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The Catholic Study Bible A special version of the New American Bible, with a wealth of background information useful to Catholics.

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Commentary on John

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Text Commentary side-by-side

1, 1–18 :

The prologue states the main themes of the gospel: life, light, truth, the world, testimony, and the preexistence of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Logos, who reveals God the Father. In origin, it was probably an early Christian hymn. Its closest parallel is in other christological hymns, Col 1, 15–20 and Phil 2, 6–11 . Its core ( 1–5.10–11.14) is poetic in structure, with short phrases linked by “staircase parallelism,” in which the last word of one phrase becomes the first word of the next. Prose inserts (at least 6–8 and 15 ) deal with John the Baptist.

1, 1 :

In the beginning: also the first words of the Old Testament (Gn 1, 1 ). Was: this verb is used three times with different meanings in this verse: existence, relationship, and predication. The Word (Greek logos): this term combines God's dynamic, creative word (Genesis), personified preexistent Wisdom as the instrument of God's creative activity (Proverbs), and the ultimate intelligibility of reality (Hellenistic philosophy). With God: the Greek preposition here connotes communication with another. Was God: lack of a definite article with “God” in Greek signifies predication rather than identification.

1, 3 :

What came to be: while the oldest manuscripts have no punctuation here, the corrector of Bodmer Papyrus P75, some manuscripts, and the Ante‐Nicene Fathers take this phrase with what follows, as staircase parallelism. Connection with v 3 reflects fourth‐century anti‐Arianism.

1, 5 :

The ethical dualism of light and darkness is paralleled in intertestamental literature and in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Overcome: “comprehend” is another possible translation, but cf 12, 35; Wis 7, 29–30 .

1, 6 :

John was sent just as Jesus was “sent” ( 4, 34 ) in divine mission. Other references to John the Baptist in this gospel emphasize the differences between them and John's subordinate role.

1, 7 :

Testimony: the testimony theme of Jn is introduced, which portrays Jesus as if on trial throughout his ministry. All testify to Jesus: John the Baptist, the Samaritan woman, scripture, his works, the crowds, the Spirit, and his disciples.

1, 11 :

What was his own. his own people: first a neuter, literally, “his own property/possession” (probably = Israel), then a masculine, “his own people” (the Israelites).

1, 13 :

Believers in Jesus become children of God not through any of the three natural causes mentioned but through God who is the immediate cause of the new spiritual life. Were born: the Greek verb can mean “begotten” (by a male) or “born” (from a female or of parents). The variant “he who was begotten,” asserting Jesus’ virginal conception, is weakly attested in Old Latin and Syriac versions.

1, 14 :

Flesh: the whole person, used probably against docetic tendencies (cf 1 Jn 4, 2; 2 Jn 7 ). Made his dwelling: literally, “pitched his tent/tabernacle.” Cf the tabernacle or tent of meeting that was the place of God's presence among his people (Ex 25, 8–9 ). The incarnate Word is the new mode of God's presence among his people. The Greek verb has the same consonants as the Aramaic word for God's presence (Shekinah). Glory: God's visible manifestation of majesty in power, which once filled the tabernacle (Ex 40, 34 ) and the temple (1 Kgs 8, 10–11.27 ), is now centered in Jesus. Only Son: Greek, monogenēs, but see the note on 1, 18 . Grace and truth: these words may represent two Old Testament terms describing Yahweh in covenant relationship with Israel (cf Ex 34, 6 ), thus God's “love” and “fidelity.” The Word shares Yahweh's covenant qualities.

1, 15 :

This verse, interrupting vv 14 and 16 , seems drawn from v 30 .

1, 16 :

Grace in place of grace: replacement of the Old Covenant with the New (cf 17 ). Other possible translations are “grace upon grace” (accumulation) and “grace for grace” (correspondence).

1, 18 :

The only Son, God: while the vast majority of later textual witnesses have another reading, “the Son, the only one” or “the only Son,” the translation above follows the best and earliest manuscripts, monogenēs theos, but takes the first term to mean not just “Only One” but to include a filial relationship with the Father, as at Lk 9, 38 (“only child”) or Heb 11, 17 (“only son”) and as translated at Jn 1, 14 . The Logos is thus “only Son” and God but not Father/God.

1, 19–51 :

The testimony of John the Baptist about the Messiah and Jesus’ self‐revelation to the first disciples. This section constitutes the introduction to the gospel proper and is connected with the prose inserts in the prologue. It develops the major theme of testimony in four scenes: John's negative testimony about himself; his positive testimony about Jesus; the revelation of Jesus to Andrew and Peter; the revelation of Jesus to Philip and Nathanael.

1, 19 :

The Jews: throughout most of the gospel, the “Jews” does not refer to the Jewish people as such but to the hostile authorities, both Pharisees and Sadducees, particularly in Jerusalem, who refuse to believe in Jesus. The usage reflects the atmosphere, at the end of the first century, of polemics between church and synagogue, or possibly it refers to Jews as representative of a hostile world ( 10–11 ).

1, 20 :

Messiah: the anointed agent of Yahweh, usually considered to be of Davidic descent. See further the note on 1, 41 .

1, 21 :

Elijah: the Baptist did not claim to be Elijah returned to earth (cf Mal 3, 23; Mt 11, 14 ). The Prophet: probably the prophet like Moses (Dt 18, 15; cf Acts 3, 22 ).

1, 23 :

This is a repunctuation and reinterpretation (as in the synoptic gospels and Septuagint) of the Hebrew text of Is 40, 3 , which reads, “A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the LORD.”

