John 1
Vincent's Word Studies
The Gospel According to John


The life of John covers a period from near the beginning of the first century to the beginning of the second. He was a native of Galilee, and, according to tradition, of the town of Bethsaida, which was on the western shore of the Lake, not far from Capernaum and Chorazin. His father was Zebedee. His mother, Salome (Mark 16:1; Matthew 20:20), was among the women who supported the Lord with their substance (Luke 8:3), and attended Him to His crucifixion (Mark 15:40). The family was not without worldly means. Zebedee was a fisherman, and had hired servants in his employ (Mark 1:20). Salome ministered to Jesus, and John seems to have had his own house (John 19:27). He was, apparently, one of the disciples of John the Baptist; and while engaged in his father's craft, was found and called by Jesus (Matthew 4:21; Mark 1:19). Of the two mentioned in John 1:35, only one, Andrew, is named (John 1:40); the other is commonly supposed to have been John, who suppresses his own name, as in other instances where he refers to himself (John 14:23; John 18:15; John 19:26; John 20:2, John 20:4, John 20:8; John 21:20).

As soon as Jesus was made known to him, he became His enthusiastic disciple. His peculiar intimacy with our Lord is marked by the phrase "the disciple whom Jesus loved," and also by the fact that he was one of the three chosen to be with Him at certain special and momentous crises. He was admitted to the death-chamber of the ruler's daughter (Mark 5:37) and witnessed her restoration to life; he was present at the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28), and with Peter and James was chosen by the Master to bear Him company during His agony in Gethsemane (Mark 14:33). He accompanied Jesus, after His arrest, into the palace of the High Priest, and secured entrance for Peter (John 18:15, John 18:16). He stood by the cross with the mother of Jesus, and to his care Jesus committed her (John 19:25-27). With Peter he ran to the sepulchre on the morning of the Resurrection at the summons of Mary Magdalene, entered the empty tomb, and saw and believed (John 20:2-8). After the Resurrection he appears engaged in his former employment on the Lake of Galilee. He is the first to recognize the risen Lord standing upon the shore (John 21:7), and is the subject of Peter's inquiry, "Lord, what shall this man do?" when he is seen by Peter to be following Jesus (John 21:20).

His apostolic activity was in the first thirty years after the Ascension. In Jerusalem his position among the apostles was not exceptionally prominent. At the time of the Stephanic persecution he remained with the other apostles at Jerusalem (Acts 8:1); but when Paul, three years after his conversion, came to that city (Galatians 1:18), he met there only Peter, and James the Lord's brother. From this, however, it does not follow that the remaining apostles had permanently departed from Jerusalem and settled elsewhere. In Galatians 2:9, Paul alludes to John as having been present in Jerusalem at the time of the council (Acts 15). The narrative in Acts does not mention him in connection with the council, but Paul, in the Galatian letter, refers to him as one of the pillars of the church with James and Cephas.

The commonly received tradition represents him as closing his apostolic career in Asia and at Ephesus. An old tradition affirms that he left Jerusalem twelve years after the death of Christ. In no case, therefore, did he go immediately to Ephesus. Definite notices as to his abode in the interval are wholly wanting. It is a noteworthy fact that the lives of so many of the world's leaders include spaces which remain a blank to the most careful biographer, and into which the world's curiosity can never penetrate. Such is the period of Paul's retirement in Arabia, of Dante's exile, and, to some extent, of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness. Some later traditions assert that he visited Parthia, and Jerome groundlessly conjectures that he had preached in Judaea. There is some plausibility in the supposition that he may have betaken himself to Antioch at the time of Paul's first missionary journey. It is certain that, much later, John was a successor of Paul at Ephesus. Neither at the departure of Paul to Miletus (Acts 20) nor during the composition of the Ephesian letter is there a trace of John's presence at Ephesus.

Tradition is also agreed that John was banished to the isle of Patmos by the Roman authority. Irenaeus says that he was banished in the reign of Domitian: another tradition assigns the exile to the reign of Nero. From this exile he was permitted to return, it is said, under Nerva (a.d. 96-98). The date of his death is unknown. Jerome places it sixty-eight years after the death of Christ.

The dominant characteristic of John's nature is contemplative receptivity. Every word of his Lord is taken into his deepest heart, held fast and pondered. "He does not ask, 'What shall I do?' but 'What does he do?'" Hence it is clear why the finest and subtlest flavor of Jesus' personality has been caught by him. With this receptiveness goes a power of impartation. "Every man," says Ebrard, "can see the sunset-glow on an Alp, but not everyone can paint it." John, like a mirror, not only received but reflected. While the other Evangelists perceived that element of Jesus' teaching and work which produced the most immediate and striking outward results, as the Sermon on the Mount, for instance, John discerned the meaning and the bearing of less prominent incidents, such as the conversation at Jacob's well. Paul, like John, has the quality of inwardness, but Paul reasons where John contemplates. John is tenacious and intense; Paul equally so, but more deft than John. John broods over his thought; Paul thrusts and parries with it.

Yet John is no sentimentalist. He is not the lovely, effeminate youth of picture. His mental and moral fiber is strong. He received the title "Son of Thunder" from One who never misread character. Not irascible, as some have too hastily inferred from Luke 9:54, he illustrates the peculiarity of many affectionate and contemplative natures, which flash into a startling impetuosity on occasions which appeal to their more radical view of truth and to their longer range of vision. John was incapable of half-enthusiasms and of suspended faith. To whatever he addressed himself, he was totus in illis. In his own way, he is no less plain-spoken and severe than Paul. He is direct where Paul is sometimes ironical. He is neither gentle nor vague in his language concerning those who deny that Jesus is the Christ (1 John 2:22), nor concerning the lineage of him that committeth sin (1 John 3:8) and the moral quality of him that hateth his brother (1 John 3:15; 1 John 4:20). In the Apocalypse he enters with profoundest sympathy into the divine indignation against evil, and contemplates with unfeigned joy its wholesale and crushing defeat and punishment. He seems to cheer the progress of the Conqueror upon the white horse. The issues between truth and falsehood, life and death, light and darkness, love and hatred are stated by him with a stern and decisive sharpness, and as absolute finalities. The quality of sin is conceived according to the scale of his adoring love for Christ. He deals with it as wickedness rather than as weakness, though not overlooking the latter. For him the victory of the Gospel is not a prophecy, but an accomplished fact. Faith overcometh the world. The overcoming Christ is already present in every believer.

Such a character would not have been adapted to Paul's work. It was not sufficiently versatile and many-sided. John had not Paul's pioneer instinct, his pushing activity, and his executive power. He was fitted to raise the superstructure rather than to lay foundations; to be a teacher rather than an evangelist. It was his to complete the teaching of the other apostles by unfolding the speculative mystery of the incarnation and the secret of the inward union of the believer with Christ; to purge the Church from speculative error, and to hold up, over against the Gnostic caricature, the true image of the Son of Man.

The writings ascribed to John are the Gospel, three Epistles, and the Apocalypse or Revelation.

The Gospel

The nearly unanimous tradition of the Church assigns the fourth Gospel to John. It is unquestionably the work of a Jew, an eyewitness, and a disciple of Jesus. It was probably written toward the close of the first century, and therefore later than the other three Gospels. According to the earliest evidence, it was composed at Ephesus, at the request of John's intimate friends, who desired to have his oral teaching recorded for the permanent use of the Church.

There are three theories as to the motive of its composition. According to the first, known as the "supplementary" theory, John wrote the fourth Gospel as a supplement to its predecessors, in order to supply what was wanting in the synoptic narrative. This Gospel is indeed supplementary in fact, but not in motive. It is supplementary in that the writer constantly assumes that certain facts are already known to his readers, and adds other facts from his own special information. But the Gospel itself expressly disclaims all intention to be complete (John 21:25), and is an original conception, both in form and substance, having a distinct plan of its own, and presenting a fresh aspect of the person and teaching of our Lord. "It is the picture of one who paints, not because others have failed to catch the ideal he would represent, but because his heart is full and he must speak."

The second theory is that the Gospel is "polemical" or controversial, designed to oppose the errors of the Nicolaitanes and of Cerinthus. But the Gospel is polemical only incidentally, as the presentation of the positive truth suggests particular points of error. The point of view is not controversial. The writer is moved by the pressure of his great theme to set it forth in its positive aspects, and not with special reference to the errors of his time.

The third theory, known as the "irenic" or conciliatory, maintains that the Gospel was intended to reconcile divergent religious views, and to bring into their right relation truths which heresy perverted. The Gospel is conciliatory in fact, not from definite intent, but from the very nature of the subject - the Word made flesh, in which all religious controversies are reconciled. "Just as it rises above controversy while it condemns error, it preserves the characteristic truths which heresy isolated and misused. The fourth Gospel is the most complete answer to the manifold forms of Gnosticism, yet it was the writing most used by the Gnostics. It contains no formal narrative of the institution of sacraments, and yet it presents most fully the idea of sacraments. It sets forth with the strongest emphasis the failure of the ancient people, and yet it points out most clearly the significance of the dispensation which was committed to them. It brings the many oppositions - antitheses - of life and thought, and leaves them in the light of the one supreme fact which reconciles all, the Word became flesh; and we feel from first to last that this light is shining over the record of sorrow and triumph, of defeat and hope" (Westcott).

The object is distinctly stated in the Gospel itself. "These are written that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that, believing, ye may have life in His name" (John 20:30, John 20:31). The last of these three - life in Christ through faith - is the key to the two others. The readers were already disciples; and in vindicating the two propositions that Jesus is the Christ and that Jesus is the Son of God, the object was not to lead to the acknowledgment of His divine mission, but to exhibit these as the ground of a living communion of believers with God, and of a richer spiritual life. The character of the Gospel is predominantly historic. Even the doctrinal portions have a historic background and a historic embodiment. The doctrine, for instance, of the essential antagonism between light and darkness, it set forth in the narrative of the hostile attitude of the Jews toward Christ; and the discussions with them have their root and material in this same antagonism. The historical material is carefully selected with a view to its bearing on the particular conception of Christ's person and work which is announced in the Prologue. The history is the practical exhibition of the Logos-doctrine in the person and earthly life of the Man Jesus. The miracles are invariably termed signs, and are regarded as expressions and evidences of the divine personality of the worker.

The Gospel is characterized by the profuse employment of symbolism. This accords with its Hebrew fiber, and also, largely, with the nature of its subject. For not only was John a Jew, familiar with the symbolic economy and prophecy of the Old Testament, but Jesus, the central figure of his Gospel was, pre-eminently the fulfiller of the Law and of the Prophecies. Christ's own teaching, too, was largely symbolic; and John's peculiar, profound spiritual insight detected in His ordinary acts that larger meaning which belonged to them in virtue of Jesus' position as the representative of humanity; and that unity of the natural and spiritual worlds which was assumed in the utterances of our Lord in which the visible was used as the type of the invisible. "John," says Lange, "gives us not only a symbolism of the Old Testament word, of Old Testament institutions, histories, and persons; he gives also the symbolism of nature, of antiquity, of history and of personal life; hence the absolute symbolism, or the ideal import of all real existence, in significant outlines."

The relation of the Gospel to the Old Testament is pronounced. The center of the Old Testament system is the manifestation of the glory of God - the Shekinah. John declares that this glory appears essentially in Christ. He recognizes the divine preparation among the nations for Christ's coming, and the special discipline of Israel with a view to the advent of the Messiah. In the Jews he discerns the special subjects of the Messianic economy. Nathanael is an Israelite indeed: the temple is the Father's house: salvation is from the Jews: the Jewish Scriptures testify of Christ: the testimonies to Christ are drawn from the three successive periods of the people's training - the patriarchal, the theocratic, and the monarchical: the Serpent in the wilderness prefigures Christ's "lifting up," and the Passover His own sacrifice as the Lamb of God.

The fourth Gospel is the only one of the four which is developed according to a prearranged and systematic plan. This plan may be generally described as the exhibition of "the parallel development of faith and unbelief through the historical presence of Christ." The Gospel accordingly falls into two general divisions: the Prologue (1:1-18); the Narrative (1:19-21:23). The narrative consists of two parts: the self-revelation of Christ to the world (1:19-12:50); the self-revelation of Christ to the disciples (13-21). In the development of this plan the author dwells upon three pairs of ideas: witness and truth; glory and light; judgment and life. "There is the manifold attestation of the divine mission; there is the progressive manifestation of the inherent majesty of the Son; there is the continuous and necessary effect which this manifestation produces on those to whom it is made; and the narrative may be fairly described as the simultaneous unfolding of these three themes, into which the great theme of faith and unbelief is divided" (Westcott). The plan is foreshadowed in the Prologue. He who was the Word, in the beginning with God, by whom all things came into being, was life and light - the light of men. To Him witness was born by John, who was sent to testify of Him that all men might believe on Him. But though He was made flesh and dwelt among men, though He came unto His own home, though He was full of grace and truth, the world knew Him not, and His own people refused to receive him. There were, however, those who did receive Him; and to such He gave power to become sons of God through faith in His name. They became such, not in a physical sense, not of blood, nor of the will of man, but of God. They received of his fullness.

Accordingly the Gospel treats of the nature of Christ, and of the witness born to Christ by John, by the disciples, and by miracles. It goes on to describe the conflict between the eternal Light and the darkness as embodied historically in the persistent opposition of the Jews to Jesus. He came to them and they received Him not. Then the other aspect is presented - the blessing of those who did receive Him, the impartation of sonship and the consequent privilege of communion with the divine nature. From the thirteenth to the end of the seventeenth chapter is described Christ's revelation of Himself to His disciples in ministries of love and in confidential discourse. The darkness did not overcome the light. The apparent defeat through death was converted into victory through resurrection. This victory of the light is unfolded from the eighteenth to the end of the twentieth chapter, in the story of the betrayal, the passion, and the resurrection. The twenty-first chapter forms an Epilogue in which the divine light again shines forth in miracle, ministry, and counsel, before the final departure to the Father.

Relation to the Synoptic Gospels

The fourth Gospel exhibits marked differences from the others both in chronological arrangement and in the selection of material. As regards the latter, it contains much that is peculiar to itself, and falls in with the Synoptists only in a few sections.

But, while independent, it is not contradictory of the Synoptic Gospels. All the four Gospels are consciously based upon the same great facts; and the author of the fourth owns and confirms the first three. The incidents common to the fourth Gospel and all the Synoptists are, the baptism of John; the feeding of the five thousand; the triumphal entry into Jerusalem; the last supper and the passion and resurrection. John, with Matthew and Mark, relates the walking on the sea and the anointing at Bethany.

John's Gospel also implies acquaintance with incidents which he does not relate. Such are the circumstances of Christ's baptism; the position and character of Simon Peter; Christ's early home at Nazareth and later residence at Capernaum; the number of the disciples; the date of the Baptist's imprisonment; the Ascension, etc. The same imagery appears, in the figures of the bride and the bridegroom, the harvest, the servant, the vine. The same sayings occur, and verbal and other coincidences are frequent.

The inner coincidences are still more striking. John's portrait of Jesus, for instance, is, in many particulars, unique. It is fuller, more subtle, and indicates a closer intimacy. John deals with His person, where Matthew and Luke deal with His offices. In Matthew He is the fulfiller of the law; in John He foreshadows the grander and richer economy of the Spirit. Nevertheless, John's Christ is the same figure which appears in the lines of the Synoptists. In both He is the teacher, the meek and lowly one, the worker of miracles of power and mercy. In both He is plain of speech toward those who would become his disciples, the hater of hypocrisy, the reader of men's hearts.

Similar coincidences appear in the portraits of prominent disciples, notably of Peter. Though appearing in some scenes not noted by the Synoptists, the Peter of their Gospels is easily recognized in the portrait by his fellow disciple. He is the same combination of impulsive boldness and cowardice; of affectionateness and brusqueness; as quickly responsive to love as to anger; as prompt to leap into the lake at the sight of his Lord, as to smite Malchus.

