The Prologue, 1:1-18
ii] He who comes after me stands among youSynopsis
The prologue of John's gospel continues, incorporating the testimony of John the Baptist.
God's creative enlightening / life-giving Word has entered our time and space realizing the gift of God's enduring and dependable grace.
i] Context: See 1:1-13/14.
ii] Structure: He who comes after me stands among you:
The Word's involvement with creation, v1-5;
The Baptist's witness about the coming light, v6-8;
The Word incarnate, v9-13/14;
The Baptist's witness to the Word, v15;
Christ the final witness, v16-18:
Grace apart from law, v16-17;
The invisible God is revealed in the Word become flesh, v18.
As a closely knit composition, the prologue has spawned endless technical articles. Yet, it is generally agreed that of its four literary divisions, v1-5, 6-8, 9-13, 14/15-18, this last division is the climactic statement, with v14 "the center of gravity of the prologue, and indeed of the gospel itself", Beasley-Murray. The opening clause of the first sentence in v14, is the controlling clause and subordinates the other clauses in the sentence. So, the central theological statement is "the Word became flesh", ie., the Word took on our human nature, he was incarnate, he became man. The truth of this incarnational statement concerning the divine Word is supported by four propositions:
He pitched his tent with us;
With the eye of faith believers can perceive his glorious presence;
He is "quite unique, in a class of his own", McHugh;
His presence promotes grace and truth (ie. God's covenant mercy is realized in God's incarnate Word).
Then follows three sentences, v15-18, similarly supporting the central theological statement:
The witness of the Baptist, v15;
Grace apart from law - the "Christian life is based at all points upon grace; as it proceeds, one grace is exchanged only for another", Barrett, v16-17;
The invisible God is revealed in the Word become flesh, v18.
iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.
Text - 1:14
The coming greater one, v14-18: i] The Word has became flesh, v14. John now gives us a deeper insight into the Logos, the Word. He tells us that the Word is the ultimate disclosure, the ultimate revelation, of God to humanity. This divine Word which is God, was incarnate (infleshed in a human person) and took up residence among his people in a personal way, cf. Ex.,25:9. The apostles have personally seen the incarnate Word, they have seen God's best-loved Son in all his glory, the glorious witness of one who exudes dependable grace. The phrase "grace and truth" actually comes from the Old Testament and is translated in the Greek Old Testament as "mercy and truth". The phrase is used to describe the covenant mercy of God, his gracious constancy, his dependable kindness toward his people. Jesus, the incarnate Word, radiates this kindness, this grace, a radiance that far exceeds the shining glory of the divine presence that once filled the temple.
For the syntactical notes on v14 see 1:1-13/14
ii] The witness of the Baptist, v15. In this aside, John makes the point that not only have the apostles seen the incarnate Son, but the Baptist has also seen him and has testified to this fact. Although the ministry of Jesus followed the Baptist's, Jesus' ministry takes precedence over his. Brown and others see this verse as another addition to the original poem, although it is more likely a parenthetical remark serving to link the ministry of the Baptist with that of Jesus. It is not even possible to argue that the prologue is definitely poetry; it is more rightly rhythmic prose. "Here is John's testimony to him", NEB.
marturei (marturew) pres. "testifies" - [john] testifies. Historical / narrative present tense - the first use in this gospel. The use of the present tense here is transitional; it serves to indicate narrative transition The Baptist has already testified to Jesus at the time of writing.
peri + gen. "concerning" - about, concerning [him]. Expressing reference / respect; "with reference to", but possibly advantage / representation, "on his behalf."
kekragen (krazw) perf. "he cries out" - [and] has cried out, has testified. The perfect tense expressing the idea that the Baptist's testimony in the past continues to impact on the present.
legwn (legw) pres. part. "saying" - Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "he cried out", redundant; typical Semitic form.
o}n "[this is the one I spoke] about" - [this one was] whom [i said]. This accusative pronoun is probably adverbial, reference/ respect, "about whom I said."
oJ .... ercomenoV (ercomai) pres. part. "he who comes" - the one coming [after me has become before me]. The participle serves as a substantive.
emprosqen + gen. "surpassed [me]" - [after me has become] before [me]. This improper preposition, as with opisw, "after [me]", is temporal, but here precedence is in mind, as NIV.
oJti "for" - because. Here introducing a causal clause.
prowtoV adj. "[he was] before" - [he was] first = prior to. Predicate adjective. Precedence is probably the dominant sense here. The Baptist's ministry preceded that of Jesus, but this does not mean he takes precedence over Jesus. A temporal sense may also be implied, "before I was born, he already was", NEB. Why the Baptist believed that Jesus took precedence may be explained by his knowledge of Jesus as the preexistent incarnate Word as expounded here in John chapter 1, but probably more likely in his belief that Jesus was the Messiah.
mou gen. pro. "me" - of me. Genitive of direct object; "prior to me."
iii] Christ the final witness, v16-18: a) Grace apart from law, v16-17. The incarnate Word is the source of limitless dependable grace, not just for the apostles, but for everyone - God's grace in Christ transcends his kindness toward Israel in the past. The NIV has grace (a kindness of God) piling up on another, "grace upon grace. " Some commentators argue that only one grace is in mind with the grace of the law being replace by the grace of Christ. The law, given through Moses, exhibits God's special kindness toward his historic people Israel, but the dependable grace that comes to us through Jesus totally transcends God's kindness in the past.