1, 24 :

Some Pharisees: other translations, such as “Now they had been sent from the Pharisees,” misunderstand the grammatical construction. This is a different group from that in v 19 ; the priests and Levites would have been Sadducees, not Pharisees.

1, 26 :

I baptize with water: the synoptics add “but he will baptize you with the holy Spirit” (Mk 1, 8 ) or “… holy Spirit and fire” (Mt 3, 11; Lk 3, 16 ). John's emphasis is on purification and preparation for a better baptism.

1, 28 :

Bethany across the Jordan: site unknown. Another reading is “Bethabara.”

1, 29 :

The Lamb of God: the background for this title may be the victorious apocalyptic lamb who would destroy evil in the world (Rv 5–7; 17, 14 ); the paschal lamb, whose blood saved Israel (Ex 12 ); and/or the suffering servant led like a lamb to the slaughter as a sin‐offering (Is 53, 7.10 ).

1, 30 :

He existed before me: possibly as Elijah (to come, 27); for the evangelist and his audience, Jesus’ preexistence would be implied (see the note on 1, 1 ).

1, 31 :

I did not know him: this gospel shows no knowledge of the tradition (Lk 1 ) about the kinship of Jesus and John the Baptist. The reason why I came baptizing with water: in this gospel, John's baptism is not connected with forgiveness of sins; its purpose is revelatory, that Jesus may be made known to Israel.

1, 32 :

Like a dove: a symbol of the new creation (Gn 8, 8 ) or the community of Israel (Hos 11, 11 ). Remain: the first use of a favorite verb in Jn, emphasizing the permanency of the relationship between Father and Son (as here) and between the Son and the Christian. Jesus is the permanent bearer of the Spirit.

1, 34 :

The Son of God: this reading is supported by good Greek manuscripts, including the Chester Beatty and Bodmer Papyri and the Vatican Codex, but is suspect because it harmonizes this passage with the synoptic version: “This is my beloved Son” (Mt 3, 17; Mk 1, 11; Lk 3, 22 ). The poorly attested alternate reading, “God's chosen One,” is probably a reference to the Servant of Yahweh (Is 42, 1 ).

1, 36 :

John the Baptist's testimony makes his disciples’ following of Jesus plausible.

1, 37 :

The two disciples: Andrew ( 40 ) and, traditionally, John, son of Zebedee (see the note on 13, 23 ).

1, 39 :

Four in the afternoon: literally, the tenth hour, from sunrise, in the Roman calculation of time. Some suggest that the next day, beginning at sunset, was the sabbath; they would have stayed with Jesus to avoid travel on it.

1, 41 :

Messiah: the Hebrew word maāšîah, “anointed one” (see the note on Lk 2, 11 ), appears in Greek as the transliterated messias only here and in 4, 25 . Elsewhere the Greek translation christos is used.

1, 42 :

Simon the son of John: in Mt 16, 17 , Simon is called Bariōna, “son of Jonah,” a different tradition for the name of Simon's father. Cephas: in Aramaic = the Rock; cf Mt 16, 18 . Neither the Greek equivalent Petros nor, with one isolated exception, Cephas is attested as a personal name before Christian times.

1, 43 :

He: grammatically, could be Peter, but logically is probably Jesus.

1, 47 :

A true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him: Jacob was the first to bear the name “Israel” (Gn 32, 29 ), but Jacob was a man of duplicity (Gn 27, 35–36 ).

1, 48 :

Under the fig tree: a symbol of messianic peace (cf Mi 4, 4; Zec 3, 10 ).

1, 49 :

Son of God: this title is used in the Old Testament, among other ways, as a title of adoption for the Davidic king (2 Sm 7, 14; Pss 2, 7; 89, 27 ), and thus here, with King of Israel, in a messianic sense. For the evangelist, Son of God also points to Jesus’ divinity (cf 20, 28 ).

1, 50 :

Possibly a statement: “You [singular] believe because I saw you under the fig tree.”

1, 51 :

The double “Amen” is characteristic of John. You is plural in Greek. The allusion is to Jacob's ladder (Gn 28, 12 ).

1, 17 :

Like 10, 1–5 , this passage resembles a parable. Israel is spoken of as a vineyard at Is 5, 1–7; Mt 21, 33–46 and as a vine at Ps 80, 9–17; Jer 2, 21; Ez 15, 2; 17, 5–10; 19, 10; Hos 10, 1 . The identification of the vine as the Son of Man in Ps 80, 16 , and Wisdom's description of herself as a vine in Sir 24, 17 , are further background for portrayal of Jesus by this figure. There may be secondary eucharistic symbolism here; cf Mk 14, 25 , “the fruit of the vine.”

1, 4 :

John does not mention the agony in the garden and the kiss of Judas, nor does he identify the place as Gethsemane or the Mount of Olives.

1, 31 :

The risen Jesus reveals his glory and confers the Spirit. This story fulfills the basic need for testimony to the resurrection. What we have here is not a record but a series of single stories.

1, 10 :

The story of the empty tomb is found in both the Matthean and the Lucan traditions; John's version seems to be a fusion of the two.

1, 23 :

There are many non‐Johannine peculiarities in this chapter, some suggesting Lucan Greek style; yet this passage is closer to John than 7, 53–8, 11 . There are many Johannine features as well. Its closest parallels in the synoptic gospels are found in Lk 5, 1–11 and Mt 14, 28–31 . Perhaps the tradition was ultimately derived from John but preserved by some disciple other than the writer of the rest of the gospel. The appearances narrated seem to be independent of those in ch 20 . Even if a later addition, the chapter was added before publication of the gospel, for it appears in all manuscripts.

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