1. The Word Became Flesh (John 1:1-18)

Audio (37:23)

Gerard (Gerrit) van Honthorst (1590-1656), 'Adoration of the Children’ (1620), Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.
Gerard (Gerrit) van Honthorst (1590-1656), 'Adoration of the Children' (1620), Uffizi Gallery, Florence. Italy.

John's Gospel begins with a flourish, with a powerful prologue that makes huge claims about who Jesus is and his cosmic significance. The stated purpose of John's Gospel is:

"These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (20:31)

The remainder of the Gospel goes about demonstrating the truth of these claims by what Jesus said and did on earth, as well as documenting his resurrection from the dead.

1. The Word Became Flesh (1:1-18)

The Word Was God (1:1-3)

The Bible begins with the well-known verse:

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1)

The Bible traces all beginnings to God, who is omnipresent, and is present at the creation. John begins his Gospel with the same startling three words -- "In the beginning" -- but introduces  Jesus Christ as "the Word," as God himself, as co-Creator with the Father.

"1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2  He was with God in the beginning. 3  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." (1:1-3)

"Word" is the extremely common Greek noun logos, "word," a communication by which the mind finds utterance. It can have a wide range of meanings, depending on the context, such as "statement, assertion, message, declaration." Another use is as "computation, reckoning." But the use in John 1:1 is unique. Here logos is "the independent personified expression of God." You see hints of this in other Johannine books:

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched -- this we proclaim concerning the Word of life." (1 John 1:1)

"He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God." (Revelation 19:13)

John is purposely drawing analogies to Genesis 1, so the idea of the "Word" or Logos of God no doubt refers to God speaking and creating, such as:

"And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light." (Genesis 1:3)

Another major teaching of 1:1-3, 14 -- and indeed John's whole Gospel -- is the preexistence of Jesus. He is with God in the beginning of creation. He became flesh (1:14), but that is not the beginning of his existence.[8]Jesus' self-awareness of and teaching of his preexistence is also seen in his taking the title Son of Man based on Daniel 7:13-14. This is summed up in our passage by the term logos, "Word."[9]

A great deal has been written about John's use of logos here, but essentially, in verse 1 John is saying that Jesus in the flesh is the very Expression of God Himself, and that this Jesus IS God himself -- a very bold statement indeed to begin John's Gospel. Another verse in this prologue to the Gospel makes a similarly bold statement of Jesus' full divinity, which we'll discuss in due course.

"No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known." (1:18)

Jehovah Witnesses, who deny the concept of the Trinity,[10]have mistranslated verse 1 to conform to their doctrine that Jesus is not Jehovah or God himself, but a created being -- divine, yes, but lesser than Jehovah.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god." (1:1, New World Translation, 1950)

The Jehovah's Witness translators added the indefinite article "a" to indicate that Jesus was a divine being, one among other divine beings. The problem with their translation is that there is no indefinite article in the Greek text or suggested by Greek grammar -- they've added it![11]

It is quite clear, however, that the Apostle John sees Jesus as fully divine -- on the same level of divinity as the Father!

To help you internalize and apply what you're learning from John's Gospel, I've included several Discussion Questions in each lesson. These are designed to help you think about and ponder the most important points. Don't skip this. It's best to write them out. You can post your answers -- and read what others have written -- by going to the online forum by clicking on the URL below each question. (Before you can post your answer the first time, you'll need to register. You can find instructions at https://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/instructions.htm

Q1. (John 1:1-3) According to the Apostle John, is Jesus fully God? What does it mean that Jesus is the "Word"? What does this say about him and his ministry?

Light and Life (1:4-5)

In Genesis 1:3, light is created by God's Word:

"And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light." (Genesis 1:3)

Indeed, light characterizes God's glory, as we'll see when we examine 1:14. In John's Gospel, Jesus, the Logos, the co-Creator, is the Bringer of Light to all humankind.

"4  In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it." (1:4-5)

Here, John introduces the theme of a war between spiritual light and darkness that pervades his Gospel (John 1:4-5, 7-9; 3:19-21; 8:12; 9:5; 11:9-10; 12:35-36, 46). Here, Christ's light represents and brings life. Light is brimming with inextinguishable Life. The Light actively attacks the darkness (1:5a).

