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Week 4: The Gospel of John, Chapter 1

The following will be a commentary style on The Gospel of John, Chapter 1. I will not quote the verses, but, for brevity's sake, simply write the commentary beside the associated verse. This commentary is best used by reading it side by side with the chapter open.

Introduction


The Gospel of John is my personal favorite out of the four gospels.  Why? It can be summed up by Dr. Margaret Barker:

"The 'background' to the Fourth Gospel is temple tradition and the memories and hopes of those who longed for the true temple to be restored." (King of the Jews: Temple Theology in John's Gospel, p. 2)

She goes on to write how the Gospel of John really focuses on Jesus' debates with the Jews of his time. This is to serve as a contrast between what scholars call the first temple period and the second temple period. This also explains why John goes through such great lengths in this prelude in identifying Jesus as Jehovah. She, Dr. Barker, further claims the Church community of the first Christians would have understood John's writings as a temple text.

The timeline for when John's Gospel was written is interesting. Scholars suggest that it was written between 90 and 100 CE. It is generally understood that John wrote this volume AFTER he first compiled The Book of Revelation. Dr. Barker, therefore, suggests that the Gospel of John should be read through the lens of The Book of Revelation. The temple themes in the last book in the biblical canon are hard to miss, but the temple themes in the Gospel of John become more abundant when we have trained our eyes to see them. In short, John interprets the life of Christ through his revelatory experience. His revelatory experience is drenched in temple theology.

(image from Catholic Exchange)

John Chapter 1

Verse 1: Hugh Nibley provides an interesting translation for this verse:

"In the ruling council was a spokesman and the spokesman was in the Godhead, that is among the gods, and the spokesman was himself a god." (1)

This, therefore, ties John's declaration of Jesus Christ directly to what scholars call the Divine Council. It is commonly understood that this Divine Council meets within the Heavenly Temple in which the temples on earth are a symbol. Jesus was among the noble and great ones in the pre-earth life. Even more so, among these noble and great ones (i.e. 'gods') he was actually a member of the Godhead.

Verse 2: Thomas Wayment adds the word 'thus' to the beginning of this verse (see The New Testament: A Translation for Latter-Day Saints, p. 165). Therefore, this adds to the theme that Christ was in the midst of the Divine Council and was, 'thus', in the beginning with God. This is important to John in that he is trying to show that Jesus was in very deed THE Jehovah of the Old Testament.

Verse 4: An interesting parallel here is found in Genesis 3:20 surrounding Eve. Wayment translates the end of verse 4 as "and the life was the light of humanity" (see NT:TLDS, p. 165). For more interesting reading on this topic, see here.

Verse 5: Abundant scriptures attest that the light is Jesus Christ. It ought to be pointed out, that this same light is the light of men in verse 4. This is a reference to the Light of Christ. Also, this scripture could suggest to us that all of us have a divine nature and the seed of divinity within us. We bring it out through Jesus Christ. The cares of the world and our pride allows darkness to creep in so that we do not comprehend it. Other biblical translations use the term 'overcome' instead of 'comprehend'. The darkness cannot comprehend the light, nor can it overcome it.

Verse 6: We get the first mention of John the Baptist. "The English name John is the transliteration of the Greek name Ioannes, and the Greek name Ioannes is the transliteration of the Hebrew name Johanan... For a meaning of the name John, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Yahweh Has Been Gracious, but for Johanan NOBSE reads Yahweh Is Gracious." (1)

Verse 9: The wording here matches D&C 93:2 and connects to Moroni 7:16. Christ is in all of us through the 'channel' of the light of Christ. John the Baptist was a witness to awake all who would listen to the spark of deity inside of them.

