John 1 - NKJV MacArthur Study Bible

1:1–18 These verses constitute the prologue which introduces many of the major themes that John will treat, especially the main theme that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (vv. 12–14, 18; cf. 20:31). Several key words repeated throughout the gospel (e.g., life, light, witness, glory) appear here. The remainder of the gospel develops the theme of the prologue as to how the eternal “Word” of God, Jesus the Messiah and Son of God, became flesh and ministered among men so that all who believe in Him would be saved. Although John wrote the prologue with the simplest vocabulary in the NT, the truths which the prologue conveys are the most profound. Six basic truths about Christ as the Son of God are featured in the prologue: 1) the eternal Christ (vv. 1–3); 2) the incarnate Christ (vv. 4, 5); 3) the forerunner of Christ (vv. 6–8); 4) the unrecognized Christ (vv. 9–11); 5) the omnipotent Christ (vv. 12, 13); and 6) the glorious Christ (vv. 14–18).

1:1 In the beginning. In contrast to 1 John 1:1 where John used a similar phrase (“from the beginning”) to refer to the starting point of Jesus’ ministry and gospel preaching, this phrase parallels Gen. 1:1 where the same phrase is used. John used the phrase in an absolute sense to refer to the beginning of the time-space-material universe. was. The verb highlights the eternal pre-existence of the Word, i.e., Jesus Christ. Before the universe began, the Second Person of the Trinity always existed; i.e., He always was (cf. 8:58). This word is used in contrast with the verb “was made” (or “were made”) in v. 3 which indicates a beginning in time. Because of John’s theme that Jesus Christ is the eternal God, the Second Person of the Trinity, he did not include a genealogy as Matthew and Luke did. While in terms of Jesus’ humanity, He had a human genealogy; in terms of His deity, He has no genealogy. the Word. John borrowed the use of the term “Word” not only from the vocabulary of the OT but also from Gr. philosophy, in which the term was essentially impersonal, signifying the rational principle of “divine reason,” “mind,” or even “wisdom.” John, however, imbued the term entirely with OT and Christian meaning (e.g., Gen. 1:3 where God’s Word brought the world into being; Pss. 33:6; 107:20; Prov. 8:27 where God’s Word is His powerful self-expression in creation, wisdom, revelation, and salvation) and made it refer to a person, i.e., Jesus Christ. Greek philosophical usage, therefore, is not the exclusive background of John’s thought. Strategically, the term “Word” serves as a bridge-word to reach not only Jews but also the unsaved Greeks. John chose this concept because both Jews and Greeks were familiar with it. the Word was with God. The Word, as the Second Person of the Trinity, was in intimate fellowship with God the Father throughout all eternity. Yet, although the Word enjoyed the splendors of heaven and eternity with the Father (Is. 6:1–13; cf. 12:41; 17:5), He willingly gave up His heavenly status, taking the form of a man, and became subject to the death of the cross (see notes on Phil. 2:6–8). was God. The Gr. construction emphasizes that the Word had all the essence or attributes of deity, i.e., Jesus the Messiah was fully God (cf. Col. 2:9). Even in His incarnation when He emptied Himself, He did not cease to be God but took on a genuine human nature/body and voluntarily refrained from the independent exercise of the attributes of deity.

1:3 All things were made through Him. Jesus Christ was God the Father’s agent involved in creating everything in the universe (Col. 1:16, 17; Heb. 1:2).