"The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work." (1 John 3:8)

 "Darkness" in verse 5 seems almost to be darkness personified in both the prince of darkness, Satan, as well as all those who live in spiritual darkness. Light is shining but they haven't "understood it" (NIV), "overcome it" (NRSV, ESV), "comprehended it" (KJV). The Greek word katalambanō, which has the basic meaning of "to seize, lay hold of," could refer to gaining a mental or spiritual grasp ("understood" or "comprehend") or it could mean, "seize with hostile intent, overtake, come upon" ("overcome").[12]The NIV offers the alternate translation in its footnote.

Though the concept of recognizing the Christ is present a few verses later (1:10b), I think that the predominant concept here is one of spiritual warfare as reflected in the NRSV and ESV. The light has come and shines boldly in the darkness to dispel it. And even though darkness combats the light and tries to overcome it, darkness does not prevail. The light is infinitely stronger.

One of the frustrating -- and intriguing -- characteristics of John's style is that he often uses words ambiguously, words that can be taken two ways. So John may well have meant for us to see both aspects of katalambanō -- "comprehend" as well as "overcome."

John's Witness to the Light (1:6-8)

John introduces John the Baptist here, then picks him up again later in the chapter. The Synoptic Gospels give us background about John the Baptist. He was, for example:

  • Jesus' cousin, just about six months older than Jesus (Luke 1:36-66).
  • Lived in the desert (Luke 1:80; 3:2).
  • Ministered along the Jordan River east of Jerusalem "preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" (Luke 3:3).
  • Attracted a large following from Jerusalem and Judea (Matthew 3:5; Mark 1:5).
  • Denounced the religious hypocrites (Luke 3:7-8).
  • Demanded love and justice of those who sought baptism (Luke 3:10-14).
  • Proclaimed that one who came after him would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16-17).
  • Rebuked Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, for adultery and incest, and was imprisoned (Luke 3:19-20) and later beheaded because of the tetrarch's wife Herodias's anger at John's rebuke (Matthew 14:3-12).
  • Baptized Jesus (Luke 3:21).
  • Was widely considered to be a prophet (Mark 11:32), and declared to be one by Jesus (Matthew 11:9).
  • A Nazirite (Luke 1:15; Matthew 11:18).
  • A righteous and holy man (Mark 6:20).
  • Jesus said that he fulfilled the prophecy that Elijah should return (Matthew 17:12-13; Mark 9:13).

The Apostle John assumes that his readers already know what the Synoptics taught about John. Instead of rehearsing this material, he goes for the meaning of John's ministry.

"6  There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7  He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8  He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light." (1:6-8)

We learn from the Apostle John that John the Baptist:

  • Is sent from God.
  • Is a witness to testify regarding Jesus the Light.

The noun is "witness" (martyria), from the verb "testify/bear witness" (martyreō), and has a legal flavor: "to confirm or attest something on the basis of personal knowledge or belief, bear witness, be a witness."[13]We get our English word "martyr" from this root.[14]

The Apostle seems to be referring to John the Baptist's testimony concerning Jesus later in this chapter:

  • "He was before me" (1:15), where the word "testify" occurs.
  • "The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (1:29, 36).
  • "The Son of God" (1:34), where John uses the phrase, "I have seen and testify...."

Q2. (John 1:7-8) What did it mean that John was sent to "testify" to the light? In what sense are you put here with the purpose of "testifying" to the light? How are you doing in this regard? What happened to John the Baptist? What might happen to you if you testify clearly? What might happen to the people to whom you testify?

The Light Is Not Recognized or Received by All (1:9-13)

God has sent people to testify to the Light, but not all accept this testimony or receive the Light as God.

"The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world." (1:9)

John develops the theme of light and darkness in 3:19-21. Later, Jesus declares, "I am the light of the world" (8:12; 9:5). In what sense does Jesus "give light to every man"? I think in the sense that those who hear about him and believe in him don't have to walk in darkness any longer (12:46). But it still incumbent upon us to tell others. As the old Gospel hymn put it:

Send the light, the blessed gospel light,
Let it shine, from shore to shore...."[15]

Now John continues, explaining that though the light was present in the world, it was rejected by a blind world -- his own world!

"10  He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him." (1:9-10)

These verses reflect the sadness of the gospel record that though Jesus was a Jew, the Jewish leaders, as a whole, rejected Jesus as coming from God -- to the extent that they even crucified him! Indeed, Jesus' mission was exclusively directed towards the "lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 15:24; 10:6). John seems to echo God's sadness in Isaiah:

"I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me;
I was found by those who did not seek me.
To a nation that did not call on my name,
I said, 'Here am I, here am I.'
All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people,
who walk in ways not good,
pursuing their own imaginations--
a people who continually provoke me to my very face...."
(Isaiah 65:1-3a; cf. Romans 10:21)

We sense this same sadness in Jesus as he enters the Holy City on Palm Sunday:

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!" (Luke 13:34)

Those Who Believed and Received Jesus (1:12-13)

But not all rejected him. One of the wonders of the New Testament is that his grace was extended to the Gentiles, many of whom did receive him.

