Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 4 April 2014; Revised 11 May 2022
Scripture Text: The Scripture text of John used in this commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison and based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. See my web article The Jewish New Testament.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Torah (Law), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ). I use the title "The Testimony of John" because that is how John describes his book (John 21:24). See the article Witnesses of the Good News for background information on this book.
Methodology: For an explanation of abbreviations, acronyms, terminology, spelling conventions, and other information on organization of the commentary see my Commentary Writing Philosophy.
Primary Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Unless otherwise indicated the following primary sources are used:
• Different Bible versions may be cited for Scripture quotations. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Messianic Jewish versions are CJB, DHE, GNC, HNV, MW, OJB, & TLV. Quotations marked with the initials "BR" indicate the translation of the commentary author.
• The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which was in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. The LXX with English translation may be found here.
• Citations for Josephus, the first century Jewish historian (Yosef ben Matityahu), are from The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75-99 A.D.) trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
• The meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009). See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations. Definitions of Hebrew words are from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), given as "BDB." The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online.
• Dates are from Risto Santala, The Messiah in the New Testament in the Light of Rabbinical Writings (1992). Online.
Please see the article Witnesses of the Good News for background information on John and his book.
The Forerunner and the Messiah, 1:6-18
The Testimony of the Forerunner, 1:19-34
Presentation of the Messiah, 1:35-51
c. 4000−5,000 B.C.
In the beginning: Grk. archē, is a multi-purpose word with the basic meaning of priority, here identifying the point of derivation or originating moment; beginning, start. Genesis 1:1 declares the creation of the triune universe (time-space-matter). "In the beginning" stresses the commencement of time as something measured by hours, days, months, years, millennia and ages. Rienecker suggests that archē refers to the period before creation and is more qualitative than temporal. The phrase here, being the same as the first words in the LXX of Genesis 1:1 is not accidental, but likely intended as a commentary or midrash on that verse. Some Christian commentaries fail to mention the Jewish character of John's opening words to his book.
Risto Santala, Lutheran Bible scholar, comments,
"It is a remarkable fact that theologians have for so long been so blind that they have failed to see the Prologue's Jewish background in the New Testament and outside of it. The opening words of John are, as we noted above, reminiscent of the Midrashic "overture," in Aramaic petihta. The Jews know the form from the blessing they use every day with which they sanctify drinking water taken apart from a meal: "Blessed art thou, O king of the universe: everything was made by his word", hakkol nihyah bidvaro". Every Jew knows off by heart this request, which can be found in both the Siddur prayerbook and the Mishna." (Santala 67)
John, in contrast to Matthew and Luke, does not begin his book with an infancy narrative. Rather, John begins much earlier in history in order to fulfill his purpose of demonstrating that Yeshua is the Messiah and Son of God (John 20:31). The dating of creation is uncertain, but the account of earth history in the Bible fixes the creation of the heavens and the earth at several thousand, rather than several billion, years ago. The narrative of Genesis 1 is straightforward enough for anyone willing to accept the simple truth that God made the heavens and the earth and all therein in six days, as God concisely summarizes it in Exodus 20:11 and 31:17. Unfortunately, too many people are willing to settle for the fantasies and mythologies of so-called scientists rather than trust the infallible Word of God.
was: Grk. eimi, impf., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). The imperfect tense is used of continuous or repeated action in past time. In other words, "in the beginning when the heavens and the earth were being created." the Word: Grk. logos is used primarily for (1) a vocalized expression of the mind, as communication ranging broadly in extent of content and variety of form; word, discourse, statement, message or speech; but also a few times as (2) a figure of speech for the divine person (also 1Jn 1:1; Rev 19:13).
In the LXX logos stands principally for Heb. dabar (SH-1697), which has a similar range of meaning: saying, speech, word, message, report, tidings, discourse, story, command, advice, counsel, promise, thing, or matter, whether of men or God (Gen 29:13; BDB 182). Logos is also used for Heb. amar (to utter, say, Gen 34:8), imrah ("speech, utterance, word," Gen 4:23), and Aram. millah (word, utterance, matter, Dan 4:31) (DNTT 3:1087). John uses Logos as a personification of deity who spoke and commanded into being. As Stern says, "a God who does not speak, a Word-less God, is no God" (153). "The Word" is the first of at least a dozen distinctive names, titles or points of identification for Yeshua in this chapter, some of which will be repeated elsewhere in the book.
John's use of Logos as a personification might seem strange, but since his audience was primarily Jewish, then Logos conveys the teaching of the Targums, the interpretative translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Aramaic. (For a concise summary see Bruce Metzger, The Jewish Targums.) The Targums are important because they reflect the tradition of translating the Hebrew Scriptures into the common language of the people while being read aloud. The earliest mention of the practice is in the time of Ezra (Neh 8:8). In Yeshua's time a meturgan provided translation in synagogue services (Moseley 11). For John the Greek word logos corresponds to the Aramaic word "memra" ("word"), a technical theological term used when speaking of God's expression of himself (Stern 154).
In the Targums the Aram. memra is sometimes used interchangeably in reference to God (Shapira 60). Daniel Boyarin, an orthodox Jew and professor of Talmudic Culture at the University of California-Berkley, explains,
"Although official rabbinic theology sought to suppress all talk of the Memra or Logos by naming it the heresy of "Two Powers in Heaven" (Hagigah 15a), before the rabbis, contemporaneously with them, and even among them, there were many Jews in both Palestine [sic] and the Diaspora who held on to a version of monotheistic theology that could accommodate this divine figure linking heaven and earth. Whereas Rambam [Maimonides, Medieval writer] and his followers until today understood the Memra, along with the Shekhinah ("Presence"), as a means of avoiding anthropomorphisms in speaking of God, historical investigation suggests that in the first two centuries CE, the Memra was not a mere name, but an actual divine entity functioning as mediator." ("Logos, a Jewish Word: John's Prologue as Midrash", JANT 547)
Boyarin goes on to list nine examples from the Targums that suggest the Memra has many of the same roles of the Logos of John. DNTT concurs. In the article on Logos, Bertold Klappert says, "the designation of memra in the Targums appears as the Memra of YHVH or ADONAI, and always as an executive agent for God's activity" (3:1116), and in the article on Rhēma Otto Betz says that Aram. memra "appears a periphrasis [circumlocution] for the God who reveals himself" (3:1120). Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889), a Jewish scholar who converted to Christian faith, provides specific data on the usage of Memra in his monumental work The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah:
"In the Targumim we get yet another expression, which, strange to say, never occurs in the Talmud. It is that of the Memra, Logos, or 'Word.' Not that the term is exclusively applied to the Divine Logos. … Altogether that term, as applied to God, occurs in the Targum Onkelos 179 times, in the so-called Jerusalem Targum 99 times, and in the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan 321 times. A critical analysis shows that in 82 instances in Onkelos, in 71 instances in the Jerusalem Targum, and in 213 instances in the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, the designation Memra is not only distinguished from God, but evidently refers to God as revealing Himself. But what does this imply? The distinction between God and the Memra of Jehovah is marked in many passages." (Book 1, Chap. 4, §3)
Risto Santala adds,
"When Christian Logos interpretation began to spread, the Rabbis avoided using the word Memra and censored it from their own writings. The Memra or creative word of God was before the creation. Deut. 33:27 says, for example, that, "The everlasting God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." Targum Onqelos, the only Targum officially recognized by the Synagogue, says of this that, "these 'everlasting arms' are the Memra, through whom the world was created." (67)
and: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. There are over 50 conjunctions in biblical Greek, but kai is by far the most common in the Besekh, occurring over 9,000 times (BibleHub). The excessive use of conjunctions and beginning verses with a conjunction, as in verse 14 below, is evidence of either an original Hebrew text or Jewish Greek. In contrast to most Bible versions I translate all the instances of kai (and all the other conjunctions) as a reminder of John's Hebraic writing style.
the Word: Grk. logos, with the definite article. was: Grk. eimi, impf. with: Grk. pros, prep., lit. "near or facing" (DM 110), to, towards, with. Since the noun following is in the accusative case, then pros would have the meaning of being "in company with" (BAG). Almost all versions translate pros as "with," but a few versions give a more specific meaning. GNC translates pros as "by the side of." The OJB translates the pros with Yiddish agav ("by"), but notes a parallel verse of Proverbs 8:30 where Wisdom is "beside" ADONAI with Heb. etsel ("a joining together, proximity, beside" SH-681). The LXX renders etsel in that verse with para, "to the side of, with." The preposition here supports the concept of the "persons" or "faces" of God.
In fact, the Hebrew word for "face," panim, used frequently for the "face" or presence of God (Gen 3:8; 4:14; 32:30; 33:10) is actually plural and could be translated as "faces." In the Tanakh God has multiple "faces," as may be seen in the figurative terms used of Him (shield, father, husband, shepherd, healer, savior, kinsman-redeemer) and the many names ascribed to Him (Adonai, Adonai-YHVH, El, Eloah, Elohim, El-Elyon, El-Roi, El-Shaddai, El-Olam, El-Beit-el, El-Elohe-Yisrael, Qadosh, Qadosh Yisrael, YHVH, YHVH-Elohim, YHVH-Elohim-Elyon, YHVH-Yireh, YHVH-Elohe-Haibriyim, YHVH-Eloheinu, YHVH-Rophe, YHVH-Nissi, YHVH-M'Kaddesh, YHVH-Shalom, YHVH-Tsidekenu, YHVH-Rohi, and YHVH-Shammah).
God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. In secular Greek writings a number of deities, always represented in anthropomorphic form, were called theos. In ancient polytheistic culture theos was not one omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and ruler of the universe and certainly not spirit as described in Scripture (John 4:24). In the LXX theos renders the Hebrew words for God, El, Eloah and Elohim, as well as the tetragrammaton YHVH (DNTT 2:67-70). Generally in Scripture theos represents the full triunity of God (Father + Son + Spirit). As with many other Greek words the LXX infused new meaning into theos.
The only God in existence is the "God of Israel," an expression that occurs frequently in the Tanakh and twice in the Besekh (Matt 15:31; Luke 1:68). Parallel to this formula is "God of Jacob,” which appears 21 times in Scripture, 13 of which include the longer formula, "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." Every nation had their deity, but only to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and then Moses did the true God reveal His name, His election and His commandments. This God may be the God of the Gentiles (Rom 3:29), but only if they accept the revelation that He is the God of Israel and join themselves to Israel. Only the God of Israel saves (Jer 16:19-20).
and God: Grk. theos. was: Grk. eimi, impf. the Word: Grk. logos. Almost all versions have "the Word was God." While the Greek text has a definite article before "God" in the middle phrase, there is no definite article before "God" in this phrase. The word order in all the Greek texts is kai theos ēn [impf. of eimi] ho logos, "and God was the Word." The same order is found in the Latin, the Syriac and the Hebrew (Delitzsch; BSI-NT) versions. English Bible versions follow the Greek word order for translating the first and middle phrases, but not the last. The only English versions that preserve the word order for the entire verse are the Wycliffe Bible (from the Latin, 1395), the modern translations of the Syriac (Alexander, Etheridge, Lamsa & Younan) and from the Greek, Daniel Gruber's The Messianic Writings (2011).
While the two translations of "the Word was God" and "God was the Word" may seem like a distinction without a difference John makes an important point with this word order. A DHE translation note says, "The word order communicates the sense of "and God is what the Word was" (329). In the first phrase John states the eternal existence of the Logos-Dabar. In the middle phrase he declares that the Logos-Dabar was alongside of or with Theos-Elohim from the beginning. Then in this phrase John reverses the proposition to declare that Theos-Elohim was Logos-Dabar.
Leon Morris rejects the "God was the Word" translation because he believes it would mean that God and the Word were the same. Tenney agrees saying, "Unity of nature rather than similarity or likeness is implied." Yet, the omission of the definite article before theos allowed the Jehovah's Witnesses to justify translating the phrase as "the Word was a god." Rather John engages in typical Hebraic "block logic," a way of expressing concepts in self-contained units or "blocks" of thought that accept paradox and apparent contradiction (Wilson 150). For example, Messianic prophecies in Isaiah describe the expected son as Father and ADONAI (who is Yeshua, John 8:58):
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be on his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isa 9:6 HNV)
"For You are our Father— even if Abraham would not know us or Israel not recognize us. You, ADONAI, are our Father, our Redeemer— from everlasting is Your Name." (Isa 63:16 TLV)
John's opening statement is meant to convey to a Jewish audience the absolute truth of the Shema, as Yeshua quoted, "Sh'ma Yisra'el, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad [Hear, O Isra'el, the LORD our God, the LORD is one]" (Mark 12:29 CJB). The apostles did not teach the worship of three gods, but of the God of Israel, the only God in existence, who is one. In fact, God is called "The One" periodically in the Tanakh (e.g. Ps 3:3; 37:24; Isa 40:26; 44:24; 45:7; 49:7; Hos 11:7; Amos 9:5-6; Zech 14:9). The Jewish apostles also employ this euphemism (John 1:33; 6:46; 7:18; 12:45; 15:21; Acts 10:42; Rom 5:17; 2Cor 4:6; Jas 5:20). However, God's oneness does not deny His many "faces" and indeed the Tanakh reveals God to be complex whose nature is beyond human comprehension. Thus, Isaiah can speak of "The One" as God and yet not the Father, The One who would be despised (Isa 49:7).
The enigma remains, though, of how God can be one and yet be Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Doesn't that make God three beings? Non-Messianic Jews mistakenly think that Christians believe in three gods. Yet, nowhere do Yeshua and the apostles say that God is three. (The so-called Johannine Comma found in 1Jn 5:7 of the KJV is totally spurious due to its lack of support in Greek MSS, the Greek Fathers, and the MSS of ancient versions; Metzger 647f.) The Hebrew echad does mean singularity and uniqueness. When applied to God echad means that the God of Israel is the only God there is (Isa 45:5). The gods of other religions are the result of Satan's deception and man's imagination. And, as such He alone is to be worshipped.
Nevertheless, echad also conveys compound or composite unity. For example, echad is used in "one flesh," the joining of male and female genitals (Gen 2:24). The Torah says there is "one" statute for the Israelite and for the alien (Num 15:15), which means the 613 commandments function as a unity. When Israelites acted in unity they were described as echad (Jdg 20:8; 1Sam 11:7). There is also the echad of a cluster of grapes (Num 13:23). Thus, echad incorporates the idea of a plurality in unity, and in reference to God a very complex unity.
In Genesis 1:1 Elohim ("God," plural of Eloah) created the heavens and the earth. Elohim is a plural noun and the very nature of the universe attests to plurality in the Creator. The universe is a compound unity of time, space, and matter, each of which also consist of three parts. Time has three principal aspects: past, present, and future, all at the same time. Space has three basic dimensions or directions: north-south, east-west, and up-down. Nothing exists in one or two dimensions. (A drawing of two dimensions has three dimensions.) Matter consists of energy, motion and phenomena at the same time. (For a detailed explanation of the triunity of the universe see Dr. Henry Morris, Biblical Basis for Modern Science, Ch. 2.) However, time, space and matter can all be divided into sub-categories, illustrating that their nature is just as complex as the Creator.
A mathematical equation that represents the nature of God is not 1+1+1=1, but 1x1x1=1. (In this multiplication formula inserting more "ones" does not change the result.) That is the mystery of God. In Genesis 1:26 the Creator says, "Let us make man in our image,” and man is also a plurality in unity (body, soul & spirit), as mentioned in the very next verse after the one in which God is declared to be one (Deut 6:5; cf. 1Th 5:23) As indicated above God has revealed Himself with more than one "face" in Scripture. Genesis 1:2 mentions the Ruakh (Spirit) of Elohim as moving over the ball of water that would become the earth. Three men visited Abraham, shared a meal and conversed, and one of them is identified as YHVH (Gen 18:1-14, 17).
Rabbi Max Wertheimer (1863-1941) testified that he came to believe that God was in Yeshua after reading and meditating on the account of Genesis 18 in which Abraham received three visitors (TSOI 115). Two of the visitors are identified later as angels (Gen 19:1), but the third is identified ten times as YHVH, and five times as Adonai ("Lord"). In this narrative YHVH appeared to Abraham as a man (18:1, 4), consumed food (18:6-7) and spoke to Abraham face to face (18:13-14, 26). In the middle of Chapter 18 YHVH talks to Himself and to someone else that is not Abraham (vv. 17-21). In this conversation YHVH purposes to conduct a moral inspection of Sodom and Gomorrah. After agreeing with Abraham's terms for sparing these cities and not finding ten righteous persons there we find in the next chapter this statement, "Then YHVH rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from YHVH out of heaven" (19:29 BR). This Scripture depicts two persons identified as YHVH, one walking on earth and the other in heaven. Thus, it must be one omnipresent YHVH, and that being true, "YHVH could be simultaneously both in Heaven and with and in Yeshua."
Isaiah 48:16 uses three different terms to speak of the divine: "From the first I have not spoken in secret, from the time it took place, I was there. And now the Lord [Heb. Adonai] GOD [Heb. YHVH] has sent Me, and His Spirit [Heb. Ruakh]" (NASB). Yeshua will later say in John's book, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). Then in his high priestly prayer he will say, "You, Father, are in me and I in You" (John 17:21). So, John in typical Jewish manner emphasizes the mystery of the echad or oneness of the God of Israel who is compound in nature. As Stern notes, John's declaration of the Word and God is not simply of two separate beings. It is a matter of both/and, not either/or. Only consider that in Isaiah 9:6 the prophesied "son" is called "Everlasting Father."
2 This one was in the beginning with God.
This verse may seem like a pointless redundancy, but John adds a few important points. First, this one, being a demonstrative pronoun, emphasizes that the Word was (is) a person, not a philosophical concept. Second, John makes it clear that the Word was not a created being, as taught by the fourth-century heretic Arius and in pseudo-Christian religions today. Third, while eternity is a concept beyond human imagination, the rest of the verse stresses that the existence of the Logos-God (i.e., Yeshua) predates the beginning of time and creation (cf. Ps 90:2; Prov 8:25; Isa 40:28; John 17:5; Rev 1:8).
Rabbinic expositions on the pre-existence of the Messiah were based on two passages:
"His name shall endure forever; His name shall be continued as long as the sun." (Ps 72:17 ASV)
"But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity." (Mic 5:2 NASB)
Important for consideration of this subject is Psalm 72, written by King Solomon. The psalm is Messianic, that is, it depicts the reign of the righteous and divine King. Most Bible versions convert the psalm into a wish prayer with many verses beginning with "May He" or "Let them," as if Solomon were instructing the people how to pray for him. Instead the Hebrew text of the verses (2, 4, 6, 8, 12-15, 17-19) declares forthrightly the nature and actions of the Messiah, the truly Righteous King, which Solomon was not. The closing doxology drew the attention of the Jewish Sages:
"17 His name shall endure forever; His name shall be continued as long as the sun; and His name shall be blessed and all nations shall call Him blessed. 18 Blessed be ADONAI Elohim, the God of Israel who only does wondrous things. 19 and blessed forever be His glorious name; and all the earth will be filled with His glory. Amen, and Amen." (BR)
Arguing from Psalm 72:17 the Talmud declares,
"It was taught that seven things were created before the world was created; they are the Torah, repentance, the Garden of Eden, Gey-Hinnom, the Throne of Glory, the Temple, and the name of the Messiah.” (Pesachim 54a; also Nedarim 39b)
Rabbinic opinion was also influenced by the book of Enoch, dated prior to the Talmud from the first century BC. Enoch says,
"Before the sun and the signs [zodiac], the heavens and the stars were created, the name of the Messiah was decreed by the Lord of the spiritual powers" (Enoch 48:3). "The Messiah, Son of God, was chosen and hidden with God before the creation of the world" (Enoch 48:6). (Quoted in Santala 68).
Scripture is clear that the Messiah is eternal. No other Jew has ever dared to claim as did the thirty year old carpenter from Nazareth that, "Amen, amen I tell you, before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58 TLV). In his high-priestly prayer he says, "Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world came to be" (17:5 TLV), and "You loved me before the foundation of the world" (17:24 TLV).
3 All things came into being through him, and without him nothing came into being that has come into being.
All things: pl. of Grk. pas, all, every. The term conveys comprehensiveness and in relation to creation includes the basic elements of the universe, time, space and matter. came into being: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid., to transfer from one state or condition to another, which may be expressed in one of three ways: (1) come into being by birth or natural process; be born or produced; (2) exist through application of will or effort by a person; be made, be performed; or (3) undergo a state of existence, change or development; come to be, become, take place, happen, occur, arise, be, appear, come, arrive. The aorist tense signifies the completed action in past time, that is, creation was completed and is not now occurring as evolutionists claim. In the LXX ginomai renders Heb. hayah (SH-1961), "to fall out, to come into being, become, come to pass, to be," e.g., 22 times in Genesis 1.
through: Grk. dia, prep., by means of, through. The preposition conveys instrumentality in this instance. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun, masculine; him. John again emphasizes both the personhood of the Logos and his part in creation, echoing David's words, "By the word [Heb. dabar; LXX logos] of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host" (Ps 33:6). and without: Grk. chōris, prep., in a condition or circumstance not including; without, apart from. him: Grk. autos. nothing: Grk. houde hen, lit. "not one thing" (Marshall). In other words, not one molecule, not one atom, existed before God created. came into being: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. that: Grk. hos, relative pronoun used to specify or give significance to the mention of a noun or piece of information that precedes; who, which, what, that.
has come into being: Grk. ginomai, perf. The Greek word order is lit. "and without him became not one thing which has become" (Marshall). John asserts the agency of creation, first positively, then negatively. Not only was the Logos present from before the beginning of time, but the Logos was the agent by which God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth. The testimony of the Torah demonstrates this distinction between the "faces" (Heb. panim) or persons whom Elohim represents.
Exodus 20:1 says, "Then God [Heb. Elohim] spoke all these words" and the narrative goes on to list the ten commandments. In the fourth commandment, verse 11, Elohim says, "in six days the LORD [Heb. YHVH] made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day" (Ex 20:11; also 31:17). Elohim says that YHVH created. David echoes Elohim's declaration, "By the word [Heb. dabar; LXX logos] of the LORD [Heb. YHVH] the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host" (Ps 33:6; cf. Ps 148:5; Heb 11:3). Well, the Logos (=Yeshua, verse 14) = YHVH. Peter declared before the Sanhedrin that Yeshua is the author of life (Acts 3:15). Paul concurs with John and Peter that Yeshua, the Word incarnate, was the agent of creation (Col 1:15-17; 3:10).
John's declaration is especially important in the origins debate. A number of Christian writers since the early nineteenth century have needlessly attempted to reconcile the creation account of Genesis 1 and evolution by amalgamating the two opposing points of view. The Theistic Evolution position treats the Genesis narrative as parabolic literature instead of historical fact. The Progressive Creation position assumes the days of creation correspond to the ages assigned to the so-called geologic column. The Gap Theory position assumes a time break between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 during which angelic warfare cause destruction of God's original creation and the rest of Genesis 1 is the story of God reconstructing what Satan had destroyed. (The preceding links are to informational articles at ChristianAnswers.net.)
The various compromise positions on origins have been ably discredited by creation scientists as being both inconsistent with Scripture and devastating to biblical theology (BBMS 115-125). For a concise comparison of the various beliefs about origins see the chart prepared by Dr. Henry Morris. In addition, see my web article The Days of Genesis 1. John concurs with Genesis: "in the beginning God created." The teaching of Scripture refutes man's false philosophies concerning the origin and meaning of the world:
● Scripture refutes atheism, because the universe was created by God.
● Scripture refutes pantheism, for God is transcendent to that which He created.
● Scripture refutes polytheism, for one God created all things.
● Scripture refutes materialism, for matter had a beginning.
● Scripture refutes dualism, because God was alone when He created.
● Scripture refutes humanism, because God, not man, is the ultimate reality.
● Scripture refutes evolutionism, because God created all things.
(taken from Dr. Henry Morris, The Genesis Record, Baker Book House, 1976, p. 38.)
4 In him was life, and the life was the Light of men.
John proceeds from creation by the Word to redemption by the same Word (Lightfoot 3:239). In: Grk. en, prep., root meaning "within" (DM 105). him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun, masculine; him. John again emphasizes the personhood of the Logos. was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 1 above. life: Grk. zōē, the state of being alive in the physical sense in contrast to being dead; life. The Besekh not only uses zōē in its normal meaning of physical existence on planet earth in the presence age, but over forty times for life that continues into the next age and eternity, half of which are in the writings of John. In the LXX zōē renders Heb. chay (SH-2416, alive, living) with both literal and figurative uses. In Scripture only animals and humans are described as "living" in the literal sense.
God (the Father) has life in himself (John 5:26) and is the source of life (Gen 1:20-25). The word "life" may be shorthand for "breath of life" (Gen 2:7), because "living" is defined as that which has breath (cf. Gen 6:17). John's point is that the Logos had life in himself. He was not created. Moreover, the Logos has the capacity to give physical life (Gen 2:7), which was manifested in the ministry of Yeshua through restoration of life to the dead (Matt 9:18-25; Luke 7:11-15; John 11:1-44), but more importantly the provision of spiritual life (John 4:14; 5:21; 6:27, 33; 10:28) to those dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:5; Col 2:13). In this creation context it is no accident that Adam named his wife Chavvah (Khav-vah; unfortunately "Eve" in Christian Bibles), which means "life," because the first woman was the mother of all the living. It was the promised Seed of Chavvah (Gen 3:15) who would be the Life of the world (Lightfoot 3:239).
and the Life: With the definite article John uses zōē as a synonymous euphemism for Logos, "the Word." was the Light: Grk. phōs (Heb. or), that which serves as a revealing or disclosing medium; light. Light as a physical illumination was the first created thing (Gen 1:3) and that verse contains the first recorded words of God, "Let there be light." In God's creation sequence light was created on the first day, whereas the interstellar lights (stars, sun, etc.) were not created until the fourth day. Light is the most basic of all forms of energy and includes not only visible light but all forms of radiant energy. All the forms of light move in waves at a tremendous rate of speed known as the velocity of light. As a primal form of energy light energy is an apt spiritual analogy of the power of Scripture, as David says, "The unfolding of Your words gives light" (Ps 119:130) (BBMS 225).
Yeshua as "the Light" is a major theme for John (five times in this chapter, plus 3:19-21; 8:12; 9:5; 12:35-36, 46; and 1Jn 2:8-10; cf. Matt 4:16; Luke 2:32). Ancient Jewish literature connects the idea of Light with the Messiah in its discussions of various passages in the Tanakh, such as Genesis 1:3, Psalm 36:10, Isaiah 49:6 and 60:1 and Daniel 2:22. Risto Santala comments in his book The Messiah in the Old Testament in the Light of Rabbinical Writings that,
"The rabbinic Sages treated the references to the first light and the two great lights created on the fourth day as allusions to the Messiah. The Rabbis considered the Aramaic word Nehora, "light,” to be one of the secret names of the Messiah. So, when Yeshua identified himself as the Light of the World, people understood that he was using a metaphor of Messianic identity." (36)
On the passage Genesis 1:3 the Targum Neofiti says, "And the Memra [Word] of YHVH said 'Let there be light' and there was light by his Memra" (JANT 547; online). In the Tanakh light is a frequent image for God or God's presence or favor (Ps 27:1; 36:9; Isa 2:5) (Reinhartz 157). The Midrash known as Pesikhta Rabbah, which was read from the 9th century on in connection with feast days, asks, "Whose is this light which falls upon the congregation of the Lord?" and answers, "It is the light of the Messiah" (Pesikhta Rabbah 62,1; Shapira 183).
of men: pl. of Grk. anthrōpos, human being; here of mankind or the human race. In the LXX anthrōpos renders three Hebrew words: (1) adam, SH-444, used for a human male or generically for man and woman and as a contrast to animals (e.g., Gen 1:26, 27; 2:5; 2Sam 15:29); (2) ish, SH-376, adult male or husband (Gen 2:23, 24; Job 1:1) and (3) enosh, SH-582, man or mankind, often signifying the aspect of weakness and mortality (Job 5:17; Ps 8:4-5). The OJB translates the plural a with Bnei Adam ("descendants of Adam"). In Genesis the creation of man is the high point, following the creation of light on which he is totally dependent. His humanity resides in the life he has been given (Gen 2:7) and his likeness to God (Gen 1:27). Unlike animals he is capable of communion with God (Gen 1:28; 2:7), but through disobedience he falls victim to death. The Hebrew designation adam no longer simply alludes to creatureliness, but also to his transitoriness (Gen 3:19) (DNTT 2:564).