1:4, 5 life…light…darkness. John introduces the reader to contrastive themes that occur throughout the gospel. “Life” and “light” are qualities of the Word that are shared not only among the Godhead (5:26) but also by those who respond to the gospel message regarding Jesus Christ (8:12; 9:5; 10:28; 11:25; 14:6). John uses the word “life” about 36 times in his gospel, far more than any other NT book. It refers not only in a broad sense to physical and temporal life that the Son imparted to the created world through His involvement as the agent of creation (v. 3), but especially to spiritual and eternal life imparted as a gift through belief in Him (3:15; 17:3; Eph. 2:5). In Scripture “light” and “darkness” are very familiar symbols. Intellectually, “light” refers to biblical truth while “darkness” refers to error or falsehood (cf. Ps. 119:105; Prov. 6:23). Morally, “light” refers to holiness or purity (1 John 1:5) while “darkness” refers to sin or wrongdoing (3:19; 12:35, 46; Rom. 13:11–14; 1 Thess. 5:4–7; 1 John 1:6; 2:8–11). “Darkness” has special significance in relationship to Satan (and his demonic cohorts) who rules the present spiritually dark world (1 John 5:19) as the “prince of the power of the air” promoting spiritual darkness and rebellion against God (Eph. 2:2). John uses the term “darkness” 14 times (8 in the gospel and 6 in 1 John) out of its 17 occurrences in the NT, making it almost an exclusive Johannine word. In John, “light” and “life” have their special significance in relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Word (v. 9; 9:5; 1 John 1:5–7; 5:12, 20).

1:5 comprehend. The better meaning of this term in context is “overcome.” Darkness is not able to overcome or conquer the light. Just as a single candle can overcome a room filled with darkness, so also the powers of darkness are overcome by the person and work of the Son through His death on the cross (cf. 19:11a).

1:6 sent from God. As forerunner to Jesus, John was to bear witness to Him as the Messiah and Son of God. With John’s ministry, the “400 silent years” between the end of the OT and the beginning of the NT period, during which God had given no revelation, ended. John. The name “John” always refers to John the Baptist in this gospel, never to the Apostle John. The writer of this gospel calls him merely “John” without using the phrase “the Baptist,” unlike the other gospels which use the additional description to identify him (Matt. 3:1; Mark 6:14; Luke 7:20). Moreover, John the apostle (or, son of Zebedee) never identified himself directly by name in the gospel even though he was one of the 3 most intimate associates of Jesus (Matt. 17:1). Such silence argues strongly that John the apostle authored the gospel and that his readers knew full well that he composed the gospel that bears his name. For more on John the Baptist, cf. Matt. 3:1–6; Mark 1:2–6; Luke 1:5–25, 57–80.

1:7 witness…bear witness. The terms “witness” or “bear witness” receive special attention in this gospel, reflecting the courtroom language of the OT where the truth of a matter was to be established on the basis of multiple witnesses (8:17, 18; cf. Deut. 17:6; 19:15). Not only did John the Baptist witness regarding Jesus as Messiah and Son of God (vv. 19–34; 3:27–30; 5:35), but there were other witnesses: 1) the Samaritan woman (4:29); 2) the works of Jesus (10:25); 3) the Father (5:32–37); 4) the OT (5:39, 40); 5) the crowd (12:17); and 6) the Holy Spirit (15:26, 27). that all through him might believe. “Him” refers not to Christ but to John as the agent who witnessed to Christ. The purpose of his testimony was to produce faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world.

1:8 He was not that Light. While John the Baptist was the agent of belief, Jesus Christ is the object of belief. Although John’s person and ministry were vitally important (Matt. 11:11), he was merely the forerunner who announced the coming of the Messiah. Many years after John’s ministry and death, some still failed to understand John’s subordinate role to Jesus (Acts 19:1–3).

