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John 1


The Word Became Flesh The Eternal Word The Prologue The Word of Life Prologue
1:1-5 1:1-5 1:1-5 1:1-5 1:1-18
  John's Witness: the True Light      
1:6-13 1:6-13 1:6-9 1:6-9  
    1:10-13 1:10-13  
  The Word Became Flesh      
1:14-18 1:14-18 1:14-18 1:14  
The Testimony of John the Baptist A Voice in the Wilderness The Testimony of John John the Baptist's Message The Witness of John
1:19-28 1:19-28 1:19-23 1:19 1:19-28
    1:24-28 1:24-25  
The Lamb of God The Lamb of God   The Lamb of God  
1:29-34 1:29-34 1:29-34 1:29-31 1:29-34
The First disciples The First Disciples The Testimony of Jesus' First Disciples The First Disciples of Jesus The First Disciples
1:35-42 1:35-42 1:35-42 1:35-36 1:35-39
      1:40-42a 1:40-42
The Calling of Phillip Nathanael Phillip and Nathanael   Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael  
1:43-51 1:43-51 1:43-51 1:43-45 1:43-51

* Although they are not inspired, paragraph divisions are the key to understanding and following the original author's intent. Each modern translation has divided and summarized the paragraphs. Every paragraph has one central topic, truth, or thought. Each version encapsulates that topic in its own distinct way. As you read the text, ask yourself which translation fits your understanding of the subject and verse divisions.
In every chapter we must read the Bible first and try to identify its subjects (paragraphs), then compare our understanding with the modern versions. Only when we understand the original author's intent by following his logic and presentation can we truly understand the Bible. Only the original author is inspired—readers have no right to change or modify the message. Bible readers do have the responsibility of applying the inspired truth to their day and their lives.
Note that all technical terms and abbreviations are explained fully in the following documents: Brief Definitions of Greek Grammatical StructureTextual Criticism, and Glossary.



This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. Theological outline of the poem/hymn/creed

1. eternal, divine, creator, redeemer Christ, John 1:1-5 (Jesus as Word)

2. prophetic witness to Christ, John 1:4-5, 7-8, 15 (Jesus as Light)

3. incarnate Christ reveals God, John 1:10-18 (Jesus as Son)


B. Theological structure of John 1:1-18 and recurrent themes

1. Jesus was pre-existent with God the Father (John 1:1a)

2. Jesus was in intimate fellowship with God the Father (John 1:1b, 2, 18c)

3. Jesus shares God the Father's very essence (John 1:1c, 18b)

4. God the Father's means of redemption and adoption (John 1:12-13)

5. incarnation, deity becomes a man (John 1:9, 14)

6. revelation, deity fully revealed and understood (John 1:18d)


C. Hebrew and Greek background of logos (word)

1. Hebrew background

a. the power of the spoken word (Isa. 55:11; Ps. 33:6; 107:20; 147:15,18), as in Creation (Gen. 1:3,6,9,11,14,20,24, 26,29) and the Patriarchal blessing (Gen. 27:1ff; 49:1)

b. Proverbs 8:12-23 personifies "Wisdom" as God's first creation and agent of all creation (cf. Ps. 33:6 and the non-canonical Wisdom of Solomon, 9:9)

c. the Targums (Aramaic translations and commentaries) substitute the phrase "Word of God" for logos because of their discomfort with anthropomorphic terms

2. Greek background

a. Heracleitus - the world was in flux; the impersonal divine and unchanging logos held it together and guided the changing process

b. Plato - the impersonal and unchanging logos kept the planets on course and determined the seasons

c. Stoics - the logos was the "world reason" or manager, but was semi-personal

d. Philo - he personified the concept of logos as "High Priest that set the soul of man before God," or "the bridge between man and God," or "the tiller by which the Pilot of the universe steers all things" (kosmocrater)


D. Elements of the developed Gnostic theological/philosophical systems of the second century a.d.

1. An ontological (eternal) antagonistic dualism between Spirit and matter

2. Matter is evil and obstinate; Spirit is good

3. The Gnostic system posits a series of angelic levels (aeons) between a high, good god and a lesser god who was able to form matter. Some even asserted that this lesser god was YHWH of the OT (like Marcion)

4. Salvation came by

a. secret knowledge or passwords which allowed a person to pass through these angelic levels on their way to union with God

b. a divine spark in all humans, which they are not aware of until they receive secret knowledge

c. a special personal agent of revelation that gives this secret knowledge to mankind (the Spirit of Christ)

5. This system of thought asserted Jesus' deity, but denied His real and permanent incarnation and central redemptive place!


E. The historical setting

1. Verses 1-18 are an attempt to relate to both Hebrew and Greek minds by use of the term logos.

2. The heresy of Gnosticism is the philosophical background to this highly structured introduction to the Gospel of John. 1 John may have been the cover letter to the Gospel. The theological system of thought called "Gnosticism" is unknown in writing until the second century, but incipient Gnostic themes are found in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in Philo.

3. The Synoptic Gospels (especially Mark) veil Jesus' deity (the Messianic secret) until after Calvary, but John, writing much later, develops the crucial themes of Jesus as fully God and fully man (Son of Man, cf Ezek. 2:1 and Dan. 7:13) in chapter one.


F. See Special Topic: John 1 Compared to 1 John 1 at 1 John 1:1.



 1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

1:1 "In the beginning" This reflects Genesis 1:1 and is also used in 1 John 1:1 as a reference to the incarnation. It is possible that 1 John was a cover letter to the Gospel. Both deal with Gnosticism. Verses 1-5 are an affirmation of Jesus Christ's divine pre-existence before creation (cf. John 1:15; 8:56-59; 16:28; 17:5; 2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:6-7; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3; 10:5-9).

The NT is described as

1. a new creation, not marred by the Fall (i.e., Gen. 3:15 fulfilled for mankind)

2. a new conquest (Promised Land)

3. a new exodus (fulfilled prophecy)

4. a new Moses (law giver)

5. a new Joshua (cf. Heb. 4:8)

6. a new water miracle (cf. Hebrews 3-4)

7. new manna (cf. John 6)

and so many more, especially in Hebrews.


▣ "was" (thrice) This is an imperfect tense (cf. John 1:1,2,4,10) which focuses on continual existence in past time. This tense is used to show the Logos' pre-existence (cf. John 8:57-58; 17:5,24; 2 Cor. 8:9; Col. 1:17; Heb. 10:5-7). It is contrasted with the aorist tensesof John 1:3, 6, and 14.

▣ "the Word" The Greek term logos referred to a message, not just a single word. In this context it is a title which the Greeks used to describe "world reason" and the Hebrews as analogus with "Wisdom." John chose this term to assert that God's Word is both a person and a message. See Contextual Insights, C.

▣ "with God" "With" could be paraphrased "face to face." It depicts intimate fellowship. It also points toward the concept of one divine essence and three personal eternal manifestations (see Special Topic: The Trinity at John 14:26). The NT asserts the paradox that Jesus is separate from the Father, but also that He is one with the Father.