The inner coincidences are also to be discerned in John's assumption of facts recorded by the other evangelists, so that the coincidence sometimes appears in what he does not record. Giving no details of the birth of Christ, like Matthew and Luke, he tells us that the Word became flesh. The childhood, with its subjection to parental authority appears in the story of the wedding at Cana. While the Synoptists dwell upon the event of the incarnation, he dwells upon the doctrine. The sacraments of Baptism and of the Eucharist, the institution of which he does not relate, are assumed as familiar in the conversation with Nicodemus and in the discourse at Capernaum. The ascension is not described, but is predicted in Christ's words to Mary. Similarly, the work of Jesus in Galilee, which John does not narrate, is presupposed in the sixth and seventh chapters. The anointing at Bethany is assumed to be known, as is the hearing of Jesus before Caiaphas.

With these coincidences marked differences appear. Setting aside the omission by Mark of the Gospel of the infancy, the Synoptic narrative falls into three parts: 1, The ministry of the Baptist, the baptism and temptation of Jesus. 2, The return of Jesus to Galilee, followed by a series of connected narratives concerning His teaching and miracles in this and surrounding districts, without any intimation that, during this time, He also visited Judaea and Jerusalem. 3, Hereupon all the three pass at once from the last journey of Jesus to Jerusalem to the Passover, at which He was crucified. Hence, as Dean Alford remarks, "had we only their accounts, we could never, with any certainty, have asserted that He went to Jerusalem during His public life, until His time was come to be delivered up. They do not, it is true, exclude such a supposition, but rather, perhaps, imply it. It would not, however, have been gathered from their narrative with any historical precision."

Turning now to John's Gospel, we find Christ's ministry in Galilee between the Baptism and the Passion interrupted by journeys to Jerusalem. He goes up to the Passover, on which occasion occur the cleansing of the temple and the visit of Nicodemus (John 2:13; John 3:1-21). A second visit is made to an unnamed feast of the Jews (John 5:1), during which He heals the impotent man at Bethesda, excites thereby the hostility of the Jews, and delivers the discourse in 5:17-47. He goes up again at the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:10), and, ten months later, appears at the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22). An interval is spent on the other side of the Jordan (John 10:40), at Ephraim in the wilderness of Judaea (John 11:53-54), and at Bethany (11, John 12:1), after which He makes His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (John 12:12 sqq.). According to John, therefore, between Christ's last journey from Galilee to Jerusalem and His triumphal entry, there is an interval of several months, spent partly in Jerusalem and partly in the neighboring districts; while according to the Synoptists it seems that He went from Galilee to Jerusalem to the last Passover only a short time before it began; and that He had previously remained continuously in Galilee or in the neighborhood, having taken up His abode there at the beginning of His public ministry.

In the Synoptists the scene of Christ's work is almost exclusively Galilee, while John mentions only five events connected with the Galilaean ministry. On the other hand, the fourth Gospel assumes a knowledge of Jesus' activity in Galilee and Peraea (John 6:1; John 7:1, John 7:11, John 7:52; John 10:40).

The difference between John and the Synoptists also appears in the form of the narrative. The latter represent Jesus' teaching as dealing mainly with the humble peasantry. It is proverbial, popular, abounding in parable, and the discourses are brief. John represents Christ as speaking in long and profoundly thoughtful discourses. While John has nothing answering to the Sermon on the Mount and the groups of parables, the other evangelists have nothing answering to the interviews with Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, and the disciples before the Passover. In John the discourses are more dramatic and dialectic; in the Synoptists, proverbial, parabolic, and prophetic. Yet John's account of Jesus' teaching is not wanting in short paradoxical sayings, such as abound in the Synoptists (see John 2:19; John 4:32, John 4:34, John 4:35; John 7:33; John 5:17; John 6:27, John 6:33, John 6:62); nor, though no parable is worked out by John, are parabolic sayings wanting, such as the Good Shepherd, the Vine, the Living Water, and the Bread of Heaven.

In another and deeper aspect his Gospel stands related to the others as completing. He alone has seized and preserved certain sides of the life and teaching of the Lord, such as His utterances as to His eternal relation to the Father and His eternal unity with Him (John 3:13 sqq.; John 5:17 sqq.; John 6:33, John 6:51; John 7:16, John 7:28 sqq.; John 8:58, and elsewhere). It is to John, in short, that we owe the view of the speculative side of Christ's work; while as regards the relation of believers to their Lord, John gives us those deep and comforting words concerning the mystical unity and community of life between Himself and His disciples, into which they will enter through the Holy Spirit.

Yet these deeper and more mystical views were not altogether the outcome of John's characteristic personality. They were also toned and shaped by the peculiar conditions of the Church and of the religious thought of his time. The conflict of Christianity was no longer with Judaistic error; no longer between the Gospel and the Law; between circumcision and uncircumcision; but with an essentially heathen Gnosticism which appealed to the Church with the claim of a profound insight into Christianity, and sought to wrest the Gospel to its own service. It has already been remarked that the aim of the fourth Gospel was not distinctively polemic. John was impelled to write by the pressure upon his own soul of the truth "God manifest in the flesh," rather than by the aggressions of heresy; but none the less the utterances of a Cerinthus lent sharpness to the lines of the Apostle's portrait of the Son of Man, and no more impressive answer to such teaching could have been given than John furnished in the words of the Lord himself concerning His own pre-existence and eternal Godhead, and in His testimony that the Father has created all things through the Word. (See John 1:3, John 1:14, John 1:33, John 1:34, John 1:49; John 3:13, John 3:14; John 5:23, John 5:26; John 6:51, John 6:62; John 8:58; John 13:23 sqq.; John 17:1, John 17:2, John 17:16, John 17:19; John 18:6, John 18:11, John 18:37).

Style and Diction of John

John's style in the Gospel and Epistles is marked by simplicity and ease. It is plain without elegance, and the diction is comparatively pure so far as words and grammar are concerned, but animated with a Hebrew genius. Godet describes the style as characterized by "a childlike simplicity and transparent depth, a holy melancholy, and a vivacity not less holy; above all, the sweetness of a pure and gentle love."

The vocabulary is meager. The same expressions continually recur. Thus we find φῶς (light), 23 times; δόξα, δοξάζεσθαι (glory, to be glorified), 42; ζωή, ζῆν (life, to live), 52; μαρτυρεῖν, μαρτυρία (to witness, testimony), 47; γανώσκειν (to know), 55; κόσμος (world), 78; πιστεύειν (to believe), 98; ἔργον (work), 23; ὄνομα (name), and ἀληθεία (truth), each 25; σημεῖον (sign), 17.

The meagerness of the vocabulary, however, is compensated by its richness. The few constantly recurring words are symbols of fundamental and eternal ideas. "They are not purely abstract notions, but powerful spiritual realities, which may be studied under a multitude of aspects. If the author has only a few terms in his vocabulary, these terms may be compared to pieces of gold with which great lords make payment" (Godet).

A similar sameness is apparent in the constructions. These are usually simple, plain, and direct. The sentences are short and are coordinated, following each other by a kind of parallelism as in Hebrew poetry. Thus where other writers would employ particles of logical connection, he uses the simple connective καὶ (and). For example in John 1:10, John means to say that though Jesus was in the world, yet the world knew Him not; but he states the fact in two distinct and independent propositions: "He was in the world, and the world knew Him not." So in John 8:20. Jesus spake in the treasury, teaching in the temple, and yet, though He appeared and taught thus publicly, no one laid hands on Him. John writes: "These words spake Jesus as He taught in the temple, and no man laid hands on Him." He uses and, where the antithetic but might be expected (John 1:5; John 3:11; John 15:24). There is also a frequent absence of connecting particles. There is not, for instance, a single one in the first seventeen verses of chapter 15. Out of the wealth of Greek particles, John uses only five. He abounds in contrasts or antithetic parallelisms without connecting links. Thus, "the law was given by Moses: grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (John 17:17): "No one ever saw God: the only-begotten Son revealed Him" (John 1:18). Compare John 8:23; John 15:5, etc. This simple coordination of clauses is assisted by the repetition of a marked word or phrase, so that a connection between two statements is established and the idea carried forward in a new direction (see John 10:11; John 15:13 sqq.; John 15:1, John 15:5; John 17:14 sqq.; John 6:39, John 6:40, John 6:44).

The narrative is direct. Even the words of others are given directly and not obliquely. Instead of saying "This is the witness of John when the Jews sent to ask him who he was, and he confessed that he was not the Christ" - John says, "This is the witness of John when the Jews sent to ask him Who art thou? and he confessed I am not the Christ" (John 1:19). Compare John 7:40 sqq.; John 2:3 sqq.; John 4:24 sqq.; John 5:10 sqq.; John 6:14; John 8:22; John 10:2 sqq. Illustrative details are not wrought into the texture of the narrative, but are interjected as parentheses or distinct statements (see John 6:10; John 4:6; John 10:22; John 13:30; John 18:40). John's style is circumstantial. An action which, by other writers, is stated as complex, is analyzed by him and its components stated separately. Thus, instead of the usual Greek idiom, "Jesus answering said," John writes, "Jesus answered and said," thus making both factors of the act equally prominent (see John 12:44; John 7:28; John 1:15, John 1:25). This peculiarity is further illustrated by the combination of the positive and negative expression of the same truth (see John 1:3, John 1:20; John 2:24; John 3:16; John 5:5; John 18:20; 1 John 1:1, 1 John 1:6; 1 John 2:4, 1 John 2:27). The detachment, however, is only superficial. The inner connection is closely held in the writer's mind, and is impressed upon the reader by that constant iteration which, upon a hasty view, savors of monotony, but which serves to represent the central thought in its manysidedness, and to place it in its commanding relation to subordinate thoughts. His frequent use of the particle οὐν (therefore) directs attention to the sequence of events or ideas (John 2:22, John 3:25, John 3:29; John 4:1, John 4:6, John 4:46; John 6:5; John 7:25; John 8:12, John 8:21, John 8:31, John 8:38; John 10:7; John 12:1, John 12:3, John 12:9, John 12:17, John 12:21). The phrase in order that (ἵνα), marking an object or purpose, is of frequent occurrence, and exhibits the characteristic of John's mind to regard things in their moral and providential relations. Thus John 4:34 : "My meat is in order that I may do the will of Him that sent me;" the emphasis lying not on the process, but on the end. Compare John 5:36; John 6:29; John 8:56; John 12:23; John 13:34; John 17:3.

The subject or the significant word of a sentence is often repeated, especially in dialogues (which are characteristic of John's Gospel), where, by the constant repetition of the names of the parties they are kept clearly before the reader's mind (see John 2:18; John 4:7 sqq.; John 8:48 sqq.; John 10:23 sqq. Also John 1:1, John 1:7, John 1:10; John 4:22; John 5:31; John 6:27; John 11:33).

The demonstrative pronoun is habitually introduced to recall the subject, when a clause has intervened between the subject and the verb (see John 15:5; John 7:18; John 10:1; John 12:48; John 14:21, John 14:26; John 15:26). The personal pronoun is frequently employed, especially that of the first person. "In this respect," says Westcott, "much of the teaching of the Lord's discourses depends upon the careful recognition of the emphatic reference to His undivided personality" (see John 8:14, John 8:16; John 5:31).

The quotations are commonly from the Septuagint, and never immediately from the Hebrew.

List of Greek Words and Phrases Used by John Only

Ἅλφα Alpha Revelation 1:8, Revelation 1:11 τὸ Α καὶ τ

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
In the beginning was (ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν)

With evident allusion to the first word of Genesis. But John elevates the phrase from its reference to a point of time, the beginning of creation, to the time of absolute pre-existence before any creation, which is not mentioned until John 1:3. This beginning had no beginning (compare John 1:3; John 17:5; 1 John 1:1; Ephesians 1:4; Proverbs 8:23; Psalm 90:2). This heightening of the conception, however, appears not so much in ἀρχή, beginning, which simply leaves room for it, as in the use of ἦν, was, denoting absolute existence (compare εἰμί, I am, John 8:58) instead of ἐγένετο, came into being, or began to be, which is used in John 1:3, John 1:14, of the coming into being of creation and of the Word becoming flesh. Note also the contrast between ἀρχή, in the beginning, and the expression ἀπ' ἀρχῆς, from the beginning, which is common in John's writings (John 8:44; 1 John 2:7, 1 John 2:24; 1 John 3:8) and which leaves no room for the idea of eternal pre-existence. "In Genesis 1:1, the sacred historian starts from the beginning and comes downward, thus keeping us in the course of time. Here he starts from the same point, but goes upward, thus taking us into the eternity preceding time" (Milligan and Moulton). See on Colossians 1:15. This notion of "beginning" is still further heightened by the subsequent statement of the relation of the Logos to the eternal God. The ἀρχή must refer to the creation - the primal beginning of things; but if, in this beginning, the Logos already was, then he belonged to the order of eternity. "The Logos was not merely existent, however, in the beginning, but was also the efficient principle, the beginning of the beginning. The ἀρχή (beginning), in itself and in its operation dark, chaotic, was, in its idea and its principle, comprised in one single luminous word, which was the Logos. And when it is said the Logos was in this beginning, His eternal existence is already expressed, and His eternal position in the Godhead already indicated thereby" (Lange). "Eight times in the narrative of creation (in Genesis) there occur, like the refrain of a hymn, the words, And God said. John gathers up all those sayings of God into a single saying, living and endowed with activity and intelligence, from which all divine orders emanate: he finds as the basis of all spoken words, the speaking Word" (Godet).

The Word (ὁ λόγος)

Logos. This expression is the keynote and theme of the entire gospel. Λόγος is from the root λεγ, appearing in λέγω, the primitive meaning of which is to lay: then, to pick out, gather, pick up: hence to gather or put words together, and so, to speak. Hence λόγος is, first of all, a collecting or collection both of things in the mind, and of words by which they are expressed. It therefore signifies both the outward form by which the inward thought is expressed, and the inward thought itself, the Latin oratio and ratio: compare the Italian ragionare, "to think" and "to speak."

As signifying the outward form it is never used in the merely grammatical sense, as simply the name of a thing or act (ἔπος, ὄνομα, ῥῆμα), but means a word as the thing referred to: the material, not the formal part: a word as embodying a conception or idea. See, for instance, Matthew 22:46; 1 Corinthians 14:9, 1 Corinthians 14:19. Hence it signifies a saying, of God, or of man (Matthew 19:21, Matthew 19:22; Mark 5:35, Mark 5:36): a decree, a precept (Romans 9:28; Mark 7:13). The ten commandments are called in the Septuagint, οἱ δέκα λόγοι, "the ten words" (Exodus 34:28), and hence the familiar term decalogue. It is further used of discourse: either of the act of speaking (Acts 14:12), of skill and practice in speaking (Acts 18:15; 2 Timothy 4:15), specifically the doctrine of salvation through Christ (Matthew 13:20-23; Philippians 1:14); of narrative, both the relation and the thing related (Acts 1:1; John 21:23; Mark 1:45); of matter under discussion, an affair, a case in law (Acts 15:6; Acts 19:38).

As signifying the inward thought, it denotes the faculty of thinking and reasoning (Hebrews 4:12); regard or consideration (Acts 20:24); reckoning, account (Philippians 4:15, Philippians 4:17; Hebrews 4:13); cause or reason (Acts 10:29).

John uses the word in a peculiar sense, here, and in John 1:14; and, in this sense, in these two passages only. The nearest approach to it is in Revelation 19:13, where the conqueror is called the Word of God; and it is recalled in the phrases Word of Life, and the Life was manifested (1 John 1:1, 1 John 1:2). Compare Hebrews 4:12. It was a familiar and current theological term when John wrote, and therefore he uses it without explanation.

