Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΟΝ
Chap. 1:1-18.] Prologue: in which is contained the substance and subject of the whole Gospel. The Eternal Word of God, the source of all existence, life, and light, became flesh, dwelt among us, was witnessed to by John, rejected by His own people, but received by some, who had power given them to become the sons of God. He was the perfection and end of God’s revelation of Himself; which was partially made in the law, but fully declared in Jesus Christ.
1-5.] The eternal præ-existence of the λόγος: His personal distinctness; but essential unity with God. His working in Creation, and in the enlightening of men before His manifestation in the flesh; His non-apprehension by them.
Before commenting on the truths here declared, it is absolutely necessary to discuss the one word on which the whole turns: viz. ὁ λόγος. This term is used by John without explanation, as bearing a meaning well known to his readers. The enquiry concerning that meaning must therefore be conducted on historical, not on mere grammatical grounds. And the most important elements of the enquiry are, (I.) the usage of speech as regards the word, by John himself and other biblical writers: and (II.) the purely historical information which we possess on the ideas attached to the word.
I. (α) From the first consideration we find, that in other biblical authors, as well as in John, the word is never used to signify the divine Reason or Mind; nor indeed those of any human creature. These ideas are expressed by πνεῦμα or καρδία, or νοῦς, or ἡ σοφία τοῦ θεοῦ. In the classics the word λόγος never signifies the subjective faculty of reason, but the reason to be given, objectively, of any thing or things. The usual Scripture meaning of λόγος is speech or word. ὁ λόγος τοῦ θ. is the creative, declarative, injunctive Word of God.
(β) That this is also the import in our prologue, is manifest, from the evident relation which it bears to the opening of the history of creation in Genesis. ὁ λόγος is not an attribute of God, but an acting reality, by which the Eternal and Infinite is the great first cause of the created and finite.
(γ) Again this λόγος is undoubtedly in our prologue, personal:—not an abstraction merely, nor a personification,—not the speaking word of God, once manifested in the Prophets but afterwards fully declared in Christ, as Luthardt (i. 280 ff.), comparing our prologue with Hebrews 1:1,—but a Person: for ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, and ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο: also θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος, not θεοῦ ἦν,—which certainly would be said of none but a Person.
(δ) Moreover, the λόγος is identical with Jesus Christ, as the præ-existing Son of God. A comparison of vv. 14 and 15 will place this beyond doubt.
(ε) And Jesus Christ is the Word of God, not because He speaks the word (as if ὁ λόγος = ὁ λέγων, which is contrary to all usage, in which it = not ὁ λέγων, but τὸ λεγόμενον);—nor because He is the One promised or spoken of, = ὁ λεγόμενος,—which is even less according to analogy;—nor because He is the Author and source of the λόγος as spoken in the Scriptures, &c.,—any more than his being called ζωή and φῶς implies only that He is the Giver of life and light: but because the Word dwells in and speaks from him, just as the Light dwells in and shines from, and the Life lives in and works from, Him.
(ζ) This λόγος which became flesh, is not from, nor of, Time or Space (ch. 3:31;. 8:58); but eternally præ-existent,—and manifested in Time and Space, for the gracious ends of divine Love in Redemption (ch. 3:16, 17).
(η) This λόγος spoke in the Law and Prophets, yet partially and imperfectly (ver. 17; ch. 5:39, 46); but in the personal λόγος, spoke forth in fulness of grace and truth. It was He who made the worlds (ver. 3); He, who appeared to Isaiah (Isa_6, compare ch. 12:41); He, whose glory is manifested in His power over nature (ch. 2:11); He, by reception of whom the new birth is wrought (ch. 1:12, 13); who has power over all flesh (ch. 17:2),—and can bestow eternal life (ibid.); whose very sufferings were His glory, and the glorifying of God (ch. 17:1 .); and who, after those sufferings, resumed, and now has, the glory which He had with the Father before the world began (ch. 18:5, 24).
(θ) Luthardt, in his Commentary on this Gospel, has propounded (vol. i. p. 280 ff.) the following view of the word λόγος and its usage: Jesus Christ is the fulness of that word of God which was fragmentarily manifested in the Prophets (Hebrews 1:1). But in this prologue, ὁ λόγος is not to be taken as identical with Jesus not yet incarnate, nor is He the subject of vv. 1 ff. And he urges ch. 10:35, 36 (see note there, where I have discussed this) as a key text to the meaning of λόγος.
It seems to me, that while much of his view is true and sound, that part of it will not hold which denies the identity of the præ-existent λόγος with Jesus, in the Apostle’s mind. Had he intended by the λόγος of vv. 1-4 any other than the personal Son of God who in ver. 14 became flesh, I do not see how ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, and θεὸς ἦν, could be used of ὁ λόγος.
Nor again can I consent with him to disconnect the use of λόγος by St. John from its previous history. The reasons given in this note for believing such use, as matter of fact, to have been prepared by the Alexandrine philosophy, are no way affected by the objections which he alleges, the difference between the λόγος of St. John and that of Philo, and the corrupt character of the philosophy itself.
II. (α) We are now secondly to enquire, how it came that St. John found this word λόγος so ready made to his hands, as to require no explanation. The answer to this will be found by tracing the gradual personification of the Word, or Wisdom of God, in the O.T. and Jewish writings.
(β) We find faint traces of this personification in the book of Psalms: see Psalm 33:4, Psalm 33:6; Psalm 119:89, Psalm 119:105; Psalm 107:20; Psalm 147:15, Psalm 147:18. But it was not the mere offspring of poetic diction. For the whole form and expression of the O.T. revelation was that of the Word of God. The Mosaic history opens with ‘God said, Let there be light.’ Spoken commands, either openly, or in visions, were the communications from God to man. It is the Word, in all the Prophets; the Word, in the Law; in short, the Word, in all God’s dealings with his people: see further, Isaiah 40:8; Isaiah 55:10, Isaiah 55:11: Jeremiah 23:29 al.
(γ) And as the Word of God was the constant idea for his revelations relatively to man, so was the Wisdom of God, for those which related to His own essence and attributes. That this was a later form of expression than the simple recognition of the divine Word in the Mosaic and early historical books, would naturally be the case, in the unfolding of spiritual knowledge and divine contemplation. His Almightiness was first felt, before His Wisdom and moral Purity were appreciated. In the books of Job (ch. 28:12 ff.) and the Proverbs (ch. 8, 9.) we find this Wisdom of God personified; in the latter in very plain and striking terms; and this not poetically only, but practically; ascribing to the Wisdom of God all his revelation of Himself in His works of Creation and Providence. So that this Wisdom embraced in fact in itself the Power of God; and there wanted but the highest divine attribute, Love, to complete the idea. But this was reserved for the N.T. manifestation.
(δ) The next evidences of the gradual personification of the Wisdom of God are found in the two Apocryphal Books, the Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach, and the Wisdom of Solomon. The first of these, originally written in Hebrew (see Winer, Realwörterbuch, s. v.), belongs probably to the latter half of the second century before Christ. In ch. 1:1, Wisdom is said to be παρὰ κυρίου, καὶ μετʼ αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα: and in ver. 4, προτέρα πάντων ἔκτισται σοφία. Then in ch. 24:9-21, the same strain is continued: πρὸ τοῦ αἰῶνος ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς ἔκτισέν με κ.τ.λ., and the passage concludes with these remarkable words, οἱ ἐσθίοντές με ἔτι πεινάσουσιν, καὶ οἱ πίνοντές με ἔτι διψήσουσιν.
In the book of the Wisdom of Solomon, dating probably about 100 a.c., we find (in ch. 6:22-ch. 9.) a similar personification and eulogy of Wisdom. In this remarkable passage we have Wisdom called πάρεδρος τῶν σῶν θρόνων (ch. 9:4)—said to have been παροῦσα ὅτε ἐποίεις τὸν κόσμον (ch. 9:9)—parallelized with ὁ λόγος σου (ch. 9:1, 2: see also ch. 16:12). In ch. 18:15, 16, the παντοδύναμος λόγος is set forth as an Angel coming down from heaven, and destroying the Egyptians.
It seems highly probable that the author’s monotheistic views were confused by the admixture of Platonism, and that he regarded Wisdom as a kind of soul of the world. He occasionally puts her for God, occasionally for an attribute of God. But he had not attained that near approach to a personal view which we shall find in the next step of our enquiry.
(ε) The large body of Jews resident in Alexandria were celebrated for their gnosis, or religious philosophy. The origin of this philosophy must be referred to the mixture of the Jewish religious element with the speculative philosophies of the Greeks, more especially with that of Plato, and with ideas acquired during the captivity from Oriental sources. One of these Alexandrine writers in the second century a.c. was Aristobulus, some fragments of whose works have been preserved to us. He tells us that by the θεία φωνή we are not to understand a ῥητὸν λόγον, but ἔργων κατασκευάς—the whole working of God in the creation of the world.
But the most complete representation of the Judæo-alexandrine gnosis has come down to us in the works of Philo, who flourished cir. a.d. 40-50. It would be out of the province of a note to give a review of the system of Philo: the result only of such review (see Lücke, vol. i. 272-283) will be enough. He identifies the λόγος with the σοφία of God; it is the εἰκὼν θεοῦ (Mangey, vol. i. p. 6 al. fr.); the ἀρχέτυπος κ. παράδειγμα φωτός, αὐτὸς δὲ οὐδενὶ τῶν γεγονότων ὅμοιος (i. 632): ὁ πρεσβύτερος τῶν γένεσιν εἰληφότων (i. 437): πρεσβύτερος υἱὸς τοῦ τῶν ὄντων πατρός (i. 414): ὁ πρωτόγονος αὐτοῦ, ὁ ἄγγελος πρεσβύτατος, ὡς ἀρχάγγελος πολυώνυμος ὑπάρχων (i. 427): σκιὰ θεοῦ, ᾧ καθάπερ ὀργάνῳ χρησάμενος ἐκοσμοποίει (i. 106): διʼ οὗ ὁ κόσμος κατεσκευάσθη (i. 162): τῷ δὲ ἀρχαγγέλῳ κ. πρεσβυτάτῳ λόγῳ δωρεὰν ἐξαίρετον ἔδωκεν ὁ τὰ ὅλα γεννήσας πατήρ, ἵνα μεθόριος στὰς τὸ γενόμενον διακρίνῃ τοῦ πεποιηκότος.—ἀγάλλεται δὲ ἐπὶ τῇ δωρεᾷ, … οὔτε ἀγέννητος ὡς ὁ θεὸς ὤν, οὐδὲ γεννητὸς ὡς ὑμεῖς, ἀλλὰ μέσος τῶν ἄκρων, ἀμφοτέροις ὁμηρεύων (i. 501 f.): δύο γάρ, ὡς ἔοικεν, ἱερὰ θεοῦ, ἓν μὲν ὅδε ὁ κόσμος, ἐν ᾧ καὶ ἀρχιερεὺς ὁ πρωτόγονος αὐτοῦ θεῖος λόγος (i. 653): ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ ὕπαρχος (i. 308): περιέχει πάντα καὶ πεπλήρωκεν (ii. 655): δεύτερος θεός, ὅς ἐστιν ἐκείνου λόγος (ii. 625, fragment, from Eusebius, Præp. Evang. vii. 13, vol. iii. p. 545). These instances, the number of which might be much enlarged, will serve to shew how remarkably near to the diction and import of some passages in our Gospel Philo approached in speaking of the λόγος.
