The Fourfold Gospel
1:1 In the beginning was the Word1, and the Word was with God2, and the Word was God3.
- The Word. A title for Jesus peculiar to the apostle John.
- The Word was with God. Not going before nor coming after God, but with Him at the beginning.
- The Word was God. Not more, not less.
1:3 All things were made through him1; and without him was not anything made that hath been made2.
- All things were made through him. The New Testament often speaks of Christ as the Creator (John 1:10; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:13,17; Hebrews 1:2).
- And without him was not anything made that hath been made. This shows that Jesus himself is not a creature.
1:4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men2.
- In his was life. As in the Father (John 5:26). As this life animates the living, so can it reanimate the dead (John 11:25).
- And the life was the light of men. The life of Jesus is the light of men, because from that life we get our intellect and understanding,
and because that life formed and governs the creation around us by
which we become enlightened as to the existence and power of God
(Romans 1:18-21; Acts 14:16,17).
1:5 And the light shineth in the darkness1; and the darkness apprehended it not2.
- And the light shineth in the darkness. An ignorant, benighted world.
- And the darkness apprehended it not. Did not receive or admit it. Jesus, the Light of the world, was despised and rejected by men.
1:7 The same came for witness, that he might bear witness of the light1, that all2 might believe3 through him.
- The same came for witness, that he might bear witness of the light. That he might tell men that Jesus was the Messiah.
- That all who heard his testimony
- Might believe. In Jesus.
1:8 He was not the light1, but [came] that he might bear witness of the light.
- He was not the Light. "He was the lamp that burneth and shineth" (John 5:35), but not the Sun of righteousness (Malachi 4:2).
1:9 There was the true light1, [even the light] which lighteth every man, coming into the world.
- There was the true Light. As opposed to the imperfect, incomplete, and transitory lights. All men are enlightened in some degree and
enlightened in Christ; some by nature, some by conscience, and some by
1:10 He was in the world1, and the world was made through him, and the world knew him not2.
- He was in the world. Invisibly, present, renewing and sustaining his creation.
- And the world knew him not. Though it might and should have known him (Romans 1:18-21; Acts 14:16,17).
1:11 He came1 unto his own2, and they that were his own received him not3.
- He came. Visibly in the flesh.
- Unto his own. His own land or possessions (Hosea 9:3; Jeremiah 2:7 Zechariah 2:12).
- And they that were his own received him not. The children of Israel (Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2).
1:12 But as many as received him1, to them gave he the right to become children of God, [even] to them that believe on his name2:
- But as many as received him. Whether Jew or Gentile.
- To them gave he the right to become children of God, [even] to them that believe on his name. Compare Romans 3:14-17; Galatians 3:26; Galatians 4:6,7
1 John 3:1,2.
1:13 who were born, not of blood1, nor of the will of the flesh2, nor of the will of man3, but of God4.
- Who were born, not of blood. Descent from Abraham, David or any other godly person does not make a man a child of God (Luke 3:8; Matthew 3:9
John 8:39,40; Galatians 3:6,7,29).
- Nor of the will of the flesh. The efforts and exertions of our own human hearts and natures may reform, but cannot regenerate, the life
- Nor of the will of man. We are not begotten of God by the acts and deeds of our fellow-men, however much they may aid us in leading right
- But of God. John 3:5; 1 John 4:7; 1 John 5:1.
1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us1 (and we beheld his glory2, glory as of the only begotten from the Father)3, full of grace and truth4.
- And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. By being born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary.
- (And we beheld his glory. In his miracles, and especially in his transfiguration (John 2:11; 2 Peter 1:16-18).
- Glory as of the only begotten from the Father). Such glory as was suitable to the Son of God.
- Full of grace and truth. The glory of Christ was not in pomp and worldly grandeur, but in the holiness, grace, and truth of his daily
1:15 John1 beareth witness of him, and crieth2, saying, This was he of whom I said3, He that cometh after me4 is become before me5: for he was before me6.
- John. The Baptist.
- Beareth witness of him, and crieth. The words of John the Baptist still witness to unbelieving Jews and Gentiles.