▣ "the Word was God" This verb is imperfect tense as in John 1:1a. There is no article (which identifies the subject, see F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions, p. 66) with Theos, but Theos is placed first in the Greek phrase for emphasis. This verse and John 1:18 are strong statements of the full deity of the pre-existent Logos (cf. John 5:18; 8:58; 10:30; 14:9; 17:11; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1). Jesus is fully divine as well as fully human (cf. 1 John 4:1-3). He is not the same as God the Father, but He is the very same divine essence as the Father.

The NT asserts the full deity of Jesus of Nazareth, but protects the distinct personhood of the Father. The one divine essence is emphasized in John 1:1; 5:18; 10:30,34-38; 14:9-10; and 20:28, while their distinctives are emphasized in John 1:2,14,18; 5:19-23; 8:28; 10:25,29; 14:11,12,13,16.

1:2 This is parallel to John 1:1 and emphasizes again the shocking truth in light of monotheism that Jesus, who was born around 6-5 b.c., has always been with the Father and, therefore, is Deity.

1:3 "All things came into being through Him" The Logos was the Father's agent of creation of both the visible and the invisible (cf. John 1:10; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2). This is similar to the role wisdom plays in Ps. 104:24 and Pro. 3:19; 8:12-23 (in Hebrews "wisdom" is a feminine gender noun).

▣ "apart from Him nothing came into being" This is a refutation of the Gnostic false teaching of angelic aeons between the high, good god and a lesser spiritual being that formed, pre-existent matter (see Contextual Insights, D).

1:4 "in Him was life" This phrase is emphasizing that "life" itself comes from the Son, the Word. John uses the term, zoē, to refer to resurrection life, eternal life, God's life (cf. John 1:4; 3:15,36; 4:14,36; 5:24,26,29,39,40; 6:27,33,35,40,47,48,51,53, 54,63,65, etc). The other Greek term for "life," bios, was used for earthly, biological life (cf. 1 John 2:16).

▣ "the life was the Light of men" Light is a common metaphor John uses for the truth and knowledge of God (cf. John 3:19; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46). Notice the life was for all humans (possible allusion to Ps. 36:5-9)! Light and darkness were also common themes in the Dead Sea Scrolls. John often expresses himself in dualistic (contrasting) terms and categories.

1:5 "the Light shines" This is present tense, which means continuous action. Jesus has always existed, but now He is clearly manifested to the world (cf. John 8:12; 9:5; 12:46). In the OT the physical or human manifestation of God was often identified with the angel of the Lord (cf. Gen. 16:7-13; 22:11-15; 31:11,13; 48:15-16; Exod. 3:2,4; 13:21; 14:19; Jdgs. 2:1; 6:22-23; 13:3-22; Zech. 3:1-2). Some assert that this was the pre-incarnate Logos.


NASB, NKJV"the darkness did not comprehend it"
NRSV"the darkness did not overcome it"
TEV"the darkness has never put it out"
NJB"and darkness could not overpower it"

The root meaning of this term (katalambanÃ…Â) is "to grasp." Therefore, it can mean either (1) to grasp so as to overpower (cf. Matt. 16:18) or (2) to grasp so as to comprehend or understand. John may have used this ambiguity to suggest both. John's Gospel is characterized by double entendres (e.g., "born again and/or "born from above," 3:3 and "wind" and/or "spirit," 3:8).

The verb (katalambanÃ…Â) occurs only twice in John's writings (the occurrence in John 8:3,4 is not original). In John 1:5 darkness cannot understand/overcome and 12:35 darkness that rejects the light (Jesus/gospel) will be overtaken. Rejection results in confusion; reception results in worship!

Manfred T. Brauch, Abusing Scripture, p. 35, characterizes the human condition.

1. lostness, Luke 15

2. darkness, John 1:5

3. enmity, Rom. 5:10

4. separation, Eph. 2:15-17

5. ungodliness, Rom. 1:18

6. alienation from the life of God, Eph. 4:17-18

7. the best summary of human sin is found in Rom. 1:18-3:23


 6There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. 8He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.

1:6-8 These verses and John 1:15 (a parenthetical flash back) record the witness of John the Baptist to Jesus. He was the last OT prophet. It is difficult to put these verses in poetic form. There is much debate among scholars as to whether the prologue is poetry or prose.

John the Baptist was the last OT prophet (in the sense of his message and perspective). He was the forerunner predicted in Mal. 3:1 and 4:5 (cf. John 1:20-25). John the Apostle may have inserted John 1:6-8 because of the early misunderstandings which developed around John the Baptist (cf. Luke 3:15; Acts 18:25; 19:3). John, writing later than the other Gospel writers, saw the development of this problem.

It is interesting to note that Christ is described in imperfect tense (pre-existence) verbs, while John is described in aorist (manifested in time) and perfect tense (a historical event with lasting results) verbs (cf. John 1:6). Jesus has always existed.

1:7 "that all might believe through him" This is a purpose clause. John's Gospel, like all the Gospels ( a uniquely Christian genre), is an evangelistic tract. This is the wonderful offer of salvation to all who exercise faith in Christ, who is the light of the world (cf. John 1:12; John 3:16; 4:42; 20:31; 1 Tim. 2:4; Titus 2:11; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 John 2:1; 4:14).

1:7, 12 "believe" This verb is used 78 times in the Gospel of John, 24 times in John's letters. It is interesting that John's Gospel never uses the noun form, only the verb. Belief is not primarily an intellectual or emotional response, but basically a volitional response. This Greek term is translated by three English terms: believe, trust, and faith. It is parallel to "welcome Him" (cf. John 1:11), and "accept Him" (cf. John 1:12). Salvation is free in the grace of God and the finished work of Christ, but it must be received. Salvation is a covenant relationship with privileges and responsibilities.


1:8 It is possible that John the Apostle, writing much later than the other Gospel writers, recognized the problem which developed among John the Baptist's followers who had not heard or accepted Jesus (cf. Acts 18:25-19:7).


 9There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 10He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

1:9 "the true light" This is "true" in the sense of genuine or real, not just the opposite of falsehood. This may relate to all the false Christologies of the first century. This is a common adjective in John's writings (cf. John 4:23,37; 6:32; 7:28; 15:1; 17:3; 19:35 and 1 John 2:8; 5:20 and ten times in the Revelation). See Special Topics: Truth at John 6:55 and World at John 14:17. Jesus is the light of the world (cf. John 3:19; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46; 1 John 1:5,7; 2:8,9,10). Believers are to reflect His light (cf. Phil. 2:15). This is in sharp contrast with the real darkness which is in the created order because of the rebellion of

1. humans

2. angels


▣ "coming into the world" John often uses this phrase to refer to Jesus leaving heaven, the spiritual realm, and entering the physical realm of time and space (cf. John 6:14; 9:39; 11:27; 12:46; 16:28). In this verse it seems to refer to Jesus' incarnation. This is one of the common dualisms of Johanine literature (i.e., above vs. below).

