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John 3:16-36


3:16 For this is the way 1  God loved the world: He gave his one and only 2  Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish 3  but have eternal life. 4  3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, 5  but that the world should be saved through him. 3:18 The one who believes in him is not condemned. 6  The one who does not believe has been condemned 7  already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only 8  Son of God. 3:19 Now this is the basis for judging: 9  that the light has come into the world and people 10  loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. 3:20 For everyone who does evil deeds hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed. 3:21 But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that his deeds have been done in God. 11 

Further Testimony About Jesus by John the Baptist

3:22 After this, 12  Jesus and his disciples came into Judean territory, and there he spent time with them and was baptizing. 3:23 John 13  was also baptizing at Aenon near Salim, 14  because water was plentiful there, and people were coming 15  to him 16  and being baptized. 3:24 (For John had not yet been thrown into prison.) 17 

3:25 Now a dispute came about between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew 18  concerning ceremonial washing. 19  3:26 So they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you on the other side of the Jordan River, 20  about whom you testified – see, he is baptizing, and everyone is flocking to him!”

3:27 John replied, 21  “No one can receive anything unless it has been given to him from heaven. 3:28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ 22  but rather, ‘I have been sent before him.’ 3:29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands by and listens for him, rejoices greatly 23  when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. This then is my joy, and it is complete. 24  3:30 He must become more important while I become less important.” 25 

3:31 The one who comes from above is superior to all. 26  The one who is from the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. 27  The one who comes from heaven 28  is superior to all. 29  3:32 He testifies about what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 3:33 The one who has accepted his testimony has confirmed clearly that God is truthful. 30  3:34 For the one whom God has sent 31  speaks the words of God, for he does not give the Spirit sparingly. 32  3:35 The Father loves the Son and has placed all things under his authority. 33  3:36 The one who believes in the Son has eternal life. The one who rejects 34  the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath 35  remains 36  on him.

1 tn Or “this is how much”; or “in this way.” The Greek adverb οὕτως (Joutws) can refer (1) to the degree to which God loved the world, that is, to such an extent or so much that he gave his own Son (see R. E. Brown, John [AB], 1:133-34; D. A. Carson, John, 204) or (2) simply to the manner in which God loved the world, i.e., by sending his own son (see R. H. Gundry and R. W. Howell, “The Sense and Syntax of John 3:14-17 with Special Reference to the Use of Οὕτωςὥστε in John 3:16,” NovT 41 [1999]: 24-39). Though the term more frequently refers to the manner in which something is done (see BDAG 741-42 s.v. οὕτω/οὕτως), the following clause involving ὥστε (Jwste) plus the indicative (which stresses actual, but [usually] unexpected result) emphasizes the greatness of the gift God has given. With this in mind, then, it is likely (3) that John is emphasizing both the degree to which God loved the world as well as the manner in which He chose to express that love. This is in keeping with John’s style of using double entendre or double meaning. Thus, the focus of the Greek construction here is on the nature of God's love, addressing its mode, intensity, and extent.

2 tn Although this word is often translated “only begotten,” such a translation is misleading, since in English it appears to express a metaphysical relationship. The word in Greek was used of an only child (a son [Luke 7:12, 9:38] or a daughter [Luke 8:42]). It was also used of something unique (only one of its kind) such as the mythological Phoenix (1 Clement 25:2). From here it passes easily to a description of Isaac (Heb 11:17 and Josephus, Ant. 1.13.1 [1.222]) who was not Abraham’s only son, but was one-of-a-kind because he was the child of the promise. Thus the word means “one-of-a-kind” and is reserved for Jesus in the Johannine literature of the NT. While all Christians are children of God (τέκνα θεοῦ, tekna qeou), Jesus is God’s Son in a unique, one-of-a-kind sense. The word is used in this way in all its uses in the Gospel of John (1:14, 1:18, 3:16, and 3:18).

3 tn In John the word ἀπόλλυμι (apollumi) can mean either (1) to be lost (2) to perish or be destroyed, depending on the context.

4 sn The alternatives presented are only two (again, it is typical of Johannine thought for this to be presented in terms of polar opposites): perish or have eternal life.