"12  Yet to all[16]who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God -- 13  children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God." (1:12-13)

These two verses are extremely important in helping us understand elements of the "new birth" that Jesus treats more fully in his encounter with Nicodemus in John 3. In theological terms, the "new birth" is called regeneration.

Notice three learnings from this passage -- and I hope you'll commit John 1:12 to memory:

1. Rejection. Not all people who hear about Jesus trust him. It seems crazy to us that the Son of God could come among men and be rejected, but that is exactly what happened. Pharisees could see him perform miracles and then conclude that he must be killed. Not all your friends or even your family may really trust Jesus. In other words, not all people believed in him, but to those who did came an amazing privilege.

2. Personal belief. The new birth requires personal openness and trust in Jesus. I say "personal" because not all respond in this way to Jesus. The response that produces a "new birth" is described in two ways:

  1. Receiving. The Greek word is the extremely common verb lambanō, with the basic meaning, "take hold of, grasp." Here, it has the connotation, "to include someone in an experience, take up, receive," specifically, "receive someone in the sense of recognizing the other's authority."[17]
  2. Believing. Pisteuō means, "to consider something to be true and therefore worthy of one's trust, believe." Here it has the connotation, "to entrust oneself to an entity in complete confidence, believe (in), trust, with the implication of total commitment to the one who is trusted."[18]In John we often see the phrase "believe in his name." This phrase carries the idea of, "believe in the Son and accept what his name proclaims him to be."[19]We'll explore this idea of "the name" later in our study.

Note that "believe" here isn't in terms of intellectual assent only -- though it includes that. To "believe in Jesus" means to trust oneself fully to him. As the Amplified Bible rightly renders it: "believe in -- adhere to, trust in, and rely on."[20]

3. Spiritual birth as God's children. Those who receive Jesus' authority and trust in him this way are the recipients of a wonderful gift: "He gave the right to become children of God" (1:12c). "Right" (NIV, ESV), "power" (NRSV, KJV) is exousia, "authority," here, "capability, might, power."[21]Paul develops the similar idea of "adoption as sons" in his letters (Romans 8:15; Ephesians 1:5; Galatians 4:5). But here the image is birth, since John contrasts it with natural birth in 1:13.

The implications of these verses are astounding. All may be "children of God" in the sense of creation (Acts 17:28-29), but not all are his children in a spiritual sense -- only those who receive Jesus as God's son and wrap their lives around him. Without the new birth we can't claim "authority" to be called God's children, in the same sense that without legal adoption papers we can't claim to be someone's child. Sonship, that is a privilege bestowed by Jesus himself. Jesus said something similar to Nicodemus, a highly religious man:

"I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (3:3)

Q3 (John 1:12-13) What does it mean to "receive" Jesus? What does it imply to "believe in" Jesus? What is the spiritual relationship to God of those who receive and believe in Jesus? Of those who do not?

The Word Became Flesh (1:14a)

Verses 14-18 are astounding in their clear statement of Jesus' full divinity while in the flesh. While Matthew 1 and Luke 2 give a narrative view of the incarnation, John gives a theological view, spelling out the implications of Jesus' coming as a man. Let's look at each of these statements carefully, for they lie at the very bedrock of the Christian faith.

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." (1:14a)

John has already identified this Word (Logos) with God in verses 1-2, with creation in verse 3, and with light and life in verses 4 and 5. Now John tells us in verse 14, that this Word, the very expression of God, "became flesh and made his dwelling among us."

For Jews, with their belief in the One Invisible God, such a statement would be deemed blasphemous. For the Greeks, with their sharp dualism between flesh (evil) and spirit (good), the idea that a holy god, a spirit, could become flesh wouldn't make sense.

But that is what John says with jolting clarity: "The Word became[22]flesh and made his dwelling[23]among us" (1:14a). Luke conveys to us the angel's proclamation,

"Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11)

Paul describes it poetically in his letter to the Philippians:

"Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death --
even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2:6-8)

This is worthy of much meditation -- usually exercised during the Christmas season -- of God sending his Son to be born a baby to a poor family in the ancestral home of King David. The Son, the Creator, becoming flesh and blood for a time so that he might save us.... It is amazing, remarkable!