At the same time there is a wide and unmistakeable difference between his λόγος and that of the Apostle. He does not distinguish it from the Spirit of God (Lücke, i. p. 278), nor does he connect it with any Messianic ideas, though these latter were familiar to him. Besides, his views are strangely compounded of Platonism and Judaism. The λόγος seems to be one comprehending, or ruling, the δυνάμεις or ἰδέαι of God, which, although borrowed from Plato, he judaically calls ἄγγελοι, and the λόγος their ἀρχάγγελος. We see by this however how fixed and prepared the term, and many of its attributes, were in the religious philosophy of the Alexandrine Jews. (On the question whether the λόγος of Philo is to be taken as strictly personal, see Dorner’s remarks on Lücke, in his Lehre von der Person Christi, i. p. 22 note.)
(ζ) Meanwhile the Chaldee paraphrasts of the O.T. had habitually used such expressions as יְקָרָא, or שְׁכִינָה, or מֵימְרָא, ‘the glory,’ or ‘the presence,’ or ‘the word,’ of God,—in places where nothing but His own agency could be understood. The last of these—the Memra, or word of God,—is used in so strictly personal a sense, that there can be little doubt that the Paraphrasts understood by it a divine Person or Emanation.
(η) From these elements, the Alexandrine and Jewish views of the λόγος or σοφία of God, there appear to have arisen very early among Christians, both orthodox and heretic, formal expressions, in which these or equivalent terms were used. Of this the Apostle Paul furnishes the most eminent example. His teacher Gamaliel united in his instruction both these elements, and they are very perceptible in the writings of his pupil. But we do not find in them any direct use of the term λόγος, as personally applied to the Son of God. This shews him to have spoken mainly according to the Jewish school,—among whom, as Origen states, he could find none who held τὸ τὸν λόγον εἶναι τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ (Cont. Cels. ii. 31, vol. i. p. 413).
(θ) We find a much nearer approximation to the Alexandrine method of speech in the Epistle to the Hebrews, written evidently by some disciple intimately acquainted with the Alexandrine gnosis (see the opening verses, and especially φέρων τὰ πάντα τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ). But even there we have not the λόγος identified personally with the Lord Jesus Christ, nor indeed personally spoken of at all,—however near some passages may seem to approach to this usage (ch. 4:12, 13; 11:3).
(ι) The Alexandrine gnosis was immediately connected with Ephesus, where the Gospel of John was probably written. Apollos (Acts 18:24) came thither from Alexandria; and Cerinthus is related by Theodoret (Fab. Hær. ii. 3, vol. iv. p. 389) to have studied and formed his philosophic system in Egypt, before coming to Ephesus.
(κ) These notices will serve to account for the term λόγος being already found by St. John framed to his use; and the anti-Gnostic tendency of his writings will furnish an additional reason why he should rescue such important truths as the præ-existence and attributes of the divine λόγος from the perversions which false philosophy had begun to make of them.
(λ) In all that has been said in this note, no insinuation has been conveyed that either the Apostle Paul, or the writer to the Hebrews, or John, adopted in any degree their teaching from the existing philosophies. Their teaching (which is totally distinct from any of those philosophies, as will be shewn in this commentary) is that of the Holy Spirit;—and the existing philosophies, with all their follies and inadequacies, must be regarded, in so far as they by their terms or ideas subserved the work which the Spirit had to do by the Apostles and teachers of Christianity, as so many providential preparations of the minds of men to receive the fuller effulgence of the Truth as it is in Jesus, which shines forth in these Scriptures.
The substance of this note has been derived from Dr. Lücke’s Commentary, vol. i. p. 249-294: De Wette’s Handbuch, on John 1:1. Dorner, Lehre von der Person Christi, i. p. 15 ff.: Olshausen, Comm. ii. p. 30 ff.
1.] ἐν ἀρχῇ = πρὸ τοῦ τὸν κόσμον εἶναι, ch. 17:5. The expression is indefinite, and must be interpreted relatively to the matter spoken of. Thus in Acts 11:15, it is ‘the beginning of the Gospel:’ and by the same principle of interpretation, here it is the beginning of all things, on account of the πάντα διʼ αὐτ. ἐγ. ver. 3.
These words, if they do not assert, at least imply, the eternal præ-existence of the Divine Word. For ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν is not said of an act done ἐν ἀρχῇ (as in Genesis 1:1), but of a state existing ἐν ἀρχῇ, and therefore without beginning itself.
ἦν, not equivalent to ἔστιν (see ἐγώ εἰμι, ch. 8:58 al.), as Euthymius and others have supposed; but Origen has given the true reason for the indefinite past being used,—ἦν μὲν κυριώτερον ἐπὶ τοῦ θεοῦ λόγου τὸ ἔστιν εἰπεῖν· ἀλλʼ ἐπεὶ πρὸς διαφορὰν τῆς ἐνανθρωπήσεως γενομένης ἔν τινι καιρῷ, ἀντὶ τοῦ ἔστιν τῷ ἦν ὁ εὐαγγελιστὴς κέχρηται (in Catena, Lücke, p. 296). The existence of an enduring and unlimited state of being, implied in ἦν, is contrasted with ἐγένετο in ver. 3, and especially in ver. 14.
καὶ ὁ λ. ἦν πρὸς τ. θ.] The usage of πρός here, as with (i.e. ‘chez’), is sufficiently borne out by the reff.
Basil remarks (Lücke, i. 297) that John says πρὸς τὸν θ., not ἐν τῷ θ., ἵνα τὸ ἰδιάζον τῆς ὑποστάσεως παραστήσῃ, … ἵνα μὴ πρόφασιν δῷ τῇ συγχύσει τῆς ὑποστάσεως. Both the inner substantial union, and the distinct personality of the λόγος are here asserted. The former is distinctly repeated in the next words.
κ. θ. ἦν ὁ λ.] and the Word was God. As regards the form of the sentence, it is strictly parallel with πνεῦμα ὁ θεός, ch. 4:24. But the sense to be conveyed here is as weighty a consideration as the form of the sentence. Had John intended to say, ‘God was the Word,’—what meaning could his assertion possibly have conveyed? None other than a contradiction to his last assertion, by which he had distinguished God from the Word. And not only would this be the case, but the assertion would be inconsistent with the whole historical idea of the λόγος, making this term to signify merely an attribute of God, just as when it is said ὁ θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν. Not to mention the unprecedented inversion of subject and predicate which this would occasion; ὁ λόγος having been the subject before, and again resumed as the subject afterwards.
The rendering of the words being then as above, their meaning is the next question. The omission of the article before θεός is not mere usage; it could not have been here expressed, whatever place the words might hold in the sentence. ὁ λόγος ἦν ὁ θεός would give a sense liable to the objections first stated, and destroy the idea of the λόγος altogether. θεός must then be taken as implying God, in substance and essence,—not ὁ θεός, ‘the Father,’ in Person. It does not = θεῖος, nor is it to be rendered a God—but, as in σὰρξ ἐγένετο, σάρξ expresses that state into which the Divine Word entered by a definite act, so in θεὸς ἦν, θεός expresses that essence which was His ἐν ἀρχῇ:—that He was very God. So that this first verse might be connected thus: the Logos was from eternity,—was with God (the Father),—and was Himself God.
2.] In order to direct the mind to the difference (in unity) between this λόγος and ὁ θεός, John recalls the reader’s attention to the two first clauses of ver. 1, which he now combines, in order to pass on to the creative work, which distinctly belongs to the λόγος. Thus also this verse fixes the reference of αὐτοῦ in ver. 3, which might otherwise, after the mention of θεός, have seemed ambiguous.
3.] πάντα = τὰ Πάντα (1Corinthians 8:6: Colossians 1:16), = ὁ κόσμος, ver. 10. This parallelism of itself refutes the Socinian interpretation of πάντα, ‘all Christian graces and virtues,’ ‘the whole moral world.’ But the history of the term λόγος forbids such an explanation entirely. For Philo (i. 162) says εὑρήσεις αἴτιον μὲν αὐτοῦ (τοῦ κόσμου) τὸν θεόν, ὑφʼ οὗ γέγονεν· ὕλην δέ, τὰ τέσσαρα στοιχεῖα, ἐξ ὧν συνεκράθη· ὄργανον δέ, λόγον θεοῦ, διʼ οὗ κατεσκευάσθη: see also Colossians 1:16, and Hebrews 1:2. Olshausen observes, that we never read in Scripture that ‘Christ made the world;’ but ‘the Father made the world διὰ the Son,’ or ‘the world was made ὑπό the Father, and διὰ the Son:’ because the Son never works of Himself, but always as the revelation of the Father; His work is the Father’s will, and the Father has no Will, except the Son, who is all His will (ἐν ᾧ εὐδόκησεν). The Christian Fathers rightly therefore rejected the semi-Arian formula, ‘The Son was begotten by an act of the Father’s will;’ for He is that Will Himself.
καὶ χωρ. αὐτ.] This addition is not merely a Hebraistic parallelism, but a distinct denial of the eternity and uncreatedness of matter as held by the Gnostics. They set matter, as a separate existence, over against God, and made it the origin of evil:—but John excludes any such notion. Nothing was made without Him (the λόγος); all matter, and implicitly evil itself, in the deep and inscrutable purposes of creation (for it οὐκ ἦν ἐν τῇ ἀρχῇ ἀλλὰ γέγονεν), διʼ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο.
The punctuation at the end of the verse is uncertain, if we regard solely manuscript authority, but rests on the sense of the passage, which is rendered weak, and inconsistent with analogy, by placing the period after οὐδὲ ἕν:—weak, because in that case we must render ‘That which was made by Him was life (i.e. having life), and that life was the light of men;’ but how was that life, i.e. that living creation which was made by Him, the light of men?—inconsistent with grammatical analogy, for John never uses γενέσθαι ἐν for ‘to be made by.’ [But , who adopts this punctuation, renders the passage thus: ‘that which was made, therein was life.’] Besides which, John’s usage of beginning a sentence with ἐν and a demonstrative pron. should have its weight: cf. ch. 13:35; 15:8; 16:26: 1John 2:3, 1John 2:4, 1John 2:5; 1Jn_3:(8), 10, 16, 19, 24; 4:2 al. fr. Compare also ἐν τούτῳ ἡ ἀλήθεια οὐκ ἔστιν, 1John 2:4,—ἁμαρτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν, ib. 3:5. I have determined therefore for the ordinary punctuation. It is said to have been first adopted owing to an abuse of the passage by the Macedonian heretics, who maintained that if the exclusion was complete, the Holy Spirit can also not have been without His creating power, i.e. was created by Him. But this would be refuted without including ὃ γέγονεν, for the Holy Spirit ἦν, not ἐγένετο. 4. ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν
4. ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν] Compare 1John 5:11; 1John 1:1, 1John 1:2, and ch. 6:33.
ζωή is not merely ‘spiritual life,’ nor ‘the recovery of blessedness,’—as Tholuck, Kuinoel, &c. explain it:—the λόγος is the source of all life to the creature, not indeed ultimately, but mediately (see ch. 5:26: 1John 5:11).
κ. ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τ. φῶς τ. ἀνθ] This is not to be understood of the teaching of the Incarnate Logos, but of the enlightening and life-sustaining influence of the eternal Son of God, in Whom was life. In the material world, light, the offspring of the Word of God, is the condition of life, and without it life degenerates and expires:—so also in the spiritual world that life which is in Him, is to the creature the very condition of all development and furtherance of the life of the spirit. All knowledge, all purity, all love, all happiness, spring up and grow from this life, which is the light to them all.
It is not φῶς, but τὸ φῶς:—because this is the only true light: see ver. 9, also 1John 1:5.
5.] As light and life are closely connected ideas, so are death and darkness. The whole world, lying in death and in darkness, is the σκοτία here spoken of:—not merely the ἐσκοτωμένοι (Ephesians 4:18; see ib. 5:7, 8), but the whole mass, with the sole exception (see below, ver. 12) of ὅσοι ἔλαβον αὐτόν (compare ch. 3:19: 1John 5:19).
