins? Does He do it for the sake of your sacrifices, circumcision, or the worship which you perform in His temple? No, it is something other than this which God regards. He is gracious and merciful for the sake of this unspeakable grace of His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, because Christ is in perfect grace before God: this same grace we enjoy, and are therefore acceptable to God for the Lord Christ’s sake; He becomes gracious to us, for the sake of His beloved Son. Ephesians 1:7.

It is grace, that God is gracious and merciful to us, and shows Himself gracious, for the sake of the Lord Christ, and forgives all sins—will not reckon them unto eternal death. As if He would say, The law is indeed a law of life, justice, and all good, as given by Moses; but by Christ something more has happened: He comes and fills the empty bag and empty hand, and brings what the law instructs and requires of us. If we could have kept the law, grace would not have been necessary for us to receive grace for grace.” In these remarks of Luther grace is referred too exclusively to the forgiveness of sins—certainly the fundamental benefit—instead of to the fulness of gifts and graces, of which we have become partakers through the beneficence of Christ.

With grace is connected truth. Lücke remarks, “By this is attributed to the law not untruth, ψεῦ δος , but imperfection in the revelation of the truth.” But it is not this that is treated of. The truth is wanting to the law, because grace is; this is the true gift. The law is untrue, when complete satisfaction of religious need is sought in it. No blame, however, attaches to the law on this account. It is not according to the purpose of God to afford such absolute satisfaction. It is not the end of the ways of God with His people, but the beginning. It is not to quicken, but to render weary and heavy laden. “The law,” says the Berleburger Bibel, “must precede, and as a schoolmaster to Christ, Galatians 3:24, like John prepare the way.” It is not yet the revelation of truth in the sphere of religion—he who has merely the law, since he possesses not grace, also possesses not that which is truly satisfying, that is adequate to the idea—but it is the necessary condition of the revelation of the truth.

It is of purpose that the name Jesus Christ meets us at the end of the Prologue. The Berleb. Bibel: “Now, the principal person of the New Testament must be named as Moses is named. Hitherto this name has been reserved.” With the words, “the law came by Moses,” is to be compared Deuteronomy 33:4, “Moses commanded us a law,” and with “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,” Micah 7:20, and the concluding words of ver. 14.

Verse 18

Ver. 18. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.”

Between vers. 17 and 18, as there is no connecting particle, so there is also no closer dependence. The gift of Christ is presented from another side. Luther: “Therefore all stands entirely on the Son: no man even knows anything of God, but such as is revealed to him by the Son, who fully knows the Fathers heart, that the whole world may be brought under the Lord Christ, and be subject to Him; for without Him no one can be saved.” He who is without Christ is excluded from the knowledge of God, and thus from the source of all salvation and blessedness. This is a proposition which is testified to not less loudly by experience, than by the word of God. Christ, by His personal advent and His revelation in the word, has brought nigh the being of God, and thus rendered a connection with Him possible. He who will go to God, let him turn to Christ; for he who sees Him, sees the Father.

It is a question whether the proposition, “No man has seen God at any time,” is to be united with passages like Genesis 16:13, “And she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her. The visible God;” Genesis 32:30, “And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel; for I have seen God face to face, and my life [soul] is preserved;” Exodus 24:10, according to which the elders of the people “saw the God of Israel;” Numbers 12:8, where Moses beholds the similitude of God. The assertion, that these passages are to be explained and limited by Exodus 33, where, in harmony with our declaration, God is said to be invisible, is not to the point. For both there and here, it is not the absolute invisibility of God that is maintained, but only, that no man can bear the full splendour of the Divine glory. The prayer of Moses, “Show me Thy glory,” is heard only with a restriction. The correct answer is, that by the opposition to the Son, God is here more exactly distinguished as God the Father, who is expressly named in the parallel passages, John 6:46, οὐ?χ ὅ?τι τὸπατέρα ἑ?ώρακέν· εἰ? μὴ? ὁ? ὢ?ν παρὰ? τοῦ? Θεοῦ? , οὗ τος ἑ?ώρακε τὸπατέρα , and John 14:6, οὐ δεὶ?ς ἔ?ρχεται πρὸτὸπατέρα εἰ? μὴ? διʼ? ἐ?μοῦ? : as also in the declaration of Christ, Matthew 11:27, πάντα μοι παρεδόθη ὑ?πὸ? τοῦ? πατρός μου , καὶ? οὐ δεὶ?ς ἐ?πιγινώσκει τὸυἱ?ὸ?ν εἰ? μὴ? ὁ? πατήρ , οὐ δὲ? τὸπατέρα τις ἐ?πιγινώσκει εἰ? μὴ? ὁ? υἱ?ὸ?ς καὶ? ᾧ? ἐ?ὰ?ν βούληται ὁ? υἱ?ὸ?ς ἀ?ποκαλύψαι , is contained the doctrine of the unconditionally necessary mediation of every knowledge of God (the passage shows that by seeing is here designated, in an individualizing manner, the entire knowledge of God) by the Son. The Old Testament passages, however, do not refer to God the Father. Through the whole of the Old Testament runs the doctrine of the Angel of the Lord, whose mediation is to be understood, wherever God enters into relations to mortals, even when there is no express mention of it. For the passages which mention it distinctly rest on the conception, that there is a necessity in the nature of God, that He should not make Himself known without such mediation. In the two first of the passages quoted, we can specially prove that God was beheld through the mediation of His angel. In Genesis 16:7, it is previously said, “And the Angel of the Lord found her;” and according to Hosea 12, it was the Angel of the Lord who met Jacob in Peniel. Besides which, the “Invisible God,” 1 Timothy 1:17, has not a double mediator—under the Old Covenant the Angel of the Lord, under the New, the only-begotten Son, so that to the latter is impaired the honour of only partially declaring” the being of God,—but in the Angel of the Lord is represented the Logos Himself, in the prelude to His incarnation. On this conception proceeds the Old Testament itself, when it announces in Zechariah and Malachi, that in the Messiah the Angel of the Lord would appear among His people. And John follows this conception, when in ver. 11 he says that the Messiah came to His own; and in John 12:41, that Isaiah saw Christ.

Since in the New Testament there are undeniable cases of the extinction of the difference between εἰ?ς and ἐ?ν (Buttmann 287), we are not to refine with respect to εἰτὸκόλπον : it is simply equivalent to ἐ?ν τοῖκόλποις , Luke 16:23; ἐ?ν τῷ? κόλπῳ? , John 13:23. In human relations, the intimacy of the relation is indicated by bodily nearness. In Deuteronomy 13:6; Deuteronomy 28:56, Micah 7:5, the wife or husband of one’s bosom is spoken of, to denote the intimacy of the conjugal relation. The nursing father bears the suckling in his bosom, Numbers 11:12; Isaiah 40:11. Here the expression of such human relations is borrowed, to designate the intimateness of the relation of the Son to the Father: correspondent in substance to πρὸτὸΘεόν , in ver. 1. Luther: “The Son lies in the bosom and arms of the Father, and is so near to Him, that He certainly knows what the Father has concluded in His heart.” It is not said, which was in the bosom of the Father, but which is in the bosom of the Father. The closeness of the relation which is designated by the being in the bosom of the Father, was not disturbed by the incarnation. Against the assertion, that John had in mind the exalted Christ who has returned to the bosom of the Father, John 3:13 is decisive, where the Son of God in His abasement designates Himself as in heaven; as also the words, “I and My Father are one.” So soon as we are really in earnest with respect to the divinity of Christ, it becomes a matter of course that the intimateness of His relation to God cannot have been essentially altered by the incarnation.

Verse 19

John 1:19-28 . The Testimony of John before the Baptism of Christ

Ver. 19. “And this is the record of John.”

The commencement with And intimates that the general narrative stands in essential connection with the Prologue,—that both are only single parts of one inwardly united whole. Such a commencement was the more natural, since already, in the Prologue, John, and the witness which he bore to Christ, had been spoken of, vers. 15, 6-8. Yet the testimony here is not identical with that in ver. 15. Of the latter we have the account much rather in ver. 30: it is that given after the baptism, which applies to the Saviour as already appeared and made manifest. The testimony here was given “when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem, to ask him. Who art thou?” It is characteristic of John, that he employs with unusual frequency the designation οἱ? Ἰ?ουδαῖ οι , by which he is distinguished from Matthew and his two successors. We learn from this, that John is writing at a distance from Palestine, and especially for believers from among the heathen; and that then the separation of the Christian Church from the fellowship of the Jewish nation was already an accomplished fact. John also knows himself to be separated from the Jews, and regards them as a foreign body, in harmony with the Apocalypse, where the Jews, in Revelation 2:9 and Revelation 3:9, appear as the συναγωγὴ? τοῦ? Σατανᾶ? , a community entirely uncongenial to the author. Moreover, in the Gospel, the name of Jews does not of itself designate “the party in opposition to the Son of God.” This assumption does not suit even our passage, since the embassy has here no intention whatever inimical to Christ. Still less in John 2:6, κατὰ? τὸκαθαρισμὸτῶ?ν Ἰ?ουδαίων : John 2:13, τὸ? πάσχα τῶ?ν Ἰ?ουδαίων : John 3:1, ἄ?ρχων τῶ?ν Ἰ?ουδαίων : John 5:1, ἑ?ορτὴ? τῶ?ν Ἰ?ουδαίων : John 6:4; John 8:31, where Jews are spoken of, who believed in Christ. The name is in itself indifferent. If it stands repeatedly where acts inimical to the Son of God are spoken of, this is to be explained by the fact, that the Jewish national spirit took more and more this direction. The Jews are here represented by the highest national court, the Chief Council. It cannot be doubted, that by the embassy to the Baptist, with which the message to Christ corresponds as to form, they complied with the duty and obligation of their office. Concerning the disposition from which the embassy proceeded, we have an authentic declaration in John 5:33-35, where our Lord says to the Jews, “Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth.

He was a burning and shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.” According to this, the Chief Council at that time regarded the appearance of the Baptist with pleasure. The higher the dignity he ascribed to himself, the dearer was he to them. They regarded his greatness as their own, the highness of his office as a pledge of the elevation of their people from the dust of abasement. The embassy proceeding from such a spirit, is a testimony that at that time the expectation, founded on the prophecies of Daniel, of the nearness of the Messianic kingdom, had seized upon the minds of the people. Otherwise they would not have gone on the presupposition that the Baptist must, or could be, either the Messiah, or one of His immediate predecessors. Moreover, the Chief Council desires, at first, only to know what the Baptist declares of himself. The further examination they reserve to themselves, and would not certainly have been too hasty in their decision, whatever the answer of John had proved to be. The Jews sent from Jerusalem—the religious centre, the high watch-tower, from which all phenomena of religious life in the country were beheld and watched over—priests and Levites. Since all priests were at the same time Levites, it might be assumed that the priests and Levites were personally identical,—as much as to say, Levitic priests. The Old Testament mentions in a series of passages the Levitic priests; and for this the LXX. has in Joshua 3:3; Joshua 8:33; Isaiah 66:21, ἱ?ερεῖκαὶ? Λευίτας , which is perhaps to be explained by Deuteronomy 27:9 where the LXX. has καὶ? ἐ?λεύσῃ? πρὸτοὺ ςς Λευίτας , and Deuteronomy 18:1, οὐ?κ ἔ?σται τοῖ?ς ἱ?ερεῦ σιν τοῖΛευίταις . A mission of priests, and of Levites distinct from them, occurs also in 2 Chronicles 17:7-9. Jehoshaphat, in the third year of his reign, sends out five princes with nine Levites and two priests, who were to visit all the cities of Judah, “and had the book of the law of the Lord with them,” out of which they were to instruct the Lord’s people. The Levites on this mission taught, no less than the priests. There are also not wanting traces elsewhere, that the office assigned in Deuteronomy 33:10 to the tribe of Levi, of teaching the people the judgments of the Lord, was realized not only by the priests, but also by the common Levites, who, as it seems, were on this very account distributed over the whole country, that they might be able to fulfil this office. In 2 Chronicles 35:3, the Levites are designated as those who taught all Israel; and in Nehemiah 8:7, a number of Levites are particularly named, who expounded the law to the people in the public assembly. It appears that the Levites pursued the course open to them of the study of the law all the more diligently, since only in this sphere they could attain to a certain equality of rank with the priests, to whom was exclusively granted the higher service of the sanctuary. This is favoured by the number of Levites in the mission of Jehoshaphat, compared with that of the priests. The scribes, the γραμματεῖ?ς—an expression which John avoids—were certainly, if not of the number of the priests, for the most part Levites. Before the forum of these belonged, according to Matthew 17:10, the present question. The question, Who art thou? has, according to the answer of John, another at the background: Art thou indeed the Christ? According to Luke 3:15, all were at this time revolving in their hearts the question, whether John were indeed the Christ. But not without cause did the deputies ask it in so reserved a manner. There were such important scriptural reasons against John’s being the Christ—especially the descent from David, so expressly testified in Scripture, while John was of the priestly race—that they could not ask the question openly. The very fact that they ask so reservedly, shows that they are, indeed, conscious of the opposing grounds. They might not, however, regard the matter beforehand as settled. For this, their desire for the appearance of the Messiah was too great, the proofs of the spirit and power which John had given too apparent, and the exposition of Old Testament prophecy subject to too many vacillations, especially in the condition of exegesis at that time. Before they entered more deeply into the matter, they would, at all events, first have the declaration of John himself. They would not, however, so far bind themselves, as by an open and unreserved question to admit the possibility of John’s being the Christ. The answer of John is quoted in ver. 20, with the words, “And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed.” The second ὡ?μολόγησε resumes the first; by which it is indicated that the emphasis rests on ὡ?μολόγησε , and that καὶ? οὐ?κ ἠ?ρνήσατο occupies only a tributary position, and is to bring into view the importance of the confession, by hinting the possibility of another course, and the inducement thereto. Luther says, “He repeats once more, and says: and denied not, but confessed. Without doubt, that thus he might praise the rare firmness of John in a great temptation, by which he was tempted to a great fall from the truth. And regard the circumstances. It is as though the whole people came to him, and offered him the honour. O what a wind was that! How it would have puffed up, where it found a mere worldly heart!” It appears that the Evangelist alludes to the declaration of the Lord in Matthew 10:32-33: Whosoever therefore shall confess Me, etc., and, But whosoever shall deny Me, etc. John had acted in the spirit of this declaration, even before it was made. If he had not denied that he was Christ, he would have denied Christ. Luther: “Their design was, that he should deny Christ, and should not confess himself who he was. But because he adheres firmly to this, and confesses what he is, and is not, his work is before God a rare confession, and not a denial.”

John says, “I am not the Christ.” According to the best authorized reading, ἐ?γὼ? stands first, emphatically. In this emphasis, there is a preparation for ver. 26. With Elias stands merely οὐεἰ μὶ? . There was no other. Augustine says on this answer of the Baptist, “My brethren, the greatest merit which John had was that humility, that, when he might have deceived the people, and allowed himself to be taken for Christ (for of such grace and excellence was he), he yet confessed openly, and said, I am not the Christ.” Quesnel: “A truly humble man rejoices when he finds opportunity to make himself known as what he is, by scattering the false conceptions which have been formed of him. He does it simply, distinctly, energetically, without leaving any ambiguity. He has nothing to do with certain refusals, when one holds back with the one hand that which he throws away with the other, and when one, without divesting himself of the honour of the rank which he without right occupies in the minds of others, wishes to enjoy that also of humility.”