Glory of the 'Only-Begotten' (1:14b)

John continues,

"We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (1:14b)

This sentence contains several huge concepts that we need to examine.

First, Uniqueness is expressed in three words: monogenous para patros, literally, "only son from father." "One and Only" (NIV), "only Son" (ESV, NRSV), "only begotten" (KJV) is the adjective monogenēs, "pertaining to being the only one of its kind within a specific relationship, one and only, only."[24]Here, "pertaining to being the only one of its kind or class, unique (in kind)," of something that is the only example of its category.[25],[26] Jesus is utterly unique. He is not just another created human being. He is unique from the Father.

John uses monogenēs to describe Jesus three additional times in his writings:

"No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known." (1:18)

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (3:16)

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him." (1 John 4:9)

We'll consider the startling words in 1:18 shortly.

John's prologue and the word monogenēs have had a very strong influence on orthodox Christology, as evidenced in the Nicene Creed (325, 381 AD), though the Church Fathers understood monogenēs in the sense of "begotten" rather than "unique":

"We believe ... in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten[27] Son of God, begotten[28] of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made...."

Second, Glory. Throughout the Old Testament we read about the "glory of God," which was sometimes manifested in fire and brightness, what the Jews called the "Shekinah," the dwelling or settling of the divine presence. In Hebrew "glory" is kābôd, from kābēd -- "to be heavy," hence "wealth, honor, dignity, power," etc. In the New Testament, kābôd is translated by doxa, "reputation." Yahweh sometimes manifests himself in fire and in a cloud. Yahweh is the epitome of light itself.

"You are clothed with splendor and majesty.
He wraps himself in light as with a garment." (Psalm 104:1b-2a)

"His splendor was like the sunrise;
rays flashed from his hand,
where his power was hidden." (Habakkuk 3:4)

"He ... dwells in unapproachable light" (1 Timothy 6:16).[29]

John himself had seen that very Shekinah glory upon Jesus during the transfiguration, and, with Peter and James, "were eyewitnesses of his majesty" (2 Peter 1:16-18).

"After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light." (Matthew 17:1-2)

Third, Grace. Jesus is "full of grace and truth." "Grace," a word thoroughly developed by the Apostle Paul in his letters, is charis, "favor." It is important to understand that this favor is not based upon our worthiness, rather, it is unilateral. Though we don't see the word again in John's writings (except in 1:16), the concept is often expressed in other terms, such as:

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

"We love him, because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)

God doesn't love us (that is, show favor to us) because we are deserving. His grace or favor doesn't have anything to do with our worthiness. Jesus took our sins upon him to make us worthy.

Fourth, Truth. "Truth" is a word that appears often in the Gospel. Jesus often prefaces his important assertions with the phrase, "I tell you the truth..." (NIV), or "Verily, verily I say unto you..." (KJV).[30]Jesus is the truth-teller to the world. He tells good news and exposes as lies the so-called truths that people have been clinging to. Jesus insists that people worship God "in spirit and in truth" (4:23-24). He declares:

"If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31b-32)

Because Jesus tells them the truth, his enemies want to kill him (8:40). The devil is the polar opposite: "a liar and the father of lies," and "there is no truth in him" (8:44). After his departure, Jesus promises to send to his disciples the Holy Spirit, whom he calls three times, "the Spirit of truth" (14:17; 15:26; 16:13). Jesus calls on the Father to sanctify the disciples by his truth, his word (17:17, 19). And finally, he appears before Pilate to speak the truth:

"'You are a king, then!' said Pilate.
Jesus answered, 'You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.'
'What is truth?' Pilate asked." (John 18:37-38a)

Part of John's core testimony is that Jesus is himself God's truth for us -- and his truth is as inescapable for us as it was for Pilate.

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me." (14:6)

Q4. (John 1:14) Why is the idea of God "becoming flesh" so important to the basis of the Christian faith? What would Christ's life, crucifixion, and resurrection mean if he were only pretending to "become flesh"? In what ways have you personally experienced his grace? In what ways has his truth changed your life from what it was?

Making the Father Known (1:15-18)

John's prologue concludes with several additional assertions about Jesus' identity and ministry that help the reader understand Jesus' significance.

