Saint John – Chapter 1

The Bible – New Testament

Saint John

Chapter 1


1 2 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.


He was in the beginning with God.


3 All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be


through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race;


4 the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.


5 A man named John was sent from God.


He came for testimony, 6 to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.


He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.


The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.


He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him.


He came to what was his own, but his own people 7 did not accept him.


But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name,


8 who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.


And the Word became flesh 9 and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.


10 John testified to him and cried out, saying, «This was he of whom I said, ‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.'»


From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, 11


because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.


No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, 12 who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.


13 14 And this is the testimony of John. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites (to him) to ask him, «Who are you?»


15 he admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, «I am not the Messiah.»


So they asked him, «What are you then? Are you Elijah?» 16 And he said, «I am not.» «Are you the Prophet?» He answered, «No.»


So they said to him, «Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?»


He said: «I am ‘the voice of one crying out in the desert, «Make straight the way of the Lord,»‘ 17 as Isaiah the prophet said.»


Some Pharisees 18 were also sent.


They asked him, «Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet?»


John answered them, «I baptize with water; 19 but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,


the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.»


This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, 20 where John was baptizing.


The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, «Behold, the Lamb of God, 21 who takes away the sin of the world.


22 He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’


I did not know him, 23 but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.»


John testified further, saying, «I saw the Spirit come down like a dove 24 from the sky and remain upon him.


I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.’


25 Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.»


The next day John was there again with two of his disciples,


and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, «Behold, the Lamb of God.» 26


The two disciples 27 heard what he said and followed Jesus.


Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, «What are you looking for?» They said to him, «Rabbi» (which translated means Teacher), «where are you staying?»


He said to them,»Come, and you will see.» So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon. 28


Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.


He first found his own brother Simon and told him, «We have found the Messiah» 29 (which is translated Anointed).


Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, «You are Simon the son of John; 30 you will be called Kephas» (which is translated Peter).


The next day he 31 decided to go to Galilee, and he found Philip. And Jesus said to him, «Follow me.»


Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter.


Philip found Nathanael and told him, «We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.»


But Nathanael said to him, «Can anything good come from Nazareth?» Philip said to him, «Come and see.»


Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, «Here is a true Israelite. 32 There is no duplicity in him.»


33 Nathanael said to him, «How do you know me?» Jesus answered and said to him, «Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.»


Nathanael answered him, «Rabbi, you are the Son of God; 34 you are the King of Israel.»


Jesus answered and said to him, «Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? 35 You will see greater things than this.»


And he said to him, «Amen, amen, 36 I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.»

