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In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
As the Fourth Gospel was not written until the other three had become the household words and daily bread of the Church of Christ-thus preparing it, as babes are by milk, for the strong meat of this final Gospel-so, even in this Gospel, the great keynote of it, that "The Word was made Flesh," is not sounded until, by 13 introductory verses, the reader has been raised to the altitude and attempered to the air of so stupendous a truth.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Three great things are here said of The Word: First, He was "in the beginning" [ en (G1722) archee (G746) = bªree'shiyt (H7225) Genesis 1:1 ]. Thus does our Evangelist commence his Gospel with the opening words of the book of Genesis. Only, as Meyer remarks, he raises the historical conception of the phrase, which in Genesis denotes the first moment of time, to the absolute idea of pre-temporality. That the words "In the beginning" are here meant to signify, 'Before all time' and all created existence, is evident from John 1:3, where all creation is ascribed to this Word, who Himself, therefore, is regarded as uncreated and eternal See John 17:5; John 17:24; Colossians 1:17.
Second, The Word "was with God" [ pros (G4314) ton (G3588) Theon (G2316)]. This conveys two ideas-that He 'had a conscious personal existence distinct from God,' as one is distinct from the person he is "with;" and that He 'was associated with Him in mutual fellowship.' See the note at John 1:18, and observe Zechariah 13:7, "My Fellow, saith the Lord of hosts" [ `ªmiytiy (H5997) 'My Associate']. Observe that He who is called "God" here is in 1 John 1:1-2, called "THE FATHER:" - "The Word of Life (says this same exalted penman) was with the Father, and was manifested unto us." And such is the familiar language of Scripture, with respect to Him who absolutely is "God," but personally, and relatively to the Son, is "the Father."
Third, The Word "was God" [ Theos (G2316) een (G2258) ho (G3588) logos (G3056)]. No other translation of this great clause is grammatically possible. Even should the order of the original words be retained (as in Luther's German version) - "and God was the Word," the sense will still be the same: 'and God the Word was' But this is against the genius of the English language.
Each of these three pregnant statements is the complement of the other; each successive one correcting any misapprehension to which the others might give rise. Thus: The Word, says the Evangelist, was eternal. Yet this was not the eternity of the Father, nor the eternity of a mere attribute of the Father, but of One who is consciously and personally distinct from, and associated with, the Father. But neither is this the distinctness and fellowship of two different Beings-as if there were a plurality of Gods, but of two subsistences in the one absolute Godhead; in such sort that the absolute Unity of the Godhead-the great principle of all Region-instead of being thereby compromised, is only transferred from the region of shadowy abstraction to that of warm personal life and love.
But why all these sharp definitions? it may be asked. Not to tell us of certain mysterious internal distinctions in the Godhead, which but for the Incarnation could never perhaps, have been apprehended at all; but for the purpose of throwing light upon that stupendous assumption of our nature about to be announced, even as that assumption throws light back again upon the eternal distractions and fellowships of the Godhead.
The same was in the beginning with God.
The same was in the beginning with God. Here the first and second statements are combined into one; emphatically reiterating the eternal distinctness of the Word from God ("the Father"), and His association with Him in the Unity of the Godhead. But now what does this special title "The Word" import? The simplest explanation of it, we think, is this: that what a man's word is to himself-the index, manifestation, or expression of himself to others-such, in some, faint sense, is "The Word" in relation to God; "He hath declared Him" (John 1:18). For the origin and growth of this conception, see Remark 3 at the close of this section. So much for the Person of The Word. Now for His actings.
All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
All things were made by him - that is, "all things" in the most absolute sense; as the next clause is intended to make evident;
And without him was not any thing made that was made, [ oude (G3761) hen (G1520) ho (G3739) gegonen (G1096)]. The statement is most emphatic 'without Him was not one thing made that hath been made.' To blunt the force of this, it is alleged that the word "by" [ dia (G1223)] "by him" here means no more than 'through,' or by means of'-in the sense of subordinate instrumentality, not efficient agency. But this same preposition is once and a sin used in the New Testament of God's own efficient agency in the production of all things. Thus, Romans 11:36, "Of Him" [ ex (G1537)] - as their eternal Source - "and through Him" [ di' (G1223) autou (G846)] - by His efficient Agency - "and to Him" [ eis (G1519)] - as their last End - "are all things." And in Colossians 1:16 the creation of all things-in the most absolute sense and in the way of efficient agency-is ascribed to Christ: "For by Him [ en (G1722) autoo (G846)] were created all things" [ ta (G3588) panta (G3956)] - that is, the entire universality of created things, as the all-comprehensive details that follow are intended to show - "whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him" [ ta (G3588) panta (G3956) di' (G1223) autou (G846) kai (G2532) eis (G1519) auton (G846) ektistai (G2936)]. See also Hebrews 1:10-12, where creation, in the most absolute sense, is ascribed to Christ.
In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
In him was life. From simple creation, or calling into existence, the Evangelist now advances to a higher idea-the communication of life. But he begins by announcing its essential and original existence in Himself, virtue of which He became the great Fontal Principle of life in all living, but specially in the highest sense of life. Accordingly, He is called "The Word of life" (1 John 1:1-2).
And the life was the light of men. It is remarkable, as Bengel notes, how frequently in Scripture light and life, on the one hand, and on the other, darkness and death, are associated: "I am the Light of the world," said Christ: "he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12). Contrariwise, "Yea, though I walk," sings the sweet Psalmist, "in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil" (Psalms 23:4). Compare Job 10:21-22. Even of God, it is said, "Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto" (1 Timothy 6:16). Here "the light of men" seems to denote all that distinctive light in men which flows from the life given them-intellectual, moral, spiritual: "For with Thee," says the Psalmist, "is the fountain of life: in Thy light shall we see light" (Psalms 36:9).
And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
And the light shineth in darkness - that is, in this dark fallen world; for though the Life was the light of men," they were "sitting in darkness and the shadow of death" when He came of whom our Evangelist is about to speak, with no ability to find the way either of truth or of holiness. In this thick darkness, then-in this obliquity, intellectual and moral, the light of the Living Word "shineth;" that is, by all the rays of natural or revealed teaching with which men were favoured before the Incarnation.
And the darkness comprehended it not, [ ou (G3756) katelaben (G2638)] - 'did not take it in.' Compare Romans 1:28, "They did not like to retain God in their knowledge." Thus does our Evangelist, by hinting at the inefficacy of all the strivings of the unincarnate Word, gradually pave the way for the announcement of that final remedy-the Incarnation. Compare 1 Corinthians 1:21.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. In approaching his grand thesis-the historical manifestation of the Word-our Evangelist begins with him who was at once a herald to announce Him and a foil to set off His surpassing glory. This-by the way-is sufficient to show that the five foregoing verses are not to be understood of the Incarnate Word, or of Christ's life and actions while He was upon the earth; as is alleged, not by Socinians only, but by some sound critics too-over-jealous of anything that seems to savour of the mystical, metaphysical, or transcendental in Scripture.
The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
He was not that Light [rather, 'The Light' to (G3588 ) Foos (G5457 )], but [was sent] to bear witness of that (or 'The') Light. Noble testimony this to John, that it should be necessary, or even pertinent, to explain that he was not The Light! But John found it necessary himself to make this disavowal (John 1:19-21); and certainly none could be more deeply penetrated and affected by the contrast between himself and his blessed Master than he (See the notes at Luke 3:15-16; and at John 3:27-34.) From the very first he saw and rejoiced to think that his own night-taper was to wax dim before the Day-spring from on high (John 3:30).