- saying, This was he of whom I said. John had preached about Jesus before Jesus appeared; he now points to Jesus as the one about whom he
- He that cometh after me. He for whom I as a forerunner have prepared the way (Matthew 3:3).
- Is become before me. Is worthy of more honor and reverence than am I.
- For he was before me. Though born into the world six months later than John, Jesus, as the Word, had existed from eternity.
1:16 For1 of his fulness2 we all received3, and grace for grace4.
- For. In this verse the words are the apostle John's, and not John the Baptist's.
- Of his fulness. Jesus was full of grace and truth and all the attributes of God (Ephesians 1:23; Ephesians 3:19; Ephesians 4:13; Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9).
- We all received. By union with him all his perfection and righteousness became ours (Philippians 1:10,11; Philippians 3:8,9; 1 Corinthians 1:30).
- And grace for grace. This may mean that we receive a grace kindred to or like each several grace that is in Christ (Romans 8:29; Romans 12:2
Ephesians 4:11-13). But it more probably means fullness of grace, or fresh
grace daily added to the grace already bestowed.
1:17 For the law1 was given through Moses2; grace and truth3 came through Jesus Christ4.
- For the law. The Old Dispensation with its condemnation (Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:21) and its types and shadows (Colossians 2:16,17
Hebrews 8:4,5; Hebrews 10:1).
- Was given through Moses. Given through Moses by angels at Mt. Sinai (Hebrews 2:2).
- Grace and truth. The New Dispensation with its justification and its realities (Romans 3:21-26; Hebrews 9:1-15).
- Came through Jesus Christ. See Hebrews 1:1,2; Hebrews 2:3.
1:18 No man hath seen God at any time1; the only begotten Son2, who is in the bosom of the Father3, he hath declared [him]4.
- No man hath seen God at any time. See 1 John 4:12,20; John 1:18 1 Timothy 6:16.
- The only begotten Son. The words "only begotten" indicates that none other bears with Christ a like relationship to God.
- Who is in the bosom of the Father. Who bears the closest and tenderest relationship and fellowship as to the Father.
- He hath declared [him]. See John 3:2; John 15:9; Colossians 1:15.
1:19 And this is the witness of John1, when the Jews2 sent unto him3 from Jerusalem priests and Levites to ask him, Who art thou4?
JOHN'S FIRST TESTIMONY TO JESUS.
(Bethany beyond Jordan, February, A.D. 27.)
- And this is the witness of John. John had been sent to testify, "and" this is the matter of his testimony.
- When the Jews. The term "Jews" is used seventy times by John to describe the ruling classes of Judea.
- Sent unto him. In thus sending an embassy they honored John more than they ever honored Christ. They looked upon John as a priest and
Judean, but upon Jesus as a carpenter and Galilean. It is probable that
the sending of this investigating committee marks the period when the
feelings of the rulers toward John changed from friendliness to
hostility. At the first, probably led on by the prophecies of Daniel,
these Jews found joy in John's coming (John 5:33-35). When they
attended his ministry in person he denounced their wickedness and
incurred their hatred.
- From Jerusalem priests and Levites to ask him, Who art thou? They were commissioned to teach (2 Chronicles 15:3; Nehemiah 8:7-9), and it was probably
because of their wisdom as teachers that they were sent to question
John about his baptism.
1:20 And he confessed, and denied not; and he confessed1, I am not2 the Christ3.
- And he confessed, and denied not; and he confessed. The repetition here suggests John's firmness under repeated temptation. As the
questioners ran down the scale from "Christ" to "that prophet", John
felt himself diminishing in their estimation, but firmly declined to
take honors which did not belong to him.
- I am not. In this entire section (John 1:20-24) John places emphasis upon the pronoun "I" that he may contrast himself with Christ.