oJti "-" - because / that [we have all received from the fullness of him]. Some manuscripts have kai, "and". Origin and others treat this verse as a continuation of the Baptist's words, yet this is unlikely. The oJti here probably introduces a causal clause explaining why the incarnate Word, whom the Baptist gives witness to, takes precedence over the Baptist, namely, because we have experienced the fullness of his enduring grace. On the other hand, oJti may introduce a subordinate adverbial clause, even an epexegetic clause, "for the fact is that ....", McHugh.
ek + gen. "from" - Expressing source/origin; "out of the Word's complete perfection", Barclay.
tou plhrwmatoV (a) "the fullness" - the fullness [ of him]. The fullness, or possibly better, the completeness of Christ's enduring grace.
hJmeiV panteV "we have all [received]" - Nominative subject of the verb "to receive." All humanity, not just the apostles.
kai "-" - and. Rather than coordinate, it seems likely that kai here is epexegetic, specifying / explaining the nature of "the fullness" we have all received, "namely / that is, grace upon grace."
anti "[one blessing] after [another]" - [grace] in place of / in addition to / in return for [grace]. Expressing substitution. The sense is either:
a) the enduring grace of God in the old covenant, namely the Law, is replaced by that of the incarnate Word;
b) the enduring grace of the incarnate Word is added time and time again, or;
c) the enduring grace of the incarnate Word is given in return for faith, etc.
Meaning (b) is the one most widely accepted, as NIV; "grace upon grace", RSV. Both Carson and Brown opt for (a). Verse 17 seems to explain in more detail how God's hesed, "grace", in the law is replaced, or added to / magnified, in Christ, so supporting option (a).
oJti "for" - because. More reason than cause, explaining in more detail the sense of "grace upon grace", v16. John seems to favor oJti in place of an epexegetic infinitive or a iJna clause, so the sense here may be "for the fact is that ......" "The law is seen as the gracious gift of God", Kostenberger, a gift that points to, and is fulfilled in, Christ.
oJ nomoV "the law" - Nominative subject of the verb "to give." Obviously the law given by God through Moses at Mount Sinai, thus "law" in a positive sense as the gracious kindness of God given to enable a practical expression of faith for members of the covenant, rather than its condemning role (ie., "the curse of the law"), or as practiced by the Pharisees (nomism - the use of the law to facilitate the blessings of the covenant).
edoqh (didwmi) aor. "was given" - The law was given as a gift, continuing the sense that it is given in an act of kindness.
dia + gen. "through [Moses]" - through, by means of [moses]. Expressing agency.
hJ cariV kai hJ alhqeia "grace and truth" - enduring / dependable grace / kindness. Nominative subject of the verb "to become." As is typical in Gk., abstract nouns take an article. Although this descriptive is used of Jesus, John is not implying that the law is devoid of grace. It is simply that God's grace finds its ultimate expression in Christ.
egeneto (ginomai) "[given .....] came" - became [through jesus christ]. John's choice of these two verbs implies that the law was given and that grace came "according to the orderly and due course of the divine plan", Westcott. Both emerge from God's kindness, but in Christ, God's kindness reaches its "fullness".
b) The invisible God is revealed in the Word become flesh, v18. Although no human has ever seen the living God, we have seen something of him in his law, particularly in the interplay between justice and mercy. Yet in Christ, "the unique one", the divine incarnate Son who is intimately associated with the Father, we learn of dependable grace. The living God is displayed (revealed and exegeted) in the enduring merciful loving kindness of Christ. Jesus conveys the idea of grace to us, and in that idea we discover God.
qeon (oV) "[No one has ever seen] God" - The lack of the article "implies that no one has ever (previously) seen God", McHugh, seen him and known him as a person would see and know another person.
monogenhV qeoV "God the One and Only / the one and only Son" - only begotten / one and only only (unique) god. The textual variant "Son" instead of "God" is equally attested, while the variant "only / unique" by itself is less so, although this is the reading preferred by McHugh; "No one has ever seen God; it is that utterly unique One, who is now returned into the bosom of the Father, that has been our guide and shown and led the way." Most translators opt for "God", rather than "son", as NIV, although it doesn't really make sense unless translated "someone quite unique and divine", McHugh.
oJ w]n (eimi) "who is" - the one being. The participle is adjectival or substantival, depending on how we read the variants of monogenhV qeoV, eg., read as "the one and only Son, the one who is himself God ....", the participle would be taken as a substantive introducing a noun clause standing in apposition to "the one and only Son." The use of the present participle may imply a continuation of the intimacy of the godhead during Jesus' earthly ministry.
eiV "at / in" - to into. Spacial, usually expressing "directed toward", although here probably synonymous with en "located in". These prepositions are often interchanged in John, particularly of belief in/into Jesus.
tou patroV (hr roV) gen. "[the] Father's [side] / [closest relationship with] the Father" - [the bosom] of the father. The genitive is adjectival, possessive.
ekeinoV "-" - that one (the son, the only one). Nominative subject of the verb "to explain"Emphatic use of the demonstrative pronoun; "that one" = this one = he; "he has made him known."
exhghsato (exhgeomai) aor. "has made him known" - explained him. In the New Testament the word usually means "explain", "report", "reveal (divine secrets)." In common Greek the word means "lead" and this may be the sense here. The Son leads us into God's loving kindness. Yet, the sense that Jesus exegetes the Father to us is best. Jesus is "God's self expression", Carson.