Verses 19-34

In harmony with the three first Gospels, which, before the account of the public appearance of Christ, speak of the preparatory agency of the Baptist, here also the narrative, which follows the Prologue, and continues to the end of chap. 20, begins with John the Baptist. A double testimony is quoted, which he bore to Christ. In the first, vers. 19-28, John points from himself to Christ before the baptism; in the second, vers. 29-34, he declares, not on his own authority, but on the ground of Divine revelation, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

It is entirely incorrect to ascribe to John in this section the purpose of refuting the opinion of the later disciples of John, that the Baptist himself was the Messiah. The pursuit of such trivial objects, any regard for such obscure after-growths, does not suit the lofty spirit of this Gospel. We learn the real object from the address of our Lord to the Jews, in ver. 33, “Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth,” even as the object of the account of the marriage at Cana, in John 2:1-11, is fixed by the declaration of Christ immediately following this ( John 5:36), “But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given Me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of Me.” The higher the position of John, the man who came in the spirit and power of Elijah, whose prophetic gift shone clearly, and gained for itself universal recognition, the more weighty was his testimony for Christ, which the more expressly indicated its origin from above, the deeper John abased himself to exalt Christ. To the Evangelist this testimony must have appeared the more significant, since he himself had been first pointed by it to Christ, since he himself had experienced in his heart the power of this testimony, and had by it been first led to recognise Christ as the Lamb of God. This definition of the object of the section is in harmony with the object of the whole Gospel, as set forth by the Evangelist himself in John 20:31, “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through His name.”

The view current at present Is, that the baptism of Christ, which Is not related by John, had taken place before the embassy of the Chief Council to the Baptist, of which we have the account In vers. 19-28. But this view we must decidedly reject. The testimony of John to Christ In vers. 19-28, which abstains from any more exact designation of the person of Christ, loses its distinction from that in vers. 29-34—which declares. In this man the Messiah presents Himself, whose advent I have before announced to you,—if we erroneously suppose that it was given before the baptism of Christ, and before the appearance of the Holy Spirit. The Baptist would not have performed his office of witness, If, after the baptism, he had spoken so Indefinitely of Christ, without In any way indicating His person. This would be an unworthy game at hide and seek. Further, John, in vers. 19-28, still stands manifestly in the foreground, as was the case before the baptism of Christ. The mission of John, is then still the question with which all minds are occupied. There is significance also in the undeniable relationship of the declaration of John here in vers. 19-28, with that in Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16. As to form, indeed, the utterances are different. The Baptist speaks here to the deputies of the Chief Council; there, to the multitudes who came to hiss baptism, Luke 3:7, as it was very natural that the Baptist should variously repeat the simple contents of his message. But as to the matter, there is a striking resemblance, which especially makes itself known in this, that here, as there, the agency of the Messiah appears as a purely future one. This utterance of John, however, is set expressly in the time before the baptism. Finally, it can scarcely be subject to a doubt, that the coming of Jesus to the Baptist, which is spoken of in ver. 29 (τῇ? ἐ?παύριον βλέπει τὸ?ν Ἰ?ησοῦ?ν ἐ?ρχόμενον πρὸαὐ τὸ?ν ), is no other than the coming of Jesus to the baptism, of which the other Evangelists speak; cf. especially Matthew 3:13, τότε παραγίνεται ὁ? Ἰ?ησοῦ?ς ἀ?πὸ? τῆΓαλιλαίας ἐ?πὶ? τὸ?ν Ἰ?ορδάνην πρὸτὸ?ν Ἰ?ωάννην τοῦ? βαπτισθῆ ναι ὑ?πʼ? αὐ τοῦ? : so that thus John, after his delicate manner of reference to his predecessors, whom he wishes to supplement, and especially to the first Apostle among the Evangelists, expressly indicates the passage where his narrative attaches itself to the earlier accounts. If we misapprehend this, there is not in John any object or result of the coming of Christ to the Baptist. A mere conversation is the less to be thought of, since none of the Evangelists say anything of an immediate intercourse of Christ with John—the only personal contact, and the only conversation which they mention, is that at the baptism—since also ver. 36 here shows that the two men of God did not seek, but avoided closer personal intercourse; which is explained by the fact, that the divine mission of the Baptist and the significance of his testimony came so much the more into light, the more his position was an isolated one.

Among the arguments which have been brought forward for the view now current, there is only one which can have much weight. Even Lampe insists that “John numbers the days which follow the manifestation of Christ in vers. 29-34, in such an uninterrupted series, that there is no space left for the fast and temptation, which the other Evangelists place immediately after the baptism.” And Lücke says, “If the different ἐ?παύριον in chap. 1, and on the third day, in John 2:1, are taken strictly and referred to each other, it is impossible to find any place for the forty days temptation after John 1:19 sq.” But the temptation of Christ finds a very suitable place in the time which Jesus spent with His disciples in the land of Judaea, John 3:22. It is much more intelligible, if Jesus had already made a commencement with His signs, and with the manifestation of His glory. Chap. John 4:2 is parallel with the section, Matthew 4:12 sq., which follows immediately on the narrative of the temptation. The εὐ θὺ?ς of Mark, in Mark 1:12, does not surely exclude the intervention of some time between the baptism and temptation of Christ, and of a series of events which are passed over by Mark, after the example of Matthew.

Excellently remarks Lampe: “Godʼ? s special providence shines forth in this, that immediately before Jesus was perceived by John as present, the magistrates of the Jews must themselves give occasion to the bearing of this witness, whereby a new way was prepared for the coming Jesus.” As regards the Baptist, it was for him the reward of the fidelity with which he “confessed and denied not,” that immediately thereupon it was granted him to behold the Saviour and to baptize Him, to receive the Divine testimony for Him, and to be entrusted with the promulgation of the same, to the everlasting preservation of his memory in the Church of God.

Verses 19-51

The Prologue of the Gospel is followed by the general narrative, the conclusion of which, at the end of chap. 20, has repeatedly been taken for the conclusion of the whole, and then by the conclusion correspondent with the Prologue, in chap. 21. The general narrative has two principal parts, the second beginning with John 13:1. The whole of the general narrative falls into seven groups: the first part into four, the second into three. Of the four groups of the first part, the first, our section, contains the early ministrations of Jesus in Peraea and Galilee, in the order of the same prophecy which Matthew, in Matthew 4:15, takes for his starting-point, by which he, the first Apostle among the Evangelists, following Mark and Luke, was appointed to make the activity of Christ in Galilee and Peraea, rather than the history of the Passion, the subject of his presentation, Isaiah 9:1, where the principal scene of Christ’s ministrations is designated as “the way of the sea,” that is the general—“beyond Jordan, Galilee of the nations,”—that is, the two parts of the whole. In view of this prophecy, John also takes his starting-point from this principal scene of the activity of Jesus. The localities of our section have a manifest regard to this prophecy. Compare John 1:28, ταῦ τα ἐ?ν Βηθαβαρᾳ? ἐ?γένετο πέραν τοῦ? Ἰ?ορδάνου . Ver. 43, τῇ? ἐ?παύριον ἠ?θέλησεν ἐ?ξελθεῖεἰτὴΓαλιλαίαν . Chap. John 2:1, καὶ? τῇ? ἡ?μέρᾳ? τῇ? τρίτῃ? γάμος ἐ?γένετο ἐ?ν Κανὰ? τῆΓαλιλαίας . John 2:11, ταύτην ἐ?ποίησεν ἀ?ρχὴτῶσημείων ὁ? Ἰ?ησοῦ?ς ἐ?ν Κανὰ? τῆΓαλιλαίας . Our section describes the events of a sacred seven of days: in John 1:19-28, the testimony of John on the day before the baptism of Christ; in vers. 29-34, the testimony of the Baptist concerning Christ at His baptism; in vers. 35-42, the events of the third day, the third testimony of the Baptist, and the first conversions which followed it; in vers. 43-51, the events of the fourth day; in John 2:1-11, the close of the sacred week, the seventh day, hallowed by the beginning of signs, which Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee.

Verse 21

Ver. 21. “And they asked him. What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not.”

Luther says, “As he would not have this honour, they tried another.” Lampe: “From a like source they continue to try whether, in some other way, from the person of John they may not obtain a hope of gaining their wish, by asking him whether he is Elias.” The question, How is it compatible that the Baptist here denies that he is Elias, and that our Lord declares him to be Elias? is answered briefly and well by Calvin: “With perfect correctness does John answer that he is not Elias, for he speaks according to their apprehension. But Christ, according to the correct exposition of the prophets, assures that he is Elias, Matthew 11:14.” The personal return of Elias, before the advent of the Messiah, was expected on the ground of the misunderstood passage, Malachi 4:5, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” The prophet purposely adds—the prophet, to intimate that the name Elijah is used typically—that it refers not to the personality, but to the spirit and power of Elijah. The scribes, however, in their coarse literalness, their bad “realism,” founded on this passage the doctrine of the approaching personal reappearance of Elijah. To this the passage was referred by the LXX., and by Jesus Sirach, Sir_48:10 . Cf. my Christol. vol. iv., p. 219. In Matthew 17:10, the disciples are moved, by the sudden disappearance of the personal Elias at the transfiguration, to ask how this agreed with the opinion of the scribes, founded on Malachi, that the personal Elias should appear before the Messiah, to enter upon a permanent and successful activity. To this false literal exposition the New Testament always opposes, in constant sequence, the spiritual interpretation. In the message of the angel to Zacharias it is said, Luke 1:16-17, καὶ? πολλοὺτῶυἱ?ῶ?ν Ἰ?σραὴ?λ ἐ?πιστρέψει ἐ?πὶ? κύριον τὸθεὸαὐ τῶ?ν· καὶ? αὐ τὸπροελεύσεται ἐ?νώπιον αὐ τοῦ? ἐ?ν πνεύματι καὶ? δυνάμει Ἠ?λίου , ἐ?πιστρέψαι καρδίας πατέρων ἐ?πὶ? τέκνα . Here the two principal related passages, Malachi 3:1; Malachi 4:5-6, are connected with each other. The phrase, “in the spirit and power of Elijah,” raises itself above the then current apprehension, and declares, that the flesh is of no use. Where the pars melior of Elias is, his spirit and his power—and these are to reappear in John—there is Elias. Of a merely preliminary fulfilment, to be followed by the real one in the future—according to the hypothesis of several Christian expositors—there is here not a single trace. Christ, like the angel, refers the prophecy of Malachi simply and unconditionally to John the Baptist. He says in Matthew 11:14, καὶ? εἰ? θέλετε δέξασθαι , αὐ τός ἐ?στιν Ἠ?λίας ὁ? μέλλων ἔ?ρχεσθαι . The preliminary words. And if ye will receive it, far from weakening the force of, This is, rather strengthen it, by indicating that the non-recognition of Elias in John was the result of a faulty spiritual disposition. In Matthew 17:10 sq., the Lord answers the question of the disciples, as to how they must regard the assertion of the scribes, that Elias must first come, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. “Then the disciples understood,” says the Evangelist, “that He spake unto them of John the Baptist.” Now, it has been supposed that John should not have contented himself with the mere negation; if he really held himself to be the Elias of prophecy, he must have said so. But to this, Quesnel has already excellently answered: “St John has the spirit and the power of Elias, but he does not consider himself under the necessity of discovering it, since he may hide it without injury to the truth. He is completely filled by the greatness of his Lord, and thinks only of abasing himself before Him.” If John had sought his own honour, he would hare immediately added to the negation a positive affirmation. But he contents himself with saying who he is not. What is here missed, he adds afterwards, when he is asked who he is. The discreet negation here is met by the discreet affirmation in ver. 23, in completion of the harmony with the declarations of Christ. By declaring himself here to be the “voice crying in the wilderness” of Isaiah, John declares himself at the same time to be the “My messenger” and the Elias of Malachi, according to the correct interpretation. It has been shown in the Christology, that the prophecy of Malachi is only a resumption of that of Isaiah, and that it is constantly regarded as such by the Baptist, by Christ, and the Apostles.

The subordinates ask further: Art thou the Prophet? and the Baptist answers: No. Luther has essentially altered the sense by the translation, A prophet. John certainly could not deny that he was a prophet without compromising his whole appearance. “All hold John as a prophet,” declare the high priests and elders in Matthew 21:26. This would not have been possible if John himself had refused this dignity. The Lord declares in Matthew 11:9, that the prophetic dignity was imparted to John in its highest human potency. It is a manifest evasion, when Augustine, in reference to this passage, says: Non erat propheta Johannes, sed major quam propheta. The question. Art thou the Prophet? has reference to Deuteronomy 18:15, “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto Him ye shall hearken.” This is the only passage of the Old Testament in which a future messenger of God is announced as a “Prophet.” That the passage was interpreted repeatedly in the times of Christ as Messianic, is clear from John 1:46, John 6:14, John 4:25; Acts 3:22; Acts 7:37. But that this interpretation had not attained to full security and general diffusion, is shown by John 7:40-41, where, from those who said in regard to Christ, “Of a truth this is the Prophet,” others are distinguished who said, “This is the Christ;” as also, even in the later Jewish exegesis, some explained the passage not of the Messiah, but of another prophet of the future. It had its foundation in the nature of Messianic prophecy itself, in its fragmentary character, that single sides only of the Messianic nature and vocation could be brought forward, so that before the fulfilment one might easily be quite uncertain whether that did not refer to different persons, Which was only a difference of relations. In all prophecy the fulfilment of which is still future, the interpretation is exposed to many fluctuations, and in the best case only a main road of correct exposition, with many by-paths, is attained. Moreover, it is not necessarily implied in the words. Art thou the Prophet? that the inquirers themselves decidedly assumed a difference of the Prophet from the Messiah, but only that there were those who cherished this opinion, and that the inquirers themselves did not in advance and absolutely reject it. The question, Who art thou f is explained by the following. What sayest thou of thyself? They wished first of all to know, who John declared himself to be, in order then to examine what he had in accordance therewith. The Baptist answered. No, because the Prophet is Christ, ver. 46, John 5:45-47; Matthew 17:5.

Our text has nothing to do with Luke 9:19; Matthew 16:14, according to which some took Christ to be the risen Jeremiah, or some other of the ancient prophets. By the Prophet absolutely, we may not think of any single subordinate personality. That opinion has its ground in the false interpretation of the prophecy of Malachi concerning Elijah the prophet. If Elias is to return, a similar thing is to be expected also of other distinguished prophetic peculiarities—above all, of Jeremiah, who was a principal prophetic figure in the period subsequent to the captivity.

Verses 22-23

Ver. 22. “Then said they unto him. Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us: what sayest thou of thyself?