- The Christ. When the apostle John wrote this Gospel it had become fashionable with many of the Baptist's disciples to assert that the
Baptist was the Christ. (Recognitions of Clement 1:50, 60; Olshausen,
Hengstenberg, Godet.) In giving this testimony of the Baptist, John
corrects this error; but his more direct purpose is to show forth
John's full testimony, and give the basis for the words of Jesus found
at (John 5:33). The fact that the Jews were disposed to look upon John
as the Messiah gave all the greater weight to his testimony; for the
more exalted the person of the witness, the weightier are his words.
John's own experience doubtless caused him to feel the influence of the
1:21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elijah? And he saith, I am not2. Art thou the prophet3? And he answered, No4.
- And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elijah? Malachi had declared that Elijah should precede the Messiah (Malachi 4:5). The Jews interpreted
this prophecy literally, and looked for the return of the veritable
Elijah who was translated (Matthew 17:10). This literal Elijah did return,
and was seen upon the Mount of Transfiguration before the crucifixion
of our Lord. But the prophecy of Malachi referred to a spiritual Elijah
--one who should come "in the spirit and power of Elijah", and in this
sense John fulfilled Malachi's prediction (Luke 1:17; Matthew 11:14; Matthew 17:12).
- And he saith, I am not. He answered their question according to the sense in which they had asked it. He was not the Elijah who had been
translated about nine hundred years before this time (2 Kings 2:11).
- Art thou the prophet? Moses had foretold a prophet who should come (Deuteronomy 18:15-18), but the Jews appear to have had no fixed opinion
concerning him, for some thought he would be a second Moses, others a
second Elijah, others the Messiah. The Scriptures show us how uncertain
they were about him (Matthew 16:14; John 6:14; John 7:40,41). As to Jeremiah being
that prophet, see 2 Macc. 2:7. Even Christians disagree as to whether
Moses refers to Christ or to a line of prophets. Though divided in
opinion as to who this prophet would be, the Jews were fairly unanimous
as to what he would do. Finding in their Scriptures two pictures of the
Christ, one representing him as a great Conqueror, and the other of his
priesthood, setting him forth as a great Sufferer, they took the
pictures to refer to TWO personages, one denoting a king--the Messiah--
and the other a prophet. The Jews to this day thus divide the Christ of
prophecy, and seek to make him two personages.
- And he answered, No. He was not the prophet, either as he or they understood that term. John gives us a beautiful example of humility.
Like Paul, he would not be overvalued (Acts 14:13-15; 1 Corinthians 1:12,13).
1:22 They said therefore unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself1?
- What sayest thou of thyself? Unable to guess his office, they asked him to state it plainly.
1:23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness1, Make straight the way of the Lord2, as said Isaiah the prophet3.
- He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness. It is as though John answered, "You ask who I am. My personality is nothing; my
message everything. I shall pass away as a sound passes into silence;
but the truth which I have uttered shall abide". In his answer John
shows himself to be the spiritual Elijah, for he declares that he came
to do the work of Elijah; viz., to prepare the people for the advent of
Messiah. There are many echoes in the world, but few voices.
- Make straight the way of the Lord. Prepare the minds and hearts of the people that Christ may freely enter in.
- As said Isaiah the prophet. See Isaiah 40:3.
1:24 And they had been sent from the Pharisees1.
- The Pharisees. Of all the Jewish sects the Pharisees were most attentive to external rites and ceremonies, and hence would notice
John's baptism more than would others. It is interesting to notice that
the Pharisees, who were Christ's most bitter opponents, were warned of
John about the presence of Messiah from the very beginning.
1:25 And they asked him, and said unto him, Why then baptizest thou, if thou art not the Christ, neither Elijah1, neither the prophet?
- Why then baptizest thou, if thou art not the Christ, neither Elijah,
- neither the prophet? If you are no more important personage, who do you presume to introduce any other ordinance than those provided for by
the law of Moses? The question shows that to them John's baptism was a
new rite. Even if proselyte baptism then existed at this time (of which
there is certainly no sufficient evidence), it differed in two marked
ways from John's baptism: (1) John baptized his converts, while
proselytes baptized themselves; (2) John baptized Jews and not
1:27 [even] he that cometh after me1, the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to unloose2.