NASB"enlightens every man"
NKJV"gives light to every man"
NRSV"enlightens everyone"
TEV"shines on all people"
NJB"that gives light to everyone"

This phrase can be understood in two ways. First, by supposing a Greek cultural setting, it refers to an inner light of revelation in every man, the divine spark. This is the way the Quakers interpret this verse. However, such a concept never appears in John. For John, "light" reveals mankind's evil (cf. John 3:19-21).

Second, it can refer not to natural revelation (that is God known through nature [cf. Ps. 19:1-5; Rom. 1:19-20] or an inner moral sense [cf. Rom. 2:14-15]), but rather to God's offer of enlightenment and salvation through Jesus, the only true light.

1:10 "the world" John uses the term kosmos in three distinct ways.

1. the physical universe (John 1:10,11; 11:9; 16:21; 17:5,24; 21:25)

2. all mankind (John 1:10,29; 3:16,17; 4:42; 6:33; 12:19,46-47; 18:20)

3. fallen human society organized and functioning apart from God (John 7:7; 15:18-19; 1 John 2:15; 3:1,13)

In this context #2 is applicable. See Special Topic at John 14:17.

▣ "the world did not know Him" Neither the fallen Gentile nations nor the elect Jewish nation recognized Jesus as the promised Messiah. The term "know" reflects a Hebrew idiom of intimate relationship more than intellectual assent to facts (cf. Gen. 4:1; Jer. 1:5).


1:11 "He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him" "His own" is used twice in John 1:11. The first grammatical form is neuter plural and refers to (1) all creation or (2) geographically to Judea or Jerusalem. The second is masculine plural and refers to the Jewish people.

1:12 "But as many as received Him" This shows humanity's part in salvation (cf. John 1:16). Humans must respond to God's offer of grace in Christ (cf. John 3:16; Rom. 3:24; 4:4-5; 6:23; 10:9-13; Eph. 2:8-9). God is certainly sovereign, yet in His sovereignty He has initiated a conditional covenant relationship with fallen humanity. Fallen mankind must repent, believe, obey, and persevere in faith.

This concept of "receiving" is theologically parallel to "believing" and "confessing," which denoted a public profession of faith in Jesus as the Christ (cf. Matt. 10:32; Luke 12:8; John 9:22; 12:42; 1 Tim. 6:12; 1 John 2:23; 4:15). Salvation is a gift that must be received and acknowledged.

Those who "receive" Jesus (1:12) receive the Father who sent Him (cf. John 13:20; Matt. 10:40). Salvation is a personal relationship with the Triune God!

▣ "He gave the right" This Greek term (i.e., exousia) can mean (1) legal authority or (2) right or privilege (cf. John 5:27; 17:2; 19:10,11). Through Jesus' sonship and divine mission, fallen mankind can now know God and acknowledge Him as God and Father.

▣ "to become the children of God" The NT writers constantly use familial metaphors to describe Christianity: (1) Father; (2) Son; (3) children; (4) born again; and (5) adoption. Christianity is analogous to a family, not a product (ticket to heaven, fire insurance policy). Believers in Christ have become the new eschatological "people of God." As children we should reflect the Father's character, as did the "unique" (cf. John 1:14; 3:16) Son (cf. Eph. 5:1; 1 John 2:29; 3:3). What a shocking title for sinners (cf. John 11:52; Rom. 8:14,16,21; 9:8; Phil. 2:15; 1 John 3:1,2,10; 5:2; Hos. 1:10 quoted in Rom. 9:26; and 2 Cor. 6:18).

It is also interesting that of the two Greek terms for children, one is always used of Jesus (huios), while the other (teknon, tekna) is used for believers. Christians are children of God, but they are not in the same category as the Son of God, Jesus. His relationship is unique, but analogous.

The word "church" (ekklēsia) does not appear in Mark, Luke, or John. They use family metaphors for the new dynamic individual and corporate fellowship of the Spirit.

▣ "those who believe" This is a present active participle meaning "those who continue to believe." The etymological background of this term helps establish the contemporary meaning. In Hebrew it originally referred to a person in a stable stance. It came to be used metaphorically for someone who was dependable, loyal, or trustworthy. The Greek equivalent is translated into English by the terms ("faith," "believe," and "trust"). Biblical faith or trust is not primarily something we do, but someone in whom we put our trust. It is God's trustworthiness, not ours, which is the focus. Fallen mankind trusts God's trustworthiness, faiths His faithfulness, believes in His Beloved. The focus is not on the abundance or intensity of human faith, but the object of that faith. See Special Topics at John 1:7 and 2:23.

▣ "in His name" In the OT the name of a person was very important. It was a hopeful/potential prophecy about their character or a description of their character. To believe in the name is to believe and receive the person (cf. John 2:23; 3:18; 20:31; 1 John 5:13). See Special Topic: The Name of the Lord at John 14:13-14.


NRSV"who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man"
TEV"they did not become God's children by native means, that is, by being born and the children of a human father"
NJB"who was born not out of human stock or urge of the flesh or will of man"

Some early church fathers (i.e., Irenaeus, Origen, Tertullian, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine) see this phrase as referring to Jesus (i.e., singular), but the overwhelming Greek textual evidence has the plural (plural of this word is found only here in the NT; UBS4 rates it as "A"), which means this verse is referring to believers in Jesus (cf. John 3:5; 1 Pet. 1:3,23), therefore, it refers not to racial privilege nor to human sexual descent (lit. "bloods"), but to God's electing and drawing of those who trust in His Son (cf. John 6:44,65). Verses 12 and 13 exhibit the covenantal balance between God's sovereignty and the need for human response.

The Greek verb (aorist passive indicative) is placed last in the Greek sentence for emphasis. This emphasizes the initiating and sovereign role of God in the second birth (i.e., "but of God," which is part of the final phrase, cf. John 6:44,65).

 14And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15John testified about Him and cried out, saying, "This was He of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.'" 16For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 18No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

1:14 "the Word became flesh" John is attacking the false doctrine of the Gnostics, who were attempting to merge Christianity with Greek pagan thought. Jesus was truly human and truly God (cf. 1 John 4:1-3) in fulfillment of the promise of Immanuel (cf. Isa. 7:14). God took up residence as a man among fallen mankind (literally, "pitched His tent"). The term "flesh" in John never refers to the sin nature as in Paul's writings.


▣ "dwelt among us" Literally, this is "took up residence." It had a Jewish background from the wilderness wandering period and the Tabernacle (cf. Rev. 7:15; 21:3). The Jews later called this wilderness experience the "honeymoon period" between YHWH and Israel. God was never closer to Israel than during this period. The Jewish term for the special divine cloud that guided Israel during this period was "the Shekinah," the Hebrew term "to dwell with."

▣ "we saw His glory" The OT kabod (glory) has now been personified, incarnated. This refers to (1) something in Jesus' life such as the transfiguration or the ascension (i.e., apostolic testimony, cf. 2 Pet. 1:16-17) is or (2) the concept that the invisible YHWH is now visible and fully known. This is the same emphasis as 1 John 1:1-4, which is also an emphasis on the humanity of Jesus in opposition to the false Gnostic emphasis on the antagonistic relationship between spirit and matter.

