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John 1:34

1:34 I have both seen and testified that this man is the Chosen One of God.” 1 

John 1:49

1:49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king 2  of Israel!” 3 

1 tc ‡ What did John the Baptist declare about Jesus on this occasion? Did he say, “This is the Son of God” (οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, |outo" estin Jo Juio" tou qeou), or “This is the Chosen One of God” (οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ ἐκλεκτὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, outo" estin Jo eklekto" tou qeou)? The majority of the witnesses, impressive because of their diversity in age and locales, read “This is the Son of God” (so {Ì66,75 A B C L Θ Ψ 0233vid Ë1,13 33 1241 aur c f l g bo as well as the majority of Byzantine minuscules and many others}). Most scholars take this to be sufficient evidence to regard the issue as settled without much of a need to reflect on internal evidence. On the other hand, one of the earliest mss for this verse, {Ì5} (3rd century), evidently read οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ ἐκλεκτὸς τοῦ θεοῦ. (There is a gap in the ms at the point of the disputed words; it is too large for υἱός especially if written, as it surely would have been, as a nomen sacrum [uMs]. The term ἐκλεκτός was not a nomen sacrum and would have therefore taken up much more space [eklektos]. Given these two variants, there is hardly any question as to what Ì5 read.) This papyrus has many affinities with א*, which here also has ὁ ἐκλεκτός. In addition to their combined testimony Ì106vid b e ff2* sys,c also support this reading. Ì106 is particularly impressive, for it is a second third-century papyrus in support of ὁ ἐκλεκτός. A third reading combines these two: “the elect Son” (electus filius in ff2c sa and a [with slight variation]). Although the evidence for ἐκλεκτός is not as impressive as that for υἱός, the reading is found in early Alexandrian and Western witnesses. Turning to the internal evidence, “the Chosen One” clearly comes out ahead. “Son of God” is a favorite expression of the author (cf. 1:49; 3:18; 5:25; 10:36; 11:4, 27; 19:7; 20:31); further, there are several other references to “his Son,” “the Son,” etc. Scribes would be naturally motivated to change ἐκλεκτός to υἱός since the latter is both a Johannine expression and is, on the surface, richer theologically in 1:34. On the other hand, there is not a sufficient reason for scribes to change υἱός to ἐκλεκτός. The term never occurs in John; even its verbal cognate (ἐκλέγω, eklegw) is never affirmed of Jesus in this Gospel. ἐκλεκτός clearly best explains the rise of υἱός. Further, the third reading (“Chosen Son of God”) is patently a conflation of the other two. It has all the earmarks of adding υἱός to ἐκλεκτός. Thus, υἱός τοῦ θεοῦ is almost certainly a motivated reading. As R. E. Brown notes (John [AB], 1:57), “On the basis of theological tendency…it is difficult to imagine that Christian scribes would change ‘the Son of God’ to ‘God’s chosen one,’ while a change in the opposite direction would be quite plausible. Harmonization with the Synoptic accounts of the baptism (‘You are [This is] my beloved Son’) would also explain the introduction of ‘the Son of God’ into John; the same phenomenon occurs in vi 69. Despite the weaker textual evidence, therefore, it seems best – with Lagrange, Barrett, Boismard, and others – to accept ‘God’s chosen one’ as original.”

2 tn Although βασιλεύς (basileus) lacks the article it is definite due to contextual and syntactical considerations. See ExSyn 263.

3 sn Nathanael’s confession – You are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel – is best understood as a confession of Jesus’ messiahship. It has strong allusions to Ps 2:6-7, a well-known messianic psalm. What Nathanael’s exact understanding was at this point is hard to determine, but “son of God” was a designation for the Davidic king in the OT, and Nathanael parallels it with King of Israel here.

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