That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. So certainly this verse may be rendered (with most of the Fathers and the Vulgate; and of the moderns, with Luther, Erasmus, Calvin, Beza, Bengel, Meyer, Van Osterzee). But "coming into the world," besides being rather a superfluous, is in Scripture quite an unusual, description of "every man." [It has been observed too-and the remark has great force-that the article ton (G3588) should in that case have been inserted before erchomenon (G2064)], On the other hand, of all our Evangelist's descriptions of Christ, none is more familiar than His "coming into the world." See John 3:19; John 6:14; John 12:46; John 18:37; and compare 1 John 4:9; 1 Timothy 1:15, etc. In this view of the words the sense will be, 'That was the true Light which, coming into the world, lighteth every man,' or became "The Light of the World." [So substantially Lampe, Lucke, De Wette Tholuck Olshausen, Luthardt, Ewald, Alford, Webster and Wilkinson.] If this be the Evangelist's meaning, it beautifully carries on his train of thought in John 1:4-5: q.d., 'The Life was the Light of men; and though men resisted it when it shone but faintly before the Incarnation yet when it came into the world (by the Personal assumption of flesh, about to be mentioned), it proved itself the one all illuminating Light.'
He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
He was in the world (as already hinted, and presently to be more explicitly announced), and the world was made by him - for, as has been said "all things were made by him,"
And the world (that is, the intelligent world), knew him not. The language here is hardly less wonderful than the thought. Observe its compact simplicity and grand sonorousness - "the world" resounding in each successive member of the sentence, and the enigmatic form in which it is couched startling the reader, and setting his ingenuity a-working to solve the vast enigma of 'The world's Maker treading on and yet ignored by the world He made!
He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
He came unto his own [ ta (G3588 ) idia (G2398 )], and his own [ hoi (G3588) idioi (G2398)]. It is impossible to give in English the full force of this verse. In the first clause it is 'His own [things]'-meaning 'His own Messianic rights and possessions:' in the second clause, it is 'His own [people];' meaning the special people who were the more immediate subjects of His Messianic kingdom (see the note at Matthew 22:1).
Received him not - that is, as a people; because there were some noble exceptions, to whose case the Evangelist comes in the next clause. As for the nation, they said of Him, "This is THE HEIR, come let us kill Him" (Luke 20:14).
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
But as many as received him as many individuals out of the mass of that "disobedient and gainsaying But as many as received him - as many individuals, out of the mass of that "disobedient and gainsaying people," as owned and embraced Him in His true character,
To them gave he power, [ exousian (G1849)]; The word signifies either authority (potestas') or ability ('potentia') or both. Here certainly both are included; nor is it easy to say which is the prevailing shade of thought.
Even to them that believe on his name, [ eis (G1519) to (G3588) onoma (G3686) autou (G846)]. This is a phrase never used of any creature in Scripture. To 'believe one' [ pisteuein (G4100) tini (G5101)] means to 'give credit to a person's testimony.' This is used not only of prophets and apostles, but of Christ Himself, to signify the credit due to His testimony (as John 4:21; John 5:46-47). But to 'believe upon one,' or 'on the name of one' signifies that trust which is proper to be placed on God only; and when applied, as it is here and in so many other places, to the Lord Jesus, it signifies that the persons spoken of placed supreme faith in Him. But what kind of sonship is this to which Christ introduces such believers in Him? The next verse tells us.
Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Which were born, [ egenneetheesan (G1080)]. Observe this word "born," or begotten.' It was not a name only, a dignity only, which Christ conferred on them: it was a new birth, it was a change of nature-the soul being made conscious, in virtue of it, of the vital capacities, perceptions, and emotions a 'child of God,' to which before it was a total stranger. But now for the Source and Author of that new birth-both negatively and positively.
Not of blood - not of 'superior human descent,' as we judge the meaning to be,
Nor of the will of the flesh - not of 'human generation' at all,
Nor of the will of man - not of man in any of the ways in which his will brings anything about. By this elaborate, three-fold denial of the human and earthly source of this sonship, how emphatic does the following declaration of its real source become!
But of God. A sonship strictly divine then, in its source this was which Christ conferred on as many as received Him. Right royal gift which whoever confers must be absolutely divine. For who would not worship Him who can bring him into the family, and evoke within him the life, of the children of God? Now comes the great climax, to introduce and raise us to the altitude of which the foregoing thirteen verses were penned.
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 - or 'made man,' or took Human Nature in its present state of frailty and infirmity-in contrast both with what it was before the fall, and with what it will be in the ate of Glory-without reference to its sinfulness. So we read, "All flesh is Grass" (1 Peter 1:24); "I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh" (Acts 2:17); "Thou hast given Him power over all flesh" (John 17:2); "All flesh shall see the salvation of God" (Luke 3:6). In this sense the word "flesh" is applied to Christ's human nature before His resurrection in Hebrews 5:7, "Who in the days of His flesh," etc. And this is plainly the meaning of "flesh here-`The Word was made,' or became Man, in the present condition of manhood, apart from its sinfulness in us. The other sense of "flesh" as applied to man in Scripture-`human nature under the law of sin and death,' as in Genesis 6:3; John 3:6; Romans 7:8: is wholly inapplicable to Him who was born "the Holy Thing;" who in life was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners; and who in death "offered Himself without spot to God." Thus, by His Incarnation, married to our nature, He is henceforth and forever personally conscious of all that is strictly human, as truly as of all that is properly divine; and our nature in His Person is redeemed and quickened, ennobled and transfigured. This glorious statement of our Evangelist was probably directed specially against those who alleged that Christ took flesh not really, but only apparently (afterward called 'Docetoe, or advocates of 'the apparent theory'). Against these this gentle spirit is vehement in his Epistles - 1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7; 2 John 1:10-11. Nor could he be too much so; for with the verity of the incarnation all that is substantial in Christianity vanishes.
And dwelt among us, [ eskeenoosen (G4637) en (G1722) heemin (G2254)]. The word strictly signifies 'tabernacled' or 'pitched His tent;' a word unique to John, who uses it four times in the Revelation-and in every case in the sense not of a temporary sojourn, as might be supposed, but of a permanent stay: Revelation 7:15, "Therefore are they before the Throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple, and He that sitteth upon the Throne shall dwell [ skeenoosei (G4637)] among them;" and John 21:3, "And I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell [ skeenoosei (G4637)] with them." (So Revelation 12:12; Revelation 13:6.) Thus, then, is He wedded forever to our flesh; He has entered this tabernacle to go no more out. But the specific allusion in this word is doubtless to that tabernacle where dwelt the Shechinah, as the Jews called the manifested "glory of the Lord" (see the notes at Matthew 22:38-39): and this again shadowed forth Gods glorious residence, in the person of Christ, in the midst of His redeemed people: Psalms 68:18, "Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captivity captive: Thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell [among them]" [lishkown; tou (G3588) kataskeenoosai (G2681)]. See also Leviticus 26:11-12, "And I will set my tabernacle among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you, and be your God, and ye shall be my people;" and Psalms 132:13-14; Ezekiel 37:27. That all this was before the Evangelist's mind, is put almost beyond doubt by what immediately follows. So Lucke, Olshausen, Meyer, De Wetts-which last critic, rising higher than usual, says that thus were perfected air former partial manifestations of God in an essentially personal and historically human manifestation.