Old Testament Usage of the Term

The word here points directly to Genesis 1, where the act of creation is effected by God speaking (compare Psalm 33:6). The idea of God, who is in his own nature hidden, revealing himself in creation, is the root of the Logos-idea, in contrast with all materialistic or pantheistic conceptions of creation. This idea develops itself in the Old Testament on three lines. (1) The Word, as embodying the divine will, is personified in Hebrew poetry. Consequently divine attributes are predicated of it as being the continuous revelation of God in law and prophecy (Psalm 3:4; Isaiah 40:8; Psalm 119:105). The Word is a healer in Psalm 107:20; a messenger in Psalm 147:15; the agent of the divine decrees in Isaiah 55:11.

(2) The personified wisdom (Job 28:12 sq.; Proverbs 8, 9). Here also is the idea of the revelation of that which is hidden. For wisdom is concealed from man: "he knoweth not the price thereof, neither is it found in the land of the living. The depth saith, It is not in me; and the sea saith, It is not with me. It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof. It is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air" (Job 28). Even Death, which unlocks so many secrets, and the underworld, know it only as a rumor (Job 28:22). It is only God who knows its way and its place (Job 28:23). He made the world, made the winds and the waters, made a decree for the rain and a way for the lightning of the thunder (Job 28:25, Job 28:26). He who possessed wisdom in the beginning of his way, before His works of old, before the earth with its depths and springs and mountains, with whom was wisdom as one brought up with Him (Proverbs 8:26-31), declared it. "It became, as it were, objective, so that He beheld it" (Job 28:27) and embodied it in His creative work. This personification, therefore, is based on the thought that wisdom is not shut up at rest in God, but is active and manifest in the world. "She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths. She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors" (Proverbs 8:2, Proverbs 8:3). She builds a palace and prepares a banquet, and issues a general invitation to the simple and to him that wanteth understanding (Proverbs 9:1-6). It is viewed as the one guide to salvation, comprehending all revelations of God, and as an attribute embracing and combining all His other attributes.

(3) The Angel of Jehovah. The messenger of God who serves as His agent in the world of sense, and is sometimes distinguished from Jehovah and sometimes identical with him (Genesis 16:7-13; Genesis 32:24-28; Hosea 12:4, Hosea 12:5; Exodus 23:20, Exodus 23:21; Malachi 3:1).

Apocryphal Usage

In the Apocryphal writings this mediative element is more distinctly apprehended, but with a tendency to pantheism. In the Wisdom of Solomon (at least 100 b.c.), where wisdom seems to be viewed as another name for the whole divine nature, while nowhere connected with the Messiah, it is described as a being of light, proceeding essentially from God; a true image of God, co-occupant of the divine throne; a real and independent principle, revealing God in the world and mediating between it and Him, after having created it as his organ - in association with a spirit which is called μονογενές, only begotten (7:22). "She is the breath of the power of God, and a pure influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty; therefore can no defiled thing fall into her. For she is the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of his goodness" (see chapter 7, throughout). Again: "Wisdom reacheth from one end to another mightily, and sweetly doth she order all things. In that she is conversant with God, she magnifieth her nobility: yea, the Lord of all things Himself loved her. For she is privy to the mysteries of the knowledge of God, and a lover of His works. Moreover, by the means of her I shall obtain immortality, and leave behind me an everlasting memorial to them that come after me" (chapter 9). In 16:12, it is said, "Thy word, O Lord, healeth all things" (compare Psalm 107:20); and in 18:15, 16, "Thine almighty word leaped from heaven out of thy royal throne, as a fierce man of war into the midst of a land of destruction, and brought thine unfeigned commandment as a sharp sword, and, standing up, filled all things with death; and it touched the heaven, but it stood upon the earth." See also Wisdom of Sirach, chapters 1, 24, and Baruch 3, 4:1-4.

Later Jewish Usage

After the Babylonish captivity the Jewish doctors combined into one view the theophanies, prophetic revelations and manifestations of Jehovah generally, and united them in one single conception, that of a permanent agent of Jehovah in the sensible world, whom they designated by the name Memra (word, λόγος) of Jehovah. The learned Jews introduced the idea into the Targurns, or Aramaean paraphrases of the Old Testament, which were publicly read in the synagogues, substituting the name the word of Jehovah for that of Jehovah, each time that God manifested himself. Thus in Genesis 39:21, they paraphrase, "The Memra was with Joseph in prison." In Psalm 110:1-7 Jehovah addresses the first verse to the Memra. The Memra is the angel that destroyed the first-born of Egypt, and it was the Memra that led the Israelites in the cloudy pillar.

Usage in the Judaeo-Alexandrine Philosophy

From the time of Ptolemy I: (323-285 b.c.), there were Jews in great numbers in Egypt. Philo (a.d. 50) estimates them at a million in his time. Alexandria was their headquarters. They had their own senate and magistrates, and possessed the same privileges as the Greeks. The Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek (b.c. 280-150) was the beginning of a literary movement among them, the key-note of which was the reconciliation of Western culture and Judaism, the establishment of a connection between the Old Testament faith and the Greek philosophy. Hence they interpreted the facts of sacred history allegorically, and made them symbols of certain speculative principles, alleging that the Greek philosophers had borrowed their wisdom from Moses. Aristobulus (about 150 b.c.) asserted the existence of a previous and much older translation of the law, and dedicated to Ptolemy VI an allegorical exposition of the Pentateuch, in which he tried to show that the doctrines of the Peripatetic or Aristotelian school were derived from the Old Testament. Most of the schools of Greek philosophy were represented among the Alexandrian Jews, but the favorite one was the Platonic. The effort at reconciliation culminated in Philo, a contemporary of Christ. Philo was intimately acquainted with the Platonic philosophy, and made it the fundamental feature of his own doctrines, while availing himself likewise of ideas belonging to the Peripatetic and Stoic schools. Unable to discern the difference in the points of view from which these different doctrines severally proceeded, he jumbled together not merely discordant doctrines of the Greek schools, but also those of the East, regarding the wisdom of the Greeks as having originated in the legislation and writings of Moses. He gathered together from East and West every element that could help to shape his conception of a vicegerent of God, "a mediator between the eternal and the ephemeral. His Logos reflects light from countless facets."

According to Philo, God is the absolute Being. He calls God "that which is:" "the One and the All." God alone exists for himself, without multiplicity and without mixture. No name can properly be ascribed to Him: He simply is. Hence, in His nature, He is unknowable.

Outside of God there exists eternal matter, without form and void, and essentially evil; but the perfect Being could not come into direct contact with the senseless and corruptible; so that the world could not have been created by His direct agency. Hence the doctrine of a mediating principle between God and matter - the divine Reason, the Logos, in whom are comprised all the ideas of finite things, and who created the sensible world by causing these ideas to penetrate into matter.

The absolute God is surrounded by his powers (δυνάμεις) as a king by his servants. These powers are, in Platonic language, ideas; in Jewish, angels; but all are essentially one, and their unity, as they exist in God, as they emanate from him, as they are disseminated in the world, is expressed by Logos. Hence the Logos appears under a twofold aspect: (1) As the immanent reason of God, containing within itself the world-ideal, which, while not outwardly existing, is like the immanent reason in man. This is styled Λόγος ἐνδιάθετος, i.e., the Logos conceived and residing in the mind. This was the aspect emphasized by the Alexandrians, and which tended to the recognition of a twofold personality in the divine essence. (2) As the outspoken word, proceeding from God and manifest in the world. This, when it has issued from God in creating the world, is the Λόγος προφορικός, i.e., the Logos uttered, even as in man the spoken word is the manifestation of thought. This aspect prevailed in Palestine, where the Word appears like the angel of the Pentateuch, as the medium of the outward communication of God with men, and tends toward the recognition of a divine person subordinate to God. Under the former aspect, the Logos is, really, one with God's hidden being: the latter comprehends all the workings and revelations of God in the world; affords from itself the ideas and energies by which the world was framed and is upheld; and, filling all things with divine light and life, rules them in wisdom, love, and righteousness. It is the beginning of creation, not inaugurated, like God, nor made, like the world; but the eldest son of the eternal Father (the world being the younger); God's image; the mediator between God and the world; the highest angel; the second God.

Philo's conception of the Logos, therefore, is: the sum-total and free exercise of the divine energies; so that God, so far as he reveals himself, is called Logos; while the Logos, so far as he reveals God, is called God.

John's doctrine and terms are colored by these preceding influences. During his residence at Ephesus he must have become familiar with the forms and terms of the Alexandrian theology. Nor is it improbable that he used the term Logos with an intent to facilitate the passage from the current theories of his time to the pure gospel which he proclaimed. "To those Hellenists and Hellenistic Jews, on the one hand, who were vainly philosophizing on the relations of the finite and infinite; to those investigators of the letter of the Scriptures, on the other, who speculated about the theocratic revelations, John said, by giving this name Logos to Jesus: 'The unknown Mediator between God and the world, the knowledge of whom you are striving after, we have seen, heard, and touched. Your philosophical speculations and your scriptural subtleties will never raise you to Him. Believe as we do in Jesus, and you will possess in Him that divine Revealer who engages your thoughts'" (Godet).

But John's doctrine is not Philo's, and does not depend upon it. The differences between the two are pronounced. Though both use the term Logos, they use it with utterly different meanings. In John it signifies word, as in Holy Scripture generally; in Philo, reason; and that so distinctly that when Philo wishes to give it the meaning of word, he adds to it by way of explanation, the term ῥῆμα, word.

The nature of the being described by Logos is conceived by each in an entirely different spirit. John's Logos is a person, with a consciousness of personal distinction; Philo's is impersonal. His notion is indeterminate and fluctuating, shaped by the influence which happens to be operating at the time. Under the influence of Jewish documents he styles the Logos an "archangel;" under the influence of Plato, "the Idea of Ideas;" of the Stoics, "the impersonal Reason." It is doubtful whether Philo ever meant to represent the Logos formally as a person. All the titles he gives it may be explained by supposing it to mean the ideal world on which the actual is modeled.

In Philo, moreover, the function of the Logos is confined to the creation and preservation of the universe. He does not identify or connect him with the Messiah. His doctrine was, to a great degree, a philosophical substitute for Messianic hopes. He may have conceived of the Word as acting through the Messiah, but not as one with him. He is a universal principle. In John the Messiah is the Logos himself, uniting himself with humanity, and clothing himself with a body in order to save the world.

The two notions differ as to origin. The impersonal God of Philo cannot pass to the finite creation without contamination of his divine essence. Hence an inferior agent must be interposed. John's God, on the other hand, is personal, and a loving personality. He is a Father (John 1:18); His essence is love (John 3:16; 1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:16). He is in direct relation with the world which He desires to save, and the Logos is He Himself, manifest in the flesh. According to Philo, the Logos is not coexistent with the eternal God. Eternal matter is before him in time. According to John, the Logos is essentially with the Father from all eternity (John 1:2), and it is He who creates all things, matter included (John 1:3).

Philo misses the moral energy of the Hebrew religion as expressed in its emphasis upon the holiness of Jehovah, and therefore fails to perceive the necessity of a divine teacher and Savior. He forgets the wide distinction between God and the world, and declares that, were the universe to end, God would die of loneliness and inactivity.

The Meaning of Logos in John

As Logos has the double meaning of thought and speech, so Christ is related to God as the word to the idea, the word being not merely a name for the idea, but the idea itself expressed. The thought is the inward word (Dr. Schaff compares the Hebrew expression "I speak in my heart" for "I think").

The Logos of John is the real, personal God (John 1:1), the Word, who was originally before the creation with God. and was God, one in essence and nature, yet personally distinct (John 1:1, John 1:18); the revealer and interpreter of the hidden being of God; the reflection and visible image of God, and the organ of all His manifestations to the world. Compare Hebrews 1:3. He made all things, proceeding personally from God for the accomplishment of the act of creation (Hebrews 1:3), and became man in the person of Jesus Christ, accomplishing the redemption of the world. Compare Philippians 2:6.

The following is from William Austin, "Meditation for Christmas Day," cited by Ford on John:

"The name Word is most excellently given to our Savior; for it expresses His nature in one, more than in any others. Therefore St. John, when he names the Person in the Trinity (1 John 5:7), chooses rather to call Him Word than Son; for word is a phrase more communicable than son. Son hath only reference to the Father that begot Him; but word may refer to him that conceives it; to him that speaks it; to that which is spoken by it; to the voice that it is clad in; and to the effects it raises in him that hears it. So Christ, as He is the Word, not only refers to His Father that begot Him, and from whom He comes forth, but to all the creatures that were made by Him; to the flesh that He took to clothe Him; and to the doctrine He brought and taught, and, which lives yet in the hearts of all them that obediently do hear it. He it is that is this Word; and any other, prophet or preacher, he is but a voice (Luke 3:4). Word is an inward conception of the mind; and voice is but a sign of intention. St. John was but a sign, a voice; not worthy to untie the shoe-latchet of this Word. Christ is the inner conception 'in the bosom of His Father;' and that is properly the Word. And yet the Word is the intention uttered forth, as well as conceived within; for Christ was no less the Word in the womb of the Virgin, or in the cradle of the manger, or on the altar of the cross, than he was in the beginning, 'in the bosom of his Father.' For as the intention departs not from the mind when the word is uttered, so Christ, proceeding from the Father by eternal generation, and after here by birth and incarnation, remains still in Him and with Him in essence; as the intention, which is conceived and born in the mind, remains still with it and in it, though the word be spoken. He is therefore rightly called the Word, both by His coming from, and yet remaining still in, the Father."

And the Word

A repetition of the great subject, with solemn emphasis.

Was with God (ἦν πὸς τὸν Θεὸν)

Anglo-Saxon vers., mid Gode. Wyc., at God. With (πρός) does not convey the full meaning, that there is no single English word which will give it better. The preposition πρός, which, with the accusative case, denotes motion towards, or direction, is also often used in the New Testament in the sense of with; and that not merely as being near or beside, but as a living union and communion; implying the active notion of intercourse. Thus: "Are not his sisters here with us" (πρὸς ἡμᾶς), i.e., in social relations with us (Mark 6:3; Matthew 13:56). "How long shall I be with you" (πρὸς ὑμᾶς, Mark 9:16). "I sat daily with you" (Matthew 26:55). "To be present with the Lord" (πρὸς τὸν Κύριον, 2 Corinthians 5:8). "Abide and winter with you" (1 Corinthians 16:6). "The eternal life which was with the Father" (πρὸς τὸν πατέρα, 1 John 1:2). Thus John's statement is that the divine Word not only abode with the Father from all eternity, but was in the living, active relation of communion with Him.

And the Word was God (καὶ Θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος)

In the Greek order, and God was the Word, which is followed by Anglo-Saxon, Wyc., and Tynd. But θεὸς, God, is the predicate and not the subject of the proposition. The subject must be the Word; for John is not trying to show who is God, but who is the Word. Notice that Θεὸς is without the article, which could not have been omitted if he had meant to designate the word as God; because, in that event, Θεὸς would have been ambiguous; perhaps a God. Moreover, if he had said God was the Word, he would have contradicted his previous statement by which he had distinguished (hypostatically) God from the word, and λόγος (Logos) would, further, have signified only an attribute of God. The predicate is emphatically placed in the proposition before the subject, because of the progress of the thought; this being the third and highest statement respecting the Word - the climax of the two preceding propositions. The word God, used attributively, maintains the personal distinction between God and the Word, but makes the unity of essence and nature to follow the distinction of person, and ascribes to the Word all the attributes of the divine essence. "There is something majestic in the way in which the description of the Logos, in the three brief but great propositions of John 1:1, is unfolded with increasing fullness" (Meyer).

The same was in the beginning with God.
The same (οὗτος)

Literally, this one; the one first named; the Word.