"15  John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, 'This was he of whom I said, "He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me."' 16  From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18  No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known." (John 1:15-18)

In these verses, John makes three major points:

  1. Christ Surpasses John the Baptist (1:15). Jesus both surpasses and predates John the Baptist. With his characteristic ambiguity, John is making the point that though John the Baptist first appears on the scene (and was, indeed, born before Jesus, Luke 1), Jesus ranks ahead of him because he, in actuality, predates John.[31]It is a reference to the preexistence of Christ, to which Jesus alludes when he says, "Before Abraham was, I am" (8:58).
  2. Christ Surpasses Moses (1:16-17). While Moses was rightfully honored among the Jews, John notes that Christ surpasses even Moses. Moses brought the Law, but Jesus brought grace ("God's underserved favor") and truth, and Jesus has brought many blessings that continue to flow to us.
  3. Christ reveals the Father (1:18). No one has seen God, but the pre-existent Christ has been at the Father's side throughout eternity. Christ predates them all.

The Only-Begotten God (1:18)

"No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known." (1:18)

We can't leave John's Prologue without noting the amazing title that John bestows on Jesus. Here it is in various translations.

"God the One and Only" (NIV)
"God the Only Son" (NRSV)
"The Only God" (ESV)
"The Only Begotten God" (NRSV)
"The only-begotten Son" (KJV, NKJV)

What makes this so remarkable is that John seems to refer to Jesus as fully God "at the Father's side." He distinguishes between Jesus and the Father, but calls Jesus, "the Only Begotten God." Wow!

However, not all translations render this bold statement thus. While the earliest Greek manuscripts read "only-begotten God," the KJV, NKJV, and the New Jerusalem Bible (in the tradition of the Latin Vulgate) use the word "Son" instead of "God," following the majority of Greek manuscripts (though not the earliest).[32]

Whatever the original text in this particular verse, John clearly places Jesus right next to God as fully divine (John 1:1-3, etc.).

Q5. (John 1:18) What does it mean that Jesus is the "Only God" or the "Only Begotten God"? Does the Apostle John seem to make a distinction between God the Father and God the Son? What does all this mean for our understanding of the Trinity?

Lessons for Disciples

John's Prologue gives us a great deal of information about who Jesus is. Here are just some of our learnings:

  1. Jesus is fully divine. He is God (1:1).
  2. Jesus is the full expression of God the Father (1:1).
  3. Jesus is not a created being, rather he was delegated the task of creation (1:2-3).
  4. Jesus is the source of life and truth for mankind (1:4).
  5. Jesus was rejected by his own people (1:11).
  6. Only those who believe and receive Jesus have "authority" to be called God's children (1:12).
  7. Jesus (the Word) became human (flesh) and showed us God's glory (1:14).
  8. Jesus brings grace and truth (1:14, 17).
  9. Jesus is the One and Only God (1:18).

Sometimes we're so busy doing and being obedient that we don't take time to reflect and bask in the glory of who Jesus is. Take that time!

John's Gospel: A Discipleship Journey with Jesus, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Entire study is available in paperback, Kindle, and PDF formats.

John has begun his Gospel by displaying word pictures of the glory and magnificence of Jesus Christ. When you try to take it all in, it's almost mind-boggling. But what it comes down to for you and me is that, according to John 1:12, if we believe in Jesus as the Son of God, and receive him into our lives as our Lord and Savior, then we become children of God. I pray that you have done this, or will do so very soon.


Father, thank you for the immense privilege of being children of God, through faith in Jesus Christ. We certainly don't deserve this privilege, nor do we take it for granted. But we bask in it. Thank you. Help us to let our world know that Jesus is the Only Begotten God come to earth. In Jesus' glorious name, we pray. Amen.

Key Verses

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." (John 1:1-3, NIV)

"He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God -- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God." (John 1:11-13, NIV)

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14, NIV)

"No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known." (John 1:18, NIV)


[8]See 1:30; 6:33-38, 46, 50-51, 62; 8:23, 38; etc. Paul taught Jesus' preexistence also: Romans 1:4; Philippians 2:6ff.; Colossians 1:16; cf. 1 Corinthians 8:6.

[9]Kittel observes: "The distinctive thing in John 1:1ff. is that preexistence is now put thematically at the head and expressed in the term logos" (Gerhard Kittel, logos, ktl., TDNT 4:100-143).

[10]For more on the doctrine of the Trinity, see my article, "Four Reasons Why I Believe in the Trinity," https://www.joyfulheart.com/scholar/trinity.htm

[11]The Greek grammar here gets very technical. For more information, consult a critical commentary. See, for example, Bruce M. Metzger, "On the Translation of John 1:1," Expository Times, LXIII (1951-52), 125 f., But suffice it to say, the Jehovah's Witness translation breaks the well-established rules of Greek grammar, because, when properly translated, John 1:1 indicates something that their doctrine denies -- that Jesus is God at the same level as the Father.