(And we beheld his glory. The word [ etheasametha (G2300)] is more emphatic than the simple "saw" [ eidomen (G1492)]: 'This glory,' the Evangelist would say, was revealed to our gaze; yet not to sense, which saw in Him only "the carpenter" - no, it was spiritually discerned' (1 Corinthians 2:14). Hence, it was that Peter's noble testimony is ascribed, by Him who knew its Source, to Divine teaching (Matthew 16:16-17).
The glory as [ hoos (G5613 ] of the only begotten of the Father)] - not a glory 'resembling' or 'like to;' but, The glory as [ hoos (G5613 ] of the only begotten of the Father)] - not a glory 'resembling' or 'like to;' but, according to a well-known sense of the word, a glory 'such as became' or 'was befitting' the Only begotten of the Father. (So Chrysostom, Calvin, Lucke, Tholuck, Olshausen, etc.) On the meaning of the word "Only begotten" [ monogenees (G3439)], see the note at John 1:18. But the whole phrase is expressed somewhat peculiarly here: it is 'the Only begotten'-not of [ ek (G1537)], but '[forth] from the Father' [ para (G3844) Patros (G3962)]; on the sense of which, see the note at John 1:18.
Full of grace and truth. Our translators have here followed the grammatical construction of the verse, connecting this last clause with "the Word" [ ho (G3588) Logos (G3056) ... pleerees (G4134)], and thus throwing the intermediate words into a long parenthesis. But if we take it otherwise, and view this last as an independent clause, not unusual in the New Testament, and not requiting to be grammatically connected with any of the preceding words-which we prefer-the sense will still be the same. These words "Grace and Truth" - or in Old Testament phraseology, "Mercy and Truth." - are the great key-notes of the Bible. By "GRACE" is meant 'the whole riches of God's redeeming love to sinners of mankind in Christ.' Up to the period of the Incarnation, this was, strictly speaking, only in promise; but in the fullness of time it was turned into performance or "TRUTH" - that is, fulfillment. The Old Testament word, "Mercy," denotes the rich Messianic promises made to David; while "Truth" stands for God's faithfulness to thee promises.
Thus, Psalms 89:1-52 sings, almost from beginning to end, of these two things, and pleads upon them, as the two great features of one and the same thing: "I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations. For I have said, Mercy shall be built up forever: thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens. I have found David my servant ... my faithfulness and my mercy shall be with Him. My loving-kindness will I not utterly take from Him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. O Lord, where are thy former loving-kindnesses which thou swearest unto David in thy truth?" And, not to quote more passages, in one great word of the evangelical prophet, and in one of his richer evangelical predictions, we have both ideas combined in that one familiar expression, "The Sure Mercies of David." (Isaiah 55:3; see also Acts 13:34; 2 Samuel 23:5.) In Christ's Person all that Grace and Truth which had for long been floating in shadowy forms, and darting into the souls of the poor and needy its broken beams, took everlasting possession of human flesh, and filled it full. By this Incarnation of Grace and Truth, the teaching of thousands of years was at once transcended and beggared, and the family of God sprang into manhood.
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.
John bare witness of him, and cried - in testimony of the certainty and grandeur of the truth he was proclaiming, and the deep interest of all in it. The strict sense of the words [ marturei (G3140) kai (G2532) kekragen (G2896)] is, 'beareth witness and hath cried;' as if the testimony were still continued and the cry still resounding. But such delicate shades of meaning cannot easily be conveyed in any tolerable translation.
Saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me, [ Ho (G3588) opisoo (G3694) mou (G3450) erchomenos (G2064) emprosthen (G1715) mou (G3450) gegonen (G1096)] or better, perhaps, 'has gotten before (that is, 'above') me.' For he was before me, [ prootos (G4413) mou (G3450)]. Our translators have here used one English word, "before," to convey the same sense of two different Greek words-the one [ emprosthen (G1715)] primarily signifying 'before' in respect of place, and here of official rank; the other [ prootos (G4413)] 'before' in point of time. Nor would it be easy to improve the translation without either marring the intentional terseness of the saying by too many words, or departing from the chaste simplicity required in any version of the Scriptures, and so characteristic of ours. Were we to render it, 'My Successor has become my Superior, because He was my Predecessor,' we should, indeed, convey to the mere English reader some idea of the enigmatic character and quaint structure of the saying, but we should fail to convey the true sense of the statement; for Christ, though posterior to John, was in no sense his Successor, and though prior to Him was in no proper sense his Predecessor. Doubtless, this enigmatic play upon the different senses of the words "before" and "after" was purposely devised by the Baptist to startle his readers, to set their ingenuity a-working to resolve his riddle, and when found, to rivet the truth conveyed by it upon their mind and memory. It may here observed, that though it was no part of our Evangelist's plan to relate in detail the calling and ministry of John the Baptist-that having been sufficiently done in the preceding Gospels-he studiously introduces all his weightiest testimonies to his blessed Master; and the one now given seem to have been suggested by what had just been said of the glory of the Only begotten, and desired to confirm it.
And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.
And of his fullness - that is, of grace and truth; resuming the thread of John 1:14, which had only been interrupted for the purpose of inserting that testimony of John.
Have all we received, and grace for grace, [ charin (G5485) anti (G473) charitos (G5485)] - that is, as we say, 'grace upon grace;' in successive communications and larger measures, as each was able to take it in. So the best critics understand the clause: other and older interpretations are less natural, and not more accordant with the Greek. The work "truth," it will be observed is dropt here; and "GRACE" stands alone, as the chosen New Testament word for "all spiritual blessings" with which believers are enriched out of the fullness of Christ.
For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
For the Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. The law is here placed in opposition both to "grace" and to "truth" - but in different respects, of course. The law is opposed to grace only in that sense in which the law contains no grace. "The law," says the apostle, "worketh wrath" (Romans 2:15), that is, against all who break it; pronouncing a curse upon "everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them" (Galatians 3:10). If, then, under Moses, there was any grace for the guilty, it could not issue out of the bosom of the law, as a proclamation of moral duty; because "by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge (Romans 3:20). But the law was not given only to condemn. It "had a shadow of good things to come, though not the very image of the things" (Hebrews 10:1); and it was this shadow of Gospel blessings which was given by Moses, while the "truth" or substance of them came by Jesus Christ. The law was but "a figure for the time then present, that could not make the worshippers perfect as pertaining to the conscience; because it was not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" (Hebrews 9:9; Hebrews 10:4). All the salvation, therefore, that was gotten under Moses was on the credit of that one offering for sins which perfects forever them that are sanctified; and so they without us could not be made perfect (Hebrews 11:40).
No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
No man [`No one' oudeis (G3762 )] hath seen God at any time - that is, by immediate gaze; by direct, naked perception. In the light of this emphatic negation of all creature vision of God, how striking is what follows!