Was in the beginning with God

In John 1:1 the elements of this statement have been given separately: the Word, the eternal being of the Word, and his active communion with God. Here they are combined, and with new force. This same Word not only was coeternal with God in respect of being (ἦν, was), but was eternally in active communion with Him (in the beginning with God: προ,ς τὸν Θεὸν): "not simply the Word with God, but God with God" (Moulton). Notice that here Θεὸν has the article, as in the second proposition, where God is spoken of absolutely. In the third proposition, the Word was God, the article was omitted because Θεὸς described the nature of the Word and did not identify his person. Here, as in the second proposition, the Word is placed in personal relation to God.

This verse forms the transition point from the discussion of the personal being of the Word to His manifestation in creation. If it was this same Word, and no other, who was Himself God, and who, from all eternity, was in active communion with God, then the statement follows naturally that all things were created through Him, thus bringing the essential nature of the Word and His manifestation in creation into connection. As the idea of the Word involves knowledge and will, wisdom and force, the creative function is properly His. Hence His close relation to created things, especially to man, prepares the way for His incarnation and redeeming work. The connection between creation and redemption is closer than is commonly apprehended. It is intimated in the words of Isaiah (Isaiah 46:4), "I have made, and I will bear." Redemption, in a certain sense, grows out of creation. Because God created man in His own image, He would restore him to that image. Because God made man, He loves him, educates him, bears with him carries on the race on the line of His infinite patience, is burdened with its perverseness and blindness, and expresses and effectuates all this in the incarnation and redemptive work of Jesus Christ. God is under the stress of the parental instinct (humanly speaking) to redeem man.

All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
All things (πάντα)

Regarded severally. The reference is to the infinite detail of creation, rather than to creation as a whole, which is expressed by τὰ πάντα, the all (Colossians 1:16). For this reason John avoids the word κόσμος, the world, which denotes the world as a great system. Hence Bengel, quoted by Meyer, is wrong in referring to κόσμῳ (the world) of John 1:10 as a parallel.

Were made (ἐγένετο)

Literally, came into being, or became. Expressing the passage from nothingness into being, and the unfolding of a divine order. Compare John 1:14, John 1:17. Three words are used in the New Testament to express the act of creation: κτίζειν, to create (Revelation 4:11; Revelation 10:6; Colossians 1:16); ποιεῖν, to make (Revelation 14:7; Mark 10:6), both of which refer to the Creator; and γίγνεσθαι, to become, which refers to that which is created. In Mark 10:6, both words occur. "From the beginning of the creation (κτίσεως) God made" (ἐποίησεν). So in Ephesians 2:10 : "We are His workmanship (ποίημα), created (κτισθέντες) in Christ Jesus." Here the distinction is between the absolute being expressed by ἦν (see on John 1:1), and the coming into being of creation (ἐγένετο). The same contrast occurs in John 1:6, John 1:9. "A man sent from God came into being" (ἐγένετο); "the true Light was" (ἦν).

"The main conception of creation which is present in the writings of St. John is expressed by the first notice which he makes of it: All things came into being through the Word. This statement sets aside the notions of eternal matter and of inherent evil in matter. 'There was when' the world 'was not' (John 17:5, John 17:24); and, by implication, all things as made were good. The agency of the Word, 'who was God,' again excludes both the idea of a Creator essentially inferior to God, and the idea of an abstract Monotheism in which there is no living relation between the creature and the Creator; for as all things come into being 'through' the Word, so they are supported 'in' Him (John 1:3; compare Colossians 1:16 sq.; Hebrews 1:3). And yet more, the use of the term ἐγένετο, came into being, as distinguished from ἐκτίσθη, were created, suggests the thought that creation is to be regarded (according to our apprehension) as a manifestation of a divine law of love. Thus creation (all things came into being through Him) answers to the Incarnation (the Word became flesh). All the unfolding and infolding of finite being to the last issue lies in the fulfillment of His will who is love" (Westcott, on 1 John 2:17).

By Him (δἰ αὐτοῦ)

Literally, through him. The preposition διά is generally used to denote the working of God through some secondary agency, as διὰ τοῦ προφήτου, through the prophet (Matthew 1:22, on which see note). It is the preposition by which the relation of Christ to creation is usually expressed (see 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2), though it is occasionally used of the Father (Hebrews 2:10; Romans 11:36, and Galatians 1:1, where it is used of both). Hence, as Godet remarks, it "does not lower the Word to the rank of a simple instrument," but merely implies a different relation to creation on the part of the Father and the Son.

Without (χωρὶς)

Literally, apart from. Compare John 15:5.

Was not anything made that was made (ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν ὁ γέγονεν).

Many authorities place the period after ἕν, and join ὁ γένονεν with what follows, rendering, "without Him was not anything made. That which hath been made was life in Him."

Made (ἐγένετο)

As before, came into being.

Not anything (οὐδὲ ἓν)

Literally, not even one thing. Compare on πάντα (all things) at the beginning of this verse.

That was made (ὁ γέγονεν)

Rev., more correctly, that hath been made, observing the force of the perfect tense as distinguished from the aorist (ἐγένετο) The latter tense points back to the work of creation considered as a definite act or series of acts in the beginning of time. The perfect tense indicates the continuance of things created; so that the full idea is, that which hath been made and exists. The combination of a positive and negative clause (compare John 1:20) is characteristic of John's style, as also of James'. See note on "wanting nothing," James 1:4.

In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
In Him was life (ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν)

He was the fountain of life - physical, moral, and eternal - its principle and source. Two words for life are employed in the New Testament: βίος and ζωὴ. The primary distinction is that ζωὴ means existence as contrasted with death, and βίος, the period, means, or manner of existence. Hence βίος is originally the higher word, being used of men, while ζωὴ is used of animals (ζῶα). We speak therefore of the discussion of the life and habits of animals as zoology; and of accounts of men's lives as biography. Animals have the vital principle in common with men, but men lead lives controlled by intellect and will, and directed to moral and intellectual ends. In the New Testament, βίος means either living, i.e., means of subsistence (Mark 12:44; Luke 8:43), or course of life, life regarded as an economy (Luke 8:14; 1 Timothy 2:2; 2 Timothy 2:4). Ζωὴ occurs in the lower sense of life, considered principally or wholly as existence (1 Peter 3:10; Acts 8:33; Acts 17:25; Hebrews 7:3). There seems to be a significance in the use of the word in Luke 16:25 : "Thou in thy lifetime (ἐν τῇ ζωῇ σου) receivedst thy good things;" the intimation being that the rich man's life had been little better than mere existence, and not life at all in the true sense. But throughout the New Testament ζωὴ is the nobler word, seeming to have changed places with βίος. It expresses the sum of mortal and eternal blessedness (Matthew 25:46; Luke 18:30; John 11:25; Acts 2:28; Romans 5:17; Romans 6:4), and that not only in respect of men, but also of God and Christ. So here. Compare John 5:26; John 14:6; 1 John 1:2. This change is due to the gospel revelation of the essential connection of sin with death, and consequently, of life with holiness. "Whatever truly lives, does so because sin has never found place in it, or, having found place for a time, has since been overcome and expelled" (Trench).

Ζωὴ is a favorite word with John. See John 11:25; John 14:6; John 8:12; 1 John 1:2; 1 John 5:20; John 6:35, John 6:48; John 6:63; Revelation 21:6; Revelation 22:1, Revelation 22:17; Revelation 7:17; John 4:14; Revelation 2:7; Revelation 22:2, Revelation 22:14, Revelation 22:19; John 12:50; John 17:3; John 20:31; John 5:26; John 6:53, John 6:54; John 5:40; John 3:15, John 3:16, John 3:36; John 10:10; John 5:24; John 12:25; John 6:27; John 4:36; 1 John 5:12, 1 John 5:16; John 6:51.

Was the Light of men (ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων)

Passing from the thought of creation in general to that of mankind, who, in the whole range of created things, had a special capacity for receiving the divine. The Light - the peculiar mode of the divine operation upon men, conformably to their rational and moral nature which alone was fitted to receive the light of divine truth. It is not said that the Word was light, but that the life was the light. The Word becomes light through the medium of life, of spiritual life, just as sight is a function of physical life. Compare John 14:6, where Christ becomes the life through being the truth; and Matthew 5:8, where the pure heart is the medium through which God is beheld. In whatever mode of manifestation the Word is in the world, He is the light of the world; in His works, in the dawn of creation; in the happy conditions of Eden; in the Patriarchs, in the Law and the Prophets, in His incarnation, and in the subsequent history of the Church. Compare John 9:5. Of men, as a class, and not of individuals only.

And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
Shineth (φαίσει)

Note the present tense, indicating not merely the present point of time, but that the light has gone forth continuously and without interruption from the beginning until now, and is still shining. Hence φαίνει, shineth, denoting the peculiar property of light under all circumstances, and not φωτίζει, lighteneth or illuminateth, as in John 1:9. The shining does not always illuminate. Compare 1 John 2:8.

In the darkness (ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ)

Σκοτία, darkness, is a word peculiar to later Greek, and used in the New Testament almost exclusively by John. It occurs once in Matthew 10:27, and once in Luke 12:3. The more common New Testament word is σκότος, from the same root, which appears in σκιά, shadow, and σκηνή, tent. Another word for darkness, ζόφος, occurs only in Peter and Jude (2 Peter 2:4, 2 Peter 2:17; Jde 1:6, Jde 1:13). See on 2 Peter 2:4. The two words are combined in the phrase blackness of darkness (2 Peter 2:17; Jde 1:13). In classical Greek σκότος, as distinguished from ζόφος, is the stronger term, denoting the condition of darkness as opposed to light in nature. Hence of death, of the condition before birth; of night. Ζόφος, which is mainly a poetical term, signifies gloom, half-darkness, nebulousness. Here the stronger word is used. The darkness of sin is deep. The moral condition which opposes itself to divine light is utterly dark. The very light that is in it is darkness. Its condition is the opposite of that happy state of humanity indicated in John 1:4, when the life was the light of men; it is a condition in which mankind has become the prey of falsehood, folly and sin. Compare 1 John 1:9-10. Romans 1:21, Romans 1:22.

Comprehended (κατέλαβεν)

Rev., apprehended. Wyc., took not it. See on Mark 9:18; see on Acts 4:13. Comprehended, in the sense of the A.V., understood, is inadmissible. This meaning would require the middle voice of the verb (see Acts 4:13; Acts 10:34; Acts 25:25). The Rev., apprehended, i.e., grasped or seized, gives the correct idea, which appears in John 12:35, "lest darkness come upon you," i.e., overtake and seize. The word is used in the sense of laying hold of so as to make one's own; hence, to take possession of. Used of obtaining the prize in the games (1 Corinthians 9:24); of attaining righteousness (Romans 9:30); of a demon taking possession of a man (Mark 9:18); of the day of the Lord overtaking one as a thief (1 Thessalonians 5:4). Applied to darkness, this idea includes that of eclipsing or overwhelming. Hence some render overcame (Westcott, Moulton). John's thought is, that in the struggle between light and darkness, light was victorious. The darkness did not appropriate the light and eclipse it. "The whole phrase is indeed a startling paradox. The light does not banish the darkness; the darkness does not overpower the light. Light and darkness coexist in the world side by side" (Westcott).

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
There was a man (ἐγένετο ἄνθρωπος)

Better, Rev., "there came a man," ἐγένετο denoting the historical manifestation, the emergence of the Baptist into the economy of the revelation of the light. Compare John 3:1, there was a man (ἦν ἄνθρωπος), where the mere fact that there was such a man as Nicodemus is stated. See remarks on ἦν, John 1:1. A distinction is also intimated between the eternal being (ἦν) of the Word and the coming into being of his messenger.

Sent (ἀπεσταλμένος)

See on Matthew 10:2, Matthew 10:16; see on Mark 4:29; see on Luke 4:18. The verb carries the sense of sending an envoy with a special commission. Hence it is used of the mission of the Son of God, and of His apostles; the word apostle being directly derived from it. It is thus distinguished from πέμπω, to send, which denotes simply the relation of the sender to the sent. See on John 20:21, and see on 1 John 3:5. The statement is not merely equivalent to was sent. The finite verb and the participle are to be taken separately, as stating two distinct facts, the appearance and the mission of John. There came a man, and that man was sent from God.

From God (παρὰ Θεοῦ)

The preposition means from beside. It invests the messenger with more dignity and significance than if the writer had said, "sent by God." It is used of the Holy Spirit, sent from the Father (John 15:26).

Whose name was John (ὄνομα αὐτῷ Ἱωάνης)

Literally, the name unto him John. The first mention of John the Baptist. The last occurs, Acts 19:3. On the name, see on Matthew 3:1; see on Luke 3:2. John never speaks of the Baptist as John the Baptist, like the other Evangelists, but simply as John. This is perfectly natural on the supposition that John himself is the author of the gospel, and is the other John of the narrative.

The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
The same (οὗτος)

Compare John 1:2, and the pronoun ἐκεῖνος, he, in John 1:8.

For a witness (εἰς μαρτυρίαν)

Revised version of the New Testament, more correctly, for witness: a witness would be, μάρτυρα as Acts 1:8. The sense is for witness-bearing or to bear witness. On the word, see Acts 1:22; 1 Peter 5:1. It is one of John's characteristic words, occurring nearly fifty times in various forms in his Gospel, and thirty or forty times in the Epistles and Revelation. The emphatic development of the idea of witness is peculiar to this Gospel. "It evidently belongs to a time when men had begun to reason about the faith, and to analyze the grounds on which it rested" (Westcott). He develops the idea under the following forms: The witness of the Father (John 5:31, John 5:34, John 5:37); the witness of Christ himself (John 8:14; John 18:37); the witness of works (John 5:17, John 5:36; John 10:25; John 14:11; John 15:24); the witness of Scripture (John 5:39, John 5:40, John 5:46; John 1:46); the witness of the forerunner (John 1:7; John 5:33, John 5:35); the witness of the disciples (John 15:27; John 19:35; John 21:24; 1 John 1:2; 1 John 4:14); the witness of the Spirit (John 15:26; John 16:13, John 16:14; 1 John 5:6). Note the emphasis attached to the idea here, by the twofold form in which it is put: first, generally, for witness, and then by giving the subject of the testimony.


The Baptist took up the work of the prophets, as respects their preparation for the universal extension of the divine call (Isaiah 49:6). His message was to men, without regard to nation, sect, descent, or other considerations.

Through him

John the Baptist.

He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
He (ἐκεῖνος)

Emphatic, "It was not he who was the light." Compare John 2:21, "He (ἐκεῖνος) spake," bringing out the difference between Jesus' conception of destroying and rebuilding the temple, and that of his hearers.

That light (τὸ φῶς)

Rev., the light. The emphatic that of the A.V. is unnecessary.

Was sent

Rev., came. Neither in the original text. Literally, "He was not the light, but in order that (ἵνα) he might bear witness." So in John 9:3. "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents, but (he was born blind) that the works," etc. Compare John 15:25.

That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
That was the true light, etc.

This passage is differently interpreted. Some join coming (ἐρχόμενον) with man (ἄνθρωπον), and render every man that cometh, as A.V. Others join coming with light, and render, as Rev., the true light - coming into the world. The latter is the preferable rendering, and is justified by John's frequent use of the phrase coming into the world, with reference to our Lord. See John 3:19; John 6:14; John 9:39; John 11:27; John 12:46; John 16:28; John 18:37. In John 3:19 and John 12:46, it is used as here, in connection with light. Note especially the latter, where Jesus himself says, "I am come a light into the world." Was (ἦν) is to be taken independently, there was, and not united in a single conception with coming (ἐρχόμενον), so as to mean was coming. The light was, existed, when the Baptist appeared as a witness. Up to the time of his appearance it was all along coming: its permanent being conjoined with a slow, progressive coming, a revelation "at sundry times and in diverse manners" (Hebrews 1:1). "From the first He was on His way to the world, advancing toward the incarnation by preparatory revelations" (Westcott). Render therefore as Rev., "There was the true light, even the light which lighteth every man, coming into the world."