This φαίνει is not merely the historical present, but describes the whole process of the light of life in the Eternal Word shining in this evil and dark world; both by the O.T. revelations, and (see ch. 10:16; 11:52) by all the scattered fragments of light glittering among the thick darkness of heathendom.
καὶ … κατέλ.] and the darkness comprehended (understood, apprehended) it not. That this is the meaning, will be clear from the context. John states here as a general fact, what he afterwards states of the appearance of the Incarnate Word to the chosen people, ver. 11. The sentences are strictly parallel. τὸ φ. ἐν τῇ σκ. φαίνει εἰς τὰ ἴδια ἦλθεν, and κ. ἡ σκ. αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλ. ║ καὶ οἱ ἴδιοι αὐτὸν οὐ παρέλαβον. In the first, he is speaking of the whole shining of this light over the world; in the second, of its historical manifestation to the Jews. In both cases, the Divine Word was rejected. παρέλαβον is used in the second case as expressing the personal assumption to oneself as a friend or companion: see reff.
Lücke observes (i. 313), that the almost tragic tone of this verse is prevalent through the Gospel of John and his First Epistle, see ch. 3:19; 12:37 ff. al.: and is occasionally found in Paul also, see Romans 1:18 ff.
The other interpretation of κατέλαβεν, ‘overtook,’ ‘came upon’ (for that of ‘overcame’ (, Theophyl., ) is not admissible, the word never importing this), is unobjectionable as far as the usage of the word is concerned (see ch. 12:35: Mark 9:18); but yields no sense in the context.
The connexion of the two members of our verse by καί is not, ‘The Light shineth in the darkness, and therefore (i.e. because darkness is the opposition to light, and they exclude one another) the darkness comprehended it not;’ but, ‘The Light shineth in the darkness, and yet (notwithstanding that the effect of light in darkness is so great and immediate in the physical world) the darkness comprehended it not:’ see καί below, ver. 11.
6-18.] The manifestation and working of the Divine Word, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, incarnate in our flesh.
6.] The Evangelist now passes to the historic manifestation of the Word. μετεληλυθὼς ἐπὶ τὴν ἐπιφάνειαν τοῦ υἱοῦ, τίνα ἂν εὗρεν ἀρχὴν ἑτέραν, ἢ τὰ κατὰ τὸν Ἰωάννην; ( in loc. p. 729, ed. Migne.) He enunciates briefly in these verses 6, 7, what he afterwards, vv. 19-36, narrates with historical detail.
ἐγένετο—not belonging to ἀπεσταλμένος, but to ἄνθρ.: the ordinary opening of an historical period, see Luke 1:5. No stress on ἐγένετο, as distinguished from ἦν, ver. 1 (Olshausen), see ch. 3:1. There was—a man sent, &c. In ἀπεστ. παρὰ θεοῦ we have possibly a reference to Malachi 3:1.
7.] The purpose of John’s coming was to bear witness to a fact, which fact (ver. 33) was made known to him by divine revelation.
εἰς μαρτυρίαν, not as E. V., ‘for a witness,’ but for witness, for the purpose of bearing witness: so A.V.R.
ἵνα μαρτ. κ.τ.λ. is an expansion of εἰς μαρτ.:—the subject of his testimony was to be the Light,—and the aim of it, that all might believe (εἰς τὸ φῶς, see ch. 12:36) through him (i.e. John: not τοῦ φωτός (Grot.), which confuses the whole, for then we must understand εἰς θεόν after πιστ. which is here out of place).
8.] John was himself ὁ λύχνος ὁ καιόμενος καὶ φαίνων (ch. 5:35), see note on Matthew 5:14, but not τὸ φῶς.
On ἵνα, see reff.: it belongs to ἦν, not to ἦλθεν above. And thus there is no ellipsis of ‘came’ or ‘was sent:’ John simply was, in order to &c.
9.] The word ἀληθινόν (see reff.) in this connexion imports original, ‘archetypal,’ and is used of the true genuine sources and patterns of those things which we find here below only in fragmentary imitations and derivations. Such an original was the Light here spoken of;—but John was only a derived light,—not lumen illuminans, but lumen illuminatum.
The construction of this verse has been much disputed. Is ἐρχόμενον εἰς τ. κ. to be taken with ἄνθρωπον (as syrr Orig Exo_2Exo_2 Epiph Chr Cyr Thl Euthym and most of the ancient Commentators and E. V.), or does it belong to τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀλ.?
The former construction can only be defended by a Rabbinical usage, by which כָּל בָּאֵי עוֹלָם means ‘all men’ (Schöttgen, i. 223). But it is very questionable whether John ever speaks thus. Certainly he does not, in any of the passages commonly cited to defend this rendering, ch. 18:37 (which is spoken by Christ of Himself and His Mission); 16:21, 28; 12:46. And even if he had thus spoken, how harsh and how unmeaning is the sentence; whether with Euthym. we lay an emphasis on ἦν, or with E. V. &c. supply τοῦτο before it. If this latter had been intended, surely it would have been more distinctly expressed; and even when it is supplied, we have in this verse only a less forcible repetition of ver. 4.
It seems then that we must join ἐρχ. εἰς τ. κ. with τ. φῶς τ. ἀληθ.
But even then, three ways of rendering are apparently open to us.
The first of these, which is that of Socinus, takes ἐρχόμ. κ.τ.λ. as meaning, ‘at its coming into the world.’ This however—besides the sense being inconsistent with ver. 4—leaves the opening clause without a demonstrative pronoun, as before. Then, secondly, ἐρχόμενον might seem to be used in the sense in which we frequently have ἐρχόμενος, as a quasi-future, ‘who was, or is, to come:’ see Matthew 11:3: Mark 10:30 al. fr.: ch. 6:14; 11:27, in which last two places it is joined, as here, with εἰς τὸν κόσμον. But if this be adopted (which even constructionally is very doubtful), the only sense will be that the true light, &c. was to come; i.e. had not yet come; which manifestly is not correct;—for it had come, when John gave his witness; and the whole of these verses 6-13 relate to the time when He had appeared, and come to His own.
We are driven then to the only legitimate rendering, which is to take ἦν ἐρχόμενον as equivalent to an imperfect came:—this usage being frequent in the N.T., see reff.:—i.e. at the time when John bore this witness, the true light which lighteth every man, came—was in process of manifesting Himself,—into the world.
Tholuck objects to this construction that ἦν is too far from ἐρχόμενον:—but Lücke answers, that ἦσαν and νηστεύοντες are nearly as far separated in Mark 2:18.
ὃ φωτ. πάντα ἄνθ. is a further expansion of τὸ ἀληθινόν. 10.
10.] The κόσμος is the created world, into which He came (ver. 9), which was made by Him (ver. 3), which nevertheless (i.e. as here represented by man, the only creature who γινώσκει) knew, recognized Him not.
καί is as in ver. 5.
αὐτόν, not αὐτό, because though τὸ φῶς has been the subject, yet the διʼ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο brings in again the creative λόγος, Who is the Light. The three members of the sentence form a climax;—He was in the world (and therefore the world should have known Him), and the world was made by Him (much more then should it have known Him), and the world knew Him not. 11.
11.] τὰ ἴδια here cannot well mean the world, or οἱ ἴδιοι mankind in general: it would be difficult to point out any Scripture usage to justify such a meaning. But abundance of passages bear out the meaning which makes τὰ ἴδια His own inheritance or possession, i.e. Judæa; and οἱ ἴδιοι, the Jews: compare especially the parable Matthew 21:33 ff., and Sir. 24:7 ff. And thus ἦλθεν forms a nearer step in the approach to the declaration in ver. 14. He came to His own.
On παρέλ. see reff.,—and above on ver. 5.
12.] The ὅσοι … primarily refers to the ἐκλογή among the Jews who have just been spoken of: but also, by implication, being opposed to both ὁ κόσμος and οἱ ἴδιοι, the ἐκλογή in all the world.
ἔλαβον = παρέλαβον above—as many as recognized Him as that which He was—the Word of God and Light of men.
ἔδωκεν αὐτ. ἐξουσ.] ἐξουσ. is not merely capability = δύναμιν (Lücke),—still less privilege or prerogative (Chrysost. and others),—but power (De Wette); involving all the actions and states needful to their so becoming, and removing all the obstacles in their way (e.g. the wrath of God, and the guilt of sin).
τέκνα θ. γενέσθαι] The spiritual life owes its beginning to a birth from above, ch. 3:3-7. And this birth is owing to the Holy Spirit of God; so that this is equivalent to saying, ‘As many as received Him, to them gave He His Holy Spirit.’ And we find that it was so: see Acts 10:44.
τέκνα θ. is a more comprehensive expression than υἱοὶ τ. θ., which brings out rather our adoption, and hope of inheritance (Romans 8:14 ff.), whereas the other involves the whole generation and process of our life in the Spirit, as being from and of God, and consequently our likeness to God, walking in light as He is in light (1John 1:5-7)—free from sin (ib. 3:9; 5:18) and death (ch. 8:51).
τοῖς πιστ. εἰς τ. ὄν. αὐτ.] τὸ ὄνομα αὐτ. is His manifestation as that which He has given Himself out to be, i.e. as a Saviour from sin: see Matthew 1:21, καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν· αὐτὸς γὰρ σώσει τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν αὐτῶν.
13.] The Jews grounded their claim to be children of God on their descent from Abraham. John here negatives any such claim, and asserts the exclusive divine birth of all who become children of God by faith. It is to be noticed that the conjunctions here are not the merely disjunctive ones οὔτε … οὔτε, which would necessitate the ranging the clauses as co-ordinate and parallel, but οὐδὲ … οὐδέ, which rise in climax from one clause to another,—‘not ἐξ αἱμάτων, nor yet ἐκ θελ. σαρκ. nor yet ἐκ θελ. ἀνδ., but ἐκ θεοῦ’ (see examples of οὔτε, Matthew 12:32: of οὐδέ, Matthew 6:26). Many interpreters have seen in θέλημα ἀνδρός the male, and in θέλημα σαρκός the female side of human concupiscence (so Augustine, Theophylact, &c.); or in the former the higher and more conscious, in the latter the lower and animal side (Bleek, Luthardt). Besides the above, other objections lie against both these interpretations,—(1) that σάρξ is never so used (Ephesians 5:29 is no instance in point); (2) that θέλημα is ascribed to both. Euthymius seems to give the right interpretation: εἰπὼν δὲ ὅτι οὐκ ἐξ αἱμάτων, ἐπήγαγε φανερώτερον ὅτι οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος σαρκός· εἶτα καὶ τοῦτο τελεώτερον ἐφηρμήνευσε, προσθεὶς ὅτι οὐκ ἐκ θελήματος ἀνδρός· αἷμα γὰρ καὶ σάρξ, ὁ ἀνήρ· θέλημα δὲ νῦν νοεῖ τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν, τὴν συνουσίαν: in loc. ii. 421. Or perhaps this may be earned somewhat further, and we may better satisfy the climax by regarding the ἐξ αἱμάτων as indicating the mere phenomena of physical generation wherever found: then rising to ἐκ θελήματος σαρκός, the instigation of that capacity by sexual desire: then rising still higher to the most exalted instance of that desire, ἐκ θελήματος ἀνδρός.
The plural usage of αἱμάτων is only found in one other place in this signification,—Eurip. Ion 693 Dind., 705 Herm., ἔχει δόλον τύχαν θʼ ὁ παῖς " ἄλλων τραφεὶς ἀφʼ αἱμάτων. The other usage of the plural, for murder, is frequent in the LXX and the classics.