1 [1-18] The prologue states the main themes of the gospel: life, light, truth, the world, testimony, and the preexistence of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Logos, who reveals God the Father. In origin, it was probably an early Christian hymn. Its closest parallel is in other christological hymns, ⇒ Col 1:15-20 and ⇒ Philippians 2:6-11. Its core (⇒ John 1:1-5, ⇒ 10-11, ⇒ 14) is poetic in structure, with short phrases linked by «staircase parallelism,» in which the last word of one phrase becomes the first word of the next. Prose inserts (at least ⇒ John 1:6-8, ⇒ 15) deal with John the Baptist.
2 [1] In the beginning: also the first words of the Old Testament (⇒ Genesis 1:1). Was: this verb is used three times with different meanings in this verse: existence, relationship, and predication. The Word (Greek logos): this term combines God’s dynamic, creative word (Genesis), personified preexistent Wisdom as the instrument of God’s creative activity (Proverbs), and the ultimate intelligibility of reality (Hellenistic philosophy). With God: the Greek preposition here connotes communication with another. Was God: lack of a definite article with «God» in Greek signifies predication rather than identification.
3 [1] What came to be: while the oldest manuscripts have no punctuation here, the corrector of Bodmer Papyrus P75, some manuscripts, and the Ante-Nicene Fathers take this phrase with what follows, as staircase parallelism. Connection with ⇒ John 1:3 reflects fourth-century anti-Arianism.
4 [5] The ethical dualism of light and darkness is paralleled in intertestamental literature and in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Overcome: «comprehend» is another possible translation, but cf ⇒ John 12:35; ⇒ Wisdom 7:29-30.
5 [6] John was sent just as Jesus was «sent» (⇒ John 4:34) in divine mission. Other references to John the Baptist in this gospel emphasize the differences between them and John’s subordinate role.
6 [7] Testimony: the testimony theme of John is introduced, which portrays Jesus as if on trial throughout his ministry. All testify to Jesus: John the Baptist, the Samaritan woman, scripture, his works, the crowds, the Spirit, and his disciples.
7 [11] What was his own . . . his own people: first a neuter, literally, «his own property/possession» (probably = Israel), then a masculine, «his own people» (the Israelites).
8 [13] Believers in Jesus become children of God not through any of the three natural causes mentioned but through God who is the immediate cause of the new spiritual life. Were born: the Greek verb can mean «begotten» (by a male) or «born» (from a female or of parents). The variant «he who was begotten,» asserting Jesus’ virginal conception, is weakly attested in Old Latin and Syriac versions.
9 [14] Flesh: the whole person, used probably against docetic tendencies (cf ⇒ 1 John 4:2; ⇒ 1:7). Made his dwelling: literally, «pitched his tent/tabernacle.» Cf the tabernacle or tent of meeting that was the place of God’s presence among his people (⇒ Exodus 25:8-9). The incarnate Word is the new mode of God’s presence among his people. The Greek verb has the same consonants as the Aramaic word for God’s presence (Shekinah). Glory: God’s visible manifestation of majesty in power, which once filled the tabernacle (⇒ Exodus 40:34) and the temple (⇒ 1 Kings 8:10-11, ⇒ 27), is now centered in Jesus. Only Son: Greek, monogenes, but see the note on ⇒ John 1:18. Grace and truth: these words may represent two Old Testament terms describing Yahweh in covenant relationship with Israel (cf ⇒ Exodus 34:6), thus God’s «love» and «fidelity.» The Word shares Yahweh’s covenant qualities.
10 [15] This verse, interrupting ⇒ John 1:14, ⇒ 16 seems drawn from ⇒ John 1:30.
11 [16] Grace in place of grace: replacement of the Old Covenant with the New (cf ⇒ John 1:17). Other possible translations are «grace upon grace» (accumulation) and «grace for grace» (correspondence).
12 [18] The only Son, God: while the vast majority of later textual witnesses have another reading, «the Son, the only one» or «the only Son,» the translation above follows the best and earliest manuscripts, monogenes theos, but takes the first term to mean not just «Only One» but to include a filial relationship with the Father, as at ⇒ Luke 9:38 («only child») or ⇒ Hebrews 11:17 («only son») and as translated at ⇒ John 1:14. The Logos is thus «only Son» and God but not Father/God.
13 [19-51] The testimony of John the Baptist about the Messiah and Jesus’ self-revelation to the first disciples. This section constitutes the introduction to the gospel proper and is connected with the prose inserts in the prologue. It develops the major theme of testimony in four scenes: John’s negative testimony about himself; his positive testimony about Jesus; the revelation of Jesus to Andrew and Peter; the revelation of Jesus to Philip and Nathanael.