True (ἀληθινὸν)

Wyc., very light (compare the Nicene creed, "very God of very God"). This epithet is applied to light only here and 1 John 2:8, and is almost confined to the writings of John. A different word, ἀληθής, also rendered true, occurs at John 3:33; John 5:31; John 8:13, and elsewhere. The difference is that ἀληθινόζ signifies true, as contrasted with false; while ἀληθινός signifies what is real, perfect, and substantial, as contrasted with what is fanciful, shadowy, counterfeit, or merely symbolic. Thus God is ἀληθής (John 3:33) in that He cannot lie. He is ἀληθινός (1 Thessalonians 1:9), as distinguished from idols. In Hebrews 8:2, the heavenly tabernacle is called ἀληθινή, as distinguished from the Mosaic tabernacle, which was a figure of the heavenly reality (Hebrews 9:24). Thus the expression true light denotes the realization of the original divine idea of the Light - the archetypal Light, as contrasted with all imperfect manifestations: "the Light which fulfilled all that had been promised by the preparatory, partial, even fictitious lights which had existed in the world before."

"Our little systems have their day;

They have their day and cease to be:

They are but broken lights of Thee,

And Thou, O Lord, art more than they."

Tennyson, In Memoriam.

Lighteth (φωτίζει)

See on shineth, John 1:5, and compare Luke 11:35, Luke 11:36.

Every man (πάντα ἄνθρωπον)

Not collectively, as in John 1:7, but individually and personally.

The world (τὸν κόσμον)

As in John 1:3, the creation was designated in its several details by πάντα, all things, so here, creation is regarded in its totality, as an ordered whole. See on Acts 17:24; see on James 3:6. Four words are used in the New Testament for world:

(1) γῇ, land, ground, territory, the earth, as distinguished from the heavens. The sense is purely physical.

(2) οἰκουμένη, which is a participle, meaning inhabited, with γῆ, earth, understood, and signifies the earth as the abode of men; the whole inhabited world. See on Matthew 24:14; see on Luke 2:1. Also in a physical sense, though used once of "the world to come" (Hebrews 2:5).

(3) αἰών, essentially time, as the condition under which all created things exist, and the measure of their existence: a period of existence; a lifetime; a generation; hence, a long space of time; an age, era, epoch, period of a dispensation. On this primary, physical sense there arises a secondary sense, viz., all that exists in the world under the conditions of time. From this again develops a more distinctly ethical sense, the course and current of this world's affairs (compare the expression, the times), and this course as corrupted by sin; hence the evil world. So Galatians 1:4; 2 Corinthians 4:4.

(4) κόσμος, which follows a similar line of development from the physical to the ethical sense; meaning (a) ornament, arrangement, order (1 Peter 3:3); (b) the sum-total of the material universe considered as a system (Matthew 13:35; John 17:5; Acts 17:24; Philippians 2:15). Compare Plato. "He who is incapable of communion is also incapable of friendship. And philosophers tell us, Callicles, that communion and friendship and orderliness and temperance and justice bind together heaven and earth and gods and men, and that this universe is therefore called Cosmos, or order, not disorder or misrule" ("Gorgias," 508). (c) That universe as the abode of man (John 16:21; 1 John 3:17). (d) The sum-total of humanity in the world; the human race (John 1:29; John 4:42). (e) In the ethical sense, the sum-total of human life in the ordered world, considered apart from, alienated from, and hostile to God, and of the earthly things which seduce from God (John 7:7; John 15:18; John 17:9, John 17:14; 1 Corinthians 1:20, 1 Corinthians 1:21; 2 Corinthians 7:10; James 4:4).

This word is characteristic of John, and pre-eminently in this last, ethical sense, in which it is rarely used by the Synoptists; while John nowhere uses αἰών of the moral order. In this latter sense the word is wholly strange to heathen literature, since the heathen world had no perception of the opposition between God and sinful man; between the divine order and the moral disorder introduced and maintained by sin.

He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
He was in the world

Not merely at His advent, but before His incarnation no less than after it. See on John 1:4, John 1:5.

Was made (ἐγένετο)

Came into being. See on John 1:3.

By Him. Or through Him (διά)

See on John 1:3.

Knew (ἔγνω)

Recognized. Though He was in the world and was its Creator, yet the world did not recognize him. This is the relation of ideas in these three clauses, but John expresses this relation after the Hebrew manner, by simply putting the three side by side, and connecting them by καὶ, and. This construction is characteristic of John. Compare John 8:20, where the point of the passage is, that though Jesus was teaching publicly, where He might easily have been seized, yet no man attempted his seizure. This is expressed by two parallel clauses with the simple copulative. "These words spake Jesus," etc., "and no man laid hands on Him."

Him (αὐτὸν)

The preceding him (αὐτοῦ) is, in itself, ambiguous as to gender. So far as its form is concerned, it might be neuter, in which case it would refer to the light, "the Word regarded as a luminous principle," as it, in John 1:5. But αὐτὸν is masculine, Him, so that the Word now appears as a person. This determines the gender of the preceding αὐτοῦ.

On the enlightened and unenlightened nature, compare the allegory in Plato's "Republic," at the beginning of Book 7, where he pictures men confined from childhood in an underground den, chained so that they can only see before them, and with no light save from a fire behind them. They mistake shadows for substance, and echoes for voices. When they are liberated and compelled to look at the light, either of the fire or of the sun, their unaccustomed eyes are pained, and they imagine that the shadows which they formerly saw are truer than the real objects which are now shown them. Finally, they will be able to see the sun, and will recognize him as the giver of the seasons and years, and the guardian of all that is in the visible world. "When the eye of the soul is turned round, the whole soul must be turned round from the world of becoming into that of being, and of the brightest and best of being, or, in other words, of the good."

Notice also the appropriateness of the two verbs joined with the neuter and the masculine pronouns. In John 1:5, with it, the Word, as a principle of light, κατέλαβεν, apprehended. Here, with Him, the Word, as a person, ἔγνω, recognized.

He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
He came (ἦλθεν)

The narrative now passes from the general to the special action of the Word as the Light. The verb came, in the aorist tense, denotes a definite act - the Incarnation. In John 1:10 the Word is described as in the world invisibly. Now He appears.

Unto His own (εἰς τὰ ἴδια)

Literally, his own things: see on Acts 1:7. The Rev. follows the A.V. Wyc., into his own things. Render his own home, and compare John 16:32; John 19:27; Acts 21:6. The reference is to the land of Israel, which is recognized as God's own in a peculiar sense. See Jeremiah 2:7; Hosea 9:3; Zechariah 2:12; Deuteronomy 7:6. Not a repetition of John 1:10. There is a progress in the narrative. He was in the world at large: then he came unto His own home.

His own (οἱ ἴδια)

The masculine gender, as the preceding was neuter. That signified His own home or possessions, this His own people. Rev., they that were His own.

Received (παρέλαβον)

Most commonly in the New Testament of taking one along with another. See on Matthew 4:5; see on Matthew 17:1; see on Acts 16:33. But also of accepting or acknowledging one to be what he professes to be, and of receiving something transmitted, as 1 Corinthians 11:23; Galatians 1:12, etc. Westcott thinks this latter sense is implied here; Christ having been offered by the teachers of Israel through John. Alford adopts the former sense; "expressing the personal assumption to one's self as a friend or companion." De Wette explains to receive into the house. Godet strains a point by explaining as welcomed. De Wette's explanation seems to agree best with his own home. Here again compare the nice choice of verbs: apprehended (κατέλαβεν) the Light as a principle, and received (παρέλαβον) the Light as a person and the Master of the house.

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:
As many as (ὅσοι)

Denoting individuals, as οἱ ἴδιοι (John 1:11) signified the nation at large.

Received (ἔλαβον)

The simple verb of the compound παρέλαβον in John 1:11. The meaning of the two verbs is substantially the same (so Alford, De Wette, and apparently Meyer), though some recognize a difference, as Milligan and Moulton, who render παρέλαβον accepted, and ἔλαβον received, and say that "the former lays emphasis upon the will that consented (or refused) to receive, while the latter brings before us the possession gained: so that the full meaning is, As many as by accepting Him, received Him." For the use of the simple verb, see John 5:43; John 13:20; John 19:6.

Power (ἐξουσίαν)

Rev., the right. Six words are used for power in the:New Testament: βία, force, often oppressive, exhibiting itself in violence (Acts 5:26; Acts 27:41. Compare the kindred verb βιάζεται, Matthew 11:12; "the kingdom of heaven is taken by violence): δύναμις, natural ability (see on 2 Peter 2:11): ἐνέργεια, energy, power in exercise; only of superhuman power, good or evil. Used by Paul only, and chiefly in the Epistles of the Imprisonment (Ephesians 1:19; Ephesians 3:7; Colossians 2:12. Compare the kindred verb ἐνεργέω, to put forth power, and see on Mark 6:14; see on James 5:16): ἰσχύς, strength (see on 2 Peter 2:11. Compare the kindred verb ἰσχύω, to be strong, and see on Luke 14:30; see on Luke 16:3): κράτος, might, only of God, relative and manifested power, dominion (Ephesians 1:19; Ephesians 6:10; 1 Timothy 6:16; 1 Peter 4:11. Compare the kindred verb κρατέω, to have power, to be master of, and see on Mark 7:3; see on Acts 3:11): ἐξουσία, liberty of action (ἔξεστι, it is lawful), authority, delegated or arbitrary (John 5:27; John 10:18; John 17:2; John 19:10, John 19:11. See on Mark 2:10; see on Luke 20:20). Here, therefore, ἐξουσία is not merely possibility or ability, but legitimate right derived from a competent source - the Word.

To become (γενέσθαι)

As those who are born (John 1:13. Compare John 3:3, and Matthew 5:45).

Sons (τέκνα)

Rev., more correctly, children. Son is υἱός. Τέκνον, child (τίκτω, to bring forth), denotes a relation based on community of nature, while υἱός, Son, may indicate only adoption and heirship. See Galatians 4:7. Except in Revelation 21:7, which is a quotation, John never uses υἱός to describe the relation of Christians to God, since he regards their position not as a result of adoption, but of a new life. Paul, on the other hand, regards the relation from the legal standpoint, as adoption, imparting a new dignity and relation (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5, Galatians 4:6). See also James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:3, 1 Peter 1:23, where the point of view is John's rather than Paul's. Τέκνον, indicating the relationship of man to God, occurs in John 1:12; John 11:52; 1 John 3:1, 1 John 3:2, 1 John 3:10; 1 John 5:2, and always in the plural.

Believe on (πιστευούσιν εἰς)

The present participle, believing, indicates the present and continuous activity of faith. The word is used by John, sometimes with the dative case simply meaning to believe a person or thing; i.e., to believe that they are true or speak the truth. Thus, to believe the Scripture (John 2:22); believe me (John 4:21); believe Moses, his writings, my words (John 4:46). At other times with a preposition, εἰς, into, which is rendered believe in, or believe on. So here, John 6:29; John 8:30; 1 John 5:10. See the two contrasted in John 6:29, John 6:30; John 8:30, John 8:31; 1 John 5:10. To believe in, or on, is more than mere acceptance of a statement. It is so to accept a statement or a person as to rest upon them, to trust them practically; to draw upon and avail one's self of all that is offered to him in them. Hence to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ is not merely to believe the facts of His historic life or of His saving energy as facts, but to accept Him as Savior, Teacher, Sympathizer, Judge; to rest the soul upon Him for present and future salvation, and to accept and adopt His precepts and example as binding upon the life.

Name (ὄνομα)

See on Matthew 28:19. Expressing the sum of the qualities which mark the nature or character of a person. To believe in the name of Jesus Christ the Son of God, is to accept as true the revelation contained in that title. Compare John 20:31.

Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Which (ὃι)

Referring to children of God.

Were born (ἐγεννήθνσαν)

Literally, were begotten. The phrase γεννηθήναι ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ, to be born or begotten of God, occurs only here in the Gospel, and several times in the First Epistle. It is peculiar to John.

There is a progress of thought in the three following clauses, describing the proper origin of a believer's new life. Children of God are begotten, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man. "The new birth is not brought about by descent, by desire, or by human power" (Westcott).

Of blood (ἐξ αἱμάτων)

Literally, of bloods. The plural is variously explained: by some as indicating the duality of the sexes, by others of the multiplicity of ancestors. The best explanation seems to be afforded by a similar use of the plural in Plato, ἔτι ἐν γάλαξι τρεφόμενοι, "while still nourished by milks" ("Laws," 887). The fluids, blood or milk being represented as the sum-total of all their parts. Compare τὰ ὕδατα, the waters.

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 (καὶ)

The simple copula as before; not yea, or namely, or therefore, but passing to a new statement concerning the Word.

Was made flesh (σὰρξ ἐγένετο)

Rev., "became flesh." The same verb as in John 1:3. All things became through Him; He in turn became flesh. "He became that which first became through Him." In becoming, He did not cease to be the Eternal Word. His divine nature was not laid aside. In becoming flesh He did not part with the rational soul of man. Retaining all the essential properties of the Word, He entered into a new mode of being, not a new being.

The word σὰρξ, flesh, describes this new mode of being. It signifies human nature in and according to its corporal manifestation. Here, as opposed to the purely divine, and to the purely immaterial nature of the Word. He did not first become a personality on becoming flesh. The prologue throughout conceives Him as a personality from the very beginning - from eternal ages. The phrase became flesh, means more than that He assumed a human body. He assumed human nature entire, identifying Himself with the race of man, having a human body, a human soul, and a human spirit. See John 12:27; John 11:33; John 13:21; John 19:30. He did not assume, for a time merely, humanity as something foreign to Himself The incarnation was not a mere accident of His substantial being. "He became flesh, and did not clothe Himself in flesh." Compare, on the whole passage, 1 John 4:2; 2 John 1:7.

Dwelt (ἐσκήνωσεν)

Literally, tabernacled, fixed, or had His tabernacle: from σκηνή, a tent or tabernacle. The verb is used only by John: in the Gospel only here, and in Revelation 7:15; Revelation 12:12; Revelation 13:6; Revelation 21:3. It occurs in classical writings, as in Xenophon, ἐν τῷ πεδίῳ ἐσκήνου, he pitched his tent in the plain ("Anabasis," vii., 4, 11). So Plato, arguing against the proposition that the unjust die by the inherent destructive power of evil, says that "injustice which murders others keeps the murderer alive - aye, and unsleeping too; οὕτω πόῤῥω του ὡς ἔοικεν ἐσκήνωται τοῦ θανάσιμος εἶναι, i.e., literally, so far has her tent been spread from being a house of death" ("Republic," 610). The figure here is from the Old Testament (Leviticus 27:11; 2 Samuel 7:6; Psalm 78:67 sqq.; Ezekiel 37:27). The tabernacle was the dwelling-place of Jehovah; the meeting-place of God and Israel. So the Word came to men in the person of Jesus. As Jehovah adopted for His habitation a dwelling like that of the people in the wilderness, so the Word assumed a community of nature with mankind, an embodiment like that of humanity at large, and became flesh. "That which was from the beginning, we heard, we saw, we beheld, we handled. Our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:1-3. Compare Philippians 2:7, Philippians 2:8).

Some find in the word tabernacle, a temporary structure (see the contrast between σκῆνος, tabernacle, and οἰκοδομή, building, in 2 Corinthians 5:1), a suggestion of the transitoriness of our Lord's stay upon earth; which may well be, although the word does not necessarily imply this; for in Revelation 21:3, it is said of the heavenly Jerusalem "the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will set up His tabernacle (σκηνώσει) with them."

