The Gospel of John: Revealing the Invisible God
A Bible Study by Fred Kenison
This book is a verse-by-verse commentary. To go to the commentary for any particular verse in Chapter 1, please click on a number below.
1:1 In beginning was the word, and the word was with The God, and the word was a god.
According to Greek grammar, the definite article "the" precedes a renewed mention. Note carefully that the definite article accompanies the first use of "word." The definite article also accompanies "word" for the second and third uses. Since all three mentions of "word" have the definite article, that means that all the mentions of word indicate the same thing.
By contrast, although the definite article appears with the first use of the word "god," the second use of the word "god" does not have the definite article, which it would have if it were a renewed mention. This means that the second "god" in verse 1:1 does not indicate the same thing as the first "god."
John clearly had two different entities in mind. Therefore, the second mention of "god," without the article, must be translated as "a god." This means that the proper translation would be: "In beginning was the word, and the word was with the god, and the word was a god." Clearly, John did not intend to say that the word was "The God," or the invisible god of heaven. Whether intentional or not, the KJV made a horrendous translation error in this verse, and the result has wreaked havoc within the Christian faith for centuries.
The word god is not a proper name; it is a generic noun, such as man. When accompanied by the definite article, "the god" usually refers to the invisible god of heaven. However, it can also mean the god in mind, according to the context. Thus, in verse 1:1, two different entities were mentioned: "The God (the invisible god of heaven)" and "the word (who was a god)."
Some people object because this means that John was referring to two gods. The common knowledge holds that there is only one god mentioned in the Bible, but that is simply not true. There is only one "invisible god of heaven" mentioned in the Bible, often spoken of as "The God." However, there are indeed other gods mentioned, and the entity referred to as "the word" is one of them.
In verse 1:1, with comes from pros, which means faced toward. An accurate translation would be: "In beginning was the word, and the word was faced toward The God, and the word was a god." An accurate translation clearly indicates a difference between The God and the word; they are two different entities.
Note, too, that the words "in beginning" were used in a qualitative sense more than a temporal sense. These words are descriptive, but they do not necessarily denote a specific time.
1:2 He was in [the] beginning with The God.
The word he comes from autos, which is not a personal pronoun (as commonly translated), but a demonstrative pronoun, meaning this, or the same. Thayer (p. 85) says about autos:
"In itself it signifies nothing more than again, applied to what has either been previously mentioned or, when the whole discourse is looked at, must necessarily be supplied."
Therefore, verse 1:2 is simply stating again that in the beginning the word was [pros] faced toward The God, or as some might say, in close communion with The God.
The KJV translated verse 1:2 much better: "The same was in the beginning." Therefore, "in beginning " is indeterminate as to time because it is descriptive of the word. Rather, it indicates that the word had its beginning when The God first spoke. [For more detailed commentary on verses 1:1-2, see our book, The No-Name God: Attributes of Jehovah and Jesus as Manifestations of the Invisible God.]
1:3 All things through him came into being, and without him not even one [thing] came into being, which has come into being.
Through comes from the genitive dia, which means through as a secondary influence, often translated "by means of." Hence, all things came into being by means of this one, or the word. Came into being comes from egeneto, derived from ginomai, an aorist middle, which classifies this as one event. John did not mean that it all happened at once; he was simply referring to the whole sequence of events as one event.
John continued by saying, "without him not even one [thing] came into being, which has come into being." Without comes from koris, which shows that the word is the second cause of all these things. The phrase came into being comes from the same Greek word egeneto used in the first clause. But the words "which came into being" are not egeneto, the aorist middle, but from gegonen, in the perfect. This means that John regarded the process as having come to an end with the conditions continuing.
This finishes John's comments, at least for the present, about the role of the word in the creation of all things. Next, in verses 1:4-5, John turns his attention to the character of the word.
1:4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
Again, him is translated from autoi, this time in the dative of place. A more accurate translation should say "in this one," referring again to the word of verse 1:1. The dative indicates that this "life" abided in "this one," or the word. Note that the first use of life does not have the definite article, but when it is mentioned again it does have the definite article. It is spoken of as the life because it is a renewed mention.
This verse is actually speaking directly about that part of creation which affected mankind, i.e., life and light. Life was the truth embodied in "that word which was in beginning," or the one who first brought light, or the knowledge of The God's desire, to men. And this life and light was given only to men, not to any other part of creation. Men had a mind to comprehend the truth manifested to them.
Since only men have been given this light and life, how does it benefit them? Paul wrote in I Thessalonians 2:13,
"Because of this also we give thanks to The God unceasingly, that, having received [the] word of [the] report of The God by us, ye accepted not men's word, but even as it is truly God's word which works in you who believe."
Jehovah was the word, the logos of the Old Testament. When he came as Jesus, he also brought life and light to affect the lives of those who believe. The next verse states that it does not affect the unbeliever.
1:5 And the light in the darkness appears, and the darkness apprehendeth it not.
John continued speaking of the light, which appeared in the darkness. The word appears, translated as "shines" in the KJV, is written in the present indicative active. According to Rienecker (p. 217), this means,
"the light that keeps on giving light."
It is a constant flow of truth to mankind. However, those who do not believe, called "the darkness," do not apprehend it. They do not grasp it at all, nor do they acknowledge any mental concept of its existence. They do not allow the light to affect them.
1:6 There was a man sent from a god, his name, John.
This verse introduces a new person. This person was sent from "a god," probably the invisible god of heaven, but John evidently did not deem it necessary to add the definite article. The word sent comes from the Greek word apestalmenos, a perfect passive participle. The perfect indicates that John's being "sent" was a permanent assignment. The passive means that someone else acted upon John.
The word from comes from para, in the genitive. According to Rienecker (p. 218), this means,
"from the side of. It does not indicate the same close relation as in v. l."
Remember, in verse 1:1 the word used was pros, faced toward, as in close communion with The God, which was referring to the word of The God. Therefore, we see that John was important as far as his mission was concerned, but he was not as great as Jehovah, the word of The God.
John's appointment was prophesied in Malachi 3:1, which said,
"Behold, I will send my messenger and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts."
1:7 He came for a witness, that he might witness concerning the light, that all might believe through him.
The first word in this verse is "he," and the last word is "him." This raises the question as to whether the he and the him refer to the same person. This problem arises because the KJV incorrectly translated the demonstrative masculine pronoun autos, and its derivative autou, as personal pronouns, instead of correctly translating them as "that one."
That one, or the same John, came for a witness. He was to witness "concerning the light." The light he was to witness to was the word, described in the first five verses, that all might believe through him, autou, or that one. "That one," then, refers to the light, not to John. Therefore, in this verse, "he" refers to John and "him" refers to Jesus.
What was The God's purpose in sending John? That "all might believe through that one," or the light. The God, when he acts in a judicial manner, acts for humanity as a whole. The God made it possible for all to believe. But, as we learned in verse 1:5, not everyone took advantage of this possibility.
1:8 He was not the light, but that he might witness concerning the light.
Verse 1:8 simply reinforces previous statements about autos, and autou. Here, however, the word he comes from ekeinos, another masculine demonstrative pronoun. Again, the KJV incorrectly translated this as a personal pronoun.
John was not the light since there is no definite article, which would indicate a renewed mention of that light spoken of earlier. John would be a much lesser light, such as the kind of light that Jesus told his disciples about when he said they were the light of the world (see Matthew 5:14).
John was a lesser light than Jehovah, the Old Testament word. This may be difficult for some to follow, but careful reading reveals that Jesus had not yet been the subject of John's comments. Thus far, John has spoken only of Jehovah, the word which was in beginning with The God.
1:9 The true light was that which lightens every man coming into the world.