14 [19] The Jews: throughout most of the gospel, the «Jews» does not refer to the Jewish people as such but to the hostile authorities, both Pharisees and Sadducees, particularly in Jerusalem, who refuse to believe in Jesus. The usage reflects the atmosphere, at the end of the first century, of polemics between church and synagogue, or possibly it refers to Jews as representative of a hostile world (⇒ John 1:10-11).
15 [20] Messiah: the anointed agent of Yahweh, usually considered to be of Davidic descent. See further the note on ⇒ John 1:41.
16 [21] Elijah: the Baptist did not claim to be Elijah returned to earth (cf ⇒ Malachi 3:23; ⇒ Matthew 11:14). The Prophet: probably the prophet like Moses (⇒ Deut 18:15; cf ⇒ Acts 3:22).
17 [23] This is a repunctuation and reinterpretation (as in the synoptic gospels and Septuagint) of the Hebrew text of ⇒ Isaiah 40:3 which reads, «A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord.»
18 [24] Some Pharisees: other translations, such as «Now they had been sent from the Pharisees,» misunderstand the grammatical construction. This is a different group from that in ⇒ John 1:19; the priests and Levites would have been Sadducees, not Pharisees.
19 [26] I baptize with water: the synoptics add «but he will baptize you with the holy Spirit» (⇒ Mark 1:8) or «. . . holy Spirit and fire» (⇒ Matthew 3:11; ⇒ Luke 3:16). John’s emphasis is on purification and preparation for a better baptism.
20 [28] Bethany across the Jordan: site unknown. Another reading is «Bethabara.»
21 [29] The Lamb of God: the background for this title may be the victorious apocalyptic lamb who would destroy evil in the world (Rev 5-7; ⇒ 17:14); the paschal lamb, whose blood saved Israel (Exodus 12); and/or the suffering servant led like a lamb to the slaughter as a sin-offering (⇒ Isaiah 53:7, ⇒ 10).
22 [30] He existed before me: possibly as Elijah (to come, ⇒ John 1:27); for the evangelist and his audience, Jesus’ preexistence would be implied (see the note on ⇒ John 1:1).
23 [31] I did not know him: this gospel shows no knowledge of the tradition (Luke 1) about the kinship of Jesus and John the Baptist. The reason why I came baptizing with water: in this gospel, John’s baptism is not connected with forgiveness of sins; its purpose is revelatory, that Jesus may be made known to Israel.
24 [32] Like a dove: a symbol of the new creation (⇒ Genesis 8:8) or the community of Israel (⇒ Hosea 11:11). Remain: the first use of a favorite verb in John, emphasizing the permanency of the relationship between Father and Son (as here) and between the Son and the Christian. Jesus is the permanent bearer of the Spirit.
25 [34] The Son of God: this reading is supported by good Greek manuscripts, including the Chester Beatty and Bodmer Papyri and the Vatican Codex, but is suspect because it harmonizes this passage with the synoptic version: «This is my beloved Son» (⇒ Matthew 3:17; ⇒ Mark 1:11; ⇒ Luke 3:22). The poorly attested alternate reading, «God’s chosen One,» is probably a reference to the Servant of Yahweh (⇒ Isaiah 42:1).
26 [36] John the Baptist’s testimony makes his disciples’ following of Jesus plausible.
27 [37] The two disciples: Andrew (⇒ John 1:40) and, traditionally, John, son of Zebedee (see the note on ⇒ John 13:23).
28 [39] Four in the afternoon: literally, the tenth hour, from sunrise, in the Roman calculation of time. Some suggest that the next day, beginning at sunset, was the sabbath; they would have stayed with Jesus to avoid travel on it.
29 [41] Messiah: the Hebrew word masiah, «anointed one» (see the note on ⇒ Luke 2:11), appears in Greek as the transliterated messias only here and in ⇒ John 4:25. Elsewhere the Greek translation christos is used.
30 [42] Simon, the son of John: in ⇒ Matthew 16:17, Simon is called Bariona, «son of Jonah,» a different tradition for the name of Simon’s father. Kephas: in Aramaic = the Rock; cf ⇒ Matthew 16:18. Neither the Greek equivalent Petros nor, with one isolated exception, Kephas is attested as a personal name before Christian times.
31 [43] He: grammatically, could be Peter, but logically is probably Jesus.
32 [47] A true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him: Jacob was the first to bear the name «Israel» (⇒ Genesis 32:29), but Jacob was a man of duplicity (⇒ Genesis 27:35-36).
33 [48] Under the fig tree: a symbol of messianic peace (cf ⇒ Micah 4:4; ⇒ Zechariah 3:10).
34 [49] Son of God: this title is used in the Old Testament, among other ways, as a title of adoption for the Davidic king (⇒ 2 Sam 7:14; ⇒ Psalm 2:7; ⇒ 89:27), and thus here, with King of Israel, in a messianic sense. For the evangelist, Son of God also points to Jesus’ divinity (cf ⇒ John 20:28).
35 [50] Possibly a statement: «You [singular] believe because I saw you under the fig tree.»
36 [51] The double «Amen» is characteristic of John. You is plural in Greek. The allusion is to Jacob’s ladder (⇒ Genesis 28:12).