Ver. 23. He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness. Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.”—“True humility,” says Quesnel, “is free from all affectation. It will be compelled, but it yields to authority with a wise simplicity.” The Baptist could not avoid the answer to the positive and general question without wounding the respect towards the spiritual magistracy, and without denying the office committed to him by God. John says who he is, with a reference to a prophetic declaration of the Old Testament, which formed the basis of his appearance. It is said in Isaiah 40:3-5, “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” Of this passage the beginning is here quoted. The LXX. renders ver. 3 thus: φωνὴ? βοῶ ντος ἐ?ν τῇ? ἐ?ρήμῳ? Ἑ?τοιμάσατε τὴ?ν ὁ?δὸκυρίου , εὐ θείας ποιεῖ τε τὰτρίβους τοῦ? θεοῦ? ἡ?μῶ?ν . Matthew has in Matthew 3:3, Φωνὴ? βοῶ ντος ἐ?ν τῇ? ἐ?ρήμῳ?· Ἑ?τοιμάσατε τὴ?ν ὁ?δὸκυρίου , εὐ θείας ποιεῖ τε τὰτρίβους αὐ τοῦ? . Mark in Mark 1:3, and Luke in Luke 3:4, follow Matthew. Here the two clauses of the verse are compressed into one: from the first is taken the way of the Lord, and from the second, the make straight,—the ישרו of the original text is rendered by a single word. In vers. 1 and 2 it is announced to the people languishing in deep wretchedness, that the Lord has determined to be gracious, and to impart to them the fulness of His salvation. The condition of this salvation is penitence. That the Lord will, before the appearance of the salvation, prepare the means for it by the awakening of powerful exhortations to repentance, is foretold in vers. 3 and 4. Then after ver. 5 follows the appearance of the Lord Himself, the preparation for which is described in vers. 3 and 4. We have to take, the voice of one crying, as an exclamation: What is it that I perceive? במדבר stands in the original text in a certain independence between the preceding and the following, so that it in like manner belongs to both (Christol. vol. iv., p. 172): The voice of one crying in the wilderness; Prepare, is equivalent to, cries in the wilderness, Prepare in the wilderness. Here, after the example of the LXX. and of Matthew, it is attached simply to the preceding. That the voice of the crying one must proceed from the covenant-people is shown by the words, our God. As the proclamation proceeds from the covenant-people, so it is also addressed to the covenant-people. John, in saying, I am the voice, speaks not exclusively, but positively. This announcement, like the closely connected prophecy of Malachi concerning the messenger who should precede the advent of the Lord, Malachi 3:1, finds its fulfilment not merely in the appearance of John, but also in the inceptive activity of Christ Himself and of His Apostles, in so far as this was a supplement and continuation of that of John, an indication and preparation of the drawing nigh of the kingdom of God. John, however, is the proper incarnation of the voice of him crying in the wilderness, he in whom this voice became a person, because he was the forerunner of the Lord, and nothing further; so that whatever of the agency of Christ belongs here, may be fairly reckoned as his. The wilderness is the condition of spiritual and bodily wretchedness in which the people are. It is a question, what is to be understood by preparing the way of the Lord. Luther is of opinion, “This is the preparation of the way of Christ, and the peculiar office of Christ, that He should humble all the world, and should say, that they are all together lost sinners, condemned, poor, needy, wretched men.” But it is evident that John not only requires repentance in this sense, but much rather μετάνοια , change of disposition and the direction of the life, a new walk in righteousness. A glance at ver. 4 in Isaiah, where the preparation of the way of the Lord is declared more exactly, and to the particular demands which John, according to Luke 3, makes on the people, plainly shows this. We must, however, be careful, in the determination of the sense of John’s: Prepare the way of the Lord, not to fall into an irreconcilable contradiction to his express reference to Christ as the Lamb of God, which bears the sins of the world. This Luther already indicates: “John, indeed, bears witness, and says, Reform and do penance: but that by this he does not mean, Thou shalt reform thyself, and by thyself remove even one sin, he mightily testifies by the other part, when he says. Behold the Lamb of God taketh away the sins of all the world.” If John had believed himself to possess the power of effecting a real moral reformation, he could not have pointed so expressly to Christ as the Only one who baptizes with the Holy Ghost. What is then the work of John? He requires not mere knowledge of sin, but real renovation of life; but because the true treasures of forgiveness of sins and of the Holy Spirit are laid up only in Christ (if they did not belong to Him exclusively, He must have shared with John the honour of “unveiling the glory of the Lord”), so in the last result Luther has recognised the correct interpretation. John can, indeed, effect in his susceptible hearers an external decency, a justitia civilis; but with respect to the most inward part, he can only succeed in arousing a lively contest in the mind, a struggle with sin, a calling and crying out, O that Thou wouldest rend the heavens and come down! This it is which is properly aimed at; this is the unconditionally necessary prerequisite of the unveiling of the glory of the Lord, which can never be manifest to secure sinners. Luther further remarks with perfect correctness, “The hindrance, however, which allows no room for the Lord, is not only the gross bodily sins of unchastity, anger, vanity, avarice, etc., but much rather the spiritual darkness and the legal pride of the Pharisee, who esteems his good life and works, who is secure in them, and will neither condemn them himself, nor will have them condemned.” Pride, which is the soul of the then prevalent disease of the people, Pharisaism, is rendered expressly prominent in the original passage in Isaiah by the side of their abjectness and despondency: “Every mountain and hill shall be made low.” Moreover, it must not be overlooked, that John, by the manner of his definition of his office, knocks at the door of the consciences of the messengers, and unpleasantly disturbs them in their consciousness of the grandeur of their mission. P. Anton: “My office is a hodosophy. The question now is

How are you preparing the way of the Lord?” Berleb. Bibel: “You will indeed feel the voice in your conscience.”

Verses 24-25

Ver. 24. “And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. 25. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?”

Before, the office of the deputies was stated; here is indicated the party to which they belonged. This indication must have reference to the question which they addressed to the Baptist, according to ver. 25. The Pharisees were, according to Acts 26:5, the straitest sect, the αἵ ρεσις ἀ?κριβεστάτην . Its members watched everywhere with inquisitorial severity, to see that the theocratic order was preserved intact, not merely as to the ritual, but also with respect to the competence of office and doctrine. Cf. John 9:13, John 7:47-48, John 12:42. All that was different to their preconceived opinions, they were at hand to call into question and to judge. Our Lord’s “Judge not,” in Matthew 7:1, was spoken chiefly in opposition to this pharisaic spirit.

The question which the pharisaic delegates addressed to John they would have spared themselves, if they had recognised, on the one hand, the compass of the words, I am the voice of one crying, etc.,—in which it was included, that John, of course, in a certain sense, if not in that of the Pharisees, laid claim to the dignity of Elias,—and on the other hand, the significance of the baptism of John, as a merely preparatory act. The Baptist, in his answer, calls attention to this doubly false basis of the question. As regards the first, he supplements Isaiah 40:3 by pointing to Malachi 3:1, the commentary and continuation, where the forerunner of the Lord comes out more bodily. If he is the voice crying in the wilderness, he is also he of whom it is written in Malachi 3:1, “Behold, I will send My messenger, and he shall prepare the way before Me;” he is also he of whom it is written, Malachi 4:5-6, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet—and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers;” for there can be no doubt that Elijah the prophet is identical with “My messenger.” If therefore he is not their Elias, he is the Elias of divine prophecy in its true sense. As regards the second, he intimates, that his baptism belongs only to a relatively subordinate sphere; that it only prepares for the advent of a higher one, by whom it should receive its completion and fulfilment. The baptism of John rests principally on Isaiah 1:16, “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes; cease to do evil.” The forgiveness of sins, and the impartation of the Holy Ghost, of which it is the condition, belong chiefly to the glorification of the baptism of John by Christ. The fulfilment of Ezekiel 36:25-26, “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you: a new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you:” and of Zechariah 13:1, “In that day there shall be a fountain opened in the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and uncleanness,”—in its main points, far exceeds the sphere of John, although we certainly must not separate the preparatory grace, the beginnings of the impartation of forgiveness and of the Spirit, from the baptism of John. Cf. Christology, vol. iv., p. 235.

Verses 26-27

Ver. 26. “John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth One among you, whom ye know not.

Ver. 27. He it is, who, coming after me, is preferred before me; whose shoes latchet I am not worthy to unloose.”

P. Anton: “You are not to stop with my baptism, so as to join yourselves to me, and break off from that upon which I would gladly see you wishing to enter. My baptism is only in anticipation. It will soon be over; so you need not give yourselves so much trouble: but you will receive Another among you, who indeed is already, in a manner unperceived, come among you.” To his own inferior position, which is made known by the fact, that he can only baptize with water, and therefore produce no thorough, radical change in the disposition, John here opposes the exalted position of Christ in general, without expressly mentioning that He—as is said in ver. 33; Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:7-8; Luke 3:16—will baptize with the Holy Ghost, and at the same time also, those who do not submit to such baptism, with the fire ( Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16) of consuming judgment. We are not justified in supplying here directly the antithesis of the baptism by the Spirit. The general antithesis of the inferior position of John, which is embodied in the mere baptism by water, and the absolute grandeur of Christ, is sufficient. Summa autem huc redit, remarks Calvin, ut se dejiciat quantum fieri potest ne qua in parte honor perperam illi delatus Christi praestantiam obscuret.

That Christ stands already among them, the Baptist knows from Malachi 3:1, according to which the advent of the Lord in the covenant-Angel is to follow immediately on the appearance of the forerunner. So certainly, therefore, as he was convinced of his own mission, so certain must he have been beforehand, that the Messiah was already on the ground. But that his conviction rested not on this only, the words, “whom ye know, not,” seem to show. For this deduction seems to presuppose that John had the knowledge, which the rulers of the people had not, because Christ had not yet made Himself publicly known, His epiphany not yet having taken place. In harmony with the intimation contained in these words, is the address with which the Baptist receives Christ, when He comes to his baptism, Matthew 3:14, “I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?—words which show that John already recognised in Christ the true Saviour, far exalted above the human sphere. The origin of this recognition is indicated by the Gospel of Luke, according to which John had already, in the earliest period of his life, been directed to Christ. It could not have been otherwise, than that in, consequence of this he should direct his gaze incessantly to Christ, and should zealously follow up the traces of the Divine nature which shone forth in Him. But that this recognition of John was only a preliminary one, that he did not receive the absolute divine certainty of the revelation of the glory of the Lord in Christ until the baptism, is clear from vers. 31, 32, where he says, that he did not know Christ before the baptism. In harmony with this, is also the manner in which he here ascribes this knowledge to himself, only indirectly and by a gentle hint.

The words, “He it is, who, coming after me, is preferred before me,” have been already explained at ver. 15, and have been shown to rest on Malachi 3:1. Αὐ τός ἐ?στιν and ὅ?ς ἐ?μπροσθέν μου γέγονεν are wanting in important critical authorities. Vers. 15 and 30, however, where the testimony is repeated, require the genuineness especially of the latter words. The later reference to this speech of John has no point, if it is here quoted in a mutilated form, and robbed ο f its essential meaning. The abbreviation seems to have been called forth by the threefold repetition.

The unloosing of the shoe-latchet was one of the meanest services performed by slaves. Theophylact: to τὸ? λύειν τὸ? ὑ?πόδημα τῆ?ς ἐ?σχάτης διακονίας ἐ?στί . “Before no mortal,” says Lampe, “would the Baptist have thus humbled himself,—he, who was more than a prophet, so great, that among them that are born of women there hath not arisen a greater than John the Baptist.” But He who in Malachi sends the messenger before Him, and Himself comes after, is האדון , the Lord; for Him, therefore, that service is too small which is rendered by a servant to any lord. Before Him John, with his poor preparatory baptism, which cannot truly forgive sins, nor bestow the Holy Ghost, must step quite into the background. “Let us learn,” says the Jansenist Quesnel, “to make a severe distinction between the honour which is shown to Jesus Christ, and that which is shown to the greatest of holy men (saints), and even to the mother of the Holy of holies. This is one of the first instructions which God has given us through St John; and we cannot act contrary to it without subverting everything in religion.”

Verse 28

Ver. 28. “These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.”

For Bethabara, the Syriac, Vulgate, and several MSS. read Bethania. According to Origen, this reading was found at his time in almost all the MSS.—σχεδὸ?ς ἐ?ν πᾶ σι τοῖ?ς ἀ?ντυγράφοις ,—a statement on which no great weight is to be laid, since Origen had certainly not, after the manner of a modem critic, examined a large number of MSS.; and since the assertion of Chrysostom has equal weight with his, and he says, that all the more exact MSS. have Bethabara; and Epiphanius also attributes the reading Bethania to only a few MSS. That which Origen urges against the reading Bethania, that there was no Bethany in this region, but there was a Bethabara, is in fact not without force. There is nowhere any trace of another besides the well-known Bethany; and this is of all the more significance, since the name

House of the wretched, quite otherwise than, e.g., House of fish, Bethsaida—is so singular, that there is beforehand no probability of its repeated occurrence. Bethbara, on the other hand, which is without doubt a contraction of Bethabara, appears even in Judges 7:24, as the principal passage across the Jordan: if Bethabara is misplaced, the Jordan also is misplaced. Just such a locality was particularly suitable for the purposes of John. The Berleb. Bibel remarks: “Bethabara was a right public place, where there was a ferry across the Jordan, and therefore a continual concourse of people going and returning.” It is also in favour of Bethabara, that, as Origen testifies, tradition placed the baptism of John at this place. The name Bethabara suits the locality, and has its explanation in the following πέραν τοῦ? Ἰ?ορδάνου : the name Bethania stands in no relation to the locality. The name, known from the Gospel history, might also easily be put for the more unfamiliar name. Bengel, who simply remarks, nomen notius pro ignoto, saw more sharply than modern critics. We must not overlook the assonance of the name Bethabara to עבר , in the prediction of Isaiah concerning the glorification of Perasa and Galileo in the time of the Messiah, to which the whole group gives a historical commentary. Cf. the local designations in ver. 44, John 2:1; John 2:11.

Verses 29-30

In vers. 29-34 follows the Baptists second witness for Christ.

Ver. 29. “The next day he (John) seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith. Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh upon Him the sin of the world!”—Τῇ? ἐ?παύριον cannot stand here with a more extended meaning. John reports here so accurately of the period which was so decisive for his own life in time and eternity, that in ver. 40 he states even the hour. “From this time forward,” says the Berleb. Bibel, “is kept a regular diary of the Messiah, as from day to day the person of Christ became better known.” The same writer remarks: “This day was very well suited for this. For the day before, John had frankly given his testimony. He is now rewarded for this fidelity, in that his principal comes to him.” We have already shown, that the coming of Jesus to John is no other than that for the purpose of being baptized, of which the first Evangelists give a particular account. Those who place .the baptism earlier or later, must here remark, with Meyer, “for an object concerning which we are not more particularly acquainted;” which is the more doubtful, since, from all the indications, a more intimate personal intercourse between Jesus and John never existed, but was rather purposely avoided. History knows of only one coming of Jesus to John. Quesnel points out, how great it was in John “to have but once the consolation of speaking with Christ, and only to see Him in passing, and yet to be faithful to God. “And saith:” namely, after in the mean time that had taken place, of which the account is given in Matthew 3:13-17 and in Mark 1:9-11. When Jesus comes to John, the baptism has not yet taken place; but what he here says, presupposes what happened at the baptism. The “Behold,” points away from John to Christ, as to Him who alone can satisfy the need for salvation of the human heart. That the Lamb is to be taken as not merely the emblem of calmness and patience, but much rather as a sacrificial lamb, who takes upon Him the sin of the world to atone for it, is clear from the circumstance, that in ver. 36 where John has not less than here the purpose to set forth Christ as the Redeemer of the world, the words, “who taketh upon Him the sin of the world,” are wanting. Accordingly, his can only be the commentary and explanation: the conception of the Redeemer of the world must be contained already in the words, “the Lamb of God.” Add to this, that in John 19:36, John transfers to Christ what is written in the Old Testament of the paschal lamb; that in the Apocalypse, Christ, with respect to the redemption made by Him, is called ἀ?ρνίον ἐ?σφαγμένον , and the blood of the Lamb, αἶ μα τοῦ? ἀ?ρνίου , is spoken of; and that also in 1 Peter 1:19, Christ is represented as a Lamb without blemish and without spot, through whose blood we are redeemed. But that, among the different beasts used for the sin-offering, the Iamb should be chosen as a symbol of the atoning Christ, is explained from its being most adapted to shadow for the glorious attributes of Christ,

His innocence and righteousness: cf. 1 Peter 1:19; and especially the glorious virtues which He manifested in His passion,—his calm patience and meekness. It is just this which forms the point of comparison m the passage of the Old Testament, in which the suffering Christ is already compared to a lamb. Isaiah 53:7: “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted; yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth.” We must not, however, derive from this passage alone the reason why John here designates Christ as the Lamb of God. For, though Isaiah, in this whole section, teaches so decidedly and expressly the substitutionary office of the Servant of God, yet he does not place the emblem of the lamb in immediate relation thereto. Under this, he regards, not the substitutionary character of Christ’s sufferings, but His patience under them. Hence we must go back at the same time to the use of the lamb in the expiatory sacrifice,—but not to the ordinary sin-offering. The principal sacrificial beasts for the sin-offering were, according to Leviticus 4, young bullocks: only such especially were used as a sin-offering for the congregation, and for the high priest. For the sin of the ruler a he-goat was offered; while a she-goat served for the expiation of a soul of the common people: in the latter case also, a lamb might be offered, but only a female. An extensive and important use of the lamb for the expiation of sin existed, however, at the Passover; and of this we must think the rather, as this atonement was the radical one, the foundation for all other expiatory sacrifices, and as in John 19:36 Christ appears as the antitype of the paschal lamb, and so also in 1 Corinthians 5:7: καὶ? γὰτὸ? πάσχα ἡ?μῶ?ν ἐ?τύθη Χριστός . It has been objected to the reference to the paschal lamb, that this was not a proper sacrifice,—at all events, not an expiatory sacrifice. But this objection rests on a complete misapprehension of the meaning of the Pascha. That the Pascha was a sin-offering, was shown already by the name: redemption, and then redemptive and atoning sacrifice. But every doubt is removed by the account of the first institution. Since every first-born in Egypt was to die, the destroying angel spared all those houses which he found marked with the blood of the paschal lamb, as a sign of the cleansing from sin which had been there effected by this means. He who possessed this token might be certain of his exemption and redemption: Exodus 12:23. His sins were laid on the lamb, the emblem of innocence. The expiatory blood of this lamb formed the boundary between Israel and the world. That the later celebration of the Passover was not a mere commemoration is shown by the fact, that lambs continued to be slain as sacrifices. Where there is a sacrifice appointed by God, there also, in case it is offered in faith, must be a repetition of the first benefit, which is only distinguished from the others by forming the initial point of the great series. The paschal lamb formed the basis of all other sacrifices; the other sin-offerings had value and meaning only in connection with it; without it, they were mere dissevered limbs. It was peculiarly the covenant-offering,—that in which was concentrated the separation from the world of the people of God, the people which has a reconciled God. What distinguishes the paschal sacrifice from all other sin-offerings is, that with it was connected a communion, and that it was at the same time a sacrament. By this are explained the unessential differences from the other expiatory sacrifices, the perception of which has led many astray from the correct apprehension of the paschal offering.