Dante alludes to the incarnation in the seventh canto of the "Paradiso:"

- "the human species down below

Lay sick for many centuries in great error,

Till to descend it pleased the Word of God

To where the nature, which from its own Maker

Estranged itself, He joined to Him in person

By the sole act of His eternal love."

Among us (ἐν ἡμῖν)

In the midst of us. Compare Genesis 24:3, Sept., "the Canaanites, with whom I dwell (μεθ' ὧν ἐγὼ οἰκῶ ἐν αὐτοῖς)." The reference is to the eyewitnesses of our Lord's life. "According as the spectacle presents itself to the mind of the Evangelist, and in the words among us takes the character of the most personal recollection, it becomes in him the object of a delightful contemplation" (Godet).

The following words, as far as and including Father, are parenthetical. The unbroken sentence is: "The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth."

We beheld (ἐθεασάμεθα)

Compare Luke 9:32; 2 Peter 2:16; 1 John 1:1; 1 John 4:14. See on Matthew 11:7; see on Matthew 23:5. The word denotes calm, continuous contemplation of an object which remains before the spectator.

Glory (δόξαν)

Not the absolute glory of the Eternal Word, which could belong only to His pre-existent state, and to the conditions subsequent to his exaltation; but His glory revealed under human limitations both in Himself and in those who beheld Him. The reference is again to the Old Testament manifestations of the divine glory, in the wilderness (Exodus 16:10; Exodus 24:16, etc.); in the temple (1 Kings 8:11); to the prophets (Isaiah 6:3; Ezekiel 1:28). The divine glory flashed out in Christ from time to time, in His transfiguration (Luke 9:31; compare 2 Peter 1:16, 2 Peter 1:17) and His miracles (John 2:11; John 11:4, John 11:40), but appeared also in His perfect life and character, in His fulfillment of the absolute idea of manhood.


Without the article. This repetition of the word is explanatory. The nature of the glory is defined by what follows.

As (ὡς)

A particle of comparison. Compare Revelation 5:6, "a lamb as though it had been slain;" also Revelation 13:3.

Of the only begotten of the Father (μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρὸς)

Rev., "from the Father." The glory was like, corresponds in nature to, the glory of an only Son sent from a Father. It was the glory of one who partook of His divine Father's essence; on whom the Father's love was visibly lavished, and who represented the Father as His ambassador. The word μονογενής, only begotten (De Wette and Westcott, "only born") is used in the New Testament of a human relationship (Luke 7:12; Luke 8:42; Luke 9:38). In the Septuagint it answers to darling, Hebrew, only one, in Psalm 21:20, A.V. Psalm 22:20; and to desolate in Psalm 24:16, A.V. Psalm 25:16. With the exception of the passages cited above, and Hebrews 11:17, it occurs in the New Testament only in the writings of John, and is used only of Christ. With this word should be compared Paul's πρωτότοκος, first born (Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15, Colossians 1:18), which occurs but once in John (Revelation 1:5), and in Hebrews 1:6; Hebrews 11:28; Hebrews 12:23. John's word marks the relation to the Father as unique, stating the fact in itself. Paul's word places the eternal Son in relation to the universe. Paul's word emphasizes His existence before created things; John's His distinctness from created things. Μονογενής distinguishes between Christ as the only Son, and the many children (τέκνα) of God; and further, in that the only Son did not become (γενέσθαι) such by receiving power, by adoption, or by moral generation, but was (ἦν) such in the beginning with God. The fact set forth does not belong to the sphere of His incarnation, but of His eternal being. The statement is anthropomorphic, and therefore cannot fully express the metaphysical relation.

Of the Father is properly rendered by Rev., "from the Father," thus giving the force of παρά (see on from God, John 1:6). The preposition does not express the idea of generation, which would be given by ἐκ or by the simple genitive, but of mission - sent from the Father, as John from God (see John 6:46; John 7:29; John 16:27; John 17:8). The correlative of this is John 1:18, "who is in the bosom (εἰς τὸν κόλπον) of the Father;" literally, "into the bosom," the preposition εἰς signifying who has gone into and is there; thus viewing the Son as having returned to the Father (but see on John 1:18).

Full of grace and truth (πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας)

This is connected with the main subject of the sentence: "The Word - full of grace and truth." A common combination in the Old Testament (see Genesis 24:27, Genesis 24:49; Genesis 32:10; Exodus 34:6; Psalm 40:10, Psalm 40:11; Psalm 61:7). In these two words the character of the divine revelation is summed up. "Grace corresponds with the idea of the revelation of God as Love (1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:16) by Him who is Life; and Truth with that of the revelation of God as Light (1 John 1:5) by Him who is Himself Light" (Westcott). Compare John 1:17. On Grace, see on Luke 1:30.

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.
As John 1:14 is parallel to John 1:1-5, so this verse is parallel to John 1:6-8, but with an advance of thought. John 1:6-8 set forth the Baptist's witness to the Word as the general light of men. This verse gives the Baptist's witness to the personal Word become flesh.

Bare witness (μαρτυρεῖ)

Present tense. Rev., correctly, beareth witness. The present tense describes the witness of the Baptist as abiding. The fact of the Word's becoming flesh is permanently by his testimony.

Cried (κέκραγεν)

See on Mark 5:5; see on Mark 9:24; see on Luke 18:39. The verb denotes an inarticulate utterance as distinguished from words. When used is connection with articulate speech, it is joined with λέγειν or εἰπεῖν, to say, as Luke 7:28, cried, saying. Compare Luke 7:37; Luke 12:44. The crying corresponds with the Baptist's description of himself as a voice (φωνή, sound or tone), Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23. The verb is in the perfect tense, but with the usual classical sense of the present.

Was He (ἦν)

The imperfect tense, pointing back to a testimony historically past.

After me (ὀπίσω μου)

Literally, behind me: in His human manifestation.

Is preferred before me (ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν)

Literally, "is become," so Rev., "or is here (compare John 6:25) before me." Before is used of time, not of dignity or rank. The expression is enigmatical in form: "my successor is my predecessor." The idea of the superior dignity of Christ is not a necessary inference from His coming after John, as, on that interpretation, the words would imply. On the contrary, the herald who precedes is inferior in dignity to the Prince whom he announces.

For (ὅτι)

Or because. The reason for the preceding statement: the key to the enigma.

He was before me (πρῶτός μου ἦν)

Literally, first in regard of me (Rev., in margin). The reference to dignity would require ἐστίν, is (see Matthew 3:11, "is mightier"). A similar expression occurs in John 15:18 : the world hated me before (it hated) you (πρῶτον ὑμῶν). The reference is to the pre-existence of Christ. When speaking of Christ's historic manifestation, is become before me, the Baptist says γέγονεν. When speaking of Christ's eternal being, He was before me, he uses ἦν. The meaning is, then, that Christ, in His human manifestation, appeared after John, but, as the Eternal Word, preceded him, because He existed before him. Compare John 8:58.

And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.
And (καὶ)

But the correct reading is ὅτι, because, thus connecting the following sentence with "full of grace and truth" in John 1:14. We know Him as full of grace and truth, because we have received of His fullness.

Of His fulness (ἐκ τοῦ πληρώματος αὐτοῦ)

These and the succeeding words are the Evangelist's, not the Baptist's. The word fullness (πλήρωμα) is found here only in John, but frequently occurs in the writings of Paul, whose use of it in Ephesians and Colossians illustrates the sense in John; these being Asiatic churches which fell, later, within the sphere of John's influence. The word is akin to πλήρης, full (John 1:14), and to πληροῦν, to fill or complete; and means that which is complete in itself, plenitude, entire number or quantity. Thus the crew of a ship is called πλήρωμα, its complement. Aristophanes ("Wasps," 660), "τούτων πλήρωμα, the sum-total of these, is nearly two thousand talents." Herodotus (iii., 22) says that the full term of man's life among the Persians is eighty years; and Aristotle ("Polities," iv., 4) refers to Socrates as saying that the eight classes, representing different industries in the state, constitute the pleroma of the state (see Plato, "Republic," 371). In Ephesians 1:23, Paul says that the church is the pleroma of Christ: i.e., the plenitude of the divine graces in Christ is communicated to the Church as His body, making all the body, supplied and knit together through the joints and bands, to increase with the increase of God (Colossians 2:19; compare Ephesians 4:16). Similarly he prays (Ephesians 3:19) that the brethren may be filled unto all the pleroma of God: i.e., that they may be filled with the fullness which God imparts. More closely related to John's use of the term here are Colossians 1:19, "It pleased the Father that in Him (Christ) should all the fullness (τὸ πλήρωμα, note the article) dwell;" and Colossians 2:9, Colossians 2:10, "In Him dwelleth all the pleroma of the Godhead bodily (i.e., corporally, becoming incarnate), and in Him ye are fulfilled (πεπληρωμένοι)." This declares that the whole aggregate of the divine powers and graces appeared in the incarnate Word, and corresponds with John's statement that "the Word became flesh and tabernacled among men, full of grace and truth;" while "ye are fulfilled" answers to John's "of His fullness we all received." Hence John's meaning here is that Christians receive from the divine completeness whatever each requires for the perfection of his character and for the accomplishment of his work (compare John 15:15; John 17:22).

Have - received (ἐλάβομεν)

Rev., we received: rendering the aorist tense more literally.

Grace for grace (χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος)

The preposition ἀντί originally means over against; opposite; before (in a local sense). Through the idea of placing one thing over against another is developed that of exchange. Thus Herodotus (iii., 59), "They bought the island, ἀντὶ χρημάτων, for money." So Matthew 5:38, "An eye for (ἀντὶ) an eye," etc. This idea is at the root of the peculiar sense in which the preposition is used here. We received, not New Testament grace instead of Old Testament grace; nor simply, grace added to grace; but new grace imparted as the former measure of grace has been received and improved. "To have realized and used one measure of grace, was to have gained a larger measure (as it were) in exchange for it." Consequently, continuous, unintermitted grace. The idea of the development of one grace from another is elaborated by Peter (2 Peter 1:5), on which see notes. Winer cites a most interesting parallel from Philo. "Wherefore, having provided and dispensed the first graces (χάριτας), before their recipients have waxed wanton through satiety, he subsequently bestows different graces in exchange for (ἀντὶ) those, and a third supply for the second, and ever new ones in exchange for the older."

For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
For (ὅτι)

Because. Giving the ground of the statement that Christians received new and richer gifts of grace: the ground being that the law of Moses was a limited and narrow enactment, while Jesus Christ imparted the fullness of grace and truth which was in Him (John 1:14). Compare Romans 4:15; Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:10.

Was given (ἐδόθη)

A special gift serving a special and preparatory purpose with reference to the Gospel: the word being appropriate to "an external and positive institution."

By Moses (διά)

Literally, through. See on by Him, John 1:3.

Grace and truth came (ἐγένετο)

Came into being as the development of the divine plan inaugurated in the law, and unfolding the significance of the gift of the law. They came into being not absolutely, but in relation to mankind. Compare 1 Corinthians 1:30, where it is said of Christ, He was made (properly, became, εγενήθη) unto us wisdom and righteousness, etc. Note the article with grace and truth; the grace and the truth; that which in the full sense is grace and truth. Grace occurs nowhere else in John, except in salutations (2 John 1:3; Revelation 1:4; Revelation 22:21).

Jesus Christ

The Being who has been present in the Evangelist's mind from the opening of the Gospel is now first named. The two clauses, "the law was given," "grace and truth came," without the copula or qualifying particles, illustrate the parallelism which is characteristic of John's style (see on John 1:10).

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 hath seen God at any time (Θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε)

God is first in the Greek order, as emphatic: "God hath no man ever seen." As to the substance of the statement, compare John 3:11; Exodus 33:20; 1 John 4:12. Manifestations of God to Old Testament saints were only partial and approximate (Exodus 33:23). The seeing intended here is seeing of the divine essence rather than of the divine person, which also is indicated by the absence of the article from Θεὸν, God. In this sense even Christ was not seen as God. The verb ὁράω, to see, denotes a physical act, but emphasizes the mental discernment accompanying it, and points to the result rather than to the act of vision. In 1 John 1:1; 1 John 4:12, 1 John 4:14, θεάομαι is used, denoting calm and deliberate contemplation (see on John 1:14). In John 12:45, we have θεωρέω, to behold (see on Mark 5:15; see on Luke 10:18). Both θεάομαι and θεωρέω imply deliberate contemplation, but the former is gazing with a view to satisfy the eye, while the latter is beholding more critically, with an inward spiritual or mental interest in the thing beheld, and with a view to acquire knowledge about it. "Θεωρεῖν would be used of a general officially reviewing or inspecting an army; θεᾶσθαι of a lay spectator looking at the parade" (Thayer).

The only begotten son (ὁ μονογενὴς υἱὸς)

Several of the principal manuscripts and a great mass of ancient evidence support the reading μονογενὴς Θεὸς, "God only begotten."

Another and minor difference in reading relates to the article, which is omitted from μονογενὴς by most of the authorities which favor Θεὸς. Whether we read the only begotten Son, or God only begotten, the sense of the passage is not affected. The latter reading merely combines in one phrase the two attributes of the word already indicated - God (John 1:1), only begotten (John 1:14); the sense being one who was both God and only begotten.

Who is in the bosom (ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον)

The expression ὁ ὢν, who is, or the one being, is explained in two ways: 1. As a timeless present, expressing the inherent and eternal relation of the Son to the Father. 2. As interpreted by the preposition. εἰς, in, literally, into, and expressing the fact of Christ's return to the Father's glory after His incarnation: "The Son who has entered into the Father's bosom and is there." In the former case it is an absolute description of the nature of the Son: in the latter, the emphasis is on the historic fact of the ascension, though with a reference to his eternal abiding with the Father from thenceforth.

While the fact of Christ's return to the Father's glory may have been present to the writer's mind, and have helped to determine the form of the statement, to emphasize that fact in this connection would seem less consistent with the course of thought in the Prologue than the other interpretation: since John is declaring in this sentence the competency of the incarnate Son to manifest God to mankind. The ascension of Christ is indeed bound up with that truth, but is not, in the light of the previous course of thought, its primary factor. That is rather the eternal oneness of the Word with God; which, though passing through the phase of incarnation, nevertheless remains unbroken (John 3:13). Thus Godet, aptly: "The quality attributed to Jesus, of being the perfect revealer of the divine Being, is founded on His intimate and perfect relation to God Himself."

The phrase, in the bosom of the Father, depicts this eternal relation as essentially a relation of love; the figure being used of the relation of husband and wife (Deuteronomy 13:6); of a father to an infant child (Numbers 11:12), and of the affectionate protection and rest afforded to Lazarus in Paradise (Luke 16:23). The force of the preposition εἰς, into, according to the first interpretation of who is, is akin to that of "with God" (see on John 1:1); denoting an ever active relation, an eternal going forth and returning to the Father's bosom by the Son in His eternal work of love. He ever goes forth from that element of grace and love and returns to it. That element is His life. He is there "because He plunges into it by His unceasing action" (Godet).

He (ἐκεῖνος)

Strongly emphatic, and pointing to the eternal Son. This pronoun is used by John more frequently than by any other writer. It occurs seventy-two times, and not only as denoting the more distant subject, but as denoting and laying special stress on the person or thing immediately at hand, or possessing pre-eminently the quality which is immediately in question. Thus Jesus applies it to Himself as the person for whom the healed blind man is inquiring: "It is He (ἐκεῖνος) that talketh with thee" (John 9:37). So here, "the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father - He hath declared Him."