This refers to the fact that John was not the true light. The word of verse 1:1 was that true, or real, or genuine light. John, the Baptist, was not able to do what the real light of the Old Testament could do. The word was able to lighten, or give light, or life, to "every man coming into the world." The purpose of the word since "in beginning" was to teach and give knowledge to men about the one who spoke the word. And this light, or instruction, which was life, was given to every man.
According to the Greek grammar, the word coming means as he is coming into the world. In other words, no one has been left without instruction by the word. This knowledge is provided to every person as he or she comes into the world.
The implications of this verse are fantastic and profound. In spite of all the evangelistic preaching to the contrary, we do not have to "get saved." Jesus "saved" all people for all time through his crucifixion. According to this verse, we are already "saved" when we are born. The issue is not to "get saved," but to retain the salvation we already have.
1:10 [He] was in the world, and the world through him came into being, and the world knew him not.
The first word, he, does not appear in the Greek manuscript, and the reader must supply it from the context. Therefore, the him, which was supplied, refers to the word from the previous verses. This is attested to by the demonstrative pronouns, autou and auton, which may be translated as "the same," or "that one," of which previous mention has been made. Therefore, this verse refers to the word of the Old Testament which was in the world from the beginning, and faced toward The God.
Although "the world came into being through him," the world "knew him not." The phrase came into being comes from egeneto, which was defined previously with verse 1:3. Knew comes from egno, a form of the basic word ginosko, which means to know one. As used here, it means,
"to know, to recognize, more than intellectual knowledge, rather to be in a right relation" (Rienecker, p. 218).
It was not that men did not know the word, or Jehovah, of the Old Testament—they did, because the light had been given to them. However, they were not concerned enough to cause a proper relationship with that word.
The word not comes from ouk, the absolute not. There was no equivocation about it. They absolutely did not know that word. They were definitely not in a right relationship with that word. The word, or logos, had enlightened every person, but few knew him.
1:11 To his own he came, and his own received him not.
The question here concerns who was "his own?" Most evangelical preaching treats this verse as though it refers to Jesus; but, it does not! John, the Baptist, is still testifying about the Old Testament word. Rienecker (p. 218) says,
"idios, one's own, belonging to one, personal. It describes the land and people of Israel as being the home and family of God."
This is the only reference found which correctly assigns this verse to the Old Testament logos, and not to Jesus, the Messiah. The logos came to his own, which was Israel, and his own received him not.
Receive comes from parelabon, which means to accept one for whom he says he is. It is an ingressive aorist, which means in plain English, that they did not even begin to receive him. They did not receive, or accept, or believe Jehovah, the word of the Old Testament as being whom he proclaimed himself to be.
Again, not comes from ou, or ouk, the absolute not. Jehovah had proclaimed Israel to be his people. They were his own, but they often did not acknowledge that relationship, preferring to worship other heathen gods.
1:12 But as many as received him, to them he gave authority to be children of god, to those that believe on his name.
Again, the word receive comes from elabon, an ingressive aorist. As explained in the previous verse, this means that as many as began to receive him, the logos, or word, which was then Jehovah. If they even began to receive Jehovah as the one who was to lead and guide them, then he, Jehovah, gave them authority to be children of God.
Unfortunately, the KJV translated authority as power. Many people believe that they are given some kind of spiritual power, which is incorrect. Instead, this concerns a matter of adoption. They were given the authority to authentically speak of themselves as being children of god, or followers of Jehovah's command.
John used the word god, instead of Jehovah, because he was aware of the truth that Jehovah was the word of the invisible god, which the people in Old Testament times did not even know existed. To them, the logos, or word, which we now know to be Jehovah, was the god of Israel.
This authority was given to those that believe on his name. Believe comes from pisteuousin, a present participle, which means that the believing occurred at the same time as the giving of authority. Believe is followed by the preposition eis, translated in this verse as on. However, eis always retains the sense of in, or into. Therefore, this authority was given to those who believe "into" Jehovah, or those who commit themselves to obey Jehovah.
Many churches today incorrectly teach this as some form of "easy-believism" which requires little or no real commitment. Unfortunately, simple, intellectual believing is emphasized more than actually making a commitment to follow the precepts of The God.
1:13 Who were born not of bloods, nor of will of flesh, nor of will of man, but of god were born.
The phrase "were born" refers to the fact that those who believed had become followers of Jehovah. Being born does not indicate Jehovah was the physical sire of those believers, but rather that he was the one who enabled them to be spiritual followers. None of us can become a follower through our own will.
Bloods is a plural, which indicates an ancestry of a father and a mother. However, this was not a physical birth. Not is again the absolute not: there is no question about it.
The phrase, "nor of will of the flesh" refers to the truth that no matter how much the flesh might will to be a spiritual follower of Jehovah, it could never be. The same was true for the "will of man." The word will comes from pheloo, and differs from boulamai, another Greek word which can be translated as will. Pheloo is the will which proceeds from inclination, while boulamai is the will which follows deliberation (Thayer, p. 286).
People may believe they can be a follower just because they are inclined to do so. It sounds nice, and they may even attempt to do so, but this verse denies that they are able to do so. It says they were born "of god." The word of comes from ek, which means source, or out of. The ability to be a follower must find its source or authority in The God.
The above verses contain John's description of the Old Testament word, or logos, which was Jehovah. In the next verse, John begins his comments about the word in the New Testament era.
1:14 And the word became flesh, and tabernacled among us, and we discerned his glory, a glory as of an only-begotten with a father, full of grace and truth.
The phrase "and the word became flesh" is one of the deepest concepts in the Bible. Unless one is careful, its significance may be easily overlooked.
The word John spoke about here is the Old Testament word, Jehovah, who was described in the first 13 verses. Jehovah was the one who spoke to the people of that time, especially to the Israelites, and told them about the desires and purposes of the invisible god, of which they were totally unaware. Then, John made the tremendous statement that the word became flesh.
Theologians have debated this statement over the centuries. One result of the debates was the concept of the incarnation. The God supposedly dwelt in this body of flesh which scriptures refer to as Jesus. By accepting this assumption, many pastors now preach on Easter that The God died on the cross. They fail to make a distinction between Jesus, the man, and the invisible creator god. This error has come about because of another misleading doctrine, that of the trinity, i.e., that The God consists of three persons in one. [For a detailed denial of this doctrine, see Part II in our book, What Scripture Says About Salvation.]
Flesh, which Jehovah became in the person of Jesus, comes from sarx, which means the flesh with all its evil tendencies. Because he was wholly a man, Jesus had to deal with all the temptations which are common to the rest of humanity. His sarx, just like our own, was opposed to The God.
Since Jesus was real flesh, how could he be what his father desired him to be? He was to be the perfect sacrifice for the rest of humanity, yet he had all of the same human sarx to overcome. Two things helped him overcome his humanity: (1) holy spirit, which was given to him without measure; and (2) his deep, abiding faith in the goodness of his father, The God.
The word tabernacled comes from eskevoosen, an aorist ingressive, which indicates an action that is just beginning. He tabernacled, or tented, temporarily "among us." Among us comes from en hemin, a plural pronoun. When the plural is used with en, then en is translated as among.
More often than not, the KJV translated the combination of these two words, en hemin, as "in you," instead of "among you," which has caused much confusion. For instance, Jesus was once standing in a group of people, and told them the kingdom of god was en humen, or among you. However, the KJV incorrectly translated this as "in you," thereby leading people to the mistaken idea that the kingdom of god somehow abides within each of them.
John, however, said that the word tabernacled among us, not in us. The Old Testament spiritual word, Jehovah, was now the man Jesus. Philippians 2 says that he emptied himself of all the attributes of godliness when he became man. This was a temporary tenting, since Jesus would abide only about 33 years among men. Then, after his ascension, as a glorified man, he would again be given the title and authority he had as Jehovah. It was the Old Testament Jehovah, now the glorified man, Jesus, who controls the giving of holy spirit.