5 And the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
And the Light: Grk. ho phōs. See the previous verse. shines: Grk. phainō may mean (1) function in a manner that makes observation possible; shine, appear, or (2) be in a state or condition of being visible or observed; appear. The first meaning applies here. "The light keeps on giving light" (Robertson). in the darkness: Grk. ho skotia may mean (1) condition prevailing when it is night; darkness; or (2) an inward state or condition amounting to ignorance or benightedness in moral or spiritual matters; darkness. The second meaning applies here. John states a simple fact of physics and then applies a spiritual lesson. God created the blackness of interstellar space on the first day of creation (Gen 1:2; Isa 50:3). Yet, when He immediately followed that act with creating light (Gen 1:3), the brightness invaded and dispersed the darkness. Light was present before there was ever a star in the heavens.
and the darkness: Grk. ho skotia. did not: Grk. ou, adv., a particle used in an unqualified denial or negation; not. overcome it: Grk. katalambanō, aor., to take over, (1) in a physical sense to grasp; seize, secure or (2) in a sense of mental grasping; perceive, comprehend. Danker suggests that John blends these meanings in the double sense of grasp as to seize and comprehend. In other words, the darkness neither understood nor quenched the light (Rienecker). By the laws of physics darkness can never extinguish light. The spiritual truth is that through the Word of God the sin-darkened soul must first be enlightened before he can manifest any other form of spiritual energy in his life (BBMS 225). As Paul says, "For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Messiah" (2Cor 4:6 TLV).
Autumn, A.D. 26
There came: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 3 above. The verb possibly alludes to Yochanan's nativity (Luke 1), but more likely his arrival from the wilderness (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:2) (so Danker). a man: Grk. anthrōpos, human being, here "a man." Following the verb is the noun reflecting Yochanan's growth into maturity. With typical Hebraic understatement John affirms that while Yochanan was the son of a priest, he did not trade on his status. Yochanan was an ordinary man, just as Jacob describes Elijah as a "man like us" (Jas 5:17). sent: Grk. apostellō, perf. pass. part., to cause to move from one position to another, but often to send as an authoritative personal representative.
Originally in Greek culture apostellō was used of sending an envoy to represent a king or a personal representative with legal powers. In the LXX apostellō translated Heb. shalach ("to stretch out or to send," SH-7971), often in contexts of commissioning and empowering a messenger (DNTT 1:128). The verb is used especially in the apostolic writings of the disciples selected and sent out by Yeshua. The perfect tense indicates the permanent character of his mission (Morris). from God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. Finally Yochanan arrived to begin his God-ordained ministry. his name: Grk. onoma is used in its central sense of identifying someone. In Hebrew literature it also carries the extended sense of qualities, powers, attributes or reputation.
was Yochanan: Grk. Iōannēs attempts to transliterate the Heb. Yōchanan ("John" in Christian Bibles) and means "the Lord is gracious," an apt description of the one who would prepare the way of the Messiah (Stern 15). Early English Bible versions shortened Iōannēs to four letters and the Mace New Testament (1729) was the first to use the spelling of "John." Yochanan was a cousin (degree unknown) of Yeshua, born in Hebron just six months before Yeshua (cf. Luke 1:26, 36, 56-57). In Luke's birth narrative Zechariah was directed by the angel Gabriel to name his son Yochanan (Luke 1:13) and when the time came for Brit Milah (ritual circumcision) bystanders were surprised by the choice of the name, saying "There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name" (Luke 1:61). Jewish custom from ancient times is to name a child after a relative (based on Num 2:2), usually a grandparent.
Actually, Zechariah could have pointed out that there were three distant relatives with the name Yochanan: a Levite who was descended from a distinguished line of priests and who served as high priest in the reign of King Rehoboam (1Chr 6:9-10), one who was high priest when Ezra returned from exile (Ezra 10:6; Neh 12:11, 22-23) and another post-exilic priest (Neh 12:13, 42) (Barker 193f). There was also the famous Hasmonean high priest and prince John Hyrcanus (175-104 B.C.). The Tanakh also identifies seven notable men from other tribes who bore this name. In the Besekh there are four other men with the name Iōannēs: (1) the disciple and apostle of Yeshua, Mark 1:19; (2) the father of Simon Peter, John 1:42; (3) a relative of the high priest, Caiaphas, Acts 4:6; and (4) the nephew of Barnabas, Acts 12:12. (For the purposes of this commentary the name "Yochanan" will be used for the Immerser and "John" for the apostle.)
While John offers no dating information on Yochanan's birth or the commencement of his ministry, Luke does:
Birth: "In the days of Herod, King of Judea, there was a kohen named Zechariah, from the priestly division of Abijah." (Luke 1:5 TLV)
"Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of the Galil, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 in the time of the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, a word of God came to Yochanan, the son of Zechariah, in the wilderness. (Luke 3:1-3 BR)
Yochanan was most likely born in March, 3 BC, six months before Yeshua. (See my nativity commentary on Luke 1.) The beginning of Yochanan's ministry coincides with Caesar Tiberius, who began the fifteenth year of his reign. Caesar Augustus died on the 19th of August A.D. 14 (per Dio Cassius, Book 56, 30:5), but at least two years earlier Tiberius was granted co-princeps powers. In other words, Tiberius functioned as co-ruler from A.D. 12. It was customary in the provinces to reckon the co-sovereignty period as part of the Emperor's reign, thus setting the commencement of Yochanan's ministry in Autumn A.D. 26 (Edersheim 183; Santala 125).
7 He came as a witness, that he might testify about the Light, that all might believe through him.
He came: Grk. erchomai, aor., come or arrive, mostly with implication of a position from which action or movement takes place, but it also may focus on the goal for movement. The apostolic narratives do not say where Yochanan spent his time from his youth in Hebron to when he appeared as the Immerser. Some scholars believe he spent time with the Essenes before commencing his ministry as Messiah's forerunner ("the word of God came to Yochanan in the wilderness," Luke 3:2), but Scripture and Jewish literature make no mention of any association with the Essenes. as a witness: Grk. marturia, attestation of a fact or truth; testimony, witness, especially in a legal context. Yochanan was the son of a priest and one of the functions of priests assigned in the Torah was to hear evidence and determine truth (Deut 17:9; 19:17).
that he might testify: Grk. martureō, aor. subj., to attest to a fact or truth; testify, attest. John engages in a word play here. Instead of serving as a judge for a legal determination, Yochanan would serve as a witness of the truth. A judgment to convict someone of a crime had to be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses (Deut 17:6; 19:5). However, as a witness Yochanan did not have to produce other witnesses to verify his testimony. His word as a priest would be considered unassailable. The burden of proof would fall on anyone disputing his testimony. about: Grk. peri, prep. with an orientational aspect relating to being near, about, or having to do with something; about, concerning. the Light: Grk. phōs. See verse 4 above. The statement of Yochanan's testimony alludes to the answers he gave in response to the interrogation he received from Judean leaders in verses 19-24 below.
that all might believe: Grk. pisteuō, aor. subj., in general Greek usage means to have confidence in the reliability or trustworthiness of some thing or someone; believe, trust. In the LXX pisteuō renders the Heb. 'aman, which essentially means to confirm or support (BDB 52). In the Niphal form 'aman means to be true, reliable or faithful and can be applied to men (e.g., Moses, Num 12:7), but especially to God who keeps his covenant and gives grace to those who love him (Deut 7:9). In the Hiphil form 'aman means to stand firm or trust as Abraham trusted in God's promise (Gen 15:6). The verb speaks of a behavioral action, not merely a mental process.
The action begins with the conviction of God's existence, generosity and faithfulness to His promises (Heb 11:6). If one is truly convinced, then one trusts; if one believes and trusts, then one is faithful and produces works of faithfulness (cf. Matt 7:21; Acts 21:20). In the book of John the noun pistis (faith, belief, faithfulness, truthfulness) occurs not at all, whereas the verb appears over 80 times and in every chapter except 18. through: Grk. dia, prep. See verse 3 above. him: personal pronoun alluding to Yeshua. Yochanan knew that he was the forerunner of the Messiah (Luke 1:17), so the focus of his ministry was to prepare people spiritually to welcome the Messiah and the Kingdom of God.
8 That man was not that Light, but he came in order that he might testify about the Light.
That man: Grk. ekeinos, masc. demonstrative pronoun, typically used to refer to a noun (person or thing) immediately preceding in the Greek text; that, that one there. was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 1 above. Even though Yochanan fulfilled the prophecy of Elijah's coming (Mal 4:5; Matt 11:14; 17:12), he did not co-exist with the Light from the beginning. not: Grk. ou, a strong negation of fact. that Light: Grk. phōs. See verse 4 above. but: Grk. alla, conj., used adverbially to suggest another matter or varying viewpoint for consideration; but, one the other hand, yet, nevertheless, indeed, certainly. he came: These words are not in the Greek text, but inserted for clarity. in order that: Grk. hina, conj., used to add an idea that completes an intention expressed; in order that. he might testify: Grk. martureō, aor. subj. See the previous verse. about: Grk. peri, prep.; about, concerning. the Light: Grk. phōs.
With the revelation of Yeshua as deity under the figures of Word, Life and Light, John makes it clear that Yochanan, even though divinely appointed and called, was not Him. Yochanan was not God and he was not the Messiah. Yochanan might proclaim the message of repentance, but only the Light from God can bring conviction and repentance in the human heart. Yochanan will later make his identity clear to the Judean leaders.
9 There was the true Light, who enlightens every man, coming into the world.
There was the true: Grk. alēthinos, adj., in accord with what is true; (1) true, in the sense of reliable or dependable; (2) opposite of superficial, real, genuine, authentic; or (3) in accord with fact or circumstance, accurate. The first meaning is probably most relevant here. Light: Grk. phōs. The term has a dual layer of meaning, both physical and figurative of the Logos. who: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. "Who" is preferred over "which" or "that," since "Light" is a personification. enlightens: Grk. phōtizō, pres., cause to be bright with light; provide illumination. Rienecker adds "to instruct" and says that the present tense of the verb indicates the revelation is only in Yeshua.
every: Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope; all, every. man: Grk. anthrōpos, human being. The phrase could also be translated "all mankind." Yeshua pointed out the obvious that the sun shines on the good and the bad (Matt 5:45). In the spiritual sense every person has received knowledge of God, which in Wesleyan theology is called prevenient grace. coming: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid. part., come or arrive, with implication of a position from which action or movement takes place.
into the world: Grk. kosmos, usually translated "world," has a variety of uses in the apostolic writings, including (1) the entire cosmic universe including the earth; (2) the planet upon which mankind lives; (3) the inhabitants of the earth; (4) everything in the world that opposes God and is ruined and depraved of character (BAG). In ancient Greek kosmos denoted order. The LXX of the Tanakh uses kosmos some ten times for words meaning ornaments, jewelry or decorations and five times for Heb. tsaba, the "hosts of heaven and earth," i.e., the stars (Gen 2:1; Deut 4:19). The meaning of kosmos as "world" is only found in later Greek writings of the LXX (Wis., 2nd Macc., 4th Macc.). The Tanakh has no word for the "world" corresponding to the Greek kosmos.
The Tanakh mainly calls the universe "heaven and earth," but some writings use Heb. hakkol, lit. meaning "the all," (Ps 103:19); also without the article, kol (Ps 8:7). The Tanakh presents the universe as consisting of three areas: above the earth (the heavens, which are also three), the earth, and under the earth, the underworld (Hades, Sheol). Under the influence of Hellenistic Judaism the original temporal understanding of the Heb. olam ("age, a long duration, antiquity or futurity," BDB 761)") acquired the spatial meaning of kosmos in the sense of "world, universe, the world of men." The DSS preserved the original meaning of olam, but the spatial meaning of "world" is found frequently in Rabbinic usage. The change of meaning especially impacted Jewish apocalyptic writings. "This world," like "this age," is described in Rabbinic literature as being under the domination of Satan, sin and death (DNTT 1:522-524).
The Greek construction of the verse raises the question of whether the phrase "coming into the world" alludes to "every man" or "the true Light." Morris suggests that if the former were true then it might mean "every man at the time of his birth." Of course, in Jewish culture manhood was not conferred until age 13. The "enlightening" could allude to the age at which a person becomes morally responsible to God. The verb "coming" better fits the "Light," whose presence in the world makes revelation possible to every person. John says that the invisible God became visible and projected His Light into the darkness of this world (cf. Col 1:15). The declaration of this verse echoes the prophetic word of Isaiah.
"No longer will you have the sun for light by day, nor for brightness will the moon give you light; but you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, and your God for your glory. Your sun will no longer set, nor will your moon wane; for you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, and the days of your mourning will be over." (Isa 60:19-20)
Morris notes an interesting parallel to the present passage from Jewish literature, namely, "Thou givest light … to all who enter into the world" (Leviticus Rabbah XXXI, Soncino ed.). Also, the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs speaks of the Torah as given "to lighten every man" (Testament of Levi 14:4) (Morris, fn 60, 93).
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world did not know him.
This verse has three parts with layers of meaning. The first part: He was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 1 above. in the world: Grk. kosmos. See the previous verse. One layer of meaning is that the Word being God was omnipresent in the universe He created. Another layer of meaning is that John, the elder apostle, is remembering his time with Yeshua in the world of Judea, Samaria and Galilee. The Word was everywhere, but yet He was in one locality. The second part: and the world was made: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 3 above. through him: See the comment on verse 3 above. John affirms once again the creative activity of the God who is Word-Life-Light in bringing about the existence of the universe and all life (Ps 33:6). Moreover, He is also the same God who brought Israel into existence, both as a people and as a nation.
The third part: and the world did not know him: Grk. ginōskō, aor., to know, but has a variety of meanings, including (1) to be in receipt of information; know, learn, find out; (2) form a judgment or draw a conclusion; think, understand, comprehend, perceive, notice, realize, conclude; or (3) have a personal relationship involving recognition of another's identity or value; make acquaintance, recognize. Any of these meanings could have application. In the LXX ginōskō renders Heb. yada (SH-3045), which has a similar wide range of meaning, but in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge, whether of knowing persons or knowing by experience, as well as knowing by learning (DNTT 2:395). To the Hebrew mind "knowing" is not philosophical or theoretical, but based in reality.
The God of Israel was here all along, since creation, and yet the nations of the world did not know Him. Very few people knew about Yeshua's nativity. Yeshua's family didn't understand him or his mission. Few people had a close relationship with Yeshua, because he couldn't afford to trust people (John 2:23-25). Judean leaders failed to truly understand who they were condemning (cf. John 8:19; 1Cor 2:8).
11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive him.
He came: Grk. erchomai, aor., to arrive. See verse 9 above. to: Grk. eis, prep., focus on entrance, frequently in relation to a direction toward a goal or place and consequent arrival; into, to, toward. His own: pl. of Grk. idios, adj., belonging to oneself, one's own. Idios particularly emphasizes the nature of a relationship, that is, belonging to an individual in contrast to what is public property or belongs to another. (For application of idios to property see Matt 22:5; John 10:3; Acts 4:32; 21:6; 28:30). The adjective is neuter, so it might be rendered "His own things" (Marshall). Gruber points out that the first mention of "to His own" may mean "to his own home" since the same exact Greek phrase is used in John 19:27 of John's household and close relatives into which Yeshua's mother came after having been committed into John's care (cf. John 1:41; 16:32; cf. 1Tim 5:4, 8).
However, in the immediate context John probably means that Yeshua came to his land and his culture. After all, Yeshua arrived in a location, a Land, on planet Earth that belonged to the God of Israel (Lev 25:23; 2Chron 7:20; Isa 14:2, 25; Jer 2:7; 16:18; Ezek 36:5; 38:16; Joel 1:6; 3:2). and His own: pl. of Grk. idios, his own. The second use of the adjective is masculine and likely has a more nuanced meaning, such as people. Of interest is that idios is used to describe a wife's relationship to her husband (Acts 24:24; 1Cor 7:2; 14:35; Eph 5:22; Titus 2:5; 1Pet 3:1, 5). In other words, the wife belongs exclusively to her husband and thereby is expected to be submissive to him.
Idios is never used of the husband belonging to the wife. Thus, the second use of idios alludes to the covenant people of Israel, the wife of God. In the Tanakh Israel is pictured as the wife of God (Isa 54:1-8; 62:4f; Jer 31:31; Ezek 16:1-3; Hos 2:19). Several passages in the Besekh depict the imagery of the Messiah as a bridegroom and the Kingdom being inaugurated by a wedding (Matt 22:1-14, 25:1-13; Mark 2:18-20; John 3:28-30; Rom 7:1-4; 1Cor 6:13-20; 2Cor 11:2; Eph 5:25-33; Rev 19:7). So, like a wife John also means that the covenant people belonged to the Word, whether they recognized Him or not. The Word did not belong to them. This is an important distinction.
did not receive Him: Grk. paralambanō, aor., to receive to one's side; take, receive; or to cause to go along; take. Crowds flocked after Yeshua because of the miracles, but the majority did not become his followers. Indeed some who began as followers left him after a particular confrontational teaching (John 6:66). Yeshua's own family did not receive him until after the resurrection (cf. Mark 3:21; 6:1-4; John 7:3-5; 1Cor 15:7; Acts 1:14). Gruber suggests finally that verse 11 should be understood in terms of verses 1-10, which speak of Creation and all humanity "which were made by him."
However, in the context of this chapter "his own" who "did not receive him" likely has a more particular meaning than all humanity. A commentary on Genesis 49:10 by the Medieval Jewish commentator Rashi may have relevance.
"The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a student of the law [Heb. chaqaq, Po'el ptc, lawgiver, BDB 349] from between his feet, until Shiloh come, and to him will be a gathering of peoples." (Gen 49:10 Judaica Press Tanach) [Most Christian versions translate chaqaq as "ruler's staff," but some have "lawgiver:" KJV, Lamsa, LITV, NKJV, OJB, YLT.]
Rashi: "Until Shiloh comes: This refers to the King Messiah, to whom the kingdom belongs, and so did [Targum] Onkelos render it: "until the Messiah comes, to whom the kingdom belongs." (Online)
Yeshua came to announce the arrival of the Kingdom in his person (Mark 1:15). The plural nature of the adjective idios and the verb paralambanō implies no one believed in Yeshua and the statement functions as a lamentation. A Jewish saying illustrates how John could speak in such generalities: "If five sons are faithful and two are not, you may cry, ‘Woe is me, for my sons are unfaithful!’” (Stern 386). Of course, John's lament is qualified by the next verse.
12 But as many as received Him, he gave to them power to become children of God, to the ones trusting in His name,
But: Grk. de, conj., used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also" (BAG). In this verse the conjunction introduces a contrast. as many as: Grk. hosos, relative pronoun, signifies maximum inclusion; as many as, all who. received: Grk. lambanō, aor. The verb marks the transit of a person from a position to another person who is the agent with the latter being also the receptor; to take or receive. Here the verb connotes recognizing Yeshua's authority (BAG 465). Him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The pronoun completes the thought, "as many as received Yeshua the Messiah."
he gave: Grk. didōmi, aor., to give, often with the focus on generosity. In the LXX didōmi generally renders Heb. natan (SH-5414), to give, used in one of three settings (1) by men one to another; (2) by men to God; and (3) by God to men (DNTT 2:41). to them: pl. of Grk. autos. power: Grk. exousia, the right to speak or act in a situation without looking or waiting for approval; authority, right, jurisdiction. BAG identifies a second meaning as ability to do something, capability, might, power, and identifies this as the intended meaning in this verse. Thayer concurs with BAG. The translation of "power" is found in the KJV, NIV, NKJV, NRSV, and RSV. Many modern versions translate exousia as "right," but this translation gives the wrong impression. We are inherently children of wrath, so no one can claim becoming a child of God as a right.
to become: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. inf. See verse 3 above. children: pl. of Grk. teknon, child, here used figuratively for being birthed into a spiritual family. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. The expression "tekna of God" only occurs in the words of the apostles John (here; John 11:52; 1Jn 3:1-2, 10; 5:2) and Paul (Rom 8:16, 21; 9:8; Php 2:15). John goes on to explain who may qualify to be numbered among the children of God. to those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. trusting: Grk. pisteuō, pl. pres. part., to trust in the reliability of God. See verse 7 above.
in: Grk. eis, lit. "into." See the previous verse. His: Grk. autos. name: Grk. onoma. See verse 6 above. The "children of God" are those who have received Yeshua as Messiah and Savior. In his Mars Hill sermon Paul uses "offspring [Grk. genos] of God' in a generic sense of mankind created by God (Acts 17:29), since all are created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27), but he immediately points out the necessity of repentance to avoid divine judgment. The "children of God" are those who know and serve the God of Israel.
13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of flesh nor of the will of a man, but of God.
who: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. were born: Grk. gennaō, aor. pass., to father, beget or procreate; here used figuratively of spiritual birth. not: Grk. ou, a negative particle that makes an emphatic denial of fact. of blood: pl. of Grk. Grk. haima may refer to human or animal blood. Haima also has figurative uses in the apostolic writings as the seat of life, as an expiatory sacrifice and as an apocalyptic color portending disaster. John could mean either being born in the genetic sense as an Israelite or being born as a result of offering a sacrifice at the temple. Being descended from Jacob is no guarantee of spiritual life (Rom 9:6) and the blood of bulls and goats never created spiritual birth (Heb 10:4).
nor: Grk. oude, negative particle that links a negative statement as complementary to a preceding negative. of the will: Grk. thelēma may mean (1) that which is to be carried out according to wish or purpose, will; or (2) the act of willing, will or desire. of flesh: Grk. sarx, flesh, has both literal and figurative uses in Scripture. Sarx refers basically to being alive in an earthly or physical way, including parts of the body, a human being, or a blood relation as here. Sarx is also used of a condition of human perspective, which may reflect a natural limitation, personal desire or sinfulness. In the LXX sarx translates Heb. basar (SH-1320), first in Genesis 2:21, and has the same range of meaning (DNTT 1:672).
The "will of the flesh" may have two possible meanings. First, no one becomes a child of God by unilateral decision or self-effort. God took and takes the initiative and we are saved because of His faithfulness, not our faith, His empowerment, not our ability. Second, John may also refer to becoming a son of Abraham by circumcision, i.e., a proselyte. The apostolic elders ruled firmly that spiritual birth did not require physical circumcision (Acts 15:1, 11, 19; Rom 2:28-29).
nor: Grk. oude. of the will: Grk. thelēma. of a man: Grk. anēr (Heb. ish), an adult man without regard to marital status, but in this context probably one who has taken a woman as a wife. Thus, no woman can obtain spiritual birth or be included in the Kingdom of God by marriage and decision of a husband. These three categories allude to the pride one might feel in these connections as a way of creating a hierarchy. "I'm a child of God because I'm descendant from Jacob or I'm descended from David, or I'm descended from Aaron; OR "My husband is a priest or my husband is a rabbi or my husband is a judge."
but: Grk. alla, conj., used adverbially to convey a different viewpoint for consideration; but, on the other hand. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. To receive spiritual birth requires divine procreation. The suggestion by Reinhartz (158) that the language of verses 12-13 contrasts a biological-based covenant of the Jews with a faith-based covenant of the Gospels imposes an artificial distinction that does not exist in Scripture. God's covenants have never been about biology, but His promises of grace and favor and His expectation of faithful obedience by the covenant's recipients.
Wilson makes an important point about verses 12 and 13 (138). Apostolic theology is relational or existential rather than propositional or creedal. The adoption of believers into the divine family is a powerful example of the importance of relationship to God. Moreover, that relationship came about solely because of God's initiative.
And: Grk. kai, conj. See verse 1 above. the Word: Grk. logos. See verse 1 above. became: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid., was begotten or was born. See verse 3 above. The Hebrew-English Bible renders ginomai here with Heb. labash (SH-3847, to put on, wear, clothe, be clothed), instead of the usual hayah (to become), which is a stronger word picture of the impregnation of Miriam and the fetal development than simply "became." Job uses the same word picture of being "clothed with skin and flesh, and knit together with bones and sinews" (Job 10:11). However, ginomai is used Job 10:19 where he laments of having "become" as one carried "from womb to tomb." In that regard Job is a figure of Yeshua, the Suffering Servant. Psalm 139:13-16 may also be viewed in a Messianic sense that the incarnation in the womb and the number of Yeshua's days on earth were ordained from before creation.
flesh: Grk. sarx. See the previous verse. The phrase "became flesh" could be translated as "born human." Here we learn that this Word is Yeshua and in Revelation 19:13 Yeshua is explicitly called "the Word of God.” This simple statement declares in no uncertain terms that the Word became a human being, with all its limitations (cf. Rom 8:3; Php 2:6-8; Heb 4:15), and in a supernatural but normal way of impregnation and birth (Luke 1:35). The Word became flesh in 3 BC, most likely in September. See my nativity commentary: Matthew 1 and Luke 1. My suggested timeline is a follows:
· June, 4 BC: Angelic announcement to Zechariah in Jerusalem (Luke 1:5-20).
· January, 3 BC: Angelic announcement to Miriam in Nazareth (Luke 1:26-38).
· Miriam's visit to Elizabeth in Hebron ("three months," Luke 1:39-55).
· Miriam returns to Nazareth and found to be pregnant (Luke 1:56; Matt 1:18).
· March, 3 BC: Birth, Brit Milah and naming of Yochanan the Immerser (Luke 1:57-63).
· Angelic announcement to Joseph and his obedience (Matt 1:19-25).
· September, 3 BC: Birth of Yeshua in Bethlehem and Brit Milah (Luke 2:1-21).
· October, 3 BC: Purification offering of Miriam and presentation of Yeshua at the Temple, and return to Nazareth (Luke 2:22-39).
· Summer ― Fall, 2 BC: [Return of the holy family to Bethlehem with the intention of settling there; cf. Luke 2:39; Matt 2:8-11, 21-22]
· December, 2 BC: The arrival and adoration of the Magi and flight of the holy family to and sojourn in Egypt (Matt 2:1-15).
· February, 1 BC: Death of Herod the Great (Matt 2:19).
· March, 1 BC: Return of the holy family to Nazareth (Matt 2:19-23).
and dwelt: Grk. skēnoō, aor., to take up residence; live, dwell, encamp. In the LXX skēnoō occurs only once and renders Heb. ahal (SH-167, to move a tent from place to place, Gen 13:12). However, two related nouns are important: (1) skēnē, from which the verb is derived, and (2) skēnōma, which is derived from the verb. Skēnē (tent, dwelling, Tabernacle) occurring 430 times, and skēnōma (place in which to stay, 'tent, habitation'), occurring 80 times, are used synonymously. Generally they refer to three different structures: ohel (a tent used for habitation, Gen 4:20; Deut 33:18), sometimes mishkan (Tabernacle, dwelling, Ex 25:9), and on occasion sukkah (booth, Lev 23:34).
The Tabernacle is never called sukkah but ohel or ohel moed ("tent of meeting," the appointed place where God meets his people, Ex 36:26; Josh 6:24) or sometimes mishkan (the place where God resides). It was also called the "tent of testimony" (Heb. ohel edut; Grk. skēnē tou marturiou; Acts 7:44) because it contained the covenant tablets. As a result of the LXX equation of mishkan with skēnē, the Greek word could refer to what was permanent (cf. Luke 16:9; Heb 8:2) rather than impermanent (DNTT 3:811). Important to this context is that Paul uses skēnos (a derivative of skēnē) as figurative for the human body (2Cor 5:1, 4) and skēnē for Yeshua's physical body (Heb 9:11). Applied to human life "tent" illustrates transitoriness over against the permanence of the resurrected body.
among: Grk. en, prep., lit. "in," but here in the locative sense; among. us: pl. of Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person, i.e., the Jewish people. The declaration of "dwelt among us" may allude to 2 Samuel 7:6, "Since the day I brought the people of Isra'el out of Egypt until today, I never lived in a house; rather, I traveled in a tent and a tabernacle" (CJB). The likening of the Word becoming flesh to the Tabernacle is purposeful. Like the Tabernacle God was in Yeshua. Like the Tabernacle Yeshua represented God's covenant with his people. Like the Tabernacle God met his people through Yeshua. Like the Tabernacle Yeshua was the faithful testimony of God's love to the world. However, Yeshua replaced the Tabernacle (and its successor the Temple) (Heb 8:1-2) and is therefore greater than the Tabernacle (Heb 9:11).
With "among us" John also asserts that there was ample evidence that Yeshua was a real human being who interacted with other human beings, as attested by the other apostles. In his letters written toward the end of his life John reminds people that he had both seen and touched this man (1Jn 1:1) and warned disciples that only deceivers deny the humanity of Yeshua (2John 1:7). Stern also makes an important point: "It is not that a man named Yeshua, who grew up in Natzeret, one day decided he was God. … It is God the Word who decided to become man, not the other way round."