1:9 the true Light…coming into the world. The marginal note is the preferred translation. The words “coming into the world” would be better grammatically if attached to “light” rather than “every man” and thus translated “the true Light coming into the world gives light to every man.” This highlights the incarnation of Jesus Christ (v. 14; 3:16). which gives light to every man. Through God’s sovereign power, every man has enough light to be responsible. God has planted His knowledge in man through general revelation in creation and conscience. The result of general revelation, however, does not produce salvation but either leads to the complete light of Jesus Christ or produces condemnation in those who reject such “light” (see notes on Rom. 1:19, 20; 2:12–16). The coming of Jesus Christ was the fulfillment and embodiment of the light that God had placed inside the heart of man. the world. The basic sense of this Gr. word meaning “an ornament” is illustrated by the word “cosmetic” (1 Pet. 3:3). While the NT uses it a total of 185 times, John had a particular fondness for this term, using it 78 times in his gospel, 24 times in 1-3 John and 3 times in Revelation. John gives it several shades of meaning: 1) the physical created universe (v. 9; cf. v. 3; 21:24, 25); 2) humanity in general (3:16; 6:33, 51; 12:19); and 3) the invisible spiritual system of evil dominated by Satan and all that it offers in opposition to God, His Word, and His people (3:19; 4:42; 7:7; 14:17, 22, 27, 30; 15:18, 19; 16:8, 20, 33; 17:6, 9, 14; cf. 1 Cor. 1:21; 2 Pet. 1:4; 1 John 5:19). The latter concept is the significant new use that the term acquires in the NT and that predominates in John. Thus, in the majority of times that John uses the word, it has decidedly negative overtones.

1:11 His own…His own. The first usage of “His own” most likely refers to the world of mankind in general, while the second refers to the Jewish nation. As Creator, the world belongs to the Word as His property but the world did not even recognize Him due to spiritual blindness (cf. also v. 10). John used the second occurrence of “His own” in a narrower sense to refer to Jesus’ own physical lineage, the Jews. Although they possessed the Scriptures that testified of His person and coming, they still did not accept Him (Is. 65:2, 3; Jer. 7:25). This theme of Jewish rejection of their promised Messiah receives special attention in John’s gospel (12:37–41).

1:12, 13 These verses stand in contrast to vv. 10, 11. John softens the sweeping rejection of Messiah by stressing a believing remnant. This previews the book since the first 12 chapters stress the rejection of Christ, while chaps. 13–21 focus on the believing remnant who received Him.

1:12 as many as received Him…to those who believe in His name. The second phrase describes the first. To receive Him who is the Word of God means to acknowledge His claims, place one’s faith in Him, and thereby yield allegiance to Him. gave. The term emphasizes the grace of God involved in the gift of salvation (cf. Eph. 2:8–10). the right. Those who receive Jesus, the Word, receive full authority to claim the exalted title of “God’s children.” His name. Denotes the character of the person himself. See note on 14:13, 14.

1:13 of God. The divine side of salvation: ultimately it is not a man’s will that produces salvation but God’s will (cf. 3:6–8; Titus 3:5; 1 John 2:29).

1:14 the Word became flesh. While Christ as God was uncreated and eternal (see notes on v. 1), the word “became” emphasizes Christ’s taking on humanity (cf. Heb. 1:1–3; 2:14–18). This reality is surely the most profound ever because it indicates that the Infinite became finite; the Eternal was conformed to time; the Invisible became visible; the supernatural One reduced Himself to the natural. In the incarnation, however, the Word did not cease to be God but became God in human flesh, i.e., undiminished deity in human form as a man (1 Tim. 3:16). dwelt. Meaning “to pitch a tabernacle,” or “live in a tent.” The term recalls to mind the OT tabernacle where God met with Israel before the temple was constructed (Ex. 25:8). It was called the “tabernacle of meeting” (Ex. 33:7; “tabernacle of witness”—LXX) where “the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex. 33:11). In the NT, God chose to dwell among His people in a far more personal way through becoming a man. In the OT, when the tabernacle was completed, God’s Shekinah presence filled the entire structure (Ex. 40:34; cf. 1 Kin. 8:10). When the Word became flesh, the glorious presence of deity was embodied in Him (cf. Col. 2:9). we beheld His glory. Although His deity may have been veiled in human flesh, glimpses exist in the gospels of His divine majesty. The disciples saw glimpses of His glory on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1–8). The reference to Christ’s glory, however, was not only visible but also spiritual. They saw Him display the attributes or characteristics of God (grace, goodness, mercy, wisdom, truth, etc.; cf. Ex. 33:18–23). the glory as of…Father. Jesus as God displayed the same essential glory as the Father. They are one in essential nature (cf. 5:17–30; 8:19; 10:30). only begotten. The term “only begotten” is a mistranslation of the Gr. word. The word does not come from the term meaning “beget” but instead has the idea of “the only beloved one.” It, therefore, has the idea of singular uniqueness, of being beloved like no other. By this word, John emphasized the exclusive character of the relationship between the Father and the Son in the Godhead (cf. 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9). It does not connote origin but rather unique prominence; e.g., it was used of Isaac (Heb. 11:17) who was Abraham’s second son (Ishmael being the first; cf. Gen. 16:15 with Gen. 21:2, 3). full of grace and truth. John probably had Ex. 33, 34 in mind. On that occasion, Moses requested that God display His glory to him. The Lord replied to Moses that He would make all His “goodness” pass before him, and then as He passed by God declared “The LORD…merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth” (Ex. 33:18, 19; 34:5–7). These attributes of God’s glory emphasize the goodness of God’s character, especially in relationship to salvation. Jesus as Yahweh of the OT (8:58; “I AM”) displayed the same divine attributes when He tabernacled among men in the NT era (Col. 2:9).