The genitive Θεοῦ? is one of appurtenance and possession. P. Anton correctly remarks, that it signifies, not only that this Lamb is sent and given by God (nor only, that it is well-pleasing to God as in Psalms 51:19, the sacrifices of God are those well-pleasing to Him), but, at the same time, how near this Lamb is to God: cf. vers. 34, 49. In Zechariah 13:7 it is said, “The man that is My fellow.” Explanatory of this genitive is Revelation 5:6 where the Lamb stands “in the midst of the throne and the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders,” as the Mediator between God and men; and Revelation 7:17, “For the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them,”—where the relation of Christ to the Most High God is designated as a still more intimate one. He being partaker of the Divine glory in the words, ὁ? αἴ ρων τὴ?ν ἁ?μαρτίαν τοῦ? κόσμου , the question of all others is, in what meaning the verb αἴ ρω is to be taken. The expositors are divided, for the most part, between the meanings of bear, and take away. But both are opposed by not unimportant considerations. Against the meaning bear, it is sufficient that αἴ ρω , from ἀ?ὴ?ρ , contracted from ἀ?είρω ,—properly, to raise, lift up,—neither in biblical usage, nor in that of classical authors, ever means to bear. In Lamentations 3:27, LXX.: ἀ?γαθὸ?ν ἀ?νδρὶ? ὅ?ταν ἄ?ρῃ? ζυγὸ?ν ἐ?ν νεότητι αὐ τοῦ? , which has been adduced in favour of this meaning, it is not bear, but take upon himself. Then, on the supposition of the meaning bear, every connection is broken off between our passage and that in 1 John 3:5, καὶ? οἴ δατε ὅ?τι ἐ?κεῖ νος ἐ?φανερώθη , ἵ?να τὰ?ς ἁ?μαρτίας ἄ?ρῃ? , καὶ? ἁ?μαρτία ἐ?ν αὐ τῷ? οὐ?κ ἔ?στι , where αἴ ρειν stands with the meaning of take away. It is also decisive against the application of the meaning, take away, to our passage, that the declaration of John is, on this rendering, too far Removed from the original passage of the Old Testament, on winch, by the concession of all, it is founded, Isaiah 53. That the Servant of God is to take upon Him, and bear, the sin and its punishment, is there the constantly repeated, fundamental thought. Compare ver. 4, “Surely He hath borne (taken upon Him) our griefs (sicknesses), and carried our sorrows:” ver. 11, “By His knowledge will My righteous Servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities:” ver. 12, “And He bare (took upon Him) the sin of many.” We avoid the difficulties which meet us in both renderings, if we take αἴ ρω in the sense of, to take upon one’s self, which may be derived with facility from the meaning, raise, lift up; as indeed the Hebrew נשא also, with which the αἴ ρειν is without doubt to correspond, means first, to raise, and then to take upon one’s self; and in this sense the verb can be proved to occur elsewhere in the New Testament: cf. αἴ ρειν τὸσταυρὸ?ν . Matthew 16:24; αἴ ρειν τὸζυγόν , Matthew 11:29. Even the ancients called attention to the circumstance that the particip. present is here used,—that it is not said. He will bear, but. He bears. The participle present designates, besides contemporaneousness, also continued action. Its use here indicates the continued power of Christ’s offering. It is decisive against the hypothesis of Meyer, that the present is used because the Baptist prophetically represents the atoning act as present, that equally in the original passage of Isaiah the taking upon Him and bearing of sin by the Servant of God, appears as a continuing act, in intimation of the continued power of His atoning sacrifice. In Isaiah 53:11 it is said, “By His knowledge shall My righteous Servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities.” The bearing of iniquities is here, in substance, identical with the justification. The Servant of God has once for all borne the sin: he who knows Him, his sins, in the power of the substitution effected by His blood, He takes upon Himself. Thus far the taking upon Him and bearing is a continued act. In the same sense, it is said in ver. 12, “And He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” נשא here corresponds to יסבל in ver. 11, and, like this, designates not a temporary, but an enduring action of the Servant of God.

In the words, “of the world,” has been found, quite incorrectly, an “extension to entire humanity of the representation of Isaiah, concerning the expiation of the sin of the people.” The Servant of God appears as Saviour of the world throughout the second part of Isaiah, and especially in Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:12. What can be plainer than Isaiah 52:15, “So shall He sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at Him: for those which have not been told shall see, and which heard not shall consider?”

It is of great significance, that John the Baptist, speaking in the Spirit and by direct commission from God, who first presents Christ to the Church by the Baptist, thus designates the work of Christ, by pointing to the substitutionary expiation and atonement as its kernel and centre. (Calvin: Alia quidem beneficia nobis confert Christus, sed hoc summum, ex quo reliqua dependent, quod iram Dei placando facit, ut justi et puri censeamur.) We learn from this, that our highest endeavour should be directed to this end, to enter into essential relation to this side of the being of Christ; that also, by a Christian in spirit and in truth, he only should be esteemed with whom this is really the case; finally, that the Church has this task, to keep this doctrine as the apple of its eye, and that its so extensive abandonment in the theology of the present day is a sign of deep decline. The condemnation of all theories, springing from Rationalism, concerning the justification of the sinner before God, is declared by the words, Ἴ?δε ὁ? ἀ?μνὸ?ς , etc.; on which Augustine already remarks: “Jam intendite, contra quos superbos intendebat digitum Joannes. Nondum erant nati haeretici, et jam ostendebantur: contra illos clamabat tunc a fluvio,” etc.

John says further, ver. 30, “This is He of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me; for He was before me.” It ought never to have been doubted, what is so apparent, that John here takes up again his declaration, made on the day previous, ver. 27, and declares that it applies to the person standing before him. We gave the explanation already at ver. 15, where the same expression of John, which here occurs in its historical connection, was interwoven with the Prologue. The only peculiarity here is, that the Messiah is designated as man. He is so called in Zechariah 6:12: “Behold the man, איש , whose name is The Branch; and He shall grow up out of His place, and shall build the temple of the Lord;” and in Zechariah 13:7: “Against the man, גבר , that is My fellow.” P. Anton remarks on the words, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: “By this strange enunciation he wishes to induce us to the inquiry, what sort of a man this is, who thus comes, with two natures, gigas geminoe substantiae.”

After John has declared who Christ is, and what He is to accomplish for the world, he gives a further account, in vers. 31-34, on what ground this sublime knowledge in Him is founded: not on a human, but on an absolutely Divine, on immediate Divine, revelation,—as this was absolutely necessary, if his declaration was to be of consequence to the Church. As testimony, it can be of importance only as an account of that which John himself has seen and heard.

Verse 31

Ver. 31. “And I knew Him not: but that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.”

Lücke correctly remarks: “From the manner in which the words. And I knew Him not, are taken up again in ver. 33, it is seen that vers. 32-34 do not begin a testimony different from vers. 29-31, as is asserted by Lampe; but vers. 32-34 give to the speech in ver. 31 its connection and conclusion.” The words, I knew Him not, form only the introduction to the narrative of the manner in which John learned to know Him with divine certainty. A separation of vers. 32-34 is the less to be thought of, since in this connection everything is assigned to a definite time, and here belong only such things as occurred on the day designated in ver. 29. The course of thought, therefore, is this: And I knew Him not; but still my whole ministry had regard to Him. But now I have recognised Him with divine certainty. The declaration, I knew Him not, which the Baptist here makes with respect to the whole time before the baptism of Jesus, appears at first view to be in irreconcilable contradiction to Matthew 3:14, where John forbids Christ, when He comes to be baptized, saying, Ἐ?γὼ? χρείαν ἔ?χω ὑ?πὸ? σοῦ? βαπτισθῆ ναι , καὶ? σὺ? ἔ?ρχῃ? πρός με ; These words presuppose that John recognised in Jesus the Son of God. “He,” says Calvin, “would have done great wrong to God and his own baptism, if he had thus spoken to any other but the Son of God.” The solution of the difficulty is this, that, I knew Him not, is here to be taken relatively. With respect to the clearness which he had just received, the former seemed to him as darkness. In the emphatic use of language, complete knowledge only is regarded as knowledge, as in Matthew 7:23, the Lord says, “I know you not,” to those who had stood in manifold but only external relations to Him. The words, “I knew Him not,” thus apprehended, are even corroborated by Matthew. For to what other purpose is the voice from heaven, in John 3:17, Οὗ τός ἐ?στιν ὁ? υἱ ός μου ὁ? ἀ?γαπητός , ἐ?ν ᾧ? εὐ δόκησα , than to make Christ known to the Baptist, and through him to the Church? This voice does not address itself to Jesus: Thou art; but it speaks of Jesus,—therefore to the Baptist. ( Mark 1:11, and Luke have certainly σὺ? εἶ? ; but that Matthew has the more exact account, is shown by comparison with Isaiah 42:1, and the allusion here in ver. 34.) With this rendering ver. 26 is also in harmony. For, when John there, before the baptism of Christ, says to the Pharisees with regard to Him, Whom ye know not, he intimates by this, that he has this knowledge. An absolute ignorance also is not to be supposed, either from the conduct of Jesus on the one hand, or from the conduct of the Baptist on the other. The conclusion therefore is, that when John says, I knew Him not, he means nothing more than what is testified by the fact, that at the baptism Christ was made known to him by an appearance and a heavenly voice. It is an illustrative case, when in John 2:11 it is said, πίστευσαν εἰαὐ τὸοἱ? μαθηταὶ? αὐ τοῦ? : as though they had then for the first time attained to faith, although the particulars had been already related of their attaining to faith in the case of Nathanael ( John 1:51), even with the use of the word πιστεύειν . This phrase, “His disciples believed on Him,” occurs in substance on every new revelation of the glory of the Lord. In John 16:30, the disciples again declare that now, now for the first time, they have attained to faith, ἐ?ν τούτῳ? πιστεύομεν ὅ?τι ἀ?πὸ? θεοῦ? ἐ?ξῆ λθες ; and in ver. 31 Jesus declares even this faith to be not a stedfast one; so that new steps have still to be mounted, from which the former will appear like unbelief. Of John it is not said until after the resurrection, John 20:8, καὶ? εἶ δε καὶ? ἐ?πίστευσε . It is, however, to be observed, that the declaration, I knew Him not, here receives its relation to a knowledge leading to an absolute certainty by the account, given in immediate connection in the following verse, of the manner in which John received such knowledge. Of a contradiction to the earlier Evangelists, the last of whom, Luke, relates that the Baptist stood in a relation to Christ even before His birth, no one in this single case will think, who has perceived the general relation of John to the three first Evangelists. How is it to be understood that John baptized, in order that thus Christ might be made manifest to Israel? It has been quite incorrectly answered, “The Baptist baptized in order that he might become acquainted with the Messiah, and in consequence also the people.” The key to the correct understanding is given by Isaiah 40:3-5. According to this passage, the “voice of him crying in the wilderness” was the necessary precondition of the manifestation of the glory of the Lord; and its object, therefore, was to bring this about. The manifestation of the glory of the Lord is, according to the conception of the Baptist, to take place in the appearance of the Messiah, whom he places in the most intimate relation to Jehovah. Cf. remarks on ver. 15. In John 2:11 also, Isaiah 40:5 is referred to Christ. The baptism of John corresponds to the preparing of the way in Isaiah. As the latter is the emblem, so the former is the embodiment, of the μετάνοια , which is the condition of the unveiling of the now concealed glory of the Lord.

Verse 32

Ver. 32. “And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon Him.”