- [Even] he that cometh after me. That is, follows in that way which I as forerunner am preparing for him.
- The latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to unloose. The words "standeth" (John 1:26) and "shoe" showed that the person of whom the
Baptist spoke had a visible, bodily form. To loose the latchet was a
peculiarly servile office. The Talmud says,
"Every office a servant will do for his master, a scholar
should perform for his teacher, except loosing his sandal-
The greatest prophet felt unworthy to render Christ this humble
service, but unconverted sinners often presume to serve Christ
according to their own will, and fully expect to have their service
honored and rewarded. Taken as a whole, the answer of John appears
indirect and insufficient. What was there in all this to authorize him
to baptize? This appears to be his meaning: "You demand my authority
for baptism. It rests in him for whom I prepare the way. It is a small
matter to introduce baptism in water for one so worthy. If you accept
him, my baptism will need no explanation; and if you reject him, my
rite and its authority are both wholly immaterial.
1:28 These things were done in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing1.
- These things were done in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. Owing to variations in the manuscripts, we may read
"Bethany" or "Bethabara", or even possibly "Bethabara in Bathania".
Tradition fixes upon the Jericho ford, which is about five miles on an
air line north of the Dead Sea, as the site of Jesus' baptism. But this
spot is eighty miles from Cana of Galilee, and hence Jesus, leaving it
on foot, could not well have attended the wedding in Cana on "the third
day" (John 2:1). We must therefore look for Bethany or Bethabara
farther up the river. John the Baptist was a roving preacher (Luke 3:3),
and during the forty days of Jesus' temptation seems to have moved up
the river Jordan. Fifty miles above the Jericho ford, and ten miles
south of the Sea of Galilee, Lt. Conder found a ford named 'Abarah
(meaning "ferry"), which answers to Bethabara (meaning "house of the
ferry"). It was in the land of Bashan, which in the time of Christ was
called Bathania (meaning "soft soil"). This spot is only twenty-two
miles from Cana. Being "beyond" the Jordan, it is not in Galilee, as
Dr. Thomson asserts. Conder says:
"We have collected the names of over forty fords, and no
other is called 'Abarah; nor does the word occur again in
all nine thousand names collected by the survey party."
1:29 On the morrow he seeth Jesus coming unto him1, and saith, Behold, the Lamb of God2, that taketh away the sin of the world3!
- On the morrow he seeth Jesus coming unto him. Jesus had just returned from the temptation in the wilderness. This is his first
appearance in John's Gospel. The fact that John leaves out all the
early history of Jesus shows that he wrote many years after the other
evangelists, when all these facts were so well known as to need no
mention by him.
- And saith, Behold, the Lamb of God. Lambs were commonly used for sin-offerings (Leviticus 4:32), and three of them were sacrificed in the
cleansing of a leper (Leviticus 14:10). A lamb was also the victim of the
morning (9 A.M.) and evening (3 P.M.) sacrifice (Exodus 29:38)--the hours
when Jesus was nailed to the cross and when he expired. A lamb was also
the victim at the paschal supper. The great prophecy of Isaiah, setting
forth the vicarious sacrifice of Christ (Isaiah 53:1-12) depicts him as
a lamb, and in terms which answer closely to the words here used by
John. The Jews to whom John spoke readily understood his allusion as
being to sacrificial lambs; but they could not understand his meaning,
for they had no thought of the sacrifice of a person. Jesus is called
the Lamb of God because he is the lamb or sacrifice which God provided
and accepted as the true and only sin-offering (Hebrews 10:4-14; 1 Peter 1:19).
- That taketh away the sin of the world! The present tense, "taketh", is used because the expiatory effect of Christ's sacrifice is
perpetual, and the fountain of his forgiveness never fails. Expiated
sin is this spoken of as being taken away (Leviticus 10:17; Exodus 34:7; Numbers 14:18).