Unbelieving Jews would say that it's impossible for God to take on human flesh. After all God is spirit (John 4:24) and His ways are high above our ways as the heavens above the earth (Isa 55:8-9). How can he be human and still be God? Denial of the incarnation is expressed in the third article of the thirteen-point creed of Moses Maimonides, the Medieval Jewish sage: "I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be his name, is not a body, that he is free from all material properties, and that he has no form whatsoever" (Stern 156). The apostles were very aware of this conundrum, but declared that the fullness of God dwelled bodily in Yeshua (2Cor 5:19; Col 1:19; 2:9). What unbelieving Jews ignore is the Tanakh speaks of God appearing in a corporeal or physical form.
First, there are passages that speak of God appearing as a man:
· In Genesis 18 Adonai appeared to Abraham (18:1) in the guise of a man, one of three men who visit (18:2). The narrative clearly identifies one of the men as YHVH who prophesies Sarah's pregnancy (18:13). Two of the men are later identified as angels who go to Sodom to carry out the decree of judgment (Gen 19:1) Of contrast to Rabbinic kashrut halakhah is that Abraham served Adonai meat and milk together (Gen 18:8).
· In Genesis 32 Jacob wrestled with a man (v. 34) whom Jacob later identifies as "the face of Elohim" (v. 30). This man also changed Jacob's name to Israel (v. 28), which only God had the right to do.
· In Joshua 5:13-15, Joshua meets a man who identifies himself as the sar (prince, chief) of the host of the LORD. In Isaiah 9:6 the son who will be given is called sar shalom.
· Ezekiel 1:26-28 describes a man having the "likeness of the glory of Adonai."
Second, there are passages where the "angel of the LORD" (Heb. malak Adonai) is identified as God and/or speaks in the first person as God. On none of these occasions does the malak Adonai employ the standard introduction of prophetic messengers who say "thus says the LORD." Rather the malak Adonai speaks as Adonai.
· In Exodus 3:3-10 the malak Adonai appeared to Moses in a burning bush. The malak Adonai is identified in the third person as YHVH and speaks in the first person as God.
· In Judges 2:1-3 the malak Adonai appears to the people of Israel and speaks in the first person as God.
· In Judges 6:11–24 the malak Adonai appears to Gideon and again speaks in the first person as God.
· In Judges 13:2–23 the malak Adonai appears to Manoah and his wife, the parents of Samson (Heb. Shimshon), and speaks in the first person giving commands as God (Jdg 13:2–23). Of interest is that Monoah's wife remarked that the visitor looked like a man.
Third, there are passages that mention some physical characteristic or activity of God. These are not anthropomorphisms, which only occur in poetic literature. While they could be idiomatic expressions, they nonetheless indicate God's affinity for humanity since we are created in His image.
· In Genesis 3:8, Adonai Elohim walks in the garden.
· In Exodus 24:9-10 the seventy elders of Israel "saw Elohim, the God of Israel" and He had feet.
· In Exodus 31:18 Elohim uses his finger to inscribe the tablets.
· In Exodus 33:19–23 Moses saw Adonai's "back."
· In Isaiah 6:1 Isaiah "saw Adonai sitting on a throne, high and lifted up.”
and we saw: Grk. theaomai, aor., to look upon with special interest; see, look at, behold, take notice of. The verb emphasizes a special perception or realization. the glory: Grk. doxa has four categories of meaning: (1) splendor or radiance in the sense of brightness, (2) magnificence in the sense of what catches the eye, (3) fame, renown, honor or approval, and (4) glorious as in the angelic beings and majesties. In the LXX doxa translates Heb. kabod (pronounced "kah-vohd"), which refers to the luminous manifestation of God's person, his glorious revelation of Himself. Characteristically, kabod is linked with verbs of seeing and appearing and stresses the impact that the manifestation of a person or God makes on others. In the apostolic writings doxa is a continuation of the underlying Hebrew concept (DNTT 2:45).
The OJB renders doxa with Heb. kavod, but the CJB has sh'khinah. Shekhinah does not occur in the Tanakh at all, but does occur frequently in the Targums and the Mishnah to mean "the glorious presence of God," particularly in reference to the glory cloud that led the people out of Egypt and through the wilderness (Ex 16:10), and filled the Tabernacle (Ex 40:34) and later the Temple (2Kgs 8:11). Shekinah is derived from the verb shakan, to abide or dwell (Ex 25:8) and shakan is the root of the noun mishkan or tabernacle (Ex 25:9). The term is also used frequently in early Jewish writings as a euphemism for the name of God. (See the article Shekinah, Jewish Virtual Library.)
of him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun, i.e., Yeshua. John's use of "glory of him" is probably an allusion to the transfiguration of Yeshua to which John was a witness along with his brother Jacob and Peter (Matt 17:1). The mountain-top experience of the apostles was comparable to Israel witnessing the transfiguration of Moses whose face shone so much with the glory of God that he had to wear a veil (Ex 34:29-35; 2Cor 3:13). glory: Grk. doxa. Both the CJB and OJB translate this instance of doxa with Sh'khinah, but glory seems more suitable because John proceeds to add a layer of meaning to the concept of glory. as: Grk. hōs, conj. that connects narrative components and functions as a simile; like, as, similar to. John defines "glory" in comparison to a very earthly, human experience.
of the only one: Grk. monogenēs, genitive case functioning as an adj., being the only one of a kind; sole, only, unique. Some versions offer the interpretation of "only Son" (CJB, ESV, HNV, NCV, NIRV, NIV, NLT, NRSV, RSV), even though "son" (Grk. huios) is not in the Greek text of this verse. The traditional translation inserts "begotten" (ASV, DRA, KJV, MW, NASB, NKJV), no doubt to add emphasis to the opening phrase of "became flesh." The word monogenēs occurs 9 times in the Besekh: (1) of the only son of a widow of Nain, Luke 7:12; (2) of the only daughter of Jairus, Luke 8:42; (3) of the only son of an unnamed man, Luke 9:38; (4) of the miracle son of Abraham, Isaac, Heb 11:17 (cf. Gen 22:2, LXX "beloved"); and (5) of Yeshua, all in the writings of John (verse 18 below; 3:16, 18; 1Jn 4:9).
In the LXX monogenēs renders Heb. yachid (SH-3173, "only, only one, solitary") used of oneself (Ps 22:20; 35:17), and an only daughter (of Jephthah, Jdg 11:34). Sometimes yachid is translated with Grk. agapētos ("beloved"), first of Isaac (Gen 22:2, 12, 16) and then fig. of the loss of an only son (Jer 6:26; Amos 8:10; Zech 12:10). The LXX translators probably used agapētos instead of monogenēs for Isaac, since he was not Abraham's only son. However, Paul makes a connection between these two words in Hebrews 11:17 where he describes Isaac as monogenēs ('only') instead of agapētos ('beloved'). Of interest is that Yeshua is described 9 times as "beloved son" in the Besekh (Matt 3:17; 17:5; Mark 1:11; 12:6; 9:7; Luke 3:22; 20:13; Col 1:13; 2Pet 1:17), but not in John's writings. Translators, of course, prefer "only begotten" for John's passages because the meaning of monogenēs seems heightened into a special category for Yeshua (BAG 529).
from: Grk. para, prep., beside, alongside of, with. The resultant meaning is "from." the Father: Grk. patēr, normally of a male biological parent or ancestor, but frequently in reference to God, which emphasizes both his activity as creator and sustainer. In the LXX patēr renders ab ("av"), which occurs about 1180 times, generally in the human sense, but also of God as father in relation to Israel (Ex 4:22; Deut 1:31; 8:5; 32:6; Isa 63:16; 64:8) (DNTT 1:616f). Most versions render the word as "the Father," meaning the divine person Yeshua frequently mentions, perhaps anticipating verse 18 below and John 3:16. A few versions, taking note of the fact that the noun lacks the definite article and that John used hōs to indicate a comparison, translates as "a father" (CEB, DARBY, DHE, NRSV, YLT).
What does the phrase "glory as of the only one of the Father" mean? This is no allusion to Joseph who had sons of his own by Miriam. John may be emphasizing that Yeshua was unique in that the Word in verse 1 took on human flesh. Luke portrays the Holy Spirit as the executive agent for the Father to impregnate Miriam: "The Ruach ha-Kodesh will come upon you, and the power of Elyon will overshadow you" (Luke 1:35 TLV). Being the only son of a father, and a good son as illustrated by the adjectives that follow, would naturally elicit pride in the father. The Father in heaven demonstrated this enthusiasm by informing people that Yeshua was his beloved son and that they should listen to him (Matt 3:17; 17:5; Mark 1:11; 9:7; Luke 3:22; 9:35; 2Pet 1:17).
full: Grk. plērēs, in a state or condition of being supplied abundantly with something, filled up, full of. of grace: Grk. charis, disposition marked by inclination to generosity, frequently unmotivated by the worth of the recipient; thus, grace, gracefulness, graciousness, favor, thanks or gratitude. In the LXX charis occurs about 190 times of which only about 75 have a Hebrew equivalent, of which 61 are for Heb. hēn (favor) (DNTT 2:116). The use of hēn in biblical history depicts the stronger coming to the help of the weaker who stands in need of help by reason of his circumstances or natural weakness.
and truth: Grk. alētheia may mean (1) truthfulness, dependability, uprightness in thought and deed, (2) truth as opposed to what is false, or (3) reality as opposed to mere appearance (BAG). All those meanings have application here. In the LXX alētheia regularly translates the Heb. emet (SH-571), "firmness, faithfulness, truth" (BDB 54); also "permanency, durability" (HELB 19), although Christian Bibles sometimes render it as "truth" and sometimes as "faithfulness" (DNTT 3:877). Emet is often used for truthfulness in God and piety in man. The Rabbis explain rather pedantically that emet contains the first, middle and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and that truth ought to be trustworthy through and through (Santala 72). Santala also points out that the combination of "grace and truth" is first found in the Torah, extolling the nature of YHVH,
ADONAI passed before him and proclaimed: "YUD-HEH-VAV-HEH!!! Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh [ADONAI] is God [Heb. Elohim], merciful and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in grace and truth." (Ex 34:6 CJB)
In the Prophets and the Psalter YHVH is depicted many times as possessing the twin virtues of hēn and emet. As Yeshua will go on in this Book to assert many times that he is YHVH, those descriptions in the Tanakh belong to him.
15 Yochanan testified concerning him and cried out, saying, "He was who I said, 'The One coming after me has come before me, because he was before me.'"
Yochanan: Grk. Iōannēs, the Immerser. See verse 6 above. testified: Grk. martureō. See verse 7 above. Rienecker calls the verb an historical present, which means a past event is viewed with the vividness of a present occurrence. concerning: Grk. peri, prep., lit. "around;" about, concerning. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., the Messiah in general and Yeshua in particular. and cried out: Grk. krazō, perf., to utter a loud cry or to express something with vigorous voice, to call out. Yochanan raised his speaking volume to be heard in the public place. saying: Grk. legō, pres. part., to make a statement or utterance, whether oral or in written form. In the LXX legō renders Heb. amar (SH-559), to utter, say, shew, command or think. The Greek verb "say" functions as quotation marks for the text following since ancient writings did not contain punctuation.
He: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun, masc., signifying a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes or follows it; this, lit. "this one." The pronoun refers to Yeshua. was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 1 above. who: Grk. hos, relative pronoun, who. I said: Grk. legō, aor. The past tense refers to what was spoken on a previous occasion. The One: Grk. ho, demonstrative pronoun and definite article. Most versions translate the pronoun as "He who" or "He that," but some versions render it literally as "The one" (CJB, ERV, GW, MW). A few versions appropriately capitalize "One" (HCSB, NCV, TLV). Among Jews "The One" was a circumlocution for God (cf. Ps 3:3; 37:24; Isa 40:26; 45:7; 49:7; Amos 9:5-6; John 1:33; 6:46; 7:18; 11:27; 12:45; 15:21; Acts 10:42; Rom 5:17; 2Cor 4:6). coming: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid. part. See verse 9 above. after: Grk. opisō, adv. functioning as a prep., used spatially, 'behind,' or temporally, 'after.'
me: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. Yochanan could also be engaging in word play since Yeshua was born after Yochanan and Yeshua began his ministry after Yochanan. has come: Grk. ginomai, perf. See verse 6 above. The perfect tense indicates a divine appointment that existed from the time that Yeshua was born. before: Grk. emprosthen, as prep. and adv., expresses position that is in front or ahead; before, in front of. me: Grk. egō.
because: Grk. hoti, conj. that serves as a link between two sets of data, whether (1) defining a demonstrative pronoun; that; (2) introducing a subordinate clause as complementary of a preceding verb; (3) introducing a direct quotation and functioning as quotation marks; or (4) indicating causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, inasmuch as. The fourth usage applies here. he was: Grk. eimi, impf. act. ind., to be. before: Grk. prōtos. The basic idea has to do with 'beforeness.' The term is used in two ways: (1) having primary position in a temporal sequence; first, earlier, earliest; and (2) standing out in significance or importance; first, most prominent, most important, first of all. The first meaning fits best here. me: Grk. egō.
John engages in a word play involving both temporal position and rank. Yeshua was physically standing in front of Yochanan, but before Yochanan in the eternal sense and he was also of much higher rank than Yochanan in the Kingdom of God.
16 For we all received of his fullness, and grace after grace.
For: Grk. hoti, conj. See the previous verse. we all: The double emphasis of hēmeis pantes offers a comprehensive identification, although it could be somewhat hyperbolic. "We" would refer to the Jews of John's time, particularly in Israel and even more particularly of those who chose to follow Yeshua. He is not making a universal statement of humanity, although modern readers might extend the scope of application. received: Grk. lambanō, aor. See verse 12 above. The verb has the sense of receiving something from a large supply (BAG 466). of: Grk. ek, prep., lit. "out of," which points to the transfer from one point to another. his fullness: Grk. plērōma, that which is characteristic to a maximum degree, fullness.
and grace: Grk. charis, grace or favor. See verse 14 above. Some versions translate the term as "gift" (GW, MSG, MW, MRINT, NCV, NET) and others as "blessing" (AMP, CEV, ERV, NIRV, NLT, TEV, TLB). after: Grk. anti, prep., with the genitive case of the noun following refers to an entity replaced or exchanged for another, here in the sense of succession; after. Anti occurs frequently in the LXX and renders Heb. tachath (SH-8478, in place of, instead of) with the dominant meaning of substitution (e.g., Gen 22:13; 29:27; 30:2, 15; 44:33; Num 3:12) (DM 100). Morris points out the lit. meaning is "grace instead of grace." Some Christian scholars interpret anti to mean the replacement of the Old Covenant by the New Covenant (Rienecker), which means they unwittingly admit that the Old Covenant was a covenant of grace.
Christians overlook the fact that the New Covenant was made with Judah and Israel; no Gentiles and certainly no Christian Church are mentioned (Jer 31:31-33; 32:36-40; Ezek 11:17-21). The terms of the New Covenant (Heb. B'rit Chadash) were that God would write the Torah on their hearts, that Adonai will be Israel's God, that Israel will be his people, that all would know God without a teacher, that there would be forgiveness of sins and that all the former promises are "Yes" in Him. The New Covenant of which Yeshua spoke at the Last Supper (Luke 22:20) is the New Covenant of Jeremiah. The apostles also declared that these promises find their fulfillment in Messiah Yeshua (Heb 12:24; cf. Isa 42:6). Gentiles receive the benefits of this covenant by virtue of being grafted into the Olive Tree (Rom 11) and being granted citizenship in the Commonwealth of Israel (Eph 2). So, the New Covenant does not replace the Old Covenant, but rejuvenates it and empowers disciples to fulfill its expectations.
grace: Grk. charis. In other words, having begun with God His grace keeps on increasing and we receive new benefits and blessings not previously enjoyed. Morris does not view "grace after grace" as a covenant replacement, but a simple statement of experience with God. As one piece of divine grace (so to speak) recedes it is replaced by another. God's grace to His people is continuous and never exhausted. Grace knows no interruption and no limit. "Grace after grace" means an ever deepening experience of the presence and blessing of God.
For: Grk. hoti, conj. the Torah: Grk. ho nomos may mean either (1) a principle or standard relating to behavior or (2) codified legislation, i.e. law. In the LXX nomos translates primarily torah (SH-8451), direction, instruction or law, first in Exodus 12:49. In the Tanakh the noun especially refers to commandments, statutes and ordinances decreed by God and given to Israel through Moses. Torah sets forth the way a person is meant to live in an ethical and moral way in order to have the best life and to please God.
In normal Jewish usage in the first century the term Torah had a variety of specific applications. Torah could mean (1) the commandments given to Israel at Sinai and Moab (Matt 12:5; John 8:5), (2) the entire Pentateuch, as it likely means here, and especially when used in combination with "the Prophets" (Matt 22:40; John 1:45), (3) generally as a synonym for Scripture (Matt 5:18; John 10:34; 12:34; 15:25), and (4) universal principles derived from Scripture (Matt 22:36-40; 23:23). Yeshua and his apostles constantly emphasized the continuing authority of the Torah and all of Scripture for life. For more discussion on this topic see my article Law vs. Legalism.
was given: Grk. didōmi, aor. pass. See verse 12 above. The verb emphasizes that the Torah was not humanly invented, but prescribed by God Himself. through: Grk. dia, prep., by means of, through. Delitzsch renders the preposition with the Heb. al-yedey, "by the hand of," which is entirely appropriate to convey the Jewish view of the authorship of the Torah. Several passages emphasize that the Torah was physically written by Moses (Ex 24:4; Deut 10:4; 28:58; 31:9, 22; Josh 1:8; 8:31-32; Luke 20:28). From the Jewish point of view the Torah came about because "YHVH spoke and Moses wrote." And, who is YHVH? None other than Yeshua (John 8:58).
Moses: Grk. Mōusēs transliterates Heb. Mosheh (Ex 2:10). Born into the tribe of Levi about 1525 BC in Egypt there is no greater figure in the Tanakh than Moses. The story of Moses is found in the extensive narratives from Exodus 1:1 through Deuteronomy 34:1. His life can be easily divided into three 40-year periods, the first being his birth and early life in Egypt (Acts 7:23), the second his years in Midian (Acts 7:30), and the third from the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt through the years spent in the wilderness until his death (Ex 7:7; 16:35; Num 14:33; Deut 2:7; Josh 5:6; Acts 7:36). He had two wives and two sons (Ex 18:2-4; Num 12:1).
During the last third of his life Moses served Israel as deliverer, judge, mediator, lawgiver, priest, elder, prophet and scribe. Moses was privileged to speak with ADONAI "face to face" (Ex 33:11). He was noted for his humility (Num 12:3) and his faithfulness to God (Heb 3:5; 11:23-29), and being anointed of the Spirit (Num 11:17). He died at the age of 120 in the land of Moab (Deut 34:1-7). Moses left Israel and the Body of Messiah with the rich legacy of the first five books of the Bible (Ex 24:4). Moses was a giant of a man. For a summary of his life and deeds see my article Moses, Servant of God.
[but]: A number of versions insert the conjunction "but" at this point even though it is not in the Greek text (AMP, CEV, ERV, GW, KJV, NCV, NET, NKJV, NLT TEV). The use of "but" is clearly designed to create a sharp contrast between the first and second parts of the verse. In fact, its position gives the impression that only what comes after the "but" is important and worthy of consideration.
grace: Grk. ho charis. See the note on verse 14. and: Grk. kai, conj. truth: Grk. ho alētheia. See the note on verse 14 above. came: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. ind. See the note on verse 3 above. through: Grk. dia, prep., through, indicating agency. Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous, a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua ("Jesus" in Christian Bibles). Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua ("Joshua"), which means "YHVH [the LORD] is salvation" (BDB 221). The meaning of his name was explained to Joseph by an angel, "You shall call his name Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:21). For more information on the meaning our Lord's name and his identity see my article Who is Yeshua?
the Messiah: Grk. Christos (from chriō, "anoint with olive oil"), the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Messiah. The English "Christ" transliterates the Greek title, but does not translate it. In Greek culture christos had no religious connotation at all (DNTT 2:334). Christian readers should understand that "Messiah" is a royal title, not a last name. Jewish translators of the LXX chose Christos to translate Heb. Mashiach (SH-4899), "anointed, Anointed One," and in so doing infused new meaning into the Greek word.
Mashiach is used in the Tanakh for the Messiah (Ps 2:2; Dan 9:25-26) and this usage defined the term among Jews in the first century. The title of "Anointed One" alludes to a ceremony of anointing with olive oil to invest one with the authority of an office. Yeshua was not physically anointed in his commissioning for ministry, although He was anointed with the Spirit in accordance with Isaiah 61:1 (Matt 3:16). However, he was anointed with nard in preparation for his death (Mark. 14:3-8; John 12:3), so in that sense he was physically anointed for his final and greatest ministry.
The primary identification of Messiah is the King of the Jews, the son of David. Biblical prophecies speak of his rule over Israel from David's throne in Jerusalem. Yeshua recounted these prophecies to his disciples after his resurrection (Luke 24:44-47). Jews eagerly anticipated the coming of the Messiah to deliver them from their enemies and establish His kingdom on the earth (Luke 1:69-75). Thus, "Messiah" has special meaning as the hope of Israel, whereas the word "Christ" has an alien and even negative meaning to Jews (Stern 1-2). For a discussion of Jewish hope and expectation of the Messiah see my article The Messiah.
Contrary to the claim of some interpreters John does not demean Moses. Moses is compared with the divine Word of God. Moses was the Mediator of the Torah and Covenant and he prophesied a prophet like him would appear (Deut 18:15-19). As Stern notes,
"that a mere man for whom no claim to divinity has ever been made should even be compared with the Word of God incarnate shows how highly Yochanan regards Moshe."
John also does not assert the superiority of "grace and truth" over the Torah. Yeshua affirmed the enduring authority of Torah (Matt 5:17-19). John is not saying that grace and truth only appeared with the advent of Yeshua into the world. Rather the Logos who was with God in the beginning is the source of grace and truth and God has been continually bestowing grace and truth on humanity since then. Grace, truth and the Torah are all from God, supreme expressions of who He is. For other points of comparison between Moses and Yeshua see my article Moses and Yeshua.
18 No one has seen God at any time; the Only One, God, The One being in the bosom of the Father, That One has declared Him.
No one: Grk. oudeis, a word that indicates negation of a person or thing as actually existing at a given place or moment, used here as a substantive noun. has seen: Grk. horaō, perf., to perceive with the physical eyes or to experience extraordinary mental or inward perception. God: Grk. theos, the God of creation and the God of Israel, the only God there is. See verse 1 above. at any time: Grk. pōpote, adv. that refers to an indefinite point in time past, i.e., up to this time. How can John say this when there is plenty of evidence from the Tanakh that people did see God? My note on verse 14 above contains three categories of God's corporeal appearances in the Tanakh.
John's negative statement could be interpreted in one of two ways. First, since theos stands for Elohim in the LXX John may mean that no one has seen the fullness or completeness of the triune God. The Ruakh and Father are spirit (John 4:24) and presumptively cannot be seen. John may also be alluding to Exodus 33:20, in which God says to Moses, "You cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live." The anthropomorphism of "face" alludes to the concept of personhood. That is, God presents Himself to the world in three persons or faces: Father, Son and Spirit. In the Tanakh the only physical representation people experienced of God was the Angel of ADONAI. Now the fullness of God is revealed in the face or person of Yeshua.
The benevolence of the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit have been demonstrated from the beginning, and people have "seen" the nature of God whether they may acknowledge it. Yet, no one has seen His complete face. John's negative declaration might be explained by the rest of the verse. No one had ever understood God or perceived God in any kind of complete sense. Before they saw through a glass darkly, but now in Yeshua they see God as He wants to be seen. John then uses three titles for Yeshua, strung together like pearls.
the Only One: Grk. monogenēs. See verse 14 above. Here monogenēs is in the nominative case, which makes it function as a substantive instead of an adjective as it is used in verse 14. In other words John is treating monogenēs as a title, just as he did for logos, zōē, and phōs. LEB has "the one and only," NET has "the only one" and NLT has "the unique one." God: Grk. theos. Some Bible versions read huios, "son" (ASV, CJB, HCSB, KJV, NIRV, NIV, NKJV); yet, MSS evidence is divided. The evidence for "Son" is weighty, but the earliest MSS favor "God" (so ESV, NASB). The UBS4 translation committee regarded the reading of monogenēs-huios to be the result of scribal assimilation to John 3:16, 18; and 1 John 4:9 (Metzger 169). Some versions have "the only begotten God," but that is not John's point.
The One: Grk. ho. See verse 15 above. This is a circumlocution for the sacred name YHVH. being: Grk. eimi, pres. part. See verse 1 above. The CJB translates the phrase as "the only and unique Son, who is identical with God." Stern explains his translation:
"I have supplied the words, "who is identical with,” in order to reflect the delicacy of the incarnation concept when the predicate "God" is applied to "the only and unique Son”: throughout his Gospel Yochanan teaches that the Father is God, and the Son is God; yet he distinguishes between the Son and the Father, so that one cannot say that the Son is the Father. I submit that the chief difficulty in our understanding this lies neither in the Greek text nor in my translation of it, but in the very nature of God himself."
The challenge of translation is that there is no punctuation in the original MSS. Thus, by translating the Greek literally and inserting a comma before and after "God" (as does the Lexham English Bible) I have attempted to emphasize the distinction of which Stern speaks. John engages in a kind of word play, speaking of "the Only One" and "The One" as fully identified with God, just as he does of "the Word" in verse 1 above, in order to affirm the basic truth of the Shema that "Adonai is one" (Deut 6:4, 1Tim 2:5; Jas 2:19).
in: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." See verse 11 above. With the accusative case of a noun following, the prep. may be translated "into, unto, to, for" (DM 103). the bosom: Grk. kolpos is used for (1) anatomical front of the human chest; chest, bosom, breast (Luke 16:22-23); (2) the fold of a garment, formed as it falls from the chest over the girdle; fold, lap (Luke 6:38; cf. Ps 79:12); (3) a portion of a body of water on a shoreline; bay, gulf, inlet (Acts 27:39). For the usage here various idiomatic interpretations are offered. Morris suggests the term speaks of personal affection. BAG interprets as the closest communion or a place of honor. Rienecker says the term alludes to the intimate relationship of child and parent, or friend and friend.
In the LXX kolpos occurs 32 times and translates seven different Hebrew words, but principally cheq (SH-2436, bosom), 25 times. Gesenius defines cheq as the bosom with the arms, derived from the root verb chabaq (SH-2263) "to clasp, to embrace." In the anatomical sense cheq is used of the bosom of a woman (Gen 16:5) and the chest of a man (Ex 4:6-7); also the bosom of a garment (Prov 16:33), the interior of a chariot (2Kgs 22 35) and the bottom of an altar (Ezek 43:13). The term occurs metaphorically of marital cherishing (Deut 13:6; 28:54, 56; 2Sam 12:8), motherly comfort (Lam 2:12), a man cherishing a lamb (2Sam 12:3), and holistically of the person (Isa 65:6; Jer 32:18). The term is applied once to God (Ps 74:11).
of the Father: Grk. patēr, a shorthand term for God with a familial emphasis. See verse 14 above. In the Besekh the capitalized "Father" is a circumlocution for the God of Israel, not a Christian trinitarian personality as expressed in familiar creeds. Christian theologies speak of the "Fatherhood of God" as a "Christian truth," as if they had invented the concept. Some dilute the biblical message to assert God as father to all mankind based on Paul's quotation of the Greek philosopher Epimenides in his Athenian sermon, "we also are His children" (Acts 17:28).
While God gave physical life to mankind, he is only Father in a spiritual and covenantal sense in relation to Israel. God's paternal relationship to Israel is affirmed many times in Scripture (e.g., Ex 4:22; Deut 1:31; 8:5; 32:6; Isa 43:6; 63:16; 64:8; Jer 3:19; 31:9; Hos 1:10: Mal 1:6; 2:10; 2Cor 6:18). In the Sermon on the Mount Yeshua speaks to his Jewish disciples a few times of "your heavenly Father" (Matt 5:48; 6:14, 26, 32), but many more times simply as "your Father" (e.g., Matt 5:45; Mark 7:11; Luke 6:36; John 20:17). Gentiles can claim God as Father by virtue of being adopted into the family of Israel (cf. Rom 8:15; 9:4; Gal 4:5; Eph 1:5) and then He becomes "our Father" (Rom 1:7; Gal 1:3; Eph 1:2; Php 1:2; Col 1:2).