John places, in opposition to his ignorance hitherto, the fact by which he attained to knowledge; as though he said: And now I have just seen. The interposed words, καὶ? ἐ?μαρτύρησεν , etc., interrupt the discourse of John, in order to indicate, that we have here the punctum saliens in the discourse of the Baptist,—that, viz., for which this discourse was communicated by the Evangelist. The subject of the testimony is the fact, that which John has seen. Only that knowledge is quite real, which rests on such a fact. How did the Baptist see the Spirit descend on Jesus at the baptism? Origen gives the preference to a “spiritual view,” θεωρία νοητική . Theodore of Mopsuestia says: “The descent of the Spirit was not seen by all those who were present, but only by means of a spiritual vision by John, as it was the manner of the prophets to see in the midst of many that which was invisible to all. For it would not be proper to say, that John bare record, and said that he had seen the Spirit, if all those present participated in his beholding.” In fact, if the phenomenon had been visible to the bodily eyes, the “record” of John would have lost all significance. The superiority of his position would then be entirely gone. In Matthew, Mark, and John, moreover, the opening of heaven, and the descent of the dove, are narrated not by themselves, but only in connection with their perception by Christ and by John. In Matthew 3:16, the heavens are opened to Christ, and he sees the Spirit of God descend, ἀ?νεῴ χθησαν αὐ τῷ? οἱ? οὐ ρανοί , καὶ? εἶ δεν τὸ? πνεῦ μα τοῦ? Θεοῦ? καταβαῖ νον : Mark says, Mark 1:10, εἶ δε σχιζομένους τοὺοὐ ρανοὺ?ς , καὶ? τὸ? πνεῦ μα καταβαῖ νον : in John, the Baptist says, τεθέαμαι τὸ? πνεῦ μα καταβαῖ νον . In Luke, finally, the internal character of the event is rendered the more distinct, as the opening of the heaven occurred when Jesus was praying, Luke 3:21. That any other person besides Jesus and John perceived the appearance, there is nowhere any indication. It is also of significance, that the opening of heaven, which is mentioned by the first Evangelists, has regard to Ezekiel 1:1. But here it takes place, as expressly stated, in a vision. The result obtained is so far important, that by it the assertion, often made, is once for all refuted, that all events narrated in Scripture must belong to the sphere of the external, of which the contrary is not expressly remarked. Cf. my treatise on Balaam. We must certainly distinguish severely from each other objectivity and externality. It is not the objectivity which is in question, but in what sense the objective was perceived. If we mistake this,—if we say with Lücke, “If the appearance of the Spirit as a dove was external, objective, it could, it must have been, perceived by others also;” if with him, in the place of a vision which presupposes something objective, which is spiritually seen, we put a mere imagination of John, the genesis of which is to be psychologically explained,—it is inconceivable how the words of the Baptist here are to be regarded as a “record,” or how in ver. 34 such weight can be laid upon the circumstance, that the Baptist bare record of that which he had seen,—such a beholding, certainly, gives no true material for a μαρτυρία , John 19:35,—and it is inconceivable how the Saviour Himself, in John 5:33, can lay weight on this testimony of John. But it is decisive against such a view, that what according to the first Evangelists is beheld by Jesus, is according to John beheld by the Baptist. A vision, which is only another designation of that which is otherwise called on imagination, can be had only by a single person; while the same object may be spiritually beheld by several persons, who have a cultivated spiritual sense, at the same time. How striking this instance is, is clear from the fact, that Meyer is driven by it to the assumption, that in the “Synoptics” the vision has been “altered by tradition to an objective proceeding.” Finally, the objectivity of the event is testified by Luke 3:21-22. There, the opening of heaven, the descent of the Holy Spirit, and the voice from heaven, are spoken of, without reference to the perception by Jesus or by the Baptist. That a real dove is not to be thought of, is shown by the word “like” which is added by all the Evangelists. Ambrosius: “non columba descendit, sed quasi columba;” and: “Spiritus sanctus in specie columbae, non in veritate columbae descendit de coelo.” On the other hand, that the comparison with a dove refers not merely to the hovering motion, but also to the form, is shown not merely by the words, “in a bodily shape,” σωματικῷ? εἵ δει , of Luke, but is clear also from the τεθέαμαι here. For the beholding presupposes the existence of a bodily form; and what this was, must be expressed in the words, ὡ?ς περιστεράν , because otherwise it would remain indeterminate, which is not allowable. But why does the Holy Spirit present Himself in the form of a dove? The right answer was perceived already by Clement of Alexandria: “God wished to show, by the image of the dove, the simplicity and meekness of the new appearance of the Spirit.” The commentary to the appearance of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, is afforded in the beatitude of the πραεῖ?ς , the ἐ?λεήμονες , the καθαροὶ? τῇ? καρδίᾳ? , the εἰ ρηνοποιοί , in the Sermon on the Mount, and, above all, by the word of the Lord, Matthew 10:16, “Be ye wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” The character of the members of the kingdom of Christ is here prefigured, which is founded in the operation of the Holy Spirit. The basis for this symbolism is furnished by the Old Testament. In the superscription to Psalms 56, the dove is the emblem of defenceless and inoffensive innocence. In Song of Sol. 5:22, the bridegroom says to the bride, the type of the daughters of Zion, the representative of the associates of the kingdom, “Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled. The latter is the explanation and interpretation of the former. תמתי can mean only, my irreproachable, my righteous one. In Genesis 25:27, תם is used of Jacob, the father of the family; and in Job 1:1, together with ישר , of Job, the type of Israel. The LXX. has τελεία μου . Cf. Matthew 5:48; Php_3:15 . In Song of Solomon 1:15, it is said, “Behold, thou art fair, my love; thine eyes doves.” So also in Song of Solomon 4:1. “The comparison of the eyes of the daughter of Zion with doves, designates the Lord’s community as the companionship of the meek, as having the character of innocence, meekness, and kindness.” It is also said of the bridegroom, Song of Solomon 5:12, “His eyes as doves by the rivers of waters.” With reference to these Old Testament passages, the appearance of the Spirit in the form of a dove typified the character of the Church, which it should receive by the Holy Ghost. Quesnel: “Innocence, simplicity, meekness, love, fruitfulness in good works, etc.,—these are the virtues which Jesus and the Holy Ghost would infuse in us; the one taking for a symbol the lamb, and the other the dove.” The words, “and it abode on Him,” have regard to Isaiah 11:2, where it is said of Christ, “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” This prophecy of Isaiah received, in the event of the text, a symbolical representation. The reference to it is still more evident here than in Matthew 3:16, where the parallel passage, Isaiah 42:1, is taken more into view. Instead of καὶ? ἔ?μεινεν ἐ?πʼ? αὐ τόν , is in ver. 33 καὶ? μένον ἐ?πʼ? αὐ τόν . The preterite, and it abode (as I saw) upon Him, is used here, as it seems, to render more apparent the reference to נחה in the original passage; so that the word ἔ?μεινε is to be considered as provided with quotation-marks. Cf. besides, Buttmann’s Gramm., S. 327. “Jesus Christ,” says Quesnel, “is alone worthy to receive the Holy Spirit in His entire fulness; and St John is worthy to be the first to learn so great a mystery. The more one is filled with the Holy Spirit, the more does he conceive in what fulness Jesus Christ has received it, in order to communicate it.” This communication of the Holy Spirit to believers has its foundation in this fact, and is prefigured by it. As certainly as the Holy Spirit descended on Christ at His baptism, and abode on Him, so certainly must that also take place which is narrated in Acts 2:3, καὶ? ὤ?φθησαν αὐ τοῖδιαμεριζόμεναι γλῶ σσαι ὡ?σεὶ? πυρὸκαὶ? ἐ?κάθισεν ἐ?φʼ? ἕ?να ἕ?καστον αὐ τῶ?ν , and in 1 Peter 4:14, ὅ?τι τὸ? τῆδόξης καὶ? τὸ? τοῦ? θεοῦ? πνεῦ μα ἐ?φʼ? ὑ?μᾶ?ς ἀ?ναπαύεται . Christ has received the Holy Spirit not merely for Himself, but in order that, as is said immediately afterwards, as the Head of the Church, He may baptize its members with the Holy Spirit. Luther says: “But behold what great glory the baptism has, also what a great thing it is, that, when Christ has been baptized, the heaven opens, the Father allows His voice to be heard, the Holy Ghost comes down, not as a spectre, but in the form and shape of a natural dove. If the baptism had been a human work and doing, such high things would not here have come to pass. God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, still stand daily around us at our baptism.”

Verse 33

Ver. 33. “And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me. Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.”

That which John saw receives its full significance only in this, that he had learned the meaning of this appearance by a preceding Divine revelation. We perceive from our text, that the Baptist was esteemed worthy of immediate Divine communications, and that it is therefore wrong to measure his declarations by the standard of the then current Jewish theology, to twist and interpret them by this, or to deny their genuineness because they will not agree with it. On the words, “Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending,” Meyer correctly remarks: “Namely, while thou art baptizing Him with water. John, sent to baptize, must, in fulfilment of this calling, await the promised revelation.” The sign, moreover, stands to the thing designated in an inner and essential connection, which is only discovered by the revelation made to the Baptist. The Spirit coming down and resting on Christ, is the source from which He baptizes with the Holy Ghost. As certainly as the one takes place, so certainly, also, must the other ensue. The expression, baptize with the Holy Ghost, for overflow therewith, is called forth by the antithesis to the baptism with water. It has its foundation in the passages of the Old Testament which speak of the pouring out of the Spirit in the times of the Messiah: Joel 2:28, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh.” Isaiah 44:3. He who pours out, is in these passages God; and, in fact, the baptism with the Holy Ghost is far above the sphere of man—being a Divine prerogative: nowhere in Holy Scripture is there such a declaration with regard to a man. The Berleb. Bibel remarks, with perfect correctness, “He baptizes in the Holy Ghost—therefore must the Holy Ghost proceed from Him also, and He must be the Son of God.”

Verse 34

Ver. 34. “And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.”

Instead of the perfect μεμαρτύρηκα , we might expect the present, since the Baptist is at this very time uttering his testimony. The present, however, which occurs also in vers. 19, 35, has respect to the moment of beholding. From this the witnessing took its commencement, the Baptist being inwardly summoned and placed on the stand. In the declaration of the Baptist, “This is the Son of God,” is manifestly echoed the voice from heaven in Matthew 3:17, Οὗ τός ἐ?στιν ὁ? υἱ ός μου ὁ? ἀ?γαπητός , ἐ?ν ᾧ? εὐ δόκησα . That John uses the expression, Son of God, in a profounder sense than the ordinary Jewish theology, is clear from the reference to the pre-existence of Christ in vers. 15, 27, 30,—from the fact, that he recognises in Him “the Lord” of Malachi, and himself therefore as unworthy to unloose His shoe-latchet,—as Him also in whom, according to Isaiah 40:5, the glory of the Lord is revealed,—and from the office, which he ascribes to Him, of bearing the sin of the world, and baptizing with the Holy Ghost. Even the original passage of the Old Testament, the second Psalm, points us far above the sphere of man,—representing the Son of God absolutely as Him, a trust in whom brings salvation, whose wrath is destruction.

Verse 35

In vers. 35-42 are narrated the events of the third of the seven days,—the third testimony of the Baptist concerning Christ, and the conversions which followed, of John, Andrew, and Peter.

Ver. 35. “Again, the next day after, John stood, and two of his disciples.”

He stood, according to some, in readiness for the exercise of his calling; according to others, in expectation of Jesus. So P. Anton: “Thus he began to wait: he stood like a sentry; and two of his disciples, who adhered to him, stood with him on the watch, followed him like chickens, pullets, pulli.” The latter supposition is to be preferred. In the case of the prophet, the man of inward influences, whom nothing unexpected can easily meet in the way of his calling, we shall do best to decide on the object from the result,—the rather, since the πάλιν , again, seems to lead to the conclusion, that John stood in like circumstances. A similar standing occurs in Habakkuk 2:1, where the prophet stands on his watch-tower, waiting for the Lord to make Himself known to him.

Verses 36-37

Ver. 36. “And looking upon Jesus as He walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!”

Jesus walked past, He does not, come to the Baptist, as in ver. 29: this He did but once, in order, fulfilling all righteousness, to receive baptism from him. The Baptist also does not step forward to meet Him: there is no conversation between them. Their circles were to be kept at first, and until after the completion of the testimony, as much as possible separate from each other, in order that the harmony between them might present itself all the more as one divinely effected. The Baptists testimony to Christ, to which the latter Himself appeals in John 5:33, and so also the testimony of Christ in favour of the Baptist, received the greater significance, when each of them went his own way independently of the other. We may not, however, say that they purposely avoided each other in order to guard against the suspicion of a collusion. This would be too unworthy a consideration. We must say rather, that they did not come to each other, because to this they did not feel that Divine impulse” which guided them in all their steps; and that this impulse was wanting, because the Divine decorum required that their circles should remain separate for the present, because in such manner the immediate Divine certainty of their action was to be brought into view.

The Baptist looked upon Jesus. What he says, puts the result of this look into words. “Christ, says the Berleb. Bibel, “had, without doubt, something kingly and heroic in the eyes of John.” That He was the Lamb of God, was written on His features; and John had the opened eye, so as to be able to read these lines.—“Behold the Lamb of God!” The Berleb. Bibel: “It is as though he already saw Him bearing His cross and moving towards Golgotha.” That the omission of the words, ὁ? αἴ ρων , etc., presupposes that these are only a commentary on the designation of Christ as the Lamb of God which needed to be given but once, we have already remarked above. If it be so, the Lamb must be a representative, atoning, sacrificial Lamb. The renewed testimony of John has special reference to the two disciples, who are to be regarded at the same time as representatives of the whole circle of John’s disciples. From their conduct in consequence of this testimony, we perceive its object. An express requisition on the two disciples to join Christ, was not necessary. If Christ was the Lamb of God, the desire resulted of itself, in the more thoughtful minds, to follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. Revelation 14:4. Augustine says: “Habebant illum tanquam agnum: et ille: quid ad me adtenditis? Ego non sum agnus.” It may be said more precisely: John points the disciples from himself to Christ, because in Him appeared, what no one could ever find in the Baptist, the satisfaction of the deepest necessities of the human heart, which can never be satisfied by mere preaching, but can find its home and rest only in a sufficient sacrifice.

Verse 38

Ver. 38. “Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them. What seek ye?”

That Jesus turned “accidentally,” was certainly not in the mind of the Evangelist. In the Spirit He had already seen them follow Him, and had perceived the sincerity of their desire; and this desire He lovingly meets. The question: What seek ye? is not to procure intelligence concerning what is unknown; it is only to commence the conversation, and give them an occasion to make known their wish.—“They said unto Him, Rabbi (which is to say, being interpreted. Master), where dwellest Thou?” The first word which he spoke to Christ remained so memorable to John, that he gives the address, Rabbi, even in the original language, with a translation added. The words, in themselves indifferent, have for him a pretium affectionis. From the circumstance, that in John 3:26, John the Baptist is addressed by his disciples as Rabbi, and that in the time of Christ this mode of address was notoriously very generally in use in relation to human teachers, we might conclude, that it belonged only to the very commencement of the relation of the disciples to Christ, and that it must have ceased so soon as they had attained to any perception of His superhuman nature. But experience does not confirm this hypothesis. The address. Rabbi, is found together with the much more frequent κύριε , Lord, in Matthew no less than in John, even to the last times of Christ’s life on earth, and a distinction of the times is not to be perceived in this relation. The Apostles use this address at the Transfiguration, Mark 9:5; after the cursing of the fig-tree, which occurred in the Passion-week, Mark 11:21; so also John 11:8, shortly before the Passion. Mary addresses Christ as Rabboni, according to John 20:16, after the resurrection. Our Lord, far from merely allowing this address, expressly approves it in John 13:13, ὑ?μεῖφωνεῖ τέ με Ὁ? διδάσκαλος καὶ? Ὁ? κύριος , καὶ? καλῶλέγετε , εἰ μὶ? γάρ : He even claims it exclusively for Himself, Matthew 23:8, ὑ?μεῖδὲ? μὴ? κληθῆ τε , Ῥ?αββί· εἷγάρ ἐ?στιν ὑ?μῶ?ν ὁ? διδάσκαλος , πάντες δὲ? ὑ?μεῖ?ς ἀ?δελφοί ἐ?στε . In fact, this address designates also a relation of believers to Christ which has more than a mere transitory character. “The first attribute,” says Quesnel, “that we must perceive in Him, is, that He is our Master, from whom we must learn the way of salvation, that we may walk therein.” From this remark it is at the same time clear, that here this address is most suitable. The Baptist had presented Christ to his disciples as the Lamb of God; but before they could rightly comprehend what this meant, they must choose Him as their Master, and must be instructed by Him. The address, Rabbi, in its Hebrew form, does not occur once in Luke; in the Gospels, it is found most frequently in John, viz., seven times. This is characteristic of the predilection for whatever belonged to his native country, which John retained even in the midst of heathen surroundings, which extended even to the forms of language, and which makes itself known in the Gospel not less than in the Apocalypse, where new formations have proceeded from it, as, e.g., χαλκολίβανον and ἀ?ρμαγεδδών .

The disciples ask, where Christ lodges, In order to receive from Him an invitation, and to be able to converse with Him in His dwelling. P. Anton: “Therefore they did not wish to speak with Him passagierement, but considerately and without interruption.”

Verse 39

Ver. 39. “He saith unto them. Come and see. They came and saw where He dwelt, and abode with Him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.”

