On the Gospel of John, Part 4: The Lamb of God

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On the Gospel of John, Part 4: The Lamb of God

Presenting Part 3 of this commentary on the Gospel of John, which was titled The Sons of God, we gave a full explanation of our translation of John 1:11-13, and we cannot sufficiently stress how important it is to understand the impact which one’s worldview can have upon one’s interpretation of Scripture. I also understand that these presentations may at times be very technical and hard to digest. However we must develop a scholarly basis for a proper understanding of the text before we can even begin to claim to understand the Bible. If one is persuaded by the commonly-accepted interpretations of the Jews concerning the ministry of Christ, then it is easy to accept the King James Version and other popular translations of these verses. So like a lamb being led to the slaughter, one may helplessly be led to believe that the universalist perspective of Scripture is true, and that all those who merely profess a belief in Jesus must therefore be accepted as having somehow become “sons of god” by a mere profession of their lips, and as if they could possibly even make that choice on their own.

However that position is actually in direct conflict with Scripture. Christ Himself had said, as it is recorded in Matthew chapter 7, that “21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Likewise, the apostle James said that “19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” So we see that mere belief is not enough to somehow make one a child of God, even if it is a belief which is accompanied by “many wonderful works”. But if we believe that every word of God is true, and that the Scriptures do not conflict with themselves, then it is evident that these passages, along with many others found in the gospels, such as the parable of the tares of the field or the statement by Christ concerning plants which Yahweh did not plant, sufficiently indicate that the common interpretations of John 1:11-13 must be wrong.

However if we believe what the gospels themselves have informed us, that Christ had come to fulfill the promises made to the fathers, and to gather the long-lost children of Israel to Himself, and that He came only for the so-called “lost sheep” of the children of Israel, sons and daughters which were already sons and daughters, as the Scriptures frequently state, and then if we examine the many Messianic prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel which make those same professions, then we can translate John 1:11-13 appropriately, in a manner which does not force a conflict with any passage of Scripture or with any aspect of Greek grammar, and we find that it should be read to say that:

11 He came into His own land, and the men of the country received Him not. 12 But as many who received Him, He gave to them the authority which the children of Yahweh are to attain, to those believing in His Name: 13 not those from of mixed origin nor from of desire of the flesh nor from of the will of man, but they who have been born from Yahweh.

Those born of Yahweh are those born in accordance with the Word of Yahweh, and not according to the will or desires of man. There are examples of this throughout the Scriptures. Of the surviving sons of Eve, which were Cain and Seth, only Seth was born in the image and likeness of Adam, so Seth rightfully received the inheritance. Of the children of Adam in the time of Noah, which were engaged in the race-mixing which is described in Genesis chapter 6, only Noah was “perfect in his generations”, so he was preserved to continue the inheritance. Of the sons of Abraham, only Isaac was born according to the Word of Yahweh. Ishmael was born of the flesh, out of the will of man in the person of Sarah, who beckoned Abraham to impregnate a bondwoman. So in the end, Sarah had her own son and Ishmael was rejected, the younger Isaac receiving the birthright and the inheritance. Of the sons of Isaac, Esau was rejected, since being a fornicator and race-mixing he forfeited his birthright and it fell to his younger brother Jacob.

Cain slew Abel, and Seth was raised up in his place. The whole world was engaged in race-mixing, and the pious Noah was preserved to carry on. The hour may have been far advanced, but Sarah was still able to bear a child. This is the lesson which we learn from the Scriptures: that against all odds the Word of Yahweh is upheld according to His expressed will. So if the Old Testament prophets inform us repeatedly that the purpose of Christ is to redeem and ultimately to regather the so-called lost children of Israel, how can we interpret Scripture in a manner which is contrary to those promises?

This we see in Isaiah chapter 43: “1 But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. 2 When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. 3 For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. 4 Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life. 5 Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; 6 I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; 7 Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.” Legitimate children of Israel would be preserved by the promises of God in the same way that their ancestors had been preserved, in spite of the obstacles.

[Isaiah 43:3 also informs us that black lives do not matter. However that is how Yahweh “gave up” those formerly White nations, by allowing them to be overrun with blacks, from before the end of the 7th century BC, and in the case of Ethiopia, probably sooner.]

The apostles of Christ certainly interpreted Scripture in a manner which was consistent with those promises. James wrote only to “the twelve tribes scattered abroad” and Paul was in bonds and opposed and judged by the Jews “... for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: 7 Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake… I am accused of the Jews.” So those twelve tribes were not Jews, and throughout his epistles, Paul informed us as to the identity of those tribes, and ancient history substantiates his identifications. According to the King James Version, in those same epistles Paul had used forms of the terms reconcile or reconciliation on at least a dozen occasions in reference to people descended from those same tribes. So we can confidently identify those who are born of Yahweh, those who are the sons and daughters of God, and those who are not.

