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The Access Bible New Revised Standard Bible, written and edited with first-time Bible readers in mind.

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Commentary on John

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Commentary spanning earlier chapters

4.18–25 .

18–22 (Mk 1.16–20; Lk 5.1–11; Jn 1.35–42):

The abrupt calling of the disciples is common in Hellenistic * and Hebrew stories (see 1 Kings 19.19–21 ).

23–25 :

Only Jesus teaches and proclaims.

23–24 :

Good news is “gospel.” Their synagogues * need not indicate alienation; Jesus restricts his mission to Israel ( 10.5b–6; 15.24 ).

21.1–11 (Mk 1.1–11; Lk 19.28–38; Jn 12.12–18):

Preparations for Jerusalem. In Matthew (and Mark), this is Jesus' first entry into Jerusalem: Luke and John depict earlier visits. Although this event is traditionally called “Palm Sunday,” palms are mentioned only in John; in Matthean chronology, the entry occurs on Monday.

2–3 :

See comment on Mk 11.2 .

4–5 :

The ninth fulfillment citation, from Isa 62.11; Zech 9.9 .

7 :

Matthew takes literally Zechariah's poetic reference to two donkeys.

9 :

Hosanna, * originally a plea for salvation, became a festive shout. The citation comes from Ps 118.25–26 , the last Hallel Psalm sung at Passover. * One who comes has messianic connotations.

1.1–18 :

This section is distinct in style and content: The Word is the subject of the prologue; Jesus is the subject of the rest of the Gospel. References to John the Baptist (vv. 6–8, 15 ) connect the prologue to the beginning of the story ( 1.19–36 ; see esp. 1.30 ). John's witness and the contrast of Jesus with Moses identify the incarnate Word with Jesus Christ (v. 17 ). Themes introduced in the prologue (light and darkness, witness, knowing, believing, truth, glory, born of the Spirit, the Father-Son relationship) are central to the Gospel. The prologue provides the reader with the theological perspective from which to read the story that follows. Most of the prologue is hymnic, marked by a poetic pattern in which a keyword at the end of one line is repeated at the beginning of the next.

1.1–18 .

1–5 :

The relation of the Word to God and to creation.

1–2 :

Echoes Gen 1.1 and positions the story of Jesus as a rereading of the creation story. The Gospel speaks of God by telling the story of Jesus. Word: the active and revealing Word of God (Gen 1.1; Ps 33.6; Prov 8.22 ). In Judaism Word was identified with Torah. * The God-Word relationship is paradoxical: distinction (with God) and identity (was God).

6–8 :

John is a witness to Jesus; his work is the same as the purpose of the Gospel ( 20.31 ). His witness is given in some detail ( 1.15, 19–23, 26–27, 29–34, 36; 3.27–30, 31–36 ).

9–11 :

The world (used 78 times in the Gospel) is the stage for the appearance of the Word and the manifestation of the light. It is both “all things” created by the Word ( 1.3 ) and the place where the darkness occurs, part of the paradox that the world, which was created by the Word, rejects the Word.

12–13 :

The name of God (the Father) is made known in the Word made flesh (the Son); compare 5.43; 10.25; 12.13, 28; 17.6, 11, 12, 26 . Those who believe are born of God (see 3.3, 5 ).

14–18 :

The Word enters into history.

14 :

In the NT only the Johannine writings speak of the incarnation (see also 1 Jn 4.2; 2 Jn 7; compare Gal 4.4 ). The Word “tabernacles” in the flesh and reveals God's glory (compare 2.21–22 and see Ex 25.8; Ezek 37.27; Zech 2.10–11; Sir 24.8 for the dwelling of God and his glory with his people). Only son: the Word's unique relationship to the Father (monogenes, see 1.14, 18; 3.16, 18 ); see sidebar, “God's only Son,” p. 134 . The glory recalls the revelation to Moses at the giving of the law (see Ex 33.18–34.8 ).