Come and see, first of all, where I dwell. But the recurrence of Ἔ?ρχου καὶ? ἴ?δε in the mouth of Philip, ver. 47, who had received the memorable word from the two disciples, and who uses it with reference to the person and character of Jesus; then, also, the use of this expression in Revelation 6:1, “And I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see,”—and the appearance of Christ, which John is there required to consider,—show that some deeper meaning is contained in these words, that Jesus never requires any to come and see in vain. To this result we are led by two passages of the Old Testament, to which there is here an unmistakeable reference. The first is ver. 5 of Psalms 66, composed by David: “Come and see the works of God: He is terrible in His doing toward the children of men;” LXX., δεῦ τε καὶ? ἴ?δετε τὰ? ἔ?ργα τοῦ? θεοῦ? , φοβερὸ?ς ἐ?ν βουλαῖ?ς ὑ?πὲτοὺυἱ οὺτῶ?ν ἀ?νθρώπων ,—terrible is God’s doing even for those to whom it gives salvation; for His tremenda majestas makes itself known therein. The words, “Come and see the doings of God,” indicate the great privilege of the Church in relation to heathenism, with respect to God in relation to idols. The God of the Church is the only one who appeals to facts, or who can invite His people to come and see. On this first passage is founded the second, ver. 9 of the forty-sixth Psalm, which has reference to the catastrophe under Hezekiah, the great triumph over the Assyrian host: “Come and see the works of the Lord, what desolations He hath made in the earth;”

LXX., δεῦ τε καὶ? ἴ?δετε τὰ? ἔ?ργα τοῦ? κυρίου , ἅ? ἔ?θετο τέρατα ἐ?πὶ? τῆγῆ?ς . In the allusion to these passages in the Psalms, Jesus gives at the same time a gentle hint at His deity,—the Elohim and Jehovah being represented bodily in Him. In a mortal, such an allusion would have been impious.—“And abode with Him that day:” at first, the two only. Then they fetch Peter also. For that which is narrated in vers. 41-43 belongs to the same day. An account of what occurred on the following day, is given in ver. 44. We have here a regular diary. The day here is not the civil day, but the day according to the usage of common life, the end of which was either the complete darkness ( Genesis 1:5: “And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night;” and ver. 14. Pliny: Vulgus omne a luce ad tenebras), or rather, the going to rest. They had so much to discourse with Jesus, that they certainly did not regard the limits set to the day by the arbitrariness of man, but simply remained with Jesus until weak nature asserted its claims. But before the end of the day, they were fully convinced that Jesus was the Christ. This is shown by the word which Andrew addresses to his brother, not only in his own name, but in that also of the other disciple. “Quam beatum diem duxerunt,” says Augustine, “quam beatam noctem? Quis est, qui nobis dicat, quae audierint illi a Domino?” Why does not John communicate the contents of that conversation? In substance, it occurred without doubt elsewhere. So John might keep what was said as his secret: he needed not to lay bare the roots of his life.—“For it was about the tenth hour;” viz., when they came to Him, not when they went away. For the day did not end with the tenth hour. John mentions the hour here, because for him personally, it brought about the decision of his life; but at the same time, also, because it was in a certain degree the natal hour of the Church. The hour of a remarkable event is mentioned also in John 4:6. It cannot be doubtful what the tenth hour is. “However much,” says Ideler, in his Handb. der Chronologie i. S. 84, “the Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, diverged from each other in the epoch of the civil day, they were as uniform in their reckoning of the hours. The whole year through, they divided the natural day and the night Into twelve hours, which they reckoned from the rising of the sun to its setting, and from its setting to its rising; so that noon came at the beginning of the seventh hour of the day, and midnight at the beginning of the seventh hour of the night.” The same reckoning of the hours is found everywhere in the New Testament. It was, therefore, four o’clock in the afternoon. It has been held, that a period of two hours was too short for the first interview between Jesus and His first disciples; and that the words, “They abode with Him that day,” indicate a longer duration of the interview. But we should not allow ourselves to be led by such a consideration into unfounded assumptions, with respect to the reckoning of the hours. The correct solution of the difficulty is, that the civil day ended with the twelfth hour, but that here is meant the day according to the usage of common life, which extended to the time of going to rest.

Verse 40

Ver. 40. “One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peters brother.”

Andrew is repeatedly designated in the Gospel history as the brother of Simon Peter, because the latter was the more distinguished, ranking higher among the brothers, and the Rock among the Apostles. That the other disciple was John, was recognised even in the age of the Church Fathers; e.g., by Chrysostom. It is favourable to this view, that the Evangelist elsewhere loves to conceal himself, cf. John 20:2, not from a general shyness of coming forward personally,—in the Apocalypse he asserts himself most expressly as John, and so also in the Epistles,—but from fear that, by making his personality prominent, he might injure the historic objectivity; and thus for a reason which applied only to the Gospel, by which the first Apostle among the Evangelists was not less guided, and which also in the historical writings of the Old Testament effected the retirement of the personality of the authors. The readers are to be entirely immersed in the facts, and to turn away their eyes from the instrument of the report, who is himself conscious that his person and his name have nothing to do with the matter. It is for the same reason that Moses speaks of himself in the third person. Moreover, the exactness of the report, which extends even to the mention of the hour, leads us to presume a personal participation of the narrator in the fact: only on such an hypothesis is it explained that the name is not mentioned, while all the others, Andrew, Peter, Philip, Nathanael, are called by their names. In Matthew 4, John, together with Andrew and Peter, was of the number of those to whom the call was first made, “Come, and I will make you fishers of men,”—a call which presupposes that he had already sometime before entered into the relation of a disciple to Jesus; and, finally, according to ver. 42, the other disciple stood in a confidential, fraternal relation to Peter, and John is the only one with whom such a relation is historically attested. Lampe justly remarks: “Admirable is the modesty in which John covers with silence the preference, of which he might have boasted, according to the flesh, that he was among the first, and perhaps the first of the Apostles, to obtain access to Jesus.”

Verse 41

Ver. 41. “He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him. We have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.”

With respect to the word εὑ ρίσκει , Bengel says, “Cum festivissima illorum dierum novitate pulchre congruit verbum: invenit, his saepius posuit.” In that Andrew immediately fetches his brother, says Calvin, may be perceived the nature of faith, which does not retain the light within the breast, and thereby smother it, but scatters it on all sides. In the words, “he first findeth” (properly, he as the first of the two disciples, πρῶ τος , not πρῶ τον , as some critical authorities have), it is intimated that the other disciple also was a friend of Peter, and went in another direction to seek him. This refers to John. From the intimate relation in which he stood to Peter, it is a matter of course that he would not allow Andrew to go alone. The words τὸ?ν ἴ?διον are not added without purpose, since they are never put idly, or as a mere periphrasis of the possessive pronoun. They indicate that the other disciple, in a wider sense, was also the brother of Peter. They designate, as it were, the private brotherhood, the bodily in contrast to the intellectual and spiritual; as David speaks of his brother Jonathan; and as John in the Revelation, Revelation 1:9, designates as brother, him to whom. he writes. John was the brother of Peter in Christ; but not this alone, he was also his brother in hearty friendship. Quite similarly stands ἴ?διος in John 5:18, where the Jews are angry with Jesus, because He πατέρα ἴ?διον ἔ?λεγε τὸθεὸ?ν . As there, own Father designates Father in the proper sense, so here, own brother). According to Meyer, John did not with Andrew seek and find Peter, but his own brother James: but for this the hint is too slight; it is necessary to supply too much. Against this view also is ἴ?διος , which then stands to no purpose, and εὑ ρήκαμεν , we have found, which intimates a common relation of the two to Peter.

Simon was also at the Jordan. He belonged, as the address of Andrew to him shows, to the circle of those who were waiting for redemption in Israel, Luke 2:38; and his fiery spirit had drawn him into proximity to the Baptist, who formed the centre of this expectation. “We have found.” Andrew did not need to name to Peter the companion of his discovery. It could be no other than he who was most intimately connected with the brothers in seeking the Redeemer, and in hearty longing for Him. Bengel: “εὑ ρήκαμεν , magnum et laetum εὕ ρημα , 40 propemodum saeculis a mundo exspectatum. Ex Johanne didicerant in proximo esse.” The Hebrew, Messiah, is found only here and in John 4:25, both times with the Greek translation. In John 1:20; John 1:25, John renders it in the declarations of the Baptist, without further explanation, by ὅ? Χριστός . Here he is moved to give the Hebrew word, with the Greek interpretation appended, by the deep interest which the event possessed for him personally, and also by the significance which it had for the Church. He wishes to reproduce the occurrence as exactly as possible. Messiah, משיח , means The Anointed. The anointing in the Old Testament, occurring as a symbolical transaction or emblem, is always the designation of the impartation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as they are shared by all the servants of God in His kingdom, who are by the possession of these very gifts characteristically separated from the rich of this world. This meaning is very apparent in the narrative of the anointing of Saul, 1 Samuel 10:1, and of David, John 16:13-14. The kings of Israel were called The Anointed by way of eminence, because for their important office, which was the channel of grace for the whole people

Lamentations 4:20; Zechariah 4—they received an especially rich measure of Divine grace. From them the expression was transferred to the King absolutely,

Him, in whom the idea of kingship was to be perfectly realized. The equipment by the Spirit without measure, which was imparted to His types to a limited degree, is in Isaiah 11 rendered prominent as the essential characteristic of the great King of the future. The historical commentary to the name is formed by the occurrence at the Baptism,—the fact, that then the Spirit descended on Jesus, and abode upon Him, vers. 32, 33. In the Old Testament, the Redeemer appears twice under this name: first in ver. 2 of Psalms 2, composed by David; and in Daniel 9:25, “unto the Messiah the Prince,”—the passage in which is determined the time of the appearance of Christ, and upon which by preference was founded the expectation then entertained with so much confidence, that the coining of Christ was near at hand. How current the name then was among the Jews, is clear from the fact that, according to John 4:25, it had passed over to the Samaritans, although these did not acknowledge the writings of the Old Testament from which its use had originally proceeded. It is also characteristic in favour of the naturalization of the name, that it appears in John 4:25, without the article, ὅ?τι Μεσσίας ἔ?ρχεται ; therefore, directly as the nomen proprium of the Redeemer. In imitation of this is the mere Χριστός here, instead of ὁ? Χριστός . The formula, ὅ? ἐ?στι μεθερμηνευόμενον , is found first in Matthew 1:23; then in Mark 5:41; Mark 15:22; Mark 15:34. In John only here. Luke uses it in Acts 4:36.

Verse 42

Ver. 42. “And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him. He said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is, by interpretation, Peter.”

On the words. Thou art Simon the son of Jona, P. Anton remarks, in harmony with many other of the older expositors: “A testimony to the omniscience of Jesus. He had never before known or spoken to either Simon or his father.” But this is improbable. It is likely that he who brought him to Jesus also introduced him to Jesus. What Simon is, is said rather only to connect with it what he shall be. The commonplace names, which he had hitherto borne, Simon the son of Jona, stand in contrast to the significant ones which he now receives. In the Old Testament also, when a new name is given, the old name is generally placed before it, in order to render the contrast the more striking. So in Genesis 32:28, “And He said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed:” then Genesis 17:5, “Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham,”—passages which appertain here the more, since Jesus here evidently, in the giving of names, takes the position which Jehovah had occupied under the Old Covenant, and has in view these Old Testament namings. Cf. besides, Matthew 16:17-18, where Jesus in like manner opposes to each other the new name, Peter, and the old one, Simon Bar-Jona. Instead of Ἰ?ωνᾶ? , is found in several critical authorities Ἰ?ωάνου , which Lachmann prefers; in others, Ἰ?ωάννου . If we go on the common hypothesis, that in Matthew 16 the name Jonas is identical with that of the prophet Jonah, יונה , dove, we shall reject these readings without further discussion, and must explain their origin in this way,—that the less bold copyists made Ἰ?ωάνης out of Ἰ?ωνᾶ?ς , in order to approximate it more to the better known Ἰ?ωάννης , which the bolder ones directly wrote. A contradiction between Matthew and John with respect to the name of Peters father is scarcely to be presumed; and the numerous and important testimonies in favour of the reading Jona, receive by this consideration increased importance. But the hypothesis is subject to well-grounded suspicions; and from these it seems highly probable, that the name Jona in Matthew has nothing to do with the name of the prophet, but is rather a mere abbreviation of the name יהוחנן . 1 . It is a striking fact, that the name Jonah never occurs elsewhere in the whole of the Old Testament. This is of the more significance, since there were other names of prophets

Habakkuk, Malachi, Haggai—which were withdrawn from more general use,—a circumstance which is to be explained from the fact, that these names were not such as were given to the respective persons at their birth, but were sacred and official names, which they afterwards assumed. The name Jonah, dove, was also excellently adapted for such a sacred use. 2. It would not presumably be otherwise, than that so long a name as Jehochanan should undergo many abbreviations, the rather as this name was particularly frequent,—there are a whole multitude of Jehochanans in the Old Testament. And we really find such abbreviations. In 2 Chronicles 28:12, the name Jehochanan is rendered in the LXX. by Ἰ?ωάνης ; in Luke 3:30, the name Ἰ?ωνάν is without doubt to be traced to Jehochanan; even Ἰ?ωνά itself is to be found in 2 Kings 25:23. According to this, we must in Matthew 16 alter the accent, and suppose that the name of Simons father has nothing to do with that of the prophet Jonah. Whether in John the name was written Ἰ?ωνά , as in Matthew, or whether John used Ἰ?ωάνου , as coming nearer to the original form of the name, may be left undecided.

Jesus does not say to Simon: Thou art Peter, as He says “to Nathanael, Behold an Israelite, etc.; but. Thou shalt be called Peter; thou shalt in the future make thyself known as such. Calvin: “Ohristus Simoni nomen imponit, non, ut fieri solet inter homines, ex preterito aliquo eventu, vel ex eo, quod jam cernitur: sed quia Petrum facturus ipsum erat.” There was certainly already in the natural gifts of Peter a basis for that, which he was to become through God’s grace. By the rock, כיפא , is here to be understood firmness. Cf . Ezekiel 3:9, “As an adamant, harder than flint (rock), have I made thy forehead: fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks;” and the contrast of rock and sand in Matthew 7:24-26. At the time when John wrote, this prophecy had already been fully verified. Peter had already manifested his rock-like nature, even to a martyr’s death. The fall of Peter is no instance to the contrary. He would not have been led into so severe a temptation, if he had not had the power, though yielding at first, to sustain it. Our Lord expressly predicts, that the nature of the rock will be verified again immediately after the fall. Luke 22:32, καὶ? σύ ποτε ἐ?πιστρέψας στήρισον τοὺ?ς ἀ?δελφούς σου . He who is to strengthen and confirm his brethren, must himself be distinguished above them by firmness and character. The temptation of Peter presupposes rather his rock-like nature. He was to be freed from the shadow, purified from the stains which consort with such an idiosyncrasy,—from self-confidence, want of humility, over-hasty advance, and uncharitable judgments. As to the rest, this bestowal of a name stands in a like relation to that which took place under the Old Covenant with regard to Abraham, Isaac, Israel, Josiah, and Korah. Jesus does here that which Jehovah did under the Old Dispensation.

We have still to take into view the relation of our passage to Matthew 4:18-22. In the general, Luther has already correctly determined this: “John the Evangelist does not speak of the calling of the Apostles, but that they had joined themselves to Christ merely as companions, and had gone about with Him, while He in a friendly manner associated with the people. . . . They went away again, and returned to their homes, when they had formed a friendship and acquaintance with Him; they had not yet become Christ’s disciples, or been called thereto. But after this, Christ comes to the Sea of Galilee, journeys about there, and calls them to be His Apostles. . . . John does not this time speak of the calling, but only of the intelligence that Christ was an affable man, who made friendships with every one, so that the people gladly followed Him. But Matthew speaks only of the calling of the Apostles, and passes by their acquaintance, of which John speaks.” It is objected, that it is clear from John 2:2; John 2:12, that even here the disciples were called to a constant following of Christ. But we are not justified in generalizing, without further reason, what is there said. The passages do not exclude the supposition, that the disciples at the same time applied themselves to their calling, and went about with Christ. It is not asserted in Matthew 4:18-22, that the disciples from that time forward gave up entirely their lower calling, and acted constantly with Jesus, or under His command. This has been assumed only because the reference of this passage to Ezekiel 47 has been misunderstood,—the prophecy being said to be here, as it were, represented scenically. In order to indicate that they were comprehended in its fulfilment, the disciples must have immediately relinquished their employment, in which we find them occupied again afterwards, even still after the resurrection. According to the prophecy of Ezekiel, one of the most remarkable of the Old Testament, the bad water of the Dead Sea, the world, is to be healed by the water which conies from the sanctuary. “And it shall come to pass,” it is said in vers. 9, 10, “that everything that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers (marg. two rivers, equivalent to, great flood) shall come, shall live; and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed.