1:15 John the Baptist’s testimony corroborates John the apostle’s statement regarding the eternality of the Incarnate Word (cf. v. 14).

1:16 grace for grace. This phrase emphasizes the superabundance of grace that has been displayed by God toward mankind, especially believers (Eph. 1:5–8; 2:7).

1:17, 18 Corroborating the truth of v. 14, these verses draw a closing contrast to the prologue. The law, given by Moses, was not a display of God’s grace but God’s demand for holiness. God designed the law as a means to demonstrate the unrighteousness of man in order to show the need for a Savior, Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:19, 20; Gal. 3:10–14, 21–26). Furthermore, the law revealed only a part of truth and was preparatory in nature. The reality or full truth toward which the law pointed came through the person of Jesus Christ.

1:18 who is in the bosom of the Father. This term denotes the mutual intimacy, love and knowledge existing in the Godhead (see 13:23; Luke 16:22, 23). declared. Theologians derived the term “exegesis” or “to interpret” from this word. John meant that all that Jesus is and does interprets and explains who God is and what He does (14:8–10).

1:19–37 In these verses, John presented the first of many witnesses to prove that Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God, thus reinforcing his main theme (20:30, 31). The testimony of John the Baptist was given on 3 different days to 3 different groups (cf. vv. 29, 35, 36). Each time, he spoke of Christ in a different way and emphasized distinct aspects regarding Him. The events in these verses took place in A.D. 26/27, just a few months after John’s baptism of Jesus (cf. Matt. 3:13–17; Luke 3:21, 22).

1:19 John. John, born into a priestly family, belonged to the tribe of Levi (Luke 1:5). He began his ministry in the Jordan Valley when he was approximately 29 or 30 years old and boldly proclaimed the need for spiritual repentance and preparation for the coming of the Messiah. He was the cousin of Jesus Christ and served as His prophetic forerunner (Matt. 3:3; Luke 1:5–25, 36). the Jews…from Jerusalem. This may refer to the Sanhedrin, the main governing body of the Jewish nation. The Sanhedrin was controlled by the family of the High-Priest, and thus the envoys would naturally be priests and Levites who would be interested in John’s ministry, both his message and his baptism.

1:20 “I am not the Christ.” Some thought that John was the Messiah (Luke 3:15–17). Christ. The term “Christ” is the Gr. equivalent of the Heb. term for “Messiah.”