17 :

Only here and in 17.3 is the double name “Jesus Christ” used. Elsewhere “Christ” is used in its meaning as “messiah” * ( 1.20, 25, 41; 4.25 and elsewhere).

18 :

God is hidden but known through the Son.

1.19–12.50 :

The public ministry of Jesus was divided into two parts: the search for the incarnate Word ( 1.19–4.54 ); and the rejection of the incarnate Word ( 5.1–12.50 ).

1.19–4.54 :

The search for the incarnate Word (messiah * ) is portrayed by a sequence of scenes.

1.19–28 :

John's witness to the Jews. In response to priests and Levites ( 1.19, 24 ) John reveals his role and that of the messiah. The Jerusalem leadership will come to oppose Jesus; here they are faithful Jews awaiting the messiah.

20 :

John answers the question, “Are you the Christ?” ( 1.41 and see note a)

21 :

First-century messianic expectations were complex (compare Mk 6.14–16; 8.27–30 ).

21–23 :

Isa 40.3 (see Mk 1.3 ). John is the witness to the coming one (see 1.7 ).

26–27 :

Water baptism * contrasts with baptism of the Spirit (see Mk 1.8 ) explained in the next scene ( 1.33 ), but this does not answer the question. The coming one is among them but remains unknown; the hiddenness of the messiah accords with Jewish teaching.

28 :

The location of this Bethany is unknown; contrast the Bethany of 11.1; 12.1 .

29–34 :

John's witness to Jesus. The Jews from Jerusalem are no longer present. The audience for John's words is the reader.

29 :

John does not baptize Jesus or speak to him. Lamb of God: Lambs were not used as sin offerings, but the Gospel associates Jesus with the Passover * lamb ( 19.14, 36 ). Also see Isa 53.7 .

30 :

See 1.15, 27 .

33 :

His water baptism is the sign that would reveal the coming one to Israel. Spirit descend: The other Gospels (see Mk 1.10 ) describe this as part of Jesus' baptism; here it is the sign that makes him known.

34 :

Son of God, a Johannine phrase, replaces Lamb of God.

1.35–51 .

35–42 :

Two disciples.

35 :

Two of John's disciples are the new audience.

37–38 :

In contrast to the other Gospels (see Mk 1.16–20 ), the disciples of John took the initiative, seeking Jesus, not being called by him.

40–42 :

Andrew, Simon Peter's brother: The less well-known brother appears first. John commonly uses the double name, Simon Peter, in Greek form though both go back to Semitic originals (Symeon and Kephas, see v. 42 and Gal 2.9, 11 ). The explanation of Simon's naming takes place after he is introduced.

43–51 :

John has disappeared, but the two disciples (and Jesus and Peter) connect the preceding scene with this.

43–44 :

Philip appears in 6.5–9; 12.21–22; 14.8 . Like Andrew and Peter he is from Bethsaida (contrast Mk 1.21, 29 ).

45 :

Andrew had found Simon; Philip now finds Nathanael (who only appears here and in 21.2 ). Him about whom Moses (see Deut 18.15, 18 ) … and … the prophets * wrote: the messiah. * The initiative of the disciples is asserted. Son of Joseph: Jesus was a common name.

47 :

Israel (Jacob, Gen 32.28 ) was deceitful (Gen 27.34–36 ).

49 :

Nathanael's confession, introduced by Rabbi, is minimal, acknowledging Jesus as the Davidic messiah (2 Sam 7.14; Ps 2.7; 89.26; compare Jn 12.13 ). The Gospel seeks to expand that vision.

50 :

Greater things: See 5.20; 14.12 .

51 :

You is plural (see note d). Angels … ascending and descending might allude to Jacob's dream (Gen 28.12 ) or to the vision of the Son of Man (see 3.13 ), the heavenly king, upon whom the angels converge (Dan 7.13–14 ).

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