The Testimonies, 1:19-51
iv] Philip and NathanielSynopsis
Jesus continues to gather his band of followers. Philip is invited to "follow" and then Philip invites Nathanael to "come and see." Nathanael falters, but then believes.
Two prospective disciples testify to Jesus: Phillip testifies that Jesus is the one whom Moses and the Prophets wrote of, and Nathaniel that he is the Son of God, the king of Israel.
i] Context: See 1:19-28.
ii] Structure: The testimony of Philip and Nathaniel:
The call of Philip, v43-44;
Nathanael told the news, v45;
Nathanael's response, v46:
"can anything good come out of Nazareth?"
Nathanael meets Jesus, v47-48;
Nathanael's response, v49:
"you are the the Son of God, .... the king of Israel."
Jesus' response, v50-51:
"you will see greater things ....."
"you will see heaven open ...."
The testimony theme evident is this first chapter of John continues. The testimonies so far have revealed that Jesus is the messiah, "the lamb of God" and "the chosen one of God." In the passage before us we learn that Jesus is the coming one spoken of by Moses and the Prophets, and that he is the Son of God, the king of Israel, ie., Jesus is the anointed one, the messiah, the coming-one spoken of in the Scriptures, cf., Lk.24:27, and he is the Son of God (used as a messianic title, cf., Ps.2:7), appositionally restated by Nathanial as the Davidic king of Israel, a title confirmed at Jesus' crucifixion.
What is meant by seeing the angels of God ascending and descending on Jesus the messiah, the Son of Man? Brown, along with those commentators who have accepted his argument, takes the view that v51 is a detached saying / interpolation. This is disputed by numerous commentators, eg., Carson. Haenchen suggests that the imagery is a "figurative expression of the continuous relationship Jesus has with the Father during his earthly sojourn", yet it seems to carry more weight than that. So, it's likely that we have here the fulfillment of the "greater things" which the disciples will witness. What they will recognize is a "heaven-sent confirmation that the one they have acknowledged as the messiah has been appointed by God", Carson. The testimony of water into wine will serve as just such a confirmation.
So, the testimony of the disciples will be confirmed, they will see "heaven opened." The sense of the heavens opened is found in Mark 1:10, (rent, torn open) and also Isaiah 64:1 - it carries the idea of the divine breaking into our space and time. This is most likely the sense here and so Jesus, the heavenly "Son of God" / Messiah, is the one who breaks into out time and space. Some commentators link the phrase "heaven opened" with Matthew 26:64, but Matthew is speaking of Daniel's coming Son of Man / Messiah, the one who comes to heaven to reign (it is not a coming to earth).
Jesus tells Nathanial and his friends that they will see angels of/from God "ascending and descending." The imagery here is very similar to Jacob's ladder, Gen.28:12 (is the Messiah the ladder?). It seems likely that those with open eyes will come to see in Jesus God's heavenly Messiah. The disciples, like Jacob, will get to peek into heaven and see divine goings on; they will see Jesus in the full glory of his heavenly reign, surrounded by God's angels. cf., Carson, p.163. They will see and find in him the pathway from earth to heaven
iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.
Text - 1:43
Jesus invites two more disciples to join his team, v43-51. i] The call of Philip, v43-44: Jesus is about to head for Galilee and invites Philip to come with him. All we know of Philip is that he is from Bethsaida. He, like most of us, becomes one of the less than outstanding disciples. Note how both Phillip in v44-46 and Andrew in v40-43 commence their discipleship by introducing another person to Jesus. It would seem that John is making a point.
th/ epaurion adv. "the next day" - the tomorrow. The dative article th/ serves as a nominalizer, turning the adverb "tomorrow" into a substantive, the dative being temporal; "on the next day."
hqelhsen (qelw) aor. "Jesus decided" - he willed, wanted. Here "resolved / intended / decided", and it is obviously Jesus who is doing the deciding, although some suggest that Andrew is the subject; "next day Jesus determined to leave for Galilee", Moffatt.
exelqein (exercomai) aor. inf. "to leave" - to go out [into galilee and he finds philip]. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "willed", although it could be classified as introducing an dependent statement of perception expressing what he willed / decided. Jesus is leaving Bethany for Galilee, although as the site for this particular Bethany has never been established, the intended route is unknown. Mark claims that Jesus begins his public ministry in Galilee.
autw/ dat. "[he said] to him" - [and jesus says] to him. Dative of indirect object.
akolouqei (akolouqew) pres. imp. "follow" - accompany, attend, follow. The same word is used in Mark 2:14, although it is not easy to find any other similarities between the different accounts of the disciples' call.
moi dat. pro. "me" - Dative of direct object after the verb "to follow."
de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative. Note the use of the imperfect verb to be, probably indicating an editorial note outside the movement of the narrative.
apo + gen. "from [the town]" - [philip was] from [bethsaida, (ek) out of / from the city of andrew and peter]. Expressing source / origin. The genitive Andreou kai Petrou, "of Andrew and Peter", is adjectival, idiomatic / locative; "the city where Andrew and Peter lived", ie., like Philip, Andrew and Peter also came from Bethsaida.