In the OT the most common Hebrew word for "glory" (kabod, BDB 458 ) was originally a commercial term (which referred to a pair of scales), literally, "to be heavy." That which was heavy was valuable or had intrinsic worth. Often the concept of brightness was added to the word to express God's majesty (i.e., first on Mr. Sinai, the Shekinah cloud of glory, eschatological light, cf. Exod. 13:21-22; 24:17; Isa. 4:5; 60:1-2). He alone is worthy and honorable. He is too brilliant for fallen mankind to behold (cf. Exod. 33:17-23; Isa. 6:5). God can only be truly known through Christ (cf. John 1:14, 18; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3).


NASB, NKJV"glory as of the only begotten from the Father"
NRSV"the glory as of a father's only son"
TEV"The glory which he received as the Father's only Son"
NJB"the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father"

This term "only" (monogenēs) means "unique," "one of a kind" (cf. John 3:16,18; 1 John 4:9, see F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions, pp. 24-25). The Vulgate translated it "only begotten" and, unfortunately, the older English translations followed this (cf. Luke 7:12; 8:42; 9:38; Heb. 11:17). The focus is on singularity and uniqueness, not sexual generation.

"Father" The OT introduces the intimate familial metaphor of God as Father.

1. the nation of Israel is often described as YHWH's "son" (cf. Hos. 11:1; Mal. 3:17)

2. even earlier in Deuteronomy the analogy of God as father is used (Deut. 1:31)

3. in Deuteronomy 32 Israel is called "his children" and God called "your Father"

4. this analogy is stated in Ps. 103:13 and developed in Ps. 68:5 (the father of orphans)

5. it was common in the prophets (cf. Isa. 1:2; 63:8; Israel as son, God as Father, 63:16; 64:8; Jer. 3:4,19; 31:9).

Jesus takes this analogy and deepens it into full family fellowship, especially in John 1:14,18; 2:16; 3:35; 4:21,23; 5:17, 18,19,20,21,22,23,26,36,37,43,45; 6:27,32,37,44,45,46,57; 8:16,19,27,28,38,42,49,54; 10:15,17,18, 25,29,30,32, 36 37,38; 11:41;12:26,27,28,49,50; 13:1; 14:2,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,16,20,21,23,24,26,28,31; 15:1,8,9,10,15,16,23,24,26; 16:3,10,15,17 ,23,25,26,27,28,32; 17:1,5,11,21,24,25; 18:11; 20:17,21!

▣ "full of grace and truth" This coupling follows the OT terms hesed (covenant love and loyalty) and emeth (trustworthiness) which are used and expanded in Exod. 34:6; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 103:8, both words occur together in Pro. 16:6. This describes Jesus' character (cf. John 1:17) in OT covenantal terms. See Special Topic on Truth at John 6:55 and 17:3.



1:15 "for He existed before me" This is John the Baptist's doctrine of strong affirmation of Jesus' pre-existence (cf. John 1:1; 8:56-59; 16:28; 17:5; 2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:6-7; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3; 10:5-8). The doctrines of pre-existence and predictive prophecy affirm that there is a God above and beyond history, yet who works within history. It is an integral part of a Christian/biblical world view.

This verse is awkward and many scribal changes were made in an attempt to clarify and simplify the text. See Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, pp. 197-198.

It is also a good example on how the Greek verb tenses cannot be standardized. This is a past act recorded in the PRESENT tense. See Appendix One.

1:16-18 One of the characteristics of John's Gospel is how the author breaks into the historical event, dialogue, or teaching session with his own comments. Often it is impossible to differentiate between Jesus', other persons', and John's words. Most scholars assert that John 1:16-19 are John the author's comments (cf. John 3:14-21).

1:16 "fullness" This is the Greek term pleroma. The Gnostic false teachers used it to describe the angelic aeons between the high god and lesser spiritual beings. Jesus is the only mediator (i.e., the true and only fullness) between God and man (cf. Col. 1:19; 2:9; Eph. 1:23; 4:13). Here again it seems John the Apostle is attacking an early Gnostic view of reality.

NASB, NRSV"and grace upon grace"
NKJV"and grace for grace"
TEV"giving us one blessing after another"
NJB"one gift replacing another"

The interpretive question is how to understand "grace." Is it

1. God's mercy in Christ unto salvation

2. God's mercy for the Christian life

3. God's mercy in the new covenant through Christ?

The key thought is "grace"; God's grace has been wondrously given in the incarnation of Jesus. Jesus is God's "yes" to fallen mankind (cf. 2 Cor. 1:20).

1:17 "the Law" The Mosaic Law was not bad, but was preparatory and incomplete as far as providing a complete salvation (cf. John 5:39-47; Gal. 3:23-29; Romans 4). Hebrews also contrasts and compares the work/revelation/covenants of Moses and Jesus.


▣ "grace" This refers to God's undeserved, unmerited love for fallen mankind (cf. Eph. 2:8). This term grace (charis), so important in Paul's writings, is used only in this paragraph in John's Gospel (cf. John 1:14,16,17). New Testament writers, under inspiration, were free to use their own vocabularies, analogies, and metaphors.

Jesus brought into reality the "new covenant" of Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38.

▣ "truth" This is used in the sense of (1) faithfulness or (2) truth vs. falsehood (cf. John 1:14; 8:32; 14:6). Notice both grace and truth came through Jesus (cf. John 1:14). See Special Topic at John 17:3.

▣ "Jesus" This is the first use of the human name of Mary's son in the Prologue. The pre-existent Son now becomes the Incarnate Son!

1:18 "No one has seen God at any time" Some say that this contradicts Exod. 33:20-23. However, the Hebrew term in the Exodus passage refers to "afterglow," not the physical sight of God Himself. The thrust of this passage is that only Jesus fully reveals God (cf. John 14:8ff). No sinful human has seen God (cf. John 6:46; 1 Tim. 6:16; 1 John 4:12,20).

This verse emphasizes the unique revelation of God in Jesus of Nazareth. He is the full and only divine self-disclosure. To know Jesus is to know God. Jesus is the Father's ultimate revelation of Himself. There is no clear understanding of deity apart from Him (cf. Col. 1:15-19; Heb. 1:2-3). Jesus "sees" the Father and believers "see" the Father through Him (His life, words, and acts). He is the full and complete revelation of the invisible God (cf. Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3).

NASB"the only begotten God"
NKJV"the only begotten Son"
NRSV"It is God's only Son"
TEV"The only Son"
NJB"It is the only Son"

See note on monogenēs at John 1:14. Jesus is fully God and man. See full notes at John 1:1.

There is a Greek manuscript variation here. Theos/God is in the early Greek manuscripts P66, P75, B, and C, while "Son" is substituted for "God" only in MSS A and C3. The UBS4 gives "God" a "B" rating (almost certain). The term "Son" possibly comes from scribes remembering "only begotten Son" in John 3:16,18 and in 1 John 4:9 (cf. Bruce M. Metzger's A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament p. 198). This is a strong affirmation of the full and complete deity of Jesus! It is possible that this verse has three titles for Jesus: (1) only begotten, (2) God, and (3) who is in the bosom of the Father.