Hath declared (ἐξηγήσατο)

Or, rendering the aorist strictly, He declared. From ἐκ, forth, and ἡγέομαι, to lead the way. Originally, to lead or govern. Hence, like the Latin praeire verbis, to go before with words, to prescribe or dictate a form of words. To draw out in narrative, to recount or rehearse (see Acts 15:14, and on Luke 24:35). To relate in full; to interpret, or translate. Therefore ἐξήγησις, exegesis, is interpretation or explanation. The word ἐξηγητής was used by the Greeks of an expounder of oracles, dreams, omens, or sacred rites. Thus Croesus, finding the suburbs of Sardis alive with serpents, sent to the soothsayers (ἐξηγητὰς) of Telmessus (Herodotus, i. 78). The word thus comes to mean a spiritual director. Plato calls Apollo the tutelary director (πατρῷος ἐξηγητής) of religion ("Republic," 427), and says, "Let the priests be interpreters for life" ("Laws," 759). In the Septuagint the word is used of the magicians of Pharaoh's court (Genesis 41:8, Genesis 41:24), and the kindred verb of teaching or interpreting concerning leprosy (Leviticus 14:57). John's meaning is that the Word revealed or manifested and interpreted the Father to men. The word occurs only here in John's writings. Wyc. renders, He hath told out. These words conclude the Prologue.

The Historical Narrative now begins, and falls into two general divisions:

I. The Self-Revelation of Christ to the World (1:19-12:50)

II. The Self-Revelation of Christ to the Disciples (13:1-21:23)

And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?
This (αὕτη)

The following. This use of the pronoun, calling the reader's attention to what follows, and preparing him for it, is frequent in John. Sometimes the pronoun carries the sense of quality: of this character. See John 3:19; John 15:12; 1 John 5:4, 1 John 5:9, 1 John 5:11, 1 John 5:14.

Witness (μαρτυρία)

Testimony. See on John 1:7, and 1 Peter 5:1.


See on John 1:6. Note the article: the John previously mentioned.

The Jews (οἱ Ἱοὐδαῖοι)

This is a characteristic word in John. It occurs more than fifty times in his Gospel as his own expression, while there are six instances of the formula King of the Jews used by Gentiles. In the Synoptic Gospels, on the other hand, to twelve instances of King of the Jews, there are but four passages in which the word Jews occurs. In Paul's writings it is comparatively rare, mostly in contrast with Greek, and both in contrast with Christianity. In Revelation it is found twice (Revelation 2:9; Revelation 3:9), of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are "of the synagogue of Satan" and "do lie."

John, in the Gospel, distinguishes between the multitude (ὁ ὄχλος) and the Jews (Ἱουδαῖοι). By the former he means the aggregate of the Jewish inhabitants of Palestine, the mass of the people, chiefly Galilaeans; by the latter, more particularly Judaeans, the leaders of Judaism in opposition to Jesus. The multitude are unsettled in conviction, inquisitive, despised by the Pharisees, inclined to listen to Jesus and to believe; moved by an impulse to make Him a king, escorting Him triumphantly into Jerusalem, and not appearing in the narrative of the trial and crucifixion. The Jews are tenacious of the expectation of a national Messiah. They represent the narrow, sectarian aspect of Judaism; they are the instigators and leaders of the opposition to Jesus, and to them His crucifixion is attributed. John uses the word where the other Evangelists speak of the opposers of Christ as Pharisees, Sadducees, elders, chief-priests, scribes, or lawyers. He recognizes the distinction between Pharisee and Sadducee, and though he does not mention the latter by name, he characterizes them by their position. Jesus is the key to the sense in which John employs the term Jews. He regards them in their relation to Him. The idea underlying the word is habitually that of separation from the character and privileges of a true Israelite through their rejection of Jesus.

Sent (ἀπέστειλαν)

As a deputation. See on John 1:6.

Priests and Levites

Representing the ecclesiastical element of the nation; the two classes employed in the temple service. See Joshua 3:3; 2 Chronicles 30:27; Ezekiel 44:15. The combination occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. These deputies probably came from the Sanhedrim.

To ask (ἵνα ἐρωτήσωσιν)

Literally, in order that they should ask. See on Matthew 15:23.

Who art thou (σὺ τίς εἶ)

Literally, thou, who art thou?

And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.
He confessed and denied not

John's characteristic combination of a positive and negative clause. See on John 1:3. Both verbs are used absolutely.

I am not the Christ

According to the proper reading, ἐγὼ, I, stands first in the Baptist's statement, the ὅτι having the force merely of quotation marks. It is emphatic: "I am not the Christ, though the Christ is here." Some were questioning whether John was the Christ (Luke 3:15; Acts 13:25). Note the frequent occurrence of the emphatic I: John 1:23, John 1:26, John 1:27, John 1:30, John 1:31, John 1:33, John 1:34. On the Christ, see on Matthew 1:1.

And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.
What then? Art thou Elias?

Better, as Rev., Elijah. Some authorities read, What then art thou? Elijah? Elijah, predicted in Malachi 4:5, as the forerunner of the day of the Lord.

Art thou that prophet?

Rev., "the prophet." According to the Greek order, the prophet art thou. See Deuteronomy 18:15, and compare Acts 3:22; Acts 7:37; John 1:46; John 6:14.


Observe how the successive denials become shorter.

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.
The voice (φωνὴ)

Or, a voice. There is no article. See on Matthew 3:5.

Crying in the wilderness

Some join in the wilderness with make straight, as in the Hebrew. The quotation is from Isaiah 40:3. In the other three Gospels it is applied to the Baptist (Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4). Here he uses it of himself. On wilderness, see on Matthew 3:1.

Make straight the way (εὐθύνατε τὴν ὁδὸν)

For ὁδὸν, way, all the Synoptists have τρίβους, beaten tracks; and for the verb εὐθύνατε, make straight, the adjective and verb εὐθύνατε ποιεῖτε. On the figure of preparing the roads, see on Luke 3:5.

And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.
They which were sent were (εὐθύνατε τὴν ὁδον)

Literally, those having been sent were. But the best texts omit the article, so that the remaining words form the pluperfect passive: "they had been sent from the Pharisees." This addition of an explanatory circumstance is characteristic of John. Compare John 1:41, John 1:45; John 9:14; John 11:5, John 11:18; John 13:23.

And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?
John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not;
I baptize with water: but there standeth

The best texts omit but; so that the two clauses illustrate John's characteristic parallelism, and bring out the sharp contrast between the Baptist and his successor.

Among you (μέσος ὑμῶν)

The Greek idiom is a mid one in respect of you. Ἑγὼ, I, and μέσος, a mid one, stand respectively at the head of the parallel clauses, thus emphasizing the two contrasted parties.

Standeth (ἕστηκεν)

The best texts read στήκει, a verb which is kindred to ἕστηκεν, but with the added sense of firm, persistent standing. Thus, stand fast (1 Corinthians 16:13; Galatians 5:1 : Philippians 1:27). The verb emphasizes the firm, dignified attitude of Christ.

Ye know not (ὑμεῖς)


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 (αὐτός ἐστιν ὁ ὀπίσω μοῦ ἐρχούμενος)

The best texts omit the first two words. Westcott and Hort also omit ὁ so that the rendering is, whom ye know not, coming after me.

Was preferred before me

The best texts omit.

To unloose (ἵνα λύσω)

Literally, that I should unloose. Mark (Mark 1:7) and Luke (Luke 3:16) have unloose. Matthew (Matthew 3:11) bear. See on Matthew 3:11.

These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
Bethabara (βηθαναρᾷ)

The correct reading is βηθανία, Bethany. Not the Bethany of John 11:18, but an unknown village. It was not uncommon for two places to have the same name, as the two Bethsaidas, the one on the eastern shore of the Lake of Gennesaret (Mark 6:32, Mark 6:45), and the other on the western shore (John 1:44); the two Caesareas, on the Mediterranean (Acts 8:40), and in Gaulonitis, at the foot of Lebanon, Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13).

Was baptizing (ἦν βαπτίζων)

The participle with the substantive verb indicating continued action; was engaged in 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 best texts omit.

Seeth (βλέπει)

Both ὁράω and βλέπω denote the physical act of seeing, the former seeing in general, the latter the single look. The perception indicated by βλέπω is more outward; the perception of sense as distinguished from mental discernment, which is prominent in ὁράω. A look told the Baptist that the Mightier One had come. See on John 1:18, and see on Matthew 7:3.

Unto (πρὸς)

Strictly, towards.

Behold (ἴδε)

The imperative in the singular number, though the company of his followers is addressed. This construction, however, is not uncommon. See Matthew 26:65; Acts 13:46.

The Lamb (ὁ ἀμνὸς)

The word occurs in John only here and in John 1:36. Also in Acts 8:32; 1 Peter 1:19. The diminutive ἀρνίον, a little lamb, is found once in the Gospel (John 21:15), often in Revelation, but only of the glorified Redeemer, and nowhere else in the New Testament. In some instances the word may emphasize the gentle and innocent character of Jesus suffering to expiate the sins of men (Revelation 5:6, Revelation 5:12; Revelation 13:8); but it is also employed in describing Him as indignant (Revelation 6:16); as victorious (Revelation 17:4); as the object of adoration (Revelation 5:8); and as enthroned (Revelation 5:13; Revelation 7:17).

The term, the Lamb of God (note the article), is evidently used here by the Baptist in some sense understood by his hearers, and points to Isaiah 53:7; compare Acts 8:32. The reference is probably to the Paschal lamb, though commentators differ.

Of God

Provided by God for sacrifice.

That taketh away (ὁ αἴρων)

Either takes away or takes upon himself, in order to bear: either removal or expiation of sin. The one idea, however, is included in the other. The taking away of the sin is through His bearing it. In Isaiah 53:1-12 (Sept.), φέρω, to bear, and its compound ἀναφέρω (see on 1 Peter 2:5) are used, and αἴρω, to take up and carry away, occurs only in the phrase his life is taken from the earth, A.V., he was cut off out of the land of the living, in accordance with the universal usage of the Septuagint, which never employs αἴρειν to express the bearing of sin. If the Baptist had meant bearing, he would probably have used φέρω. Compare 1 John 3:5 : "He was manifested to take away (ἵνα ἄρῃ) our sins," and 1 John 1:7, "cleanseth us from all sin." In the use of the present tense, taketh, the Baptist views the future consummation of Christ's atoning work as potentially present.

The sin (τὴν ἁμαρτίαν)

Collectively regarded.


See on John 1:9.

This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.
Of whom (περὶ οὗ)

i.e., "concerning whom;" but the proper reading is ὑπὲρ οὗ, "on behalf of whom;" in vindication of.

A man (ἀνὴρ)

Three words are used in the New Testament for man: ἄῤῥην, or ἄρσην, ἀνήρ, and ἄνθρωπος. Ἄρσην marks merely the sexual distinction, male (Romans 1:27; Revelation 12:5, Revelation 12:13). Ἁνήρ denotes the man as distinguished from the woman, as male or as a husband (Acts 8:12; Matthew 1:16), or from a boy (Matthew 14:21). Also man as endowed with courage, intelligence, strength, and other noble attributes (1 Corinthians 13:11; Ephesians 4:13; James 3:2).

Ἄνθρωπος is generic, without distinction of sex, a human being (John 16:21), though often used in connections which indicate or imply sex, as Matthew 19:10; Matthew 10:35. Used of mankind (Matthew 4:4), or of the people (Matthew 5:13, Matthew 5:16; Matthew 6:5, Matthew 6:18; John 6:10). Of man as distinguished from animals or plants (Matthew 4:19; 2 Peter 2:16), and from God, Christ as divine and angels (Matthew 10:32; John 10:33; Luke 2:15). With the notion of weakness leading to sin, and with a contemptuous sense (1 Corinthians 2:5; 1 Peter 4:2; John 5:12; Romans 9:20). The more honorable and noble sense thus attaches to ἀνήρ rather than to ἄνθρωπος. Thus Herodotus says that when the Medes charged the Greeks, they fell in vast numbers, so that it was manifest to Xerxes that he had many men combatants (ἄνθρωποι) but few warriors (ἄνθρωποι) vii., 210. So Homer: "O friends, be men (ἀνέρες), and take on a stout heart" ("Iliad," v., 529). Ἁνήρ is therefore used here of Jesus by the Baptist with a sense of dignity. Compare ἄνθρωπος, in John 1:6, where the word implies no disparagement, but is simply indefinite. In John ἀνήρ has mostly the sense of husband (John 4:16-18). See John 6:10.

And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.
And I((κἀγὼ)

Emphatic. "And I, though I predicted His coming (John 1:30), knew Him not."

Knew Him not

Officially, as the Messiah. There is no reference to personal acquaintance. It is inconceivable that, with the intimate relations between the two families, the Baptist should have been personally unacquainted with Jesus.


Always with the idea of the spiritual privilege of the race.

And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.
Bare record (ἐμαρτύρησεν)

Better, bear witness, as Rev. See on John 1:7.

I saw (τεθέαμαι)

Rev., more correctly, gives the force of the perfect tense, I have beheld. Calmly and thoughtfully; see on John 1:14. The perfect indicates the abiding effect of the vision. Compare ἑώρακα, I have seen (John 1:34).

As a dove (ὡσεὶ περιστερὰν)

In the shape of a dove. See on Matthew 3:16.

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.
The same (ἐκεῖνος)

Rev., He. See on John 1:18. Emphasizing the personal communication of Christ to the Baptist.

With the Holy Ghost (ἐν Πνεύματι Ἁγίῳ)

Better, as Rev., Holy Spirit. The preposition ἐν, in (Rev., in margin), often has the instrumental force, with. Here, however, it would seem to signify the element of the new life, as ἐν ὕδατι, in water, signifies the element of the symbolic baptism, and might better be rendered in. The absence of the article from Holy Spirit falls in with this, as indicating the spiritual influence of the divine Agent rather than His personality.

And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.
I saw (ἑώρακα)

Rev., more strictly, according to the perfect tense, I have seen. See on John 1:32, and note the different verb for seeing, on which see on John 1:18.

Bare record (μεμαρτύρηκα)

Rev., have born witness. Also the perfect tense.

The Son of God

This is the proper reading, but one very important manuscript reads ὁ ἐκλεκτὸς, the chosen. By the phrase John means the Messiah. It has the same sense as in the Synoptic Gospels. Compare Matthew 11:27; Matthew 28:19. For the sense in which it was understood by the Jews of Christ's day, see John 5:18, John 5:19; John 10:29, John 10:30-36. The phrase occurs in the Old Testament only in Daniel 3:25. Compare Psalm 2:12. On υἱὸς, son, as distinguished from τέκνον, child, see on John 1:12.

Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;
Stood (εἱστήκει)

Rev., more correctly, was standing, since the imperfect tense denotes something in progress. Here, therefore, with the idea of waiting; was standing in expectation. Compare John 7:37; John 18:5, John 18:6, John 18:18.

Two of his disciples

The one was Andrew (John 1:41), the other the Evangelist himself, who studiously refrains from mentioning his own name throughout the narrative. The name of James the elder also does not appear, nor that of Salome, the Evangelist's mother, who is mentioned by name in Mark's Gospel (Mark 15:40; Mark 16:1). The omission of his own name is the more significant from the fact that he is habitually exact in defining the names in his narrative. Compare the simple designation Simon (John 1:42) with subsequent occurrences of his name after his call, as John 1:42; John 13:6; John 21:15, etc. Also Thomas (John 11:16; John 20:24; John 21:2); Judas Iscariot (John 6:71; John 12:4; John 13:2, John 13:26); the other Judas (John 14:22). Note also that he never speaks of the Baptist as John the Baptist, like the other three Evangelists, but always as John.

And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!
Looking (ἐμβλέψας)

Rev., giving the force of the aorist, and he looked. See on John 1:29. The verb is used by John only here and John 1:42.

As He walked (περιπατοῦντι)

The verb literally means to walk about (περί). Here, possibly, walking along. Westcott, "walking away." See on 1 Peter 5:8; see on Luke 11:44.

And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
Speak (λαλοῦντος)

Literally, speaking.

They followed

Bengel says, "The origin of the Christian Church."