The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. Had such a statement not come from the pen of apostolic authority and inspiration, who could have ventured to write or to titter it? Let us study it a little. [The extraordinary and extremely harsh reading which Tregelles here adopts, in deference to three of the oldest MSS., and some other authorities-`the only begotten God'-reading OC (Theta-Sigma) for UC (Upsilon-Sigma) - is met by such a weight of counter-authority in favour of the received reading, so thoroughly Joannean, that Tischendorf abides by it, and all but every critic approves it.] What now is the import of this phrase, "The Only begotten Son," as applied to Christ here by the beloved disciple, and in three other places (John 3:16; John 3:18; 1 John 4:9), and of "the Only begotten from the Father," in John 1:14? To say, with the Socinians and some others, that it means no more than "well beloved," is quite unsatisfactory.
For when our Lord Himself spoke to the Jews of "His Father," they understood Him to mean that God was His 'proper Father' [ patera (G3962) idion (G2398)], and so to claim eqality with God; nor did He deny the charge (see the note at John 5:18). And that precious assurance of the Father's love which the apostle derives from His "not sparing His own Son" depends for its whole force on His being His essential Son, or partaker of His very nature [ tou (G3588) idiou (G2398) Huioi (G5207) ouk (G3756) efeisato (G5339)]; see the note at Romans 8:32. We are shut up, then, to understand the pharse, "Only begotten," as applied to Christ, of the Son's essential relation to the Father. The word "begotten," however-like every imaginable term on such a subject-is liable to be misunderstood and care must be taken not to press it beyond the limits of what is clearly sustained by Scripture.
That the Son is essentially and eternally related to the Father in some real sense, as Father and Son; but that while distinct in Person (for "The Word was with God"), He is neither posterior to Him in time (for "In the beginning was The Word"), nor inferior to Him in nature (for "The Word was God"), nor separate from Him in being (for "The same was in the beginning with God"), but One Godhead with the Father:-this would seem to come as near to the full testimony of Scripture on this mysterious subject as can be reached by our finite understanding, without darkening counsel by words without knowledge, The special expression in the 14th verse - "The Only begotten Son [forth] from the Father" [ para (G3844) Patros (G3962)], and that equally remarkable one in John 1:18, "The Only begotten Son which is in (or 'into,' or 'upon') the bosom of the Father' [ eis (G1519) ton (G3588) kolpon (G2859) tou (G3588) Patros (G3962)] seem to be the complement of each other: the one expressing, as we might say, His relation to the Father's essence-as 'forth from' it; the other, if we might so speak, His non-separation from Him, but this in the form of inconceivable personal and loving nearness to Him. Thus does our Evangelist positively affirm of Christ, not only what he had just before denied of all creatures-that He "hath seen God" see John 6:46) - but that being 'in,' 'into,' or 'on' the bosom of the Father, He had access to His very heart, or without a figure, that He, and He only, has absolute knowledge of God. Well,
He hath declared him, [ ekeinos (G1565) exeegeesato (G1834)] - 'He declared him' who only could, as The Word, the Reflection, the Extrusion of His very Self; He, who, living ever on His bosom, gazes on Him ever, knows Him ever, with an intimate perception, an absolute knowledge special to Himself-He it is whom the Father hath sent to "declare Him." And thus does our Evangelist close this great Introductory section of his Gospel as he began it, with The Word.
(1) Since God so ordered it that the first converts and the infant churches should be thoroughly familiarized with the History of His Son's work in the flesh on the lower platform of the First Three Gospels, before they were lifted up by this Fourth Gospel to the highest view of it, we may infer, that just as we also have thriven upon the milk of the other Gospels will be our ability to digest and to grow upon the strong meet of this last and crowning Gospel. And might it not be well, in the public exposition of the Gospel History, to advance from the corporeal Gospels, as the Fathers of the Church were wont to call them, [ ta (G3588) somatika (G4984)], to what by way of eminence they called the spiritual Gospel [ to (G3588) pneumatikon (G4152)]? Nevertheless, even in this Gospel there is an exquisite net-work of concrete outward History, which captivates even the rudest and youngest readers; and it breathes such an atmosphere of love and heaven, that the deep truths which enshrined in it possess attractions they would not otherwise have had. Thus, each is perfect in its own kind, and all are one pearl of great price.
(2) Did our Evangelist, before uttering the keynote of his whole Gospel, pave the way for it by so many introductory verses? What need, then, to put off the shoe from off our feet when we come to tread such holy ground!
(3) With respect to the origin and growth of this term, "The Word," in the sense in which it is here used-for it certainly was not used by our Evangelist for the first time-we find the teaching of the Old Testament from the first tending gradually toward that conception of it which is here presented: "The word of the Lord" is said to have given birth to creation, and to carry into effect all the divine purposes; "wisdom" is spoken of as eternally with God, and rejoicing in the habitable parts of His earth; "The Angel of Yahweh" is identified with Yahweh Himself; men are warned to "kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and they perish from the way;" and the form of that fourth mysterious Person who was seen walking in Nebuchadnezzar's burning fiery furnace, with the three Hebrew youths, was "like the Son of God." Thee conceptions, combined, would familiarize the thoughtful with something very like what is here said of The Word.
Accordingly, the more profound Jewish theologians constantly represented "The Word of the Lord" [meeymªraa' diy Yahweh] as the Personal Agent by whom all divine operations were performed. In a word, about the time of our Lord the Alexandrian Jews, with Philo at their head, engrafting the Platonic philosophy upon their own reading of the Old Testament, had fallen into the familiar use of language closely resembling that employed here; and this phraseology was doubtless current throughout all the region in which our Evangelist probably wrote his Gospel, and must have been familiar to him. And yet, in two important points, this language of the Jewish Platonists, even where it seems to come the nearest to that of our Evangelist, is vastly removed from it. First, it was so hazy, that scholars who have studied their writings the most deeply are not agreed whether by The Word [ ho (G3588) Logos (G3056)] they meant a Person at all; and next, even if that were certain, this "Word" was never identified by them with the promised Messiah. The truth seems to be, that this beloved disciple, having often reflected on such matters in the stillness of his own meditative and lofty spirit, and now, after so long a silence, addressed himself to the task of drawing up one more and final Gospel, did, under the guidance of the Spirit, advisedly take up the current phraseology, and not only thread his way through the corrupt elements which had mixed themselves up with the true doctrine of "The Word," but stamp upon that phraseology new conceptions, and enshrine forever is these eighteen introductory verses of his Gospel the most sublime of all truths regarding the Incarnate Redeemer.
(4) Within the limits of this section all the heresies that have ever been broached regarding the Person of Christ-and they are legion-find the materials of their refutation. Thus, to the Ebionites and the Artemonites of the second century, to Noetus and Paul of Samosata of the third and to Socinus and his followers at and since the Reformation-who all affirmed that Christ was a mere man, more or less filled with the Divinity, but having no existence until He was born into our world-our Evangelist here cries, "IN THE BEGINNING was the Word." To Arius, in the fourth century and to a host of modern followers-who affirmed that Christ, though he existed before all other created beings, was himself but a creature; the first and highest indeed, but still a creature-our Evangelist here cries, "The Word was GOD:" All things were made by Him, and without Him was not one thing made that was made: In Him was life, and the life was the light of men: as many as received Him to them gave He power to become children of God.