There is an interesting discussion of the possibility of a purposeful alteration of this text by orthodox scribes in Bart D. Ehrmans' The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, p. 78-82.

▣ "who is in the bosom of the Father" This is very similar in meaning to the phrase "with God" in John 1:1 and 2. It speaks of intimate fellowship. It could refer to (1) His pre-existent fellowship or (2) His restored fellowship (i.e., the Ascension).

NASB"He has explained Him"
NKJV"He has declared Him"
NRSV, NJB"who has made him known"
TEV"he has made him known"

We get the English term "exegesis" (lit. "to lead out," aorist middle [deponent] indicative) from this Greek word used in John 1:18, which implies a full and complete revelation. One of Jesus' main tasks was to reveal the Father (cf. John 14:7-10; Heb. 1:2-3). To see and know Jesus is to see and know the Father (loving sinners, helping the weak, accepting the outcast, receiving children and women)!

The term in Greek was used of those who explain or interpret a message, dream, or document. Here again John may be using a word that had specific meaning to both Jews and Gentiles (like Logos of John 1:1). John is attempting to relate to both Jew and Greek with his prologue. The word could mean

1. to the Jews one who explains or interprets the Law

2. to the Greeks one who explains or interprets the gods.

In Jesus, and Jesus alone, humans fully see and understand the Father!


A. This passage concerning John the Baptist deals with two early church misunderstandings:

1. that which developed around the person of John the Baptist and is disputed in John 1:6-9, 20,21,25; and 3:22-36;

2. that which involved the person of Christ and is dealt with in John 1:32-34. This same heresy of Gnosticism is similarly attacked in 1 John 1. 1 John may have been the cover letter to the Gospel of John.


B. The Gospel of John is silent about the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. The ordinances of the church, baptism and the Eucharist, are noticeably absent in John's account of the life of Christ. There are at least two possible reasons for this omission:

1. the rise of sacramentalism in the early church caused John to de-emphasize this aspect of Christianity. His Gospel focuses on relationship, not ritual. He does not discuss or record the two sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper at all. The absence of something so expected would draw attention to it.

2. John, writing later than the other Gospel writers, used his account of the life of Christ to supplement the others. Since all of the Synoptics cover these ordinances, John only supplied additional information about the surrounding events. An example would be the dialog and events which occurred in the upper room (chapters 13-17) but not the actual supper itself.


C. The emphasis of this account is on John the Baptist's testimony concerning the person of Jesus. John makes the following Christological statement:

1. Jesus is the Lamb of God, (John 1:29) a title for Jesus used only here and in Revelation

2. Jesus is pre-existent (John 1:30)

3. Jesus is the receiver and giver of the Holy Spirit (John 1:33)

4. Jesus is the Son of God (John 1:34)


D. The truths about the person and work of Jesus are developed by the personal testimony of

1. John the Baptist

2. Andrew and Simon

3. Philip and Nathanael

This becomes a common literary technique throughout the Gospel. It contains twenty-seven of these dialogues or testimonies about Jesus or with Jesus.


 19This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" 20And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, "I am not the Christ." 21They asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" And he said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" And he answered, "No." 22Then they said to him, "Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?" 23He said, "I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'make straight the way of the Lord,' as Isaiah the prophet said."

1:19 "the Jews" In John this refers to (1) the people of Judea who were hostile to Jesus or (2) the Jewish religious leaders only (cf. John 2:18; 5:10; 7:13; 9:22; 12:42; 18:12; 19:38; 20:19). Some scholars have asserted that a Jew would not refer to other Jews in this derogatory way. However, Jewish opposition to Christianity intensified after the Council of Jamnia in a.d. 90.

The word "Jew" basically comes from someone from the tribe of Judah. After the twelve tribes split in 922 b.c., Judah became the name for the southern three tribes. Both Jewish kingdoms, Israel and Judah, were taken into exile, but only a few, mostly from Judah, returned under Cyrus' edict of 538 b.c. The term then became a title for the descendants of Jacob who lived in Palestine and were scattered throughout the Mediterranean world.

In John the term is mostly negative, but its general use can be seen in John 2:6 and 4:22.

▣ "priests and Levites" Apparently John the Baptist was also of priestly descent (cf. Luke 1:5ff). This is the only occurrence of the term "Levites" in the Gospel of John. They possibly were the Temple police. This was an official group of "fact finders" sent from the religious authorities in Jerusalem (cf. John 1:24). The priests and Levites were usually Sadducees, while the scribes were usually Pharisees (cf. John 1:24). Both of these groups were involved in questioning John the Baptist. The political and religious antagonists joined forces to oppose Jesus and His followers.

"Who are you" This same question is asked of Jesus in John 8:25. John and Jesus taught and acted in ways which made the official leaders uncomfortable, because they recognized in both men certain OT eschatological themes and terms. This question, then, relates to the Jewish expectation of end-time, New Age personages.

1:20 "And he confessed, and did not deny, but confessed" This statement is a strong, threefold denial that he was the expected, promised Messiah (Christ). For "confess" see Special Topic at John 9:22-23.

▣ "the Christ" "Christ" is the Greek translation of the Hebrew term "māšîah," which meant "an anointed one." In the OT the concept of anointing was a way of emphasizing God's special calling and equipping for a specific task. Kings, priests, and prophets were anointed. It came to be identified with that special One who was to implement the new age of righteousness. Many thought John the Baptist was this promised Messiah (cf. Luke 3:15) because he was the first inspired spokesman for YHWH since the OT writers some four hundred years earlier.

At this point I would like to include my comments from Dan. 9:26 on "Messiah."


Daniel 9:26

NASB"the Messiah"
NRSV"an anointed one"
TEV"God's chosen leader"
NJB"An Anointed One"

The difficulty in interpreting this verse is because of the possible meanings associated with the term Messiah or anointed one (BDB 603):

1. used of Jewish kings (e.g. 1 Sam. 2:10; 12:3)

2. used of Jewish priests (e.g. Lev. 4:3,5)

3. used of Cyrus (cf. Isa. 45:1)

4. #1 and #2 are combined in Psalm 110 and Zechariah 4

5. used of God's special coming Davidic King to bring in the new age of righteousness

a. line of Judah (cf. Gen. 49:10)

b. house of Jesse (cf. 2 Samuel 7)

c. universal reign (cf. Psalm 2; Isa. 9:6; 11:1-5; Mic. 5:1-4ff)

I personally am attracted to the identification of "an anointed one" with Jesus of Nazareth because of:

1. the introduction of an eternal Kingdom in Daniel 2 during the fourth empire

2. the introduction of "a son of man" in Daniel 7:13 being given an eternal kingdom

3. the redemptive clauses of Daniel 9:24 which point toward a culmination of fallen world history

4. Jesus' use of the book of Daniel in the NT (cf. Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:14)


1:21 "'What then? Are you Elijah'" Because Elijah did not die but rather was taken up in a whirlwind to heaven (cf. 2 Kgs. 2:1), he was expected to come before the Messiah (cf. Mal. 3:1; 4:5). John the Baptist looked and acted much like Elijah (cf. Zech. 13:4).