1:21 “…Are you Elijah?” Malachi 4:5 (see note there) promises that the prophet Elijah will return before Messiah establishes His earthly kingdom. If John was the forerunner of Messiah was he Elijah, they asked? The angel announcing John’s birth said that John would go before Jesus “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17), thus indicating that someone other than literal Elijah could fulfill the prophecy. God sent John who was like Elijah, i.e., one who had the same type of ministry, the same power and similar personality (2 Kin. 1:8; cf. Matt. 3:4). If they had received Jesus as Messiah, John would have fulfilled that prophecy (see notes on Matt. 11:14; Mark 9:13; Luke 1:17; Rev. 11:5, 6). “Are you the Prophet?” This is a reference to Deut. 18:15–18 which predicted God would raise up a great prophet like Moses who would function as His voice. While some in John’s time interpreted this prophecy as referring to another forerunner of Messiah, the NT (Acts 3:22, 23; 7:37) applies the passage to Jesus.

1:23 John quoted and applied Is. 40:3 to himself (cf. Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4). In the original context of Is. 40:3, the prophet heard a voice calling for the leveling of a path. This call was a prophetic picture that foreshadowed the final and greatest return of Israel to their God from spiritual darkness and alienation through the spiritual redemption accomplished by the Messiah (cf. Rom. 11:25–27). In humility, John compared himself to a voice rather than a person, thus focusing the attention exclusively upon Christ (cf. Luke 17:10).

1:25 baptize. Since John had identified himself as a mere voice (v. 23), the question arose as to his authority for baptizing. The OT associated the coming of Messiah, with repentance and spiritual cleansing (Ezek. 36, 37; Zech. 13:1). John focused attention on his position as forerunner of Messiah, who used traditional proselyte baptism as a symbol of the need to recognize those Jews who were outside God’s saving covenant like Gentiles. They too needed spiritual cleansing and preparation (repentance—Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:7, 8) for Messiah’s advent. See notes on Matt. 3:6, 11, 16, 17 for an explanation of the significance of John’s baptism.

1:27 John the Baptist’s words here continue a theme of the pre-eminence of Messiah in the prologue (vv. 6–8, 15) and demonstrate extraordinary humility. Each time John had opportunity to focus on himself in these encounters, he instead shifted the focus onto Messiah. John went so far as to state that he, unlike a slave that was required to remove his master’s shoes, was not even worthy of performing this action in relationship to Messiah.

1:28 Bethabara. This word has been substituted for “Bethany” which is in the original text because some feel that John incorrectly identified Bethany as the place of these events. The solution is that two Bethanys existed, i.e., one near Jerusalem where Mary, Martha, and Lazarus lived (11:1) and one “beyond the Jordan” near the region of Galilee. Since John took great pains to identify the other Bethany’s close proximity to Jerusalem, he most likely was referring here to that other town with the same name.

1:29–34 This portion deals with John’s witness to a second group of Jews on the second day (see vv. 19–28 for the first group and day) regarding Jesus. This section forms something of a bridge. It continues the theme of John the Baptist’s witness but also introduces a lengthy list of titles applied to Jesus: Lamb of God (vv. 29, 36), Rabbi (vv. 38, 49), Messiah/Christ (v. 41), Son of God (vv. 34, 49), King of Israel (v. 49), Son of Man (v. 51), and “Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote” (v. 45).

1:29 The next day. This phrase probably refers to the day after John’s response to the Jerusalem delegation. It also initiates a sequence of days (v. 43; 2:1) that culminated in the miracle at Cana (2:1–11). The Lamb of God. The use of a lamb for sacrifice was very familiar to Jews. A lamb was used as a sacrifice during Passover (Ex. 12:1–36); a lamb was led to the slaughter in the prophecies of Isaiah (Is. 53:7); a lamb was offered in the daily sacrifices of Israel (Lev. 14:12–21; cf. Heb. 10:5–7). John the Baptist used this expression as a reference to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross to atone for the sins of the world, a theme which John the apostle carries throughout his writings (19:36; cf. Rev. 5:1–6; 7:17; 17:14) and that appears in other NT writings (e.g., 1 Pet. 1:19). sin of the world. See note on v. 9; cf. 3:16; 6:33, 51. In this context “world” has the connotation of humanity in general, not specifically every person. The use of the singular “sin” in conjunction with “of the world” indicates that Jesus’ sacrifice for sin potentially reaches all human beings without distinction (cf. 1 John 2:2). John makes clear, however, that its efficacious effect is only for those who receive Christ (vv. 11, 12). For discussion of the relation of Christ’s death to the world, see note on 2 Cor. 5:19.