ἀνήρ, in the sense of man generally, is not uncommon; we have in plur. πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε, in Hom. passim; and in sing. Il. ν. 321; σ. 432, 433.
ἐκ, remarks De Wette, denotes, the first time, the material—the second and third time, the mediate cause,—the fourth time, the immediate cause, of the generation.
14.] καί must not be understood (Chrysost., Grot., Lampe, Theophylact, al.) as giving a reason for the verse before; it is only the same copula as in vv. 1, 3, 4, 5; passing on to a further assertion regarding the Word.
σὰρξ ἐγ., became flesh: the most general expression of the great truth that He became man. He became that, of which man is in the body compounded. There is no reference here to the doctrine of the Lord Jesus being the second Adam, as Olshausen thinks; but although there may be no reference to it, it lies at the ground of this wideness of expression. The doctrine in this form may have been, as Lücke observes, alien to John’s habits of thought, but not that which is implied in the doctrine, the taking of the nature of man by the Eternal Word.
The simplicity of this expression is no doubt directed against the Docetæ of the Apostle’s time, who maintained that the Word only apparently took human nature. Therefore he says σὰρξ ἐγένετο, absolutely and literally became flesh: see ref. 1 John. The expression is not guarded against the interpretation of the Apollinarian heretics, who held that the Lord had not a human soul (ψυχή); but this error was not in the Apostle’s view, and is abundantly refuted elsewhere (see Matthew 26:38 and note on 36-46, and the references there made to John’s Gospel).
ἐσκήνωσεν, ‘sojourned,’ or ‘tabernacled,’ in us. There is no reference to the flesh being the tabernacle of the Spirit;—but the word is one technically used in Scripture to import the dwelling of God among men. See besides reff., Leviticus 26:11, Leviticus 26:12: Ezekiel 43:7; Ezekiel 37:27: Sir. 24:8, 10.
ἡμῖν—“hominibus, qui caro sumus,” Bengel.
This is the Apostle’s testimony as such, see Acts 1:21.
The mention of δόξα seems to be suggested by the word ἐσκήνωσεν, so frequently used of the divine Presence or Shechinah, and cognate in its very form with it: “eædem litteræ in שכינה et σκηνή.” Bengel.
This glory was seen by the disciples, ch. 2:11; 11:4: also by Peter, James, and John, specially, on the mount of transfiguration: to which occasion the words ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός seem to refer: but mainly, in the whole converse and teaching and suffering of the Lord, who was full of grace and truth: see below.
On ὡς Chrysostom remarks (Hom. xii. in Joan., vol. viii. p. 66), οὐχ ὁμοιώσεως, οὐδὲ παραβολῆς, ἀλλὰ βεβαιώσεως καὶ ἀναμφισβητήτου δωρισμοῦ· ὡσανεὶ ἔλεγεν Ἐθ. δόξαν οἵαν ἔπρεπε καὶ εἰκὸς ἔχειν μονογενῆ καὶ γνήσιον υἱὸν ὄντα τοῦ πάντων βασιλέως θεοῦ (see reff.).
μονογ.] This word applied to Christ is peculiar to John: see reff. In the N.T. usage it signifies the only son;—in the LXX, Ps. 21:20, the beloved, and Ps. 24:16, one deserted, left alone. It has been attempted to render the word in John, according to the usage in Ps. 21:20. But obviously in the midst of ideas reaching so far deeper than that of regard, or love, of the Father for the Son, the word cannot be interpreted except in accordance with them. It refers to, and contrasts with, the τέκνα τοῦ θεοῦ in vv. 12, 13. They receive their divine birth by faith in Him and through Him; but He is the μονογενής of the Father in the higher sense, in which He is γεννηθείς the Son of God.
παρὰ πατρός belongs to μονογενοῦς; not to δόξαν, as Theophyl., Erasm., Grot. suppose.
The ellipse is to be supplied by considering the state in which the λόγος here appears,—that of having become σάρξ and dwelling among us.
πλήρ. χάρ. κ. ἀλ.] These words have been variously connected. The view of Erasmus, who places the period at πατρός, and connects these words with Ἰωάννης, scarcely needs refutation, whether we regard the construction, or the meaning of the sentence. The reading πλήρη has probably arisen from a correction, to connect the adj. with δόξαν. Some do this even with πλήρης, but both the construction and the sense are against it. It was not the δόξα, but He Himself, that was πλήρης χ. κ. ἀλ.: see below, ver. 17. Others suppose πλήρης to refer directly to μονογενοῦς, and justify this by Ephesians 3:17, Ephesians 3:18. But besides the unnecessary harshness of this, the sense is against it also; for it cannot be said, ‘we saw His glory, the glory as of one who was full of grace and truth;’ we must have the ὡς referring, in the sense of οἵαν ἔπρεπε (see above), to some mysterious hidden character which the glory testified, whereas the πλήρης χ. κ. ἀλ. is itself a mere matter of fact, to which the Apostles themselves could (ver. 17) bear witness. Another construction is (as usually done and in E. V.) to take καὶ … πατρός as parenthetical, and connect πλήρης immediately with ἐσκήνωσεν. Such parentheses are common in the style of this Gospel: see ch. 6:22-24; 11:2; 19:23, 24; ib. ver. 31. But by far the best is, to regard πλήρης as referring to αὐτοῦ, by an anomaly in concord often found in the N.T. (see Luke 20:27 note; 24:47), and especially in the Apocalypse,—cf. Revelation 1:4 al. fr.
χάρ. κ. ἀλ.] Not = χάριτος ἀληθινῆς, which destroys the precision of the expression, and itself conveys no sense whatever; but setting out the two sides of the divine manifestation in Christ,—χάρις, as the result of Love to mankind,—ἀλήθεια (see reff. and ch. 14:6), as the unity, purity, and light of His own Character.
15.] The testimony of John, so important as being the fulfilment of the very object for which he was ἀπεσταλμένος παρὰ θεοῦ, is in this prologue ranged, so to speak, parallel with the assertions and testimony of the Evangelist himself. So that this verse does not interrupt the train of thought, but confirms by this important testimony the assertion ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγ., shewing that John bore witness to His præ-existence. Then (ver. 16) the πλήρ. χ. κ. ἀλ. is again taken up. Euthymius paraphrases: εἰ καὶ μὴ ἐγώ, φησί, δοκῶ τισιν ἴσως ἀξιόπιστος, ἀλλὰ πρὸ ἐμοῦ ὁ Ἰωάννης μαρτυρεῖ περὶ τῆς θεότητος αὐτοῦ, Ἰωάννης ἐκεῖνος, οὗ τὸ ὄνομα μέγα καὶ περιβόητον παρὰ πᾶσι τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις.
μαρτυρεῖ, present, for solemnity—as part of the testimony to Him, not only once given, but still subsisting.
κέκραγεν] crieth (the perfect being, in sense, present; ‘hath cried,’ so that the voice is still sounding), see ch. 7:37: “clamat Johannes cum fiducia et gaudio, uti magnum præconem decet.” Bengel.
οὗτος ἦν ὃν εἶπον …] This form of the words seems to shew, as indeed would appear from the announcement of his own office by the Baptist, that he had uttered these words in the power of the Spirit concerning Him whose forerunner he was before he saw and recognized Him in the flesh. Then, on doing so, he exclaimed, This was He of whom I said, &c. This view seems to be borne out by his own statement, ver. 33, and by the order of the narrative in Matthew 3:11, Matthew 3:12, Matthew 3:13.
ὀπίσω μ. ἐρχ.] In point of time; not of birth merely or principally, nor of commencement of official life: but, inasmuch as John was His Forerunner, on account of official position.
ἔμπροσθέν μ. γέγονεν] The E. V. is here very accurate,—is preferred before me; the γέγονεν setting forth the advancement to official dignity before which John’s office waned and decreased (ch. 3:30), which took place even while John’s course was being fulfilled. The only objection to ‘preferred’ is, its possible ambiguity. Even Dr. Johnson has fallen into the mistake, in his Dictionary, of quoting this passage as an instance of the sense “to love more than another.” [‘Taketh place,’] ‘is advanced,’ ‘hath come to be’ (which however again is ambiguous), are other possible renderings. This sense of ἔμπροσθεν (besides reff.) is justified by classical usage in Plato, who uses ἔμπροσθεν τιθέναι for præponere, Legg. vii. 805. See also i. 631; v. 743. Also Demosthenes, κατὰ Διονυσοδώρου, p. 1296. 26, … τὰς αἰτίας τῶν ἡδικηκότων ἔμπροσθεν οὔσας τοῦ δικαίου.
ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν] The only sense which these words will bear, is, because (or, for, but better because) He was (not ἐγένετο, but ἦν as in ver. 1) before Me; i.e. ‘He existed, was in being, before me.’ The question raised by Lücke and De Wette, whether it is probable that the Baptist had, or expressed such views of the præ-existence of Christ, is not one for us to deal with, in the face of so direct a testimony as is given to the fact, here and in ch. 3:27 ff. In all probability, the Evangelist was himself a disciple of the Baptist: and if he has given us a fuller and somewhat differing account of his testimony to Christ, it is because his means of information were ampler than those of the other Evangelists. The questioners seem to forget that the Baptist was divinely raised up and commissioned, and full of the Holy Ghost, and spoke in that power; his declarations were not therefore merely conclusions which he had arrived at by natural means,—the study of the prophecies, &c. (Lücke, p. 353): but inspirations and revelations of the Spirit. This last is fully recognized by Olshausen (ii. 61).
16.] Origen (in Evang. Johan. tom. vi. 2, vol. iv. p. 102) blames Heracleon for terminating the testimony of John at the end of ver. 17, and makes it continue to the end of ver. 18. But it can hardly be that his testimony extends beyond ver. 15, for ἡμεῖς πάντες would bear no very definite meaning, and the assertions in ver. 17 would be alien from the character of the Baptist, belonging as they do to the more mature development of Christian doctrines. I cannot doubt that this and the following verses belong to the Evangelist, and are a carrying onwards of his declarations concerning the divine Word.
Ver. 15 is not parenthetical, but confirmatory of ver. 14, and this verse grounds itself on the fact of ver. 14, corroborated by the testimony of ver. 15,—that He dwelt among us, and that we saw His glory, full of grace and truth.
τὸ πλήρωμα is that of which He was πλήρης, ver. 14, and is not connected with the Gnostic pleroma at all. See reff.
ἡμεῖς πάντες] All who believe on Him: see ver. 12.
ἐλάβομεν, καί] received, and that … ‘our relation to Him has been that of recipients out of His fulness, and the thing received has been’.… So Herod. i. 102, ἔχων δύο ταῦτα ἔθνεα, καὶ ἀμφότερα ἰσχυρά.
χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος] The ancient interpretation, τὴν καινὴν διαθήκην ἀντὶ τῆς παλαιᾶς (Euthym.), is certainly wrong, for the ἐλάβομεν is spoken entirely of the times of the Incarnate Word: and besides, ὁ νόμος and χάρις are distinctly opposed to one another in the next verse.
The prep. ἀντί is properly used of any thing which supersedes another, or occupies its place. This is in fact its ordinary usage when exchange is spoken of: the possession of the thing gotten succeeds to, supersedes, the possession of the thing given in exchange, and I possess τοῦτο ἀντὶ ἐκείνου. Thus also we have received χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος continual accessions of grace; new grace coining upon and superseding the former. Thus in Theognis, Sentt. 343 ff. (Lücke), τεθναίην δʼ εἰ μή τι κακῶν ἄμπαυμα μεριμνέων " εὑροίμην, δοίης δʼ ἀντʼ ἀνιῶν ἀνίας. And Chrysostom, de Sacerdotio, 6. 13, vol. i. p. 435, σὺ δέ με ἐκπέμπεις, ἑτέραν ἀνθʼ ἑτέρας φροντίδα ἐνθείς. Also Philo, i. 254, speaking of this very word χάρις:—τὰς πρώτας ἀεὶ χάριτας … ἐπισχὼν καὶ ταμιευσάμενος εἰσαῦθις ἑτέρας ἀντὶ ἐκείνων καὶ τρίτας ἀντὶ δευτέρων, καὶ ἀεὶ νέας ἀντὶ παλαιοτέρων, τότε μὲν διαφορούσας, τότε δʼ αὖ καὶ τὰς αὐτὰς ἐπιδίδωσι.