▣ "'I am not'" John the Baptist did not see himself in the eschatological role of Elijah, but Jesus did see him functioning as a fulfillment of Malachi's prophecy (cf. Matt. 11:14; 17:12).

▣ "'Are you the Prophet'" Moses predicted that one like himself (whom he called "The Prophet") would come after him (cf. Deut. 18:15,18; John 1:25; 6:14; 7:40; Acts 3:22-23; 7:37). There are two distinct ways this term was used in the NT: (1) as an eschatological figure distinct from the Messiah (cf. John 7:40-41) or (2) as a figure identified with the Messiah (cf. Acts 3:22).

1:23 "'I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness'" This is a quote from the Septuagint translation of Isa. 40:3 with an allusion to the parallel in Mal. 3:1.

▣ "'Make straight the way of the Lord'" This is a quote from (Isa. 40:3) the literary unit of Isaiah (chapters 40-54) in which the Servant Songs occur (cf. Isa. 42:1-9; 49:1-7; 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12). They initially referred to Israel, but in Isa. 52:13-53:12, the phrase has been individualized. The concept of straightening the road was used for preparation of a royal visit. The term "straight" is related to the etymology of the term "righteousness." See Special Topic at 1 John 2:29.

This whole paragraph may have served John the Apostle's theological purpose of depreciating John the Baptist because of the development of several heretical groups in the first century that took John the Baptist as their spiritual leader.

 24Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25They asked him, and said to him, "Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?" 26John answered them saying, "I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. 27"It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie." 28These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

1:24 "they had been sent from the Pharisees" This text is ambiguous. It can mean (1) the Pharisees sent John's questioners (cf. John 1:19) or (2) the questioners were Pharisees, which is unusual in light of the fact that most priests were Sadducees (cf. John 1:9). It seems to refer to another group than John 1:19.


1:25 "'Why then are you baptizing'" Proselyte baptism was normative in ancient Judaism for those Gentiles wishing to become converts, but it was highly unusual for Jews themselves to be baptized (the sectarian Jews of Qumran practiced self-baptisms and temple worshipers bathed themselves before entering). This text may involve Messianic implications from Isa. 52:15; Ezek. 36:25; Zech. 13:1.

▣ "if" This is a first class conditional sentence which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes.

▣ "not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet" It is interesting in light of the Dead Sea Scrolls that these three personages represented the Essene view that there would be three different Messianic figures. It is also interesting that some early church leaders believed that Elijah would come physically before the Second Coming of Christ (cf. Chrysostom, Jerome, Gregory, and Augustine).

1:26 "I baptize in water" The preposition "in" can also mean "with." Whichever option is chosen must match the parallel of John 1:33 concerning "the Spirit."

▣ "but among you stands One" There are several textual variants related to the tense of the verb "stands." The UBS4 rates the perfect tense as "B" (almost certain).

Bruce M. Metzger asserts that the perfect tense is characteristic of John and implies a Hebrew idiom of "there is One who has taken his stand in your midst" (p. 199).

1:27 "the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie" This refers to the slave's task of undoing his master's sandals as he entered his home (considered the lowliest, most menial task a slave could perform). Rabbinical Judaism asserted that the rabbi's disciple should be willing to do everything that a slave was willing to do except untie his shoes. There is also the unstated implication of removing the shoes and taking them to a designated place of storage. This was a metaphor of extreme humility.

1:28 "Bethany" The King James Version has the name "Bethabara" (MSS אi2, C2). This was due to the KJV's translators' reliance on Origen's misunderstanding (and allegorization of the place name) of the location of the city. The correct reading is Bethany (Bodmen Papyrus, P66)-not the one southeast of Jerusalem (cf. John 11:18), but the town across from Jericho, across the Jordan River (eastern side).

 29The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30"This is He on behalf of whom I said, 'After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.' 31"I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water." 32John testified saying, "I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. 33"I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, 'He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.' 34"I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God."

1:29 "Behold, the Lamb of God" The feast of Passover was not far away (cf. John 2:13). Therefore, this probably refers to the Passover lamb symbolizing deliverance (i.e., salvation) from Egypt (cf. Exodus 12). John also places Jesus' death on the same day the Passover lamb was slain (i.e., "Preparation Day"). However, there have been other interpretations:

1. it may refer to the Suffering Servant of Isa. 53:7

2. it may refer to the animal which was caught in the thicket in Gen. 22:8, 13.

3. it may refer to the daily offering in the Temple called "the continual" (cf. Exod. 29:38-46).

Whatever the exact association, it was for a sacrificial purpose that the lamb was sent (cf. Mark 10:45).

This powerful metaphor for Jesus' sacrificial death is never used by Paul and only rarely by John (cf. John 1:29,36; also note Acts 8:32 and 1 Pet. 1:19). The Greek term for a "small lamb" (small because it was only one year old, the normal age of sacrificial offerings). A different word is used by John in John 21:15 and twenty eight times in Revelation.

There is one further possibility for John the Baptist's imagery: intertestamental, apocalyptic literature where the "lamb" is a victorious warrior. The sacrificial aspect is still present, but the lamb as eschatological judge is pre-eminent (cf. Rev. 5:5-6,12-13).

▣ "who takes away the sin of the world!" The phrase "takes away" meant to "take up and bear away." This verb is very similar to the concept of "the scapegoat" in Leviticus 16. The very fact that the world's sin is mentioned alludes to the universal nature of the lamb's task (cf. John 1:9; 3:16; 4:42; 1 Tim. 2:4; 4:10; Titus 2:11; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 John 2:2; 4:14). Notice that sin is singular, not plural. Jesus has dealt with the world's "sin" problem.

1:30 "for He existed before me" This is a repeat of John 1:15 for emphasis. This is another emphasis on the pre-existence and deity of the Messiah (cf. John 1:1, 15; 8:58; 16:28; 17:5,24; 2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:6-7; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3).

1:31 "so that He might be manifested to Israel" This is a common Johannine phrase (cf. John 2:11; 3:21; 7:4; 9:3; 17:6; 21:14; 1 John 1:2; 2:19,28; 3:2,5,8; 4:9), but it is rare in the Synoptic Gospels, only appearing in Mark 4:22. It is a play on the Hebraic term "to know," which speaks of personal fellowship with someone more than facts about someone. The purpose of John's baptism was twofold: (1) to prepare the people and (2) to reveal the Messiah.

This verb "manifest" (phaneroō) seems to replace "reveal" (apokaluptō) in John's writing. Jesus clearly brings to light/sight the person and message of God!

1:32-33 This is a threefold emphasis of the fact that John saw the Spirit coming and remaining on Jesus.

1:32 "the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven" This was Isaiah's (chapters 40-66) way to recognize the Messiah (cf. Isa. 42:1; 59:21; 61:1). This does not mean to imply that Jesus did not have the Spirit before this time. It was a symbol of God's special choice and equipping. It was not primarily for Jesus, but for John the Baptist!

The Jews had a worldview of two ages (see Special Topic at 1 John 2:17), the current evil age and an age of righteousness to come. The new age was called the age of the Spirit. This vision would have said to John the Baptist (1) this one is the Messiah and (2) the new age has dawned.