Bhqsaida gen. "of Bethsaida" - Technically this city is not part of Galilee, although after 70 AD. it did form part of Galilean territory. It was on the east shore of the lake, the town's name meaning fishers-home. Note also that in Mark's gospel, Peter and Andrew came from Capernaum and not Bethsaida.
ii] Nathanael hears the news, v45: Clearly Philip thinks that Jesus is the messiah and so he searches out Nathanael to tell him the news that he has met the coming one, the one whom Moses and the Prophets wrote of. Nathanael may well be the common name for the Bartholomew (son of Tolmai) referred to in the synoptic gospels, but of course, Jesus had many disciples, not just the twelve apostles. In 21:2 John tells us that Nathanael comes from Cana, an interesting link with the following miracle of water into wine.
ton Naqanahl "Nathanael" - [philip finds] nathaniel. Accusative direct object of the verb "to find." The name means "God gives" or "God has given."
autw/ dat. pro. "[told] him" - [and says] to him. Dative of indirect object.
egrayen (grafw) aor. "wrote about" - [we have found the one whom moses] wrote of. The Law (Pentateuch) speaks of the prophet like Moses who will come to Israel, but other than this reference, there are no messianic texts as such, cf., Deut.18:15, 18-19. So, presumably it is this reference that Philip is alluding to. Phillip also refers to the prophets in support of his contention that Jesus is the messiah, eg. Isa.11:1, Jer.23:5, Zech.3:8, ....
en + dat. "in [the law]" - in [the law and prophets]. Local, space.
o}n rel. pro. "the one ....... and about whom " - the one whom. This pronoun serves as a substantive, accusative of reference / respect, so Zerwick; "we have found the one about whom Moses wrote."
Ihsoun (oV) "Jesus" - The accusative "Jesus", so also "the son of Joseph" and "the one out of Nazareth", stand in apposition to the accusative "the one whom ...."
ton apo "of [Nazareth]" - [the son of joseph], the one out of, from [nazareth]. The article ton serves as a nominalizer turning the prepositional phrase into a substantive, "the one from Nazareth." The preposition apo expresses source / origin; "He is Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth", Barclay.
tou Iwshf gen. "[the son] of Joseph" - The genitive is adjectival, relational. This is an interesting description of Jesus, often used by disbelieving Jews. Of course, John has already made the point that Jesus is from heaven and so is without a human father. This follower of the Baptist may be a bit short on understanding, but McHugh suggests that the usual "son of David" is replaced by "son of Joseph" in line with the messianic expectations of the Samaritans, "Joseph", referring to the son of Isaac in Genesis, not Joseph, the husband of Mary. Those with a Samaritan background only accept the five books of Moses as scripture and so would not recognize "son of David" as messianic.
iii] Nathanael's response, v46: Despite the fact that there is no scriptural support for Nazareth being the home of the messiah, Nathanael responds with the comment, "So, something good can come out of Nazareth?" Obviously he doesn't have a high regard for the town. Philip, in common with the Rabbis of his time, uses the formula expression "come and see" - check it out for yourself.
einai (eimi) pres. inf. "can" - [and nathaniel said to him, is able] to be. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "is able / can".
ti agaqon "anything good" - Nominative subject of the verb "to be able." Nazareth is not identified in the Old Testament as having messianic significance, and in any case, it was widely held that the messiah would remain incognito until he was presented to Israel by Elijah. So, Nathanael is possibly questioning Philip's suggestion that Jesus is a messianic identity, given that he comes from a town lacking messianic credentials. This is certainly the line taken by most translations. Yet McHugh suggests that Nathanael's response, although less than kind toward Nazareth, is not a slur against Jesus. The infinitive einai properly rendered gives the sense "so, something good can (is able to) come out of Nazareth!" This rendering fits well with Philip's response, "come and see for yourself mate."
ek + gen. "from there" - out of, from [nazareth]. Expressing source, origin.
autw/ dat. pro. "-" - [phillip says] to him. Dative of indirect object.
