John 1 - CSB Study Bible
1:1-18 John’s prologue presents Jesus as the eternal, preexistent Word-become-flesh (vv. 1,14) and as the one-of-a-kind Son of the Father who is himself God (vv. 1,18). Jesus brought God’s plan of salvation to a culmination. Previous to Jesus this plan included God giving the law through Moses (v. 17), his dwelling among his people in the tabernacle (v. 14), and the sending of John the Baptist (vv. 6-8,15). The prologue introduces several themes that are emphasized later in the Gospel, including Jesus as life, light, and truth, believers as God’s children, and the world’s rejection of Jesus.
1:1 In the beginning was the Word echoes Gn 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” John located Jesus’s existence in eternity past with God. The Word was God: Not only did Jesus exist before creation, he is also the same God who created the heavens and the earth. “The Word” (Gk Logos) conveys the notion of divine self-expression or speech (Ps 19:1-4). God’s Word is effective. He speaks, and things come into being (Gn 1:3,9; Is 55:11-12).
1:2-3 Everything that exists owes its existence to Jesus.
1:4-5 The references to life . . . light, and darkness continue to draw on Genesis themes (cp. Gn 1:3-5,14-18,20-31; 2:7; 3:20). Light symbolism is also found in later OT messianic passages (Is 9:2; 42:6-7; 49:6; 60:1-5; Mal 4:2; cp. Lk 1:78-79).
1:6 Unlike Jesus, John the Baptist was merely a man, but like Jesus he had a particular mission to perform.
1:9 As the rest of John’s Gospel makes clear, all did not in fact receive the light, though the light was available to all.
1:10-11 His own people did not receive him refers to the Jewish people, the recipients of God’s covenants, the law, and promises of a Messiah (Rm 9:4). Messiah’s rejection by the Jews despite convincing proofs of his messiahship (esp. the “signs”) is a major subject in the first half of John’s Gospel (cp. 12:37).
1:12-13 Reference to children of God builds on the OT characterization of Israel as God’s children (Dt 14:1; cp. Ex 4:22). Born, not of natural descent . . . but of God makes clear that true children of God come into being through faith in Messiah, not physical birth or ethnic descent (8:41-47; cp. 3:16). This opens the way for Gentiles to become God’s children (11:51-52; cp. 10:16).
1:14 The Word continues the theme of 1:1. Became flesh does not mean the Word stopped being God; rather, the Word was made flesh. Dwelt among us literally means “pitched his tent” (Gk skenoō), an allusion to God’s dwelling among the Israelites in the tabernacle (Ex 25:8-9; 33:7). In the past God demonstrated his presence to his people in the tabernacle and the temple. Now God has taken up residence among his people in the Word-made-flesh, Jesus Christ (Jn 1:17). The references to God’s glory hark back to OT passages that describe the manifestation of God’s presence and glory in theophanies (appearances of God), the tabernacle, or the temple (Ex 33:22; Nm 14:10; Dt 5:22). The Greek word monogenēs underlying one and only Son from the Father means “only child” (Jdg 11:34; Jr 6:26; Am 8:10; Zch 12:10). “Only” may mean “one of a kind,” as in the case of Isaac, who is called Abraham’s “one of a kind” son in Gn 22:2,12,16 (in contrast to Ishmael, cp. Heb 11:17). In the OT, Israel and the Son of David are called God’s “firstborn” son (see Ps 89:27). The reference to God’s “giving” of his “one and only Son” in Jn 3:16,18 may allude to Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac (Gn 22).
Full of grace and truth recalls “faithful love (Hb chesed) and truth (Hb emet)” in Ex 34:6 (cp. Ex 33:18-19), where the expression refers to God’s covenant faithfulness to his people Israel. According to John, God’s covenant faithfulness found ultimate expression in his sending of his “one and only Son,” Jesus (see textual note at 1:14).
1:15 John the Baptist was six months older than Jesus (Lk 1:24,26), and he started his ministry earlier than Jesus (Lk 3:1-20). Usually, priority in time (such as being the firstborn) implied preeminence, but Jesus’s preexistence overrode John’s temporal precedence.
1:17 The contrast between the law and grace and truth is not that the law was bad and Jesus was good; rather, both the giving of the law and the coming of Jesus Christ mark stages in God’s reaching out to humanity. Jesus, however, marks the final, definitive revelation of God’s grace and truth. He is superior to Abraham (8:53), Jacob (4:12), and Moses (5:46-47; cp. 9:28).
1:18 No one has ever seen God—not even Moses (Ex 33:18-23). God is spirit (4:24), and humans are sinful, preferring darkness to light (3:19). Thus humans are unable to see God in his fullness. But Jesus Christ, the one and only Son who is himself God (1:1), has revealed God the Father in a way that Moses and the law (1:17) never could. As Jesus says later in John’s Gospel, “The one who has seen me has seen the Father” (14:9).
1:19-2:11 This introductory unit presents the first week of Jesus’s ministry: day 1, John’s witness about Jesus (1:19-28); day 2, John’s encounter with Jesus (1:29-34); day 3, John’s referral of two of his disciples to Jesus (1:35-39); day 4, Andrew’s introduction of his brother Peter to Jesus (1:40-42); day 5, the recruitment of Philip and Nathanael (1:43-51); and day 7, the wedding at Cana (2:1-11). During this early stage Jesus was hailed by John the Baptist as the “Lamb of God” (1:29,36), gathered his first disciples, and performed his first “sign”—turning water into wine (2:11).