Some versions translate the phrase in this verse, eis ton kolpon to patros, as a reference to position, "at the Father's side" or words to that effect (CEB, CJB, DHE, ESV, HCSB, MW, NCV, NIRV, OJB, TEV). Other versions interpret the phrase in terms of affection and relationship (CEV, GW, MSG, NET, NIV, NLT, NOG, NRSV, TLV). However, the Greek phrase is probably not intended to be equivalent to "the right hand" of God where Yeshua now is (Ps 110:1; Mark 16:19; Luke 22:69; Acts 2:33; 5:31; 7:55-56; Rom 8:34; Col 3:1; Heb 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1Pet 3:22). Also, restricting the meaning to affection between God the Father and Yeshua (cf. John 3:35; 5:20) does not seem feasible either.
I think if the preposition is allowed to express equivalency, then a different interpretation is very plausible. The phrase "as the bosom of the Father" completes the descriptive word picture of Yeshua in this verse and in no way detracts from John's persistent emphasis on the echad of God. John is not picturing a scene comparable to the paintings of the Madonna and child, i.e., God holding Yeshua on His lap. Rather, John's point is that Yeshua is the physical embodiment of the loving care of the Father for the world (John 3:16). Yeshua is the way the Father has chosen to embrace fallen humanity and bring Himself into close fellowship with broken people. The point seems to be further emphasized in John's narrative of the Last Supper in which John leans back on Yeshua's breast (John 13:23, 25; 21:20), which may have been an acted out parable.
That One: Grk. ekeinos, masc. demonstrative pronoun. See verse 8 above. has declared Him: Grk. exēgeomai, aor. mid., explain, interpret, tell, report, describe (BAG). In Greek literature exēgeomai was often a technical term for the activity of priests and soothsayers who impart information or reveal divine secrets; also used with reference to divine beings themselves (BAG 275). In the LXX exēgeomai mainly translates the Heb. verb saphar (SH-5608) when this occurs in the Piel, in the sense of recount, tell, or declare, such as telling a dream (Jdg 7:q13) or describing a miracle (2Kgs 8:5) (DNTT 1:574). Danker translates ekeinos exēgeomai as "he has made the description." BAG suggests translation of "he has made known" or "brought news of" (the invisible God).
Most versions insert "Him" or "God" in this last phrase, because the Greek text ends the verse with the verb without a corresponding pronoun. However, a reference to the Father seems necessary to complete the thought. One particular passage that may have relevance for John is 1 Chronicles 16 where David directs the Levites to give praise and thanksgiving to Adonai and a lengthy psalm follows. Verse 24 says, "Declare [Heb. saphar] his glory among the nations, his wonders among all peoples" (CJB). Yeshua certainly "declared" the Father and John recounts seven particular wonders Yeshua performed.
Winter, A.D. 26-27
The Testimony of the Forerunner, 1:19-34
19 And this is the witness of Yochanan, when the Judean authorities sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem that they might ask him, "Who are you?”
And: Grk. kai, conj. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 15 above. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 1 above. The present tense stresses the continuing importance of Yochanan's ministry and testimony about Yeshua. the witness: Grk. marturia. See verse 7 above. of Yochanan: Grk. Iōannēs, the Immerser. See verse 6 above. when the Judean authorities: Grk. Ioudaioi, pl. of Ioudaios, Jew, Jewish or Jewess (BAG), although the term in biblical contexts does not mean the opposite of "Christian" as in common use today. Derived from Ioudas, "Judah," the term originally meant one sprung from the tribe of Judah, or a subject of the kingdom of Judah, but used more generally in the Besekh of a descendant of Jacob (Mounce). Danker notes that the term may be used as an adjective (Judean/Jewish) or a noun (Judean).
In the LXX Ioudaios first occurs in the plural to translate Heb. Yehudim (pl. of Heb. Yehudi, SH-3064), citizens of the Kingdom of Judah (2Kgs 16:6; 25:25; Jer 34:9). The southern kingdom also included the tribes of Benjamin and Simeon (Josh 19:1; 1Kgs 12:21; 2Chr 15:9), so Mordecai of the tribe of Benjamin is identified as a Ioudaios (Esth 2:5; 6:10). Among Gentiles the ethnic term did not distinguish between members of the twelve tribes of Israel or sects of Judaism. All of the people exiled from the land of Israel were called "Jews" (Esth 8:9, 11, 17; Ezra 4:12, 23; 5:1, 5; 6:7, 14; Dan 3:8, 12). After the exile Jewish literature continued this inclusive meaning of Ioudaioi to designate the covenant people as distinct from Gentiles (1Macc 2:23; 14:33; Letter of Aristeas 1:1 +34t; Josephus, Apion 1:1 +42t), often as the object of persecution and warfare (Philo, Flaccus IV.21 +26t; Josephus, Ant. X, 11:1; Wars VI, 1:2-8).
In the Besekh Ioudaios occurs 195 times and has various particular uses. (For a complete listing see my article The Apostolic Community.) In the book of John Ioudaios occurs in the plural form 65 times, half of which designate those in positions of power who enforced legalistic traditions and opposed Yeshua, often chief priests or leading Pharisee members of the Sanhedrin (John 1:19; 2:18; 5:10, 15, 16, 18; 6:41, 52; 7:1, 11, 13, 15, 35; 8:22, 48, 52, 57; 9:18, 22; 10:19, 24, 31, 33; 11:18; 13:33; 18:12, 14, 31, 36, 38; 19:7, 12, 14, 21, 31, 38; 20:19). Christian interpreters have historically focused on the negative usage of Ioudaioi in John to fuel discrimination and antisemitism, and failed to give due consideration of the many neutral and positive references to Jews.
Stern contends that in apostolic usage Ioudaioi ("Jews") has one of three meanings: (1) members of the tribe of Judah; (2) followers of the Jewish religion; or (3) people living in or originating from Judea, however politically defined (158f). He also asserts that the negative use of Ioudaioi in the apostolic narratives nearly always refers to Judeans, however Judea may be geographically and politically defined. However, I suggest that adversarial Ioudaioi identified outside of Judea were local synagogue leaders (John 6:52 and frequently in Acts). In addition, I would clarify Stern's second meaning to be "followers of orthodox Judaism." Indeed the noun Ioudaismos, "Judaism," which Paul uses to describe his Pharisee religion (Gal 1:13-14), first appears in the Maccabean writings for a way of life devoted to observance of Torah laws (2Macc 2:21; 8:1; 14:38; 4Macc 4:26; 9:1).
Orthodox Jews spoke Hebrew as their primary language (cf. Acts 6:1; 21:40; 22:2) and conducted synagogue services in Hebrew. Orthodox Jews revered Moses (John 9:28-29; Acts 6:11) and recognized the authority of the written Torah (John 7:23; Acts 21:20). Being Torah-observant they faithfully observed the Sabbath (John 5:10; 19:31, 42), kept God's prescribed festivals in Jerusalem (John 2:13; 5:1; 6:4; 7:2; 11:55), followed strict rules of cleanliness (Mark 7:3; Luke 2:22; John 2:6; 3:25; 19:40), circumcised their children (Luke 1:59; 2:21; John 7:22-23; Acts 21:21; Rom 2:28; 3:1), separated themselves from non-observant Jews and Gentiles (John 4:9; Acts 10:28; Gal 2:12-14), and especially regarded the Temple in Jerusalem as the only place to worship the God of Israel with sacrifices (John 2:20; 4:20; 18:20).
The tenets of Orthodox Judaism were governed by the Great Sanhedrin and the Pharisees, whose traditions they followed (Matt 23:2-3; Mark 7:3; Acts 10:28). Even the Sadducees grudgingly conducted Temple rituals in accordance with Pharisee wishes because of their popularity with the people (Ant. XVIII, 1:3-4). The same devotion could not be said of other Israelite descendants who were scattered throughout the world. The Essenes consistently avoided the term Ioudaios as a self-designation and it is not to be found in the Greek portions of the Qumran scrolls (Miller). Thus, in the Besekh the term Ioudaioi is never used to identify Hellenistic Jews, Samaritan Jews or Qumran Jews.
In this verse Stern's Complete Jewish Bible translates Ioudaioi with "Judeans." Two other Messianic versions agree with the CJB. The Hebrew Names Version has "Judeans," the Orthodox Jewish Bible has "those of Yehudah" and the Delitzsch Hebrew-English version has "Yehudim." Daniel Gruber in his Messianic Writings offers a different slant with "sectarian Jews." The Tree of Life Version translates Ioudaioi in this verse with "Judean leaders," to clarify the reference as members of the Sanhedrin. I concur with the TLV that in this verse as many places in John's Gospel there is no question that the negative use of Ioudaioi refers to those in authority opposed to Yeshua. While most Christian versions have "Jews," a few Christian versions emphasize the specific meaning of Ioudaioi here with the translation of "Jewish leaders" (CEB, CEV, ERV, NET, NIV, NLT, TLB). I chose "Judean authorities" as being more appropriate, since "leader" can have an informal meaning.
sent: Grk. apostellō, aor., to send as an authorized representative. See verse 6 above. First century Judaism institutionalized the office of shaliach (Grk. apostolos), who acted as an official messenger or a proxy for and with the full authority of the sender, as the Mishnah says, "the agent is as the one who sends him" (Ber. 5:5). The shaliach's mission was "limited in scope and duration by definite commission and terminating on its completion" (DNTT 1:128). Only someone with authority could do the sending, so the "Judean authorities" were members of the Sanhedrin, and identified as Pharisees in verse 24 below. However, sending priests and Levites would have required the approval of the High Priest or Deputy High Priest.
priests: pl. of Grk. hiereus, personnel in charge of sacrifice and offering at worship places, particularly the tabernacle and Temple. In the LXX hiereus renders Heb. kohen. The first occurrence is of Melchizedek (Gen 14:18). The priests were originally organized into 24 divisions or courses by David. The names of the courses appear in 1 Chronicles 23:6; 24:7–18. According to Josephus only four of the original courses returned from captivity and those four were divided into the prescribed 24 courses. Josephus tallies the number in the courses at 20,000 (Against Apion, 2:8). Jeremias calculates the number of priests actually needed for the 24 courses at 7,200 based on Mishnah requirements (203). Each of the twenty-four divisions served in the temple for one week, Sabbath to Sabbath, twice a year, and all priests were present for the three major pilgrim festivals (Jeremias 199). The priests sent would no doubt be trusted representatives of the Sadducean chief priests.
and Levites: pl. of Grk. Leuitēs, members of the tribe of Levi not descended from Aaron. They stood in a lower rank than the priests, but were assigned to specific ministry duties in connection with the Temple. Jeremias estimates the number of Levites at 10,000 (208). The fact that John mentions Levites indicates a Jewish audience for his Book. Pagan Gentiles would know about priests, but Levites would be an unfamiliar term. Levites were assigned as singers and musicians, others performed a variety of humbler duties, such as cleaning and festival preparations, and Levites formed the police force of the Temple under the supervision of the Deputy High Priest (Jeremias 208-209). The Levites sent to interview Yochanan were probably from the last group.
from: Grk. ek, prep. lit. "out of." Jerusalem: Grk. Hierosoluma, a rough transliteration of the Heb. Yerushalayim, which means "possession" or "foundation of peace" (BDB 436). What a precious name is Jerusalem! The city is situated some 2500 feet above sea level and eighteen miles west of the northern end of the Dead Sea, is renowned as the capital of all Israel, afterwards of the Kingdom of Judah and the seat of central worship in the temple. The name of God's holy city occurs 13 times in this Book. At the time of the Exodus the city was inhabited by the Jebusites (Josh 15:8), but then captured by the tribe of Judah (Jdg 1:8). The city was also known as the City of David (2Sam 5:7).
By the end of David's reign the city had expanded to cover seven mountains: Mount Zion, Mount Ophel, Mount Moriah, Mount Bezetha, Mount Acra, Mount Gareb, and Mount Goath (Neil 289). Jeremias estimated the resident population of the city in the time of Yochanan the Immerser at about twenty-five to thirty thousand (252). For the faithful Jew the city of Jerusalem represented all that was dear in the covenant relationship with God. David spoke of Jerusalem "as a city that is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord" (Ps 122:3-4 ESV). Another psalmist expressed his affection thus, "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her skill, may my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy" (Ps 137:5-6).
that: Grk. hina, conj. they might ask: Grk. erōtaō, aor. subj., can mean (1) to ask with the focus on querying for information; or (2) to ask in the sense of making a request, frequently with the effort to soften the tone for what might sound peremptory. The first meaning applies here. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; him, i.e., Yochanan. Who: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun indicating interest in establishing something definite; who, which, what, why. The pronoun used in direct and indirect questions to determine something definite and in rhetorical questions to make arguments or prompt thought; here tís functions as a substantive; who.
are: Grk. eimi, pres. you: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. The planned question goes to the heart of Yochanan's role. They knew that he was the son of Zechariah of the priestly line of Aaron. But, since Yochanan was not following in his father's footsteps, just what was he up to, considering his message?
20 And he declared, and did not deny, and he declared, "I am not the Messiah.”
And: Grk. kai, conj. See verse 1 above. he declared: Grk. homologeō, aor., to express oneself openly and firmly about a matter; inform, declare, affirm, profess, confess. and did not: Grk. ou, adv., a particle of strong negation. deny: Grk. arneomai, aor. mid., to give a negative answer; say no, deny. and he declared: Grk. homologeō, aor. The second mention of the verb may allude to the requirement for facts to be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. The requirement, at least in this circumstance, could be satisfied by one individual through repetition (cf. 2Cor 13:1-2). Another interpretation is that the first mention of the verb indicates the ready self-devotion of the testimony and the second the completeness of it (Rienecker).
I: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. am: Grk. eimi. See verse 1 above. Yochanan's use of "I am" (egō eimi) contrasts with Yeshua's later repeated use of "I AM." not the Messiah: Grk. Christos, Jewish Messiah ("Christ" in Christian Bibles). See verse 17 above. Given Yochanan's message and methods Judean leadership might naturally wonder whether he would claim to be the Messiah. Yochanan settled the matter quite firmly without any qualification. Yochanan's declaration alludes to the prophecy of Daniel 9:25-26 that 483 years after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem Messiah would come.
21 And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" and he answered, "no."
And: Grk. kai, conj. See verse 1 above. they asked: Grk. erōtaō, aor. See verse 19 above. him: Grk. autos, pronoun; Yochanan. What: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun; what. See verse 19 above. then: Grk. oun, conj. indicating that one takes account of something in the narrative immediately preceding or of implication contained in it; then. Asking "what then" aims to determine Yochanan's purpose for doing what he's doing. Are you Elijah: Grk. Ēlias, which represents the Heb. Eliyah ("My God is Yah"), the ninth century B.C. prophet from Tishbe of Gilead in the Northern Kingdom. The prophet's name first occurs in 1 Kings 17:1 as Eliyahu and thereafter 62 times, but also as Eliyah (first in 2Kgs 1:3 and thereafter 4 times) (BDB 45). Known for his unorthodox dress and lifestyle, Elijah prophesied during the reigns of Ahab and Ahaziah.
Elijah's achievements included performing seven miracles, perhaps most notably the defeat of 850 pagan prophets on Mt. Carmel. He also conducted a school of prophets (2Kgs 2:3-7) and trained Elisha to be his successor (1Kgs 19:16-19). Elijah did not die, but was taken to heaven in a whirlwind, not a chariot as commonly supposed (2Kgs 2:11). The LXX transliterates the name uniformly as Ēlias, and thus this form is followed in the Greek text of the Besekh. The English spelling "Elijah" was introduced by John Wesley in his 1755 translation of the New Testament. The KJV-1768 version retained "Elias," but "Elijah" endured and was incorporated by succeeding English versions. According to Malachi 4:5 Elijah would come before the great Day of the LORD. Yeshua stated that Yochanan the Immerser was not Elijah reincarnated, but did come in the spirit of Elijah for those willing to accept it (Matt 11:10, 14; 17:10).
And: Grk. kai, conj. he said: Grk. legō. See verse 15 above. I am not: Again Yochanan made a firm denial. Are you the Prophet: Grk. prophētēs, one who is gifted with the ability for interpretation or revelation transcending normal insight or awareness, i.e., a prophet. In ancient Greek culture the word-group always had a religious meaning and referred to one who predicts or tells beforehand (DNTT 3:76). In Scripture the term refers to one who spoke on God's behalf, whether in foretelling or forth-telling. The record of the Tanakh indicates considerable variance in the activity and ministry of Hebrew prophets.
Some prophets left literary works that later became Scripture. Others left no writings. Some gave advice to kings. Some prophesied in worship settings. Some saw visions. Some proclaimed a message in startling symbolic actions. Some were gentle, some were fiery, some were confrontational, some worshipful, some full of joy, others full of sadness. But, they all spoke for God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2Pet 1:21). The apostolic writings assert the continuation and place of biblical prophecy, which would eventually be replaced in Rabbinic Judaism by the authority of the Sages (B.B. 12a; cf. John 8:53).
The question of the Sanhedrin representatives alludes to the prediction of Moses that some day God would send another leader like him:
"ADONAI will raise up for you a prophet like me from among yourselves, from your own kinsmen. You are to pay attention to him … I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kinsmen. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I order him." (Deut 18:15, 18 CJB)
And: Grk. kai, conj. he answered: Grk. apokrinomai, aor. pass., to answer or reply to someone, whether to a question, request, exhortation, command, etc. (BAG). In the LXX apokrinomai renders Heb. anah (SH-6030), to answer or respond to something said in conversation; to respond to an occasion and speak in view of circumstances; or to testify or respond as a witness in a legal proceeding (BDB 772). John likely uses the verb in the Hebraic sense of advancing the narrative. No: Grk. ou, negative particle of denial. Yochanan confirmed that he was not the prophet that Moses predicted, although in some respects Yochanan was like Moses.
Both men were descended from the tribe of Levi and both were priests. Both proclaimed God's Word to Israel. Yochanan's insistence on immersion in the Jordan could be an acted out parable of the Red Sea crossing, which serves as a figure of immersion (1Cor 10:1-2). Yochanan quickly clarified that even though he was a prophet of God, he was not "the" prophet of whom Moses spoke. However, verse 26 below points to Yeshua as The Prophet Moses anticipated. There are many points of similarity between Moses and Yeshua. Both were of the nation of Israel. At the time of both births Israel suffered under foreign domination.
Both birth narratives included the danger of death from a malevolent ruler. Both mothers put their new born baby in a special cradle. Both men spent an early period in Egypt. Both went to the wilderness before assuming their leadership roles. Both worked miraculous wonders of healing, power over water, and feeding with bread. Both conveyed God's instruction in Kingdom ethics to God's people. Both were nearly stoned. Both appointed seventy to assist in ministry. Both interceded for God's people. Both were transfigured by the glory of God. Both mediated covenants between God and Israel. Yeshua was indeed like Moses. And, many people came to regard Yeshua as a prophet (Matt 16:14; 21:11).
22 Then they said to him, "Who are you that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What are you saying about yourself?”
Then: Grk. oun, conj., used to indicate an inference or sequence; so, then, hence. they said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 15 above. to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; Yochanan. Who: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun used as a substantive; who. See verse 19 above. are: Grk. eimi. See verse 1 above. you that we may give: Grk. didōmi, aor. subj., to give. See verse 12 above. an answer: Grk. apokrisis, an answer or reply. to those who sent: Grk. pempō, aor. part., to dispatch someone for a variety of purposes; send. us: The Sanhedrin investigators, perhaps a little exasperated, persist in trying to get a definitive answer. Yochanan had declared that he was not the Messiah, he was not Elijah and he was not the Prophet of Moses' prophecy.
What: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun; what. See verse 19. are you saying: Grk. legō. about: Grk. peri, prep., about, concerning. yourself: Grk. seautou, reflexive pron. of the second person. The issue is not Yochanan's genealogy, but his ministry. The tribe of Levi was essentially a caste system. There were officiating priests, the Levitical assistants, and the Temple hierarchy. Priests did not did not dress like Yochanan, subsist on a diet like Yochanan (Mark 1:6) and certainly didn't teach in the wilderness like Yochanan. Priests served at the Temple when they were scheduled to serve. Priests offered prayers and sacrifices. Yochanan's father did all these things, but not Yochanan. The investigators may have begun to wonder whether Yochanan had joined the ranks of the Essenes, who condemned the Temple priestly organization as corrupt, which of course they were.
23 He said, "I am the voice of one crying in the desert, 'Make straight the way of the LORD,' as Isaiah the prophet said.”
He said: Grk. phēmi, impf., convey one's thinking through verbal communications, whether orally (frequently in dialogue) or in writing; say. The imperfect tense heightens the dramatic moment, perhaps meaning, "I've been saying all along, but you haven't been listening." I am: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. The verb eimi (to be) is absent, but "am" is inserted for completion of thought. The purpose of Yochanan's life had been given first to his father Zechariah (Luke 1:15-17) and it's reasonable to assume that Zechariah passed on the angel's message. Yochanan then quotes from Isaiah 40:3, which reads in the MT,
"The voice of him who cries in the wilderness, prepare the way of the LORD, make straight a highway in the wilderness for our God." (BHIB)
However, Yochanan's quotation substitutes the verb "make straight" in the last phrase for the verb "prepare" in the middle phrase. The parallel quotations found in the Synoptic narratives (Matt 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4) include the substance of the first and middle phrases, but like this quote omit the last words "in the wilderness for our God." In addition, this quotation differs from the LXX in two words.
the voice: Grk. phōnē can mean (1) an auditory impression, sound, noise; (2) the faculty of producing an auditory impression, voice; or (3) a system of communication, language. The second meaning applies here. of one crying: Grk. boaō, pres. part., use one's voice at high volume; call, cry out, shout. in the desert: Grk. erēmos, unpopulated region, desert or lonely place. The location is given as "Bethany beyond the Jordan" in verse 28 below is not precise, but a reasonable walking distance from Jerusalem could be assumed. Make straight: Grk. euthunō, aor. imp., to straighten or make straight. The verb probably has the idiomatic meaning of "head in that direction." the way: Grk. hodos, with the focus on the concept of going the word typically has the sense of a route for traveling, hence a way, a road or a highway. It can also refer to the act of traveling; journey, way, trip. Then, hodos is used fig. of conduct or a way of life. The LXX uses hodos to translate Heb. derek (way, road, journey).
of the LORD: Grk. kurios may mean either (1) 'one in control through possession,' and therefore owner or master; or (2) 'one esteemed for authority or high status,' thus lord or master. In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times, translating the divine name Adonai ('Lord'), and Heb. words used of men to denote higher rank or authority, primarily adôn (master, lord; Gen 18:12). In the overwhelming majority of instances (over 6,000 times), kurios replaces YHVH ("LORD" in Christian versions). Kurios is not a translation of YHVH as it is for Adonai, but an interpretative substitution that encompassed all that is implied by use of the divine name. YHVH is the Creator and Lord of the whole universe, of men, Lord of life and death.
Above all He is the God of Israel and His covenant people. By choosing kurios for YHVH the LXX also emphasized the idea of legal authority. Because YHVH delivered His people from Egypt and chose them as His possession, He is the legitimate Lord of Israel. The LXX thus strengthened the tendency to avoid the utterance of the name of God. The overwhelming use of kurios for the sacred name was not an immediate development. The oldest LXX MSS (fragments) have YHVH written in Hebrew characters in the Greek text. The use of kurios for the sacred name is also found in post-Tanakh Jewish literature, such as Wisdom of Solomon (27 times), and frequently in Philo and Josephus (DNTT 2:511-512).
In the quoted Hebrew text the name is YHVH. The "way of YHVH," which first occurs in Genesis 18:19, is the expectation of Abraham and his seed doing righteousness and justice in contrast to the wickedness of Sodom. The "way of YHVH" was later codified in the commandments God gave to Israel as part of His covenant (Deut 8:6; 26:17; 30:16). Yochanan's basic message recorded in the Synoptic Narratives called for repentance, reformation and readiness for the Messiah's coming (Matt 3:1-12; Mark 1:2-8; Luke 3:3-18). Yochanan called for nothing less than a national revival.
as: Grk. kathōs, conj. emphasizing similarity, conformity, proportion or manner; as, just as. Isaiah: Grk. Ēsaias, a Graecized form of Heb. Yesha'yahu ("YHVH is Salvation" or "YHVH has saved"). Isaiah was the son of Amoz of the tribe of Judah and perhaps related to the royal house. The prophet lived during the reigns of the Judean kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and probably the first years of Manasseh. He was contemporary with the last five kings of Israel: Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, and Hosea. Isaiah received his call to ministry in a dramatic fashion c. 740 BC (Isa 6:1), and prophesied for forty years during which he was an adviser (court prophet) to Ahaz and Hezekiah. He married a prophetess and had two sons (Isa 7:3; 8:3). Jewish tradition says that Isaiah was put to death by King Manasseh by being sawn in half (cf. Heb 11:37), so Yebamoth 49b; Ascension of Isaiah 1:9; 5:2.
the prophet: Grk. prophētēs. See verse 21 above. Isaiah is the most Messianic of all the prophets. Isaiah wrote mostly warnings in the first half of his book and mostly comfort and promise in the second half. Various scholars have proposed that some unknown author wrote the second half of book of Isaiah (40¾66) and a few scholars have actually suggested a Third Isaiah (56¾66). Against this viewpoint are these arguments: (1) for 25 centuries no one doubted that Isaiah was the author of all 66 chapters; (2) there is no evidence whatever that the two (or three) parts of the book ever existed separately; and (3) all the quotations in the Besekh from parts of Isaiah labeled as "Second" and "Third" Isaiah" attribute those passages to Isaiah the prophet, such as Isaiah 40:3 quoted here.
We're supposed to believe that some of the greatest literature in the Bible, not to mention the world, with its many and detailed prophecies of the Messiah, was written by someone completely anonymous and unremembered in Judaism. Modern scholars go to incredible lengths to avoid believing in the truth of biblical material, just because they can't accept that the Lord revealed the name of Cyrus (Isa 44:28; 45:1) almost two hundred years before he was born or that Isaiah was given words of exhortation and comfort for a people he knew would go into exile (Isa 39:6). If they can't believe the prophecy about Cyrus, how can they believe the prophecies that named the Messiah (Isa 7:14; 9:6; 46:13; 51:5; 59:16)?
And: Grk. kai, conj. See verse 1 above. the ones having been sent: Grk. apostellō, perf. pass. part., to send as an authorized representative. See verse 6 above. were: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 1 above. from: Grk. ek, prep., lit. "out of." the Pharisees: pl. of Grk. Pharisaios which transliterates the Heb. p'rushim, meaning "separatists.” The title was born of the fact that they separated themselves from the common people for religious devotion. The Pharisees traced their roots to the Hasidim ("pious ones") organized in the time of Ezra, but are known as an organized group from the 2nd c. BC (Jeremias 247). (For a lengthy treatment of the Pharisee party see Ron Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Yeshua and the Original Church; Lederer Books, 1996.)
There were many Jewish groups in the first century. Thus, it would not be accurate to speak of "Judaism" in relation to biblical culture, but many "Judaisms." Josephus describes the Pharisees as one of four prominent Jewish religious groups in the first century, the others being Essenes, Sadducees and Zealots (Ant. XVIII, 1:2-6). The Essenes are not mentioned by name in Scripture. However, there were other Jewish parties whose orientation was more political, such as the Herodians, partisans of the Tetrarchy (Mark 3:6), and the Zealots (Mark 3:18) who advocated violent overthrow of the Romans. Of these groups only the Pharisees are mentioned in the book of John.
Josephus says the Pharisees were present in the time of Jonathan, the successor of Judas Maccabeus. The first mention of the group is in the books of Maccabees where they are described as "a company of Hasideans, mighty warriors of Israel, every one who offered himself willingly for the law" (1Macc 2:42; cf. 1Macc 7:13; 2Macc 14:6). Josephus estimated that there were at least six thousand Pharisees in the Land (Ant. XVII, 2:4). There were several Pharisee communities in Jerusalem (Jeremias 252), and a large number of priests, including those among the higher ranks of priests, were Pharisees (Jeremias, fn31, 230; 256f).
In addition, Pharisee leaders, such as Hillel and Shammai, had disciples throughout Israel and the Diaspora. They believed in resurrection and the importance of a holy life, and they regarded Greek ideas as abominations. In contrast to the Sadducees the Pharisees accepted the traditions of the Sages as having equal authority as the written Torah, sometimes even greater than the written Torah. There are many verses that depict certain Pharisees in a bad light. Even the Jewish Sages spoke harshly against seven types of bad Pharisees they called hypocrites (Avot 5:9; Sotah 22b).
