1:1 In the beginning 1 was the Word, and the Word was with God, 2 and the Word was fully God. 3 1:2 The Word 4 was with God in the beginning. 1:3 All things were created 5 by him, and apart from him not one thing was created 6 that has been created. 7 1:4 In him was life, 8 and the life was the light of mankind. 9 1:5 And the light shines on 10 in the darkness, 11 but 12 the darkness has not mastered it. 13
1:6 A man came, sent from God, whose name was John. 14 1:7 He came as a witness 15 to testify 16 about the light, so that everyone 17 might believe through him. 1:8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify 18 about the light. 1:9 The true light, who gives light to everyone, 19 was coming into the world. 20 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was created 21 by him, but 22 the world did not recognize 23 him. 1:11 He came to what was his own, 24 but 25 his own people 26 did not receive him. 27 1:12 But to all who have received him – those who believe in his name 28 – he has given the right to become God’s children 1:13 – children not born 29 by human parents 30 or by human desire 31 or a husband’s 32 decision, 33 but by God.
1 sn In the beginning. The search for the basic “stuff” out of which things are made was the earliest one in Greek philosophy. It was attended by the related question of “What is the process by which the secondary things came out of the primary one (or ones)?,” or in Aristotelian terminology, “What is the ‘beginning’ (same Greek word as beginning, John 1:1) and what is the origin of the things that are made?” In the New Testament the word usually has a temporal sense, but even BDAG 138 s.v. ἀρχή 3 lists a major category of meaning as “the first cause.” For John, the words “In the beginning” are most likely a conscious allusion to the opening words of Genesis – “In the beginning.” Other concepts which occur prominently in Gen 1 are also found in John’s prologue: “life” (1:4) “light” (1:4) and “darkness” (1:5). Gen 1 describes the first (physical) creation; John 1 describes the new (spiritual) creation. But this is not to play off a false dichotomy between “physical” and “spiritual”; the first creation was both physical and spiritual. The new creation is really a re-creation, of the spiritual (first) but also the physical. (In spite of the common understanding of John’s “spiritual” emphasis, the “physical” re-creation should not be overlooked; this occurs in John 2 with the changing of water into wine, in John 11 with the resurrection of Lazarus, and the emphasis of John 20-21 on the aftermath of Jesus’ own resurrection.)
2 tn The preposition πρός (pros) implies not just proximity, but intimate personal relationship. M. Dods stated, “Πρός …means more than μετά or παρά, and is regularly employed in expressing the presence of one person with another” (“The Gospel of St. John,” The Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1:684). See also Mark 6:3, Matt 13:56, Mark 9:19, Gal 1:18, 2 John 12.
3 tn Or “and what God was the Word was.” Colwell’s Rule is often invoked to support the translation of θεός (qeos) as definite (“God”) rather than indefinite (“a god”) here. However, Colwell’s Rule merely permits, but does not demand, that a predicate nominative ahead of an equative verb be translated as definite rather than indefinite. Furthermore, Colwell’s Rule did not deal with a third possibility, that the anarthrous predicate noun may have more of a qualitative nuance when placed ahead of the verb. A definite meaning for the term is reflected in the traditional rendering “the word was God.” From a technical standpoint, though, it is preferable to see a qualitative aspect to anarthrous θεός in John 1:1c (ExSyn 266-69). Translations like the NEB, REB, and Moffatt are helpful in capturing the sense in John 1:1c, that the Word was fully deity in essence (just as much God as God the Father). However, in contemporary English “the Word was divine” (Moffatt) does not quite catch the meaning since “divine” as a descriptive term is not used in contemporary English exclusively of God. The translation “what God was the Word was” is perhaps the most nuanced rendering, conveying that everything God was in essence, the Word was too. This points to unity of essence between the Father and the Son without equating the persons. However, in surveying a number of native speakers of English, some of whom had formal theological training and some of whom did not, the editors concluded that the fine distinctions indicated by “what God was the Word was” would not be understood by many contemporary readers. Thus the translation “the Word was fully God” was chosen because it is more likely to convey the meaning to the average English reader that the Logos (which “became flesh and took up residence among us” in John 1:14 and is thereafter identified in the Fourth Gospel as Jesus) is one in essence with God the Father. The previous phrase, “the Word was with God,” shows that the Logos is distinct in person from God the Father.
sn And the Word was fully God. John’s theology consistently drives toward the conclusion that Jesus, the incarnate Word, is just as much God as God the Father. This can be seen, for example, in texts like John 10:30 (“The Father and I are one”), 17:11 (“so that they may be one just as we are one”), and 8:58 (“before Abraham came into existence, I am”). The construction in John 1:1c does not equate the Word with the person of God (this is ruled out by 1:1b, “the Word was with God”); rather it affirms that the Word and God are one in essence.
4 tn Grk “He”; the referent (the Word) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
5 tn Or “made”; Grk “came into existence.”
6 tn Or “made”; Grk “nothing came into existence.”
7 tc There is a major punctuation problem here: Should this relative clause go with v. 3 or v. 4? The earliest
tn Or “made”; Grk “that has come into existence.”
8 tn John uses ζωή (zwh) 37 times: 17 times it occurs with αἰώνιος (aiwnios), and in the remaining occurrences outside the prologue it is clear from context that “eternal” life is meant. The two uses in 1:4, if they do not refer to “eternal” life, would be the only exceptions. (Also 1 John uses ζωή 13 times, always of “eternal” life.)
sn An allusion to Ps 36:9, which gives significant OT background: “For with you is the fountain of life; In your light we see light.” In later Judaism, Bar 4:2 expresses a similar idea. Life, especially eternal life, will become one of the major themes of John’s Gospel.
9 tn Or “humanity”; Grk “of men” (but ἄνθρωπος [anqrwpo"] is used in a generic sense here, not restricted to males only, thus “mankind,” “humanity”).
10 tn To this point the author has used past tenses (imperfects, aorists); now he switches to a present. The light continually shines (thus the translation, “shines on”). Even as the author writes, it is shining. The present here most likely has gnomic force (though it is possible to take it as a historical present); it expresses the timeless truth that the light of the world (cf. 8:12, 9:5, 12:46) never ceases to shine.
sn The light shines on. The question of whether John has in mind here the preincarnate Christ or the incarnate Christ is probably too specific. The incarnation is not really introduced until v. 9, but here the point is more general: It is of the very nature of light, that it shines.
11 sn The author now introduces what will become a major theme of John’s Gospel: the opposition of light and darkness. The antithesis is a natural one, widespread in antiquity. Gen 1 gives considerable emphasis to it in the account of the creation, and so do the writings of Qumran. It is the major theme of one of the most important extra-biblical documents found at Qumran, the so-called War Scroll, properly titled The War of the Sons of Light with the Sons of Darkness. Connections between John and Qumran are still an area of scholarly debate and a consensus has not yet emerged. See T. A. Hoffman, “1 John and the Qumran Scrolls,” BTB 8 (1978): 117-25.
12 tn Grk “and,” but the context clearly indicates a contrast, so this has been translated as an adversative use of καί (kai).
13 tn Or “comprehended it,” or “overcome it.” The verb κατέλαβεν (katelaben) is not easy to translate. “To seize” or “to grasp” is possible, but this also permits “to grasp with the mind” in the sense of “to comprehend” (esp. in the middle voice). This is probably another Johannine double meaning – one does not usually think of darkness as trying to “understand” light. For it to mean this, “darkness” must be understood as meaning “certain people,” or perhaps “humanity” at large, darkened in understanding. But in John’s usage, darkness is not normally used of people or a group of people. Rather it usually signifies the evil environment or ‘sphere’ in which people find themselves: “They loved darkness rather than light” (John 3:19). Those who follow Jesus do not walk in darkness (8:12). They are to walk while they have light, lest the darkness “overtake/overcome” them (12:35, same verb as here). For John, with his set of symbols and imagery, darkness is not something which seeks to “understand (comprehend)” the light, but represents the forces of evil which seek to “overcome (conquer)” it. The English verb “to master” may be used in both sorts of contexts, as “he mastered his lesson” and “he mastered his opponent.”
14 sn John refers to John the Baptist.
15 tn Grk “came for a testimony.”
sn Witness is also one of the major themes of John’s Gospel. The Greek verb μαρτυρέω (marturew) occurs 33 times (compare to once in Matthew, once in Luke, 0 in Mark) and the noun μαρτυρία (marturia) 14 times (0 in Matthew, once in Luke, 3 times in Mark).
16 tn Or “to bear witness.”
17 tn Grk “all.”
18 tn Or “to bear witness.”
19 tn Grk “every man” (but in a generic sense, “every person,” or “every human being”).
20 tn Or “He was the true light, who gives light to everyone who comes into the world.” The participle ἐρχόμενον (ercomenon) may be either (1) neuter nominative, agreeing with τὸ φῶς (to fw"), or (2) masculine accusative, agreeing with ἄνθρωπον (anqrwpon). Option (1) results in a periphrastic imperfect with ἦν (hn), ἦν τὸ φῶς… ἐρχόμενον, referring to the incarnation. Option (2) would have the participle modifying ἄνθρωπον and referring to the true light as enlightening “every man who comes into the world.” Option (2) has some rabbinic parallels: The phrase “all who come into the world” is a fairly common expression for “every man” (cf. Leviticus Rabbah 31.6). But (1) must be preferred here, because: (a) In the next verse the light is in the world; it is logical for v. 9 to speak of its entering the world; (b) in other passages Jesus is described as “coming into the world” (6:14, 9:39, 11:27, 16:28) and in 12:46 Jesus says: ἐγὼ φῶς εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἐλήλυθα (egw fw" ei" ton kosmon elhluqa); (c) use of a periphrastic participle with the imperfect tense is typical Johannine style: 1:28, 2:6, 3:23, 10:40, 11:1, 13:23, 18:18 and 25. In every one of these except 13:23 the finite verb is first and separated by one or more intervening words from the participle.
sn In v. 9 the world (κόσμος, kosmos) is mentioned for the first time. This is another important theme word for John. Generally, the world as a Johannine concept does not refer to the totality of creation (the universe), although there are exceptions at 11:9. 17:5, 24, 21:25, but to the world of human beings and human affairs. Even in 1:10 the world created through the Logos is a world capable of knowing (or reprehensibly not knowing) its Creator. Sometimes the world is further qualified as this world (ὁ κόσμος οὗτος, Jo kosmos Joutos) as in 8:23, 9:39, 11:9, 12:25, 31; 13:1, 16:11, 18:36. This is not merely equivalent to the rabbinic phrase “this present age” (ὁ αἰών οὗτος, Jo aiwn Joutos) and contrasted with “the world to come.” For John it is also contrasted to a world other than this one, already existing; this is the lower world, corresponding to which there is a world above (see especially 8:23, 18:36). Jesus appears not only as the Messiah by means of whom an eschatological future is anticipated (as in the synoptic gospels) but also as an envoy from the heavenly world to this world.
21 tn Or “was made”; Grk “came into existence.”
22 tn Grk “and,” but in context this is an adversative use of καί (kai) and is thus translated “but.”
23 tn Or “know.”
24 tn Grk “to his own things.”
25 tn Grk “and,” but in context this is an adversative use of καί (kai) and is thus translated “but.”
26 tn “People” is not in the Greek text but is implied.
27 sn His own people did not receive him. There is a subtle irony here: When the λόγος (logos) came into the world, he came to his own (τὰ ἴδια, ta idia, literally “his own things”) and his own people (οἱ ἴδιοι, Joi idioi), who should have known and received him, but they did not. This time John does not say that “his own” did not know him, but that they did not receive him (παρέλαβον, parelabon). The idea is one not of mere recognition, but of acceptance and welcome.
28 tn On the use of the πιστεύω + εἰς (pisteuw + ei") construction in John: The verb πιστεύω occurs 98 times in John (compared to 11 times in Matthew, 14 times in Mark [including the longer ending], and 9 times in Luke). One of the unsolved mysteries is why the corresponding noun form πίστις (pistis) is never used at all. Many have held the noun was in use in some pre-Gnostic sects and this rendered it suspect for John. It might also be that for John, faith was an activity, something that men do (cf. W. Turner, “Believing and Everlasting Life – A Johannine Inquiry,” ExpTim 64 [1952/53]: 50-52). John uses πιστεύω in 4 major ways: (1) of believing facts, reports, etc., 12 times; (2) of believing people (or the scriptures), 19 times; (3) of believing “in” Christ” (πιστεύω + εἰς + acc.), 36 times; (4) used absolutely without any person or object specified, 30 times (the one remaining passage is 2:24, where Jesus refused to “trust” himself to certain individuals). Of these, the most significant is the use of πιστεύω with εἰς + accusative. It is not unlike the Pauline ἐν Χριστῷ (en Cristw) formula. Some have argued that this points to a Hebrew (more likely Aramaic) original behind the Fourth Gospel. But it probably indicates something else, as C. H. Dodd observed: “πιστεύειν with the dative so inevitably connoted simple credence, in the sense of an intellectual judgment, that the moral element of personal trust or reliance inherent in the Hebrew or Aramaic phrase – an element integral to the primitive Christian conception of faith in Christ – needed to be otherwise expressed” (The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, 183).
29 tn The Greek term translated “born” here also involves conception.
30 tn Grk “of blood(s).” The plural αἱμάτων (Jaimatwn) has seemed a problem to many interpreters. At least some sources in antiquity imply that blood was thought of as being important in the development of the fetus during its time in the womb: thus Wis 7:1: “in the womb of a mother I was molded into flesh, within the period of 10 months, compacted with blood, from the seed of a man and the pleasure of marriage.” In John 1:13, the plural αἱμάτων may imply the action of both parents. It may also refer to the “genetic” contribution of both parents, and so be equivalent to “human descent” (see BDAG 26 s.v. αἷμα 1.a). E. C. Hoskyns thinks John could not have used the singular here because Christians are in fact ‘begotten’ by the blood of Christ (The Fourth Gospel, 143), although the context would seem to make it clear that the blood in question is something other than the blood of Christ.
31 tn Or “of the will of the flesh.” The phrase οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος σαρκός (oude ek qelhmato" sarko") is more clearly a reference to sexual desire, but it should be noted that σάρξ (sarx) in John does not convey the evil sense common in Pauline usage. For John it refers to the physical nature in its weakness rather than in its sinfulness. There is no clearer confirmation of this than the immediately following verse, where the λόγος (logos) became σάρξ.
32 tn Or “man’s.”
33 tn The third phrase, οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος ἀνδρός (oude ek qelhmato" andros), means much the same as the second one. The word here (ἀνηρ, anhr) is often used for a husband, resulting in the translation “or a husband’s decision,” or more generally, “or of any human volition whatsoever.” L. Morris may be right when he sees here an emphasis directed at the Jewish pride in race and patriarchal ancestry, although such a specific reference is difficult to prove (John [NICNT], 101).
34 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “now” to indicate the transition to a new topic, the incarnation of the Word. Greek style often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” but English style generally does not.
36 tn Grk “and tabernacled.”
sn The Greek word translated took up residence (σκηνόω, skhnow) alludes to the OT tabernacle, where the Shekinah, the visible glory of God’s presence, resided. The author is suggesting that this glory can now be seen in Jesus (note the following verse). The verb used here may imply that the Shekinah glory that once was found in the tabernacle has taken up residence in the person of Jesus. Cf. also John 2:19-21. The Word became flesh. This verse constitutes the most concise statement of the incarnation in the New Testament. John 1:1 makes it clear that the Logos was fully God, but 1:14 makes it clear that he was also fully human. A Docetic interpretation is completely ruled out. Here for the first time the Logos of 1:1 is identified as Jesus of Nazareth – the two are one and the same. Thus this is the last time the word logos is used in the Fourth Gospel to refer to the second person of the Trinity. From here on it is Jesus of Nazareth who is the focus of John’s Gospel.
37 tn Grk “and we saw.”
38 tn Or “of the unique one.” 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 Clem. 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, 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).