The Old Testament word of the invisible god, now known as Jesus, is still revealing the will and the expression of the invisible god. How does he do this? The Old Testament Jehovah still controls the giving of holy spirit, only he now does so as the glorified man, Jesus. This glorified Jesus now has the fullness of holy spirit dwelling upon him, and through the power and leadership of that spirit, he exhibits the invisible god's love and grace to humanity.
In the phrase "and we discerned his glory," the word discerned comes from etheasametha, which means,
"to watch as in a theater, to view, to see, to contemplate" (Rienecker, p. 219).
It was the glory of the Old Testament logos, or word, of the invisible god that was discerned. Philippians 2:11 points out that,
"Every tongue confess that Jesus (christ or messiah) is Lord (Jehovah)."
In the Old Testament holy of holies, Jehovah was invisible to even the high priest who entered once a year. There, in the earthly tabernacle, he dwelled in the glory cloud which abided above the mercy seat. The Greek word for mercy-seat is hilasteerion, which is the same word used in Romans 3:25 to say that Jesus is the hilasteerion for believers. When Jehovah emptied himself to become man, where, then, did all the attributes go (see Philippians 2:7)?
The glory cloud above the mercy seat was replaced by the full measure of holy spirit given to Jesus. Within that portion of holy spirit abided all the attributes once given to Jehovah. They were now accessible to Jesus through complete commitment to the will of the invisible god. Nothing has changed insofar as the exercise of those gifts. Even in the Old Testament economy, Jehovah was completely obedient to the invisible god and his will, just as Jesus is now.
The phrase "glory as of an only-begotten with a father" signifies that there was only one such only-begotten. During Old Testament times, that only-begotten was known as Jehovah, not Jesus, as he is known now. Then, as Jehovah, he was "full of grace and truth." What grace, and what truth? This refers to the invisible god's faithfulness to his covenant with the people of Israel, and now, in Jesus, to all the people of the entire earth. In the man, Jesus, his glory, once hidden to men, is now open to all.
People may now understand that Jehovah revealed the invisible god of the Old Testament. Now, as the man, Jesus, he is still revealing, both inward and outward (see Philippians 2:5-7). This concept may be difficult to grasp since most preachers claim that all of these remarks pertain to Jesus, not to the Old Testament Jehovah. However, note carefully what John, the Baptist, says in the next verse.
1:15 John witnesses concerning him, and cried, saying, He who comes after me has precedence of me, for he was before me.
This is a quote from Matthew 3:11, when John, the Baptist, was preaching about Jesus. His witness concerning Jesus was that, "He who comes after me, has precedence of me, for he was before me." This was not referring to the physical birth of Jesus, which was six months after John's birth. Instead, this comment is about his ministry. John, the Baptist, started his ministry before Jesus started his ministry. So, in that sense, Jesus came after John, the Baptist.
Then, John said that Jesus "has precedence of me," which means that Jesus was more important in his ministry than John was in his. John, the Baptist, was only preparing the way, crying in the wilderness, alerting people to the ministry of Jesus.
John, the Baptist, continued by saying, "for he was before me." For comes from hoti, and would be better translated as because: "because he was before me." In other words, he existed before John, the Baptist, existed. How could this be true when John was six months older? Because John was referring to the prior existence of Jesus as Jehovah.
The man, Jesus, did not exist until he was born of Miriam. But, as the spiritual Jehovah, he existed from the time that the invisible god spoke him into existence, by saying,
"Let there be light" (Genesis 1:3).
That moment was the birth of the logos, or Jehovah.
The thoughts of the apostle John, while writing his gospel, seem to swing between Jehovah's existence during Old Testament times, and his existence as Jesus during New Testament times. We have so far only scratched the surface of the meanings inherent in these first 15 verses of John's gospel.
1:16 And of his fullness we all received, and grace upon grace .
The word fullness comes from pleeroomtos, from the basic word pleerooma. According to Thayer (p. 518), it means,
"In the New Testament, the body of believers, as that which is filled with the presence, power, agency, riches of God and of Christ." Thayer specifically defined this verse as, "fulness, abundance : Jn. l.16."
Much as I respect Thayer, I must differ with his definition here. I believe the scriptures clearly tell us that all men, not just believers, have all of this by the grace of The God. If the "all" above refers only to believers, then the fact that John was a Jew would limit this to being only the Jews. However, John was speaking under the aegis of holy spirit, and at this time was declaring the coming of the messiah and his kingdom.
Paul spoke of this as being the transition from the Old Testament economy to that of the New Testament, and its grace for all. Ephesians 1: 3-10 says,
"Blessed be The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies with Christ, according as he chose us in him before [the] foundation of [the] world, for us to be holy and blameless before him in love; having predestinated us for adoption through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to [the] praise of [the] glory of his grace, wherein he made us objects of grace in the Beloved: in whom we have redemption through his blood, the remission of offences, according to the riches of his grace; which he caused to abound toward us in all wisdom and intelligence, having made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in himself for [the] administration of the fullness of times, to head up all things in Christ, both the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth;"
Paul clearly stated that what The God had in mind (his grace and love) before the beginning of the world, which had been shadowed in the Old Testament, was now openly declared in the New Testament era. This fullness had now been transferred to a new age, and was openly manifested for all to see.
Ephesians 1:22-23 clearly states what all this meant.
"And he put all things under his [Jesus'] feet, and gave him [to be] head over all things to the assembly, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all things in all."
In verse 1:16, the phrase, "and grace upon grace," was translated in the KJV as "grace for grace." Unfortunately, that is a distortion of the Greek preposition anti, which should be correctly translated as upon. The God not only supplies us grace, but piles one grace upon another grace, one after the other. The God's grace is limited only by our ability to offer ourselves to be used by it, through the gift of holy spirit given to us.
1:17 For the law was given through Moses; the grace and the truth came through Jesus Christ."
The word for, the Greek conjunction hoti, joins this verse to the previous one and sets "the law was given through Moses" in antithesis to the previous verse, which spoke of The God's grace in Jesus. Moses brought the two tablets of stone containing the ten commandments down from the mount. He later expounded upon them, adding about 200 other laws, which were extensions of the first ten laws. It is not clear whether John was speaking here of only the first ten commandments, or of all the laws given by Moses. However, one can clearly discern in this verse that John made a clear difference between those things of the Old Testament, i.e., law, and those of the New Testament, i.e., grace and truth.
The last phrase in this verse says that, "the grace and the truth came through Jesus Christ." The definite article precedes both the words grace and truth, which sets them apart as two different entities. The article also means that they are the totality of grace, and the totality of truth.
The totality of grace and of truth which John spoke about represent two great elements of The God. John did not mean to say that these two elements of The God were not present in Old Testament times, but that they were never revealed in such a manner as they were now being revealed through Jesus.
In the Old Testament, Jehovah revealed that The God was a god of power, the one who spoke the whole of creation into being. In the New Testament, Jesus revealed the attitude of The God toward humankind, whom he created. Jesus showed us the "father" side of the invisible god. His revelation of The God includes the fullness of his grace toward us, which is unlimited. Jesus also demonstrated, through his life, the fullness of the truth of the invisible god. No matter what it was that Jesus did after holy spirit came upon him, it was a true representation of The God as a father.
1:18 No one has seen god at any time; the only begotten son who is in the bosom of the father, he declared [him].
No one comes from oudeis, a compound word of ou and deis. Ou, or ouk, is the absolute no, and rules out anybody as ever having seen The God. Some have seen his manifestation as Jehovah, the word of The God in the Old Testament, but absolutely no one has seen The God at any time.
The words has seen come from eooraken, a perfect form of the basic word oraoo. The perfect means that this fact has come to a conclusion and the effects still continue. Even to this age, or in the age to come, at no time, will anyone ever see The God.
The phrase, "only begotten son" was commented on earlier in verse 1:14, and no further comment will be made here.