Yeshua frequently uses the term "hypocrites" to refer to such Pharisees (18 times in the Synoptic Narratives), which also distinguishes them from the good Pharisees. For the hypocritical Pharisees almsgiving, long prayers, twice-weekly fasting and tithing were the most important components of righteous living (Matt 23:14, 23; Luke 18:12), all of which were typically done in a manner to gain public attention. These were the sort of adversaries with whom Yeshua contended. Unfortunately, we know far more about the ones who harassed Yeshua than we do about his supporters among the Pharisees, like Nicodemus (John 7:50-51), and the unnamed Pharisees who warned Yeshua of a plot by Herod to kill him (Luke 13:31). To impugn all Pharisees of that time with the same negative judgment would be unfair.
While the Pharisees held beliefs with which Yeshua agreed and he enjoined his disciples to respect their authority, he also warned his disciples to avoid the hypocrisy found among so many Pharisees (Matt 23:2-3; Luke 12:1). The Pharisees wielded considerable power within Jewish society. Learning of the Torah in the synagogues was supervised by Pharisees, and even though the Temple was under the control of Sadducean priests, the Divine worship, prayers, sacrifices, and various festival customs were performed according to the direction of the Pharisees due to their popularity with the people (Ant. XIII, 10:6; XVIII, 1:3-4).
The term "Pharisee" occurring 20 times in the book of John and only in the plural, refers once to the religious party (John 3:1), but generally seems to substitute for the term "elders" found in the Synoptic Narratives, a faction of the Sanhedrin. Membership in the Sanhedrin consisted of chief priests, elders and scribes (Matt 16:21; 26:57; 27:41). Yeshua described the scribes and Pharisees as having "seated themselves in the chair of Moses" (Matt 23:2), probably an allusion to the fact that members of the Sanhedrin sat on chairs. John depicts the Pharisees acting in a judicial capacity (8:3, 13; 9:13; 12:42) and couples the Pharisees five times with the chief priests to emphasize their association on the Sanhedrin (7:32, 45; 11:47, 57; 18:3). (See my web article Jewish Jurisprudence.)
The Pharisee investigators continue their interrogation. The next question they ask may have originated more from curiosity than a desire to be confrontational. Why: Grk. tis, interrogative pronoun. then: Grk. oun, conj. See verse 21 above. are you immersing: Grk. baptizō, pres., means to dip, soak, or immerse into a liquid. The verb baptizō is derived from baptō (immerse or plunge) and means that what is dipped takes on qualities of what it has been dipped in—such as cloth in dye or leather in tanning solution. In the LXX baptō translates the Heb. taval (to dip) 13 times. Baptizō occurs only four times in the LXX: in Isaiah 21:4; 2 Kings 5:14 (re: Naaman); Sirach 34:25; and Judith 12:7. While baptizō in the Isaiah passage speaks of being overwhelmed by a vision, the other three passages report incidents of self-immersion in water (DNTT 1:144).
Contrary to Christian interpretation and practice baptizō never means a rite performed by sprinkling or pouring. DNTT offers this concurring analysis of the biblical term.
"Despite assertions to the contrary, it seems that baptizō, both in Jewish and Christian contexts, normally meant "immerse," and that even when it became a technical term for baptism, the thought of immersion remains. The use of the term for cleansing vessels (as in Lev 6:28; Mark 7:4) does not prove the contrary, since vessels were normally cleansed by immersing them in water. The metaphorical uses of the term in the NT appear to take this for granted…. The Pauline representation of baptism as burial and resurrection with Christ is consonant with this view, even if it does not demand it." (1:144)
Because of the immersing activity Yochanan is given the title "the Immerser" ("the Baptist" in Christian Bibles), which occurs 15 times in the Synoptic Narratives, but never in the Book of John. The active voice of the Greek verb "immersing" in this verse does not mean that someone personally put his hands on the immersion candidates and pushed them under the water as occurs in the Christian ritual. The manner of baptism in Christianity has the practical effect of the clergy controlling the "means of grace," since from the time of the church fathers baptism has been viewed as necessary to salvation.
Three important elements define Jewish immersion. First, Jewish immersion was (and is) self-immersion. No one touches the one immersing and no one needs to put the penitent under for it to be valid. Second, Jewish immersion is gender-specific. That is, men are not present when women immerse and vice versa. Third, among Jews ablutions of all kinds are not performed by people under bar/bat mitzvah age when a boy or girl became fully accountable to the Torah. In Yochanan's ministry there was no infant baptism. Only those who repented, i.e. adults, were immersed. The Jewish method is clearly to be preferred since it follows the biblical practice and preserves modesty for women.
Delitzsch captures the true sense in his Hebrew translation of this verse, using the Hiphil form of Heb. tabal, "caused to be immersed." That is, the verb here depicts the superintending of the immersion of all who came and expressed repentance and insured that each person completely immersed himself. In all likelihood several people would be immersing at the same time. In one fascinating piece of evidence, there is an ancient drawing from a Roman catacomb which depicts Yochanan and Yeshua at Yeshua's immersion. Yochanan is standing on the bank of the Jordan River extending a hand to Yeshua assisting him from the water (R. Steven Notley, John's Baptism of Repentance, Jerusalem Perspective Online, 2004; see also Ron Moseley, The Jewish Background of Christian Baptism).
if: Grk. ei, conj., a contingency marker used here to introduce a question seeking explanation for a rejected premise. Normally the "if clause" precedes the question, but here it follows. you are not: Grk. ou, negative particle for substantive denial. the Messiah: Grk. Christos, the Jewish Messiah. See verse 17 above. nor Elijah: Grk. Ēlias, See verse 21 above. nor the prophet: Grk. prophētēs, an allusion to Deuteronomy 18:15. See verse 21 above. The implication is that these three persons would engage in immersing. The reason why is simple. Jews regularly engaged in ritual immersion (Heb. tevilah) on a variety of occasions, including (1) restoring the right to join in worship after a period of illness, menstruation or contact with a dead body, and (2) preparing for Temple ceremonies, including priests and Levites engaged in leading or conducting rituals, as well as pilgrims who came to Jerusalem for the three annual feasts.
A quick review of Leviticus shows how frequently the matter is mentioned. One of the six major divisions of the Talmud, Tohoroth, is devoted to the subject and named for one of its tractates (Tohoroth, "Cleansings”). Proselytes were required to be immersed as well a circumcised, and the Sages even regarded immersion to be more important than circumcision (Yebamoth 22a; 46a-b).
26 Yochanan answered them, saying, "I immerse with water, because among you stands one you do not know.
Yochanan: Grk. Iōannēs, the Immerser. See verse 6 above. answered: Grk. apokrinomai, aor. pass. See verse 21 above. I: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. immerse: Grk. baptizō, pres. See the previous verse. with: Grk. en, prep. The basic meaning is "within" or "in," but the instrumental case of the noun following would require "with" or "by means of." water: Grk. hudōr, water as a physical element. This statement of fact appears on the surface to be pointless. The visitors could see what Yochanan was doing. They asked him "Why are you doing this?" not "What are you doing?" Of course, the immersion would be in water; it wouldn't be in any other kind of liquid.
because: There is no conjunction in the Greek text. Most versions (except the ASV, AMP, CEB, GW, LEB, NET, NRSV, OJB, and TLV) insert the conjunction "but" here as if Yochanan were making a transitional contrast to shift attention away from the immersing. Instead, Yochanan answers the question he was asked and gives the reason for the required immersion. The statement that follows is a natural expression of his role as the forerunner of the Messiah. Yochanan's declaration is likely a shortened version of the same declaration that occurs in the Synoptic Narratives, where he contrasts his water immersion with the Messiah's Spirit immersion (Mark 1:8). among: Grk. mesos, middle, center, in the midst of, among. you: pl. of Grk. su, pronoun of the second person.
stands: Grk. stēkō, pres., stand, of a position that is up or erect. The verb might suggest that Yeshua was nearby, but it could also have a fig. meaning of one who had taken a stand from which he would not budge or is steadfast in character (cf. 1Cor 16:13; Php 4:1). one you do not know: Grk. oida, perf. (the perf. tense of Grk. eidon, to see), to have seen or perceived, hence to know (NASBEC). The verb is used for various kinds of knowledge: (1) to know someone or about someone; (2) to be intimately acquainted with or stand in a close relation to someone; (3) to know or understand how to do something, be able; (4) understand, recognize, or come to know by experience; and (5) to remember (BAG).
In the LXX oida occurs frequently to render Heb. yada (SH-3045; e.g., Num 11:16; Deut 1:39; Josh 2:4; 2Sam 19:6), which has a wide range of meaning, but in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge, whether of knowing persons or knowing by experience, as well as knowing by learning (DNTT 2:395). To the Hebrew mind "knowing" is not philosophical or theoretical, but based in reality. Yochanan's statement points to the fact that Yeshua had not begun his official ministry and these Sanhedrin members did not personally know Yeshua or his family in Nazareth. The Jerusalem leadership will become acquainted with Yeshua in the next chapter.
27 The One coming after me, of whom I am not worthy to loosen his sandal strap."
The One: Grk. ho, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 15 above. coming: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid. part. See verse 9 above. after: Grk. opisō, adv. functioning as a prep., used spatially, 'behind,' or temporally, 'after.' me: Grk. egō, i.e., Yochanan. The opening clause essentially repeats what Yochanan said in verse 15. of whom I am: Grk. egō eimi. This is Yochanan's second use of the words egō eimi. In verse 20 he stated "I am not the Messiah." Here he says "I am not worthy: Grk. axios, having worth or value, in the sense of being weighed on a scale. to loosen: Grk. luō, aor. subj., to remove a hindrance; loose, release. Yochanan speaks hypothetically, not of an anticipated event.
his sandal: Grk. hupodēma, anything bound under, a sandal (Mounce). The singular noun does not imply that Yeshua wore only one sandal, but the kind of shoe he wore. The shoe was considered the humblest article of clothing and could be bought cheaply. Two types of shoes existed: slippers of soft leather and the more popular sandals with a hard leather sole. During the first century, Jewish practice forbade the wearing of sandals with multilayered leather soles nailed together, as this was the shoe worn by Roman soldiers. strap: Grk. himas, thong or strap for a sandal. Thongs secured the sandal across the insole and between the toes. Going barefoot was a sign of poverty and reproach. The humility of Yochanan is a gentle correction of the obsession among modern Christians for self-love and self-worth.
These things: pl. of Grk. toũto, neut. demonstrative pronoun signifying something set forth in the narrative that precedes or follows its use. happened: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid., to undergo a state of existence, change or development; take place, happen, occur. in Bethany: Grk. Bēthania, which transliterates Heb. Beit-Anyah ("house of the poor," Stern 61). See the Textual Note below. This is not the Bethany where Lazarus, Miriam and Martha lived. The traditional site is the ford east of Jericho ("Bethany," ISBE) in a perennial riverbed called the Wadi Al-Kharrar. Archaeological excavations in the area have found the remains of more than 20 Christian sites, including several churches, a prayer hall, baptismal pools and a sophisticated water reticulation system. These date back to the Roman and Byzantine periods. See the web articles here and here on this subject.
across: Grk. peran, adv., on the other side, here corresponding to the direction of east, probably on the same general latitude as Jerusalem. the Jordan: Grk. Iordanēs (Heb. Yarden, "the descender"). This important river runs through a deep valley known as the Jordan Rift. It begins in the mountains of Syria, flows into the Sea of Galilee, which is 212 meters below sea level and after about 70 miles finally empties into the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on the face of the earth, 400 meters below sea level. Several tributaries (e.g. Arnon, Cherith, Jabbok, and Zered), flow into the Jordan emptying almost as much water as the Jordan itself. The deltas of these streams were fertile areas ideal for cultivation. Many cities of antiquity were built close to the juncture of the tributaries and the main river.
The Jordan River and Jordan Valley played an important role in a number of memorable events in biblical history. In the Tanakh the river is mentioned in the stories of the separation of Abram and Lot (Gen 13:11), Jacob wrestling with the angel of ADONAI at the ford of the Jabbok (Gen 32:22-26), and Israel crossing the river "on dry ground" under the leadership of Joshua (Josh 3:15-17). During the period of the judges and the early monarchy, the Jordan was a strong line of defense, not to be easily forded. In the later monarchy the Jordan River is featured in the miracles of Elijah (a place for hiding, 1Kgs 17:3; and dividing it, 2Kgs 2:8) and Elisha (dividing it, 2Kgs 2:14; and healing of Naaman, 2Kgs 5:10-14).
where: Grk. hopou, adv. of place; where. Yochanan: Grk. Iōannēs, the Immerser. See verse 6 above. was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 1 above. immersing: Grk. baptizō, pres. part. See verse 25 above. Yochanan conducted his ministry in different locations, and this Bethany may have been the starting point before moving to "Aenon near Salim" (John 3:23). Yochanan's choice of having people immerse in the Jordan River may seem unusual. According to Jewish custom of the time ritual immersion had to take place in a pool (Heb. mikveh) with water from a fresh water source and deep enough to submerge oneself by squatting. There were many pools (mikvaot) that surrounded the Temple area for ritual purification. Excavations of the southern wall of the Temple area, begun in 1968, have uncovered dozens of mikva'ot. (See pictures at BibleWalks.com.)
Why not conduct the immersion ministry near the Temple pools? The answer is twofold. First, Yochanan described the Temple leadership as a "brood of vipers" (Matt 3:6). Yochanan did not want to give any impression that he was acting on behalf of the corrupt priesthood in charge of the Temple. Second, according to the Mishnah there are six descending orders of ritual baths (Heb. mikvaoth) and the sixth and highest order is that of "living water," a spring or flowing river (Mikvaoth 1:1-8; Ron Moseley, cited above). For Yochanan the Jordan served as the most "kosher" mikveh with its continuous flow of fresh water, the most practical from the standpoint of handling large crowds and perhaps the most spiritual for its symbolic value.
Some MSS read Bethabara (for Heb. Beit-Abara, "House of Passing Over") instead of "Bethany." The name was suggested by the church father Origen (3rd cent.) who visited the land and could find no town called "Bethany" east of the Jordan. (See Origen's Commentary on John, Book VI, 24-26.). Origen's determination was accepted by Chrysostom and Eusebius (4th cent.). Modern scholars (as did Origen) point out the earliest MSS read "Bethany."
Even so, the UBS4 translation committee gave "Bethany" a "C" ranking, which means that the committee had difficulty in deciding which variant to place in the text (Metzger 171). The TR, the early English versions (1526 to 1769) and some modern Bible versions (JUB, KJ21, LITV, MW, NKJV, and YLT) read Bethabara. Origen made a fundamental research error. He assumed that because he could find no trace of Bethany "beyond the Jordan," then the earliest MSS were wrong.
On the morrow: Grk. epaurion, adv., on the morrow, the next day. The time reference occurs three times in this chapter (verses 35 and 43 below). The starting point is the day he conversed with the Pharisees. Tracking a timeline in this chapter is purposeful. he saw: Grk. blepō, pres., may mean (1) possess the capacity to see; (2) use one's eyes to take note of an object; (3) be looking in a certain direction; or (4) to have inward or mental sight. The verb usage here has elements of all four meanings, but especially the fourth. Yeshua: Grk. ho Iēsous. See verse 17 above. coming: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid. part., to come or arrive. See verse 9 above.
toward: Grk. pros, prep. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun, i.e., Yochanan. and declared: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 15 above. The verb here carries more intensity than just ordinary speech. Yochanan makes a bold public announcement. Behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp., demonstrative interjection (derived from eidon, "to see"), that arouses the attention of hearers or readers.
The Greek verb, like its corresponding Heb. word hinneh (SH-2009, e.g., Gen 1:29), serves to enliven divine monologues and narratives, particularly as a call to closer consideration and contemplation of something, to introduce something new or to emphasize the size or importance of something; (you) see, look, behold (BAG). The interjection is equivalent to "look at him!" The interjection reflects Yochanan's attainment of a new revelation. But, now Yochanan understands a more significant role for the Messiah.
the Lamb: Grk. ho amnos, lamb or young sheep. The term occurs only four times in the Besekh, all in reference to Yeshua (verse 36 below, Acts 8:32; 1Pet 1:19). In the LXX amnos translates Heb kebes ("lamb," SH-3532; BDB 461) and is used chiefly in passages concerning the sacrificial system (DNTT 2:410). Strong's Concordance defines kebes as a lamb or sheep, and that it's from an unused root word meaning to dominate, a ram (just old enough to butt). Gesenius defines kebes as a lamb, the progeny of sheep, from one to three years old (383). In contrast The various Hebrew translations of this verse render amnos with Heb. seh (sheep or lamb).
of God: Grk. ho theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. The phrase "Lamb of God" does not occur in the Tanakh at all and only in this chapter of the Besekh, although Yeshua is referred to as a lamb (Grk arnion) 30 times in the book of Revelation (5:6, 8, 12, 13; 6:1, 7, 9, 16; 7:9, 10, 14, 17; 8:1; 12:11; 13:8, 11; 14:1, 4, 10; 15:3; 17:14; 19:7, 9; 21:9, 14, 22, 23, 27; 22:1, 3). The Greek text here contains no explanatory words to define "Lamb of God," so the intention must be deduced from the genitive case of theos. The genitive qualifies the meaning of a preceding noun and is typically translated with "of." Rendered as a subjective genitive, it would mean that God performs the action. Rendered as an objective genitive, God receives the action.
One could say that the genitive case of Theos accomplishes both meanings in this instance. God provides the sacrificial Lamb and God receives the sacrifice of the Lamb. In the Tanakh sacrifices are always brought by individuals or priests. However, there is one example in which God provided the sacrifice. Abraham was directed to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering in order to demonstrate his absolute devotion to God (Gen 22:2). When father and son arrive at the designated location Isaac asks, "Where is the lamb [Heb. seh, lamb, sheep, SH-7716] for the burnt offering?" (Gen 22:7). Abraham replied that God would provide the lamb. The story goes on to identify the animal provided by God as a ram (Gen 22:13; Heb. ayil, SH-352, male sheep as leader of a flock).
the One: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. See verse 15 above. taking away: Grk. airō, pres. part., may mean (1) to cause to move upward; raise up, lift; or (2) move by lifting or taking from one position to another; take away, remove, carry off. Hebrew translations of this verse (Delitzsch, Salkinson, BSI-NT) render airō with Heb. nasa (SH-5375, lift, carry, take), which is translated by a related word exairō in Exodus 28:38 for Aaron's responsibility to carry the iniquity of holy things. Relevant to Yochanan's statement is that airō occurs twice in the LXX of Isaiah 53:8 for the Suffering Servant:
"By oppression and judgment He was taken away [Heb. laqach; LXX airō]; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off [Heb. gazar; LXX airō] out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?" (NASB).
The second use of airō is literally "his life was lifted away from the earth" (ABP), a word picture of the crucifixion.
the sin: Grk. ho hamartia may refer to (1) a behavioral action, a misdeed that creates liability, every departure from the way of righteousness; (2) the result of sinning or the condition of being sinful; or (3) an invasive evil power. Hamartia is the dominant word for sin in the Besekh. In the LXX hamartia translates a range of Hebrew words for guilt and sin, particularly Heb. chata (SH-2398), miss, go wrong, lapse, sin (Gen 20:6; 39:9) and avon (SH-5771), iniquity, guilt, punishment for iniquity (Gen 15:16). Throughout Scripture sin as a behavior is a violation of God's written commandments (Rom 3:20; 5:13; 7:7).
The degree of intentionality is not a factor in defining sinful behavior, only whether the express requirements or prohibitions of Torah commandments have been violated. Indeed, the Torah recognizes that a transgression could be unintentional (Heb. shegagah, SH-7684), a sin of error or inadvertence (Lev 4:1-3, 27-28; 5:18; Num 15:22-29). Nevertheless, atonement was still required. In Scripture hamartia does not include the imperfections that separate humanity from divinity, "falling short of the glory" (Rom 3:23).
The Hebrew translations of this verse (BSI-NT, Delitzsch, Salkinson) render hamartia with chatta'ah in a construct form that indicates punishment. Thus, Yeshua would not become sinful on the cross as many seem to think (based on mistranslation of 2Cor 5:21), but he will bear the punishment for sin (cf. 1Cor 15:3; Heb 2:17; 7:27; 9:28; 1Pet 3:18). The concept of "taking away sin" or "bearing the punishment for sin" alludes to the atonement sacrifices stipulated in the Torah that took the punishment for sin: burnt offering, sin offering, and guilt offering. Sacrificial animals included the bull, heifer, cow, ram, goat, lamb, turtledove, and pigeon, but the lamb played an especially important role in Israel's public worship.
The lamb (kebes/amnos) featured in the voluntary atonement sacrifices by individual Israelites: burnt offering (Lev 1:10; 12:6), sin offering (Lev 4:32; 12:6; Num 6:13-14), and guilt offering (Lev 5:6; 14:12). The guilt offering actually encompassed a sin offering and a burnt offering (Lev 5:7). The goat was the principal animal designated for the sin offering, especially on Passover (Num 28:22) and Yom Kippur (Lev 16:5; 23:19; Num 29:11). However, the burnt offering, regardless of the animal, also accomplished atonement (cf. Gen 8:21; Ex 29:41; Lev 1:4, 10; Num 6:11; Ezek 20:41). The sheep, whether lamb or ram, was the principal animal for the obligatory burnt offerings on these occasions:
Yom, Daily, morning and evening (Ex 29:38-46; Num 28:3)
Shabbat (Num 28:9)
Rosh Chodesh, 'New Moon' (Num 28:11).
Hag Matzah, 'Feast of Unleavened Bread,' first month, for seven days, Nisan 15-21 (Lev 23:8; Num 28:19, 21).
Reishit Qatsir, 'First Fruits,' first day after Sabbath after Pesach, Passover (Lev 23:10, 12).
Shavuot, 'Feast of Weeks,' [Pentecost], 50 days after Pesach; also referred to as Yom HaBikkurim, 'First Fruits' (Lev 23:18-20; Num 28:29).
Yom Teru'ah, 'Feast of Trumpets,' seventh month, Tishri 1-8 (Num 29:1, 17-37).
Yom Kippur, 'Day of Atonement,' seventh month, Tishri 10, Num 29:7-8).
Sukkot, 'Feast of Booths,' seventh month, Tishri 15-21 (Num 29:12-13).
(For a complete explanation of the sacrifices see Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, Hendrickson Pub., 1994; Chap. 5 and Chap. 6.) All the offerings were substitutionary in nature and made it possible for God to dwell in the midst of His people.
of the world: Grk. kosmos. See verse 9 above. The term in this verse would refer to sinful humanity. On this day Yochanan, realized not only the Messiah's role, but the scope of his atoning work. Yochanan's announcement might well have been disturbing, if not confusing to his audience. After all the Torah sacrifices did not benefit any Gentile who had not joined himself to Israel. The atonement mission is completely in accord with the work of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53. Isaiah 53 not only depicts atonement for "my people" (verse 8), but goes on to say that the Servant will "justify the many" (verse 11) and bear the punishment for the "sin of many" (verse 12).
From this general statement Yochanan inferred atonement would be provided for the whole world. This is consistent with sayings that the Servant of ADONAI would bring righteousness to the nations (Isa 42:1; 51:4), light to the nations (Isa 42:6; 49:6) and would "sprinkle many nations" (Isa 52:15), a metaphor of atonement. Yeshua himself interpreted his mission as to ransom his people (Matt 20:28; Mark 10:45), which will be emphasized in the symbols of the bread and cup at the last supper (Matt 26:26-28). Yeshua death as an atoning sacrifice would later become foundational to apostolic theology (Acts 8:30-35; Rom 5:19; 1Cor 5:7; 2Cor 5:21; Eph 5:2; 1Tim 2:6; Heb 7:27; 9:26; 10:12; 1Pet 2:24; 3:18).
Additional Note on Amnos
Some commentators associate Yochanan's "lamb" in this verse with the Passover lamb killed on Nisan 14 for the evening meal, citing Paul's words, "our Pesakh [Grk. pascha], Messiah, has been sacrificed in place of us" (1Cor 5:7 MW). Many versions insert "lamb," even though Paul doesn't use the word for lamb (e.g., CJB, ESV, MSG, NET, NIRV, NIV, NLT, NRSV, RSV and TLV). A number of versions correctly omit "lamb" (ASV, DRA, HCSB, HNV, KJ21, KJV, LEB, NASB, NEB and NKJV). When Paul declared that Yeshua was the "Passover" in this verse, he clarified what he meant by saying in 2Corinthians 5:21 that Yeshua was a sin offering.
Also, the Greek word for "lamb" used here in John (amnos = Heb. kebes) is never used in the Torah for the lamb slaughtered on Nisan 14 for the Passover meal. (The word for the meal lamb is seh; LXX arēn, Ex 12:5). Yochanan emphasizes that Yeshua is the lamb of God who takes away sin. The lambs slaughtered for the Passover meal on Nisan 14 were not atonement sacrifices, although they would qualify as peace offerings. In Egypt the blood of the Passover lambs on doorposts accomplished redemption from death.
Thereafter the lamb killed for the Passover Seder on Nisan 14 was a memorial of the former deliverance without meritorious effect. This detail is also evidence that Yeshua did not die on Nisan 14 as some believe, because the only offering that day that accomplished atonement was the morning and evening burnt offering. Instead Yeshua died on Nisan 15. On that day the priests sacrificed two bulls, one ram and seven lambs as burnt offerings (which did have an atoning effect) and one male goat as a sin offering in accordance with the legislation in Numbers 28:17-22.
Of course, the fact that a goat was offered as a sin offering on Nisan 15 does not conflict with Yeshua being called the Lamb of God. He is also called the Lion of Judah (Rev 5:5), and lions were not sacrificial animals. Yochanan uses Lamb of God as a Messianic title and a figure of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53:7 (cf. Acts 8:32; 1Pet 1:19). The quotation of Isaiah 53:7 from the LXX in Acts 8:32 likens Yeshua to a sheep and a lamb, "He was led as a sheep [Grk. probaton; for Heb. seh, sheep or lamb] to slaughter [Grk. sphagē for Heb. tebach]; and as a lamb [Grk. amnos; for Heb. rachel, a ewe] before its shearer is silent, so he opens not His mouth" (TLV).
The point of the word picture in Isaiah 53 is not that the Suffering Servant died like an animal for ritual sacrifice, but rather suffered a violent death without resistance, and yet in the process accomplished a substitutionary atonement for the "many" (Isa 53:5-6, 8). Peter echoes this message, "you were redeemed with precious blood like that of a lamb without defect or spot, the blood of Messiah" (TLV).
30 This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who has become above me, because he was before me.'
Yochanan the Immerser repeats his words in verse 15 above to make it clear that he was talking about Yeshua. See the comment there.
31 And I did not know him, but in order that he might be revealed to Israel, because of this I came immersing in water."
And I: Grk. kagō, formed from combining kai and egō and serves to link in parallel or contrasting fashion a personal affirmation by way of addition to or confirmation of a preceding statement; 'and I.' did not: Grk. ou, adv., a negative particle that strongly negates the verb. know him: Grk. oida, plperf. See verse 26 above. The pluperfect tense is used of action in the past that is complete and the results of the action being noted. Yochanan is not saying that Yeshua was a stranger to him, but that he did not realize Yeshua's true identity and mission before this time. but: Grk. alla, conj. for contrast. in order that: Grk. hina, conj., expresses intention. he might be revealed: Grk. phaneroō, aor. subj., cause to be in a state or condition that makes observation possible; make known, show, disclose, manifest, reveal. Here the verb has the sense of recognition of Yeshua's identity as the Messiah.
to Israel: Grk. Israēl, a transliteration of the Heb. Yisrael, which means "God prevails" (BDB 975). The name first appears in Genesis 32:28 where the heavenly being with whom Jacob struggled said, "From now on, you will no longer be called Ya'akov, but Isra'el; because you have shown your strength to both God and men and have prevailed" (CJB). The announcement, occurring before Jacob's reconciliation with his brother Esau, was prophetic because not until chapter 35 do we read that the name change was made permanent. Then God spoke to Jacob,
"Your name is Ya'akov, but you will be called Ya'akov no longer; your name will be Isra'el." Thus he named him Isra'el." God further said to him, "I am El Shaddai. Be fruitful and multiply. A nation, indeed a group of nations, will come from you; kings will be descended from you. Moreover, the land which I gave to Avraham and Yitz'chak I will give to you, and I will give the land to your descendants after you." (Gen 35:9-12 CJB)
The name of Israel was then given to the land God bequeathed to the descendants of Jacob (Gen 49:7) and used of the whole people regarded as one person (Num 24:5). The reader should note that Yochanan said "Israel" and not "Palestine." Contrary to the erroneous labeling on Christian Bible maps and usage by Christian commentators there was no Palestine in Bible times. There is no Palestine now and to use the term in any biblical context can only be described as antisemitic. (See my web article The Land is Not Palestine.) Regardless of what names governments have placed on the land, to God the land was and is "Israel" (cf. Matt 2:20-21; 10:23; Luke 4:27; 7:9). Yochanan also does not say "New Israel," a title that the Church later claimed for itself when it adopted the false doctrine of Supersessionism. (See my article The Lie of Replacement Theology.)