[12]Katalambanō, BDAG 520, meanings 1, 2, and 3.

[13]Martyreō, BDAG 617, 1aα.

[14]Martyr -- "a person who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce a religion" (Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary).

[15]Words by Charles H. Gabriel, 1890.

[16]Verse 12 opens with the Greek pronoun hosos, "as much (many) as," pertaining to a comparative quantity or number of objects or events (BDAG 729, 2).

[17]Lambanō, BDAG 584, meanings 5 and 7. There is similar usage elsewhere in John (John 5:43; 13:20). The closely related idea, "accept as true, receive someone's words," is found in both John  (12:48; 17:8) and the Synoptics. In Matthew 13:20 and Mark 4:16 Jesus describes in the Parable of the Sower those on rocky places who initially receive the word with joy, only to fall away in times of persecution.

[18]Pisteuō, BDAG 2aβ. See also 2:23; 3:18c; and 1 John 5:13; cf. 1 John 3:23.

[19]Pisteuō, BDAG 817, 2aα.

[20]John 1:12b, Amplified Bible (Lockman Foundation/Zondervan, 1954, 1965).

[21]Exousia, BDAG 353, 2.

[22]"Became" is the common verb ginomai, "to come into existence, become" here, "to experience a change in nature and so indicate entry into a new condition, become something" (BDAG 198, 5a). This is in the Aorist tense, so the emphasis isn't on a continuing process, but on a one-time event.

[23]"Made his dwelling" (NIV), "lived" (NRSV), "dwelt" (KJV) is the verb skēnoō, "live, settle, take up residence," from skēnos, "tent, lodging," a temporary abode as opposed to a permanent structure (BDAG 929). This also is in the Aorist tense, speaking of an event that took place in the past.

[24]It is used in the New Testament as "only son" (of Abraham, Hebrews 11:17; of the widow of Nain, Luke 7:12; of the man with the demon-possessed son, Luke 9:38) and "only daughter" (of Jairus, Luke 8:42). In the Septuagint you see it with Jephthah's daughter, an only child (Judges 11:34).

[25]Monogenēs, BDAG 658, 2.

[26]We shouldn't overly stress the idea of begetting, since the word derives from the verb ginomai, "be born, become," rather than gennaō, "beget," (Morris, John, p. 105, fn. 93), (though used with "from the Father," begetting would be implied).


[28]Gennaō. The very Father-Son relationship supports the idea of "begetting" vs. "making."

[29]Also Exodus 34:29; Revelation 22:5; 1 John 1:5; etc.

[30]John 1:51; 3:3, 5, 11; 5:19, 24, 25; 6:26, 32, 47, 53; 8:34, 45; 10:1, 7; 12:24; 13:16, 20, 21, 38; 14:12; 16:7, 20, 23, 21:18. Also frequently in Matthew; less so in Mark and Luke.

[31]"Surpassed" (NIV), "ranks ahead" (NRSV), "is preferred before" (KJV) is two words: the verb erchomai, "come" and the adverb emprosthen, "in front, ahead." Emprosthen here is a bit ambiguous because it can refer to time as well as rank (BDAG 324). The adjective prōtos is also a bit ambiguous, since it can mean "first" of a sequence as well as "first" in prominence (BDAG 894).

[32]"Only begotten God" is found in a substantial number of the earliest texts (P66,75Aleph1,*, B C*, L, etc.), as well as in quotations from early Fathers such as Irenaeus, Origin, Didymus of Alexandria. "Only begotten Son" is found in A, C3, Θ, Ψ, f1,13, and the Byzantine texts, and Latin and Syriac translations. Clearly, the majority of Greek manuscripts support "only-begotten Son," but it seems that among the earliest Greek manuscripts more support "only-begotten God." You would expect it to read "only-begotten Son," because the phrase is used elsewhere (John 3:16, 18; 4:9; Hebrews 11:17). You wouldn't expect "only-begotten God." The field of Textual Criticism seeks to determine the original text from several principles. The original text is likely to have the strongest "external support" from the early Greek manuscripts. The original text is likely to be the "hardest reading," since you'd expect scribes to change a less-expected text to a more-expected text. For these reasons most modern translations agree with the majority of Editorial Committee of the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament, which gives "only-begotten God" a {B} or "some degree of doubt" rating, on a scale of A to D (Metzger, Textual Commentary, p. 198).

Copyright © 2024, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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