Now we shall continue with our presentation of John chapter 1. [I don’t remember ever advising this before, but it might help those who listen to this podcast to read along with the Christogenea New Testament, which is available freely at Christogenea if one does not have it in print, or even from a King James Version, and that may help to better follow our commentary.]

14 And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we beheld His splendor, splendor as the most-beloved by the Father, full of favor and truth.

The verb tabernacled is from the Greek word σκηνόω (Strong’s # 4637), which only appears elsewhere in the New Testament in four passages of the Revelation (7:15, 12:12, 13:6, 21:3). The verb is derived from the noun σκηνή (# 4633), which is “a covered place, a tent”, according to Liddell & Scott, and this word along with the related synonyms σκῆνος (# 4636) and σκήνομα (# 4638), appear in the New Testament frequently. Paul of Tarsus was described as a σκηνοποιός, or tent-maker, in Acts chapter 18. The Feast of Tabernacles was called ἡ ἑορτὴ... ἡ σκηνοπηγία in John chapter 7, which may be roughly interpreted as “the feast of the setting up of tents”.

Here John, by describing the body of Christ as “the Word which became flesh” which “tabernacled among us”, is certainly making another allusion to prophecy and one more assertion on behalf of Christ, that He is the Old Testament God who had promised to tabernacle among the children of Israel. He promised to set His tent among the children of Israel. This we see in direct connection with a promise of a new covenant in Ezekiel chapter 37: “26 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. 27 My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28 And the Nations shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.”

Paul of Tarsus also made the analogy of the physical body of Christ as the tabernacle of God in Hebrews chapter 9: “11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” Having this understanding, Paul wrote to the Colossians and said (2:9): “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” In other words, within the person of Yahshua Christ dwelt as much of the essence of Yahweh God as could dwell in the body of a man.

So we read of the City of God in Revelation chapter 21, where Christ also repeats other assertions which had been made concerning Him in other places: “2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. 6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.”

Later, the apostle Peter in the first chapter of his second epistle had used the same analogy in relation to his own flesh as “this tabernacle” and “this my tabernacle”, understanding as Paul had also, that the flesh was only a vessel for the real person, which is found in the spirit. This Paul had elucidated in 2 Corinthians chapter 5, where he wrote: “1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: 3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. 4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.” So the tabernacle in these contexts is the body of a man, and in the case of Yahweh where He promised that “My tabernacle also shall be with them”, He was referring to the person of Yahshua Christ. So here in verse 14 John declared the fulfillment in Christ of that very promise seen in Ezekiel. “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us”, but now we must once again wait upon Him as it is promised in the Revelation, for the time when it may be said that “the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.”

According to the Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon of Liddell & Scott, the Greek word δόξα (Strong’s # 1391) is “a notion, true or false: and so… expectation… an opinion, judgment… a mere opinion, conjecture… to imagine, suppose… the opinion which others have of one, estimation, reputation, credit, honour, glory… the estimate popularly formed of a thing… of external appearance, glory, splendour, effulgence…” citing the New Testament as the authority for that last definition regarding external appearance. But here, where John referred to the δόξα of Christ as being “full of favor and truth”, he was not describing mere physical appearance. So while we translated the term as splendor, where the King James Version has glory, reputation may have been even more appropriate. In that case another verb, θεάομαι (Strong’s # 2300), may have been rendered as contemplated rather than beheld.

Here we also see the first of five occurrences of the word μονογενής in John’s writing, four of which are in his gospel and one in his first epistle, all of them in reference to Christ. The same word appears three times in Luke, where none of them refer to Christ, and once in Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews, in chapter 11, where Paul used the term in reference to the patriarch Isaac. What follows is from our commentary on Hebrews 11:17, from our presentation of Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews, Part 13, which was titled The Substance of the Faith. First we will cite the passage where Paul used the word:

17 By faith Abraham, being tried, had offered up Isaak, and the best-beloved being offered up took upon himself the promises, 18 in reference to whom it was said: “That in Isaak shall your offspring be called.”

Now we shall repeat our comments for that passage:

Paul quotes Genesis 21:12, where Isaac is distinguished from Ishmael and it says: “12 And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.”

The use of the term μονογενής (Strong’s # 3439) here, which is a Greek word that literally means only-begotten, where there are clearly other sons, informs us that the term must represent a Hebrew idiom and therefore it should not necessarily be literally translated as “only-begotten”. The translators of the Septuagint must have understood this idiom, where they wrote “thy son, the beloved one” in reference to Isaac in Genesis 22:2, where in the King James Version the corresponding Hebrew was literally translated as “thy son, thine only son”.