Yochanan affirms what Yeshua will later say, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt 15:24). because of: Grk. dia, prep., lit. "through," but used here with the accusative case of the pronoun following to expressing cause (DM 101). this: Grk. toũto, neut. demonstrative pronoun. I came: Grk. erchomai, aor. See verse 9 above. immersing: Grk. baptizō, pres. part. See verse 25 above. in water: Grk. hudōr. See verse 26 above.
32 And Yochanan testified, saying, "I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained on him.
And: Grk. kai, conj. See verse 1 above. Yochanan: Grk. Iōannēs, the Immerser. See verse 6 above. testified: Grk. martureō, aor. See verse 7 above. The verb makes the announcement that follows the equivalent of sworn testimony in a legal proceeding. saying: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 15 above. I have seen: Grk. theaomai, perf. See verse 14 above. the Spirit: Grk. pneuma (for Heb. ruach, Resh-Vav-Chet), wind, breath or spirit; here with the definite article refers to the Holy Spirit. Messianic Jewish Bible versions differ in spelling, one with the phonetic Ruakh (MW) and others with the literal Ruach (CJB, HNV, OJB, TLV). (The Chet letter is pronounced like the "ch" in Bach.) The Ruach first appears in Genesis 1:2 where He was moving over the Deep, assisting the Word in creation.
descending: Grk. katabainō, pres. part., to proceed in a direction that is down, lit. "coming down" (cf. Mark 1:10). as: Grk. hōs, conj. that connects narrative components and functions as a simile; like, as, similar to. a dove: Grk. peristera, a pigeon or dove without distinguishing the particular species. In the LXX peristera principally renders Heb. yonah (SH-3123, dove or pigeon, Gen 8:8, 9, 12; Lev 1:14). This family of birds, known in modern taxonomy as Columbidae, exhibit considerable variation in size. Pigeons have strong wing muscles (wing muscles comprise 31–44% of their body weight) and are among the strongest fliers of all birds. The species has no gall bladder and consequently ancient science concluded the birds have no bile, which explained their sweet disposition, although in fact they do have gall. Their diet consists principally of seeds and fruit.
The dove has an important place in Scripture. In Genesis 8, Noah sent out a dove after the global deluge to determine how far the floodwaters had receded. The dove with an olive branch in its mouth (Gen 8:11) has become a universal symbol of peace. In the sacrificial system prescribed at Mt. Sinai turtledoves (Heb. tor) and young pigeons (Heb. yonah) are acceptable burnt offerings and sin offerings for those who cannot afford a more expensive animal (Lev 1:14; 5:7, 11). Since these birds were used for sacrifice, they were sold in the temple (Matt 21:12; Mark 11:15; John 2:14). Miriam, the mother of Yeshua, sacrificed the requisite birds to restore herself to a clean status after having given birth (Lev 12:1-8; Luke 2:22-24). The pigeon was also offered in other rituals to restore a clean state (Lev 14:22; 15:14, 29; Num 6:10).
Yochanan is not confusing the Spirit of God with a bird, and the Synoptic Narratives also indicate the mention of the bird is symbolic (Matt 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22). No actual bird landed on Yeshua, although Luke's record does say the Spirit had a "bodily" form. The specific point of the comparison is the manner of the Spirit's descent. Doves and pigeons when landing flutter gently down, whereas other birds swoop. In modern Christianity the fluttering dove is a common symbol of the Holy Spirit.
out of heaven: Grk. ouranos, the area above the earth that encompasses the sky, interstellar space and associated phenomena or the transcendent dwelling-place of God. In the LXX ouranos translates the Heb. hashamayim (lit. "the heavens”) (DNTT 2:191). The Hebrew and Greek words for "heaven" are used in Scripture to refer to at least three different places (Ps 148:1-4). In terms of direction from the ground level of the earth the first heaven is the atmosphere or "face" of hashamayim, across which birds fly (Gen 1:20; Rev 19:17). The second heaven is interstellar space (Gen 1:1, 8; Matt 24:29), populated with the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day of creation. Finally, the third heaven is the location of the throne of God and the home of angels (2Kgs 8:30; Matt 6:9; 2Cor 12:2). Here the term obviously has the third meaning with the Holy Spirit coming from the throne of God.
and He remained: Grk. menō, aor., to be in a situation for a length of time, to remain or stay. In the LXX menō translates 15 different Hebrew words, the most common being amad (SH-5975, 'stand, remain') and qum (SH-6966, stand, arise). The verb is particularly used of God to emphasize His constancy (DNTT 3:224). The Hebrew versions of the Besekh translate menō with Heb. nuach (SH-5117, to rest, to settle down and remain). In the LXX menō never translates nuach. The choice may have been influenced by the use of nuach in reference to birds resting (2Sam 21:10) and the passage that describes the spirit of Elijah resting on Elisha (2Kgs 2:15).
on him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun, i.e., Yeshua. The ministry of Yeshua was marked by the empowerment and presence of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:14; Acts 10:38). Yochanan's description alludes to the occasion of the immersion of Yeshua, which occurred almost two months before the present narrative. Santala proposes that Yeshua was immersed in February, A.D. 27 (110). The present narrative anticipates Yeshua's first Passover in Jerusalem (John 2:13). For discussion on the dating of Yeshua's immersion see my commentary Mark 1:9 and the note on Luke 3:23, which says that Yeshua was "about 30" at his immersion.
33 And I did not know him, but the One who sent me to immerse in water, he said to me, 'On whomever you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, this is the one immersing in the Holy Spirit.'
And: Grk. kagō, conj. See verse 31 above. I did not know him: This phrase is a repeat from verse 31 above. but The One: Grk. ho, demonstrative pronoun, a circumlocution for God. See verse 15 above. who sent: Grk. pempō, aor. part., to dispatch someone for a variety of purposes; send. me to immerse: Grk. baptizō, pres. inf., to immerse completely. See verse 25 above. The verb confirms the purpose for which Yochanan was sent. The verb is a word picture of Yochanan's divine mission to call the people of Israel to spiritual cleansing. in water: Grk. hudōr. See verse 26 above. In accordance with Jewish practice Yochanan superintended and witnessed the immersion of others. He did not lay hands on people as in Christian practice. he: Grk. ekeinos, demonstrative pronoun, lit. "that one." See verse 8 above. said: Grk. legō, aor. to me: Grk. egō, i.e., Yochanan the Immerser.
On whomever you see: Grk. horaō, aor. subj., to see with the eyes or perceive. See verse 18 above. the Spirit: Grk. pneuma for Heb. Ruach. See the previous verse. descending: Grk. katabainō, pres. part. See the previous verse. and remaining: Grk. menō, pres. part. See the previous verse. The present participle in this verse emphasizes the continuing role of the Holy Spirit in the ministry of Yeshua. on him: i.e., Yeshua. this is the one immersing: Grk. baptizō, pres. part. In the Synoptic parallels (Matt 3:11; Mark 1:8 and Luke 3:16) the verb is future tense. However, the present tense can anticipate a future event, one which is regarded as so certain that in thought it may be contemplated as already coming to pass (DM 185). in: Grk. en, prep. the root meaning is 'within,' but here has the sense of agency; in.
the Holy: Grk. hagios has two distinctive uses in Scripture: (1) as an adj. of things dedicated to God (e.g., the temple, Jerusalem), of persons consecrated to God (e.g., prophets), then of angels, of Messiah, and of God (Lev 19:2); (2) as a pure substantive in the neut. form hagion, used of the name of God (Luke 1:44), and then of what is set apart for God to be exclusively His, e.g., sacred places as the temple (Num 3:38; Matt 24:15), the holy land (2Macc 1:29; 2:18), Jerusalem (Matt 4:5), sacrifices (Lev 22:14; Rom 12:1), and angels (Zech 14:5; 1Th 3:13) and human persons (Isa 4:3; Acts 9:13). In the LXX hagios translates Heb. qadosh (SH-6918), which means separate, sacred, holy. Qadosh is first used of God in Lev 11:44.
Spirit: Grk. pneuma for Heb. ruach. In Scripture "holy" is only used as an adjective of "spirit" to refer to the Holy Spirit, a name or face of God. "Holy Spirit" is not the title of a separate being, because God is Spirit (pneuma ho theos, John 4:24), just as God is the Word (verse 1 above). The specific name "Holy Spirit" occurs only three times in the Tanakh (Ps 51:11; Isa 63:10, 11) given as Ruach Qodesh. The Holy Spirit is identified by three other forms in the Tanakh (Ruach Elohim, Gen 1:2; Ruach YHVH, Judg 3:10; and Ruach Adonai YHVH, Isa 61:1). The Greek text of this verse does not have the definite article for either "Holy" or "Spirit," corresponding to the lack of the definite article in the three passages of Ruach Qodesh.
An interesting detail is that modern Hebrew translations of "Holy Spirit" in the Besekh present Qodesh as HaQodesh, with "Ha" serving as a definite article (BSI-NT, Delitzsch, Salkinson). Messianic Jewish versions (CJB, HNV, MW, TLV, and OJB) use the phonetic spelling of ha-Kodesh for "the Holy Spirit." This form mimics the English translation, but the Hebrew text of the three Tanakh passages with Ruach Qodesh do not have the definite article. (NOTE: Messianic Jewish spelling often uses the English "K" for the Hebrew letters Chet [ח], Kaf [כ] and Qof [ק]. See the standard transliteration chart for Hebrew letters.)
All of the passages mentioning the Holy Spirit indicate that He is divine, not less or other than God. The contrast of water-immersion vs. Spirit-immersion hints at the fact that Yeshua did not immerse anyone in water (John 4:2). Yeshua himself makes this promise (Luke 24:49; John 15:26, 16:13–14; Acts 1:8) and its fulfillment begins at Acts 2:1. Just as Yochanan superintended the immersion of penitents so Yeshua superintends the receipt of the Holy Spirit in power.
(1) the wondrous signs that would mark the coming of the Holy Spirit in power at Shavuot, aka Pentecost (cf. Gen 15:17-18; Ex 3:2; 19:18; Acts 1:8); or
(2) the purification of the of the disciples by the Holy Spirit at Shavuot (Isa 5:24; 10:17; Mal 3:3; Acts 15:8-9); or
(3) the disciples being treated as a spiritual burnt offering at Shavuot (cf. Gen 22:2; Ex 29:40-41; Lev 6:12; Rom 12:1; Eph 5:2; 1Pet 2:5); or
(4) of temporal trials and testing after Shavuot (cf. Isa 43:2; Luke 12:49-53; 1Cor 3:13-15; Heb 11:34; 1Pet 1:7); or
34 And I have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
And I: Grk. kagō, conj. See verse 31 above. have seen: Grk. horaō, perf., to see with the eyes or to perceive with the mind, both of which apply to this situation. and: Grk. kai, conj. have testified: Grk. martureō, perf.. See verse 7 above. Yochanan reminds his audience of what he has already told them. that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 15 above. The conjunction introduces the content of the verb "testified." this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun, i.e., "this one," spoken as Yeshua came into visual range. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 1 above. The present tense emphasizes the present reality.
the Son: Grk. ho huios may refer to (1) a male offspring or descendant, whether by direct birth or by more remote ancestry; or (2) one who is closely associated in terms of relationship or condition apart from physical lineage. The first meaning is intended here. In the LXX huios renders Heb. ben ("son," "son of"), which is used in three distinctive ways: (1) to identify direct paternity, as the son of his father (Gen 5). (2) a distant ancestor (Gen 32:32; Matt 1:1); or (3) having the characteristics of (Ps 89:22; Dan 3:25; cf. 2Th 2:3). All these meanings have application to Yeshua.
of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. The title "Son of God" occurs 43 times in the Besekh and all but one refer to Yeshua. Christianity has traditionally restricted the meaning of the title "Son of God" to deity. Unbelieving Jews typically object to the concept of God having a divine son and can rightly claim that before the advent of Christianity "Son of God' had a very human meaning. Adam was the first son of God (Luke 3:38). Then God declared that the nation of Israel was His son (Ex 4:22; Isa 63:16; 64:8; Jer 31:9; Hos 11:1; 18:13) and by extension applied to all righteous Israelites (Ps 82:6; Sir. 4:10; Wsd. 2:13; Pss. Sol. 13:9; Jub. 1:24-25; Rom 9:4; 2Cor 6:18).
The disciples of Yeshua would later be described as "sons of God" (Matt 5:9, 45; Rom 8:14-15, 19, 23; 9:26; Gal 3:26; 4:6-7; Eph 1:5; Heb 12:7-8). Yet, there are verses in the Tanakh that mention God having a unique Son in a very personal sense:
· "I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me." (2Sam 7:12-14 NASB)
· "But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain." 7 "I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. … 11 Worship the LORD with reverence And rejoice with trembling. 12 Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!" (Ps 2:6-7, 11-12 NASB)
· "Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His son's name? Surely you know!" (Prov 30:4 NASB)
· "For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace." (Isa 9:6 NASB)
However, for Jews during this time "son of God" was used as a title for a human descendant of King David, the Messiah, who would establish the promised Kingdom, as indicated in verses 17, 41 and 49 in this chapter. "Son of God" was a title of the Davidic king inasmuch as the king functioned as God's regent on earth and was vested with God's authority (Leman 95). Robert Alter in his commentary The Book of Psalms (W.W. Norton & Co., 2007) says that it was commonplace in the ancient Near East to consider the king as God's son (6). So when Yochanan introduces Yeshua with the old title for the king of the House of David he means "Son of God" as the Messiah of Israel, just as Nathanael (verse 49 below) and Martha (John 11:27) intended when they called Yeshua "Son of God."
Presentation of the Messiah, 1:35-51
35 Again, on the morrow, Yochanan stood with two of his disciples,
Again: Grk. palin, adv., with focus on a repetitive occurrence; once more, again. on the morrow: Grk. epaurion, adv., on the morrow, the next day. The time reference occurs three times in this chapter (verses 35 and 43 below). The starting point is the day he dialoged with the Pharisees. Tracking a timeline in this chapter is purposeful. Yochanan: Grk. Iōannēs, the Immerser. See verse 6 above. stood: Grk. histēmi, plperf., be in an upright position, to stand, used of bodily posture. The pluperfect tense expresses action in the past that is complete and the results of the action in existence at some point in past time as indicated by the context. The tense implies that Yochanan's "standing" has the nuance of taking a stand of principle or holding his ground regardless of what others would say.
with two: Grk. duo, adj., the cardinal number two as an arithmetical quantity. of his disciples: pl. of Grk. mathētēs ('mah-thay-tays;' from manthanō, to learn), one who learns through instruction from a teacher. In the Besekh the noun occurs only in the apostolic narratives. In the LXX mathētēs occurs only in two alternate readings of Jeremiah 13:21 and 20:11 (BAG). The corresponding Hebrew noun is talmid ('tal-meed,' SH-8527), scholar or pupil, derived from the verb lamad (SH-3925), to teach or to learn. In the Tanakh talmid occurs only in 1Chronicles 25:8 where it refers to Levites being trained in musical duties. In that passage the LXX translates talmid with the participial form of manthanō.
In the first century the talmid was a devoted pupil of a Torah scholar or Rhabbi (See verse 38 below). The focus of the talmid was not just on the written laws of the Torah but the traditions of the fathers, referred to as the Oral Torah (Shabbath 31a). In the history of the Israelite people recorded in the Tanakh the Hebrew prophets had no disciples. This is illustrated by the fact that the attendants of Moses and the prophets, such as Elijah, Elisha and Jeremiah, were not called students, but servants (Ex 24:12; Num 11:28; 1Kgs 19:19-21; 2Kgs 4:12; Jer 32:12-13). In fact, the "sons of the prophets" functioned more like a guild (2Kgs 6:1-3) (TDNT 4:428). What bound the guild together was the power of the Holy Spirit (1Sam 10:10-12; 19:20-22).
However, with the development of Phariseeism in the intertestamental period when the voice of God was silent, the authority of biblical prophets diminished, and was replaced by the authority of notable Jewish scholars, called Sages (Baba Bathra 12a; cf. John 8:53). By the first century Torah scholars considered themselves authorities in their own right and the only task of a talmid was to acquire knowledge from his teacher (Avot 2:8). In ancient times it was not a talmid who signed up for a particular rabbi. When a rabbi could see a promising student as a possible talmid, then the rabbi would himself issue the call (Kasdan 103). In Rabbinic Judaism the rabbi of talmidim was not itinerate. Rather he operated a school which talmidim attended. The most noted Rabbi-teachers of the first century were Hillel and Shammai. The Judean authorities noted that Yeshua and his disciples had not been students at any of their academies (John 7:15; 9:29; Acts 4:13).
Becoming a talmid of a notable Torah scholar would radically change a man's life. (The academies did not admit women.) A talmid had to leave family and friends to be with his rabbi. In Jewish culture studying Torah was as important as honoring one's parents, and leaving home to study Torah with a rabbi was even more important. In fact, the rabbi was to be honored above the disciple's own father, since his father only brought him into the life of this world, whereas his teacher, who taught him wisdom [i.e., Torah], has brought him into the life of the world to come (Baba Metzia 2:13). A particular hardship of a married talmid was being away from his wife. Since a wife had conjugal rights (Ex 21:10), a man needed the permission of his wife to leave home for longer than thirty days to study with a Sage (Ketubot 5:6).
The disciples of Yochanan, as well as those of Yeshua, had to fulfill the normal expectations of a talmid. Following an itinerant rabbi required four particular qualities. First, to be a disciple required sacrifice. Traveling the country meant leaving behind family, security and living under austere conditions. This was not a life of luxury. Simon Peter alluded to his sacrifice when he spoke of leaving everything to follow Yeshua (Matt 19:27). The rich young ruler was not willing to pay this price to be a disciple (Matt 19:21-22). Second, to be a disciple required commitment. Devotion to the rabbi came before all other obligations (Luke 9:57-61; 14:26). Once the commitment was made turning back would have been equivalent to rebellion against God (Luke 9:62). The disciple left behind his ordinary life and embraced an extraordinary life with his rabbi.
Third, to be a disciple required humility. A disciple came to the rabbi with an inquiring mind, a desire to know. He did not have answers, but he sought answers about God and spiritual things. He knew the rabbi had the answers (John 6:68). This humility is illustrated by the rabbinic saying "Let your home be a meeting-house for the sages, and cover yourself in the dust of their feet, and drink in their words thirstily" (Avot 1:4; translation by Bivin 12). Miriam, sister of Martha, demonstrated this humility when she sat at the feet of Yeshua (Luke 10:39). Fourth, to be a disciple required obedience (Matt 28:19). The rabbi's will became the disciple's will. The rabbi directed, the disciple obeyed. The only authority greater in the disciple's life would be God.
In this verse the disciples of Yochanan are designated "his" (Grk. autos), implying that Yochanan was respected as having the authority of a rabbi. Indeed, Yochanan is addressed as rhabbi in John 3:26. Several passages speak of Yochanan's disciples (Matt 9:14; 11:12; Luke 7:18-19; 11:1; John 3:25; 4:1; Acts 19:1-3).
36 and looking at Yeshua walking, he said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!”
and: Grk. kai, conj. See verse 1 above. looking at: Grk. emblepō, aor. part., to look at. The verb indicates that Yochanan looked straight at Yeshua. Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous. See verse 17 above. walking: Grk. peripateō, pres. part., to engage in pedestrian activity; go about; walk about, walk around, walk. In the LXX peripateō is found in only 33 passages, of which more than half come from Wisdom literature, and renders Heb. halak (to go, come or walk) (DNTT 3:943). Peripateō occurs in a few passages of God walking (Gen 3:8; Job 9:8; Ps 104:3), and in a some passages peripateō is used figuratively of a way of life (2Kgs 20:3; Ps 12:8; Prov 6:22; 8:20; Eccl 11:9). One might assume that Yeshua was simply strolling along, minding his own business, but it's more likely he anticipated a divine appointment.
However, the fact that the verb is a participle may suggest that "walk" also has a figurative nuance of Yeshua's way of life or character. He had been immersed and gone through the wilderness testing. He was not the same man as when Yochanan last saw him. he says: Grk. legō. See verse 15 above. The present tense adds vividness to the declaration. Behold: Grk. ide, aor. imp., of eidon, to see, but functions as an attention-getter without regard to number of persons addressed; in general (you) see! the Lamb: Grk. amnos, lamb. See verse 29 above. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. Yochanan the Immerser sees Yeshua and informs two of his talmidim that Yeshua is the Lamb of God. Yochanan had already made this pronouncement the day before (in verse 29) where it says Yeshua would take away sins of the world.
37 and the two disciples heard him speaking, and they followed Yeshua.
and: Grk. kai, conj. See verse 1 above. the two disciples: See verse 35. heard: Grk. akouō, aor., may mean (1) to hear, with the focus on willingness to listen or to heed the substance of what is said; (2) hear with comprehension, understand; (3) receive information aurally, hear, hear about; or (4) a legal term of hearing a case. The first meaning applies here. In the LXX akouō consistently stands for Heb. shama, which not only means to apprehend, but also to accept and to act upon what has been apprehended (DNTT 2:173). Thus, in Hebrew usage to hear implies a readiness, even an eagerness to know and obey. The two disciples were paying attention to Yochanan because they were devoted to his teaching.
him speaking: Grk. laleō, pres. part., is used in the Besekh primarily to mean making an vocal utterance and to exercise the faculty of speech; assert, proclaim, report, say, speak, talk about, utter. The verb is perhaps a reminder that the good news of the Messiah was first oral long before it was ever written down. The present tense emphasizes the repeated nature of the message. and they followed: Grk. akoloutheō, aor., may mean (1) to be in motion in sequence behind someone; (2) to be in close association with someone, especially as a disciple. Mounce adds to imitate in behavior. The first meaning of the verb applies here. After what Yochanan had said the two disciples were curious. This particular verb is never used of Yeshua. Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous. See verse 17 above.
38 And having turned Yeshua noticed them following, said to them, "What do you seek?” They said to him, "Rabbi" (which is called, being interpreted, Teacher), "where are you staying?”
And: Grk. de, conj., here as a connecting particle to continue the narrative. having turned: Grk. strephō, aor. pass. part., to redirect a position; turn. Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous. See verse 17 above. noticed: Grk. theaomai, aor. mid. part. See verse 14 above. them following: Grk. akoloutheō, pres. part. See the previous verse. Yeshua knew the two disciples of Yochanan the Immerser were trailing after him and he stopped and turned around to wait for them. said: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 15 above. What: Grk. tis, interrogative pronoun; what. The pronoun introduces the first of two questions.
do you seek: Grk. zēteō, pres., may mean (1) be on the search for in order to find someone or something one has difficulty in locating; seek, look for; (2) search for ways to satisfy an interest; deliberate, discuss; (3) have an interest in; desire, seek; or (4) press for; expect, demand. The phrase could be translated "you are seeking, what?" The first meaning applies here, with a nuance of the third meaning. Yeshua asks a very good question. Typical of questions asked by God in Scripture (e.g., Gen 3:9, 13; 16:8), this question goes to the reason the disciples were even with Yochanan. It's the sort of question that probes the depths of our hearts. What were they seeking? Having believed the message of Yochanan the Immerser they were expecting to see the Messiah. Yet, Yeshua's question delves even deeper. What did they really want from the Messiah? Ironically, the disciples don't answer the question directly, at least in the way that makes sense to Westerners.
And they said: Grk. legō, aor. The verb is plural implying both disciples addressed Yeshua, but probably only one replied acting as a spokesman for the other. Rabbi: Grk. Rhabbi, voc. case, which transliterates the Hebrew Rabbi ("rah-bee", lit. "my lord, my master”), derived from Heb. rab (SH-7227, "great, lord, master") (BAG). Rhabbi or the Hebrew Rabbi does not occur in the Tanakh, LXX, or DSS. Rhabbi was a title of respect used for Torah scholars by everyone, even those of the same or higher rank (Stern 68). The title did not become associated with the congregational leader of a local synagogue until Medieval times ("Rabbi," JVL).
In The Talmud Rabbi is used only of Sages from the land of Israel. Babylonian Sages of later periods are identified in the Talmud by Rab or Rabban ("Rabbi, Rabbinate," Encyclopedia Judaica, 2nd ed., Vol. 17, p. 11). The respect accorded to a rabbi is illustrated by the Talmud saying, "Whosoever has been present at the death of Rabbi is destined to enjoy the life of the world to come" (Ket. 103b). Rhabbi is found 15 times in the Besekh, all in the apostolic narratives (eight of which are in John). A derivative form rhabbouni occurs twice (Mark 10:51; John 20:16). On most occasions the title was used to address Yeshua by a present or future disciple.
Ordinarily the title "Rabbi" was used of someone that had been ordained by a board of three elders established by the Sanhedrin through a ceremony of laying on of hands, called in Hebrew semikhah (DNTT 3:115). The practice hearkens back to the occasion when Moses "laid hands" on Joshua to appoint him as his successor to lead Israel after his death (Num 27:18, 23). An ordained rabbi was granted the right to judge and to decide points of halakhah or application of Torah. Notable rabbis had pupils or disciples who studied their expositions and were duty bound to obey their instructions. Yeshua, of course, never sought such formal recognition, because his authority came from God (Mark 1:22).
He would later criticize Torah scholars who loved to be called "Rabbi" and receive public recognition (Matt 23:7). Yeshua then commanded his apostles to refrain from using the titles "Rabbi," "Father" and "Teacher [Grk. kathēgētēs]" (Matt 23:8-9). And, in compliance with this instruction these titles are never used in the Besekh of the apostles. Perhaps Yeshua anticipated this saying in the Talmud concerning the elevation of Rabbis, "Jehoshaphat, King of Judah. who, on seeing a scholar, used to rise from his throne, embrace him and kiss him, and call him 'My master, my master; my teacher, my teacher'" (Ket. 103b). The parallel in Makkot 24a adds "My father, my father" to the salutation. (See the web article by Dan Gruber, Rabbinic Judaism, at ElijahNet for more on this subject).
The fact the title "Rabbi" is used in the same context with the two Messianic titles that follow may seem strange, but one of the expectations of the Messiah is that he would explain the Torah, as the woman at the well said, "I know that Messiah is coming … When he comes he will explain everything to us" (John 4:25 TLV). Perhaps the two disciples had the same expectation. However, at this point of Yeshua's story the two disciples only address Yeshua as "Rabbi" in the sense of a respectful title. He had yet to truly become their teacher and master.
which is called: Grk. legō, pres. pass. The phrase functions as a substantive and thus means "which is called" or "named." being interpreted: Grk. methermēneuō, pres. pass. part., to translate, or render a term from one language into another. The verb emphasizes that the Book was written for a primarily Jewish audience, so John translates a familiar Jewish word for Gentiles who may not have understood it. The verb occurs not at all in the LXX, but does occur in the prologue (30) to Sirach and in Josephus (Ant. VIII, 5:3) (DNTT 1:580). The M-Text and TR (upon which the KJV is based) have Grk. hermēneuō (to explain, interpret, translate), but the earliest and best MSS have methermēneuō, which strictly means to translate. See verse 42 below.
Teacher: Grk. didaskalos, teacher or instructor who regularly engaged in the imparting of knowledge or skills, a vocation of special status among the Israelites. The Greek term occurs 59 times in the Besekh. In the LXX didaskalos occurs only in 2 Maccabees 1:10 to denote Aristobulus, the head of the Egyptian Jewish community, who, having dedicated an exposition of the Pentateuch to King Ptolemy Philometor, is called a teacher clearly for this reason. However, the participle form of the verb didaskō, "one teaching," is used to render the participle form of three Hebrew verbs: (1) maskil, part. of sakal, give insight, teach (SH-7919; Job 22:2); (2) hamlammed, part. of lamad, instruct, teach (SH-3925; Ps 119:99); and (3) moreh, part. of yarah, to throw or shoot and thus "one who throws out," "points out," or "instructs," (SH-3384; Prov 5:13; Isa 9:15) (DNTT 3:766).