▣ "dove" This was used

1. as a rabbinical symbol for Israel (i.e., Hos. 7:11)

2. as an allusion to the Spirit as a female bird "brooding" over creation in Gen. 1:2 in the Targums

3. in Philo a symbol of wisdom

4. as a metaphor of the manner in which the Spirit descended (the Spirit is not a bird)


"remained" See SPECIAL TOPIC: "ABIDING" IN JOHN'S WRITINGS at 1 John 2:10.

1:33 "I did not recognize Him" This implies that John the Baptist did not know Jesus as the Messiah, not that he did not know Him at all. As relatives, surely they had met at family or religious gatherings over the years.

▣ "He who sent me to baptize in water said to me" God spoke to John as He did to other OT prophets. John was to recognize the Messiah by these specific acts which would occur at His baptism.

John's baptism suggested a religious authority. The official delegation from Jerusalem (cf. John 1:19-28) wanted to know the source of this authority. John the Baptist attributes that authority to Jesus. Jesus' Spirit baptism is superior to John's water baptism. Jesus' own baptism in water will become a sign of the baptism of the Spirit, the incorporation into the new age!

▣ "this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit" From 1 Cor. 12:13 it seems that this concept relates to the initial inclusion of a person into the family of God. The Spirit convicts of sin, woos to Christ, baptizes into Christ, and forms Christ in the new believer (cf. John 16:8-13). See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HOLY ONE at 1 John 2:20.

1:34 "I myself have seen, and have testified" These are both perfect active indicative which implies past action brought to completion and then continuing. This is very similar to 1 John 1:1-4.

▣ "that this is the Son of God" One wonders if the Greek word paīs, which is normally translated "servant," reflecting the Hebrew( 'ebed , BDB 712) in the LXX, could be the background to "Son." If so, then Isaiah 53 (as is "the lamb" of God in John 1:29) is the OT allusion instead of Dan. 7:13. Jesus is both the Son and Servant! He will transform believers into "a child," not "a servant"!

This same title is used by Nathanael in John 1:49. It is also used by Satan in Matt. 4:3. There is an interesting Greek manuscript variant found in MSS P5 and אi*, which has "the Chosen One of God" instead of "the Son of God" (the UBS4 gives "Son of God" a "B" rating). The phrase "Son of God" is common in John. But, if one follows the rational tenets of textual criticism, then the most awkward and unusual wording is probably original, then there is at least a possibility of the alternate translation even though the manuscript witness is limited. Gordon Fee discusses this textual variant in his article "The Textual Criticism of the New Testament" pp. 419-433, in the introductory volume to The Expositor's Bible Commentary:

"In John 1:34, did John the Baptist say, 'This is the Son of God' (KJV, RSV) or 'This is God's Chosen One' (NEB, JB)? The MS evidence is divided, even among the early text-types. 'Son' is found in the key Alexandrian witnesses (P66, P75, B, C, L copbo) as well as in several OL (aur, c, flg) and the later Syriac witnesses, while 'chosen One' is supported by the Alexandrian P5, א, copsa as well as the OL MSS a,b,e,ff2, and the Old Syriac.

"The question must finally be decided on internal grounds. As to transcriptional probability, one thing is clear: the variant is intentional, not accidental (cf. Bart D. Ehrman's The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, pp. 69-70). But did a second century scribe alter the text to support a kind of adoptionist Christology, or did an orthodox scribe sense the possibility that the designation 'Chosen One' might be used to support adoptionism, and so alter it for orthodox reasons? In terms of probabilities, the latter seems far more likely, especially since 'the Son' is not changed elsewhere in the Gospel to fit adoptionist views.

"But the final decision must involve exegesis. Since what John the Baptist said was almost certainly intended to be messianic and not a statement of Christian theology, the question is whether it reflects the messianism of such a passage as Psalm 2:7 or that of Isaiah 42:1. In light of the suffering, or paschal, lamb motif of John 1:29, it is surely arguable that 'Chosen One' fits the context of the Gospel" (pp. 431-432).

 35Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, 36and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" 37The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. 38And Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, "What do you seek?" They said to Him, "Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?" 39He said to them, "Come, and you will see." So they came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. 41He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which translated means Christ). 42He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter).

1:35 "two of his disciples" Mark 1:16-20 seems to be a different account of the calling of these two disciples. It is uncertain how much previous contact occurred between Jesus and His Galilean disciples. There were specific stages of discipline involved in the process of becoming a full-time follower of a rabbi in Jesus' day. These procedures are spelled out in the rabbinical sources, but are not exactly followed in the Gospel accounts. The two disciples mentioned are Andrew (cf. John 1:40), and John the Apostle (who never refers to himself by name in the Gospel).

The term disciple can mean (1) learner and/or (2) follower. This was an early name for believers in Jesus Christ as the promised Jewish Messiah. It is important to note that the NT calls for disciples, not mere decisions (cf. Matthew 13; 28:18-20). Christianity is an initial decision (repentance and faith) followed by an on going decision of obedience and perseverance. Christianity is not a fire insurance policy or a ticket to heaven, but a daily servant/friend relationship with Jesus.

1:37 "The two disciples heard him speak" John the Baptist pointed beyond himself to Jesus (cf. John 3:30).

1:38 "Rabbi (which translated means Teacher)" This was a common title in first century Judaism to identify those who could expound the implications and applications of the Mosaic Law and the Oral Tradition (Talmud). It is literally "my master." It is used by John the Apostle as equivalent to "teacher" (cf. John 11:8,28; 13:13-14; 20:16). The fact that John explains his terms (cf. John 1:38,41,42) shows he was writing to Gentiles.

▣ "where are You staying" This seems to follow the traditional procedures of the establishing of the unique bond between teacher and student. Their question implies that these two men wanted to spend more time with Jesus than just being able to ask a few questions on the road (cf. John 1:39).

The word menō (remain) occurs three times in John 1:38,39. It can refer to a physical place or a spiritual place. The three usages seem to imply another word play, bringing both connotations together, which is so common in John (i.e., John 1:1,5; 3:3; 4:10-11; 12:32). This purposeful ambiguity is characteristic of John's writings!

1:39 "it was about the tenth hour" It is uncertain whether John is using Roman time, beginning at (1) 6:00 a.m. or (2) day break, or Jewish time, beginning at  6:00 p.m. (twilight). When one compares John 19:14 with Mark 15:25 it seems to imply Roman time. However, when one looks at John 11:9 it seems to imply Jewish time. John possibly used both. Here it seems to be Roman time, about 4:00 p.m.

1:40 "One of two who heard John" The writer (the Apostle John) never names himself in the Gospel (i.e., 21:2). It is surely possible that one of the two disciples who heard John the Baptist make this declaration was John, the son of Zebedee (i.e., Matt. 4:21; Mark 1:19).


NASB"He found first his own brother"
NKJV, NRSV"He first found his own brother"
TEV"At once he found"
NJB"the first thing Andrew did"

There is a manuscript variant that affects the translations. The options are

1. the first thing Andrew did

2. the first person he found

3. Andrew was the first to go and tell


▣ "the Messiah (which translated means Christ)" See note at John 1:20.