The Only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He declared Him." To Sabellius, in the third century, and not a few speculative moderns-who held that there is but one Person in the Godhead; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit being but three modes in which the one Person has been pleased to manifest Himself for man's salvation-our Evangelist cries, "The Word was in the beginning WITH GOD: He is the Only begotten from the Father, and He it is that declared Him." To those afterward called Docetoe-who, as early as the first century, held that Christ took only an apparent, not a real, humanity; and Apollinaris, in the fourth century, and some modern followers-who affirmed that Christ, though lie took a human body, took no rational human spirit, the Word supplying its place as the only intelligence by which He acted; and the Nestorians of the fifth century-who held, or were charged with holding, that Holy Thing which was born of the virgin was not "the Son of God," but only the son of Mary, to whom the Son of God joined Himself, making two separate persons, though closely united; and finally to the Eutychians-who, in the same century, affirmed that the divine and human natures were so blended as to constitute together but one nature, having the properties of both: to one and all of these errorists (in language at least, though there is reason to think not always in actual belief) our Evangelist here cries, in words of majestic simplicity and transparent clearness, "THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH;" using that term "Flesh" in its wellknown sense when applied to human nature, and leaving no room for doubt in the unsophisticated reader that He became Man in the only sense which those words naturally convey.
The Fathers of the Church, who were driven to the accurate study of this subject by all sorts of loose language and floating heresies regarding the person of Christ, did not fail to observe how warily our Evangelist changes his language from "WAS" to "BECAME" [ een (G2258) egeneto (G1096)] when he passes from the pre-existent to the incarnate condition of the Word, saving, "In the beginning was the Word-and the Word was made flesh." To express this they were wont to say, 'Remaining what He was, He became what He was not.'
(5) Did the truth of Christ's Person cost the Church so much study and controversy from age to age against persevering and evervarying attempts to corrupt it? How dear, then, should it be to us, and how jealously should we guard it, at the risk of being charged with stickling for human refinements, and prolonging fruitless and forgotten controversies! At the same time,
(6) The glory of the Only begotten of the Father is best seen and felt, not in the light of mere abstract phraseology-sanctioned though it be by the whole orthodox Church, unexceptionable in form, and in its own place most valuable-but by tracing in this matchless History His footsteps upon earth, as He walked amid all the elements of nature, the diseases of men, and death itself, amidst the secrets of the human heart, and the rulers of the darkness of this world-in all their number, subtlety, and malignity-not only with absolute ease as their conscious Lord, but as if themselves had been conscious of their Master's presence and felt His will to be their resistless law.
And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?
And this is the record (or 'testimony,') of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? By "the Jews" here, and almost always in this Gospel, is meant-not the Jewish nation, as contrasted with the Gentiles, but-`the rulers' of the nation.
And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.
And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. In thus disclaiming the Messiahship for himself, he resisted a strong temptation; because many were ready to hail the Baptist as himself the Christ. But as he gave not the least ground for such impressions of him, so neither did he give them a moment's entertainment.
But why all these sharp definitions? it may be asked. Not to tell us of certain mysterious internal distinctions in the Godhead, which but for the Incarnation could never perhaps, have been apprehended at all; but for the purpose of throwing light upon that stupendous assumption of our nature about to be announced, even as that assumption throws light back again upon the eternal distractions and fellowships of the Godhead.
And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.
And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not - that is, not Elijah in his own proper person, whom the Jews expected, and still expect, before the coming of their Messiah. Art thou that prophet? [ ho (G3588) profeetees (G4396)] - rather, 'the prophet;' announced in Deuteronomy 18:15, etc., about whom they seem not to have been agreed whether he wet the same with the promised Messiah or no. And he answered, No.
Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?
Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?
He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.
He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness. His Master was "The Word;" the herald was but a voice crying through the Judean desert, Make ready for the coming Lord! See the notes at Matthew 3:1-3.
And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.
And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. Since the Sadducees could hardly be expected to take much interest in such matters, this explanation is probably intended to do more than tell the reader that this deputation was of the other sect. It probably refers to their special jealousy about any innovations on the traditional way of thinking and acting, and to prepare the reader for their question in the next verse.
And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?
And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that ('the') Christ, nor Elias, neither that ('the') prophet? Thinking that he disclaimed any special connection with the Messiah's kingdom, they very naturally demand his right to gather disciples by baptism. (See the note at John 3:28.)
John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not;
John answered them, saying, I baptize with water - with water only; the higher, internal, baptism with the Holy Spirit being the exclusive prerogative of his Master. (See the note at Matthew 3:11.)
But there standeth one among you, whom ye know not. This must have been spoken after Christ's Baptism, and probably almost immediately after it.
He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose.
He it is, who coming after me, is preferred before me - see the note at John 1:15.
Whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose - see the note at Matthew 3:11,
These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
These things were done in Bethabara, [ beeyt (H1004) `ªbaaraah (H5679)] - 'ferry-house' or 'crossing-place.' But the true reading, as nearly all the best and most ancient MSS. attest, is 'Bethany:' not, of course, the well-known Bethany, at the foot of Mount Oilvet, but some village lying on the east side of the Jordan, which in the time of Origen had disappeared.
Beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
The next day - the crowd, as we take it, having dispersed, and only his own disciples being present,
John seeth Jesus coming unto him. This was probably immediately after the Temptation, when Jesus, emerging from the wilderness of Judea on His way to Galilee (John 1:43) came up to the Baptist. But it was not to hold conversation with him, however congenial that would have been; for of this there appears to have been none at all from the time of His baptism even until the Baptist's imprisonment and death. The sole object of this approach to the Baptist would appear to have been to receive from him that wonderful testimony which follows:
And saith - immediately catching a sublime inspiration at the sight of Him approaching:
Behold the Lamb of God, Which taketh away the sin of the world! Every word here is emphatic, and precious beyond all expression. "THE LAMB" here, beyond all doubt, points to the death of Christ, and the sacrificial character of that death. The offering of a lamb every morning and evening and of two on the morning and evening of every Sabbath day, throughout all the ages of the Jewish economy, had furnished such a language on this subject as to those who heard these words of the Baptist could need no explanation, however the truth thus expressed might startle them. But in calling Jesus "the Lamb," and "the Lamb of God," he held Him up as the one 'God-ordained, God-gifted God-accepted' sacrificial offering.
If, however, there could remain a doubt whether this was what the words were designed to convey, the explanation which follows would set it at rest - "Which taketh away the sin of the world," The word [ airoon (G142)] here used, and the corresponding Hebrew word [ nosee' (H5375)] signify both 'taking up' and taking away. Applied to sin, they mean to 'be chargeable with the guilt of it' (Exodus 28:38; Leviticus 5:1; Ezekiel 18:20), and to 'bear it away' (as in many places). In the Levitical victims both ideas met, as they do in Christ; the people's guilt being viewed as transferred to them avenged in their death, and thus borne away by them (Leviticus 4:15; Leviticus 16:15; Leviticus 16:21-22; and compare Isaiah 52:6-12; 2 Corinthians 5:21). "The sin," says the Baptist using the singular number to denote the collective burden laid upon the Lamb, and the all-embracing efficacy, of the great Sacrifice; and "the sin of the world" - in contrast with the typical victims which were offered for Israel exclusively: 'Wherever there shall live a sinner throughout the wide world, sinking under that burden too heavy for him to bear, he shall find in this "Lamb of God" a shoulder equal to the weight.' Thus was the right note struck at the very outset. And what balm must it have been to Christ's own spirit to hear it! Never, indeed, was a more glorious utterance heard on earth; no, nor ever shall be. But it was uttered, as we think, in the hearing only of those who were in some measure prepared for it.