ercou kai ide "come and see" - As with v39, these words stand out in the narrative. In v51 Jesus explains what his disciples will see, although they don't see until 2:11. So, beholding the significant is central to this passage
iv] Nathanael meets Jesus, v47-48: Jesus has heard Nathanael's comment and so his word's of greeting reflect this knowledge. Jesus' words may well be tongue-in-cheek, or at least a "here's a forthright person who says what he thinks." It is unlikely that Jesus is making a comment about Nathanael's moral superiority. Nathanael is taken aback by Jesus' comment and asks how he knows about him. Jesus tells him that he saw him under the fig tree at the time Philip spoke to him. The word "before" may not mean before in time. There is no point in Jesus seeing Nathanael "before" he meets with Philip. It is most likely that Jesus is simply saying that he knows what Nathanael said when he met with Philip. The only significance in the fig tree is that Jesus knows the actual tree Nathanael was under at the time he made his comment.
eiden (oJraw) aor. "[When Jesus] saw [Nathanael]" - [jesus] saw [nathanael]. There is nothing in the Greek to imply a temporal clause but it is usually treated this way, so Barclay, Cassirer, Rieu, .....
ercomenon (ercomai) pres. part. "approaching" - coming. The participle serves as the complement of the direct object "Nathanael", standing in a double accusative construction, asserting a fact about the object, namely that Nathanael was coming toward Jesus.
peri + gen. "[said] of [him]" - [says] about, concerning [him]. Expressing reference / respect; "with reference to." Probably best left untranslated; "and said."
alhqwV adv. "a true [Israelite]" - truly [an israelite]. The adverb "truly" is functioning as an adjective, "true / better / ideal / real / genuine Israelite." Possibly even "worthy", "there is an Israelite who deserves the name", JB.
en + dat. "in [whom]" - Here probably local; "a man with no guile in him", Cassirer.
ouk estin (eimi) pres. "nothing" - is not. With the sense "does not exist."
doloV (oV) "false" - guile, deceit, treachery. At face value, Nathanael is described as the ideal Jew, but is Jesus making a positive comment about his character, or is he being critical? The ideal Israelite is actually cunning and deceitful, as was Jacob in deceiving his brother Esau, and of course, like father, like son. It is even possible that the comment is tongue-in-cheek. There is, of course, the possibility that the phrase has no moral overtones. It is likely, though, that Jesus is describing Nathanael as the genuine article - without pretense; "there is no guile in him", Moffatt.
poqen "how [do you know me]?" - [nathaniel says to him] from where [do you know me = comes your knowledge of me]? Interrogative adverb of place; where do you know me from?" = where have you seen me before? / have we met before? This is most likely a genuine question on Nathanael's part, although it is often regarded as expressing a touch of astonishment. The conjunction poqen usually means "where / from where", it can also carry the sense "how"; "how do you know what sort of person I am", TH.
autw/ dat. pro. "-" - [nathanael said] to him. Dative of indirect object.
eidon (oJraw) aor. "I saw [you]" - [jesus answered and said to him, before philip called you being under the fig tree] i saw [you]. Seeing the significant, in the sense of coming to know the real Jesus, is the focus of this passage. So, John may be reminding us that even a personal word to a friend is not hidden from the all seeing eye of Jesus. On the other hand, the statement may just be factual; Jesus may have observed Nathanael's behavior on the occasion he was standing under a fig tree; see "before Philip called you" below.
onta (eimi) pres. part. "while you were still" - [before philip called you] being. The participle is often treated as adverbial, temporal, as NIV, "when / while you were under the fig tree", eg., Moffatt. Yet, as Novakovic notes, an adverbial participle is usually nominative in agreement with the subject of the clause. Being accusative it serves as the complement of the direct object se, "you", standing in a double accusative construction and so asserting a fact about the object. In English it is best simplified; "Before Philip called you I saw you under the fig tree", Rieu.
uJpo + acc. "under" - Spacial, "under / below."
thn sukhn (h) "the fig tree" - Much is made of the fig tree by commentators, but there is nothing more to it than Nathanael and Philip were under a fig tree.
pro tou + inf. "before [Philip called you]" - This preposition with the articular infinitive introduces a temporal clause, antecedent time, "before". "Philip" serves as the accusative subject of the infinitive, with "you" as the direct object. The accepted meaning here is that Jesus saw Nathanael under the fig tree "before" Philip spoke to him. Yet, it is possible that Jesus is saying that he saw Nathanael under the fig tree "at the time" Philip spoke to him, and so is aware of his comment about him. So, "I saw you under the fig tree when Philip spoke to you" = "I heard what you said to Philip when you were together under the fig tree." If telepathic knowledge is intended, then it is worth noting that fore-knowledge was a common attribute of Old Testament prophets, so Beasley-Murray: "Jesus has insight beyond that of the prophets."
v] Nathanael's response, v49: Although, on this occasion, Jesus' insight is possibly little more than overhearing what was said, Nathanael responds with a confession of faith, proclaiming Jesus as messiah. The two descriptors he uses are both messianic. Although the confession progresses John's testimony to Jesus' person and provides an opportunity to reveal the greater things to come, the whole episode with Nathanael serves as an example of Johannine irony. The reader gets an insight into the real Jesus, but also an insight into what faith is not. Nathanael expresses faith in Jesus' messianic credentials on the basis of his presumed miraculous knowledge of a past event which is anything but miraculous - "Really! You believed in me because I saw you under a fig tree?"