1:31 I did not know Him. Although John was Jesus’ cousin, he did not know Jesus as the “Coming One” or “Messiah” (v. 30).

1:32 the Spirit descending. God had previously communicated to John that this sign was to indicate the promised Messiah (v. 33), so when John witnessed this act, he was able to identify the Messiah as Jesus (cf. Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22).

1:34 the Son of God. Although, in a limited sense, believers can be called “sons of God” (e.g., v. 12; Matt. 5:9; Rom. 8:14), John uses this phrase with the full force as a title that points to the unique oneness and intimacy that Jesus sustains to the Father as “Son.” The term carries the idea of the deity of Jesus as Messiah (v. 49; 5:16–30; cf. 2 Sam. 7:14; Ps. 2:7; see notes on Heb. 1:1–9).

1:35–51 This portion deals with John’s witness to a third group, i.e., some of John’s disciples, on the third day (see vv. 19–28, 29–34 for the first and second groups) regarding Jesus. Consistent with John’s humility (v. 27), he focuses the attention of his own disciples onto Jesus (v. 37).

1:37 they followed Jesus. Although the verb “follow” usually means “to follow as a disciple” in the writing of the apostle (v. 43; 8:12; 12:26; 21:19, 20, 22), it may also have a neutral sense (11:31). The “following” here does not necessarily mean that they became permanent disciples at this time. The implication may be that they went after Jesus to examine Him more closely because of John’s testimony. This event constituted a preliminary exposure of John the Baptist’s disciples to Jesus (e.g., Andrew; 1:40). They eventually dedicated their lives to Him as true disciples and apostles when Jesus called them to permanent service after these events (Matt. 4:18–22; 9:9; Mark 1:16–20). At this point in the narrative, John the Baptist fades from the scene and the attention focuses upon the ministry of Christ.

1:39 the tenth hour. John is reckoning time by the Roman method of the day beginning at midnight. See note on Mark 15:25. This would make the time about 10:00 a.m. John mentions the precise time most likely to emphasize that he was the other disciple of John the Baptist who was with Andrew (v. 40). As an eyewitness to these events occurring on 3 successive days, John’s first meeting with Jesus was so life-changing that he remembered the exact hour when he first met the Lord.

1:41 Messiah. The term “Messiah” is a transliteration of a Heb. or Aram. verbal adjective that means “Anointed One.” It comes from a verb that means “to anoint” someone as an action involved in consecrating that person to a particular office or function. While the term at first applied to the king of Israel (“the Lord’s anointed”—1 Sam. 16:6), the High-Priest (“the anointed priest,” Lev. 4:3) and, in one passage, the patriarchs (“my anointed ones,” Ps. 105:15), the term eventually came to point above all to the prophesied “Coming One” or “Messiah” in His role as prophet, priest, and king. The term “Christ,” a Gr. word (verbal adjective) that comes from a verb meaning “to anoint,” is used in translating the Heb. term, so that the terms “Messiah” or “Christ” are titles and not personal names of Jesus.

1:42 when Jesus looked at him. Jesus knows hearts thoroughly (vv. 43–51) and not only sees into them (vv. 47, 48) but also transforms a person into what He wants him to become. You shall be called Cephas. Up to this time, Peter had been known as “Simon son of Jonah” (the name “Jonah” in Aram. means “John”; cf. 21:15–17; Matt. 16:17). The term “Cephas” means “rock” in Aram. which is translated “Peter” in Greek. Jesus’ assignment of the name “Cephas” or “Peter” to Simon occurred at the outset of his ministry (cf. Matt. 16:18; Mark 3:16). The statement not only is predictive of what Peter would be called but also declarative of how Jesus would transform his character and use him in relationship to the foundation of the church (cf. 21:18, 19; Matt. 16:16–18; Acts 2:14—4:32).