This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.
This is he of whom I said, After me cometh ... - recalling the testimony he had borne before, and recorded in John 1:15.
And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.
No JFB commentary on this verse.
And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.
And John bare record, saying, I saw, [ tetheamai (G2300)] - or 'I have seen' "the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him."
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.
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 Spirit.
And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.
And I saw [or 'have seen' - heooraka (G3708 )] that this is the Son of God. There is some appearance of inconsistency between the First and the Fourth Gospels, as to the Baptist's knowledge of his Master before the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Him. Matthew seems to write as if the Baptist had immediately recognized Him, and accordingly recoiled, as a servant, from baptizing his Master: whereas John makes the Baptist himself to say that he "knew Him not," and seem to say that until the Spirit descended upon Him he perceived no difference between Him and the other applicants for baptism that day. But by viewing the transaction in the following light the two statements may be harmonized. Living mostly apart-the One at Nazareth, the other in the Judean desert, to prevent all appearance of collusion-John only knew that at a definite time after his own call his Master would show Himself. As He drew near for baptism one day, the last of all the crowd, the spirit of the Baptist, perhaps, heaving under a divine presentiment that the moment had at length arrived, and an air of unwonted serenity and dignity-not without traits, probably, of the family features-appearing in this Stranger, the Spirit, we may imagine, said to him as to Samuel of his youthful type, "Arise, anoint Him, for this is He!" (1 Samuel 16:12). But just then would the incongruity be felt of the servant baptizing the Master, nay, a sinner the Saviour Himself; and then would take place the dialogue, recorded by Matthew, between John and Jesus. Then followed the Baptism, and thereupon the descent of the Spirit. And this visible descent of the Spirit upon Him, as He emerged out of the baptismal water, being the very sign which he was told to expect, he now knew the whole transaction to be divine; and catching up the voice from heaven, "he saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God." So, substantially, the best interpreters.
Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;
Again, the next day after, John stood, [ heisteekei (G2476)] - or 'was standing;' probably at his accustomed place. The reader will do well to observe that here, and in John 1:29, we have the beginning of that chronological precision which is so marked a characteristic of this Gospel.
And two of his disciples;
And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!
And looking, [ emblepsas (G1689 ), fixing his eyes with significant gaze] upon Jesus as he walked.
Observe, it is not said this time that Jesus was coming to John. To have done that once (John 1:29) was humility enough, as Bengel notes. But John saw Him simply "walking" [ peripatounti (G4043)], as if in solitary meditation; yet evidently designing to bring about that interview with two of John's disciples which was to be properly His first public act. He saith, Behold the Lamb of God! The repetition, in brief, of that wonderful proclamation, in identical terms and without an additional word, was meant both as a gentle hint to go after Him, and to fix the light in which they were to regard Him. And it had the desired effect-as we are now to hear.
And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
No JFB commentary on this verse.
Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?
Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, [ kai (G2532 ) theasamenos (G2300 ) autous (G846 ) akolouthountas (G190 ), 'and looked upon them as they followed'] (see the note at John 1:36 ), and saith unto them, What seek ye? Gentle, winning question; remarkable as the Redeemer's first public utterance.
They said unto him, Rabbi (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) - an explanation which shows that this Gospel was designed for those who had little or no knowledge of Jewish phraseology or usages.
Where dwellest thou? As if to say, 'Lord, that is a question not to be answered in a moment; but had we Thy company for a calm hour in private, gladly should we open our burden.'
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.
He saith unto them, Come and see - His second utterance; more winning still. They came and saw where he dwelt, [ menei (G3306)] - 'where He stayed' or 'abode,'
It was about the tenth hour. According to the Roman reckoning-from midnight to midnight-this would be with us ten o'clock in the morning: according to the Jewish reckoning-from six in the morning to six in the evening-the tenth hour here would be with us four in the afternoon, or within two hours of the close of the day. Olshausen, Tholuck, Ebrard, Ewald understand the Evangelist in the former sense; in which case they must have spent with our Lord a far greater length of time than, we think, is at all probable. To us there appears to be no reasonable doubt that the latter reckoning is here meant, which would make their stay about two hours, if they left precisely at the close of the Jewish day, though there is no reason to suppose this. Indeed, the Greeks of Asia Minor and the Romans themselves had latterly begun to reckon time popularly by the working day-from six to six. In this sense, Calvin, Beza, Bengel, Meyer, DeWette, van Osterzee, Alford, Webster and Wilkinson, understand the Evangelist.
One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.
One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. It would appear that Andrew was Peter's older brother. The other was certainly our Evangelist himself-because otherwise there seems no reason why he should not have named him; because, if not, he has not even alluded to his own calling; but chiefly, because it is according to his usual manner to allude to himself while avoiding the express mention of his name, and the narrative here is so graphic and detailed as to leave an irresistible impression on the reader's mind that the writer was himself a party to what he describes. His great sensitiveness, as Olshausen says, is touchingly shown in his representation of this first contact with the Lord; the circumstances are present to him in the minutest details; he still remembers the very hour: but he reports no particulars of those discourses of the Lord by which he was bound to Him for the whole of his life; he allows everything personal to retire.
He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.
He first findeth his own brother Simon. Possibly, this may mean 'own brother' in contrast with step-brothers in the family. But the expression may here be used merely for emphasis. According to the received text [ prootos (G4413)], the meaning is, 'He was the first to find;' but, according to what we think with Lachmann and Tregelles-but not Tischendorf-the better supported reading [ prooton (G4412)], our English version gives the true sense. The meaning probably is, as we familiarly express it, 'the first thing;' that is, immediately on returning home. But the word "findeth" seems to imply that he had to seek for him, and could not rest until he was able to open to him his swelling heart.
And saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. See the notes at Matthew 1:16; Matthew 1:21. The previous preparation of their simple hearts, under the Baptist's ministry, made quick work of this blessed conviction, while others kept hesitating until doubt settled into obduracy. And so it is still.
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, A stone.
And he brought him to Jesus. Happy brothers, thus knit together by a new tie! If Peter soon outstripped not only Andrew but all the rest, he would still remember that his brother "was in Christ before him," and was the blessed instrument of bringing him to Jesus.
And when Jesus beheld him (see the note at 36), he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona, or rather, "Jonas," as rendered in John 21:17 - the full name serving, as Tholuck says, to give solemnity to the language (Matthew 16:17; John 21:17):
The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me.
The day following Jesus would go forth, [ eetheleesen (G2309)] - or, 'was minded to go forth'
Into Galilee. From the time when He "came from Nazareth" to be baptized of John, He had lived in Judea until now, when He was on His way back to Galilee. This makes it quite evident that the calling of Simon and Andrew at the sea of Galilee, recorded in Matthew 4:18, must have been a subsequent transaction. But see the note at Matthew 4:18; and at Luke 5:1.
And findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. The other three might be said to find Jesus, but Philip was found of Jesus. Yet in every case, "we love Him because He first loved us," and in every case the response on our part must be as cordial as the call on His.
Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
Of Andrew and Peter - the city of their birth probably; because their place of residence was Capernaum (Mark 1:29). The fact mentioned in this verse throws light on a very small incident in John 6:5 (on which see). That Philip did follow Jesus is not here recorded; but the next two verses more than express this.
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.
Philip findeth Nathanael. For the evidence that this disciple was no other than "Bartholomew," in the catalogues of the Twelve, see the note at Matthew 10:3.
And saith unto him, We have found him of whom Moses in the Law - "for he wrote of Me," says our Lord Himself, John 5:46,
Did write, Jesus of Nazareth the son of Joseph. This was the current way of speaking, and legally true. See the notes at Matthew 1:1-25.
And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.
And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Bethlehem, he perhaps remembered, was Messiah's predicted birthplace: Nazareth as a town had no place in prophecy, nor in the Old Testament at all. But its proverbial ill-repute may have been what directly suggested the doubt whether that could possibly be the place, of all places, whence Messiah was to issue. Philip saith unto him, Come and see. Noble remedy against pre-conceived opinions! exclaims Bengel. Philip, though probably unable to solve the difficulty, could show him where to get rid of it; and Nathanael takes his advice. See the note at John 6:68.
Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!
Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! - not only no hypocrite, but, with a guileless simplicity not always found even in God's own people, ready to follow wherever truth might lead him, saying, Samuel-like, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth."
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.
Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Conscious that his very heart had been read, and that at this critical moment that which he most deeply felt-a single desire to know and embrace the truth-had been expressed.
Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee - showing He knew all that had passed at a distance between Philip and him,
When thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. Of His being there at all the Evangelist says nothing, but tells us that Jesus, to the amazement of Nathanael, saw him there, and what he was there engaged in. What could He be doing? Fortunately we can answer that question with all but certainty. Lightfoot and Wetstein quote passages from the Jewish rabbis, showing that little knots of earnest students were wont to meet with a teacher early in the morning, and sit and study under a shady fig tree. There, probably-hearing that his master's Master had at length appeared, and heaving with mingled eagerness to behold Him and dread of deception-he had retired to pour out his guileless heart for light and guidance. "Good and upright is the Lord," we think we hear him saying; "therefore will He teach sinners in the way: The meek will He guide in judgment, and the meek will He teach His way: The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will show them His covenant.
My heart is inditing a good matter, I will speak of the things which I have made touching the King, my tongue shall be the pen of a ready writer: Thou art fairer than the children of men, Grace is poured into Thy lips, therefore God hath blessed Thee forever. O that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! Why is His chariot so long in coming? Why tarry the wheels of His chariot? O that Thou wouldest rend the heavens, that Thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at Thy presence. For from the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside Thee, what He hath prepared for him that waiteth for Him. My soul, wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is from Him. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait on Thee. Until the day dawn, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, to the hill of frankincense.
Show me a token for good!" (See the note at Luke 2:8.) At that moment, of calm yet outstretched expectancy, returning from his fig tree, "Philip" - missing him probably at his house, where he had gone to seek him, and coming out in search of him - "findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found Him of whom Moses and the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." 'Of Nazareth? How can that be?' 'I cannot tell, but Come and see, and that will suffice.' He comes; and as he draws near, the first words of Jesus, who breaks the silence, fill him with wonder. 'Would ye see a guileless, true-hearted Israelite, whose one object is to be right with God, to be taught of Him, and be led by Him? this is he!' 'Rabbi, whence knowest thou me?' 'Guileless soul! that fig tree, with all its heaving anxieties, earnest pleadings, and tremulous hopes-without an eye or an ear, as thou thoughtest, upon thee-Mine eye saw it, Mine ear heard it all!' The first words of Jesus had astonished, but this quite overpowered and more than won him. Accordingly,
Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.
Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel - the one denoting His Personal, the other His Official dignity. How much loftier this than anything Philip had said to him! But just as the earth's vital powers, the longer they are frost-bound, take the greater spring when at length set free, so souls, like Nathanael and Thomas (see the note at John 20:28), the outgoings of whose faith are hindered for a time, take the start of their more easy-going brethren when once loosed and let go. It may, indeed, be asked how Nathanael came so far ahead of the current views of his day as these words of his express. For though "The King of Israel" was a phrase familiar enough to the Jews, in their own sense of it, the phrase "Son of God" was so far from being familiar to them as a title of their promised Messiah, that they never took up stones to stone our Lord until He called Himself, and claimed the prerogatives of, God's own Son. We think there can be no doubt that Nathanael got this from the Baptist's teaching-not his popular teaching, recorded in detail, but his inner teaching to the circle of his own select disciples, whom he taught to recognize in the Messiah not only "the Lamb of God," but "the Son of God" (see the notes at John 3:27-36).
Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.
Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? 'So quickly convinced, Nathanael, and on this evidence only?'-an expression of admiration. Jesus saw in the quickness and the rapture of this guileless Israelite's faith a noble susceptibility, which He tells him should soon have food enough. And, no doubt, He felt the fragrance to His own spirit of such a testimony.
Thou shalt see greater things than these.
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.
And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter. [This phrase "hereafter" - ap' (G575) arti (G737) - is excluded from the text by Lachmann, Tregelles, and Tischendorf, in his earlier editions, whom Alford follows. But the evidence in its favour is, in our judgment, decisive, and Tischendorf has restored it to the text in his last edition. De Wette, Meyer, and Olshausen concur in regarding it as part of the original text.]
Ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. The key to this great saying is Jacob's vision on his way to Padan-aram, (Genesis 28:12, etc.) To show the patriarch that though alone and friendless on earth his interests were busying all heaven, he was made to see "heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon a" mystic "ladder reaching from heaven to earth." 'By and by,' says Jesus here, 'ye shall see this communication between heaven and earth thrown wide open, and the Son of Man to be the real Ladder of this conversation.' On the meaning of the word "hereafter" - or, as it should rather be, 'henceforth'-see the note at Mark 14:62. Here, for the first time, and at the very opening of His public ministry, our Lord gives Himself that special title - "THE SON OF MAN" - by which He designates Himself almost invariably throughout, even until just before He was adjudged to die, when to the Jewish Sanhedrim He said, "Nevertheless I say unto you, Henceforth [ ap' (G575) arti (G737)] shall ye see The Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven" (Matthew 26:64).
But while our Lord hardly ever called Himself by any other name, it is a striking fact that by that name He was never once addressed, and never once spoken of, while He was on earth, and that, with two exceptions, He is never so called in the succeeding parts of the New Testament. And even these two passages are no proper exceptions. For in the one (see the note at Acts 7:56) the martyr Stephen is only recalling our Lord's own words to the Jewish council, as already fulfilled before His own vision in the presence of that same council: in the other passage (see the note at Revelation 1:13) the beloved disciple-having a vision of Jesus in the symbols of majesty and glory, power and grace, in the midst of the churches, as their living Lord-only recalls the language of Daniel's night vision of "The Son of Man," and tells us how he was able to identify this glorious One with Him on whose bosom himself had leaned at every meal when He was on earth, saying that He was "like unto the Son of Man." These special passages, then, instead of contradicting, only confirm the remark, that by this name He was never spoken to, never spoken of, and in the churches never called, and that it stands alone as His own chosen designation of Himself.