And it shall come to pass, that fishers shall stand upon it (the Dead Sea, the symbol of the world dead and ruined in sins), from Engedi even unto En-Eglaim; they shall be a place to spread forth nets: their fish shall be according to their kinds, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many.” On this prophecy are based not only the occurrence of the text, but Peters miraculous draught of fishes, connected with it, according to Luke, in the interpretation of which our Lord says, “Henceforth thou shalt catch men,” Luke 5:10; Peters miraculous draught of fishes after the resurrection, John 21; and the parable of the net which was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind. Moreover, Matthew 4:18-22, far from contradicting what is here related, in various relations presupposes it. In John, it is not yet the apostolic ministry or calling which is the subject of narration, but singly and only the entering into a personal relation, the relation of the disciple to the Master, ver. 39. This latter must necessarily have preceded the calling to the ministry, which alone is spoken of in Matthew. The address to Simon Peter and Andrew, Δεῦ τε ὀ?πίσω μου , καὶ? ποιήσω ὑ?μᾶ?ς ἁ?λιεῖ?ς ἀ?νθρώπων , would have been an adventurous one, if a relation had not been previously entered into between them and Christ. On this point John’s Gospel is supplementary. That the connection was not then first formed, is also clear from the readiness with which John and James leave the ship and their father and follow Christ.—Σίμωνα τὸλεγόμενον Πέτρον : the key to the origin of this surname is not given by Matthew; and yet such a key is requisite. In Matthew 16:18, Simon is already Peter. Finally, in this also is shown a friendly agreement, that these three disciples, who are here first called to follow Christ, are there also those to whom the call is first made to the apostolic ministry,—there being with them only James, the brother of John, whom we may suppose to have been his inseparable companion. It is very natural that those who were first called as disciples, should also be first chosen to be fishers of men, and that the Lord should choose them just at the time when He wishes to announce the impending fulfilment of the prophecy of Ezekiel.

Verse 43

In vers. 43-51 follow the events of the fourth of the seven remarkable days, the calling of Philip and Nathanael.

Ver. 43. “The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow Me.”

Verse 44

Ver. 44. “Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.”

By the word ἠ?θέλησεν it is intimated that Jesus had not yet commenced His journey, but was designing to enter on it. The real departure followed immediately on the calling of Philip. The latter was, doubtless, already prepared by Andrew and Peter. This seems to be already indicated in the purpose of the notice in ver. 44. If a connection had not thus been formed between Philip and Christ, the former could have made nothing of the words of Christ, “Follow Me,” with which he was immediately greeted. Philip also had certainly made a pilgrimage to the Baptist at the Jordan. Andrew and Peter had communicated to him the glad tidings, and had occasioned his being in the place, from which, after the address received, they were to set out with Jesus on their return to Galilee. The formula, ἀ?κολούθει μοι , refers, in the first place, to an external accession. This is shown with especial clearness by Matthew 9:9, where, after Jesus has said to Matthew, ἀ?κολούθει μοι , it is said, καὶ? ἀ?ναστὰ?ς ἠ?κολούθησεν αὐ τῷ? : cf. Luke 5:28. The formula stands also of a spiritual following, in Matthew 16:24; John 8:12; John 12:26; John 21:19; John 21:22 (there of the same occurrence); Revelation 14:4. In the Old Testament, the phrase, to walk after, is used repeatedly of the relation to God and to idols; e.g., Deuteronomy 13:4, “Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear Him, and keep His commandments, and obey His voice, and ye shall serve Him, and cleave unto Him:” cf. Deuteronomy 1:36; Numbers 32:11-12. Here, in our text, the ἀ?κολούθει μοι refers chiefly to the external following; for it stands in unmistakeable reference to the preceding words, “He would go forth into Galilee.” We find the first disciples in the suite of Christ in John 2:11-12. Yet, behind the requisition of a bodily following is hidden that of a spiritual, which is the only object of the external following. On this account, it is not required by the ἀ?κολούθει μοι , that the external following be an entirely uninterrupted one. It is only commanded in so far as it is requisite for the object aimed at. Philip, as has been remarked, already knew of Christ, but the ἀ?κολούθει μοι gave the decisive turn to his life. Jesus proved Himself to be the searcher of hearts, who knew what was in man, John 2:25, by speaking the words, ἀ?κολούθει μοι , on the first meeting with one personally unknown to Him. At the time when John wrote, this judgment on the personality of Philip had already proved itself to be well founded. It must be remarked, that the ἠ?θέλησεν ἐ?ξελθεῖεἰτὴΓαλιλαίαν here, refers back to τότε παραγίνεται ὁ? Ἰ?ησοῦ?ς ἀ?πὸ? τῆΓαλιλαίας ἐ?πὶ? τὸ?ν Ἰ?ορδάνην in Matthew 3:13. And further, that there were indeed two Bethsaidas, one in Galilee, and one on the east side of the Jordan, Luke 9:10; but that it was unnecessary to designate this one as that in Galilee, because this was generally known as the home of Peter.

Verse 45

Ver. 45. “Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto, him, We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

It is not said where Philip found Nathanael. But since the fact belongs to the day of the departure for Galilee (Lampe, with perfect correctness, says, Inventionem hanc eodem die contigisse, quo Philippus vocatus erat, nexus temporum in nostro Evangelista requirit), we must not suppose that Philip met Nathanael first in his home at Cana ( John 21:2, Ναθαναὴ?λ ὁ? ἀ?πὸ? Κανὰ? τῆΓαλιλαίας ). The expression also, Philip findeth Nathanael, intimates a meeting at a strange place, not on a visit to his home. And the fig-tree, in ver. 48, can scarcely have been one which shaded Nathanael’s own dwelling; for then the words of Jesus, in ver. 48, might have proceeded from a coincidence, and would not have made so deep an impression on Nathanael. It is probable that Nathanael also, belonging to the circle of those aroused by John, was returning home from the Jordan. He had set out before Jesus and his companions, and had halted somewhere on the way, aside from the road. Philip, who knew his manner of travelling, leaving his own company, seeks him there, in order to communicate to him the glad tidings, which he could not keep to himself, so deeply was his heart moved by them. The identity of Nathanael with the Apostle Bartholomew is now generally assumed. It rests on the following grounds: The calling of Nathanael follows here in the midst of those of real Apostles. He likewise appears surrounded by Apostles in John 21:1-2. The three first Evangelists never mention Nathanael; John never mentions Bartholomew. In John, Nathanael appears in connection with Philip; in the three first Gospels, Bartholomew is named together with Philip, and in such a manner that Philip comes first (cf. Matthew 10:3). Philip and Bartholomew are connected together in a pair, and are preceded by the same Apostles who are here called before Philip and Nathanael, with the addition only of James: Simon, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew. An argument for their identity is furnished also by Acts 1:13, where Bartholomew is connected with Matthew, The reason for this divergence from the lists of the Apostles in the Gospels, even in that of Luke himself, Luke 6:14, of. Mark 3:18, can scarcely be other than this, that the real name of Bartholomew, Nathanael, has the same meaning as the name of Matthew,—both names corresponding to the Greek Theodore, Gift of God. The original connection of Bartholomew with Philip is perceptible even here. Bartholomew is separated from Philip by the single insertion of Thomas. If we add to this, that Bartholomew, son of Tholmai, is not a real proper name, there can be no doubt with respect to the identity. It is certainly not, however, by chance that the thoughtful John uses the more significant name, which is verified even here. The reason why the first Evangelists did not make use of it is afforded by the fact, that already in the Old Testament seven different persons bear the name Nathanael. So frequent a name appeared insufficient to characterize a person to be thus indicated in the lists of the Apostles.

In Philips designation of Jesus, as Him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, have written, we have probably an echo of the instruction which Jesus had imparted to His two first disciples, in their long conversation with Him, ver. 39, and which had come from them to Philip. That also may, perhaps, be said of this conversation which is found in Luke 24:27, καὶ? ἀ?ρξάμενος ἀ?πὸ? Μωϋσέως καὶ? ἀ?πὸ? πάντων τῶπροφητῶδιερμήνευσεν αὐ τοῖ?ς ἐ?ν πάσαις ταῖγραφαῖτὰ? περὶ? αὐ τοῦ? . As Jesus reproaches the Jews, in John 5:46, εἰ? ἐ?πιστεύετε Μωϋσεῖ? , ἐ?πιστεύετε ἂ?ν ἐ?μοί· περὶ? γὰ?ρ ἐ?μοῦ? ἐ?κεῖ νος ἔ?γραψεν , it might be expected that with His disciples also He would employ this means of conviction before all others. Philip (and he, whom his declaration regards) had, doubtless, principally in view the passage from Moses, in Deuteronomy 18:15-19. For, except in this passage, a personal Messianic prophecy is contained only in Genesis 49:10; and the tokens of the Shiloh were much less evident in Jesus than those of the Prophet. We are led to this passage also by the prominence of Moses, which is much less in Genesis 49:10, and that of the law. Finally, this very passage was at that time, as a rule, interpreted of the Messiah, and attracted much attention. Cf. remarks on ver. 21.

The plural, we have found, shows that Philip, as a believing confessor, knows himself to be a part of a whole. Philips designation of Jesus, as of Nazareth, the son of Joseph, is said, according to the current view, to show that he is not yet acquainted with Jesus as the Son of God, and knows nothing of the birth in Bethlehem. Anton, proceeding on this view, remarks: “Jesus was neither Joseph’s son, nor born in Nazareth. What was lacking to these people in knowledge, soon shows itself; but yet the Lord does not cast them off.” But this view is not necessary: Matthew also regards Jesus as the son of Joseph, in tracing His descent from David through Joseph; and Jesus must indeed be Joseph’s son, because otherwise the prophecy of the Old Testament, which traces His descent so expressly from David, would err in an essential point. Joseph, if not the natural, was yet the foster-father of Christ, through whom the latter was received and adopted into the family of David. That Jesus was the son of Joseph, can only be misapprehended, when paternity is very superficially restricted to the mere natural relation. Jesus was “of Nazareth,” notwithstanding His birth in Bethlehem. Here, where the chief concern was with the external particulars, the characterization of the person, the best manner of excluding any error with respect to the same, neither the conception of Jesus through the Holy Ghost, and His hidden deity, came into consideration, nor the transient residence of His parents in Bethlehem. But if the words do not necessitate the current view, we may fairly have some hesitation in adopting it. Philip can scarcely have considered Jesus as the mere son of Joseph; for he was doubtless one of the circle of the disciples of the Baptist, who proclaimed so expressly the superhuman nature of the Messiah; he had just received the instruction of Andrew and John, whom Christ had already, by His second word, ἔ?ρχεσθε καὶ? ἴ?δετε there, pointed to His Divine nature; and to confirm this in them was, according to all analogies, the principal object of His conversation with them; and the ἔ?ρχου καὶ? ἴ?δε , which Philip addresses to Nathanael, in ver. 46, in reference to that ἔ?ρχεσθε καὶ? ἴ?δετε of the Saviour, shows that he had received into his heart the instruction which had come to him externally. On the second point, the incorrectness of the current view is still more evident. The “prophets,” to whom Philip so expressly appeals, predict so distinctly and plainly the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem, and this point was so clearly set forth in the Jewish theology of the time (cf. Matthew 2:4-5), that Philip could not possibly have expressed the conviction, that in Jesus he had found the Messiah, if he held Nazareth to be His birth-place, and not merely His place of residence, the starting-point of the journey in which he was then engaged.

Verse 46

Ver. 46. “And Nathanael said unto him. Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.”

The remark is founded on a misapprehension of the words of Nathanael, that he, and with him the public opinion, held the town to be immoral,—as Bengel says: “itaque multi ibi erant improbi.” It is not a good man, but a good thing, which is spoken of,—a grand appearance, which is to bring salvation to God’s people,—such a good thing, as the Son of God, the King of Israel. Cf. Isaiah 52:7: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace, that bringeth good tidings of good!” מבשר טוב ; Romans 10:15, τῶεὐ αγγελιζομένων τὰ? ἀ?γαθά . Nathanael goes on the prejudice of the natural man, that greatness must have a natural foundation. It is only a spirit divinely instructed which expects greatness immediately from God, unconnected with human greatness, and can from the heart adopt the words of Psalms 113:5-7, “Who is like unto the Lord our God, who raises Himself so high, and looks so low (has pleasure in the poor, lowly, and despised)? He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill.” On the above disposition of the natural man rests the prophetic announcement, that before the advent of the Saviour, God will extirpate all natural greatness and dignity from Israel, In order that the glory of His mercy may be undiminished. Christology ii. p. 126. Now, in Nazareth, the small despised place in despised Galilee ( John 7:52), hallowed by no event in the past, unnamed in the Old Testament, or in Josephus, probably not founded till after the return from, the exile, perhaps still burdened with a special disgrace, there was nothing which could appropriately form a natural basis for the greatness of the Messiah; he who would have such a basis, must necessarily turn his gaze to Jerusalem, which at least afforded splendid ruins of former grandeur. If the Messiah must, according to the prophecy, be born in Bethlehem, yet He might not go from thence to the wretched town of Nazareth; He must, like His ancestor David, proceed to Jerusalem. Moreover, what Nathanael says is not a serious objection, but only the expression of wonder at the strange ways of God, which is put into this form: he does not assert that no good thing can come out of Nazareth; he only makes the query. P. Anton: “He asks, therefore, not that he may insist upon it, but because he has still an offensiunculum. Can indeed anything good come out of Nazareth? That would be something strange. There is a great difference between such prejudices as rest merely on a statu calamitoso, and such as are found in a statu malitieux, when the man is malitieux, has a dolum in them, and on this account seeks a proejudicium, that he may by a pretence free himself from Christ. This is malice; and such malice Nathanael had not.” Luther: “Nathanael is a good silly sheep; he says, What good thing can come out of Nazareth? If it came from Jerusalem, or from any other great city of Judaea, one might believe in it.” Luther goes on to show how Christ’s procedure, in the first calling of His disciples, was in contradiction to this prejudice of Nathanael: “He goes about the Jordan, through the wretched towns and villages, and picks from the whole people of Israel, those whom He regards as the best, and who are well-pleasing to Him, that they may serve Him in His kingdom. He collects together poor fishermen, and good thick blockheads; He does not summon to Him the mighty; as though He could not otherwise establish His kingdom, without having such mean people. And He does all this, that those who are high, wise, and mighty in the world may not think that it was they alone who belonged to Christ’s kingdom, and trample the others under their feet; but He wished to establish and found a kingdom and rule which should stand purely in God’s grace and mercy. Thus is the kingdom built up and preserved hitherto. He does not ask much after great kings, and mighty Lord’s, and great substance, which is so much esteemed elsewhere on earth.”

We have already remarked, that the answer of Philip, Come and see, has reference to the words of Christ in ver. 39.

Verse 47

Ver. 47. “Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and saith of him. Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!”

Jesus, in speaking of such as are Israelites indeed, “divides the people of Israel into two bands,” as Luther says. In such a separation, the Old Testament had already preceded. In Psalms 73:1 it is said: “Only good is God to Israel, to those who are of pure heart.” “The limiting clause, such as are of pure heart, shows that by Israel, the Psalmist understands only the election, the true Israelites, to the exclusion of the false seed, Isaiah 57:4,—the souls who, according to the expression of the law, are cut off from their people, even although they are found to be outwardly living in the midst of them.” According to Psalms 24:6, those only are Jacob who seek the face of the Lord, those who lead a life of prayer. In the New Testament, this separation branches out extensively. According to Romans 9:6, they are not all Israel who are of Israel; according to Romans 2:28-29, the character of a “Jew” consists not in outward circumcision, but necessarily involves the circumcision of the heart; in 1 Corinthians 10:18, the Jews of the present are designated as Jews according to the flesh, in contrast to the true spiritual Israel, ὁ? Ἰ?σραὴτοῦ? θεοῦ? , Galatians 6:16, which continues its existence from the Old Dispensation in the Christian Church. That which is corporeal can have only a subordinate meaning for the people of God: their being is in the region of the spiritual. That Ἰ?ουδαῖ ος might stand here instead of Ἰ?σραηλίτης , is shown by Romans 2:28-29, and by Psalms 24:6, where those who do not seek God are excluded from Jacob. The distinction of the true and the false finds place in all the designations of the people of God. But, of course, Ἰ?σραηλίτης is the most suitable designation here. The name of Israel was given to the father of the race, by God Himself, in consequence of his being proved to possess the peculiar character of the people of God, which is, to wrestle and prevail with God in prayer. It became, in consequence of this origin, the highest, the peculiarly theological name, of the people. It was, therefore, that name which contained in itself a protest against those who made claim to the prerogatives of the people of God, without having any other connection with them than that of natural descent.