The phrase, "who is in the bosom of the father," is a Hebrew expression which we would translate today as being in the presence of the father. Jesus, as the word, is no longer on this earth, but has ascended to the right hand of the father in heaven. While he was still here on earth, this only begotten son "he declared [him]," or the father. Note that him is in brackets because it was an ellipsis, omitted in the Greek manuscript and left to be filled in by the reader.
Declared comes from ekeegeesato, which means,
"explain, interpret, tell, report, describe, to describe the bond of the love of God" (Bauer, p. 275).
Commenting specifically on this verse, Bauer said,
"he has made known or brought news of the (invisible God)."
This is a perfect example of what Jesus was, and what he did. He was the one who revealed to us what the invisible god was like in his relationship with created mankind. Note carefully that scriptures such as this never imply that Jesus was the invisible god, which is what those who accept the illogical doctrine of the trinity would have you believe.
Unfortunately, too many pastors today continue to confuse people by asserting that The God, and Jesus, and holy spirit are all one and the same. It simply is not so! [For a thorough discussion of this topic, see our book, The No-Name God: Attributes of Jehovah and Jesus as Manifestations of the Invisible God.]
1:19 And this is the witness of John, whom the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites, that they might ask him, Thou, Who art thou?
The John referred to in verse 1:19 is John, the Baptist. This verse, and the following several verses, contain the witness of John, the Baptist. The Jerusalem Jews were extremely interested in just who John was because of his testimony that the word of the Old Testament was now present in the flesh in the person of Jesus. This caught their interest because they knew the Old Testament scriptures that foretold certain events which would precede the coming of the messiah.
The Jerusalem Jews sent "priests and Levites," which would cover the whole area of religious knowledge at that time. The priests were the interpreters of the law, while the Levites were assistants to the priests. The Levites also performed duties in the holy place of the temple, where they were in charge of all the daily sacrifices.
All these men were knowledgeable about the scriptures in relationship to the coming messiah. The priests and Levites, as well as the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, were in a quandary about who John was. Was he the messiah, or was he some other important person? Their questions, and John's answers, are in the next several verses.
1:20 And he confessed and denied not, and confessed, I am not the Christ.
The word confess comes from omologeoo, which means, "to agree." John, the Baptist, was agreeing with them. This word also shows up in I John 1:9, which says,
"If we should confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, that he may forgive our sins, and may cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
When we agree with the father god that something is sin, that agreement releases his forgiveness and cleansing power in our lives.
I John 1:9 is most often used in a judicial sense, which was not its intent. Instead, it lays out a scriptural method for maintaining a good relationship with our heavenly father. He, The God, is not now judging anyone; therefore, this confessing, or agreeing with him about sin, is not a judicial request for forgiveness. Judicial forgiveness was fully granted because of the death of Jesus, the Christ.
The phrase "denied not" simply reinforces his earlier confession. It is a Hebrew expression used as a double assurance of a stated fact. Apparently, John had been asked the question of whether or not he was the christ, and he emphatically stated, "I am not [ouk] the christ. He was not, absolutely not, the coming messiah, or the christ, and he did not want any misunderstanding about the matter. Therefore, he used the absolute no.
1:21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he says, I am not. The prophet art thou? and he answered, No.
These priests and Levites were asking "Art thou Elias?" because Deuteronomy 18:15-18 states,
"The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; according to all that thou desiredst of the Lord thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying , Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And the Lord said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him."
Many of the Jews thought that Elias (or Elijah, as it is spelled in the Old Testament) would precede the coming of the prophet. John, the Baptist, answered them, and said, "I am not," again using the absolute ouk.
Not being satisfied, the priests and Levites again pursued this thought with a different question, "The prophet art thou?" And again, the answer was absolutely not. When he answered "no" to all their questions pertaining to the prophet described in Deuteronomy, they turned their attention to another area.
1:22 They said therefore to him, Who art thou? that an answer we may give to those who sent us: What sayest thou about thyself?"
These priests and Levites had no idea who John, the Baptist, was, and they needed an answer to take back to the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. The reason for this was because John had been in the wilderness for many years, and his attire, grooming, and diet showed it. Matthew 3:4 gives a vivid description of him:
"And John, himself, had his raiment of hair of a camel, and a girdle of leather about his loins, and the food of him was locusts and wild honey."
John, the Baptist, certainly would not make much of an impression on the religious scene today.
One pastor, describing what he thought John, the Baptist, might have been like, said: "His hair was a matted mess, and he probably smelled like a dirty goat, and picked his teeth with the leg of a grasshopper. But, he had fire in his belly to preach about the coming messiah, and his piercing eyes spoke of the judgment of God against all those who were unbelievers."
1:23 He said, I [am] a voice crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of [the] Lord, as said Esaias the prophet.
In answering, John quoted a scripture they surely knew. This prophecy is found in Isaiah 40:3:
"The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God."
His questioners could now go back to Jerusalem and report that John was that one whom Isaiah had prophesied would come to preach the coming of messiah. His was the voice crying, or shouting, a message to those who could hear him. John was not backward about announcing his calling from The God. He wanted everyone within range of his shouting voice to know.
1:24 And those who had been sent were from among the Pharisees."
The name "Pharisee" meant separatist, and it was taken from the Hebrew word pawrash, meaning "to separate." They did this by separating themselves from the common people because they absolutely "knew," at least in their own minds, that they were more correct in their knowledge and understanding and more holy in their lives. To their credit, they did believe in a life after death, which the other great sect, the Sadducees, did not believe.
1:25 And they asked him and said to him, Why then baptizeth thou, if thou art not the Christ, nor Elias, nor the prophet?
Even after John told them about the prophecy of Isaiah, the priests and Levites did not understand that John had a calling, that he was the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy. He was none of the ones they thought he might be. Why did they continue to question him about Elias, or Elijah?
They undoubtedly knew what Malachi 4:5 said.
"Behold! I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord."
With this scripture in mind, it must have been difficult for them to believe that John, the Baptist, was actually the authentic trumpeter of the coming of the Lord. But, John said that he was not Elijah, and this was reason enough to not acknowledge John for whom he said he was.
Matthew 11:11-14 contains comments made by Jesus which are helpful in explaining the quandary of Malachi 4:5. Jesus was teaching the multitudes when he said,
"Verily I say to you, there has not risen among [those] born of women a greater than John the . But he that [is] less in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he. But from the days of John the until now, the kingdom of the heavens is taken by violence, and [the] violent seize it. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elias who is about to come."
John denied that he was the prophet Elias, and yet Jesus seemed to be saying that he was. How can these scriptures be reconciled?
First, John was not a resurrected Elias in the body, as the priests and Levites were implying. Second, Jesus was saying that John was a prophet similar to Elias, and therefore he could be accepted as the fulfillment of Malachi 4:5. The priests and Levites took Malachi 4:5 in a literal sense, while Jesus explained that Malachi 4:5 was meant in a metaphorical sense.
This tension between metaphorical and literal still confuses many today, and prevents an accurate understanding of many scriptures.
1:26 John answered them saying, I baptize with water; but in [the] midst of you stands [one] whom ye know not.
John further mystified his questioners with the statement, "I baptize with water." Actually, the word translated with comes from en, which means in. John baptized in water, not with water. Then he said, "but in the midst of you stands one whom ye know not." His questioners must have wondered exactly whom John was speaking about. John again used ouk, the absolute no. They knew nothing at all of the one in their midst.
1:27 He it is who comes after me, who has precedence of me, of whom I am not worthy that I should loose of him the thong of the sandal.
The comments earlier on verse 1:15 also apply to the first part of this verse.
Some knowledge of the times is helpful in understanding why John used the expression, "I am not worthy that I should loose of him the thong of the sandal" to explain how he felt about his relationship to that one "who had precedence of me."
The thong was a leather strap which held the sandal, or shoe, on the foot. Rienecker (p. 220) explains,
"The loosing and carrying of the sandals was the duty of a slave, and a disciple was exempt from this because of its menial character."