apekriqh (apokrinomai) aor. pas. "declared" - [nathaniel] answered. Jesus' minimal application of supernatural power, or what is more likely just a bland statement of fact, prompts a substantial confession of faith from Nathanael. If there is some significance in Jesus' words to Nathanael, some special insight revealed to Nathanael, it is certainly not revealed to us. Anyway, Philip's witness and Jesus' words combine to prompt Nathanael's confession of faith. For our author, it's all about the confession.
autw/ dat. pro. "-" - him. Dative of direct object after the apo prefix verb "to answer".
rJabbi voc."rabbi" - teacher. Vocative of address.
oJ uiJoV tou qeou "Son of God" - [you are] the son of god. The genitive "of God" is adjectival, relational. Here clearly a messianic title of equal weight with "king of Israel." McHugh suggests that the title bears "a meaning not previously found in Judaism, namely, that Jesus enjoys an utterly unique relationship with God." Although true, it seems an unlikely meaning in the context. See "Son of God", 5:25.
tou Israhl gen. "[the king] of Israel" - [you are king] of israel. The genitive is adjectival, possibly possessive, "Israel's king", or of subordination, where the genitive "Israel" is subordinated to the substantive "king"; "king over Israel." Note here an example of Colwell's rule where a predicate nominative placed before the verb often lacks the article, so here, "king" is anarthrous, but it is obviously "the king of Israel." As with "Son of God", this title is also messianic and probably means exactly the same as the more common title, "king of the Jews."
vi] Jesus' response, v50-51: Even Jesus doesn't think his insight is earth shattering, but if Nathanael is willing to follow Jesus as a disciple then he hasn't seen the half of it. Jesus goes on to speak of the amazing things Nathanael will get to see. Jesus uses the imagery of Genesis 28:12, the vision of Jacob's ladder. Nathanael, along with the other disciples, will see the real Jesus, they will get to glimpse Jesus on his heavenly throne surrounded by ministering angels.
autw/ dat. pro. "[Jesus said]" - [jesus answered and said] to him. Dative of indirect object.
pisteueiV (pisteuw) pres. "you believe" - [because i told you that i saw you underneath the fig tree] do you believe? Jesus' response reveals some surprise and further indicates that, in his opinion, nothing significant has passed his lips so far.
oJti "because" - that. Here introducing a causal clause, as NIV; "because I said unto thee", AV.
oJti "-" - that [I saw you]. Here introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Jesus had told Nathanael.
uJpokatw + gen. "under" - under, beneath. Used instead of uJpo in v48.
meizw adj. "greater" - Comparative of megaV
toutwn (ou|toV) gen. pro. "things" - things [you will see]. Here serving as a substantive. The genitive is ablative, comparative; "greater than these things" = "greater things." Possibly referring to the miracles soon to be performed by Jesus, or more particularly v51. "You ain't seen nothin' yet!", or more appropriately, "you shall see more than that", Moffatt.
amhn amhn "I [tell you] the truth" - [and he says to them] truly, truly [i say to you]. Used 20 times in the gospel to introduce a solemn truth. See 5:24.
oyesqe (oJraw) fut. "you shall see" - you will see. "You will behold / witness ..."
anew/gota (anoigw) part. "open" - [heaven] having been opened. The participle serves as the accusative complement of the direct object "heaven" standing in a double accusative construction and so asserting a fact about the object; "You will see heaven standing wide open", Barclay.
tou qeou (oV) gen. "[the angels] of God" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive, "God's angels."
anabainontaV kai katabainontaV pres. part. "ascending and descending" - The participles serve as the accusative complements of the direct object "angels" standing here in a treble accusative construction and so both are asserting a fact about the object "angels". See Jacob's dream Gen.28.
epi + acc. "on" - over, on, at, to. The preposition is a little vague, so we may have the angels ascending and descending "on" Jesus as if he (or the cross) were the ladder, or "around", Phillips. The "on" is misleading since what Jesus is promising is an insight into his person. "I tell you all that you will see Heaven wide open and God's angels ascending and descending around the Son of Man?", Phillips.
ton uiJon tou anqrwpou "the Son of Man" - The genitive "of Man" is adjectival, relational. John, like the synoptic gospels, sometimes uses Jesus' messianic self designation, "the Son of Man." This messianic title refers to Daniel's Son of Man, the one who receives the glory and power of divine authority and rule at the right hand of the Ancient of Days, cf., Dan.7:13-14. The title can just mean "man", so making it enigmatic and mysterious, and thus only meaningful for those with eyes to see.