1:1 In the beginning was the Word1, and the Word was with God2, and the Word was God3.
JOHN'S INTRODUCTION. John
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
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
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
1:5 And the light
shineth in the darkness1; and the
darkness apprehended it not2.
And the light shineth in the darkness. An ignorant, benighted
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
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
He was not the Light. "He was the lamp that burneth and
5:35), but not the Sun of righteousness (Malachi
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 Bible
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
And the world knew him not. Though it might and should have known
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
And they that were his own received him not. The children of Israel
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
4:6,7 1 John
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
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 (John
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
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
2:11; 2 Peter
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 life.
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
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 had
He that cometh after me. He for whom I as a forerunner have
prepared the way (Matthew
Is become before me. Is worthy of more honor and reverence than am
For he was before me. Though born into the world six months later
than John, Jesus, as the Word, had existed from eternity.
of his fulness2 we
all received3, and grace for
For. In this verse the words are the apostle John's, and not John
Of his fulness. Jesus was full of grace and truth and all the
attributes of God (Ephesians
We all received. By union with him all his perfection and
righteousness became ours (Philippians
3:8,9; 1 Corinthians
And grace for grace. This may mean that we receive a grace kindred
to or like each several grace that is in Christ (Romans
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
For the law. The Old Dispensation with its condemnation (Romans
2:21) and its types and shadows (Colossians
Was given through Moses. Given through Moses by angels at Mt. Sinai
Grace and truth. The New Dispensation with its justification and
its realities (Romans
Came through Jesus Christ. See Hebrews
1:18 No man hath
seen God at any time1; the only
begotten Son2, who is in the
bosom of the Father3, he hath
No man hath seen God at any time. See 1 John
1:18 1 Timothy
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
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
JOHN'S FIRST TESTIMONY TO JESUS. (Bethany beyond Jordan, February, A.D. 27.) John
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
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
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 Baptist's
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
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
Art thou the prophet? Moses had foretold a prophet who should come
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
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
1:22 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
1:24 And they had been sent from the
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 Gentiles.
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
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- thong."
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
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
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
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
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
2:1). 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
1:30 This is he of whom I said, After me
cometh a man who is become before me: for he was before
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
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
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 continuous.
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
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.) John
Again on the morrow. John's direct testimony bore fruit on the
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
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 acquaintance.
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
1:37 And the two
disciples heard him speak1, and they
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
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
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
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
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
6:14). Through John we gain some acquaintance with him (John
And Jesus saith unto him, Follow me. The Lord's usual invitation to
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
The city of Andrew and Peter. It appears that Peter afterward
removed to Capernaum (Mark
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
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
And the prophets. The passages in the prophets are too numerous to
mention. For samples see Isaiah
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
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.
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
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
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 Israelites.
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
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
1:50 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 increased.
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 uttered.
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
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
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 Daniel