By his comment, John expressed his relationship as the lowest of the low. He claimed no honor from his calling from The God, who had also empowered him for his ministry. He humbled himself, and Jesus later honored him highly.
1:28 These things took place in Bethabara across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
John was evidently abiding near Bethabara, where he was baptizing and answering the questions of the priests and Levites. There is conjecture as to the actual location of this place. The name itself means the place of the ford. Some have identified it as Bethbarah, an ancient ford of the Jordan river. Others believe it to be the town of Bethany, which means place of dates, probably because of the palm trees growing there.
The small town of Bethany was where Mary and Martha lived, and according to the locals, it supposedly contained the sepulcher of Lazarus. It was about 15 furlongs from Jerusalem, and Jesus often traveled there to visit (see Fallows, Book 1, p. 265).
1:29 On the morrow John sees Jesus coming to him, and says, Behold the Lamb of [the] God, who takes away the sin of the world.
The word sees comes from the basic Greek word plepoo, which means
"to see, discern, with bodily eye" (Thayer, p.103).
This much can be easily discerned from the context. However, Thayer points out that it also means
"metaph. to see with the mind's eye, to discern mentally, observe, perceive, discover, understand."
Oraoo is a synonym of blepoo. Concerning these two words, Thayer says,
"Oran, blepein, both denote the physical act: or, in general, bl. the single look, or, gives prominence to the discerning mind, bl. to the particular mood or point. When the physical side recedes, or denotes perception in general [as resulting principally from vision], the prominence in the word of the mental element being indicated by the constr. of the acc. w. inf. [in contrast with that of the ptcp. required w. blepein] and by the absol. oras; blep. on the other hand, when its physical side recedes, gets a purely outward sense, look [i.e. open, incline] towards" (p. 452).
This quote will be helpful as these two words, or their derivatives, are used four more times. We will comment on them as they occur.
In the phrase, "Behold the lamb of The God," behold comes from ide, a derivative of oraoo. In English, we would probably say "Look," instead of "Behold."
Who did John want them to look at? It was "the lamb of The God." He chose the word lamb as this was one of the usual offerings of the Old Testament. Jesus was recognized by John as being the fulfillment of all the Old Testament shadows indicated by the sacrifices made under the law. But this was no ordinary lamb; this was "the lamb of The God." The lamb signifies that there was no other lamb like this one. Why? Because it was of The God. This lamb was one of a kind, and worthy of close attention.
Behold, or look closely at this lamb of The God. This was John's admonition to all who heard him, and his words continue to echo into our own time. Exodus 12:6 says that the Jews offered a lamb for the nation, but here The God offered the lamb for the world. Little wonder that Revelation 12:14 tells us that the lamb is worthy of the praise of the universe. After all, his death was for the entire universe.
The importance of "the lamb of The God" is that he "takes away the sin of the world." Takes away comes from airoon, which means,
" Jn. 1, 29, to remove the guilt and punishment of sin by expiation, or to cause that sin be neither imputed nor punished" (Thayer, p. 17).
According to Psalms 103:12, these sins were removed,
"As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us."
The word sin comes from hamartian, written in the singular. Rienecker (p. 220) says this about hamartian:
"The singular refers to the mass of sin, and the guilt incurred."
This word is worthy of much study as it is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the scriptures. What a wondrous act this was, to not only take away our sin, but also to take away the guilt that had ravished humanity from the time of Adam.
1:30 He it is concerning whom I said, After me comes a man who has precedence of me, because before me he was.
John was referring back to his comments in verse 1:27. However, he had also pointed out that Jesus was the lamb of The God. Now he said, "After me comes a man." Note carefully how John, the Baptist, referred to Jesus. He did not refer to him as god, nor did he call him a god-man (an invention of organized religion), but he simply called him a man.
The word precedence comes from emprosthen, from the basic word ginomai, which means,
"to become, i.e., to come into existence, begin to be, receive being, absolutely, Jn. l, 15, 30" (Thayer, p. 115).
John, the Baptist, was preaching that Jesus had come into existence before he did. The word used here is protos, which means before, earlier, first, either in time or place. How could this be?
The scriptures tell us that John, the Baptist, was six months older than Jesus. However, John said that Jesus existed earlier than he. The solution to this is back in verse 1:14 which stated that the word became flesh. Jehovah, a spiritual being, became flesh in the person of the man, Jesus. John's reference is to the earlier existence of the word, when he was Jehovah. In this sense, Jesus existed long before John, the Baptist, although he did not exist as a man until he was born of Miriam.
1:31 And I knew him not; but that he might be manifested to Israel, therefore came I baptizing with water.
The statement, "and I knew him not," is somewhat perplexing. Knew comes from edein, whose meaning is basically to see with the eyes, or to know, as to know someone. The not used here is the absolute not. John was stating emphatically that he had never seen Jesus, nor had he known him, even though they were cousins. John did spend many years in the desert, and it is possible that he even grew up there as well, never seeing Jesus.
John next explained why he had come, "baptizing with water." John was only a herald announcing the coming messiah, or as he said, "that he might be manifested to Israel." John was manifesting Jesus by preaching and baptizing in water.
The word manifest comes from phaneroo, which means,
"to make manifest or visible or known what has been hidden or unknown, to manifest, whether by words, or deeds, or in any other way" (Thayer, p. 648).
Does this mean that John, the Baptist, and Jesus, the Messiah, were one and the same? No, of course not! And, neither did Paul mean that Jesus and The God are the same when he wrote in I Timothy 3:16:
"God was manifest in the flesh."
Jesus was only revealing attributes of the invisible god, just as John was revealing that Jesus was the coming messiah.
Recall the earlier verse that stated,
"He [Jehovah] came unto his own, and his own received him not" (John 1:11).
Jehovah was not received by his people. Likewise, Jesus came as king to the Israelite people, and they did not receive him either. That was his first mission. He was sent to Israel, The God's adopted people, not to the Gentiles.
Matthew 15:21-28 relates that a Canaanite woman approached Jesus, and asked him to heal her daughter. His disciples asked him why he did not answer her, and he said,
"I was not sent except to the lost sheep of [the] house of Israel."
Israel was the nation which was supposed to reveal the invisible god's attributes to those around them. They did not do that, and neither did they accept Jesus as the messiah. It was after the religious leaders refused to acknowledge Jesus as the messiah that he turned to the Gentiles.
1:32 and John bore witness saying, I have beheld the spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and it abode upon him.
John, the Baptist, apparently saw the spirit descend, as well as did Jesus. This is a reference to the account recorded in Matthew 3:16-17:
"And having been baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water: and behold, to him the heavens were opened, and he saw the spirit of The God descending as a dove, and coming upon him: and lo, a voice out of the heavens, saying, This is my Son the beloved, in whom I have found delight."
According to this account in Matthew, it was Jesus who saw the spirit descending upon himself. Matthew, however, made no mention of what John, the Baptist, might have seen.
The phrase "I have beheld the spirit descending as a dove out of heaven" indicates that John, the Baptist, had also seen the spirit descending. Whether Jesus alone saw it, or both Jesus and John saw the spirit (we believe it was both of them), this was the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 11:1-2.
"And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord."
Many people assume that this scripture says the spirit was in the form of a dove as it descended upon Jesus. The word as comes from the comparative os, which describes the method of the spirit's descent, not the shape of the spirit. This spirit was "out of heaven," or one might say it descended from the invisible god.
In the phrase "and it abode upon him [Jesus]" please note very carefully the word upon. The spirit abode upon Jesus, not in Jesus. Jehovah emptied himself of all his godly attributes, and took upon himself both the inward nature and the outward form of a man (see Philippians 2). If he were to serve The God in the capacity to which he was called, then he, like any other person, must submit to the leadership of the spirit, which was upon him, not in him.