Verse 10-13: John, here, is perhaps setting the ironic stage of Christ being rejected by his own people even though he was the Jehovah who has kept them, protected them, and created them. They do not comprehend his divine identity. Those who do, though, become the sons of God. Bruce R. McConkie gives this insight that can start to change the way we read this scripture and all those scriptures that touch the same idea:

"We are well aware that all men are the children of God, the offspring of the Father, his sons and his daughters. We know that we were all born in his courts as spirit beings, long before the foundations of this earth were laid, and that the Lord Jehovah was, in fact, the Firstborn Son. What is not so well known is that nearly all the passages of scripture, both ancient and modern, which speak of God as our Father and of men on earth being the sons of God, have no reference to our birth in preexistence as the children of Elohim, but teach rather that Jehovah is our Father and we are his children." - Bruce R. McConkie ("The Promised Messiah", pgs. 351-352)

To become a child/son of God also includes the women. For me, what it looks like to fully become 'a child/son of God' is found in Moses 6:64-68. In verse 68 it equates it with being "one in me (God)". Speaking of this same event that happened to Adam, Moses 5:58-59 puts it in terms of temple ordinances received from the angels. In short, John here is inviting all to partake of the ordinances of the Holy Temple. It is through the fulness of those ordinances that we become children of God in the sense of what it means to be "born again".

Verses 16: This is quoted in D&C 93:12. A reading of that section yields some light intensive insight into what John is getting at in this first chapter. The JST of this verse confirms that, as Dr. Barker refers to them, 'the Johannine Community' (those members of the Church who lived and followed John) had attained some light intensive temple privileges. It speaks of this community having received the promise of eternal life and immortality in the past tense.

Verse 18: In the same vein as verse 16, we find in the JST that the promise of eternal life is accompanied by a visitation of sorts from the Savior. Even further, the phrase 'hath declared him' can also be translated as "explaining the mysteries" (KOJ, p. 163).

Verse 19: This verse is the beginning of John the Baptist's story. It is the start of a new thought. The details we get about him in the Gospel of John are unique. To not go too far into the weeds, the quick invoking of John the Baptist into the narrative should be seen as the authority of Aaron (which ruled during the second temple period) handing the reigns over to the new Melchizedek (i.e. Jesus Christ).

Verses 21 & 25: 'The Prophet' is a reference to the scriptures in Deuteronomy 18:15-18. The footnotes suggest it is a reference to Jesus Christ.

Verse 29: We get the Baptist referring to Christ as 'The Lamb of God'. This name of the Savior is used heavily in the Book of Mormon, but rarely in the New Testament. The shortened title, 'lamb', is used abundantly in the Book of Revelation. This pointed to the Day of Atonement in which two goats would be used. One would be the scapegoat who would bear the sins of Israel away and the other was sacrificed. The sacrificial goat would have its blood sprinkled upon the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies. Barker notes the significance:

"The Servant of the Lord who suffered (i.e. Christ) was called the Lamb not because the atonement offering was a lamb... but because temple discourse used wordplay, and both servant and lamb could be represented by the same Aramaic word taly├ó - literally 'young one'... 'lamb' [therefore] would indicate the Servant in his human state." (KOJ, p. 184)

The Servant/Lamb is a reference to the Servant Songs in Isaiah. These popular Servant Songs include Isaiah 42:1-4; Isaiah 49:1-6; Isaiah 50:4-7; and Isaiah 52:13-53:12. The point is that much was being implied and put on Jesus with the title "Lamb of God". 

Verse 32: Remember, this is the Baptist speaking to a group of Jews AFTER Christ's baptism. This is not in real time like the Synoptic Gospels are. This is interesting in that it lets us comprehend the impact that event had on the Baptist. The spirit descending like a dove has light intensive meaning. A look at figure 7 in facsimile 2 in The Book of Abraham shows "the sign of the Holy Ghost unto Abraham, in the form of a dove." In addition, Joseph Smith gives this commentary:

"The sign of the dove was instituted before the creation of the world, a witness for the Holy Ghost, and the devil cannot come in the sign of a dove. The Holy Ghost is a personage [a man], and is in the form of a personage [a man]. It does not confine itself to the form of the dove, but in sign [symbol or representation] of the dove. The Holy Ghost cannot be transformed into a dove; but the sign of a dove was given to John to signify the truth of the deed, as the dove is an emblem or token of truth and innocence." (TPJS, p. 276)

The sign of the dove is a token of how one can discern true revelation from false revelation. It is interesting, therefore, that facsimile 2 figure 7 has another meaning in addition to the sign of the dove. Joseph Smith explains it as "... God sitting upon his throne, revealing through the heavens the grand Key-words of the Priesthood" (note the hands and arms of the figures). The Baptist was given a sign to discern that he was in very deed the Messiah. It was a sign that mirrors other methods used to detect truth from error.