In his own writing Flavius Josephus also used this Hebrew idiom in the same manner, as the term was used in Antiquities 1:13:1 (1:222) and 20:2:1 (20:17). The noted translator of Josephus, William Whiston, makes note of the idiom at those points in his translation, and shows that the term was used metaphorically for “best beloved” or “most loved”, as we have written here in this passage of Hebrews, and as the Septuagint translators clearly understood when they translated Genesis 22:2 into Greek from Hebrew. For this reason we have translated the term in this same manner where it appears in several other places in the Gospel and epistles of John (1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; and 1 John 4:9).

So with this understanding it is also manifest that by no means do those passages which refer to Christ as God’s “only-begotten Son”, an idiom for “most beloved Son” conflict with the statements describing the children of Adam or of Israel as the children of God. ([Which are found in] Deuteronomy 14:1; in the Septuagint at Psalm 28:1; Psalm 82:6; Matthew 5:45; Luke 3:38; John 10:34-36; Acts 17:28-29; Romans 8:14-39; Hebrews 2:13 and 12:8; 1 John 3:1-2.) Christ, the first-born among many brethren, is the most-beloved of the many sons and daughters of Yahweh.

That was the extent of our commentary on this term μονογενής when we made our presentation of the epistle to the Hebrews. But perhaps it may be said that Christ is the most unique of the sons and daughters of Yahweh, or the most special. After I presented that portion of my Hebrews commentary here back in December of 2016, a Greek-reading friend, whom I have mentioned before in these presentations, had suggested to me that perhaps μονογενής means unique, since it may indeed literally be read “one of a kind”. This suggests a different derivation for the word, which is a compound of μόνος, which is single, alone or solitary, and the stem -γενής.

Examining my friend’s suggestion, I investigated the assertion in academic papers found on the Internet. First, it is explained that the way in which the word μονογενής is rendered in popular translations such as the King James Version, as only-begotten, is to suggest that the stem -γενής is derived from the verb γεννάω, which basically means to beget. In my earlier notes on this word, I had taken this derivation for granted, that it is true, which is evident in the citation of my Hebrews commentary above.

So one counter-argument I assessed had asserted that instead, the stem -γενής is derived from the word γένος, which can mean kind. But then I realized that one of the scholars who made this argument, Daniel Wallace, the Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary missed something quite important. He missed the plausible possibility that the stem is derived from γενεά, and not γένος. According to Liddell & Scott the word γενεά, which is a close synonym of γένος, can also be used to refer to circumstances of birth, such as the time or place of birth. That particular use is not attributed to the word γένος in the lexicons, but only to γενεά. So in A Homeric Dictionary by Georg Autenrieth we see an entry for a word λυκηγενής which is translated as light-born, meaning born of light, which was used as an epithet for Apollo as the sun god.

[This seems to have been a consideration when choosing the word γενεά rather than γένος when coining the name for my own website, Christogenea, as it can have that additional aspect of meaning.]

While some uses of the stem -γενής in compound words do support the idea that it refers to kind, other uses support the idea that it refers to birth, and we must assume that there was no set rule for derivation of the stem in Greek grammar. We interpreted the word γενεά as birth in a passage in Acts 8:33, which refers to Christ and says “33 In humiliation His judgment was taken away. Who shall describe His birth? For His life is taken from the earth!” So therefore my opinion will remain, that μονογενής represents an idiomatic translation of a Hebrew term which means to refer to the most loved of a kind or class, as we can see by comparing the English translations and meaning of the Hebrew at Genesis 22:2, and in turn comparing that with the Greek citations of that passage which are found in Josephus and in Paul, which we have already illustrated.

Now the apostle begins to describe the testimony of John the Baptist concerning the Christ:

15 Iohannes testifies concerning Him, and cried out, saying “This was He whom I said: ‘He coming after me, He is preferred over me, because He was before me’.”

Although the verb γέγονεν is the Perfect Tense 3rd person singular form of γίγνομαι (Strong’s # 1096), which means to be, here it is rendered in the present tense, as “He is”. Liddell & Scott have at γίγνομαι, II., “followed by a Predicate, to come into a certain state, to become, Latin fieri, and (in past tenses), to be so and so….”

The preposition ἔμπροσθεν (Strong’s # 1715) is preferred over rather than simply and literally before. The word must be distinguished from πρῶτος, which has a similar meaning and which is translated as before at the end of the verse. In the 9th edition of the Liddell & Scott Greek English Lexicon we see at ἔμπροσθεν II. 3. “of Degree, ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ δικαίου [which is] preferred before justice,” giving an example from the Iliad.

Rather than the phrase “This was He whom I said”, the codices Vaticanus (B) and Ephraemi Syri (C) have “This was he speaking”. The Codex Sinaiticus (א) wants the entire phrase, having a pronoun in its place, so it has this verse to read “Iohannes testifies concerning Him, and cried out, saying ‘He who is coming after me, He is preferred over me, because He was before me’.” But as our text reads the verse, the apostle is evidently citing an event where John the Baptist himself had recollected his earlier testimony of Christ. This can fit circumstances which we see in the other gospels, which we can perceive from comparing Matthew chapter 3 and Luke chapter 7, but none of the other gospel accounts reflect it completely. However we must realize once again, that John being the only gospel writer who was present for the entire ministry of Christ, was able to provide details which the other writers could not provide. As we have already said, John may have purposely sought to do that when he wrote this gospel.

Now, regardless of whether or not we think that John the Baptist should have recognized his own cousin on his mother’s side, Yahshua of Nazareth, John admits that he did not know Him in his testimony in verses 31 and 33 of this chapter, so they must have been separated for some time. The record states that John was at least six months older than his cousin, according to Luke chapter 1 (1:26). The record also fully implies that the ministry of John the Baptist started long before that of Yahshua Christ. We plainly see that here, where John is already baptizing, and the ministry of Christ is said to have begun once Christ was baptized by John. So here we must ask, how could Yahshua be before John, unless Yahshua was the promised Messiah, unless He was God incarnate? So here the apostle John certainly seems to be invoking the testimony of John the Baptist as yet another proof that Yahshua is the Messiah, Yahweh incarnate as a man, a promise which Yahweh had made frequently and explicitly in the words of the prophet Isaiah where He said things such as “I the LORD am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer” and “beside me there is no God.” Now John takes a digression from his description of the testimony of John the Baptist and makes a parenthetical statement:

16 Because [A and the MT have “And”; the text follows P66, P75, א, B, C and D] we have all received from of His fullness, and favor for the sake of favor. 17 For the law had been given through Moses; the favor [P66 has “but favor”] and the truth have come through Yahshua Christ.

Here the phrase χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος is “favor for the sake of favor”. While the word ἀντί is most literally against, Liddell & Scott explain that it may mean “for the sake of” in certain contexts, although citing this very passage they also say that the phrase may mean “ever increasing grace”. The word χάρις, commonly grace (Strong’s # 5485) in the King James Version, is usually favor in the Christogenea New Testament. The word has a wide range of meanings relating to grace, favor, gratification, gratitude, delight, and even pleasure, among other things in various contexts.

The favor in Christ is explicitly promised in the prophecy of Jeremiah, directly in relation to the promise of a new covenant which is found in Jeremiah chapter 31, where after having already promised at the end of chapter 30 that His anger would not return upon Israel, the Word of Yahweh says: “1 At the same time, saith the LORD, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. 2 Thus saith the LORD, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest. 3 The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” When this was written, the children of Israel had already been put off in divorce by Yahweh their God for having violated the law which was given through Moses. These words in Jeremiah were written over a hundred years after most of the families of both Israel and Judah were taken into captivity by the Assyrians, when only the inhabitants of Jerusalem and a few small remnants of scattered Israelites elsewhere had remained in Palestine. So the promise of grace in Christ is for those same Israelites who were promised a new covenant, and it is meant for nobody else. The promise of grace is for those Israelites who were spared the sword, who survived the Assyrian invasions, and when they received that promise, they were in the wilderness, and not necessarily in Palestine.

So Paul wrote in Galatians chapter 4: “4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Likewise, if one was never under the law, meaning that if one did not descend from the ancient children of Israel, then one has no part in the adoption of sons, which in the context of the New Testament is actually the placing of those who are already sons, or daughters, into their rightful position in the household of Yahweh. So we read in Psalm 130: “7 Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. 8 And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” Unless one is a scattered Israelite, there is no promise of grace in Christ.

The favor in Christ is the mercy which the children of Israel received because they were under penalty of death for having violated the law which came through Moses. So Paul also explained in Ephesians chapter 1, where he referred to Christ “7 In whom we have redemption through His blood, the dismissal of transgressions in accordance with the riches of His favor 8 which He makes abundant for us, with all wisdom and understanding 9 making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His satisfaction, which He purposed within Himself 10 for the stewardship of the full measure of the times, to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth in Him. 11 In whom we also have obtained an inheritance, being preordained according to the purpose of He who accomplishes all things in accordance with the design of His will.” The mystery of the will of God, the design of the will of God, the predestination made by God, the promise of the dismissal of transgressions, all of these things are found outlined for the children of Israel in the words of the prophets of God, and Yahshua Christ is that Word made flesh. And being that Word made Flesh, anything which is not already found in that Word, He can not be said to represent.

18 No one ever yet having seen Yahweh, the only-born God, He being in the bosom of the Father, He has explained.

This verse is difficult to read, the idiom we described earlier for μονογενής does not fit the context, so a literal interpretation is necessary, and the various emendations of this verse among the manuscripts certainly seem to reflect the assessment that it is difficult to understand. This verse also contains the second occurrence of the word μονογενής in John’s writing. The Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Grace in both the 27th and 28th editions reads: θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· [No one ever yet having seen Yahweh,] μονογενὴς θεὸς [the only-born God, ] ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς [He being in the bosom of the Father,] ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο. [He has explained.]

The first occurrence of θεός is in the Accusative case, and it is the object of the verb ἑώρακεν, the 3rd person singular Perfect Tense of ὁράω (Strong’s # 3708), to see, which is having seen here. The phrase μονογενὴς θεὸς, or only-born God, as well as both of the pronouns translated as he, which are ὁ and ἐκεῖνος, are all in the Nominative Case, and they must all refer back to the Subject, which is Christ who was mentioned in the preceding verse. The word μονογενής, since it modifies the noun for God, could not be rendered according to the idiom, as most-loved, so we had to render it literally as only-born. Yahshua Christ being one with the Father (i.e. John 10:30), is therefore described as the “only-born God” here, and it is He who has explained the unseen Father.

The verse is not difficult to understand in that manner, having been rendered as literally as possible. While there is no definite article accompanying μονογενὴς θεὸς in the text, the article is present in the 3rd century papyrus P75 and some later manuscripts, along with versions of the passage found in Clement of Alexandria and Origen. Yet Clement, and also the Codex Alexandrinus (A), the Majority Text and other later manuscripts, all have ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός, or as we would translate that phrase, the most-beloved Son, rather than μονογενὴς θεὸς, or only-born God. That reading which is found in the Majority Text also explains the King James Version, which follows it here. Versions of Irenaeus and other late manuscripts have εἰ μὴ ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός, where the beginning of the verse would be read “No one has ever yet seen Yahweh except the most-beloved Son” to which the version found in Irenaeus further adds θεοῦ, or “of God”. Our text follows the early 3rd century papyrus P66, P75 (except that it has the article), and the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Vaticanus (B), and Ephraemi Syri (C), which other later manuscripts and early Church Fathers also follow.

As a digression, here of all places where it appears in the New Testament, it may make sense to interpet the stem -γενής as kind, and μονογενής as “one of a kind”, or unique, as Yahweh certainly is the only true God. But we will continue to interpret the word as we have elsewhere, although we will read it literally, rather than according to the idiom which we described in verse 14, because it refers to God and not to a son.

So according to at least a preponderance of the older and better manuscripts which attest to this passage, Yahshua Christ is the “only-born God”. A parallel to John’s words here is found in Colossians chapter 1 where Paul of Tarsus described Yahshua Christ as He: “14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: 15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”

Up until the time of Christ, no one had ever seen God. But once Yahshua Christ was manifest, He could be seen by men. So Christ Himself had said, as it is recorded in John chapter 14, in response to the inquiry of Phillip, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” That Yahshua Christ is “firstborn of every creature” merely indicates that even before the creation, Yahweh knew that He would come into it as a member of His Own creation. In that same manner He is the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the World”, as He is described in Revelation chapter 13.

Now the apostle returns to his description of the testimony of John the Baptist:

19 And this is the testimony of Iohannes, when the Judaeans from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him [P66, P75, א and the MT want “to him”; the text follows B and C], that they could ask him “What are you?” 20 And he admitted, and denied not, and he admitted [א wants this second occurrence of “and he admitted”] that “I am not the Christ.”

Notice a distinction which John makes here, where he says “priests and Levites”. In the law, all of the priests were Levites, but not all Levites were priests. Properly, the priests were only a portion of the Levites, those of the descendants of Aaron. Flavius Josephus also used the terms together, “priests and Levites”, throughout his histories. But it is also evident in the pages of the histories of Josephus and in other sources, such as the writings of Eusebius of Caesareia, that not all priests were Levites from the time of the rule of the first Herod, who was appointed king of Judaea by the Romans some time around 36 BC.

Perhaps because they understood the prophecy of Daniel, which accurately dates the beginning and end of the ministry of Christ (see our Notes Concerning Daniel's 70 Weeks Prophecy), or perhaps from other sources, as the account of the Magi recorded in Matthew chapter 2 indicates as a possibility, there were apparently many in Israel who were anticipating the appearance of the Messiah at this time. This is made evident later in John chapter 1, where it is recorded that Andrew had exclaimed to his brother Simon, later known as Peter, that “we have found the Messias”. It is later evident in John chapter 4, where the Samaritan woman tells Yahshua at the well that “I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.” In Matthew chapter 2, it is recorded that upon the report of the Magi to Herod, the Edomite king, that when Herod “had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.” So here we see that perhaps 30 years later, the officials at the temple in Jerusalem were still watching in fear for the manifestation of Christ, and John answered them according to their fear.