In Greek education teaching was concerned with imparting knowledge or technical skills. Philo, the Hellenistic Jewish philosopher (25 BC - AD 50), employs this meaning when he uses the term "teacher" to refer to both Moses (On Giants 54) and God (Who is the Heir of Divine Things? 102). In both cases Philo regards a teacher as one who imparts knowledge, not as one who lays ethical demands before others. Hebrew education in the Tanakh, however, is more concerned with obedience than imparting information. The situation is different in the Qumran texts where moreh occurs more frequently, often with a qualifying phrase like "the righteous one," probably in reference to the founder of the sect (DNTT 3:767).
Elsewhere didaskalos is used interchangeably with rhabbi (Matt 23:8; John 3:2). Since the disciples and Yeshua conversed in Hebrew, then the actual address would have been Rabbi. When the general public and adversaries addressed Yeshua as didaskalos (as given in the Greek text, e.g., Matt 8:19; 12:38; 19:16; 22:16; 22:24, 36; Mark 4:38; 9:17; 10:35; John 8:4), they most likely said moreh or possibly rabbi.
where: Grk. pou, interrogative adv., here of place; where (?), at which place (?). are you staying: Grk. menō, here of a dwelling. See verse 32 above. The words "are you" are inserted for clarity. Typical of rabbinic dialog the two disciples answer Yeshua's question with one of their own. In other words, what they were seeking was the house where Yeshua was staying. Yeshua could have asked them "Is that all you want?" The Torah says, "seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul" (Deut 4:29). Yeshua affirms this principle in his Sermon on the Mount, "seek and you shall find" (Matt 7:7).
39 He said to them, "Come, and you will see.” Therefore, they went and saw where he was dwelling, and they stayed with him that day. It was about the tenth hour.
The verse features the redundancy of two verbs that illustrate an Hebraic way of writing. Come: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid. imp. See verse 9 above. The imperative mood is not strictly a command, but an imperative of permission. That is, Yeshua complies with the expressed desire of the disciples, thus involving consent in his directive. and you will see: Grk. horaō, fut. mid. See verse 18 above. In other words, "your curiosity will be satisfied." Therefore they went: Grk. erchomai, aor. The disciples complied, the first of many acts of obedience to the words of Yeshua. and saw: Grk. horaō, aor. where he was dwelling: Grk. menō. See verse 32 above. The house was likely in the Bethany mentioned in verse 28 above. Yeshua will later say that he had no place to lay his head (Matt 8:20), meaning he had no fixed abode. Yeshua relied on the hospitality of friends to provide him lodging at night.
and they stayed: Grk. menō, aor. with him that: Grk. ekeinos, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 8 above. day: Grk. hēmera may refer to (1) the daylight hours from sunrise to sunset, (2) the civil or legal day that included the night, (3) an appointed day for a special purpose or (4) a longer or imprecise period, such as a timeframe for accomplishing something or a time of life or activity (BAG). The first meaning applies here. It was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 1 above. about the tenth: Grk. dekatos, the cardinal number ten. hour: Grk. hōra, a period of time in the day; hour, time. John has a habit of noticing the time of day, which implies an eyewitness (see John 4:6, 52; 18:28; 19:14; 20:19).
Some Christian interpreters, assuming that John is writing to a primarily Gentile audience, say that John is giving Roman time, which began the day at midnight, making the tenth hour about 10:00 am (HCSB, NASB translation note). However, according to Morris the Romans only used the midnight time as the starting point for legal purposes, but used sunrise as the starting point for all other time references (158). John's primary audience was Jewish and Jewish reckoning of time was from sunset to sunset, divided into 12-hour increments of night and day (cf. John 11:9).
However, time was also measured in terms of the Temple sacrifices, which began with the first hour at sunrise, about 6:00 am. These daylight hours were also applied to Judicial hearings. The Talmud contains a passage concerning the evidence of two witnesses and places the fifth hour when the sun is in the east and the seventh hour when the sun is in the west (Sanhedrin 5:1). By this reckoning the tenth hour would then be about 4:00 pm (AMP, ESV, OJB, TLV translation note), and a many versions translate the hour as four o'clock (CEB, CEV, CJB, ERV, EXB, NCV, NET, NIRV, NIV, NLT, NLV, NRSV, TEV, TLB).
Edersheim argues for the 10th hour being 10 am because the Jewish day ended with sunset, and it's not likely John would have reported that the two disciples stayed with him "that day" (240). On the other hand, Morris contends that considering the Jewish practice of counting daylight hours and the flexible meaning of the Greek word "day" the verb "stayed" should be taken to mean "remained overnight." Most Bible translators agree with this view.
40 One of the two hearing Yochanan, and following him, was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter.
We learn in this verse the identity of one of the disciples of Yochanan the Immerser who went with Yeshua. One: Grk. heis, the cardinal number one. of the two: Grk. duo, adj., the cardinal number two. The other disciple is left unnamed and was probably the author of this Book, John the son of Zebedee. hearing: Grk. akouō, aor. part. See verse 37 above. Yochanan: Grk. Iōannēs, the Immerser. See verse 6 above. and following: Grk. akoloutheō, aor. part. See verse 37 above. In Hebraic thought to hear is to follow or obey. him: Yochanan. was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 1 above.
Andrew: Grk. Andreas, derived from andros the genitive case of anēr "of a man." Andrew is the brother of Simon Peter and apparently the first disciple to join Yeshua (John 1:40). Andrew, being a Greek name, may have been only a nickname or a translation of his real Hebrew name, which is not known. There is a Hebrew name Anêr ("boy") found twice in the Tanakh, once of an Amorite chieftain who aided Abraham in the pursuit of the four invading kings (Gen 14:13, 24) and once of a Levitical city west of the Jordan in Manasseh allotted to the Kohathite Levites (1Chr 6:70). "Andrew" could also have been chosen by his father because he liked the name or wished to honor someone important to the family.
the brother: Grk. adelphos, lit. "of the same womb," and in secular Greek meant "brother." In the apostolic narratives adelphos primarily refers to blood siblings or fellow Israelites. It is an interesting detail that Andrew is almost always identified as the brother of Simon, but Simon is never called the brother of Andrew. Such order might imply that Simon was older or simply a nod to the preeminence of Simon as one of the chief apostles.
of Simon: Grk. Simōn, which almost transliterates the Hebrew name Shimôn ("Shee-mown"), meaning "he has heard." There are nine men in the Besekh with the name "Simōn," but this name does not occur in the LXX at all. In the Tanakh the Heb. name Shimôn appears for the first time as the second son of Jacob and Leah (Gen 29:33) and then the tribe descended from him (Num 1:22-23). His name is translated in the LXX as Sumeōn and in English "Simeon." The apostle may well have been named in honor of the patriarch. It is noteworthy that even though Yeshua gave Simon another name he only used "Simon" in directly addressing him (Luke 7:40; 22:31; Mark 14:37; and John 21:15-17).
Peter: Grk. Petros, personal name meaning 'a stone' (BAG, Mounce), although Thayer says the name signifies a stone, a rock, a ledge or a cliff, and Danker defines the name as "rockman." The name does not occur at all in the LXX or earlier Jewish literature, which suggests that Simon is the first man to bear the name. Josephus does mention a man named Peter about thirty years later (Ant. XVIII, 6:3). Peter was married (Mark 1:30; 1Cor 9:5) and had a home in Capernaum (Mark 1:21, 29). Together with Andrew they engaged in a business of fishing from the Sea of Galilee (Luke 5:2-3; John 21:3), including working in partnership with the sons of Zebedee (Luke 5:10). For a summary of Simon's life and ministry see my article Simon Peter: Fisherman-Apostle.
The combination name "Simon Peter" occurs twenty times in the Besekh, all but three (Matt 16:16; Luke 5:8; 1Pet 1:1) in the book of John. The frequent use by John is noteworthy and must be significant even though he never explains his purpose. The simple reason may be that Simon was a common name, so adding "Peter" became a good way to distinguish him from the others. Yeshua's choice of naming Simon "Peter" indicated confidence in his ability to be a prominent leader and pillar of the Body of Messiah." Peter" would be the name by which the apostle would be known in the Diaspora. Using the combination name conveyed John's respect for his fellow apostle who would become a powerful spokesman for Yeshua.
41 He first found his brother, Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messiah!” (which is, being translated, Messiah).
He first: Grk. prōtos, adj., having to do with beforeness; first. The adjective emphasizes the priority that Andrew gave to sharing the good news of the Messiah. found: Grk. heuriskō, to find, discover or come upon after seeking. The verb contains the idea of finding something or someone that has eluded one in some way or has not been in one's purview. In the LXX heuriskō chiefly serves to translate the Heb. matsa (SH-4672; to attain or find, BDB 592), with the same uses. (DNTT 3:528). The verb implies that Andrew and Simon were not initially together and that Andrew went looking for him. his brother: Grk. adelphos. See the previous verse. Simon: Grk. Simōn, See the previous verse.
We have found: Grk. heuriskō, perf. The verb may figuratively refer to intellectual discovery based upon revelation (from Yochanan the Immerser), then reflection and observation. The verb implies that Andrew, along with other disciples of Yochanan, had been waiting or searching for the Messiah who would fulfill the Torah and prophecies in the Scriptures (Reinhartz 160). the Messiah: Grk. Messias, a transliteration of the Heb. Mashiach, Anointed One or Messiah (Stern). BAG says it transliterates the Aram. M'shicha, but Thayer says the Greek title stands for both the Hebrew and Aramaic forms. This Greek form of the title occurs in only two verses; also John 4:25, where it is spoken by the Samaritan woman along with a translation note.
Messias does not occur in the LXX at all (neither the canonical books nor the Apocrypha) or other early Jewish literature (DNTT 2:334). Nevertheless, its appearance in John's narrative indicates that Messias was in use very early. However, the Jewish Greek of the apostolic writings relies on the LXX for vocabulary and thus Christos is used uniformly instead of Messias. The fact that the Messias is spoken by both (and only) Peter and the Samaritan woman is striking and may imply its use in Galilee and Samaria, but not in Judea. which is, being translated: Grk. methermēneuō, pres. pass. part. See verse 38 above. John's device of translating Hebrew words for the benefit of Gentiles demonstrates again that he was writing for a primarily Jewish audience. Messiah: Grk. Christos, Jewish Messiah. See verse 17 above.
He brought: Grk. agō, aor., to cause movement by taking the lead; lead, bring, carry, take. him to Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous. See verse 17 above. Looking: Grk. emblepō, aor. part. See verse 36 above. at him Yeshua said, You are Simon: Grk. Simōn. See verse 40 above. the son: Grk. huios, son, here of paternity. See verse 34 above. of John: Grk. Iōannēs a rough transliteration of Heb. Yochanan. See verse 6 above. Little considered by commentators is Simon's family ancestry. Yeshua later addressed him as "Simon Barjona" (Heb. bar Yona) (Matt 16:17), which means that Simon's family descended from the prophet Jonah.
The name of ancestry for Simon, Barjona (son of Jonah), is never given to Andrew. The detail might imply different fathers, if Andrew was older and his mother a widow whom Simon's father married or his father was a polygamist. Perhaps more likely is that Andrew had the same ancestry, but the surname only became significant for Simon in the context of his acting like his ancestor in rebelling against God's purposes (Matt 16:17, 21-23). However, in this verse John makes note of Simon's immediate biological father.
You shall be called: Grk. kaleō, fut. pass., to identify by name or give a term to; call. The future tense implies that the recognition of the new name would not be immediate. Cephas: Grk. Kēphas ("rock"), a transliteration of the Hebrew name Kêfa ("kay-fah," "rock"), although commentators typically say the name is Aramaic. Hamp says that Kêpha is probably of Aramaic origin, but the root kêph ("rock," SH-3710) is found twice in the Hebrew Bible (Job 30:6; Jer 4:29) (19f). BDB says kêpha is a loanword in Hebrew (495), which for all practical purposes makes it Hebrew. (Many English words have their origin in other languages, but they are still part of English vocabulary.) Kêpha is transliterated as Kēphas in Greek and inaccurately spelled "Cephas" in English Christian versions.
The Synoptic Narratives also mention Yeshua giving Simon the new name (Matt 4:18; Mark 3:16; Luke 6:14). The name "Peter" carried great personal meaning for the apostle, in part because it came from Yeshua and not his parents. Moreover, the new name prophesied a change of character and purpose as exemplified in the name changes of Israel's greatest leaders: Abram to Abraham (Gen 17:5), Sarai to Sarah (Gen 17:15), and Jacob to Israel (Gen 32:28). Yeshua explained the purpose of the new name in response to the revelation that Peter received from the Father, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God" (Matt 16:16). Yeshua declared,
"Blessed you are, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood revealed it not to you, but my Father, the One in heaven! 18 Moreover I also say to you that 'you are Peter,' and upon this rock I will build My assembly; and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it." (Matt 16:17-18 BR)
In the history of Christianity ecclesiastical authority determined on the basis of Yeshua's pronouncement that Peter was the first Pope. Protestants and Evangelicals have disagreed with that belief and interpreted the reference to "rock" as pertaining to the revelation given to Peter. Yeshua does, of course, engage in a certain word play. In the Tanakh God is frequently called "rock," (Deut 32:15, 18, 30-31; 2Sam 22:2-3, 32, 47; 23:3). To be called "rock" was also a Semitic expression designating the solid foundation upon which a community would be built. For instance, a Jewish midrash explains Abraham to be the rock of Israel based on Isaiah 51:1-2:
"When the Holy One wanted to create the world he passed over the generations of Enoch and the Flood, but when he saw Avraham who was to arise, he said 'Behold, I have found a rock (petra) on which I can build and establish the world.' Therefore he called Avraham a rock, as it is said (Isaiah 51:1-2), 'Look to the rock from which you were hewn.'" (Yalkut on B'midbar/Numbers 23:9; cited in Kasdan 173).
Moreover Yeshua followed his declaration by making an important promise to Peter, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven" (Matt 16:19 NASB). The mention of the keys alludes to the authority that the overseer of the King's household wielded (cf. 2Kgs 18:17-19; Isa 22:19-22). The "binding" and "loosing" were rabbinic terms meaning to restrict or to permit, to impose a requirement or free from a requirement (cf. Matt 18:18-19). Yeshua clearly intended Peter to have significant authority in the Body of Messiah and saw in him potential for a great leader. Paul shows respect for Yeshua's naming and the apostle's leadership position by referring to him as Kēphas 8 times in his letters (1Cor 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5; Gal 1:18; 2:9, 11, 14).
However, it is a gross misrepresentation of Yeshua's words for Christianity to later determine that Yeshua intended Peter and his successors to be the leaders of a religion cut off from its Jewish roots, advocating replacement theology and fomenting widespread persecution of Jews. The man the Church determined to be the Pope was not the Galilean Jew that followed Yeshua, but a twisted caricature of the faithful apostle.
which is translated: Grk. hermēneuō, pres. pass., to (1) explain, interpret; or (2) translate. The verb occurs only three times in the Besekh (also John 9:7 and Heb. 7:2), and in variant texts of Luke 24:27 and John 1:38. In the LXX the usual meaning of hermēneuō renders the Heb. tirgam (SH-8638, to translate), in Ezra 4:7 in relation to translating a letter written in Aramaic into Hebrew, and in the old Greek form of Esther 10:11 (see NETS 440; also Additions to Esther 11:1) in reference to translating the Letter of Purim from Mordecai. The verb also occurs in Job 42:17b (LXX only), an apocryphal addition to the book which contains further details of Job's life. The verb occurs in an important passage of Josephus to describe translating the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek (Ant. XII, 2:1).
Peter: Grk. Petros. See verse 40 above. Again, John's device of translating Hebrew words for the benefit of Gentiles demonstrates again that he was writing for a primarily Jewish audience.
43 On the morrow, he wished to go forth into Galilee, and he found Philip. And Yeshua said to him, "Follow me.”
On the morrow: Grk. epaurion, the next day. See verse 29 above. he wished: Grk. thelō, aor., to have a desire for something or have a purpose for something; will, wish, desire. to go forth: Grk. exerchomai, aor. inf., to move away from a place or position, to go or come out. into: Grk. eis, prep. Galilee: Grk. ho Galilaia from the Heb. Galil, lit. "circle" or "region." Galilee was the northern part of Israel above the hill country of Ephraim and of Judah and encompassed the areas originally given to the tribes of Naphtali, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, and Dan.
In the time of Yeshua Galilee was a Roman province measuring about 40 miles north to south and about 30 miles east to west. Galilee was bounded by the Province of Syria on the west and north, the River Jordan and Sea of Galilee on the east and the Province of Judea on the south. In this time, Herod Antipas governed Galilee and Perea. Yeshua grew up in Nazareth of Galilee, being known as the Nazarene (Matt 2:23) or Yeshua of Nazareth (Matt 21:11; Luke 4:34; John 1:45). He devoted most of His earthly ministry to Galilee, and was also known as the Galilean (Matt 26:69).
and: Grk. kai, conj. he found: Grk. heuriskō, pres. See verse 41 above. Philip: Grk. Philippos, "fond of horses," composed etymologically from philia, "fondness, affection," and hippos, "horse." This was the name of five kings of Macedon, including Philip II the father of Alexander the Great. The possibilities for the circumstances of the naming would the be the same as Andrew. It might seem strange for Andrew and Philip to have Greek names since they were Hebraic Jews from Bethsaida (mentioned in the next verse), but such a practice was not uncommon in Israel.
There are four men named Philip in the Besekh: (1) Philip a son of Herod the Great and Mariamne; first husband of Herodias (Matt 14:3; Luke 3:19). He was a half-brother of Herod Antipas. (2) Philip the Tetrarch, a son of Herod the Great and Cleopatra of Jerusalem (Luke 3:1). (3) Philip the evangelist and one of the first deacons (Acts 6:5), and (4) the apostle of Yeshua mentioned here. This Philip is mentioned 15 times in the Besekh, 11 of which are in this book. Philip is included in the list of those who awaited Pentecost (Acts 1:13), but the Besekh says no more of him. According to Polycrates, an early church writer Philip was "one of the great lights of Asia" (Barker 284).
And: Grk. kai. Yeshua: Grk. ho Iēsous. See verse 17 above. said: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 15 above. follow: Grk. akoloutheō, pres. imp. See verse 37 above. me: Grk. egō, first person pronoun, i.e., Yeshua. The command represents an invitation of a rabbi to a person to become a disciple and most likely had the dual meaning of physically following Yeshua and giving Yeshua his allegiance.
44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter.
Now: Grk. de, conj. Philip: Grk. ho Philippos. See the previous verse. was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 1 above. from: Grk. apo, prep. generally used to denote separation, but here indicates a place of origin; from. Bethsaida: Grk. Bēthsaida, a transliteration of Heb. Beit-Tsaidah, a location name meaning "house of fish." The city was located on the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. The apostolic narratives place the city near Chorazin (Matt 11:21). Josephus locates Bethsaida east of the Jordan and in lower Gaulanitis, the Tetrarchy of Philip (Wars II, 9:1; III, 3:5). It's very possible that Philip was noteworthy figure in Bethsaida.
Since the birthplace of Philip was Bethsaida, Philip's parents may have named him after the Tetrarch. According to Josephus the Tetrarch's character was exceptional and his rule of 37 years was just and fair (Ant. XVIII, 4:6). He improved the town of Paneas and renamed it Caesarea, later called Caesarea Philippi (Matt 16:13) to avoid confusion with Caesarea on the Mediterranean Sea. He also rebuilt the town of Bethsaida and named it Julias in honor of the Emperor Augustus' daughter (Ant. XVIII, 2:1).
of the city: Grk. ho polis, a population center whose size or number of inhabitants could range broadly, a city or town. of: Grk. ek, prep. See verse 16 above. Andrew: Grk. Andreas. See verse 40 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. Peter: Grk. Petros. See verse 40 above. We learn here that Bethsaida was also the hometown of Andrew and Peter. However, the preposition ek indicates that Bethsaida was not currently their place of residence.
45 Philip found Nathanael, and said to him, "We have found him of whom Moses wrote in the Torah, also the Prophets: Yeshua, son of Joseph, the one from Nazareth."
Philip: Grk. Philippos. See verse 43 above. found: Grk. heuriskō, pres. See verse 41 above. Nathanael: Grk. ho Nathanaēl, a transliteration of Heb. Natan'el (God has given). No information is provided on how Philip knew Nathaniel, but they were obviously friends. Nathanael is generally thought to be the same person as Bartholomew (Grk. Bartholomaios, a transliteration of bar-Talmai; Matt 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13), because Bartholomew does not occur at all in the Gospel of John and Nathanael does not occur at all in the Synoptic Gospels. The name of Nathanael appears only in this chapter (5 times) and 21:2 where it says he came from Cana of Galilee.
Talmai is a biblical name occurring twice in the Tanakh of the King of Geshur (2Sam 3:3; 13:37. Stern suggests that Talmai is a Hebrew transliteration of "Ptolemy," the name given to several Egyptian kings after the Alexandrian conquests of 336–323 BC (118). It would not be strange for a Jew to have an Egyptian name. Bar is generally identified as Aramaic for "son of." Yet, in Jewish correspondence of the time there are examples of where the Aramaic bar is used in Hebrew correspondence and, likewise, Hebrew ben is sometimes used in Aramaic correspondence, and both of these occasionally appear in Greek (Hamp 19).
However, scholars ignore the fact that bar was a Hebrew word for "son" (SH-1248), and occurs four times in the Tanakh (Ps 2:12; Prov 31:2 [3t]). While bar may have originated from Aramaic its early assimilation into Israelite culture made the word Hebrew, just as English has absorbed words from other languages. The connection of bar with a name (e.g., Bar-abbas, Bartholomaios, Bar-iēsous, Bar-iona, Bar-nabas, Bar-sabas, Bar-timaios) says nothing about the ethnicity or language of the person. "Nathanael" could be the proper name of the "son of Talmai."
and: Grk. kai, conj. said: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 15 above. to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. We have found: Grk. heuriskō, perf., 1p-pl. Like Andrew in verse 41 above Philip implies that he, too, had been waiting and searching for the Messiah would fulfill the prophecies of Scripture. him of whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. Moses: Grk. Mōusēs. See verse 17 above. wrote: Grk. graphō, aor., to write or inscribe, generally in reference to a document. The aorist tense emphasizes the completed nature of the work. in: Grk. en, prep. the Torah: Grk. ho nomos. See verse 17 above. The term refers to the Pentateuch and the authorship of the first five books of the Bible is again attributed to Moses. See my article The Messiah in the Pentateuch.
also: Grk. kai, conj. Here the conjunction has the essential meaning of "in addition to." the Prophets: pl. of Grk. prophētēs. See verse 21 above. The plural noun denotes the literary works in the Tanakh called Nevi'im written by Hebrew prophets. The Nevi'im included the Early Prophets (Joshua through 2Kings) and the Latter Prophets (Isaiah through Malachi), except Daniel which was included in the K'tuvim (Writings). However, Yeshua did regard Daniel as a prophet (Matt 24:15). The mention of the literary Prophets occurs 29 times in the Besekh, 15 of which are combined with a mention Moses or the Torah (Matt 5:17; 7:12; 11:13; 22:40; Luke 16:16, 29, 31; 24:27, 44; John 1:45 Acts 13:15; 24:14; 26:22; 28:23; Rom 3:21). See my article The Messiah in the Prophets.
Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous. See verse 17 above. son of: Grk. huios. See verse 34 above. Joseph: Grk. Iōsēph, a transliteration of Heb. Yosef ("he adds, increases," Gen 30:24). With this name reference John uses the words of Philip to summarize the entire nativity story. While Joseph was Yeshua's legal father they were also related, since both descended from Abraham and in modern genealogical terms Joseph was a first cousin thirty-seven times removed. It is noteworthy that Philip says "son of Joseph" and not "son of Miriam" (which only occurs in Mark 6:3).
Indeed, the apostolic narratives identify Yeshua more frequently as the son of Joseph (also Matt 13:55; Luke 2:48; 3:23; 4:22; John 6:42) than of his mother. Almost all that is known about Joseph is given in the nativity narratives. Joseph is identified as a righteous man and when his betrothed Miriam was found pregnant he intended to divorce her quietly. However, an angel of the Lord visited him in a dream, corrected his understanding of the situation, and commanded him to take Miriam as wife and accept the parental role for the anticipated baby. Indeed the success of the entire Messianic enterprise depended on the willingness of this godly man to assume the stewardship role of being Yeshua's father.
The reference to "the son of Joseph" combined with the following mention of his city is not a mere paternal reference, but an indication that Philip personally knew of Joseph. Though the narrative does not explore the back-story it's very likely that Joseph had gained a reputation for being a craftsman and had gained some social status in the region. Philip may also have known about the generous character of Joseph in taking a pregnant woman as a wife and raising her son as his own. Thus, the announcement of Philip might convey a certain degree of surprise, as well as satisfaction. Scholars generally assume that Joseph died sometime before Yeshua's public ministry began. Two verses are relevant to making this assumption: John 6:42 and John 19:26-27). See my comments there.
the one: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. from: Grk. apo, prep. Nazareth: Grk. Nazaret (sometimes Nazara or Nazareth), which transliterates the Heb. Natzeret ("watchtower"), the name of a town in Galilee. The name of the city occurs 12 times in the Besekh, all in the apostolic narratives, although twice the variant spelling of Nazara occurs (Matt 4:13; Luke 4:16). Nazareth was located about seventy miles northeast of Jerusalem about halfway between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea. Nazareth ("the guarded one") is situated among the hills of Galilee which constitute the south ridges of Lebanon, just before they sink down into the plain of Esdraelon (Smith).
A Roman road from Capernaum westward to the coast passed near Nazareth, over which Roman legions frequently traveled. While not mentioned in the Tanakh or Josephus, Nazareth was a city of some importance and considerable antiquity, and not so insignificant as has been represented (Merrill 116). The city is formed on a prominent hill or mountain that overlooks a vast area of land and sea. Merrill suggests the city may have taken its name from the name of the hill. In the time of Yeshua the city had a population of 15,000 to 20,000 inhabitants.
The mention of Nazaret is always in reference to Yeshua, since it was the city of his upbringing. The naming convention of identifying persons by place of origin distinguished them from other persons with the same name. "Yeshua" was not an uncommon name.
46 And Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good to be from Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."
And: Grk. kai, conj. Nathanael: Grk. Nathanaēl. See the previous verse. said: Grk. legō, aor. See the note on verse 15 above. to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun, i.e., Philip, who proceeds to ask a rhetorical question. Can: Grk. dunamai, pres. mid., to be capable for doing or achieving as qualified in the content of the question. anything: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun; a certain one, someone, anyone, anything. The pronoun is used here of a mark of distinction. good: Grk. agathos, adj., achieving a high standard of excellence in meeting a need or interest, beneficial, useful, helpful or good. to be: Grk. eimi, pres. inf. See verse 1 above. from: Grk. ek, prep., out of.
Nazareth: Grk. Nazaret. See the previous verse. Some scholars interpret Nathanael's question as giving the impression that Nazareth did not possess a good reputation. Such lack of respect may have been due to an unpolished dialect, a lack of culture, or a measure of irreligion and moral laxity (so Tenney; "Nazareth," HBD; NIBD). The proximity to passing Roman legions gave excuse to the later slander of unbelieving Jews and Gnostics that Yeshua was the son of Panthera, a Roman soldier (see Sanh. 67b, fn 12; Origen, Contra Celsum I:69).
However, Morris rightly points out that nothing is actually known pejorative of Nazareth. "It was not a famous city, but we have no reason for thinking it was infamous." Merrill contends the supposed common low opinion of Nazareth in the time of Yeshua is not supported by a single fact (114). Some commentators suggest that Nathanael's question pertains to the birthplace of the Messiah (e.g., Barnes, Gill), which anticipates the later controversy among Jewish leaders (John 7:41-42). Apparently Yeshua's birth in Bethlehem was not commonly known.
However, as Ellicott points out, after hearing Philip's declaration Nathaniel does not ask, "Can the Messiah come from Nazareth?" It is much more likely that Nathaniel was being facetious. Since Nathanael came from Cana his remark might reflect the sort of rivalry that exists among small towns not far from one another.
Philip: Grk. Philippos. See verse 43 above. said: Grk. legō, pres. to him: Grk. autos, i.e., Nathanael. Come: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid. imp., to come or arrive, with implication of a position from which action or movement takes place. The imperative mood indicates an entreaty rather than a command. and: Grk. kai. see: Grk. horaō, aor. imp. See verse 18 above. Philip did not attempt to make a reasoned argument, but rather employed a common Rabbinic expression, "Come and see." This formula suggested that a solution to the particular problem was possible and should be sought together (Morris).