In what the nature of a true Israelite consists, and on account of which Nathanael is designated as such, is indicated by our Lord in the words, ἐ?ν ᾧ? δόλος οὐ?κ ἔ?στι . We are not to introduce into these words anything whereby Nathanael is excluded from the Lamb of God which bears the sin of the world. We should, moreover. anticipate that the Saviour has reference to some passage of the Old Testament, in which freedom from δόλος is represented as pertaining to the peculiar nature of the people of God. Both claims are satisfied by the supposition, that Jesus has here specially in view Psalms 32:2, where he is pronounced blessed, “in whose spirit there is no guile.” LXX. μακάριος ἀ?νήρ , οὗ? οὐ? μὴ? λογίσηται κύριος ἁ?μαρτίαν , οὐ δὲ? ἔ?στιν ἐ?ν τῷ? στόματι αὐ τοῦ? δόλος . “The succeeding context contains an explanation, as to where it is that the guile lies. As the results of it, we find mention made of ‘keeping silence,’ of ‘not making known,’ of ‘hiding iniquity,’ and of ‘not confessing transgression.’ This guile, this want of inward truth, which denies, extenuates, excuses, or seeks to apologize, is inconsistent with the blessedness of forgiveness extolled by David, which is vouchsafed only for sins acknowledged and confessed.” If δόλος is thus taken, the declaration of the text is in striking connection with the pointing of the Baptist to the Lamb of God who bears the sins of the world. Freedom from guile in this sense, does not render the forgiveness of sin superfluous, but is the condition of obtaining it. Δόλος in this sense, was then the fundamental disease of the people. Nathanael, as one in whom was no δόλος , was the contrary of the Pharisees, who, by exercising δόλος , concealed their true character from themselves and others, as ὑ?ποκριταὶ? , Matthew 6:16, cf. Matthew 23:27, ὅ?τι παρομοιάζετε τάφοις κεκονιαμένοις , οἵ τινες ἔ?ξωθεν μὲφαίνονται ὡ?ραῖ οι , ἔ?σωθεν δὲ? γέμουσιν ὀ?στέων νεκρῶκαὶ? πάσης ἀ?καθαρσίας . The guile is known by this, that one justifies himself in opposition to the real state of his heart, Luke 16:15. The publican was free from guile, when he said, God be merciful to me a sinner; the Pharisee was full of guile, when he said, God, I thank thee that I am not as other men. Lampe correctly remarks, that Jesus wished at the same time, “characterem hunc veri Israelismi statim tuni ab initio discipulis suis inculcare in aetate tam perverso.” By recognising with fixed certainty this hidden qnahty of heart in Nathanael, which can be imitated so naturally by hypocrites, Jesus proved Himself to be the searcher of hearts, for the consolation of all upright, and the terror of all impure souls. Quesnel: “The light of Jesus Christ penetrates everything. It is a consolation to the simple, that He knows the uprightness of their heart; and it must be a terror to the double and false heart, that the duplicity and arts of their spirit cannot be hidden from Him.”

Verse 48

Ver. 48. “Nathanael saith unto Him, Whence knowest Thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him. Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee.”

In the question of Philip is already seen the dawning recognition of the superhuman nature of Jesus. The latter did not answer the question directly, but by the presentation of a fact, from which the answer might be derived. That His declaration did not proceed from human, physiognomical and psychological acuteness, is shown by the circumstance, that He proves Himself to be acquainted with a situation of Nathanael which He could not have known at all in a human manner. When Philip called Nathanael, he chanced to be just then under a fig-tree. The article stands generically, to distinguish the fig-tree from any other kind of tree. Nathanael was on his journey from the Jordan to Cana. The fig-tree stood without doubt by the way, ἐ?πὶ? τῆ?ς ὁ?δοῦ? , Matthew 21:19, and served him for a resting-place. It has been incorrectly concluded, from ver. 30, that ὄ?ντα ὑ?πὸ? τὴσυκῆ?ν does not belong to φωνῆ σαι , but to εἶ δόν σε . That Jesus saw Nathanael under the fig-tree, remains true, even if the words ὄ?ντα ὑ?πὸ? τὴσυκῆ?ν are taken with the preceding. This, however, is necessary, because, otherwise, the time when Nathanael was under the fig-tree would not be exactly determined, and yet the determination of the moment was a necessary part of the case. Nathanael was under the fig-tree when Philip called him. Jesus saw him there before he received information of Him through Philip. His look went in advance of His messenger. This must have struck Philip in the highest degree, and have opened his heart to the impression of the Divine majesty, which was radiated from the whole personality of Jesus. Quesnel: “A beginning of grace, which may appear small in the eyes of men, is capable of drawing us entirely to God, if He spreads abroad His light and His love in the heart.” Nathanael knew from the instruction of Philip, that Jesus declared Himself to be the Son of God; and the present fact must have reminded him of Psalms 139:1-3, “O Lord, Thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my down-sitting and mine up-rising; Thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou remarkest my path, and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.” To many expositors, the fact, as it lies before us, has been inconvenient, and they have subtilized about it, in order to bring it into harmony with their presuppositions. The seeing here, seems to them too gross: they substitute for it an internal perception. Even Bengel remarks: “Admonetur Nathanael de cogitationibus, quas tum habuerit vere Israeliticas et a dolo immunes.” And Lücke says: “What astonishes him is only this, that Jesus, by a look from a distance, has inwardly known him.” But there is nothing at all said of an internal perception. Lücke himself says: “εἶ δόν , according to the regular usage of the New Testament, also has the meaning of seeing, not of knowing.” No one will venture to assert, with. Meyer, “A common Jew Jesus would not have seen.” Even the prophecies of the Old Testament afford analogies to seeing in the most common sense. Samuel condescends so low as to make discoveries to Saul concerning his lost asses, 1 Samuel 9:20; 1 Samuel 10:2, and concerning other, in themselves, unimportant circumstances, John 10:3-4, which have their significance only as signs, to render him willing to follow the authority of the prophet in important matters. Luther recognised fully the correct point of view, representing Nathanael as saying to Christ: “Since Thou hast seen me sitting under the fig-tree, Thou must be able to do more.”

Verse 49

Ver. 49. “Nathanael answered and saith unto Him, Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel.”

Though the fact was so trifling in appearance, it yet formed a sufficient basis for the confession of Nathanael, and he would have belonged to the number of those whom the Lord designates, in Luke 24:25, as βραδεῖτῇ? καρδίᾳ? τοῦ? πιστεύειν , if he had not by this means attained to such a confession. In itself, such a supernatural intelligence might certainly have dwelt even in a prophet. The prophets are not called seers without cause. But here the declarations of Jesus Himself are added to those of the Baptist; and on these declarations the seal of truth is impressed by this sign. We are not to conclude from the words, σὺ? βασιλεὺεἶ? τοῦ? Ἰ?σραήλ , that the expression σὺ? εἶ? ὁ? υἱ?ὸ?ς τοῦ? θεοῦ? is to be taken in diminished significance, as a mere name of the Messiah. (Even Luther remarks, “I hold that he calls Him in a simple manner, a son of God, as we call a pious holy man, a man of God; and that, therefore, also Nathanael speaks of Him as of a prophet.”) The Old Testament teaches most distinctly, that the King of Israel, the Messiah, is far exalted above the human stage. This teaching is contained also in that Psalm in which the two designations of Messiah, as King and as Son of God, occur together, and indeed in immediate juxtaposition, Psalms 2:6-7, and in which these two designations have their root. The Son of God appears in ver. 12 as He, a trust in whom brings salvation, whose wrath is destruction, and who is therefore raised above the sphere of man: “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish in the way, for soon will His wrath be kindled. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.” Delitzsch would refer all, from “lest He be angry,” to Jehovah. But in this, the reference to ver. 9 has been left out of account, where God says to the Anointed: “Thou shalt break them with a sceptre of iron. Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” It is manifest, that the Psalmist warns the rebels not to expose themselves to the destructive judgments to be executed by the Anointed: q.d., “Lest He break you with the sceptre of iron, and dash you in pieces like pottery.” In Isaiah 9:6, the great future King of Israel bears the name of God-hero, the hero who is God [Eng. Vers. “The mighty God”]; who is, therefore, infinitely raised above all human heroes.

Jesus would not have attributed faith to Nathanael, if the latter had not raised himself above the purely human sphere. Faith moves always in the superterrestrial region. But we have beforehand no reason to weaken the significance of Nathanael’s confession to the Son of God. Man was placed so low in the Old Testament, that a mere man could procure but little according to the Israelitish conception. That which was expected from the future King of Israel, was far beyond the sphere of man. We are here in the circle of those who had been excited by the Baptist. But he had insisted in the strongest manner on the superhuman nature of the Messiah: After me comes a man who was before me, whose shoe-latchet I am not worthy to unloose.

The Messiah appears as King of Israel, besides in Psalms 2, and Isaiah 9:6, also in Jeremiah 23:5-6: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and He shall reign as King, and shall prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is His name whereby He shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” And in Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.”

When Nathanael designates the Messiah as King of Israel, it surely does not occur to him to assign to Him a limited dominion. The King of Israel is rather, according to Psalms 2 and Psalms 72:8, at the same time, as such, the King over the whole earth. The heathen are joined to Israel in consequence of the advent of their King; cf. Isaiah 2:3; Zechariah 8:23; but especially Isaiah 44:5, where it is predicted, that in the Messianic times there would take place an admission of born heathens into the kingdom of God on the grandest scale: “One shall say, I am the Lord’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and shall boast the name of Israel.” Also Isaiah 56:3; Isaiah 56:6-7; Ezekiel 47:22-23. To this grand adoption corresponds the grand exclusion, to which our Lord indirectly refers in ver. 47, by the distinction of true Israel without, and of false with, δόλος . Sinners, according to Psalms 1, cannot stand in the congregation of the righteous; and it is essential to the kingdom of Christ, to undertake the separation between the true and the false seed.

Verse 50

Ver. 50. “Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig-tree, thou believest: thou shalt see greater things than these.”

We have no reason to take πιστεύεις interrogatively. It is a simple statement. Luther: “Thou believest in Me for this single work and miracle, that I stand here, and thou art far from Me, and hearest that I saw thee, and believest that I am the person whom the prophets have foretold.” With the words, μείζω τούτων ὄ?ψει , cf. Psalms 71:19, where Israel says, “Who hast done great things: O God, who is like unto Thee!” and ver. 21, “Thou increasest my greatness,” the great deeds which are done for me.

Verse 51

Ver. 51. “And He saith unto him. Verily, verily, I say unto you. Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.”

By the repeated Amen, which is found in the Old Testament, Numbers 5:22, where the woman suspected of adultery is to answer to the curse. Amen, amen, and in Nehemiah 8:6, Jesus makes Himself known as the “faithful witness,” Revelation 1:5,—as the unconditionally credible, who speaks that which He knows, and testifies that which He has seen: John 3:11. It is the expression of decided Plerophoria, which can flow only from the most intimate communion with God. The double Amen is found only in the discourses of Christ in John. Matthew, Mark, and Luke have less regarded the significance of the repetition. As Bengel remarks, the difference is particularly apparent in the parallel passages. Cf. Matthew 26:21; Matthew 26:34; John 13:21; John 13:38. On the words, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Lampe remarks: “Jesus by this formula places Himself in contrast to all the prophets, who commonly appeal to the Lord with the formulas כה אמר יהוה or נאם יהוה , by which they declare that they do not speak on their own authority, but on that of Him who sends them. From such a mode of expression our Lord invariably abstains, and says always. He speaks, in order to intimate that He is that Jehovah who had spoken by the prophets.”

In the words, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, etc., Jesus refers quite unmistakeably to the vision of the heavenly ladder which Jacob, according to Genesis 38, had in Bethel. The vision, the interpretation of which is given immediately afterwards by the Lord in the Word—the discourse of the Lord forms the commentary to the vision—is granted to Jacob not as an individual, but as the head and representative of the chosen race. It has therefore its highest truth in Christ. In that it far transcends the lifetime of Jacob, it shows already that “in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” Only when this is the case, has the vision fully proved its significance. The opened heaven, which, according to Quesnel, signifies that the intercourse between heaven and earth is to be re-established, is, judging from the expression here and in the other passages of the New Testament

Matthew 3:16; Acts 7:55; Acts 10:11—taken primarily from Ezekiel 1:1, the only passage of the Old Testament where the opening of the heaven is mentioned: “Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year—that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.” But the thing itself existed already in that event of the early times, in which was typified the Providence of God ruling over His Church. Jacob says in Genesis 28:17, “This is the gate of heaven.” When it is said, Hereafter ye shall see the heaven opened, Christ refers us to our wretched and lamentable condition before Him and without Him. To have heaven closed, is for man the deepest calamity, so certainly as he is created in the image of God, and therefore can have happiness only in communion with his Original.

In immediate connection with the opening of heaven is the ascending and descending of the angels. It is striking that the ascending precedes the descending. This manifestly refers to the original passage, Genesis 28:12, “And behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.” (That the ladder of the original passage is not mentioned here, shows that it has no independent significance, that it comes into consideration only as means to an end, and belongs only to the vision as such.) Every explanation of the matter must therefore be declined which does not at the same time harmonize with the original passage. If this is regarded, the reason for placing the ascension first may be sought in this only, that the angels would naturally first bear the supplications up to God, and then bring down the answer and aid. So Luther: “The dear angels take our prayer up to heaven, and bring us back the message that our prayer is heard.” It corresponds to the “ascending,” when in Revelation 8:3-4, an angel offers the incense of the prayers of the saints on the altar; and it corresponds to the “descending,” when the angel, in ver. 5, is commissioned by God to cast down fire on the earth for persecuting His Church. Lücke remarks: “He who understands the passage of the angelic appearances at the birth, the death, the resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, does not understand it at all.” And yet any one may see that these facts are comprehended in the declaration before us. For the very reason that these facts are included, the angels cannot possibly, without further explanation, be the “symbol of the uninterrupted revelation of God, of the liveliest, most intimate communion between God and the Messiah.” On the other hand, it is clear that we are not to restrict the declaration of Jesus to those angelic appearances. The circumstance, that in the original passage we have before us a vision, indicates that we are to distinguish between the thought and its form. The correct explanation is as follows: The thought of the special providence of God ruling over the Church gains plastic vividness of conception by the representation, that those who are variously employed in the service of Divine Providence ascend and descend upon the ladder. Now, Jesus has, in the first instance, proper angels in view; but these not in opposition to the other modes of Divine revelation, but as the representatives of Divine revelations and communications in general. The representation, therefore, is not a typical or symbolical, but is rather an individualizing one. The whole is represented by a conspicuous part.

The angels descend on the Son of man, as they ascend from Him. Jesus designates Himself as the Son of man, after deducting the parallel passages, fifty-five times. The designation refers throughout to Daniel 7:13-14. In Daniel, the indication of the heavenly majesty is connected with the appearance of the Messiah as the Son of man. This connection our Lord has in view here, as also in a whole series of other passages. The designation has, in such passages, an apologetic significance. It concedes what is evident, but points at the same time to the hidden background of majesty. Cf. Christology iii. p. 84. So here the phrase, upon the Son of man, is equivalent to, upon Me, who, in spite of My appearance in lowliness and likeness to men, am yet the Son of God, and shall be shown to be such by the descent of the angels. The Son of man continues His existence in the Church founded by Him, with which He is always to the end of the world, and from and upon which the angels are continually ascending and descending.

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on John 1". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms.