Gospel of John 2015 – 01 Lesson one John 1



Anderson, Paul. N.  The Riddles of the Fourth Gospel: An Introduction to John.  (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2011).


Brown, Raymond E.   The Community of the Beloved Disciple: The Life, Loves, and Hates of an Individual Church in New Testament Times.  (Paulist Press, New York, 1979).


________________.   The Gospel According to John I – XII.    Volume 29 of the Anchor Bible Series, Series edited by W.F. Allbright and David Noel Freedman.   (Doubleday, Garden City NY, 1966).


________________.   The Gospel According to John XIII – XXI.    Volume 29A of the Anchor Bible Series, Series edited by W.F. Allbright and David Noel Freedman.   (Doubleday, Garden City NY, 1970).


Elowsky, Joel C. editor.  John 1 – 10.  Volume Iva of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series edited by Thomas C. Oden.  (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove IL, 2006).


__________________.  John 11 – 21.  Volume IVb of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series edited by Thomas C. Oden.  (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove IL, 2007).


Keener, Craig S.   The Gospel of John: A Commentary  Volume One(Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody MA, 2003).


_______________  The Gospel of John: A Commentary  Volume Two(Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody MA, 2003).


Lewis, Scott M.  The Gospel According to John and the Johannine Letters. Part of the New Collegeville Bible Commentary series edited by Daniel Durkin O.S.B.  (Liturgical Press, Collegeville MN, 2005).


Maloney S.D.B., Francis J.   The Gospel of John.   Volume 4 of the Sacra Pagina series edited by Daniel J. Harrington S.J.   (Liturgical Press, Collegeville MN, 1998).


Martyn, J. Louis.  History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel.  One of the Classics in the New Testament Library series whose editorial board is C. Clifton Black, John T. Carroll, and Beverly Roberts Gaventa.  Third Edition.  (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 2003).


O’Day, Gail R.  The Gospel of John: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections.  In Volume IX of the New Interpreter’s Bible whose editorial board is convened by Leander Kick.  (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1995).


Sloyan, Gerard.   John.   Part of the Interpretation series edited by Mays, Miller, Achtemeier.

(John Knox Press, Atlanta GA, 1988).





John Chapter 1

In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.


He was in the beginning with God.

All things came to be through him,

and without him nothing came to be.


What came to be through him was life,

and this life was the light of the human race;

the light shines in the darkness,

and the darkness has not overcome it.


A man named John was sent from God.

He came for testimony,

to testify to the light,

so that all might believe through him.

He was not the light,

but came to testify to the light.

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.


He was in the world,

and the world came to be through him,

but the world did not know him.

He came to what was his own,

but his own people did not accept him.


But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God,

to those who believe in his name,

who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.


And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us,

and we saw his glory,

the glory as of the Father’s only Son,

full of grace and truth.


John testified to him and cried out, saying,

“This was he of whom I said,

‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me

because he existed before me.'”


From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace,

because while the law was given through Moses,

grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

No one has ever seen God.

The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.


And this is the testimony of John.

When the Jews fromJerusalemsent priests and Levites (to him) to ask him,

“Who are you?” he admitted and did not deny it, but admitted,

“I am not the Messiah.”


So they asked him,

“What are you then? Are you Elijah?”

And he said, “I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

He answered, “No.”

So they said to him,

“Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us?

What do you have to say for yourself?”


He said:

“I am ‘the voice of one crying out in the desert,

“Make straight the way of the Lord,”‘ as Isaiah the prophet said.”


Some Pharisees were also sent.

They asked him,

“Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet?”


John answered them,

“I baptize with water;

but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,

the one who is coming after me,

whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”

This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.


The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said,

“Behold, the Lamb of God,

who takes away the sin of the world.

He is the one of whom I said,

‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’

I did not know him,

but the reason why I came baptizing with water was

that he might be made known to Israel.”





John testified further, saying,

“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him.

I did not know him,

but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,

‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,

he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.’

Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”


The next day John was there again with two of his disciples,

and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said,

“Behold, the Lamb of God.”

The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.


Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,

“What are you looking for?”

They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher),

“where are you staying?”

He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”

So they went and saw where he was staying,

and they stayed with him that day.

It was about four in the afternoon.


Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter,

was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.

He first found his own brother Simon and told him,

“We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed).

Then he brought him to Jesus.

Jesus looked at him and said,

“You are Simon the son of John;

you will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).


The next day he decided to go toGalilee,

and he found Philip.

And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.”

Now Philip was fromBethsaida, the town ofAndrewand Peter.



Philip found Nathanael and told him,

“We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law,

and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, fromNazareth.”

But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

Philip said to him, “Come and see.”





Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him,

“Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him.”

Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?”

Jesus answered and said to him,

“Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”

Nathanael answered him,

“Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”


Jesus answered and said to him,

“Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree?

You will see greater things than this.”

And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you,

you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”




John 1:1:

In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.


John 20:19-22:

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them “Receive the holy Spirit.”



  • Originally always spoken, not written
  • Invisible but can be felt
  • Presence of the speaker
  • In Hebrew – “ruah hayyim”  breath of life.  Means both “breath” and “spirit”
  • A gift.  Breath brought Adam alive
  • The first words in Genesis: God’s words gave meaning and order to creation as a gift.  Wisdom.  Torah.
  • Wisdom is living, personal, female.








Proverbs 8:24-31:

When there were no deeps I was brought forth,

when there were no fountains or springs of water;


Before the mountains were settled into place,

before the hills, I was brought forth;


When the earth and the fields were not yet made,

nor the first clods of the world.


When he established the heavens, there was I,

when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep;


When he made firm the skies above,

when he fixed fast the springs of the deep;


When he set for the sea its limit,

so that the waters should not transgress his command;


When he fixed the foundations of earth,

then was I beside him as artisan;


I was his delight day by day,

playing before him all the while,

Playing over the whole of his earth,

having my delight with human beings.


John proclaims: Jesus of Nazareth is the eternal Word / Wisdom of God made flesh.  The early hymns of the church, some transmitted by Paul, indicate that the earliest church believed this – it is not a “late” development.


Problem 1 –  The Word in the OT is not equal to the Father, is not eternal, IS brought forth.  This resulted in some early heresies.

Problem 2 –  The Word is eternal and infinite, the human being Jesus is finite and particular to a place, culture, etc..


Hebrews 1:1-2:

In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe,







Is Christ the Word that enlightens everyone, or is Christ the Word that has enlightened only his true followers?

  • Easter vigil begins at dark, Easter fire and candle are lit, procession to a darkened church following the Easter candle, small candles given only to the baptized, readings done in dim light, full lights to come on with the Gloria or the Gospel, at baptism the newly baptized are given a lit candle.  “Receive the light of Christ.  You are to walk always as a child of the light…”
  • John 20:30,31:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

  • IF we have seen and heard the Word, the Life, the Light and then reject it – we bring condemnation on ourselves.  Jesus was rejected, the early followers were rejected.  The gospel wishes to strengthen the desire and will of the early followers, not to condemn others.
  • The gospel intends for all of us to encounter and embrace this light and life and person.
  • John the Baptist appears as a herald, in fulfillment of Isaiah’s image of one crying out in the wilderness.
  • John testifies about Jesus, not himself.  I am not Elijah, not a prophet like Moses, and NOT the Messiah.  He re-directs the attention to Jesus.


Jesus asks:  What are you looking for?


The  new followers ask: “Rabbi, where are you staying?”.  At the end of the gospel Jesus tells the disciples he stays in them, the community of believers.  So we must love him and one another.







Sloyan: Both John and Genesis begin with “In the beginning…” on purpose.


Anderson p. 23 – a cosmic beginning that then quickly gets rooted in a particular time, place, context, person.


Sloyan p. 20: “The conviction that Jesus is the Word of God become human is never returned to in so many words, but it underlies all that will later be said.  What Moses cannot do through the promulgation of law-observance can be done through Jesus Christ in grace and truth.  For while the lawgiver came down from the mountain having heard but not seen God, Jesus “who is from God … has seen the Father”.  He is “from above” and declares to the world what he has heard from the one who has sent him.”


Keener p. 345 ff:  May have been an independent hymn or poem, may not have been.   Word / logos in Jewish tradition = Wisdom = Torah.  Not just the 5 books, but all of tradition, including oral interpretation.


O’Day p. 516: The Prologue (1:1 – 1:18) has four parts:

1:1-5                The Word is eternal, is the Light and Life of Creation

1:6-8                John the Baptist witnesses to the Light

1:9-13              The Light / Word came into the world

1:14-18            The Word became flesh and dwells among us


Anderson p. 68 suggests that the “we” verses and the poetic structure in the prologue indicate a liturgical setting prior to being a part of the gospel.  On the other hand: some words / ideas do not recur often in the narrative of the gospel (particularly “word” and “grace”) but are more fleshed out in the letters of John than in the gospel.  But light, dark, glory etc. DO recur often.


Keener p. 363: “John’s choice of the Logos (embracing also Wisdom and Torah) to articulate his Christology was brilliant: no concept better articulated an entity that was both divine yet distinct from the Father. …  Finally, by using this term John could present Jesus as the epitome of what his community’s opponents claimed to value: God’s word revealed through Moses.  Jesus was thus the supreme revelation of God; the Torah had gone forth fromZion.”


Lewis p. 9: verses 1:6-8 and 15 “They emphasize the subordinate status and supporting role of John the Baptist.  There was some rivalry between the disciples of Jesus and John the Baptist.  His role was not completely clear in the first century, and many continued to follow him.”


Martyn p. 102 points out that in the prologue not only John the Baptist but also MOSES is put into a subordinate role.   There is the grace that is the Law, but the grace and truth which come from one who has not only seen the Father (maybe Moses did, maybe not, for John he did not) but has been with the Father from the beginning and has been sent by the Father.  Concern with John the Baptist fades as the gospel goes on, but the comparison of Jesus to Moses continues, with Jesus as clearly superior.


John testified to him and cried out, saying,

“This was he of whom I said,

‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me

because he existed before me.'”


From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace,

because while the law was given through Moses,

grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

No one has ever seen God.

The only Son, God,* who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.






* NAB footnote: [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.


Lewis p. 10: image: as the LORD dwelt in the Temple sanctuary the Word dwelt among us embodied in Jesus.  “It is the concept of the incarnation that separates Christianity from both Judaism and Islam.”  Along with Jesus’ death on a cross this was a serious stumbling block for both Greeks and Jews.



The testimony of John the Baptist

Lewis p. 11: this is the beginning of the Book of Signs (of which there are 7).  In the Synoptics the signs / miracles are “deeds of power” that “signal the coming / emerging of the Kingdom of God”.  In John – they reveal the identity of Jesus as the one sent by the Father.


Sloyan: John the Baptist is a baptizing prophet who was sent to witness to Jesus – in the other gospels to call for repentance and prepare the way.  He gives testimony, almost like the lead witness in a trial.

  • Jesus is the Light,
  • the true light,
  • the Lamb of God,
  • He is the Son of God who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.
  • As the gospel goes on there will be other witnesses, including those who accuse Jesus.  In the end – Jesus takes the stand to testify himself.


Keener p. 447: “In short, then, John’s baptism historically summoned Israelites to turn to God the same way Jewish people expected Gentile proselytes to do so …  he regarded only the true remnant of Israel as prepared for the Lord, and sought to turn the larger community of Israel to repentance.”


Elowsky p. 31 ff:  citesSt. Augustinewho said: John the Baptist was the lamp, Jesus was the light.  We are called to be lamps, lamps not hidden under bushel baskets, our lampstand is the cross.


Moloney p. 54ff: connects the multiple days of testimony of John to the 4 days of preparation by the Jews for receiving the Law at Sinai (as described in Exodus Chapter 19: sanctify themselves, wash clothes, avoid sex).  There were four days of preparation and then on the third day after that (total of 7) came the revelation of the Law.  On the third day after these four days of preparatory testimony, at the wedding atCana, Jesus becomes the center of attention and begins to reveal God’s glory.




 Jesus acquires disciples

Sloyan: Jesus doesn’t call them (as in the other gospels), they discover him (or someone tells them about Jesus and interests them) and choose to stay.


The new disciples offer testimony about Jesus as well.  Is it shallow testimony?  Perhaps it foreshadows later testimony when confronted with martyrdom.  Scholarly consensus seems to be that the affirmations are correct though the depth of understanding and commitment is not yet behind them.


O’Day p. 531: “Philip finds Nathanael and bears witness to Jesus, Just as Andrew did with Peter in v. 40.  Nathanael does not appear in any of the other Gospels and is absent from their lists of the Twelve.  As noted earlier, John does not define discipleship in terms of the formal company of the Twelve.”


Anderson p. 21: “Significant here are the messianic references to Jesus in the opening narrative.  Jesus is referred to as Messias (The Hebrew word for ‘anointed one’; the Greek word is Christos); Jesus is referred to as “the Lord,” “the Lamb of God,” and “the Son of God”: disciples call him Rabbi (meaning ‘teacher’ or ‘master’ in Hebrew); he is called “The one of whom Moses and the prophets wrote,” “Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth,” “Son of God,” and “King of Israel”; Jesus refers to himself as “the Son of Man.”  Scholars have called these Christological titles, and each of them is packed with rich theological meaning.  The reader is thus invited to “come and see,” like the first disciples, and also to “abide” with Jesus”.”  (These occur in this first chapter.  One way to think about this – all capture something about Jesus, some aspect; yet Jesus exceeds each one and therefore no one title is adequate.)


Moloney p. 62:  The double amen occurs only in John, where it happens 26 times.  It signifies an important statement linked to what has come before it.


Lewis p. 15: “This is a variation on Jacob’s dream in Genesis 28:12-13, an important theme in rabbinic literature. Rents in the veil separating the physical and spiritual worlds are a favored aspect of apocalyptic theology, as in the baptism of Jesus in Mark 1:10, where the ‘heavens were torn open.’   Jesus is the bridge between heaven and earth, as well as the gateway.”


Genesis 28:11-13:

“When he came upon a certain place, he stopped there for the night, since the sun had already set. Taking one of the stones at the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. Then he had a dream: a stairway rested on the ground, with its top reaching to the heavens; and God’s angels were going up and down on it.  And there was the LORD standing beside him and saying: I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you are lying I will give to you and your descendants.”


Anderson p. 23: “The central thrust of the Fourth gospel calls its audiences to respond in faith to Jesus as the agency of God’s saving / revealing love, promising eternal life for those who believe.”




  • Ponder in prayer: “What are you looking for?”  “Where are you staying?”
  • Read and pray over John chapters 2 and 3.
  • Read the commentary pages 15 to the top of page 24.
  • Ponder and pray over the questions page 12 – 14, make notes as you do so.  Pay special attention to these:
    • #8 – What is the significance of Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night?
    • #9 –  What does Jesus mean by being born “again”? or born from above?
    • #10 – Are we, baptized as Roman Catholics as infants, “born from above, of water and the Spirit”?   Or do we need something in addition to our sacrament of baptism?


Comments are closed.