5 sn That is, “to judge the world to be guilty and liable to punishment.”

6 tn Grk “judged.”

7 tn Grk “judged.”

8 tn See the note on the term “one and only” in 3:16.

9 tn Or “this is the reason for God judging,” or “this is how judgment works.”

10 tn Grk “and men,” but in a generic sense, referring to people of both genders (as “everyone” in v. 20 makes clear).

11 sn John 3:16-21 provides an introduction to the (so-called) “realized” eschatology of the Fourth Gospel: Judgment has come; eternal life may be possessed now, in the present life, as well as in the future. The terminology “realized eschatology” was originally coined by E. Haenchen and used by J. Jeremias in discussion with C. H. Dodd, but is now characteristically used to describe Dodd’s own formulation. See L. Goppelt, Theology of the New Testament, 1:54, note 10, and R. E. Brown (John [AB], 1:cxvii-cxviii) for further discussion. Especially important to note is the element of choice portrayed in John’s Gospel. If there is a twofold reaction to Jesus in John’s Gospel, it should be emphasized that that reaction is very much dependent on a person’s choice, a choice that is influenced by his way of life, whether his deeds are wicked or are done in God (John 3:20-21). For John there is virtually no trace of determinism at the surface. Only when one looks beneath the surface does one find statements like “no one can come to me, unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44).

12 tn This section is related loosely to the preceding by μετὰ ταῦτα (meta tauta). This constitutes an indefinite temporal reference; the intervening time is not specified.

13 sn John refers to John the Baptist.

14 tn The precise locations of Αἰνών (Ainwn) and Σαλείμ (Saleim) are unknown. Three possibilities are suggested: (1) In Perea, which is in Transjordan (cf. 1:28). Perea is just across the river from Judea. (2) In the northern Jordan Valley, on the west bank some 8 miles [13 km] south of Scythopolis. But with the Jordan River so close, the reference to abundant water (3:23) seems superfluous. (3) Thus Samaria has been suggested. 4 miles (6.6 km) east of Shechem is a town called Salim, and 8 miles (13 km) northeast of Salim lies modern Ainun. In the general vicinity are many springs. Because of the meanings of the names (Αἰνών = “springs” in Aramaic and Σαλείμ = Salem, “peace”) some have attempted to allegorize here that John the Baptist is near salvation. Obviously there is no need for this. It is far more probable that the author has in mind real places, even if their locations cannot be determined with certainty.

15 tn Or “people were continually coming.”

16 tn The words “to him” are not in the Greek text, but are implied.

17 sn This is a parenthetical note by the author.

18 tc Was this dispute between the Baptist’s disciples and an individual Judean (᾿Ιουδαίου, Ioudaiou) or representatives of the Jewish authorities (᾿Ιουδαίων, Ioudaiwn)? There is good external support for the plural ᾿Ιουδαίων (Ì66 א* Θ Ë1,13 565 al latt), but the external evidence for the singular ᾿Ιουδαίου is slightly stronger ({Ì75 א2 A B L Ψ 33 1241 the majority of Byzantine minuscules and others}).

tn Or “a certain Judean.” Here BDAG 478 s.v. ᾿Ιουδαίος 2.a states, “Judean (with respect to birth, nationality, or cult).” If the emphasis is simply on the individual’s origin, “Judean” would be preferable since it designates a nationality or place of origin. However, the mention of ceremonial washing in the context suggests the dispute was religious in nature, so “Jew” has been retained in the translation here.

19 tn Or “ceremonial cleansing,” or “purification.”

sn What was the controversy concerning ceremonial washing? It is not clear. Some have suggested that it was over the relative merits of the baptism of Jesus and John. But what about the ceremonial nature of the washing? There are so many unanswered questions here that even R. E. Brown (who does not usually resort to dislocations in the text as a solution to difficulties) proposes that this dialogue originally took place immediately after 1:19-34 and before the wedding at Cana. (Why else the puzzled hostility of the disciples over the crowds coming to Jesus?) Also, the synoptics imply John was imprisoned before Jesus began his Galilean ministry. At any rate, there is no reason to rearrange the material here – it occurs in this place for a very good reason. As far as the author is concerned, it serves as a further continuation of the point made to Nicodemus, that is, the necessity of being born “from above” (3:3). Note that John the Baptist describes Jesus as “the one who comes from heaven” in 3:31 (ἄνωθεν [anwqen], the same word as in 3:3). There is another lexical tie to preceding material: The subject of the dispute, ceremonial washing (3:25), calls to mind the six stone jars of water changed to wine at the wedding feast in 2:6, put there for “Jewish ceremonial washing.” This section ultimately culminates and concludes ideas begun in chap. 2 and continued in chap. 3. Although the author does not supply details, one scenario would be this: The disciples of John, perplexed after this disagreement with an individual Jew (or with the Jewish authorities), came to John and asked about the fact that Jesus was baptizing and more and more were coming to him. John had been preaching a baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sin (see Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3). Possibly what the Jew(s) reported to John’s disciples was that Jesus was now setting aside the Jewish purification rituals as unnecessary. To John’s disciples this might also be interpreted as: (a) a falling away from Judaism, and (b) a break with John’s own teaching. That Jesus could have said this is very evident from many incidents in his ministry in all the gospels. The thrust would be that outward cleansing (that is, observance of purification rituals) was not what made a person clean. A new heart within (that is, being born from above) is what makes a person clean. So John’s disciples came to him troubled about an apparent contradiction in doctrine though the explicit problem they mentioned is that Jesus was baptizing and multitudes were coming to him. (Whether Jesus was or was not baptizing really wasn’t the issue though, and John the Baptist knew that because he didn’t mention it in his reply. In 4:2 the author says that Jesus was not baptizing, but his disciples. That reference would seem to cover this incident as well, and so the disciples of John are just reporting what they have heard, or thought they heard.) The real point at issue is the authority of Jesus to “overturn” the system of ritual purification within Judaism. John replied to this question of the authority of Jesus in 3:27-36. In 3:27-30 he reassured his disciples, reminding them that if more people were coming to Jesus, it did not threaten him at all, because “heaven” had ordained it to be so (v. 27). (After all, some of these very disciples of John had presumably heard him tell the Jewish delegation that he was not the Messiah but was sent before him, mentioned in John 1.) Then John compared himself to the friend of the bridegroom who stands by and yet participates in the bridegroom’s joy (v. 29). John was completely content in his own position as forerunner and preparer of the way.

20 tn “River” is not in the Greek text but is supplied for clarity.

21 tn Grk “answered and said.”

22 tn Or “the Messiah” (Both Greek “Christ” and Hebrew and Aramaic “Messiah” mean “one who has been anointed”).

sn See the note on Christ in 1:20.

23 tn Grk “rejoices with joy” (an idiom).

24 tn Grk “Therefore this my joy is fulfilled.”

25 sn Some interpreters extend the quotation of John the Baptist’s words through v. 36.

26 tn Or “is above all.”

27 tn Grk “speaks from the earth.”

28 sn The one who comes from heaven refers to Christ. As in John 1:1, the Word’s preexistence is indicated here.

29 tc Ì75 א* D Ë1 565 as well as several versions and fathers lack the phrase “is superior to all” (ἐπάνω πάντων ἐστίν, epanw pantwn estin). This effectively joins the last sentence of v. 31 with v. 32: “The one who comes from heaven testifies about what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony.” On the other side, the phrase may have been deleted because of perceived redundancy, since it duplicates what is said earlier in the verse. The witnesses that include ἐπάνω πάντων ἐστίν in both places are weighty and widespread (Ì36vid,66 א2 A B L Ws Θ Ψ 083 086 Ë13 33 Ï lat sys,p,h bo). On balance, the longer reading should probably be considered authentic.

tn Or “is above all.”

30 tn Or “is true.”

31 tn That is, Christ.

32 tn Grk “for not by measure does he give the Spirit” (an idiom). Leviticus Rabbah 15:2 states: “The Holy Spirit rested on the prophets by measure.” Jesus is contrasted to this. The Spirit rests upon him without measure.

33 tn Grk “has given all things into his hand” (an idiom).

34 tn Or “refuses to believe,” or “disobeys.”

35 tn Or “anger because of evil,” or “punishment.”

36 tn Or “resides.”

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