17.] The connexion of this verse with the foregoing lies in the words τοῦ πληρώμ. αὐτοῦ (ver. 16), and in χάρις κ. ἀλ. (ver. 14). ‘We received from His fulness continual additions of grace, because that fulness is not, like the law, a positive enactment, finite and circumscribed, of which it could be said that it ἐδόθη, but the bringing in of grace and truth, which ἐγένετο by Jesus Christ.’
ἐδόθη and ἐγένετο have been variously distinguished,—αὐθεντικὸν μὲν τὸ ἐγένετο, δουλικὸν δὲ τὸ ἐδόθη, Theophyl. Similarly Bengel, “Mosis non sua est lex; Christi sua est gratia et veritas.” Pæd. i. 7, p. 134 , says: διὸ καί φησιν ἡ γραφὴ “ὁ νόμος διὰ Μωυσέως ἐδόθη,” οὐχὶ ὑπὸ Μωυσέως, ἀλλὰ ὑπὸ μὲν τοῦ λόγου, διὰ Μωυσέως δὲ τοῦ θεράποντος αὐτοῦ· διὸ καὶ πρόσκαιρος ἐγίνετο, ἡ δὲ ἀΐδιος χάρις καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια διὰ Ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ ἐγένετο, κ.τ.λ. Origen (in Joan. tom. vi. c. 3, vol. iv. p. 107) speaks very similarly. But the distinction laid down above, which is hinted at by De Wette, seems to me to be the most obvious, and best suited to the context, where the πλήρωμα of Christ is set against the narrowness of positive enactment in the law. Certainly, the distinction must not be lost sight of, nor denied, as Lücke attempts to do: for Bengel truly observes: “Nullus philosophus tam accurate verba ponit, differentiamque eorum observat, quam Johannes, in hoc præsertim capite.”
χάρις κ. ἀλ.] I must again caution the student against any such wholly inadequate explanations as that these words are put ‘per hendiadyn’ for χάρις ἀληθινή. It is in this way that the depths of Scripture have been covered over by the rubbish of expositors. Such was not the method of investigation pursued by the great men of former centuries: witness Origen in loc.: εἰ γὰρ Ἰησοῦς ἐστιν ὁ φάσκων “ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἀλήθεια,” πῶς ἡ ἀλήθεια διὰ Ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ γίνεται; αὐτὸς γάρ τις διʼ ἑαυτοῦ οὐ γίνεται. ἀλλὰ νοητέον ὅτι ἡ αὐτοαλήθεια ἡ οὐσιώδης καὶ ἵνʼ οὕτως εἴπω πρωτότυπος τῆς ἐν ταῖς λογικαῖς ψυχαῖς ἀληθείας … οὐχὶ διὰ Ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ ἐγένετο, οὐδʼ ὅλως διά τινος, ἀλλʼ ὑπὸ θεοῦ ἐγένετο· ὡς καὶ ὁ λόγος οὐ διά τινος, ὁ ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ ἡ σοφία, ἣν ἔκτισεν ἀρχὴν ὁδῶν αὐτοῦ ὁ θεός, οὐ διά τινος, οὕτως οὐδὲ ἡ ἀλήθεια διά τινος. ἡ δὲ παρʼ ἀνθρώποις ἀλήθεια διὰ Ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ ἐγένετο· οἷον ἡ ἐν Παύλῳ ἀλ. καὶ τοῖς ἀποστόλοις διὰ Ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ ἐγένετο (vol. iv. p. 107).
18.] The connexion is: ‘Moses could not give out of the πλήρωμα of grace and truth, for he had no immediate sight of God, and no man can have: there is but One who can ἐξηγεῖσθαι θεόν, the μονογενὴς υἱός, who is no mere man, but abides in the bosom of the Father.’
θεὸν οὐδ. ἑώρ. π.] The sight of God here meant, is not only bodily sight (though of that it is true, see Exodus 33:20: 1Timothy 6:16), but intuitive and infallible knowledge, which enables Him who has it to declare the nature and will of God: see ch. 3:11; 6:46; 14:7.
The Evangelist speaks in this verse in accordance with the sayings of the gnosis whose phraseology he has adopted: τίς ἑώρακεν αὐτὸν καὶ ἐκδιηγήσεται; Sir. 43:31.
ὁ μον. υἱός] As regards the reading μονογενὴς θεός, the authorities for and against it will be found in the digest. It seems to have arisen from a confusion of the contracted forms of writing, Υ and ΘC. The question, which reading to adopt, is one which, in the balance of authorities, must be provisionally decided by the consideration that as far as we can see, we should be introducing great harshness into the sentence, and a new and strange term into Scripture, by adopting θεός: a consequence which ought to have no weight whatever where authority is overpowering, but may fairly be weighed where this is not so. The “præstat procliviori ardua” finds in this case a legitimate limit.
ὁ ὢν εἰς τ. κόλπον] The expression must not be understood as referring to the custom of reclining ἐν τῷ κόλπῳ, as in ch. 13:23: for by this explanation confusion is introduced into the imagery, and the real depth of the truth hidden. The expression signifies, as Chrysostom observes, συγγένεια καὶ ἑνότης τῆς οὐσίας:—and is derived from the fond and intimate union of children and parents.
The present participle, as in ch. 3:13, is used to signify essential truth, without any particular regard to time.
On the use of εἰς, see reff. It is not ‘put for’ ἐν: indeed it would be well for the student to bear in mind as a general rule, that no word or expression is ever ‘put for’ another: words are the index of thoughts,—and where an unusual construction is found, it points to some reason in the mind of the writer for using it, which reason is lost in the ordinary shallow method of accounting for it by saying that it is ‘put for’ some other word. So here, εἰς τὸν κόλπον is not = ἐν τῷ κόλπῳ, but is a carrying on of the thought expressed in ver. 1, by πρὸς τὸν θεόν: it is a pregnant construction, involving in it the begetting of the Son and His being the λόγος of the Father,—His proceeding forth from God. It is a similar expression, on the side of His Unity with the Father, to εἰμὶ παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ, on the side of His manifestation to men. We have similar expressions, uniting the verb of rest with the preposition of motion, in ἐς θρόνους ἕζοντο, Od. δ. 51; εἰς ἀνάγκην κείμεθʼ, Eur. Iph. . 624: see Kühner, Gr. Gr. § 622.
ἐκεῖνος] ‘He, and none else:’ an emphatic exclusive expression.
ἐξηγήσατο] declared, better than ‘hath declared,’ as E. V. ἐξηγέομαι, ἐξήγησις, and ἐξηγητής (Genesis 41:8, Genesis 41:24), are technical terms used of the declaration of divine matters. Wetstein has collected abundance of passages in illustration of this usage. See also Müller’s Eumenides, Excursus D, on the ἐξηγηταί. But Lücke (and I think rightly) believes it more in accordance with the simple style of John to take the word here in its ordinary, not its technical meaning.
The object to be supplied after the verb is most likely αὐτόν, i.e. τὸν θεόν. De Wette thinks this too definite, and supplies ‘that which He has seen,’ as in ch. 3:11. Lücke supplies τὴν χάριτα κ. ἀλ., as being ‘that which He has seen;’ but De Wette well observes that χάρις is more matter of revelation by act, than of ἐξήγησις. Euthymius’s explanation, ἐδίδαξεν ὅτι θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακε πώποτε, is certainly wrong. See Matthew 11:27.
19-2:11.] Introduction of Christ to the world: by the witness of John (vv. 19-40): by Himself (ver. 41-2:11).
19-28.] The first witness borne by John to Jesus: before the deputation from the Sanhedrim.
19.] αὕτη is the predicate, ἡ μαρτυρία the subject, in the present form of the sentence. So very frequently in St. John, where commonly the mistake is made of supposing the demonstrative pronoun to be the subject, whereas it is ever the predicate of identification. Euthym., αὕτη … περὶ ἧς εἰπεῖν μέλλει προϊών, … ἡ γενομένη δηλονότι ὅτε ἀπεστ. κ.τ.λ.
οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι] John alone of the Evangelists uses this expression;—principally as designating the chiefs of the Jewish people, the members of the Sanhedrim. It is an interesting enquiry, what this usage denotes as to the author or date of our Gospel. Prof. Bleek, Beiträge, pp. 245-249, has satisfactorily shewn that no inference can be deduced from it against the Jewish origin of the author, as Bretschneider and Fischer endeavoured to do: but it is rather confirmatory of the belief that the Gospel was written after the Jews had ceased to be politically a nation,—and among Gentiles;—the author himself contemplating these last as his readers.
ἱερ. κ. Λ.] This was a formal deputation;—priests and Levites, constituting the two classes of persons employed about the service of the temple (see Joshua 3:3), are sent (Matthew 21:23) officially to enquire into the pretensions of the new Teacher (ver. 25), who had collected about him such multitudes (Matthew 3:5), and had awakened popular expectation that he was the Messiah (Luke 3:5).
σὺ τίς εἶ;—with reference to the popular doubts respecting him; asked in an unbelieving and inquisitorial spirit,—compare Matthew 3:7 ff., which had already taken place. Even among the learned, as well as among the people, there were considerable differences as to the prophecies respecting the Messiah: see ch. 7:40-52.
20.] ὡμολόγησεν, he openly and formally confessed. This emphatic notice of his declaration seems to be introduced not with any view of removing too high an estimate of John’s work and office, as sometimes supposed, but rather to shew the importance of his testimony, which was so publicly and officially delivered,—that the Messiah was come (see ch. 5:33-35); and the way in which he depreciated himself in comparison with Him who came after him.
21.] σὺ οὖν τί; equivalent to τί λέγεις περὶ σεαυτοῦ; ver. 22.
Ἡλίας εἶ;] The whole appearance of John reminded them of Elias:—see Matthew 3:4, and compare 2Kings 1:8. Besides, his announcement that the Kingdom of God was at hand, naturally led them to the prophecy Malachi 4:5, Lightfoot cites from the Rabbinical books testimonies that the Jews expected a general purification or baptism before the coming of the Messiah (from Ezekiel 36:25, Ezekiel 36:26, and Zechariah 13:1), and that it would be administered by Elias.
κ. λ. Οὐκ εἰμί] The right explanation of this answer seems to be the usual one,—that the deputation asked the question in a mistaken and superstitious sense, meaning Elias bodily come down from heaven, who was expected to forerun and anoint the Messias. (Our Lord seems to refer to the same extravagant notion in Matthew 11:14, εἰ θέλετε δέξασθαι, αὐτός ἐστιν Ἡλ. ὁ μέλλων ἔρχεσθαι.) In this sense, John was not Elias; nor indeed in any other sense, was he Elias:—but only (Luke 1:17) ἐν πνεύματι καὶ δυνάμει Ἡλίου.
ὁ προφ. εἶ σύ;] From the prophecy of Moses, Deuteronomy 18:15, Deuteronomy 18:18, the Jews expected some particular prophet to arise,—distinct from the Messiah (this distinction however was not held by all, see ch. 6:14),—whose coming was, like that of Elias, intimately connected with that of the Messiah Himself: see ch. 7:40, 41. In Matthew 16:14 we have ‘Jeremiah, or one of the prophets’ apparently = this expected prophet. There seem to have been various opinions about him;—all however agreeing in this, that he was to be one of the old prophets raised from the dead (see also 2 Macc. 2:1-8). This John was not: and he therefore answers this also in the negative.