Some seeking to avoid the vicarious nature of Christ's sacrifice, claim
that the Baptist means that Jesus would gradually lift the world out of
sin by his teaching. But lambs do not teach, and sin is not removed by
teaching, but by sacrifice (Hebrews 9:22; Revelation 5:9). Jesus was sacrificed for
the world, that is, for the entire human family in all ages. All are
bought, but all do not acknowledge the purchase (2 Peter 2:1). He gives
liberty to all, but all do not receive it, and some having received it
return again to bondage (Galatians 4:9). The Baptist had baptized for the
remission of sins. He now points his converts to him who would make
this promise good unto their souls. A Christian looks upon Christ as
one who has taken away his past sin (1 Peter 2:24), and who will forgive
his present sin (1 John 1:9).
1:30 This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man who is become before me: for he was before me1.
- For he was before me. As a man John was six months older than Jesus, but Jesus was the eternal Word. The Baptist therefore asserts here the
pre-existence of our Lord.
1:31 And I knew him not1; but that he should be made manifest to Israel, for this cause came I baptizing in water2.
- And I knew him not. Had no such certain knowledge of him as would fit me to testify concerning him.
- But that he should be made manifest to Israel, for this cause came I baptizing in water. John baptized not only that he himself might
know Christ by the spiritual sign, but also that through that knowledge
duly published all Israel might know him.
1:32 And John bare witness, saying, I have beheld the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven; and it abode upon him1.
- I have beheld the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven; and it abode upon him. The descent of the Spirit served at least two purposes:
(1) It enabled John to identify the Messiah; (2) it was, so to speak,
an official recognition of Jesus as Messiah similar to the anointing or
crowning of a king. It is asserted by some that it was of no benefit
to Jesus, since his own divine powers permitted of no addition; but the
language of Scripture indicates otherwise (Isaiah 11:2,3; Luke 4:17-19
1:33 And I knew him not1: but he that sent me to baptize in water, he said unto me2, Upon whomsoever thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and abiding upon him3, the same is he that baptizeth in the Holy Spirit4.
- And I knew him not. John's assertions that he did not know Jesus are assertions that he did not know him to be the Messiah. He
"believed" it, as appears from his reluctance to baptize him, but he
did not know it. His language to the people show this (John 1:26).
Many of the people must have known Jesus, but none of them knew him to
be the Messiah. Moreover, when John denied that he knew Jesus as
Messiah we must not take it that he was ignorant of the past history of
Jesus. No doubt he knew in a general way who Jesus was; but as the
official forerunner and announcer of Jesus, and as the heaven-sent
witness (John 1:6,7), it was necessary that the Baptist should
receive, by personal revelation from God, as here stated, an
indubitable, absolute knowledge of the Messiahship of Jesus. Without
this, John would not have been truly qualified as a witness. That Jesus
is the Son of God must not rest on hearsay evidence. John kept silent
till he could testify of his own knowledge.
- But he that sent me to baptize in water, he said unto me. Thus humbly does John claim his divine commission as a prophet.
- Upon whomsoever thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and abiding upon him. John seems to emphasize the abiding of the Spirit. The Spirit
of God was also bestowed upon the prophets and the apostles, but in
them his power was intermittent, and not constant; visions came to them
intermittently, but with Christ the fellowship of the Spirit was
- The same is he that baptizeth in the Holy Spirit. Christ bestows the Spirit upon his own. If he himself received the Spirit at the time
of his baptism, why should it be thought strange that he bestows the
Spirit upon his disciples at the time of their baptism? See
Acts 2:38; Acts 19:1-7; Titus 3:5.
1:34 And I have seen, and have borne witness that this is the Son of God1.