47 Yeshua saw Nathanael coming toward him, and he said concerning him, "Behold, truly an Israelite in whom there is not deceit!"
Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous. See verse 17 above. saw: Grk. horaō, aor. See verse 18 above. Nathanael: Grk. ho Nathanaēl. See verse 45 above. coming: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid. part. See verse 7 above. toward: Grk. pros, prep. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Nathanael was not many paces away, certainly within hearing distance. and: Grk. kai, conj. he said: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 15 above. concerning: Grk. peri, prep. him: Grk. autos. Not often does Yeshua make a character assessment of someone. Behold: Grk. ide, aor. imp. of eidon ("see"), used as a an interjection, (you) see! truly: Grk. alēthōs, adv., corresponding to what is really so; truly, really, actually. an Israelite: Grk. Israēlitēs, a descendant of Israel the patriarch and member of the people of Israel.
in: Grk. en, prep. whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. there is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 1 above. not: Grk. ou, adv., an emphatic denial. deceit: Grk. dolos, cunning that relies on deception for effectiveness; craftiness, deceit. Although there is no evidence of a prior relationship or prior knowledge Yeshua knew Nathanael's character. Being without deceit is tantamount to saying that Nathanael was honest to a fault and truthful in speech, which may explain his comment about Nazareth. Nathanael was not the sort to play games, nor one to hide his thoughts. Plain speaking can be quite admirable, but it can also be annoying. Reinhartz manages to find an allusion in Yeshua's words to Jacob whom she slanders by saying that he "deceitfully supplanted his twin brother, Esau, in receiving his father's Isaac's blessing" (160). See my web article Our Father Jacob that sets the record straight.
48 Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?” Yeshua answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”
Nathanael: Grk. Nathanaēl. See verse 45 above. said: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 15 above. Nathanael's reaction is not one of "aw-shucks" humility, but an honest query as to how Yeshua knew anything about him. How: Grk. pothen, interrogative adverb regarding an answer to account for something; 'how is it that' or 'how can it be that.' do you know: Grk. ginoskō, pres., to be in receipt of information with the focus on awareness or to form a judgment or to draw a conclusion. me: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous. See verse 17 above. answered: Grk. apokrinō, aor. pass. See verse 21 above. and said: Grk. legō, aor. The combination of the verbs "answered and said," occurring frequently in the apostolic narratives, is a typical Hebraic way of advancing the narrative of dialog (e.g., Gen 27:39; 40:18; Josh 24:16; Jdg 20:4; 1Sam 1:17). The verb "answered" emphasizes that a verbal response was made and "said" introduces the quotation.
to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., Nathanael. Before: Grk. pro, prep., indicates precedence or a time earlier than; ahead, before. Philip: Grk. Philippos. See verse 43 above. called: Grk. phōneō, aor. inf., may mean (1) to utter a sound designed to attract attention, cry out or proclaim; (2) call to oneself, summon, call for, invite; or (3) identify in personal address, call. The second meaning is intended here. you: Grk. su, second person pronoun. I saw: Grk. horaō, aor. See verse 34 above. you: Grk. su. under: Grk. hupo, prep., to indicate a position that is relatively lower; below, under. the fig tree: Grk. ho sukē, for Heb. teenah, which also refers to the fruit of the tree, a fruit-producing plant which could be either a tall tree or a low-spreading shrub. The size of the tree depended on its location and soil.
The fig tree was one of the blessings promised to Israel in the Land (Deut 8:8) and thus became important to Israelite agriculture. The wood of the fig tree was the primary source of kindling used for the fire on the Temple altar (Tamid 2:1; Yoma 24b). The blooms of the fig tree always appear before the leaves in Spring. There were usually two crops of figs a year. Figs were eaten fresh (2Kgs 18:31), pressed into cakes (2Sam 25:18), and used as a poultice (Isa 38:21). Taken at face value the narrative indicates that Yeshua saw Nathanael sitting under a fig tree. However, this information by itself is not sufficient to explain Nathanael's response in the next verse. Nathanael attributes significant meaning to Yeshua's words and takes them as something supernatural. After all, Nathanael had never met Him before this moment.
Morris explains that the fig tree is used in the Tanakh as symbolic of someone's home (cf. 2Kgs 4:25; 2Kgs 18:31; Isa 36:16; Mic 4:4; Zech 3:10), that in Rabbinic writings the shade of a fig tree was used as a place for prayer, meditation and study (Berachot 16a). The sages also had a saying, "If one sees a fig tree in a dream, his learning will be preserved within him, as it says: Whoso keeps the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof" (Prov 27:18; Ber. 57a). In addition, "gathering figs" was an expression in later sources that meant "studying," apparently because rabbinic scholars believed the tree of knowledge in Genesis 3 was a fig tree (Ber. 40a) (Reinhartz 160).
So, it's very likely that a man in whom was no guile was someone accustomed to spending time alone with God in prayer and study, and so Yeshua acknowledges his devotional habit. On the other hand it may be as Lightfoot says that Nathanael was under an actual fig tree to spend time in prayer or religious study (3:247). Could it be that Nathanael was praying for revelation of the Messiah? Yeshua's statement is not unlike that of God speaking to Moses, "I have seen and given heed" (Ex 3:7. Yeshua says that he "saw" Nathanael's character, his godly conduct and the cry of his heart. So Philip's announcement coupled with Yeshua's revelation produced an enthusiastic response.
49 Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!"
Nathanael: See verse 45 above. answered: Grk. apokrinō,, aor. pass. See verse 21 above. Rabbi: Grk. rhabbi, voc. case. See verse 38 above. you are the Son of God: For this title See verse 34 above. Whether Nathanael actually heard Yochanan's announcement is not clear, but Philip had informed him that the one of whom Moses spoke had arrived. So, for Nathanael that meant the Messiah. You are the King: Grk. basileus, king or chief ruler. In the LXX basileus appears frequently to translate Heb. melek. In the Tanakh the title "king" was not associated with the size of territory governed (often a city), but the authority wielded. The executive and judicial functions (and sometimes legislative) of government were vested in one person.
of Israel: Grk. Israēl. See verse 31 above. The title occurs 130 times in the Tanakh, but only four times in the Besekh (Matt 27:42; Mark 15:32; John 12:13). Nathanael obviously treats "Son of God" and "King of Israel" as synonymous titles, illustrating that Jews used the title of "Son of God" with a different meaning than used in Christianity. The apostolic writings repeatedly interpret the Messianic role in terms of kingship and emphasize that Yeshua is the present King of Israel (also John 12:13), King of the Jews (Matt 2:2; 27:11, 37) and King of the nations (Gen 49:10; Rev 15:3) reigning from heaven (Acts 2:32-33; 5:31; 7:55-56; Rom 8:34; Eph 1:20; Col 3:1), but will also be the future king reigning from Jerusalem in the age to come (Zech 14:1-8; Luke 21:27-28; Rom 11:26; Rev 14:1; 20:6-9). Too many disciples want to reduce Yeshua's role in the present age to Savior and ignore the fact that Yeshua is a King to whom they owe absolute obedience.
50 Yeshua answered and said to him, "Because I told you that I saw you underneath the fig tree, you believe? You will see greater things!”
Yeshua: See verse 17 above. answered: Grk. apokrinomai, aor. pass. See verse 21 above. and said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 15 above. The combination of the verbs "answer" and "said" repeats the Hebraic construction in verse 48 above. to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., Nathanael. Yeshua then asks a rhetorical question, perhaps with a slight smile that implied a wry humor. Because: Grk. hoti, conj., indicating causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, inasmuch as. I told: Grk. legō, aor. you: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. that: Grk. hoti. I saw: Grk. horaō, aor. See verse 34 above. you underneath: Grk. hupokatō, prep., indicating 'at a lower level than;' under, underneath, beneath. the fig tree: Grk. sukē. See verse 48 above.
you believe? Grk. pisteuō in general Greek usage means to have confidence or faith in the reliability or trustworthiness of some thing or someone. In the LXX pisteuō renders the Heb. 'aman, which essentially means to confirm or support (BDB 52). In the Niphal form 'aman means to be true, reliable or faithful and can be applied to men (e.g., Moses, Num 12:7), but especially to God who keeps his covenant and gives grace to those who love him (Deut 7:9). In the Hiphil form 'aman means to stand firm or trust as Abraham trusted in God's promise (Gen 15:6). The Hebrew concepts of trust and faithfulness are inseparable. If one trusts, then one is faithful. Far too many Christians truncate "believe" into affirming a creed or believing in the God of the Bible or even trusting in Yeshua's atoning work for salvation. Unfortunately, such believing and trusting does not always result in faithfulness. Being a disciple requires more than just believing.
You will see: Grk. horaō, fut. mid. See verse 18 above. The future tense constitutes a prophetic promise. greater: pl. of Grk. megas, adj., exceeding a standard and therefore impressive; great. The plural form emphasizes intensity and thus used here in an adverbial sense of 'greater.' things: pl. of Grk. toũto, neut. demonstrative pronoun, this, it. The plural is one of intensity, because Yeshua had alluded to only one thing - his statement of seeing Nathanael under a fig tree. Yeshua's statement is tantamount to the modern vernacular, "You ain't seen nothing yet." Nathanael along with the other disciples would witness Yeshua perform a wide variety of creation and providential miracles throughout his three-year ministry. Yeshua then proceeds to prophesy a "greater thing."
51 And he said to him, "Truly, truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."
And: Grk. kai, conj. See verse 1 above. he said: Grk. legō, lit. "says." See verse 15 above. to him: Grk. autos; i.e., Nathanael. Truly: Grk. amēn ("ah–mayn") reflects a strong affirmation, meaning "so let it be" or "truly." In the LXX amēn transliterates the Heb. 'amen (ah–mayn, SH–543), which means "it is true, so be it, or may it become true." The Heb. root aman means "to confirm or support." The word amēn reflects an Hebraic conviction that God's words were to be reverently received. In typical Jewish usage the singular amēn points to something previously said (Stern 26). For example, in the Torah people responded with "amen" for each of the curses as they were pronounced (Deut 27:15 +11t) and on other occasions "amen" was a congregational response to a public blessing of God (1Chr 16:36; Neh 5:13; Ps 106:48). In the Synoptic narratives amēn occurs 57 times in declarative statements of Yeshua, of which 34 are unique.
According to standard versions amēn is used to introduce axiomatic statements in Kingdom instruction, parables and prophecies. Stern contends, though, that many of those occurrences follow Jewish practice and rather than introducing statements the "amen" actually affirms the sentence spoken immediately before. (Examine the context of Matt 5:18, 26; 6:2, 5, 16; 10:15, 42; 13:17; 18:18; 23:36; 24:34, 47; and 26:13). Christian interpreters may have assumed "amen" begins statements because of the arbitrary verse divisions imposed on the Greek text in the mid-16th century by Robert Stephanus (aka Robert Estienne). However, Yeshua sometimes uses "amen" to introduce a declaration (e.g., Matt 8:10; 11:11; 16:28; 17:20; 19:23; 21:21; 24:2; 25:12, 45; 26:21). Similar usage does occur in the Tanakh (1Kgs 1:36; Jer 28:6). However, Yeshua employs amēn in a different manner here.
truly: Grk. amēn is repeated. In the Besekh the double use of amēn occurs only in the Book of John (25 times). The double "amen" does occur in the Tanakh as a response to a priestly declaration (Num 5:22; Neh 8:6), as well as in the construction "amen and amen" as the appropriate affirmation of a blessing (Ps 41:13; 72:19; 89:52). However, Yeshua uses "amēn amēn" as a prefix to the statement that follows, which is without parallel in Jewish literature (Morris 169). There is no good reason not to accept the grammar as authentic and Yeshua was quite capable of being innovative. The double use of amēn reinforces the complete reliability and truthfulness of Yeshua's prophetic teaching. Moreover, the double "amen," spoken in the presence of God, asserts the character of the Messiah who is the Truth (John 14:6) and implies God's endorsement.
I tell: Grk. legō. you: pl. of Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. The shift from the singular of "him" to the plural of "you" indicates that Yeshua addresses both Nathanael and Philip. Yeshua then proceeds to add to his prophecy. you will see: Grk. horaō, fut. mid. See verse 18 above. The verb is second person plural, thus applying to both disciples. heaven: Grk. ouranos. See verse 32 above. Yeshua probably means the third heaven where God's throne is located. opened: Grk. anoigō, perf. part., to open, frequently used of doors to make a room accessible. The perfect tense, lit. "having been opened," points to an event completed in past time with continuing results to the present. The opening of heaven is idiomatic of God revealing mysteries not previously understood by man, especially concerning His Son (cf. Ezek 1:1; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:21; Acts 7:56; Rev 19:11).
and the angels: pl. of Grk. angelos means one sent, a messenger, whether human or heavenly (BAG). In Greek culture angelos originally referred to an ambassador in human affairs who speaks on behalf of another, including as a messenger of the gods (DNTT 1:101f). In the LXX angelos renders Heb. malak, which means messenger, representative, courier or angel. The decision to translate malak or angelos as angel or human relies primarily on the context. About half of the occurrences in the Tanakh refer to humans, such as to denote a prophet (Eccl 5:6; Isa 42:19; Mal 2:7) and a priest (Hag 1:13; Mal 3:1). In the Besekh angelos occurs 175 times, and is used of men only 13 times (Matt 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:24, 27; 9:52; Jas 2:25; Rev 1:20; 2:1, 8, 12; 3:1, 7, 14).
Here angelos refers to heavenly beings. While little is known of angel hierarchy, post-Tanakh Judaism developed an elaborate angelology (Stern 824), primarily the Essenes and Pharisees. The Sadducees did not believe in angels (Acts 23:8). Angels figure prominently in Scripture as ministering spirits (Mark 1:13; Heb 1:14) and are far different from the Hollywood depiction and popular assumptions about angels. Angels are not glorified humans that earn status in heaven by doing good works on earth. All individual angels mentioned in Scripture have masculine names or descriptions, contrary to popular art and media, which sometimes depicts them as female. In addition, only a special group of heavenly beings are mentioned in Scripture as having wings (Ex 37:9; Isa 6:2; Ezek 10:5; Rev 4:8), and these beings may not be angels at all.
Angels do serve as personal guardians of the saints (Matt 18:10; Acts 12:15) and are in attendance at gatherings of believers for worship (1Cor 11:10). Michael's protector role in relation to Israel (Dan 12:1), suggests that other angels are similarly assigned in other parts of the world where the Body of the Messiah is found. Angels assisted in giving the Torah (Deut 33:2; Acts 7:53; Gal 3:19; Heb 2:2). The experience of Job illustrates the power of angels when given permission to use it. Angels do the Lord's bidding and sometimes are God's instruments in executing his judgment, particularly among his own people (2Sam 24:17; Acts 12:23). Given the double meaning of malak/angelos Scripture often adds an appropriate description to confirm the messenger as angelic as here.
This reference to the angels may contain irony. Yochanan the Immerser announced that Yeshua was the "Son of God" (the Davidic Messiah), but the angels were the first one's to be called "sons of God" (Job 38:7; cf. Job 1:6; 2:1; Luke 20:36). of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. ascending: Grk. anabainō, pres. part., to go up to a point or place that is higher than the point of origin, sometimes in the context of going up steps. Idiomatically the verb means to enter or approach. and descending: Grk. katabainō, pres. part., to proceed in a direction that is down, come or go down. The present tense emphasizes the duration of the descent from the starting point. According to ancient Jewish belief angels continually ascend and descend between heaven and earth, particularly to escort the righteous to heaven (Baba Metzia 85b).
on: Grk. epi, prep.; the root meaning is 'upon.' Since the following noun ("son") is in the accusative case then epi emphasizes motion or direction (DM 106). The preposition does not imply physical touching. the Son: Grk. ho huios. See verse 34 above. of Man: Grk. anthrōpos. See verse 1 above. The title occurs 107 times in the Tanakh, and 89 times in the Besekh. In the Tanakh "Son of Man" translates the Heb. ben adam in every instance except Daniel 7:13, which has the Aram. bar enash. The idiom of "Son of man," or "son of the first man, namely Adam," is thoroughly Hebraic and has no counterpart in Greek culture. Christian interpreters typically treat "Son of Man" in the context of Yeshua's ministry as representative of his identification with humanity, whereas "Son of God" pertains to his deity. In Hebraic thought these expressions mean just the opposite.
The Christian notion is based on the fact that in the Tanakh, except in two passages, ben adam is idiomatic for "man" or "human being," occurring 11 times in a general sense of all mankind (e.g., Num 23:19). This sense also occurs when God addresses two prophets as "son of man:" Ezekiel (93 times) and Daniel, once (Dan 8:17). However, the two exceptional passages point to a Messianic figure. First, the "son of Man" is the Davidic deliverer:
"God of armies, please come back! Look from heaven, see, and tend this vine! 15 Protect what your right hand planted, the son you made strong for yourself. 16 It is burned by fire, it is cut down; they perish at your frown of rebuke. 17 Help the man at your right hand, the son of man you made strong for yourself. 18 Then we won't turn away from you if you revive us, we will call on your name. 19 ADONAI, God of armies, restore us! Make your face shine, and we will be saved." (Ps 80:14-19 CJB; cf. Ps 2:7, 12; 110:1)
Second, "Son of Man" is the eschatological supra-natural figure from heaven who establishes a kingdom on the earth. Daniel saw him.
"I kept watching the night visions, when I saw, coming with the clouds of heaven, someone like a son of man. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. 14 To him was given rulership, glory and a kingdom, so that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him. His rulership is an eternal rulership that will not pass away; and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. … 27 Then the kingdom, the rulership and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the holy people of the Most High. Their kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will serve and obey them.'" (Dan 7:13-14, 27 CJB)
For first-century Jews the "Son of Man" is Daniel's divine redeemer in human form. He appears younger than the Ancient of Days and will be enthroned on high. Jewish intertestamental literature expounded strongly on his identity and activity (cf. Book of Enoch Chapter 46). David Flusser, Orthodox Jewish scholar and professor at Hebrew University, explains,
"In all of the sources, the one resembling a man is portrayed in a consistent manner. The Son of Man has a superhuman, heavenly sublimity. He is the cosmic judge at the end of time. Sitting upon the throne of God, judging the entire human race with the aid of the heavenly hosts, he will consign the just to blessedness and the wicked to the pit of hell. Frequently he is identified with the Messiah, but he can also be identified with Enoch, who was taken up into heaven." (112)
In the apostolic narratives the title "Son of Man" occurs over 80 times on the lips of Yeshua, almost always of himself. In American culture someone speaking of himself in the third person would seem very strange. Young notes that for this reason a few Christian scholars came to the conclusion that Yeshua speaks of someone else whereas others treat the expression as a simple circumlocution meaning "I" (252). While the latter interpretation has a bearing on his usage, Yeshua's self-description as the Son of Man is purposeful to connect his ministry with the fulfillment of prophecy and to demonstrate the complexity of his mission. Let's consider how Yeshua uses the expression.
First, Yeshua did use "Son of Man" as a personal circumlocution in 6 verses with an ordinary sense in lieu of saying "I" or "me." For example, the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head (Matt 8:20; para. Luke 9:58). The Son of Man came eating and drinking (Matt 11:19; para. Luke 7:34). Yeshua asked his disciples "who do people say the Son of Man is" (Matt 16:13), and then clarified with "who do you say I am." He also says in Luke 12:8, "everyone who confesses me before men the Son of Man ["I"] will confess him before the angels."
Second, "son of man" is used as a representational idiom in 8 verses for every person. This usage appears in the passages where he speaks of the son of man having authority to forgive sins, which listeners understood to be applied to them (Matt 9:6-8; para. Mark 2:10; Luke 5:24), the son of man being master of his Sabbath observance (Matt 12:8; para. Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5) and the son of man as being the target of blasphemy that can be forgiven (Matt 12:32; para. Luke 12:10). The idiomatic use is obscured because Bible versions always capitalize "Son of Man" wherever it occurs in the Besekh. Far more significant is the next two usages of Son of Man.
Third, the Son of Man is the end-time Judge and King. He will come in power at the end of the present age with his angels and sit on his throne. This usage appears in 28 verses, sometimes alluding to Daniel's prophecy.
"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats." (Matt 25:31 NASB)
Fourth, the Son of Man suffers in order to bring salvation from sin. He will be killed by judicial decree and buried, but then be gloriously raised from the dead. This usage occurs in 42 verses.
"The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day (Luke 9:22 NASB)
Yeshua used the expression in accordance with common Jewish interpretation of the time. He was Daniel's cosmic judge from heaven (Mark 8:38; 13:26; 14:62), but in applying the title to his mission Yeshua added the unexpected element of suffering (Mark 8:31; 9:12, 31; 10:33, 45). In the book of John the paradoxical elements of the Son of Man are combined to emphasize his incarnation. The Son of Man has already descended (John 3:13). The hour of his suffering will also be the hour of his glorification (John 12:23; 13:31). Frequently in John's book "Son of Man" is shortened simply to "the Son" who does the will of the Father (John 3:17, 35, 36; 5:19-23, 26; 6:40; 8:35-36; 14:13; 17:1).
In this passage Yeshua adds an intriguing element to his self-description. Some commentators (e.g., Henry Morris, Rienhartz, Stern, Tenney) suggest the prophecy of angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man alludes to the theophany seen by the patriarch Jacob:
"Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 He came to a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place. 12 He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants." (Gen 28:10-13 NASB)
Jacob's dream contained three significant features: angels, a ladder and ADONAI (Heb. YHVH). The word for ladder is Heb. sullam and only occurs here in the Bible. Whatever its physical form may have been it had a symbolic meaning that was not explained to Jacob. Then there were angels coming and going from heaven to earth doing God's work as many verses in the Bible attest. Jacob also saw YHVH in physical form, very likely representative of Yeshua, the heavenly Son of Man.
Henry Morris suggests that Nathanael may have been meditating on the Genesis story when Philip approached him with the good news, and thus Nathanael received a revelation that Jacob's ladder represented the Messiah, the mediator between God and mankind (DSB 1134). By the means of this "ladder" one may ascend to heaven and be in the company of angels. Yeshua himself ascended into heaven forty days after his resurrection and Nathanael witnessed the event (Acts 1:9-11).
Gill points out that some of the Medieval Jewish writers understood the ascent and descent of the angels in Genesis 28:12 to be, not upon the ladder, but upon Jacob (Genesis Rabbah sect. fol. 68. 61. 2. & sect. 69. fol. 61. 3, 4). Rashi in his commentary on Jacob's dream, concurs with this point of view interpreting the dream to mean that the angels ascended and descended upon Jacob to escort him in the Holy Land. It is worth noting that Yeshua makes no connection with the ladder in the dream, only with the ascending and descending of the angels.
Lightfoot explains the Yeshua's intent as simply employing figurative language and saying to Nathanael,
"For you shall in me observe such plenty, both of revelation and miracle, that it shall seem to you as if the heavens were opened and the angels were ascending and descending, to bring with them all manner of revelation, authority, and power from God, to be imparted to the Son of Man." (3:249)
ABP: The Apostolic Bible Polyglot. ed. Charles Van der Pool. Apostolic Press, 2006. An interlinear of the Septuagint with English translation. Online.
BAG: Walter Bauer (1877-1960), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
Barker: William P. Barker, Everyone In the Bible. Fleming H. Revell Co., 1966.
Barnes: Albert Barnes (1798-1870), Notes on the Whole Bible (1834). Baker Book House, 1949. Online.
BBMS: Henry Morris, Biblical Basis for Modern Science. Baker Book House, 1984.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981. Online at BibleHub.com.
BHIB: Interlinear Bible. BibleHub.com, 2004-2014. Online.
Bivin: David Bivin, New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus: Insights from His Jewish Context. En–Gedi Resource Center, 2007.
BSI-NT: Ha'Brit Ha'Chadashah [New Covenant]: Tirgum Chadash. [New Translation]. Bible Society in Israel, 1991. Online. (Modern Hebrew)
DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.
Danker: F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, University of Chicago Press, 2009.
Delitzsch: Franz Delitzsch (1813-1890), Hebrew New Testament. Leipzig, 1877. Online. (Translation into biblical Hebrew.)
DHE: The Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels: A Hebrew/English Translation. Heb. trans. Franz Delitzsch; English trans. Aaron Eby & Robert Morris. Vine of David Publishers, 2011.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology. 3 Vols., ed. Colin Brown. Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.
DSB: Henry Morris, Defenders Study Bible. World Publishing Co., 1995. [KJV with explanatory notes by Dr. Henry Morris.]
Edersheim: Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889), The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. New Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1993. Also online.
Ellicott: Charles John Ellicott (1819–1905), Commentary for English Readers (1878). Online.
Fisher: Anthony J. Fisher, Greek New Testament. The University of York, 2000 [NA26].
Flusser: Daniel Flusser, The Sage from Galilee. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2007.
Gesenius: Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius (1786-1842), Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament. Trans. Samuel P. Tregelles (1846). Baker Book House, 1979. Online.
Gill: John Gill (1697-1771), Exposition of the Entire Bible. Online.
GNT: The Greek New Testament, eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger, & Allen Wiegren. American Bible Society, 1966. [NA25]
Gruber: Daniel Gruber, The Messianic Writings. Elijah Publishing, 2011. Annotations by the author.
Hamp: Douglas Hamp, Discovering the Language of Jesus: Hebrew or Aramaic? CreateSpace, 2005.
HBD: Holman Bible Dictionary. ed. Trent C. Butler. Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1991. Online.
HELB: Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Bible. Schocken Books, 1975.
JANT: Jewish Annotated New Testament, eds. Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Brettler. Oxford University Press, 2011.
Jeremias: Joichim Jeremias (1900-1979), Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. Fortress Press, 1975.
JVL: Jewish Virtual Library. American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, 2014.
Kasdan: Barney Kasdan, Matthew Presents Yeshua, King Messiah: A Messianic Commentary. Lederer Books, 2011.
Leman: Derek Leman, A New Look at the Old Testament. Mt. Olive Press, 2006.
Lightfoot: John Lightfoot (1602-1675), A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica (1859 ed.), 4 Vols. Hendrickson Pub., 1989. Online.
Marshall: Alfred Marshall, NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English. Zondervan Pub. House, 1986.
Miller: David M. Miller, The Meaning of Ioudaios and its Relationship to Other Group Labels in Ancient 'Judaism.' Currents in Biblical Research 9:98-126, September 2010. Online.
Merrill: Selah Merrill, Galilee in the Time of Christ. Religious Tract Society, 1891. Online.
Metzger: Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed. German Bible Society, 1994.
Morris: Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1971. (NICNT)
Moseley: Ron Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Yeshua and the Original Church. Lederer Books, 1996.
Mounce: William D. Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. 2011. Online.
NASBEC: New American Standard Bible Exhaustive Concordance, Updated Edition. Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998.
Neil: James Neil, Palestine Explored. James Nisbet & Co., 1882.
NETS: New English Translation of the Septuagint. Oxford University Press, 2007. Online.
NIBD: Nelson's Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible. Herbert Lockyer, ed. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986.
Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaqi (1040-1105), Commentary on the Tanakh. Online.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker (1897-1965), A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Vol. 1. Zondervan Pub. House, 1976.
Reinhartz: Adele Reinhartz, Annotations on "John," Jewish Annotated New Testament, eds. Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Brettler. Oxford University Press, 2011.
Robertson: Archibald Thomas Robertson (1863-1934), Word Pictures in the New Testament, 6 Vols. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1933. (Parsons CD-ROM Version 2.0, 1997)
Salkinson: Isaac E. Salkinson (1820-1883), Ha-Berit ha-Hadashah. British Missionary Society, 1886. Online. (Translation into 19th c. Hebrew.)
Santala: Risto Santala, The Messiah in the New Testament in the Light of Rabbinical Writings. Trans. William Kinnaird. Keren Ahvah Meshihit, 1992. Online.
Shapira: Rabbi Itzhak Shapira, The Return of the Kosher Pig: The Divine Messiah in Jewish Thought. Lederer Books, 2013.
Smith: Sir William Smith, A Dictionary of the Bible. John Murray, 1893. Online.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
TDNT: Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. 10 vols. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1967. Online.
Tenney: Merrill C. Tenney, John, Vol. 9, Expositor's Bible Commentary, Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp, 1989-1999.
TSOI: Twelve Sons of Israel. The Messianic Jewish Alliance of America and the International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues, 2013. [This book is a condensation of Rabbis Meet Jesus the Messiah, Messianic Good News. Online.]
Wilson: Marvin Wilson, Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. & the Center for Judaic-Christian Studies, 1989.
Young: Brad Young, Jesus the Jewish Theologian. Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1995.
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