1:19-21 John denied being the Messiah (cp. vv. 8,15; 3:28), Elijah, or the Prophet. “The Messiah” refers to the coming greater Son of David, predicted in the OT (2Sm 7:11-16; Hs 3:5). Elijah, who never died (2Kg 2:11), was expected to return in the end time (Mal 4:5) to “restore everything” (Mt 17:11; cp. Lk 1:17). John the Baptist resembled Elijah in his rugged lifestyle (Mt 3:4; cp. 2Kg 1:8) but denied being Elijah. Moses predicted the coming of “a prophet” in Dt 18:15,18 (cp. Ac 3:22; 7:37), who was expected in Jesus’s time (Jn 6:14; 7:40); John denied being this prophet as well (though he was a prophet; see 10:40-41; Mt 11:11-14).
1:22-23 John was a voice . . . crying out in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord in keeping with Isaiah’s words (Is 40:3; cp. Mt 3:3; Mk 1:3; Lk 3:4). This messenger of God was to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming by preaching repentance and divine judgment. Isaiah’s vision in Is 40-55 drew heavily on exodus typology and envisioned a new exodus of God’s people in which God’s glory would be revealed and his people delivered. This would be accomplished by the coming of the Servant of the Lord (see esp. Is 52:13-53:12).
1:24-27 To untie and remove another’s sandal was the task of a slave. John the Baptist does not fully answer their question until the next day, in 1:32-34. The purpose of his baptism was to prepare people for the Messiah.
1:28 John was baptizing at the Jordan River. Luke 3:1 places this event in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius (AD 14-37), or AD 29. John would have been about thirty-three years old. The Bethany across the Jordan (cp. 10:40) was probably not the village near Jerusalem where Lazarus was raised (cp. 11:1,18) but the region of Batanea in the northeast (called Bashan in the OT).
1:29 On the next day, see note at 2:1-2. John the Baptist’s references to Jesus as the Lamb of God may echo the lamb led to the slaughter mentioned in Is 53:7. John may also have proclaimed Jesus as the apocalyptic warrior lamb who would bring judgment (Rv 5:6,12; 7:17; cp. Mt 3:7-12; Lk 3:7-17). Takes away the sin of the world refers to Jesus’s sacrificial, substitutionary death, which appeased God’s wrath against sin and sinners (1Jn 2:2; 4:10).
1:30 Again the fact of Jesus’s preexistence is declared.
1:31 By I didn’t know him John probably meant that he did not know Jesus was the Messiah until he saw the sign from God mentioned in vv. 32-33.
1:32-34 The Spirit did not just descend on Jesus, he rested on him (cp. 3:34)—a sign of Jesus’s divine anointing. In the OT, the Spirit came upon people to enable them to accomplish specific tasks. Isaiah predicted that Messiah would be full of the Spirit at all times (Is 11:2; 61:1; cp. Lk 4:18; see note at 5:31-47).
1:36-37 John the Baptist shows great humility here as he recommends Jesus as the greater teacher. What exactly the disciples understood by the Lamb of God is unclear, but they did not understand it fully.
1:38 “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”) is one of six instances where John translated an Aramaic term for his readers. The others are Messiah (Christ, v. 41; 4:25); Cephas (Peter, 1:42); Siloam (Sent, 9:7); Thomas (Didymus, “Twin,” 11:16; 20:24; 21:2); and “Place of the Skull” (Golgotha, 19:17).
1:39 Giving the time of day shows that this account was based on eyewitness testimony.
1:40 Andrew was one of the two; the other disciple is not named. He was probably John, the son of Zebedee.
1:41 On Messiah . . . the Christ, see note at v. 38.
1:44 Most likely, Andrew and Peter grew up in Bethsaida and later moved to Capernaum (Mk 1:29; cp. Mk 1:21), located only a few miles west. Similarly, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, grew up in Nazareth (Jn 1:45), and later moved to Capernaum (Mt 4:13).
1:45 Nathanael is also mentioned in 21:2. Nathanael may be the personal name of Bartholomew (Bar-Tholomaios = son of Tholomaios), who is linked with Philip in all three Synoptic lists (Mt 10:3; Mk 3:18; Lk 6:14). Philip’s reference to the one Moses wrote about in the law may allude to predictions of a coming prophet in Dt 18:15,18 (see note at Jn 1:19-21). The expression “the Law and the Prophets” commonly referred to the OT in its entirety (Mt 5:17; 7:12).
1:46 Nathanael, who hailed from the small village of Cana in Galilee (21:2; cp. 2:1-11), used something of a double standard when he displayed prejudice toward insignificant Nazareth. Nazareth was a small town of no more than two thousand people.
1:47 Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit. Note that Jacob/Israel was characterized by deceit.
1:48 Jesus displayed supernatural knowledge (I saw you), identifying himself as Messiah.
1:49 Son of God and King of Israel are both messianic titles. “Son of God” identifies Jesus as the prophesied Messiah (2Sm 7:14; Ps 2:7); “King of Israel” likewise is a common OT designation for Messiah (Zph 3:15). The two terms also appear in Mt 27:42; Mk 15:32.
1:50 Though Nathaniel had come to know who Jesus was, he had a great deal more to learn.
1:51 Truly I tell you translates Hebrew amen, amen, a solemn affirmation emphasizing the authoritative nature of Jesus’s pronouncement. The phrase appears twenty-five times in John’s Gospel. Heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending recalls the story of Jacob in Gn 28:12-15. The greatness of the Son of Man will far surpass the vision of Jacob the patriarch (Jn 4:5-6,11-12). Jesus is the “new Bethel” where God is revealed, and the “new Israel.” The expression Son of Man harks back to the mysterious figure of “one like a son of man” in Dn 7:13-14. The Son of Man would be “lifted up” by crucifixion (see note at Jn 3:14-15), provide divine revelation (6:27,53), and act with end-time authority (5:27; 9:39).