- And I have seen, and have borne witness that this is the Son of God. This is the climax of John's testimony. It was twofold, embracing the
results of the two senses of sight and hearing. (1) John "saw" the
dove-like apparition of the Spirit, which convinced him that Jesus was
the one to baptize in the Spirit. (2) He "heard" the voice of the
Father, which convinced him that Jesus was the Son of God. As to each
of these two facts he had a separate revelation, appealing to a
different sense, and each given by the personage of the Deity more
nearly concerned in the matter revealed. John was not only to prepare
the people to receive Christ by calling them to repentance, and
baptizing them for the remission of their sins; there was another work
equally great and important to be performed. Their "heads" as well as
their "hearts" needed his preparatory services. His testimony ran
counter to and corrected popular opinion concerning Christ. We see that
John corrected four errors: (1) The Jews looked for a Messiah of no
greater spiritual worthiness than John himself, but the Baptist
disclaimed even the right to unlace the Lord's shoe, that he might
emphasize the difference between himself and the Messiah in point of
spiritual excellency. (2) The Jews looked for one who would come after
Moses, David, and the prophets, and lost sight of the fact that he
would be before them, both in point of time and of honor
(Matthew 22:41-46). (3) The Jews looked for a liberator from earthly
bondage--a glorious king; John pointed them to a liberator from
spiritual bondage, a perfect sacrifice acceptable to God. (4) The Jews
looked for a human Messiah, a son of David. John enlarged their idea,
by pointing them to a Messiah who was also the Son of God. When the
Jews accept John's guidance as a prophet, they will believe in the
Messiahship of Jesus.
1:35 Again on the morrow1 John was standing, and two of his disciples2;
JESUS MAKES HIS FIRST DISCIPLES.
(Bethany beyond Jordan, Spring A.D. 27.)
- Again on the morrow. John's direct testimony bore fruit on the second day.
- John was standing, and two of his disciples. Am audience of two. A small field; but a large harvest.
1:36 and he looked1 upon Jesus as he walked2, and saith, Behold, the Lamb of God!
- And he looked. Gazing intently. The word is used at Mark 14:67 Luke 22:61; Mark 10:21,27. John looked searchingly at that face, which,
so far as any record shows, he was never to see on earth again. The
more intently we look upon Jesus, the more powerfully we proclaim him.
- Upon Jesus as he walked. This detail seems to be introduced to show that the Baptist did not stop Jesus and enter into familiar
conversation with him. The witness of John was wholly that of an
inspired, unbiased prophet, and not that of a friend or a familiar
- And saith, Behold the Lamb of God! John repeats this testimony. He might have chosen another message, but preferred this one. Paul also
had but one theme (1 Corinthians 2:2; Galatians 6:14).
1:37 And the two disciples heard him speak1, and they followed Jesus2.
- And the two disciples heard him speak. Andrew and probably John, the writer of this Gospel. The following are indications that it was
John: (1) From this time on he speaks as an eyewitness; (2) we have no
other account in his Gospel on his call to discipleship; (3) on seven
other occasions in this Gospel he withholds his name
(John 13:23; John 19:26,35; John 20:2; John 21:7,20,24).
- They followed Jesus. Here is the fountainhead of Christianity, for Christianity is following Jesus.
1:38 And Jesus turned, and beheld them following1, and saith unto them, What seek ye2? And they said unto him, Rabbi (which is to say, being interpreted, Teacher)3, where abideth thou?
- And Jesus turned, and beheld them following. They doubtless felt such awe and reverence for the person of Jesus as would make them
hesitate to address him.
- What seek ye? Hence Jesus himself opens the way for intercourse with himself.
- Rabbi (which is to say, being interpreted, Teacher). By the way in which John explains Jewish words and customs, it becomes apparent that
his Gospel was written for Gentiles as well as for Jews. Some take
these explanations as evidence that John's Gospel was written after the
destruction of the temple at Jerusalem. They are indeed a slight
evidence of this, for it is more expedient to explain a custom which
has ceased to exist than one which survives to explain itself.
1:39 He saith unto them, Come, and ye shall see1. They came therefore and saw where he abode; and they abode with him that day: it was about the tenth hour2.
- Come, and ye shall see. The fitting invitation of him who says: "Seek, and ye shall find" (Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9).
- It was about the tenth hour. It being a crisis in his life, John remembered the very hour. If John reckoned time according to the Jewish
method, it was about 4 P.M. If according to the Roman method, it was
10 A.M. We are inclined to accept the latter as correct.
1:41 He findeth first1 his own brother Simon2, and saith unto him, We have found the Messiah (which is, being interpreted, Christ)3.