1:33 And I knew him not; but he who sent me to baptize with water, he said to me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and abiding on him, he it is who baptizes with [the] holy spirit.
The phrase "he who sent me to baptize with water" identifies whom it was that sent John. Luke 3:2-3 says that,
"In [the] high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, came [the] word of God upon John, the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he went into all the country around the Jordan, proclaiming [the] baptism of repentance for remission of sins."
John was born during the economy of the Old Testament. The word of The God was then Jehovah. Thus, it was Jehovah who "came upon" John and called him to his ministry of baptism. At that time, Jehovah also had the authority to give holy spirit to whomever he called to a special duty. Hence, it was holy spirit which came upon John, just as later it came upon Jesus. In order to fulfill his ministry, John would have to submit to the guidance of that portion of holy spirit which had been bestowed upon him.
This same word was the one who told John how to recognize the one for whom he was baptizing. "He said to me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and abiding on him, he it is who baptizes with [the] Holy Spirit." Earlier, John spoke of seeing the spirit descend upon Jesus. But, here, another qualification is added, namely that the spirit should also abide upon him.
The word upon comes from epi, which contains no sense at all of inward abiding. We are not to use holy spirit, but we are to be used by it. Too many people seek "the baptism" in order to have power to use holy spirit. That is antithetical to the scriptural teaching.
Abiding comes from menon, which means,
"not to depart, not to leave, to continue to be present: to maintain unbroken fellowship with one, adhere to his part, 1 Jn.ii.19; to be constantly present to help one, of the holy spirit" (Thayer, p. 399).
Holy spirit may come and go upon us, but with Jesus, the Messiah, it was to be a different matter. Holy spirit was to abide, or sojourn, constantly upon him. He was given holy spirit without measure, whereas we are given only some portion of holy spirit.
John went on to say that this person upon whom holy spirit descended, and abode, was the one "who baptizes with [the] Holy Spirit." Note that the definite article is in parentheses, denoting that it does not appear in the Greek text. Even Jesus did not baptize with "the" holy spirit, but only with holy spirit, or qualifications, or characteristics, of the holy spirit. [For a complete discussion of "holy spirit" versus "the holy spirit," see Part III of our book, What Scripture Says About Salvation.]
1:34 And I have seen, and have borne witness that this is the son of The God.
The words "have seen" and "have borne witness," are written in the Greek perfect, which usually indicates that an action has come to completion and the results continue. In this context, however, it shows that John, the Baptist, has perfectly witnessed these things up until the time of which he speaks. By stretching a bit, we might say that his testimony still continues today through the written word which has come down to us. That would provide the "results continue" aspect of the perfect tense.
What did John, the Baptist, witness to? "That this is the son of The God." When written in this manner, with a definite article preceding both son and god, this is the equivalent of saying that Jesus was the messiah, or the christ. He was the expected king of Israel. John did not mince words; he set the proposition clearly before the Jews to whom he was preaching. In addition, he also saw more about the character of Jesus, and who he really was, than did even Jesus' disciples.
After Peter attempted to walk on water, his disciples said,
"Truly thou art son of god" (Matthew 14:33).
In this verse, neither son nor god is preceded by the definite article. Therefore, this comment must be translated as either "a son of a god," or "a son of The God." That was the same thing the centurion said at the crucifixion (Mark 15:39). These statements simply recognized that Jesus was different, perhaps a demi-god, or at least something more than an ordinary man. However, they did not yet recognize that he was the messiah, as did John, the Baptist.
1:35 Again on the morrow John was standing and two of his disciples.
"Again on the morrow" would seem to indicate that this was the very next day after the baptism of Jesus. However, according to Matthew 3:16-4:2, immediately after his baptism, Jesus was led into the wilderness by holy spirit to be tempted for 40 days and 40 nights. Therefore, this morrow must have been at least 40 days after the baptism of Jesus.
1:36 And looking at Jesus walking, he says, Behold the Lamb of The God!
With this verse, the author, John, for the most part, ceased his mention of John, the Baptist. From this point, he began to describe the ministry of Jesus.
Again, John, the Baptist, spoke of Jesus as being "the lamb of The God." This terminology was commented on earlier.
1:37 And the two disciples heard him speaking, and followed Jesus.
These two disciples were the first to follow Jesus, whom they had heard John, the Baptist, call "the lamb of The God," or the messiah, king of Israel. This must have aroused their curiosity, and caused them to trail along after Jesus.
This was not an auspicious beginning, and did not in any way indicate how great this ministry would be. It is, however, an indication that The God often uses unspectacular methods in attracting people to his cause. On the other hand, organized religions often use very spectacular means to attract unlearned people to their cause. For example, flamboyant preachers demonstrate this by touching people and watching them fall to the floor; then, after they have stood again, proclaiming how the touch of this great preacher healed them from a wide variety of diseases.
Other preachers focus on preaching "health and wealth" philosophies, claiming that God expects no one to be sick or poor. All it requires is that the sick or poor people send some "seed money" to God, whose address, of course, just happens to be the same as the preacher's address. The promise is always that God will pour out healing and wealth on them, although it is only the preacher who ever seems to get wealthy.
These shams, and many others, are a travesty, the result of organized religion run amok. Yes, Jesus healed people, and he performed other miracles, too, but they were done entirely for the glory of The God, not to make Jesus wealthy or famous. Any thoughts about fame and fortune had been completely settled in those 40 days and nights he spent in the desert.
1:38 But Jesus having turned, and beheld them following him, says to them, What seek ye?
These disciples were not yet brave enough to actually approach and walk with Jesus, but they trailed some distance behind him. They were undoubtedly curious about this man whom John, the Baptist, had said was the lamb of The God, the messiah, the christ. Jesus, like any normal person being followed by two men, wanted to know what they were after.
1:39 And they said to him, Rabbi, which is to say being interpreted, teacher, where abidest thou?
They addressed Jesus, not as lord, or messiah, but as rabbi. They apparently thought that when John addressed him as the lamb of The God, that perhaps he meant only that Jesus was a great teacher. However, this word, rabbi, also means, "my great one" (Rienecker, p. 221).
They answered Jesus by asking, "where abidest thou?" It could be that they wanted to know more about him. Would his home tell them whether or not he was really the messiah? Or, was he just another of the many who had previously come to Israel claiming to be the messiah? People who had followed previous false messiahs often came to no good end. These two, at least, were asking some critical questions before committing themselves to follow Jesus.
1:40 He says to them Come and see. They went and saw where he abides; and they abode with him that day. Now [the] hour was about [the] tenth.
After these two men stated their purpose in following him, Jesus invited them to come and see. John never mentioned where Jesus took the two disciples, but it could have been to his home in Nazareth since this was the beginning of his ministry.
The two men not only went and saw, they also abode with him that day. The word with comes from para. Its use here did not mean an area, such as being in his home, but it indicated a personal sense of proximity to Jesus, or a fellowship with him.
The Jewish hours referred to were six hours different than our present time. Therefore, "[the] hour was about [the] tenth" would mean it was about 4:00 p.m. in our time (Fallows, Vol. 2, p. 834). This would raise a question as to whether or not they spent the night with Jesus. If they did, which is somewhat probable, they would have had much more time to hear him speak of his ministry.
1:41 Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter was one of the two who heard [this] from John, and followed him.
This verse identifies one of the two men who followed Jesus home. The word follow comes from akoloutheesantoon, an aorist active participle, which means,
"to follow one who precedes, join him as his attendant, accompany him" (Thayer, p. 22).
Matthew 4:18-20 provides a somewhat different version of how Jesus found Andrew and Peter.
"And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew, his brother, casting a large net into the sea, for they were fishers: and he says to them, Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they, immediately having left the nets, followed him."
Whether these two versions are considered as contradictory or complementary, the fact remains that Andrew and Peter were the first two disciples of Jesus.