22.] Notice—they ever ask about his person: he ever refers them to his office. He is no one—a voice merely: it is the work of God, the testimony to Christ which is every thing. So the formalist ever in the church asks Who is he? while the witness for Christ only exalts, only cares for Christ’s work.
23.] These words, which by the other Evangelists are spoken of John as the fulfilment of the prophecy, appear from this place to have been first so used by himself. They introduce the great closing section of the prophecy of Isaiah (ch. 40-66) so full of the rich promises and revelations of the Messiah and His kingdom.
εὐθύνατε is used as compendiously expressing ἑτοιμάσατε … εὐθείας ποιεῖτε.
By implication, the Baptist, quoting this opening prophecy of himself, announces the approaching fulfilment of the whole section.
24.] The reason of this explanation being added is not very clear. Lücke, with whom De Wette agrees, refers it to the apparent hostility of the next enquiry: but I confess I cannot see that it is more hostile than the preceding. Luthardt thinks that it imports, there were some ἀπεσταλμένοι present, who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees (ἦσαν δὲ καὶ ἐκ τῶν Φαρ. ἀπεσταλμένοι), which the words will hardly bear: see below. Might it not be to throw light on their question about baptizing, as the Pharisees were the most precise about all ceremonies, lustrations, &c.? Origen makes this a new deputation: but he is plainly wrong: see the οὖν below. Euthymius gives another reason yet: ἐπεσημήνατο καὶ τὴν αἵρεσιν αὐτῶν, ἐμφαίνων τὸ περίεργον τούτων καὶ σκολιόν.
Abandoning the οἱ (see var. readd.), we must render, And they (i.e. the whole deputation) were (or had been) sent by the Pharisees; which will make it more probable that the explanation refers to the nature of the following question. ἀποστέλλομαι … ἐκ has occurred above, ver. 19, which gives additional probability to the reading of the text.
25.] On οὐδὲ … οὐδέ, see note on ver. 13. This question shews probably that they did not interpret Isaiah 40:3 of any herald of the Messiah. They regarded baptism as a significant token of the approach of the Messianic Kingdom, and they asked, ‘Why baptizest thou, if thou art no forerunner of the Messiah?’
26, 27.] [ὁ] ὀπίσω μου ἐρχ. is the subject of the sentence; He that cometh after me, &c., stands among you.
The insertions (see var. readd.) have been made by some one not aware of this, and wishing to square the verse with vv. 15, 30.
The answer of the Baptist seems not to correspond to the question in ver. 25. This was noticed as early as Heracleon (Origen in Joan. tom. vi. 15, vol. iv. p. 131), who said, ἀποκρίνεται ὁ Ἰωάννης τοῖς ἐκ τῶν Φαρισαίων πεμφθεῖσιν, οὐ πρὸς ὃ ἐκεῖνοι ἐπηρώτων, ἀλλʼ ὃ αὐτὸς ἐβούλετο. This however is impugned at some length by Origen, but not on very convincing grounds. The truth seems to have been apprehended by Olshausen,—that the declaration of John that the Messiah was standing among them at that moment unknown to them, was an answer to their question demanding a legitimation of his prophetic claims;—a σημεῖον that he was sent from God:—see ch. 2:18. Olsh. also suggests that this may clear up the saying of the Jews in ch. 10:41 (see note there). In repeating this saying at other times (see Matthew 3:11 and ║), the Baptist plainly states of the Messiah, that he should baptize them with the Holy Ghost (and fire), as here in ver. 33. Here, in speaking to those learned in the offices of the Messiah, he leaves that to be supplied.
λύσω αὐτοῦ τ. ἱμ.…] See note on Matthew 3:11.
28.] The common reading, Βηθαβαρᾷ, is owing to a conjecture of Origen, the grounds of which he thus states:—ὅτι μὲν σχεδὸν ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς ἀντιγράφοις κεῖται “ταῦτα ἐν Βηθανίᾳ ἐγένετο” οὐκ ἀγνοοῦμεν, καὶ ἔοικε τοῦτο καὶ ἔτι πρότερον γεγονέναι· καὶ παρὰ Ἡρακλεωνι γοῦν Βηθανίαν ἀνέγνωμεν. ἐπείσθημεν δὲ μὴ δεῖν Βηθανίᾳ ἀναγινώσκειν, ἀλλὰ Βηθαβαρᾷ, γενόμενοι ἐν τοῖς τόποις ἐπὶ ἱστορίαν τῶν ἰχνῶν Ἰησοῦ καὶ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ καὶ τῶν προφητῶν. Βηθανία γάρ, ὡς ὁ αὐτὸς εὐαγγελιστής φησι, ἡ πατρὶς Λαζάρου καὶ Μάρθας καὶ Μαρίας, ἀπέχει τῶν Ἱεροσολύμων σταδίους δέκα πέντε· ἧς πόῤῥω ἐστὶν ὁ Ιορδάνης ποταμός, ὡς ἀπὸ σταδίων πλατεῖ λόγῳ ρπʼ (180). ἀλλʼ οὐδὲ ὁμώνυμος τῇ Βηθανίᾳ τόπος ἐστὶν περὶ τὸν Ἰορδάνην· δείκνυσθαι δὲ λέγουσι παρὰ τῇ ὄχθῃ τοῦ Ἰορδάνου τὰ Βηθαβαρᾶ, ἔνθα ἱστοροῦσι τὸν Ἰωάννην βεβαπτικέναι (In Joan. 6:24, p. 140). He goes on to shew from the etymology of the names that it must have been Bethabara; an argument which modern criticism will not much esteem. It will be seen that his testimony is decisive for the universality and authority of Βηθανίᾳ, while for the other he only produces a tradition, and that only at second-hand; “they say that such a place is shewn.” That no Bethany beyond Jordan was known in his time proves but little;—for 300 eventful years had changed the face of Palestine since these events, and the names and sites of many obscure places may have been forgotten. I abstain from enumerating modern conjectures on the identity of the two, or the etymology of the names, as being indecisive and unprofitable. The objection of Paulus, that πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου the Sanhedrim had no authority, appears not to be founded in fact: see Lücke’s Comm. i. 394 ff.
The question whether this testimony of the Baptist is identical with that given by the three other Evangelists, especially by Luke (3:16), is, after all that has been said on it (Lücke, De Wette, Olshausen, &c.), not of great importance. The whole series of transactions here recorded, from ver. 15 onwards, certainly happened after the baptism of our Lord;—for before that event John did not know Him as ὁ ἐρχόμενος: and μέσος ὑμῶν στήκει ver. 26 shews that he had so recognized Him (see below on τῇ ἐπαύρ.): whereas the testimony in Luke 3:16 and ║, is as certainly given before the baptism. But since the great end of John’s mission was to proclaim Him who was coming after him, it is not only probable, but absolutely necessary to suppose, that he should have delivered this testimony often, and under varying circumstances: before the baptism, in the form given by Luke, ἔρχεται ὁ ἰσχυρ. μου κ.τ.λ., and after it in this form, οὗτος ἦν ὃν εἶπον (ver. 15), where his former testimony is distinctly referred to. And among John’s disciples and the multitudes who frequented his baptism, many reports of such his sayings would naturally be current. So that there is neither a real nor even an apparent contradiction between John and the other Evangelists.
It is a far more important question, in what part of this narration the forty days’ Temptation is to be inserted. From ver. 19 to ch. 2:1 there is an unbroken sequence of days distinctly marked. Since then ver. 19 must be understood as happening after the baptism, it must have happened after the Temptation also. And in this supposition there is not the slightest difficulty. But when we have made it, it still remains to say whether at that time our Lord had returned from the Temptation or not. The general opinion of Harmonists has been, that the approach of Jesus to John in ver. 29 was His return after the Temptation. But this I think questionable, on account of the μέσος ὑμῶν στήκει, ver. 26; which I can only understand literally. I therefore believe that the return from the Temptation to Bethany beyond Jordan had taken place before the deputation arrived.
29-34.] Second witness borne by John to Jesus: apparently before his disciples.
29.] τῇ ἐπαύριον, the day after. Those who wish to introduce the Temptation between vv. 28 and 29, interpret it, ‘on some day after.’ Thus Euthym. τῇ ἐπ., μετὰ τὴν ἀπὸ ἐρήμου κάθοδον αὐτοῦ δηλονότι. But this sense of τῇ ἐπ., although certainly found in the LXX,—see Genesis 30:33,—is not according to the usage of John (see reff.), and would be quite alien from the precision of this whole portion of the narrative, which, ver. 40, specifies even the hours of the day. I understand it therefore literally, both here and in vv. 35 and 44.
ἐρχ. π. αὐτ.] It is not said whence, or why, or whether for the purpose of an interview, or not; the fact merely is related, for the sake of the testimony which follows. I mention this, because on these points difficulties have been raised.
ἴδε ὁ ἀμν. τ. θ.] This is one of the most important and difficult sayings in the N.T. The question to be answered is, in calling Jesus by so definite a name as ὁ ἀμνὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, to what did John refer? And this question is intimately connected with that of the meaning of the following words, ὁ αἴρων τὴν ἁμαρτίαν τοῦ κόσμου.
(α) The title must refer to some known and particular lamb, and cannot be a mere figure for a just and holy man, as Kuinoel and Gabler suppose. It is inconceivable, that ὁ ἀμνὸς τοῦ θεοῦ should in a testimony so precise and formal as this of the Baptist, be nothing but an hyperbole, and that one wholly unprecedented, and to his hearers unintelligible. Had no doctrinal considerations been at stake, we may safely say that this interpretation would never have been proposed. In its bearing on the latter clause of the verse, it is equally untenable. These interpreters make ὁ αἴρων τ. ἁμ. τ. κόσ. to mean, “qui pravitatem hominum per vitam suam graviter quidem etsi innocens experietur, sed agni instar mala sibi inflicta patiente et mansueto animo sustinebit” (Gabler); or, “Hic removebit peccata hominum, i. e, pravitatem e terra,” The first of these meanings of αἴρειν is altogether without example:—that cited from 1 Macc. 13:17, not being applicable. The second, though common enough in other connexions, is never found with ἁμαρτίαν: see reff. The commonsense account of this part of the matter is:—John wished to point out Jesus as the Messiah: he designates Him as the Lamb of God; he therefore referred to some definite lamb,—revealed by God, sent by God, pleasing to God, or in some meaning especially, τοῦ θεοῦ. Whence did this idea come?
(β) Can John have referred to the paschal lamb? Further than that the very use of the name brings in with it the general typical use of the animal, and that thus this particular use may lie in the background, I think not,—and for this reason:—The dominant idea in the paschal sacrifice has no connexion, in any sense of the words, with αἴρειν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν. However by the light now thrown back on it since the Spirit has opened the things of Christ, we discern this typical meaning in the sprinkling of the blood (see 1Corinthians 5:7),—in the Jewish mind, no mention being made of sin or the removing of sin in any connexion with the paschal lamb, the two could not be brought forward, in such an announcement as this, in close connexion with one another.
(γ) Can the reference be to the lamb of the daily morning and evening sacrifice? or to the sacrificial lamb generally? With the same reservation as above, I think not: for (1) this expression is too definite to have so general and miscellaneous a reference; (2) of many animals which were used for sacrifice, the lamb was only one, and that one not by any means so prominent as to serve as a type for the whole: and (3) the lamb (with only two exceptions, Leviticus 4:32: Numbers 6:14, in both which cases it was to be a female, as if for express distinction from the ordinary use of the lamb) was never used for a sin-offering, properly so called and known. The question is not, whether Christ be not typified by all these offerings, which we now know to be the case (1Peter 1:19 al.), but whether the Baptist is likely to have referred to them in such words as these.