21 And they asked him [א adds “again”] “Then what? Are you Elijah?” And [א wants “and”] he said “I am not.” “Are you a prophet?” and he answered “No.”

There are many contentious people who misunderstand statements found elsewhere in the gospels, and who insist that John the Baptist was the reincarnated Elijah, imagining in that same manner that the Scriptures verify reincarnation. But here John the Baptist denies being Elijah, and the apostle John accepts that denial as truth. In fact, John the Baptist came in the spirit of Elijah, meaning that he had the same mentality or attitude and abilities and favor from God, but he was not Elijah himself. So we read in a prophecy of John the Baptist recorded at Luke 1:17: “And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

22 Then they said to him “Who are you, that we could give an answer to those who sent us, what do you say concerning yourself?”

The apostle John had attested here in verse 19 that “the Judaeans from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites” to John the Baptist in order to question him. So we see a plural authority higher than these priests, but other than the Roman governor, as Jerusalem was under direct Roman control at the time. Later in this gospel we shall see that the authority John refers to must be Annas and Caiaphas, the Sadducees who were the current and former high priests of the time.

In Josephus’ Antiquities Book 20 we read: “247 Herod was then made king by the Romans, but did no longer appoint high priests out of the family of Asamoneus; but made certain men to be so that were of no eminent families, but barely of those who were priests, excepting that he gave that dignity to Aristobulus”, and a little further on: “ 250 Accordingly, the number of the high priests, from the days of Herod until the day when Titus took the temple and the city, and burnt them, were in all twenty-eight; the time, also, that belonged to them was a hundred and seven years. 251 Some of these were the political governors of the people under the reign of Herod, and under the reign of Archelaus his son, although, after their death, the government became an aristocracy, and the high priests were entrusted with a dominion over the nation. And thus much may suffice to be said concerning our high priests.” In other words, the high priests had dominion over the internal affairs of Judaea, while a Roman governor, either of the rank of proconsul or procurator, oversaw Roman interests within the province.

But we have a problem here with Whiston’s translation as well. Where he said that Herod appointed high priests “of no eminent families, but barely of those who were priests excepting that he gave that dignity to Aristobulus”, what did he mean by “barely” priests? One is of the family of Aaron, or one is not. But the truth is, that there is no word for barely in the Greek texts of Josephus, although there is a word which means alone. We must translate the same words “but of those who were insignificant, and alone of those who are priests only one, Aristobulus, to whom he assigned the dignity”, meaning that of all of his other appointments to the office of high priest, none of them were actually priests! When we discuss Annas and Caiaphas where they appear later in this gospel, we will establish from elsewhere in Josephus that they were of the party of the Sadducees, which is also evident in Acts chapter 5.

During the time of the first Herod, he appointed, and unseated, high priests at will. Later, after his death and the troubles with his successor and son, Herod Archelaus, the Romans kept the privilege for themselves. Apparently, Pontius Pilate appointed Caiaphas to the office of high priest during the time of Christ. Later, from 41 AD, the privilege fell upon Herod Agrippa I, a grandson of the first Herod who was appointed king of Judaea by the Romans. His death is recorded in Acts chapter 12, and his son Herod Agrippa II had the privilege after him. In any event, we see that from the time of the first Herod, the office of high priest was merely a political appointment, and true sons of Aaron did not fill the position.

The apostle continues with the testimony of John the Baptist:

23 He said: “I am a voice crying in the wilderness. Make straight the way of the Prince!” Just as Isaiah the prophet had spoken.

Here John records a reply which is a citation of Isaiah chapter 40: “1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. 2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins. 3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.”

This passage of Isaiah is cited in reference to John the Baptist in all four gospels. The comfort of which Isaiah had spoken invokes thoughts of Christ as the Comforter, the Holy Spirit described later in John’s gospel. Paul also spoke of comfort in this manner in the opening chapter of his second epistle to the Corinthians. The pardoning of iniquity in Christ is related to Yahweh, whose way is prepared by the messenger. Christ must therefore be Yahweh, and as John had said here, Christ had explained the invisible God, and Christ was the Word made Flesh, so in Him the glory of God is revealed. That is the δόξα for which we wrote splendor, but the King James Version glory, here in verse 14.

In Luke chapter 7, it is recorded that disciples of John the Baptist had gone to Christ to inquire of Him, to ask Him “Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? ” So Christ answered in reference to John himself: “27 This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. 28 For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

Saying that, while the meaning is similar to the prophecy of Isaiah, Christ was instead referring to a prophecy of John the Baptist found in Malachi, where it says in Malachi chapter 3: “1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.”

John continues his description of the inquisition of John the Baptist:

24 And those who were sent were from of the Pharisees, 25 and they asked him, [א wants “and they asked him,”] and said to him “Then why do you immerse if you are not the Christ nor Elijah nor a prophet?”