1:42 He first finds his own brother, Simon, and says to him, We have found the Messias, which is being interpreted the Christ.
Whatever they spoke about with Jesus, at least one of them was convinced that Jesus was the messiah, or as stated in this verse, messias. Messiah, or messias, is the Hebrew word that we translate as christ. They both have the same definition: the anointed one.
Being anointed was tantamount to being called to a special ministry, and the anointing with oil signified that the person had also been anointed with holy spirit upon him. Andrew at least had the courage of his convictions, and he immediately went to another family member to proclaim his new faith. So many of us today have supposedly been converted to believe that Jesus is the christ, and yet we are reluctant to share our faith, even with our own families.
1:43 And he led him to Jesus. And looking at him, Jesus said, Thou art Simon the son of Jonas; thou shalt be called Cephas, which is interpreted, Stone.
When Andrew led his brother to Jesus, he recognized him by the name, Simon, and even identified his father's name. Whether or not Jesus had known these two before is questionable, but the tenor of the scriptures in John indicates that he did not know them.
Then, Jesus told Simon that he "shall be called Cephas, or Stone." The Greek word for stone is petros. Thayer (p. 507) says this:
"Petros-ou, (an appellative prop. name, signifying ‘a stone', ‘a rock', ‘a ledge' or ‘cliff'; used metaphorically of a soul hard and unyielding, and so resembling a rock."
Peter was no doubt rash in some of his actions and words, but he was always determined to serve his lord, Jesus.
1:44 On the morrow, Jesus desired to go forth into Galilee, and he finds Philip and says to him, Follow me.
This is the third disciple that Jesus called to his ministry. We should be very careful to keep something is mind as we read about the actions of Jesus. Now that his ministry has begun, everything Jesus does or says is to not only bring glory to his heavenly father, The God, but also to reveal The God's characteristics to people.
By choosing certain people to follow him, Jesus was also foretelling the time when everyone will be called by the father to follow the ministry given to them by that portion of holy spirit which was to be poured out upon them. That time had not yet come as Jesus came under the law, to fulfill the law. The age of grace was delayed until his death, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of the father in heaven.
Jesus was a Jew, and he operated under the Old Testament economy of law; otherwise, his life would never have annulled it. But, the law under which Jesus lived his life was the real law of The God, not necessarily the same law that the Jews followed. They had so surrounded the law of The God by their interpretations and additions as to nullify the grace of The God, which was to be found in the original law as given.
Jesus told Philip to follow him, and he did. Philip is a Greek name, although he was a Jew, and presumably he had a Jewish name. However, the scriptures never indicate his Jewish name. Philip, unlike Andrew and Simon Peter, did not approach Jesus on his own; he waited until Jesus called him to be a disciple. Like Andrew, he immediately went to someone he knew, and told about his faith.
1:45 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter.
Since the first three disciples were all from Bethsaida, a small town, it is likely that they knew each other. Whether or not Philip still lived in Bethsaida is questionable because of the Greek preposition, ek, translated as from. Ek means out of, which could mean that he was no longer a citizen of that town.
1:46 Philip finds Nathanael and says to him . We have found [him] whom Moses wrote of in the law and the prophets, Jesus the son of Joseph who [is] from Nazareth.
Philip expressed his faith that Jesus was the messiah, or the one "whom Moses wrote of." When Philip spoke of the one particular person of whom Moses wrote, he was saying that Jesus was Jehovah of the Old Testament, or simply that he was the messiah. From the context, it is impossible to know exactly how far his faith extended in the matter. Later, however, many of the disciples revealed by their words how little they really understood about the ministry of Jesus.
Jesus was also called "the son of Joseph from Nazareth." We know that Joseph was not the person who sired Jesus, but he was the one who raised him. Matthew 2:23 says that Joseph fled to Egypt to escape Herod's attempt to kill the infant Jesus. After Herod's death, he returned again to Nazareth. Therefore, Jesus was also known as the Nazarene.
1:47 And Nathanael said to him, Can anything good be out of Nazareth? Philip says, Come and see.
Nathanael's question expressed a common conception at that time about the small town of Nazareth. It was noted for lacking any kind of amenities, and having no accomplished people. Yet, Philip was claiming that the messiah came from this insignificant little town. It was no wonder that Nathanael questioned his statement.
But, Philip was not to be deterred. He simply said, "Come and see." This statement, simple as it may be, was an expression of Philip's confidence. He believed that once Nathanael met Jesus, he, too, would be convinced.
1:48 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and says concerning him, Behold! Truly an Israelite in whom is not guile.
When Jesus saw Nathanael coming, he spoke of his character. How would Jesus know these things about a man whom he had presumably never met? John 2:25b says this,
"He had no need that any should testify concerning man, for he knew what was in man."
Jesus used the Greek word dolos, which means,
"a lure, bait: hence, craft, deceit, guile" (Thayer, p. 155).
The not used here is the absolute not. There was not even a hint of deceit or guile in this man's character. He may have been tactless, but he was honest. From this description, Nathanael was undoubtedly someone who did not curry favor through deceit.
1:49 Nathanael says to him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said to him, Before that Philip called thee, [thou] being under the fig-tree, I saw thee.
Nathanael's name means gift of god. John's gospel is the only place where Nathanael is mentioned as one of the 12 disciples. Many consider him to be the same disciple the other gospel writers called Bartholomew, which is not thought to be a proper name, as such, but a patronymic, or
"a name derived from that of the father or a paternal ancestor usually by the addition of an affix" (Webster).
True to the assessment of Jesus, Nathanael was indeed frank: "Whence knowest thou me?" In other words, how do you know so much about me? This clearly infers that they had not met before.
Jesus was not affronted at the abrupt question, and said to him, "Before Philip called thee, I saw thee under the fig-tree." The word "before" is one of the key words here. Jesus had already seen him before Philip arrived to call him. It does not even say whether or not he was still under the fig tree when Philip called him. This must have mystified Nathanael.
As an aside, some say that rabbis would often seek out the shade and solitude of a fig tree in order to meditate and study the scriptures. This could perhaps mean that Nathanael was a Levite rabbi, or teacher.
Jesus said, "I saw thee." The word for saw comes from eidon, which means to see with the eye, physical sight. Under some circumstances, eidoo can also mean to see as in a vision, or to know. However, that is not the case here. How could Jesus have seen Nathanael when Jesus was not there? This was an astounding statement! Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? Here is Nathanael's response.
1:50 Nathanael answered him, and says to him, Rabbi, thou art the son of The God, thou art the King of Israel.
What an impression Jesus must have made upon those whom he called to be his disciples! Nathanael certainly did a complete turn-around in his attitude. At first, he was very doubtful, but he did agree to go see Jesus. Now, he pronounced Jesus to be the son of The God, or as he goes on to say, "Thou art the king of Israel." These two terms are synonymous in meaning, as explained previously.
1:51 Jesus answered and said to him, Because I said to thee, I saw thee under the fig-tree, believest thou? Greater things than these thou shalt see.
It is little wonder that Nathanael stood in awe of Jesus. How could he have seen him when Jesus was not present, or even within sight of that fig-tree? Whatever Nathanael thought about his remark, it brought him to faith that Jesus was the coming messiah, the king of Israel. Jesus, however, seemed to belittle the fact that Nathanael's belief was based on his statement about seeing him (Nathanael) under the fig-tree.
Then, Jesus explained why he asked the question by saying, "Greater things than these thou shalt see." With this statement, Jesus was explaining that in the future there would be miracles so great that what Nathanael considered unexplainable now would recede into the background. Nathanael must have wondered what Jesus would be doing in the future.
1:52 And he says to him, Verily, verily, I say to you , henceforth ye shall see the heaven opened, and the angels of The God ascending and descending on the son of the man.