(δ) There remains but one reference, and that is, to the prophetic announcement in Isa 53:7Isa 53:7. The whole of that latter section of Isaiah, as before remarked on ver. 23, is Messianic, and was so understood by the Jews (see my Hulsean Lectures for 1841, pp. 62-66). We have there the servant of God (= the Messiah) compared to a lamb brought to the slaughter (53:7), and it is said of Him (ib. ver. 4), οὗτος τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν φέρει καὶ περὶ ἡμῶν ὀδυνᾶται—ver. 5, αὐτὸς δὲ ἐτραυματίσθη διὰ τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν—ver. 6, καὶ κύριος παρέδωκεν αὐτὸν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ἡμῶν—ver. 8, αἴρεται ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς ἡ ζωὴ αὐτοῦ, ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνομιῶν τοῦ λαοῦ μου ἤχθη εἰς θάνατον—ver. 12, καὶ αὐτὸς ἁμαρτίας πολλῶν ἀνήνεγκε καὶ διὰ τὰς ἀνομίας αὐτῶν παρεδόθη. So that here, and here only, we have the connexion of which we are in search,—between the lamb, and the bearing or taking away of sin,—expressly stated, so that it could be formally referred to in a testimony like the present. And I have therefore no doubt that this was the reference.
(ε) We have now to enquire into the specific meaning of ὁ αἴρων τὴν ἁμαρτίαν τοῦ κόσμου (see above under (α)). αἴρειν answers to the Heb. נָשָׂא, which is used frequently in the O.T. in connexion with חֵטְא or עָוֹן, in the sense of peccati pœnas luere:—see Leviticus 24:15: Numbers 5:31; Numbers 14:34: Ezekiel 4:5; Ezekiel 23:35 al.:—and variously rendered in the LXX by ἀναφέρειν, as above, Isaiah 53:11, Isaiah 53:12, or φέρειν, ib. ver. 4,—or λαμβάνειν, Ezekiel 4:5; Ezekiel 18:19: Numbers 5:31; Numbers 14:34: Leviticus 24:15. ἀφαιρεῖν (which though not a compound of αἴρειν, seems to have almost been adopted as such, the actual compound ἀπαίρειν being intransitive) is used in the sense of ‘taking away of sin and its guilt,’ but taking it away by expiation: see Exodus 34:7: Leviticus 10:17: Numbers 14:18.
The word in our verse will bear either of these meanings, or both conjoined; for if the Lamb is to suffer the burden of the sins of the world, and to take away sin and its guilt by expiation, this result must be accomplished by the offering of Himself.
But (ζ) it is objected, that this view of a suffering Messiah and of expiation by the sufferings of one, was alien from the Jewish expectations;—and that the Baptist (see Matthew 11:2 ff. and note) cannot himself have had any such view. But the answer to this may be found in the fact that the view, though not generally prevalent among the Jews, was by no means unknown to many. The application by the early Jewish expositors of Isa_53 to the Messiah, could hardly have been made, without the idea of the suffering and death of their Messiah being presented to their minds. The same would be the case in the whole sacrificial œconomy:—the removal of guilt (which was universally ascribed to the Messiah) by suffering and death would be familiarized to their minds. Traces of this are found in their own writings. In 2 Macc. 7:37, 38, the last of the seven brethren thus speaks before his martyrdom: ἐγὼ δὲ καθάπερ οἱ ἀδελφοί μου καὶ σῶμα καὶ ψυχὴν προδίδωμι περὶ τῶν πατρίων νόμων, ἐπικαλούμενος τὸν θεὸν ἵλεων ταχὺ τῷ ἔθνει γενέσθαι, καὶ σὲ μετὰ ἑτασμῶν καὶ μαστίγων ἐξομολογήσασθαι, διότι μόνος αὐτὸς θεός ἐστιν. ἐν ἐμοὶ δὲ καὶ τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς μου στῆναι τὴν τοῦ παντοκράτορος ὀργὴν τὴν ἐπὶ τὸ σύμπαν ἡμῶν γένος δικαίως ἐπηγμένην. And Josephus, de Maccab. § 17 (4 Macc. 17:22) says of these same martyrs. that they were ὥσπερ ἀντίψυχον τῆς τοῦ ἔθνους ἁμαρτίας. καὶ διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τῶν εὐσεβῶν ἐκείνων καὶ (τοῦ) ἱλαστηρίου τοῦ θανάτου αὐτῶν ἡ θεία πρόνοια τὸν Ἰσραὴλ προκακωθέντα διέσωσε. The whole history of the sacrifices and devotions of the heathen world abounds with examples of the same idea variously brought forward; and to these the better-informed among the Jews could be no strangers. And as to the Baptist himself, we must not forget that the power of the Holy Spirit which enabled him to recognize by a special sign the Redeemer, also spoke in him, and therefore his words would not be the result of education merely, or his own reasoning, but of that kind of intuitive perception of divine truth, which those have had who have been for any special purpose the organs of the Holy Ghost.
And as regards Matthew 11:3, the doubt on the mind of John there expressed does not appear to have touched at all on the matter now in question,—but to have rather been a form of expressing his impatience at the slow and quiet progress of Him of whom he expected greater things and a more rapid public manifestation.
See this whole enquiry pursued at greater length in Lücke’s Commentary, vol. i. pp. 401-416, from whence the substance of this note is taken.
30.] See on ver. 15.
31.] On the apparent discrepancy between this statement, οὐκ ῃδειν αὐτόν, and St. Matthew’s narrative, I have stated my view on Matthew 3:14. Both accounts are entirely consistent with the supposition that John had been from youth upwards acquainted with our Lord, and indeed may have in his own mind believed Him to be the Christ:—but having (ver. 33) a special sign appointed him, by which to recognize Him as such,—until that sign was given, he, like the rest of the people (κἀγώ, I also, see ver. 26), had no certain knowledge of Him. Lücke’s whole note proceeds upon the unworthy view of the historical character of the Gospels which his school has adopted. The same may be said of Neander, Leben Jesu, pp. 86 ff.
De Wette gives the sense well: “This testimony (ver. 30) does not rest upon my long personal acquaintance with Him, but on that which happened during my work of baptizing.”
ἀλλʼ ἵνα φαν.] Justin Martyr represents Trypho the Jew saying, χριστὸς δὲ εἰ καὶ γεγέννηται, καὶ ἔστι που, ἄγνωστός ἐστι, καὶ οὐδὲ αὐτός πω ἑαυτὸν ἐπίσταται, οὐδὲ ἔχει δύναμίν τινα, μέχρις ἂν ἐλθὼν Ἡλίας χρίσῃ αὐτὸν καὶ φανερόν πᾶσι ποιήσῃ, § 8, p. 110. But our narrative is not built upon any such Jewish belief, for it is evidently only as a spiritual preparation, through repentance, for the knowledge of Him, that John regarded his baptism, not as any thing ἐκεῖνον φανερὸν πᾶσι ποιοῦν.
ἐν [τῷ] ὕδ., hardly distinguishable in English from ἐν ὕδ., but importing, ‘in the water which it is my custom to use,’—‘in the water in which you see I do baptize.’
32, 33.] “Quæ sequuntur, erant testimonii: quæ ex ver. 29 sq. dicuntur, erant demonstrationis ex testimonio. Cohærentibus Baptistæ verbis Evangelista quasi parenthesin interponit: καὶ ἐμαρτύρησεν Ἰωάννης λέγων.” Bengel.
The occurrence related by John happened at the baptism of Jesus, which is therefore here pre-supposed as known. Although this has been questioned (Usteri, Nachrichten über den Täufer J. u.s.w., cited by Lücke, i. 423), I cannot see how it can be reasonably doubted. We cannot surely suppose that such a sign was twice shewn. On the appearance itself, see note Matthew 3:16. The account here given confirms the view which I have there maintained, that the appearance was confined to our Lord and the Baptist: he was to receive the sign, and then to testify to the others, who were not themselves yet the bearers, but the recipients of testimony:—κατά τινα πνευματικὴν θεωρίαν ὤφθη μόνῳ τῷ Ἰωάννῃ. Theod. Mops. p. 736.
τεθέαμαι, perf. I have seen, in reference to the sign divinely intimated to him, in the abiding fulfilment of which he now stood. So again below, ver. 34.
ἔμεινεν ἐπʼ αὐτ.] By some appearance which is not described, the Holy Spirit was manifested to John as not removing from Jesus again, but abiding on Him. But we are not to understand that he had seen the Spirit descending on others, and not abiding; for (see ch. 7:39: Acts 1:5; Acts 19:2 ff.) the gift of the Holy Spirit did not ordinarily accompany John’s baptism, but only in this one case; and its occurrence was to point out to him the Messiah.
οὗτ. ἐστ. ὁ βαπτ. ἐν πν. ἁγ.] Here again we seem to have a reference to the synoptic cycle of narratives, for our Evangelist has not before mentioned this office of the Messiah.
34.] A solemn reiteration of his testimony, after the mention of the giving of this token by Him who sent him;—And I have seen (accordingly) &c.
The token must have been given to the Baptist by a special revelation, which also revealed to him his own errand and office; so Luke 3:2, ἐγένετο ῥῆμα θεοῦ ἐπὶ Ἰωάννην τὸν Ζαχ. υἱὸν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ.
μεμαρτύρηκα is stronger than μαρτυρῶ—I have seen (on the perf. see above, ver. 32) and have borne testimony—it is a reference to his testimony at the time, as a thing on record in their memories, and as still continuing.
ὁ υἱ. τ. θεοῦ (see ver. 18) = the λόγος made flesh, the Messiah.
On the import of the descent of the Spirit on Jesus at His baptism, those who can do so should consult Lücke’s very able Excursus, i. 433-443. In this commentary, see notes on Luke 2:41-52.
I may just remark, that the Personal Logos, Who σὰρξ ἐγένετο in our Lord, and was subjected to all the laws of human development in infancy, childhood, youth,—evermore in an especial degree under the leading of the Holy Spirit, by whose agency the Incarnation had taken place,—was the Recipient (τὸ δεχόμενον) of this fulness of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost: and that herein consisted the real depth and propriety of this sign;—the abiding of the Spirit without measure (ch. 3:34) on Him indicated beyond doubt that He was the λόγος σὰρξ γεγονώς,—for no mere human intelligence could be thus receptive of the Holy Spirit of God;—we receive Him only as we can, only as far as our receptivity extends,—by measure; but He, into the very fulness and infinite capacities of His Divine Being.
35-43.] On account of the testimony of John, first Andrew, and another of his disciples, and through Andrew, Simon Peter, become acquainted with Jesus.
35. τῇ ἐπ.] See on ver. 29. I can hardly suppose with De Wette, that these two had been absent on the preceding day. Rather, what they then heard seems to have made a powerful impression on their minds, so that the repetition of the notice is now the signal for them to follow Jesus. (On the second disciple, see below on ver. 41.)
37.] We must not understand ἠκολ. in the narrower sense which it bears when they left all and followed Him; but here only of mechanical going after Him, βουλόμενοι πεῖραν λαβεῖν αὐτοῦ, Euthym.
39.] On τί ζητ. Euthym. remarks, οὐκ ἀγνοῶν, ὁ τοῖς λογισμοῖς τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐμβατεύων, ἀλλʼ ἵνα διὰ τῆς ἐρωτήσεως οἰκειώσηται τούτους, καὶ παράσχῃ θαῤῥεῖν. εἰκὸς γὰρ αὐτοὺς ἐρυθριᾶν ἔτι καὶ ἀγωνιᾶν, ὡς ἀγνῶτας.