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?
Saw (θεασάμενος)

Better, as Rev., beheld: looked steadfastly upon them as if studying them.

What seek ye?

The first words of Christ as recorded by John. Compare Matthew 3:15; Mark 1:15; Luke 2:49.


My great one; my honorable sir. Explained by Jesus himself as διδάσκαλος, teacher (Matthew 23:8, where the proper reading is διδάσκαλος, instead of καθηγητὴς, guide, master, found in Matthew 23:10). Used by the Jews in addressing their teachers, and formed from a Hebrew root meaning great. It occurs commonly in John, and is found in Matthew and Mark, but not in Luke, who uses ἐπιστατής. See on Luke 5:5.

Being interpreted

John frequently adds explanatory remarks. See John 1:42, John 1:43; John 9:7.

Dwellest thou (μένεις)

Rev., abidest. Jesus had asked "What seek ye?" not whom. They reply, "Where dost thou abide?"

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.
See (ἴδετε)

But the correct reading is ὄψεσθε, ye shall see.

They came

The best texts add οὖν, therefore. So Rev. This connecting particle is found in John's Gospel as often as in the other three combined, and most commonly in narrative, marking the transition from one thing to another, and serving to connect the several parts of the narrative. See John 1:22; John 2:18; John 3:25; John 4:28, John 4:30, etc. Much more frequently thus than in the discourses, where it would be used to mark a sequence of thought. Still such instances occur, as John 4:21, John 4:25; John 3:29; John 8:5; John 4:11.

He dwelt (μένει)

The present tense. Literally, they saw where he dwelleth. For a similar construction see John 2:9; John 4:1; Acts 10:18, etc.

Tenth hour

The question is whether this is to be reckoned according to the Jewish or the Roman method of computation. The Jewish method, employed by the other Evangelists, begins the day at sunrise; so that, according to this, the tenth hour would be four o'clock in the afternoon. The Roman method, like our own, reckons from midnight; according to which the tenth hour would be ten o'clock in the morning. The weight of the argument seems, on the whole, to be in favor of the Jewish method, which is undoubtedly assumed by John in John 11:9. The Greeks of Asia Minor, for whom John wrote, had the Jewish method, received from the Babylonians. Godet cites an incident from the "Sacred Discourses" of Aelius Aristides, a Greek sophist of the second century, and a contemporary of Polycarp. God having commanded him to take a bath, he chose the sixth hour as the most favorable to health. It being winter, and the bath a cold one, the hour was midday; for he said to his friend who kept him waiting, "Seest thou the shadow is already turning?" Even Canon Westcott, who advocates the Roman method, admits that "this mode of reckoning was unusual in ancient times," and that "the Romans and Greeks, no less than the Jews, reckoned their hours from sunrise," though the Romans reckoned their civil days from midnight, and the tenth hour is named as a late hour, when soldiers took their repast or were allowed to rest. Thus Livy, in his account of the Roman attack on Sutrium says, "About the tenth hour the consul ordered his men a repast, and gave directions that they should be ready in arms at whatever time of the day or night he should give the signal.... After refreshing themselves, they consigned themselves to rest" (9, 37).

Aristophanes says, "When the shadow on the dial is ten feet long, then go to dinner" ("Ecclesiazusae," 648), and Horace, "You will dine with me today. Come after the ninth hour" ("Epistle," Bk. 1., vii., 69). It is objected that the time from four o'clock to the close of the day would not have been described as that day; but beyond the marking of the specific hour of accompanying Jesus as the first hour of his Christian life, John would not have been unlikely to use a looser and more popular form of speech in indicating the length of the stay with Jesus, meaning simply that they remained with him during the remainder of the day, and, no doubt, prolonged their conversation into the night.

One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.
One of the two

The other being John.


See on Mark 3:18. Compare Mark 13:3; John 6:8; John 12:22.

Simon Peter's brother

The mention of Simon Peter before he has appeared in the narrative indicates the importance which the Evangelist attaches to him. It seems to assume a knowledge of the evangelic narrative on the part of the readers. See a similar instance of anticipating what is subsequently explained, in the mention of Mary, John 11:2.

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 (εὑρίσκαι οὗτος πρῶτος)

Rev., findeth first. He is the demonstrative pronoun, this one, which, with first, seems to point to the later finding of his brother by the other disciple, i.e., of James by John. Bengel says: "With the festival freshness of those days beautifully corresponds the word findeth, which is frequently used here."

His own (τὸν ἴδιον)

See on Matthew 22:5; see on Matthew 25:15; see on Acts 1:7; see on 1 Peter 1:3.

We have found (εὑρήκαμεν)

This has been called the chapter of the Eurekas.

The Messias

Peculiar to this Gospel, and only here and John 4:25.


See on Matthew 1:1.

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.

The same word as in John 1:36, on which see Rev., looked upon.

Thou art

Some read interrogatively: art thou.

Jona (Ιωνᾶ)

The correct reading is Ἱωάνου, of John.

A stone (Πέτρος)

See on Matthew 16:18. A detached mass of rock. Cephas is the Aramaic name, occurring 1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:22; 1 Corinthians 9:5; 1 Corinthians 15:5; Galatians 2:9.

The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me.

The best texts omit.

Would go forth (ἠθέλησεν ἐξελθεῖν)

Rev., better, was minded to go. On the construction see on Matthew 20:14. On the verb to be minded, see on Matthew 1:19.

And findeth

Note the graphic interchange of tenses: was minded, findeth. The coordination of the two clauses, which by other writers would be placed in logical dependence, is characteristic of John. Even where there is a real inner dependence he uses only the simple connective particles. Compare John 2:13 sqq.


See on Mark 3:18. For hints of his character see John 6:5, John 6:7; John 12:21 sqq.; John 14:8, John 14:9.


The best texts insert Jesus: "And Jesus said unto him."

Follow (ἀκολούθει)

Often used in the New Testament with the special sense of following as a disciple or partisan. See Matthew 4:20, Matthew 4:22; Matthew 9:9; Mark 1:18; John 8:12. Also with the meaning of cleaving steadfastly to one and conforming to his example. See Matthew 10:38; Matthew 16:24; John 12:26. The verb occurs but once outside of the writings of the Evangelists, 1 Corinthians 10:4. It appears in the noun acolyte, or acolyth, or acolothist, a church-servant ranking next below a subdeacon, whose duty it was to trim the lamps, light the church, prepare the sacramental elements, etc. Under the Byzantine emperors the captain of the emperor's bodyguard was called Acolouthos, or the Follower. See Scott's "Count Robert of Paris."

Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
Of Bethsaida

Rev., more literally, from (ἀπό). Bethsaida of Galilee. See John 12:21, and on John 1:28. Philip, being of the same city as Andrew and Peter, was the more ready to welcome Christ, because of the testimony and example of his fellow-citizens. Notice the change of preposition: from Bethsaida (ἀπό) and out of (ἐκ) the city. See on from the dead, Luke 16:31.

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.

Probably the same as Bartholomew. See on Bartholomew, Mark 3:18.

Moses in the law, etc.

Note the circumstantial detail of this confession as compared with Andrew's (John 1:42).

And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.
Come out of Nazareth (ἐκ Ναζαρὲτ εἶναι)

Literally, "be out of;" a characteristic expression of John. See John 3:31; John 4:22; John 7:17, John 7:22; John 8:23; John 15:19; John 18:36, John 18:38, etc. It means more than to come out of: rather to come out of as that which is of; to be identified with something so as to come forth bearing its impress, moral or otherwise. See especially John 3:31 : "He that is of the earth is of the earth;" i.e., partakes of its quality. Compare Christ's words to Nicodemus (John 3:6), and 1 Corinthians 15:47.

In the Greek order, out of Nazareth stands first in the sentence as expressing the prominent thought in Nathanael's mind, surprise that Jesus should have come from Nazareth, a poor village, even the name of which does not occur in the Old Testament. Contrary to the popular explanation, there is no evidence that Nazareth was worse than other places, beyond the fact of the violence offered to Jesus by its people (Luke 4:28, Luke 4:29), and their obstinate unbelief in Him (Matthew 13:58; Mark 6:6). It was a proverb, however, that no prophet was to come from Galilee (John 7:52).

Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!
An Israelite indeed (ἀληθῶς Ἱσραηλίτης)

Literally, truly an Israelite. An Israelite not merely in descent, but in character, according to the ideal laid down in God's law. The word Israelite itself was an honorable designation. See on men of Israel, Acts 3:12, and compare remarks on Jews, John 1:19.

Guile (δόλος)

Properly, a bait for fish, and related at the root to δελεάζω, to catch with a bait, or beguile. See on beguiling, 2 Peter 2:14. The true Israelite would be the true child of Israel after he had ceased to be the Supplanter. It is an interesting fact that in Genesis 25:27, Jacob is called a plain man, i.e., as some explain the Hebrew, a perfect or upright man, and others, a man of quiet and simple habits, and that the Septuagint renders this adjective by ἄπλαστος, unfeigned, without disguise, simple, guileless. The Greek here reads literally, in whom guile is not.

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.
Knowest (γινώσκεις)

See on Acts 19:15.

Under the fig tree (ὑπὸ τὴν συκῆν)

To be construed with εἶδον σε, I saw thee; i.e., I saw thee under the fig tree. The preposition with the accusative case, which implies motion toward, indicates his withdrawal to the shade of the tree for meditation or prayer. See on John 1:50. The Jewish writings tell of distinguished rabbis who were accustomed to rise early and pursue their studies under the shade of a fig tree. Compare Micah 4:4; Zechariah 3:10. Augustine, in his "Confessions," relates of himself: "I cast myself down, I know not how, under a certain fig tree, giving full vent to my tears; and the floods of mine eyes gushed out, an acceptable sacrifice to Thee" (viii. 28). Nathanael asks, "Whence knowest thou me? "Jesus answers, "I saw thee (εἶδον)."

Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.

Nathanael here gives the title, which he had withheld in his first address.

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.
Under the fig tree (ὑπὸ τῆς συκῆς)

Compare John 1:48. Here the same preposition is used with the genitive case, indicating rest, without the suggestion of withdrawal to.

Believest thou?

Rightly so, though some render affirmatively, thou believest.

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.
Verily, verily (ἀμὴν, ἀμὴν)

The word is transcribed into our Amen. John never, like the other Evangelists, uses the single verily, and, like the single word in the Synoptists, it is used only by Christ.

Hereafter (ἀπ' ἄρτι)

The best texts omit. The words literally mean, from henceforth; and therefore, as Canon Westcott aptly remarks, "if genuine, would describe the communion between earth and heaven as established from the time when the Lord entered upon His public ministry."

Heaven (τὸν οὐρανὸν)

Rev., giving the article, the heaven.

Open (ἀνεῳγότα)

The perfect participle. Hence Rev., rightly, opened. The participle signifies standing open, and is used in the story of Stephen's martyrdom, Acts 7:56. Compare Isaiah 64:1. The image presented to the true Israelite is drawn from the history of his ancestor Jacob (Genesis 28:12).


With the exception of John 12:29 and John 20:12, John does not use the word "angel" elsewhere in the Gospel or in the Epistles, and does not refer to their being or ministry. Trench ("Studies in the Gospels") cites a beautiful passage of Plato as suggestive of our Lord's words. Plato is speaking of Love. "He is a great spirit, and like all spirits he is intermediate between the divine and the mortal. He interprets between gods and men, conveying to the gods the prayers and sacrifices of men, and to men the commands and replies of the gods; he is the mediator who spans the chasm which divides them, and in him all is bound together, and through him the acts of the prophet and the priest, their sacrifices and mysteries and charms, and all prophecy and incantation find their way. For God mingles not with man, but through Love all the intercourse and speech of God with man, whether awake or asleep, is carried on" ("Symposium," 203).

Son of man

See on Luke 6:22. Notice the titles successively applied to our Lord in this chapter: the greater Successor of the Baptist, the Lamb of God, the Son of God, the Messiah, the King of Israel. These were all given by others. The title Son of man He applies to Himself.

In John's Gospel, as in the Synoptists, this phrase is used only by Christ in speaking of Himself; and elsewhere only in Acts 7:56, where the name is applied to Him by Stephen. It occurs less frequently in John than in the Synoptists, being found in Matthew thirty times, in Mark thirteen, and in John twelve.

Jesus' use of the term here is explained in two ways.

I. That He borrows the title from the Old Testament to designate Himself either: (a) as a prophet, as in Ezekiel 2:1-3; Ezekiel 3:1, etc.; or (b) as the Messiah, as prefigured in Daniel 7:13. This prophecy of Daniel had obtained such wide currency that the Messiah was called Anani, or the man of the clouds.

(a.) This is untenable, because in Ezekiel, as everywhere in the Old Testament, the phrase Son of man, or Sons of men, is used to describe man under his human limitations, as weak, fallible, and incompetent by himself to be a divine agent.

(b.) The allusion to Daniel's prophecy is admitted; but Jesus does not mean to say, "I am the Messiah who is prefigured by Daniel." A political meaning attached in popular conception to the term Messiah; and it is noticeable throughout John's Gospel that Jesus carefully avoids using that term before the people, but expresses the thing itself by circumlocution, in order to avoid the complication which the popular understanding would have introduced into his work. See John 8:24, John 8:25; John 10:24, John 10:25.

Moreover, the phrase Son of man was not generally applied to the Messiah. On the contrary, John 5:27 and John 12:34 show that it was set off against that term. Compare Matthew 16:13, Matthew 16:15. Son of God is the Messianic title, which, with one exception, appears in confessions (John 1:34, John 1:49; John 11:27; John 20:31).

In Daniel the reference is exclusively to the final stage of human affairs. The point is the final establishment of the divine kingdom. Moreover, Daniel does not say "the Son of man," but "one like a Son of man." Compare Revelation 1:13; Revelation 14:14, where also the article is omitted.

II. The second, and correct explanation is that the phrase Son of man is the expression of Christ's self-consciousness as being related to humanity as a whole: denoting His real participation in human nature, and designating Himself as the representative man. It thus corresponds with the passage in Daniel, where the earthly kingdoms are represented by beasts, but the divine kingdom by a Son of man. Hence, too, the word ἄνθρωπος is purposely used (see on a man, John 1:30, and compare John 8:40).

While the human element was thus emphasized in the phrase, the consciousness of Jesus, as thus expressed, did not exclude His divine nature and claims, but rather regarded these through the medium of His humanity. He showed Himself divine in being thus profoundly human. Hence two aspects of the phrase appear in John, as in the Synoptists. The one regards His earthly life and work, and involves His being despised; His accommodation to the conditions of human life; the partial veiling of His divine nature; the loving character of His mission; His liability to misinterpretation; and His outlook upon a consummation of agony. On the other hand, He is possessed of supreme authority; He is about His Father's work; He reveals glimpses of His divine nature through His humanity; His presence and mission entail serious responsibility upon those to whom He appeals; and He foresees a consummation of glory no less than of agony. See Matthew 8:20; Matthew 11:19; Matthew 12:8, Matthew 12:32; Matthew 13:37; Matthew 16:13; Matthew 20:18; Matthew 26:64; Mark 8:31, Mark 8:38; Mark 14:21; Luke 9:26, Luke 9:58; Luke 12:8; Luke 17:22; Luke 19:10; Luke 22:69.

The other aspect is related to the future. He has visions of another life of glory and dominion; though present in the flesh, His coming is still future, and will be followed by a judgment which is committed to Him, and by the final glory of His redeemed in His heavenly kingdom. See Matthew 10:23; Matthew 13:40 sqq.; Matthew 16:27 sqq.; Matthew 19:28; Matthew 24:27, Matthew 24:37, Matthew 24:44; Matthew 25:31 sqq.; Mark 13:26; Luke 6:22; Luke 17:24, Luke 17:30; Luke 18:8; Luke 21:27.

Vincent's Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent [1886].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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