So in that same chapter 7 of Luke which we just cited, the apostle recorded the reaction of those who heard what things Yahshua Christ had answered the men who had come from John the Baptist: “29 And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. 30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.”

Explaining the use of ritual baptism amongst early Judaeans, and later amongst the Jews, and in reference to the baptism of John, the the 17th century cleric John Lightfoot in his Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, explained that “… Observing from these things… how very known and frequent the use of baptism was among the Jews, the reason appears very easy why the Sanhedrim, by their messengers, inquire not of John concerning the reason of baptism, but concerning the authority of the baptizer; not what baptism meant, but whence he had a license so to baptize… ” in reference to this very passage of the gospel of John.

John continues to speak of the testimony of John the Baptist:

26 Iohannes replied to them saying [P75 wants “saying”] “I immerse in water. In your midst stands He whom you do not know, 27 He [A and the MT have “It is He who”; א and B want “He”, the text follows P66, P75, C and T.] coming after me [A and the MT insert “who is preferred over me”, for which see verses 15 and 30. The text follows P5, P66, P75, א, B, C and T], of whom I am not worthy [P66 and P75 have a synonym, ἱκανός, instead of ἄξιος] that I loosen the strap of His sandal!” 28 These things happened in Bethania [T has “Bethabara”, as does Origen and some later mss.], across the Jordan, where Iohannes was immersing.

In other places we read another answer from John the Baptist, ostensibly given at another time, which according to the King James Version of Luke chapter 3 reads: “I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” So water baptism was for John, but the baptism of Christ is different. Below, in verse 33, we will see still another confirmation of the difference between the baptism of John and that of Christ. But at this point we must ask why John baptized with water, and why even Christ Himself was baptized by John.

That is answered only in the Law, in the concept of Christ as the Lamb of God, and in the prophecy of John the Baptist found in Malachi chapter 3, which we have already cited in part where Christ Himself described the prophecy to be of John. So a little further on in Malachi chapter 3 it says “and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.”

Then in regard to the priests, we said the following originally in our presentation of Luke chapter 3, given here in June of 2012, and repeated it in our presentation of Malachi chapter 3 given here more recently, in February of 2017:

“In the Old Testament, washing of the body is seen of the priests before they enter into the temple to do service and to make sacrifice. From Leviticus 8:4-6: ‘4 And Moses did as the LORD commanded him; and the assembly was gathered together unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 5 And Moses said unto the congregation, This is the thing which the LORD commanded to be done. 6 And Moses brought Aaron and his sons, and washed them with water.’ And from Numbers 8:21-22: ‘And the Levites were purified, and they washed their clothes; and Aaron offered them as an offering before the LORD; and Aaron made an atonement for them to cleanse them. 22 And after that went the Levites in to do their service in the tabernacle of the congregation before Aaron, and before his sons: as the LORD had commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so did they unto them.’ All of Numbers chapter 8 describes the cleansing of the Levites. Aside from these passages concerning the priests, or certain occasions where people are instructed in what to do upon exposure to diseases or corpses, or certain other circumstances, there is no other ritual cleansing of the body required by the law. Remember the words of Yahweh in the prophecy of Malachi chapter 3, ‘and he shall purify the sons of Levi’: John the Baptist was also a Levite, so he could fulfill the priestly role of cleansing which Moses the Levite had done first, long before him.”

Christ Himself, who was the Lamb of God, was the offering that they offered in righteousness, the righteousness being the will of God. So while He was the Passover Lamb, as we shall see, He was also a sin offering. Thus we read in the law concerning sin offerings, in Leviticus chapter 1: “9 But his inwards and his legs shall he wash in water… 13 But he shall wash the inwards and the legs with water: and the priest shall bring it all, and burn it upon the altar: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.” So John the Baptist fulfilled the requirement of the ceremonial sacrifice ritual by washing the priests, and also by washing the offering.

Continuing with John’s testimony of John the Baptist:

29 The next day he sees Yahshua coming to him and he says: “Look! The Lamb of Yahweh, He removing the error of Society.

This concept of Scripture is described explicitly in Isaiah chapter 53: “1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.”

So this Messianic prophecy declares Christ as a lamb brought to the slaughter on account of the sins of the people, and by that act He took away the sin of the society, meaning the Israelite society.

Later, in 1 Corinthians chapter 5, Paul of Tarsus makes an analogy of sin and leaven, in reference to the Passover, which was celebrated without leaven,where he said “7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” The apostle Peter also wrote of Christ in that manner, where he said in chapter 1 of his first epistle that “18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, 21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.”