40.] They ask ποῦ μ., βουλόμενοι καταμόνας ἐντυχεῖν αὐτῷ καὶ μεθʼ ἡσυχίας. Euthym. They enquire after His place of lodging for the night, intending to visit Him there; or perhaps He was then apparently going thither, as it was late in the day. But He furthers their wish by inviting them to follow, and they will see.
ὡς δεκάτη] i.e. 4 p.m., according to the Jewish reckoning; not, as some have thought, 10 a.m., according to that of the Romans. Our Evangelist appears always to reckon according to the Jewish method, see ch. 4:6, 52; 19:14, and notes, but especially ch. 11:9. And as Lücke remarks (i. 446), even among the Romans, the division of the day into twelve equal hours was, though not the civil, the popular way of computing time. So Persius, Sat. iii. 3: “Stertimus … quinta dum linea tangitur umbra.”
They remained with Him the rest of that day, which would be four or five hours, and need not strictly be limited by sunset.
41.] Who the other disciple was, is not certain: but considering (1) that the Evangelist never names himself in his Gospel, and (2) that this account is so minutely accurate as to specify even the hours of the day, and in all respects bears marks of an eye-witness, and again (3) that this other disciple, from this last circumstance, certainly would have been named, had not the name been suppressed for some especial reason, we are justified in inferring that it was the Evangelist himself. And such has been the general opinion. Euthymius gives an alternative which is hardly probable: ἢ διότι οὐκ ἦν τῶν ἐπισήμων καὶ γνωρίμων ἐκεῖνος, ἢ ὅτι αὐτὸς ἦν ὁ ταῦτα γράφων.
42.] ἴδιον not merely “for the possessive pronoun” (according to Winer, § 22. 7), but referring to πρῶτον, and furnishing a reason for it.
μεσσίαν = מָשִׁיחַ = not ὁ χριστός, but χριστός: being the identification simply of the two words, not here of the two titles.
43.] This is evidently the first bestowal of the new name on Simon: and it is done from our Lord’s prophetic knowledge of his future character: see note on Matthew 16:18.
Κηφᾶς = כֵּיפָא Aramaic, כֵּף Hebrew, a stone. The Greek name Peter became the prevalent one in the apostolic Church very soon: Paul uses both names indiscriminately.
I own I cannot but think with Bengel, Paulus, and Strauss, that the knowledge of Simon shewn by the Lord is intended to be miraculous. So also Stier, i. 31 f. edn. 2, “I know who and what thou art from thy birth till thy present coming to me.… I name thee, I give thee a new name, I know what I will make of thee in thy following of Me and for my Kingdom.” The emphatic use of ἐμβλέψας here (it is not so emphatic in ver. 36, but still even there may imply fixed contemplation, in the power of the Spirit, who suggested the testimony) is hardly accountable except on this explanation of supernatural knowledge. Similarly Abram, Sara, Jacob, received new names in reference to the covenant and promises of God to them.
44-52.] The calling of Philip and Nathanael.
44. τῇ ἐπαύρ.] Apparently, the day after the naming of Peter; and if so, the next but one after the visit of Andrew and the other disciple, and the fourth day after ver. 19.
Our Lord is on the point of setting out from the valley of the Jordan to Galilee, and finds Philip, with whom there is every reason to believe He was previously acquainted (see ver. 45). Here we find Jesus himself calling a disciple, for the first time. But ἀκολούθει does not here bear its strict apostolic sense; the εὑρήκαμεν afterwards, and the going to search for others to be disciples, unites Philip to the company of those who have been before mentioned, who we know were not immediately or inseparably attached as followers to Jesus.
45.] On the futility of Mr. Greswell’s distinction between ἀπό as signifying mere habitation, and ἐκ, nativity, see reff. and note on ch. 11:1. This is Bethsaida on the Western bank of the lake of Gennesareth; another Bethsaida (Julias) lay at the top of the lake, on the Jordan. See note on Luke 9:10.
46.] It does not appear where Nathanael was found: but he is described, ch. 21:2, as ὁ ἀπὸ Κανᾶ τῆς Γαλιλαίας: and as we find Jesus there, ch. 2:1, it is probable the call may have taken place in its neighbourhood. Nathanael (“נְהַנְאֵל, i. q. Θεόδωρος, gift of God.” Wordsw.) is mentioned only in these two places. From them we should gather that he was an Apostle; and as his name is no where found in the catalogues of the Twelve, but Philip is associated in three of them (Matthew 10:3: Mark 3:18: Luke 6:14) with Bartholomew, it has been supposed that Nathanael and Bartholomew were the same person (see note on Matthew 10:3). This is however mere conjecture.
τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ Ἰωσ. τ. ἀπὸ .] This expression seems to shew previous acquaintance on the part of Philip with Jesus. No stress can be laid, as has been most unfairly done by Lücke, De Wette, and others, on Jesus being called by Philip, the son of Joseph, as indicating that the history of His birth and childhood, as related by Matt. and Luke, was unknown to John. Philip expresses what was the prevailing belief, in the ordinary words, as Olshausen remarks. In an admirable note, Leben Jesu, p. 23 ff., Neander remarks, that by combining the two declarations of John, that in Jesus the Eternal Word of God became flesh (ver. 14), and that ‘that which is born of the flesh is flesh’ (ch. 3:6), we cannot escape the inference, that a supernatural working of God in the conception of the Man Christ Jesus is implied.
47.] As Lücke observes, the meaning of this question is simpler than at first sight appears. It is impossible that Nathanael, himself a Galilæan, could speak from any feeling of contempt for Galilee generally: and we have no evidence that Nazareth was held in contempt among the Galilæans. He alluded therefore to the smallness and insignificance of the town in proportion to the great things which were now predicated of it. Nazareth is never named in the O.T. nor in Josephus.
48.] The Evangelist certainly intends a supernatural insight by the Lord into Nathanael’s character to be here understood; and there is probably no reference at all to the question which Nathanael had just asked. To suppose that Jesus overheard that question, is just one of those perfectly gratuitous assumptions which the very Commentators who here make this supposition are usually the first to blame. Compare ch. 2:25.
ἀληθ. Ἰσρ.] ‘An Israelite who truly answers to the inner and honourable meaning of the name.’ When we reflect what was contained in that name, and Who it is that speaks, we can hardly agree with De Wette that the words are spoken merely in the spirit in which every nation attaches some peculiar virtue, and especially those of openness and straightforwardness, to itself, as deutsch heraussagen, deutsche Treue, or Cicero’s “Romano more loqui.”
49.] The remark was overheard by Nathanael, and recognized as indicating perfect knowledge of his character. The question πόθ. με γιν. is one of astonishment, but not perhaps yet of suspicion of any thing supernatural. Our Lord’s answer first opens this to him.
πρὸ τοῦ κ.τ.λ.] It would be doubtful whether ὄντα ὑπὸ τ. συκ. belong to φωνῆσαι or to εἶδόν σε, did not ver. 51 decide for the latter construction.
The whole form of our Lord’s answer seems to indicate that the place where Philip called Nathanael was not now in sight, nor had been. The declaration that Jesus had seen him there, at once brings the conviction which he expresses in the next verse. This would not have been the case, unless the sight had been evidently and unquestionably supernatural: and unless the words ὄντα ὑπὸ τὴν συκῆν involved this. Had Jesus merely seen Nathanael without being seen by him, (De Wette,) or had εἶδόν σε only expressed ‘I knew thy character,’ at first sight, ‘although at a distance’ (Lücke), no such immediate conviction would have followed.
ὄντα ὑπὸ τὴν συκῆν, says Wordsw., “is something more than ὑπὸ τῇ συκῇ—the accusative indicates retirement thither as well as concealment there,—perhaps for purposes of prayer and meditation.” In fact it contains in it, ‘when thou wentest under the fig-tree, and while thou wert there.’
Ver. 50 = ‘Thou art the Messiah:’ see Psalm 2:7. ch. 11:27: Matthew 16:16: Luke 22:70. Olshausen (ii. 77 ff.) maintains that ὁ υἱ. τ. θ. was not a Jewish appellation for the Messiah,—on account of the Jews taking up stones to cast at Jesus when He so called Himself, ch. 10:33. But as Lücke observes (i. 456, note), it was not for the mere use of this Name,—but for using it in a close and literal sense which was unintelligible and appeared blasphemous to them, ἐγὼ κ. ὁ πατὴρ ἕν ἐσμεν,—that they wished to stone Him: see note on ch. 10:36. It was certainly not so common a name as ‘the Son of David,’ for the Messiah.
Nathanael can hardly have meant the name in other than its popular meaning; and the synonymous and better known appellation which he adds, confirms this.
51.] Our Lord says this not in blame, rather in praise of the simple and honest expression of Nathanael’s conviction; but principally to shew him, that if he believed by reason of this comparatively small proof of His divine power, his faith would increase from strength to strength at the greater proofs which should from that time forward be given.
It is perhaps best to set a question at πιστεύεις; but see notes on the similar sentences, ch. 16:31, and 20:29.
52.] ἀμὴν ἀμήν is peculiar to John. The other Evangelists use ἀμήν once only in such asseverations. The LXX do not use it in this sense. Stier remarks (i. 36, edn. 2), that the Verily, verily, I say unto you of the Lord, is spoken in His coequality with the Father: not as the ‘Thus saith the Lord’ of the Prophets.
ὑμῖν] The words following are then spoken to all the disciples present, not only to Nathanael.
With or without ἀπʼ ἄρτι, the meaning will be much the same. The glories of a period beginning from the opening of the Lord’s public ministry, and at this day not yet completed, are described. For it is not the outward visible opening of the material heavens, nor ascent and descent of angels in the sight of men, which our Lord here announces; but the series of glories which was about to be unfolded in His Person and Work from that time forward. Lüther, cited by Lücke, i. 458, beautifully says: “When Christ became man and had entered on His ministerial office and begun to preach, then was the heaven opened, and remains open; and has from that time, since the baptism of Christ in the Jordan, never been shut, and never will be shut, although we do not see it with our bodily eyes … Christ says this: ‘Ye are now heavenly citizens, and have your citizenship above in the heavenly Jerusalem, and are in communion with the holy angels, who shall without intermission ascend and descend about you.’ ”
The opening of heaven is a symbolical expression, signifying the imparting of divine grace, help, and revelation. See Genesis 28:10-17: Ezekiel 1:1: Isaiah 6:1: Malachi 3:10: Isaiah 64:1: also Deuteronomy 11:17: 1Kings 8:35.
The words have a plain reference to the ladder of Jacob, and imply that what he then saw was now to receive its fulfilment: that He, the Son of Man, was the dwelling of God and the gate of Heaven, and that through Him, and on Him in the first place, was to descend all communication of help and grace from above.
That no allusion is meant to the Transfiguration, or the Agony, is plain; for all those here addressed did not witness these appearances, but Peter and John only; nor to the Ascension, for they did not see heaven opened, nor did angels ascend nor descend.
The above has (remarks Olsh. ii. 79) been the interpretation of all Commentators of any depth in all times: Origen as well as Augustine, Luther as well as Calvin, Lücke as well as Tholuck: and I may add, De Wette as well as Stier.
τὸν υἱ. τ. ἀνθ.] An expression originally (as appears) derived, in its Messianic sense, from Daniel 7:13, Daniel 7:14, and thenceforward used as one of the titles of the Messiah (see ch. 12:34). It is never predicated of our Lord by any but Himself, except in Acts 7:56 by Stephen, in allusion apparently to Matthew 26:64, and—which is hardly an exception—in the passages of the Revelation (ch. 1:13; 14:14) which are almost citations from Daniel.