Verse 33: The baptism of the Holy Ghost that the Baptist attaches to Christ should be seen in connection with the earlier wording of John when he speaks of giving us the power to become the Children of God. This baptism of the Holy Ghost is spoken of in Moses 6:66 in very profound fashion with its surrounding context. In other words, Christ has come to bring the ordinances of the Temple. The power that flows from Him is the same that flows from the Temple. This appears to be confirmed when Joseph Smith speaks of receiving a 'fulness of the Holy Ghost' in the Temple (see D&C 109:15).

Verse 34: 'Son of Man' is short for 'Son of the Man of Holiness' (see 'GS, Son of Man' and Moses 6:57). This is another name title that implies much.

Verses 35-39: We have the Baptist refer to Christ again as 'the Lamb'. Verse 37 is worded in the earliest manuscripts to suggest that this term is all they really needed to hear from the Baptist in order to follow Jesus. These disciples understood the significance of the term, apparently.

Verse 42: Here we have the first intimations of Peter being connected with a rock. It echoes loudly of Matthew 16:18. The term 'rock' in that verse is referring to overcoming 'the gates of hell' which scholars suggest is a term for the world of the dead (i.e. Sheol or spirit prison). This is, no doubt, Christ from the outset calling Peter and noting the sealing powers which will be given him. This is also the writer, John, showing how Christ went right to work with the intent of restoring and proliferating the blessings of the temple that were lost for so long.

Verse 45: Some scholars believe that Nathanael is Bartholomew the Apostle.

Verse 46: The concern of Nathanael was that prophecy spoke of the Messiah coming from Bethlehem (see Micah 5:1). The Messiah coming from Nazareth offended his sense of what the scriptures said.

Verses 48-49: These verses are confusing because it appears that Jesus says he saw Nathanael from a distance and, somehow, this convinced Nathanael to follow him. It seems rather simplistic, in other words. Thankfully, Bruce R. McConkie gives this commentary:

"Jesus here exercises his powers of seership. From the fragmentary account preserved in the scripture, it is apparent that Nathaneal had undergone some surpassing spiritual experience while praying or meditating, or worshiping under a fig tree. The Lord and giver of all things spiritual, though absent in body, had been present with Nathaneal in spirit; and the guileless Israelite, seeing this manifestation of seership, was led to accept Jesus as the Messiah." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Vol 1, p. 134)

Verses 50-51: No doubt, Nathanael was awestruck and amazed by the Messiah's seership. Christ gives him a further promise. He promises that Nathanael will "see greater things than these". Verse 51 appears to be a further and more specific addendum to "greater things than these" when Christ speaks of seeing the angels of God (i.e. the Divine Council) communing with the Son of Man.

Interestingly, the phrase "greater things than these", or a slight variation of it, is used 4 times in the Book of Mormon (see Mormon 8:12, Helaman 14:28, Ether 4:4, & 3 Nephi 16:14). It is not used again in all of scripture. In each case, it is used in reference to visitations and greater light and knowledge.

This is Christ promising unto Nathanael the privileges that come to those who honor the priesthood of the first temple period; namely, the Melchizedek Priesthood as it is exercised in Temples. These same blessings are available to us:

"Personal revelation is not limited to gaining a testimony and knowing thereby that Jesus, through whom the gospel came, is Lord of all, nor is it limited to receiving guidance in our personal and family affairs -- although these are the most common examples of revelation among the Lord's people. In truth and in verity, there is no limit to the revelations each member of the Church may receive. It is within the power of every person who has received the gift of the Holy Ghost to see visions, entertain angels, learn the deep and hidden mysteries of the kingdom, and even see the face of God.
If all things operate by law, and they do; if God is no respecter of persons, and certainly he is perfectly impartial; if his course is one eternal round, never varying from age to age, and such truly is the case -- then all of the gifts and graces and revelations ever given to any prophet, seer, or revelator in any age will be given again to any soul who obeys the law entitling him so to receive." - Bruce R. McConkie (New Witness of the Witness of the Articles of Faith, p. 489)


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