1:42 "Jesus looked at him" This term refers to an "intensive look."

▣ "Simon the son of John" There is some confusion in the NT concerning the name of Peter's father. In Matt. 16:17 Peter is called "son of Jonah" ('Iōnas), but here he is called "son of John" ('Iōannēs). The name John is found in MSS P66, P75, × and L. MS B has the same name but with only one "n" ('Iōanēs). The name Jonah occurs in MSS A, B3, K and most other later Greek manuscripts. There seems to be no clear answer to this question. Variant spellings are common with transliterated names from Aramaic.

Michael Magill, The New Testament TransLine, p. 303, says, "'Jonah' and 'John' may be alternate Greek spellings of the same Hebrew name, like 'Simon' and 'Simeon.'"

▣ "'you shall be called Cephas' (which is translated Peter)" The term Cephas is an Aramaic term for rock (kepa), which comes into Greek as kephas. The name would remind one of stability, strength, and durability.

This is one of many comments by the author of the Gospel to help explain the life and teachings of Jesus to Gentile readers of John 1:38.

It is interesting that the two later technical terms (verbs) for Bible interpretation appear in this chapter.

1. exegesis, to lead out, used in John 1:18

2. hermeneutics, to explain, to interpret, to translate, used in John 1:42


 43The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, "Follow Me." 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." 46Nathanael said to him, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." 47Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!" 48Nathanael said to Him, "How do You know me?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." 49Nathanael answered Him, "Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel." 50Jesus answered and said to him, "Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these." 51And He said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

1:43 "The next day" John includes chronological markers throughout the Gospel (cf. John 1:29,35,43; 2:1; etc). The general context (1) starts in John 1:19, which could be the first day; (2) John 1:29,35,43 have "the next day"; and (3) 2:1 has "on the third day."

▣ "He purposed to go into" John records an early period of Jesus' ministry in Judea which is not recorded in the Synoptic Gospels. John's Gospel focuses on Jesus' ministry in Judea and particularly Jerusalem. Here, however, He wants to go to Galilee possibly for the wedding at Cana (John 2).

▣ "follow Me" This is a present active imperative. This was a rabbinical call to be a permanent disciple. The Jews had set guidelines which defined this relationship.

1:44 "Now Philip was from Bethsaida" The name of this city means "house of fishing." This was also the home of Andrew and Peter.

1:45 "Nathanael" This is a Hebrew name which means "God has given." He is not referred to by this name in the Synoptic Gospels. It is assumed by modern scholars that he is the one called "Bartholomew," but this remains only a supposition.


▣ "the Law and also the Prophets" This refers to two of the three sections of the Hebrew canon: the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (which was still discussed at Jamnia in a.d. 90). It was an idiom for referring to the entire Old Testament.

▣ "Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph" This must be understood in light of Jewish usage. Jesus then lived in Nazareth and the father of the home was named Joseph. This does not deny Jesus' birth at Bethlehem (cf. Micah 5:2), nor His virgin birth (cf. Isa. 7:14). See the following Special Topic.


1:46 "Nathanael said to him, 'Can any good thing come out of Nazareth'" Obviously Philip and Nathanael knew the OT prophecies; the Messiah would come out of Bethlehem (cf. Micah 5:2) near Jerusalem, not Nazareth in Galilee of the Gentiles, but Isa. 9:1-7 implies this very thing!


NRSV"in whom there is no deceit"
TEV"there is nothing false in him"
NJB"in whom there is no deception"

This means a straightforward man with no hidden motives (cf. Ps. 32:2), a true representation of the chosen people, Israel.

1:48 "Jesus answered and said to him, 'Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you'" Obviously Jesus used His supernatural knowledge (i.e., John 2:24-25; 4:17-19,29; 6:61,64,71; 13:1,11,27,28; 16:19,30; 18:4) to give a sign to Nathanael that He was the Messiah.

It is difficult to understand how Jesus' deity and humanity functioned. In some texts it is uncertain whether Jesus was using "supernatural" powers or human abilities. Here the inference is "supernatural" ability.

1:49 "Nathanael answered Him, 'Rabbi, You are the Son of God. . .King of Israel'" Notice the two titles! Both have nationalistic Messianic implications (i.e., Psalm 2). These early disciples understood Jesus in first century Jewish categories. They did not fully understand His person and work as the Suffering Servant (cf. Isa. 53) until after the resurrection.


NASB"Truly, truly, I say to you,"
NKJV"Most assuredly, I say to you,"
NRSV"Very truly, I tell you,"
TEV"I am telling you the truth"
NJB"In all truth"

Literally this is "Amen! Amen!" Jesus' doubling of this term is found only in John's Gospel, where it appears twenty-five times. "Amen" is a form of the Hebrew word for faith (emeth) which meant "to be firm" (see Special Topic at John 1:14). It was used in the OT as a metaphor for stability and trustworthiness. It came to be translated "faith" or "faithfulness." However, in time it came to be used of an affirmation. In this initial position in a sentence, it was a unique way of drawing attention to Jesus' significant, trustworthy statements or revelation from YHWH (cf. John 1:51; 2:3,5,11; 5:19,24,25; 6:26,32,47,53; 8:34,51,58; 10:1,7; 12:24; 13:16,20,21,38; 14:12; 16:20,23; 21:18).

Notice the change to the plural (pronoun and verb). This must have been addressed to all those standing there.


▣ "you, you" These are both plurals. Jesus is addressing all who were standing there and, in a sense, all humanity!

▣ "the heavens opened" This phrase has an OT Theophany ring to it.

1. Ezekiel, Ezek. 1:1

2. Jesus, Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:21

3. Stephen, Acts 7:56

4. Peter, Acts 10:11

5. The Second Coming, Rev. 19:11

This is perfect active participle which implies they remained opened. The term "heavens" is plural because in Hebrew it is plural. This can refer to (1) the atmosphere above the earth as in Genesis 1 or (2) the very presence of God.


▣ "the angels of God ascending and descending" This is an allusion to Jacob's experience at Bethel (cf. Gen. 28:10ff). Jesus is asserting that as God promised to provide all of Jacob's needs, God was providing all of His needs!

▣ "Son of Man" This is Jesus' self-chosen designation. It was an Hebraic phrase referring to a human being (cf. Ps. 8:4; Ezek. 2:1). But because of its use in Dan. 7:13, it took on divine qualities. This term had no nationalistic or militaristic overtones because it was not used by the rabbis. Jesus chose it because it combined the two aspects of His nature (human and divine, cf. 1 John 4:1-3). John mentions Jesus using it for Himself thirteen times.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why does the committee from Jerusalem ask John the Baptist if he is one of the three Old Testament personages?

2. Identify the Christological statement which John the Baptist makes about Jesus in verses 19-30.

3. Why do the Synoptics and John vary so much on the call of the disciples?

4. What did these men understand about Jesus? Notice the titles by which they call Him (verse 38).

5. What did Jesus call Himself? Why?


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