Verily, verily, was a unique way that Jesus often began a sentence. The word verily can be translated as truly, which would mean that Jesus was saying that what he was about to say would be the truth. Jesus also used this approach in his conversations with some of the Pharisees and Sadduccees. In fact, this approach was quite an irritant, as it put them on the defensive to prove that what he said was not the truth.
Jesus explained to Nathanael at least two things which he would see sometime in the future. First, he would see "the heaven opened." He would be granted the privilege of seeing into the spiritual side of an existence unknown in a natural state. This was a metaphorical way of saying that he would be allowed to see heavenly things.
The second thing Jesus said Nathanael would see was "the angels of The God ascending and descending on the son of the man." Jesus was citing Genesis 28:12, where Jacob lay down to sleep and had a vision.
"And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending upon it"
In his vision, Jacob saw a ladder, which reached from earth to heaven, a connection between earth and heaven.
An interesting point in these verses of the Old Testament and the New Testament is that the angels first ascended before they descended. The usual teaching is that angels were created as a special species apart from humanity, but this shows them going from earth to heaven before descending. [For more discussion on this interesting aspect, see our article, A Study of Angels.]
Jesus said that the angels would be "ascending and descending on the son of the man." Jesus was the fulfillment of Jacob's dream about a ladder. Jesus is the ladder; it is he who spans the gap between heaven and earth. And, he is the one upon whom the angels must ascend to heaven, and descend to earth.
No one can go to the father in heaven except through the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, the Christ. That is what he meant when he said,
"No man comes unto the father except through me." (John 14:6).
His statement to Nathanael that, "ye shall see," was in the future tense, because it would not become true until after he was seated at the right hand of the father in heaven.
These angels would be ascending and descending upon "the son of the man." This was the way Jesus referred to himself most often when he spoke of his earthly ministry. He was emphasizing his relationship to mankind as being just another man, which is the reason people can relate to him. He spoke of himself as "the son of The God" only in a future time after his ascension to the father. However, this was the manner in which people referred to him while he was on earth.
# When accompanied by the definite article, "the god" usually refers to
the invisible god of heaven. However, it can also mean the god in
mind, according to the context. Thus, in verse 1:1, two different entities
were mentioned: "The God (the invisible god of heaven)" and "the word
(who was a god)." An accurate translation clearly indicates a difference
between The God and the word; they are two different entities.
# "In beginning " is indeterminate as to time because it is descriptive of
the word. It indicates that the word had its beginning when The God
# Life was the truth embodied in "that word which was in beginning," or
the one who first brought light, or the knowledge of The God's desire, to
men. And this life and light was given only to men, not to any other
part of creation. Men had a mind to comprehend the truth manifested
# Jehovah was the word, the logos of the Old Testament. When he came
as Jesus, he also brought life and light to affect the lives of those who
believe; it does not affect the unbeliever.
# The light is a constant flow of truth to mankind. However, those who do
not believe, called "the darkness," do not apprehend it. They do not
grasp it at all, nor do they acknowledge any mental concept of its
existence. They do not allow the light to affect them.
# The God, when he acts in a judicial manner, acts for humanity as a
whole. The God made it possible for all to believe, but not everyone took
advantage of this possibility.
# The implications of this verse (1:9) are fantastic and profound. In spite of
all the evangelistic preaching to the contrary, we do not have to "get
saved." Jesus "saved" all people for all time through his crucifixion.
According to this verse, we are already "saved" when we are born. The
issue is not to "get saved," but to retain the salvation we already have.
# People may believe they can be a follower just because they are inclined
to do so. It sounds nice, and they may even attempt to do so, but this
verse (1:13) denies that they are able to do so. It says they were born
"of god." The word of comes from ek, which means source, or out of.
The ability to be a follower must find its source or authority in The God.
# Because he was wholly a man, Jesus had to deal with all the temptations
which are common to the rest of humanity. His sarx, just like our own,
was opposed to The God. Two things helped him overcome his
humanity: (1) holy spirit, which was given to him without measure;
and (2) his deep, abiding faith in the goodness of his father, The God.
# Within that portion of holy spirit (given to Jesus) abided all the
attributes once given to Jehovah. They were now accessible to Jesus
through complete commitment to the will of the invisible god. Nothing
has changed insofar as the exercise of those gifts. Even in the Old
Testament economy, Jehovah was completely obedient to the invisible
god and his will, just as Jesus is now.
# The man, Jesus, did not exist until he was born of Miriam. But, as the
spiritual Jehovah, he existed from the time that the invisible god spoke
him into existence.
# The God not only supplies us grace, but piles one grace upon another
grace, one after the other. The God's grace is limited only by our ability
to offer ourselves to be used by it, through the gift of holy spirit given
# The totality of grace and of truth which John spoke about represent two
great elements of The God. John did not mean to say that these two
elements of The God were not present in Old Testament times, but that
they were never revealed in such a manner as they were now being
revealed through Jesus.
# No one has ever having seen The God. Some have seen his manifestation
as Jehovah, the word of The God in the Old Testament, but absolutely
no one has seen The God at any time.
# Jesus was the one who revealed to us what the invisible god was like in
his relationship with created mankind. Note carefully that scriptures
such as this never imply that Jesus was the invisible god, which is what
those who accept the illogical doctrine of the trinity would have you
# I John 1:9 is most often used in a judicial sense, which was not its intent.
Instead, it lays out a scriptural method for maintaining a good
relationship with our heavenly father. He, The God, is not now judging
anyone; therefore, this confessing, or agreeing with him about sin, is
not a judicial request for forgiveness. Judicial forgiveness was fully
granted because of the death of Jesus, the Christ.
# Jesus was recognized by John as being the fulfillment of all the Old
Testament shadows indicated by the sacrifices made under the law. But
this was no ordinary lamb; this was "the lamb of The God." The lamb
signifies that there was no other lamb like this one. Exodus 12:6 says
that the Jews offered a lamb for the nation, but here The God offered
the lamb for the world. Little wonder that Revelation 12:14 tells us that
the lamb is worthy of the praise of the universe. After all, his death was
for the entire universe.
# The scriptures tell us that John, the Baptist, was six months older than
Jesus. However, John said that Jesus existed earlier than he. The
solution to this is back in verse 1:14 which stated that the word became
flesh. Jehovah, a spiritual being, became flesh in the person of the man,
Jesus. John's reference is to the earlier existence of the word, when he
was Jehovah. In this sense, Jesus existed long before John, the Baptist,
although he did not exist as a man until he was born of Miriam.
# Israel was the nation which was supposed to reveal the invisible god's
attributes to those around them. They did not do that, and neither did
they accept Jesus as the messiah. It was after the religious leaders
refused to acknowledge Jesus as the messiah that he turned to the
# In the phrase "and it abode upon him [Jesus]" please note very carefully
the word upon. The spirit abode upon Jesus, not in Jesus. Jehovah
emptied himself of all his godly attributes, and took upon himself both
the inward nature and the outward form of a man (see Philippians 2).
If he were to serve The God in the capacity to which he was called, then
he, like any other person, must submit to the leadership of the spirit,
which was upon him, not in him.
# Holy spirit may come and go upon us, but with Jesus, the Messiah, it
was to be a different matter. Holy spirit was to abide, or sojourn,
constantly upon him. He was given holy spirit without measure,
whereas we are given only some portion of holy spirit.
# The God often uses unspectacular methods in attracting people to his
cause. On the other hand, organized religions often use very
spectacular means to attract unlearned people to their cause.
# Being anointed was tantamount to being called to a special ministry,
and the anointing with oil signified that the person had also been
anointed with holy spirit upon him.
# Jesus was a Jew, and he operated under the Old Testament economy of
law; otherwise, his life would never have annulled it. But, the law under
which Jesus lived his life was the real law of The God, not necessarily the
same law that the Jews followed. They had so surrounded the law of
The God by their interpretations and additions as to nullify the grace of
The God, which was to be found in the original law as given.