- He findeth first. Before he did anything else.
- His own brother Simon. The word "own" is here coupled with "brother" to show that Simon was not a mere relative (as the word "brother" might
mean), but it was literally Andrew's brother.
- The Messiah (which is, being interpreted, Christ). "Messiah" is Hebrew, "Christ" is Greek, "Anointed is English. Jesus is the anointed
of God. In finding him, Andrew had made the greatest discovery which it
is possible for a man to make.
1:42 He brought him unto Jesus. Jesus looked upon him, and said, Thou art Simon2 the son of John: thou shalt be called Cephas (which is by interpretation, Peter)3.
- And he brought him to Jesus. Thus Andrew has in a sense the honor of being the first Christian evangelist.
- Thou art Simon. The name means "hearing".
- Thou shalt be called Cephas (which is by interpretation, Peter). Cephas is Hebrew, Peter is Greek, "stone" is English. It means a mass
of rock detached from the bedrock or strata on which the earth rests.
The future tense, "thou shalt be", indicates that Peter was to win his
name. It is given prophetically to describe the stability to which the
then weak and vacillating Simon should attain.
1:43 On the morrow he was minded to go forth into Galilee, and he findeth Philip1: and Jesus saith unto him, Follow me2.
- Philip. In the synoptists, Philip is a mere name in the apostolic list (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14). Through John we gain some acquaintance
with him (John 6:5; John 12:21; John 14:8).
- And Jesus saith unto him, Follow me. The Lord's usual invitation to discipleship (Matthew 4:19; Matthew 8:22; Matthew 9:9; Matthew 19:21; Mark 2:14; Mark 10:21; Luke 5:27; Luke 9:59
1:44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida1, of the city of Andrew and Peter2.
- Bethsaida. Bethsaida of Galilee, on the northwestern shore of the Lake of Galilee. It was a wicked place (Matthew 11:21; Luke 10:13).
- The city of Andrew and Peter. It appears that Peter afterward removed to Capernaum (Mark 1:29).
1:45 Philip findeth Nathanael1, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets3, wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph4.
- Nathanael. Nathanael is commonly identified with Bartholomew for the following reasons: (1) The name Bartholomew is only a patronymic,
and hence its bearer would be likely to have an additional name.
Compare Matthew 16:17; Acts 4:36. (2) John never mentions Bartholomew, and
the synoptists never mention Nathanael, though John mentions him among
apostles at the beginning and at the close of Christ's ministry. (3)
The Synoptists, in their list of apostles, invariably place Philip next
to Bartholomew, and show a tendency to place brothers and friends
together. (4) All the other disciples mentioned in this chapter become
apostles, and none are so highly commended as Nathanael. (5)
Bartholomew is connected with Matthew in the list at Acts 1:13, and
the names Matthew and Nathanael both mean the same, and are equal to
the Greek name Theodore, which means "gift of God". But even so the
identification is not perfect.
- We have found him, of whom Moses in the law . . . wrote. The whole law is full of symbolism which refers to Christ. The following
references may be taken as more specific: Genesis 49:10; Numbers 24:17-19
- And the prophets. The passages in the prophets are too numerous to mention. For samples see Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 52:13; Isaiah 53:1-12; Ezekiel 34:23-31. In
brief, Moses wrote of him as a Prophet, David as Lord, Isaiah as the
Son of the virgin and suffering Servant, Jeremiah as the Branch,
Ezekiel as the Shepherd, Malachi as the Messenger of the Covenant,
Daniel as the Messiah. Christ is the hero and subject matter of both
Testaments (1 Peter 1:11; John 5:39).
- Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. Philip knew no better at this time, and John did not change the words of Philip to suit his later
knowledge of Christ's parentage. John has already declared the divine
origin of Jesus (John 1:14), thereby agreeing with the detailed
account of Matthew and Luke.
1:46 And Nathanael said unto him, Can any good thing come out of Nazareth1? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.