Then even later, in the Revelation, in chapter 5 we see a reference to a “Lamb as it had been slain”, and in chapters 6 and 7 several more references to the Lamb, which is Christ. Then after several other references to the Lamb in chapters 12, 13, 14, 15 and 17, in chapter 21 we read where it describes the City of God: “22 And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. 23 And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. ” Christ is the Lamb of God, and He is also the Light of the World. Finally, we see in Revelation chapter 22: “1 And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him.”

It should become evident to a Christian, that the entire dispensation of the Old Testament rituals and feasts were organized with symbolism and allegories that pointed that way to Christ, who was their ultimate salvation as the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”, as He is described in Revelation chapter 13. So the original Passover, where the children of Israel were preserved by the blood of a lamb, was in itself a prophecy of the Christ as the Lamb of God, where in Revelation chapter 7 we read of the saints: “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”, and again in chapter 12 concerning Satan: “11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”

Again continuing with the testimony of John the Baptist:

30 This is He concerning whom I said: ‘A man comes after me who is preferred over me, because He was before me.’ 31 And I did not know Him, but in order that He would be made manifest to Israel, for this reason I came immersing in water.”

So John the Baptist understood his own purpose, that he was to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah, and announce the Messiah Himself when He appeared. Now John received a sign, not for the benefit of Christ, but for his own benefit, that he would be certain of his announcement:

32 And Iohannes testified, saying that: “I observed the Spirit descending as a dove from heaven and it abode upon Him. 33 And I did not know Him, but He who has sent me to immerse in water, He said to me: ‘Upon whom you should see the Spirit descending and abiding upon Him, it is He who immerses in the Holy Spirit [C and a later correction to P75 interpolate “and in fire”, for which see Matthew 3:11].’

Many heresies seem to have evolved from misunderstandings of this passage. The Spirit descending as a dove was not for the benefit of Christ, and it did not change the nature of Christ, who already had the prescience and splendor of God, as John and the other apostles attest of Christ even as He was only a child. Rather, the Spirit descending as a dove was for the benefit of John, as we are informed here, and as John admits that “I did not know him”, it is evident that he needed a sign. So he was told by God: “Upon whom you should see the Spirit descending and abiding upon Him, it is He who immerses in the Holy Spirit”

The final line of John’s testimony here is:

34 And I have seen and have testified that He is the Son [א has ὁ ἐκλεκτός in place of ὁ υἱός] of Yahweh!”

In many other places, unrelated to the prophecies concerning Christ as the Lamb of God, we see that the expected Messiah is also said to be a particular son of David, hence the reference to “the Son”, rather than simply to a son. Many errantly think that the distinction of Christ as “the Son of God” means that He is the only son of God, an idea which the Scriptures frequently refute. Rather, Christ is a particular Son of God, the Son, the Son promised in the Psalms and the prophets.

In Psalm 2 we read: “6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. 7 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. 8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. 9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. 10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”

This does not describe David, and in fact David wrote the Psalm. Much of the language of this Psalm is repeated later in the Revelation in reference to Christ.

Then in Psalm 110: “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” Christ Himself asserted the fact that this passage referred to Him, and in reference to this He challenged the Pharisees by asking them “If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?” This was recorded in all three of the synoptic gospels, as well as in Acts chapter 2 where it is further explained that it did not apply to David himself.

Paul of Tarsus cited both of these Psalms frequently in reference to the status of Christ as the appointed Son over the Creation of God. In Hebrews chapter 1 Paul also cited Psalm 45 in reference to Christ, where it says: “ 6 Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. 7 Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” As Paul said in Romans, Christ is “first born among many brethren”, a particular son and not the only son.

In Matthew chapter 2, we read an interpretation of Hosea 11:1 as it is applied to Christ, but it also certainly applied to Israel as a whole before Christ: “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.” So in Matthew, in reference to the sojourn in Egypt by Joseph and Mary with the Christ child so that they could escape the wrath of Herod, we read: “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.” Christ being one of the children of Israel and just like His brethren, He also came out of Egypt as they once did.

The concept is seen in one other prominent place, in a prophecy that never actually had an immediate fulfillment, although in some aspects it had an immediate application. That is in Isaiah chapter 9: “6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. 8 The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel.” The appointed child would certainly also be the Light of the World.

Finally, before shifting his focus to the ministry of Christ, John records one more event from John the Baptist’s ministry, which itself serves as a point of transition:

35 The next day Iohannes again [P5 and P75 want “again”] stood, and two from among the students, 36 and looking at Yahshua walking about he says: “Look, the Lamb of Yahweh!” 37 And [א wants “And”] his two students heard the saying and followed Yahshua.

The 3rd century papyrus P66 and the Codex Ephraemi Syri (C) interpolate "He removing the error of the Society" at the end of the exclamation in verse 36. Compare verse 29 above.

We will continue with our discussion of these students when we next resume our presentation of the Gospel of John.

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