Of the seventy-nine times in which it occurs in the Gospels, it is found seldomest in John-only eleven times-being there overshadowed by a still more august name, "The Son of God." Mark uses it only once more; Luke uses it 26 times; but in Matthew it occurs 30 times. This suggests a Hebraic origin of the phrase; and indeed there can be no doubt that it is fetched directly from Daniel 7:13-14 (on the occasion and scope of which, see the note at Mark 13:26): "I saw in the night visions, and behold [one] like THE SON OF MAN [ kªbar (H1247) 'ªnaash (H606); hoos (G5613) huios (G5207) anthroopou (G444)] came with the clouds of heaven," etc. But what is the import of this special title? It has a two-fold significance, we apprehend. Putting the emphasis on the last word, "The Son of Man," or of Humanity, it expresses the great fact that He took flesh of our flesh, that He "was made in the likeness of men," that "as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same." Accordingly, in several passages it will be found that our Lord designed by this phrase to express emphatically the humiliation to which He had submitted in "being formed in fashion as a man." But when we put the emphasis upon the definite article, "The Son of Man," it will be seen that He thereby severs Himself from all other men, or takes Himself out of the category of ordinary humanity.
And we believe that He thus holds Himself forth as "The Second Man," in contrast with "the first man, Adam," or, as He is otherwise called, "The Second Adam;" that is, the second Representative Man, in whose Person Humanity stood and was recovered, in opposition to the first Representative man, in whom Humanity fell and was ruined. So much for this special phrase. But what is meant by "the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man?" Almost all expositors of any depth, from Origen to Calvin, and from Calvin to Lucke, and Olshausen, and Tholuck, and Stier, and Alford, set aside all reference to miraculous events, and see in it the opening up of a gracious conversation between heaven and earth through the mediation of the Lord Jesus. If it be asked why, both in Jacob's vision and in our Lord's reference to it here, the angels are not said to "descend and ascend" - as we should expect, from and to their proper abode-but to "ascend and descend," we may give Lucke's beautiful suggestion, that they are left in their descending office, as if they went up only to come down to us again on yet other errands, and exercise an abiding ministry.
(1) How sublimely noiseless were the first footsteps of that Ministry whose effects were to be world-wide and for all time-reaching even into eternity! How quietly were those five disciples first called-under one of whom the Christian Church rose first into visible existence, and achieved its earliest triumphs; while another-the youngest of them all, and Peter's companion and coadjutor in all his early sufferings and labours-after surviving them all, contributed to the Canon of Scripture writings which transcend, may we not say, all the rest in the impress which they bear of Christ Himself! See the notes at Matthew 12:16-21, with Remark 6 at the close of that section.
(2) Every disciple of the Lord Jesus is called in his own way. John and Andrew are drawn to Jesus, after the training they had received from the Baptist, by the sublime strain in which their master directed their attention to Him, and the Saviour's winning encouragement of their own advances. Simon is brought to Jesus by his brother Andrew. Jesus "findeth" Philip, and at once gives them that call to follow Him which needed not to be repeated. But Philip "findeth" Nathanael and fetches him to Jesus. Difficulties exist in that guileless man; but they vanish in a transport of wonder and exultation, on the Saviour revealing him all to himself. Even so it is still. But as He to Whom all come is One, so the grace that worketh in all to bring them is one; and a goodly fellowship it is, whose diversity only enhances the charm of their unity. Even as in the Kingdom of Nature:
`Wisely Thou givest-all around Thine equal rays are resting found, Yet varying so on various ground
They pierce and strike That not two roseate cups are crown'd With dew alike,'
So in the kingdom of grace. (3) What a glorious note was that to strike at the very outset of the Gospel-before yet the Lord Jesus had opened His own 'mouth most sweet' - "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!" and as it was so soon again repeated to the same audience, is it not clear that this was designed to be the great primary proclamation of Christ's servants in every land and in all ages? They are not to think it enough to show to sinners of mankind that there has been given a Lamb of God for the taking away of the sin of the world, and that this is the one all-availing sacrifice for sin; but when they have done this, they are to hold Him forth and bid burdened sinners behold Him, and know their burden removed in Him. Never, we may safely say, was any ministry divinely owned and honoured of which this has not been the alpha and the omega; nor has any such ministry been without the seals of Heaven's approval.
(4) Difficulties in religion are best dealt with by taking a firm grasp of fundamental and undeniable truths. Nathanael's difficulties, though they were those of a sincere inquirer, were certainly not removed before he consented to come to Jesus; nor did Christ Himself remove them as a preliminary to Nathanael's believing on Him. But being furnished with transparent evidence of His claims, that honest heart waited not for more, but uttered forth its convictions at once. Difficulties may be removed, but even if they never be on this side of time, let us not spend our days in doubt and darkness; let us plant our foot upon the rock of manifest truth, and for the rest wait until the day dawn and the shadows flee away.
(5) As guile in every form vitiates the religious character and shuts out divine teaching, so to be "without guile" is the beginning of all that is acceptable to God (Psalms 32:2), and carries with it the assurance of divine guidance in the path of truth and duty. It is one of the great characteristics of the predicted Christ that no deceit should be found in His mouth (Isaiah 53:9); and of a class of Christians distinguished for their fidelity to Him in times of general defection, that in their mouth was found no guile (Revelation 14:5); and of the restored remnant of Israel that they shall not speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth (Zephaniah 3:13). All this would seem to imply that entire simplicity and freedom from guile is a character remarkable rather for its rarity even among God's own people.
(6) As the joy of discovered truth is in proportion to the difficulties experienced in finding it, so when firmness of conviction bursts forth from the heart that has found Christ in a tide of emotion, it is to Him peculiarly grateful, as was that noble exclamation of Nathanael's.
(7) If Christ be Immanuel, "God with us," we can understand His being the Ladder of mediatorial communication between heaven and earth-uniting in his glorious Person the nature of both, but on no other view of Christ is this explainable; and, in fact, none who dispute the one really believe the other. But
(8) What thoughts does this idea of the "Ladder" suggest! Never a groaning that cannot be uttered enters into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth, but it first passes up this Ladder-for no man cometh unto the Father but by Him: Never a ray of light, never a breath of love divine, irradiates and cheers the dark and drooping spirit, but it first passes down this Ladder; because the Father loveth the Son and hath given all things into his hand, and, if we are "blessed with all spiritual blessings," it is "in Christ." Thus is He not only our "way" to the Father, but the Father's "way" to us. Needest thou, then, poor burdened heart, anything from thy Father, to keep thee from sinking, to bear thee through the trials of life, and to bring thee home at length to thy Father's house in peace? Lie like Jacob at the foot of this glorious Ladder, planted close by thee on this ground but whose top reacheth to heaven, and send up thy petition on this Ladder-make known thy request through Him: then look and listen, and thou shalt see, as Jacob did, "the Lord standing above it, and hear Him speaking down this Ladder into thine own ear the rich assurances of His love and power, His grace and truth, pledged "not to leave thee until He hath done that which He hath spoken to thee of." And with Jacob thou shalt say, "How dreadful is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." Well may the angels of God be the winged messengers of such a contact; and what a crowded Ladder, and what busy activities, are suggested to us by their thus "ascending and descending" on errands of love to us, the "descending" flight of them being the thought with which the curtain of this beautiful scene drops upon us!
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on John 1". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent