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John 1:20-23

1:20 He confessed – he did not deny but confessed – “I am not the Christ!” 1  1:21 So they asked him, “Then who are you? 2  Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not!” 3  “Are you the Prophet?” 4  He answered, “No!” 1:22 Then they said to him, “Who are you? Tell us 5  so that we can give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

1:23 John 6  said, “I am the voice of one shouting in the wilderness, ‘Make straight 7  the way for the Lord,’ 8  as Isaiah the prophet said.”

John 1:26-27


1:26 John answered them, 9  “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not recognize, 10  1:27 who is coming after me. I am not worthy 11  to untie the strap 12  of his sandal!”

John 1:29


1:29 On the next day John 13  saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God 14  who takes away the sin of the world!

John 1:34

1:34 I have both seen and testified that this man is the Chosen One of God.” 15 

John 1:36

1:36 Gazing at Jesus as he walked by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” 16 

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

snI am not the Christ.” A 3rd century work, the pseudo-Clementine Recognitions (1.54 and 1.60 in the Latin text; the statement is not as clear in the Syriac version) records that John’s followers proclaimed him to be the Messiah. There is no clear evidence that they did so in the 1st century, however – but Luke 3:15 indicates some wondered. Concerning the Christ, the term χριστός (cristos) was originally an adjective (“anointed”), developing in LXX into a substantive (“an anointed one”), then developing still further into a technical generic term (“the anointed one”). In the intertestamental period it developed further into a technical term referring to the hoped-for anointed one, that is, a specific individual. In the NT the development starts there (technical-specific), is so used in the gospels, and then develops in Paul to mean virtually Jesus’ last name.

2 tn Grk “What then?” (an idiom).

3 sn According to the 1st century rabbinic interpretation of 2 Kgs 2:11, Elijah was still alive. In Mal 4:5 it is said that Elijah would be the precursor of Messiah. How does one reconcile John the Baptist’s denial here (“I am not”) with Jesus’ statements in Matt 11:14 (see also Mark 9:13 and Matt 17:12) that John the Baptist was Elijah? Some have attempted to remove the difficulty by a reconstruction of the text in the Gospel of John which makes the Baptist say that he was Elijah. However, external support for such emendations is lacking. According to Gregory the Great, John was not Elijah, but exercised toward Jesus the function of Elijah by preparing his way. But this avoids the real difficulty, since in John’s Gospel the question of the Jewish authorities to the Baptist concerns precisely his function. It has also been suggested that the author of the Gospel here preserves a historically correct reminiscence – that John the Baptist did not think of himself as Elijah, although Jesus said otherwise. Mark 6:14-16 and Mark 8:28 indicate the people and Herod both distinguished between John and Elijah – probably because he did not see himself as Elijah. But Jesus’ remarks in Matt 11:14, Mark 9:13, and Matt 17:12 indicate that John did perform the function of Elijah – John did for Jesus what Elijah was to have done for the coming of the Lord. C. F. D. Moule pointed out that it is too simple to see a straight contradiction between John’s account and that of the synoptic gospels: “We have to ask by whom the identification is made, and by whom refused. The synoptic gospels represent Jesus as identifying, or comparing, the Baptist with Elijah, while John represents the Baptist as rejecting the identification when it is offered him by his interviewers. Now these two, so far from being incompatible, are psychologically complementary. The Baptist humbly rejects the exalted title, but Jesus, on the contrary, bestows it on him. Why should not the two both be correct?” (The Phenomenon of the New Testament [SBT], 70).

4 sn The Prophet is a reference to the “prophet like Moses” of Deut 18:15, by this time an eschatological figure in popular belief. Acts 3:22 identifies Jesus as this prophet.

5 tn The words “Tell us” are not in the Greek but are implied.

6 tn Grk “He”; the referent (John the Baptist) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

7 sn This call to “make straight” is probably an allusion to preparation through repentance.

8 sn A quotation from Isa 40:3.

9 tn Grk “answered them, saying.” The participle λέγων (legwn) is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated.

10 tn Or “know.”

11 tn Grk “of whom I am not worthy.”

sn The humility of John is evident in the statement I am not worthy. This was considered one of the least worthy tasks of a slave, and John did not consider himself worthy to do even that for the one to come, despite the fact he himself was a prophet.

12 tn The term refers to the leather strap or thong used to bind a sandal. This is often viewed as a collective singular and translated as a plural, “the straps of his sandals,” but it may be more emphatic to retain the singular here.

13 tn Grk “he”; the referent (John) has been supplied in the translation for clarity.

14 sn Gen 22:8 is an important passage in the background of the title Lamb of God as applied to Jesus. In Jewish thought this was held to be a supremely important sacrifice. G. Vermès stated: “For the Palestinian Jew, all lamb sacrifice, and especially the Passover lamb and the Tamid offering, was a memorial of the Akedah with its effects of deliverance, forgiveness of sin and messianic salvation” (Scripture and Tradition in Judaism [StPB], 225).

15 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.”

16 sn This section (1:35-51) is joined to the preceding by the literary expedient of repeating the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus being the Lamb of God (1:36, cf. 1:29). This repeated testimony (1:36) no longer has revelatory value in itself, since it has been given before; its purpose, instead, is to institute a chain reaction which will bring John the Baptist’s disciples to Jesus and make them Jesus’ own disciples.

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