- And Nathanael said unto him, Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? Because of their want of culture, their rude dialect, and
their contact with Gentiles, the Galileans were lightly esteemed by the
inhabitants of Judea (John 7:52). But here Nathanael, a Galilean
himself, speaks slightingly of Nazareth. Some think that Nazareth was
no worse than the rest of Galilee, and that Nathanael speaks thus
disparagingly because he dwelt in the neighboring town of Cana, and
felt that jealousy which often exists between rival villages. The
guileless Nathanael had no such jealousy, and the persistency with
which the enemies of Jesus called him the Nazarene indicates that there
was more than a local odium attached to the name Nazareth. Moreover, it
was the first city to offer violence to Christ and was ready on one
day's acquaintance with his preaching to put him to death.
- Philip saith to him, Come and see. So said afterward the woman of Samaria (John 4:29). Investigation removes prejudice.
1:47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile2!
- Behold an Israelite indeed. An Israelite in spirit as well as in flesh (Romans 2:28,29; Romans 9:16). Such a character contrasted sharply with
the prevalent formalism and hypocrisy of that day.
- In whom is no guile! Some see in the word "guile" a reference to Jacob. He was a man full of all subtlety and guile in his early years,
but his experience at Peniel (Genesis 32:22-31) changed his nature and
his name, and he became Israel, the spiritual father of all true
1:48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me1? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee2.
- Whence knowest thou me? Nathanael's surprise clearly indicates that the knowledge which Jesus exhibited was miraculous.
- When thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. The fig tree affords the densest shade in Palestine--a shade where no sunspot can be seen.
This fact has made it immemorially a resting-place and a refuge from
the fierce Syrian sunlight. Under such a cover Jesus saw Nathanael when
he was alone. Such superhuman knowledge wrought faith in Nathanael, as
it did afterward in the woman of Samaria. See Proverbs 15:3.
1:49 Nathanael answered him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God1; thou art King of Israel.
- Thou art the Son of God. Psalms 2:7 and Isaiah 9:6 prophetically announce Jesus as the Son of God. These and other prophecies had just
been more clearly announced by the Baptist (John 1:34). It is clear,
therefore, where Nathanael got his words; but it is no so clear how
well he understood them. This is the first recorded uninspired
confession of the divinity of Jesus, but Matthew 16:16,17 indicates
that it was but partially comprehended, else Peter might have been
instructed by Nathanael.
- Thou art the King of Israel. The expression "King of Israel" probably expressed the hope which Nathanael then entertained that Jesus
would restore the ancient Jewish kingdom of David (Acts 1:6).
1:50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee underneath the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these1.
- Thou shalt see greater things than these. Nathanael regarded the revelation of his character and whereabouts as a great thing, but he
was destined to see yet greater miracles. Opportunities improved lead
to larger privileges, and for those who believe, the evidences are
1:51 And he saith unto him, Verily, verily1, I say unto you2, Ye shall see the heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending3 upon the Son of man4.
- Verily, verily. This word means "in truth". John twenty-five times represents the Savior as thus using the double "verily". Matthew quotes
the single "verily" thirty times, Mark fourteen times, and Luke seven
times. The word is used to mark the importance of the truth about to be
- I say unto you. "You" is plural and includes all present as well as Nathanael.
- And the angels of God ascending and descending. Jesus having referred to Nathanael as a true Israelite, promises to him--and to
those like him--a blessing answering to Jacob's vision of the ladder;
that is, that the ascent and descent of ministering angels shall be by
means of Christ.
- Upon the Son of man. Jesus calls himself the Son of man upwards of eighty times. The expression is found in all four Gospels, but is
there invariably used by Christ himself. Stephen and John (Acts 7:56
Revelation 1:13) also use this title, to indicate that the glorious being
whom they saw was like Jesus--like him in his human estate. In this
chapter Jesus has been called by others "The Lamb of God", "the Son of
God", "the Messiah," and "the King of Israel". Jesus chooses yet
another title, "Son of man", for himself. At this earliest dawning of
their expectations, while their minds were thus full of his titles of
glory, Jesus introduces to his disciples this one which speaks of his
humanity and humility. The expression may have been suggested by