1:43–51 This section introduces the fourth day since the beginning of John the Baptist’s witness (cf. vv. 19, 29, 35).

1:44 Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. While Mark 1:21, 29 locates Peter’s house in Capernaum, John relates that he was from Bethsaida. Resolution centers in the fact that Peter (and Andrew) most likely grew up in Bethsaida and later relocated to Capernaum in the same way that Jesus was consistently identified with His hometown of Nazareth, though He lived elsewhere later (Matt. 2:23; 4:13; Mark 1:9; Luke 1:26).

1:45 Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote. This phrase encapsulates the stance of John’s whole gospel: Jesus is the fulfillment of OT Scripture (cf. v. 21; 5:39; Deut. 18:15–19; Luke 24:44–47; Acts 10:43; 18:28; 26:22, 23; Rom. 1:2; 1 Cor. 15:3; 1 Pet. 1:10, 11; Rev. 19:10).

1:46 “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathanael was from Cana (21:2), another town in Galilee. While Galileans were despised by Judeans, Galileans themselves despised people from Nazareth. In light of 7:52, Nathanael’s scorn may have centered in the fact that Nazareth was an insignificant village without seeming prophetic importance (cf., however, Matt. 2:23). Later, some would contemptuously refer to Christians as the “sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5).

1:47 no deceit. Jesus’ point was that Nathanael’s bluntness revealed that he was an Israelite without duplicitous motives who was willing to examine for himself the claims being made about Jesus. The term reveals an honest seeking heart. The reference here may be an allusion to Gen. 27:35 where Jacob, in contrast to the sincere Nathanael, was known for his trickery. The meaning may be that the employment of trickery characterized not only Jacob but also his descendants. In Jesus’ mind, an honest and sincere Israelite had become an exception rather than the rule (cf. 2:23–25).

1:48 I saw you. A brief glimpse of Jesus’ supernatural knowledge. Not only was Jesus’ brief summary of Nathanael accurate (v. 47), but He also revealed information that could only be known by Nathanael himself. Perhaps Nathanael had some significant or outstanding experience of communion with God at the location, and he was able to recognize Jesus’ allusion to it. At any rate, Jesus had knowledge of this event not available to men.

1:49 the Son of God!…the King of Israel! Jesus’ display of supernatural knowledge and Philip’s witness removed Nathanael’s doubts, so John added the witness of Nathanael to this section. The use of “the” with “Son of God” most likely indicates that the expression is to be understood as bearing its full significance (cf. v. 34; 11:27). For Nathanael, here was One who could not be described merely in human terms.

1:51 Most assuredly. Cf. 5:19, 24, 25. A phrase used frequently for emphasizing the importance and truth of the coming statement. heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending. In light of the context of v. 47, this verse most likely refers to Gen. 28:12 where Jacob dreamed about a ladder from heaven. Jesus’ point to Nathanael was that just like Jacob experienced supernatural or heaven-sent revelation, Nathanael and the other disciples would experience supernatural communication confirming who Jesus was. Moreover, the term “Son of Man” replaced the ladder in Jacob’s dream, signifying that Jesus was the means of access between God and man. Son of Man. See note on Matt. 8:20. This is Jesus’ favorite self-designation, for it was mostly spoken by Jesus who used it over 80 times. In the NT, it refers only to Jesus and appears mostly in the gospels (cf. Acts 7:56). In the fourth gospel, the expression occurs 13 times and is most commonly associated with the themes of crucifixion and suffering (3:14; 8:28) and revelation (6:27, 53) but also with eschatological authority (5:27). While the term at times may refer merely to a human being or as a substitute for “I” (6:27; cf. 6:20), it especially takes on an eschatological significance referring to Dan. 7:13, 14 where the “Son of Man” or Messiah comes in glory to receive the kingdom from the “Ancient of Days” (i.e., the Father).

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