John 1:15
John bore witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spoke, He that comes after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.
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(15) John bare witness of him, and cried.—Better, John beareth witness of him, and crieth. The latter verb is past in tense, but present in meaning. For the sense comp. Note on John 7:37. The writer thinks of the testimony as ever present, ever forceful. Twice on successive days had he heard them from the lips of the Baptist; three times within a few verses does he himself record them. (Comp. John 1:27; John 1:30.) They are among the words stamped on the heart in the crisis of life, and as fresh in the aged Apostle as they had been in the youthful inquirer. He remembers how he heard them, and from whom they came. That wondrous spiritual power in their midst which all men felt, whose witness men would have accepted had he declared that he was himself the Christ, uttered his witness then, and it holds good now. It is quoted here as closely bound up with the personal reminiscence of John 1:14, and with the thought of John 1:6-7.

John 1:15. John bare witness of him, saying, This is he, &c. — “This might probably happen at the time when Jesus made his first appearance among those that came to be baptized by John; when, at his offering to receive his baptism, though John before had been a stranger to him, and knew him not by any personal acquaintance with him, yet, by some powerful impression on his mind, he presently discerned that this was He whom he before had taught the people to expect, and of whose person he had given them so high a character. For it was plainly from his knowledge of him, that John at first would have declined baptizing him as an honour of which he looked upon himself to be unworthy. Nor is it to be doubted, that when first he knew the person, of whose appearance he had raised such expectations by his preaching, he would immediately be ready to acquaint his hearers, that this was he who was intended by him; which they themselves might have been ready to conclude from the uncommon veneration and respect with which the Baptist treated him, who had been always used to treat men with the greatest plainness.” He that cometh after me is preferred before me — Namely, by God. “Erasmus supposes, that John here refers to the honours which he knew had been paid to Jesus in his infancy, by the angel who announced his birth to the shepherds; by the shepherds themselves; by the eastern sages; by Simeon and Anna; honours which could not be paralleled by any thing which had happened to him. But the words seem to have a more extensive meaning, comprehending the superior dignity of Christ’s nature, office, commission, and exaltation, as Mediator. See Matthew 3:11, the passage here referred to. For he was before me — It is fit that Jesus should be raised above me, because he is a person superior in nature to me. For though he was born after me, he existed before me.” “This must undoubtedly refer to the state of glory in which Christ existed before his incarnation, of which the Baptist speaks so plainly, John 3:31.” See Doddridge and Macknight.1:15-18 As to the order of time and entrance on his work, Christ came after John, but in every other way he was before him. The expression clearly shows that Jesus had existence before he appeared on earth as man. All fulness dwells in him, from which alone fallen sinners have, and shall receive, by faith, all that renders them wise, strong, holy, useful, and happy. Our receivings by Christ are all summed up in this one word, grace; we have received even grace, a gift so great, so rich, so invaluable; the good will of God towards us, and the good work of God in us. The law of God is holy, just, and good; and we should make the proper use of it. But we cannot derive from it pardon, righteousness, or strength. It teaches us to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour, but it cannot supply the place of that doctrine. As no mercy comes from God to sinners but through Jesus Christ, no man can come to the Father but by him; no man can know God, except as he is made known in the only begotten and beloved Son.John bare witness of him - The evangelist now returns to the testimony of John the Baptist. He had stated that the Word became incarnate, and he now appeals to the testimony of John to show that, thus incarnate, he was the Messiah.

He that cometh after me - He of whom I am the forerunner, or whose way I am come to prepare. See the notes at Matthew 3:3.

Is preferred before me - Is superior to me. Most critics have supposed that the words translated "is preferred" relate to "time," and not to "dignity;" meaning that though he came after him publicly, being six months younger than John, as well as entering on his work after John, yet that he had existed long before him. Most, however, have understood it more correctly, as our translators seem to have done, as meaning, He was worthy of more honor than Iam.

He was before me - This can refer to nothing but his pre-existence, and can be explained only on the supposition that he existed before John, or, as the evangelist had before shown, from the beginning. He came "after" John in his public ministry and in his human nature, but in his divine nature he had existed long before John had a being - from eternity. We may learn here that it is one mark of the true spirit of a minister of Christ to desire and feel that Christ is always to be preferred to ourselves. We should keep ourselves out of view. The great object is to hold up the Saviour; and however much ministers may be honored or blessed, yet they should lay all at the feet of Jesus, and direct all men to him as the undivided object of affection and honor. It is the business of every Christian, as well as of every Christian minister, to be a witness for Christ, and to endeavor to convince the world that he is worthy of confidence and love.

Joh 1:15. A Saying of the Baptist Confirmatory of This.

15. after me—in official manifestation.

before me—in rank and dignity.

for he was before me—in existence; "His goings forth being from of old, from everlasting" (Mic 5:2). (Anything lower than this His words cannot mean); that is, "My Successor is my Superior, for He was my Predecessor." This enigmatic play upon the different senses of the words "before" and "after" was doubtless employed by the Baptist to arrest attention, and rivet the thought; and the Evangelist introduces it just to clinch his own statements.

John bare witness of him, and cried, saying: John was not he, but only a witness to him; and he continueth to bear witness (the verb is in the present tense); nor did he give an obscure or cold testimony, but an open, and plain, and fervent testimony, according to the prophecies, his testimony was the voice of one crying in the wilderness.

This was he of whom I spake; he first testified that Christ was he of whom he had before spoken; possibly when he was preaching in the wilderness, and Christ came to him to be baptized of him, Matthew 3:11,14.

He that cometh after me is preferred before me; he that cometh after me, in order of time, or in the ministerial office and employment, or, as if he were my disciple, John 8:12, is become, or is made, before me.

For he was before me, both in the eternal destination, and in respect of his Divine nature; as also in dignity and eminency, considered as a prophet, i.e. one that revealeth my Father’s will. This John said before, though not in terms, yet in effect, when he said, Matthew 3:11, He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear, & c. So Mark 1:7 Luke 3:16. This is the first thing which is here mentioned, as John’s testimony concerning Christ, respecting the excellency of his person. John bare witness of him,.... Which was his office and business, for which purpose he was sent, John 1:6.

and cried; this agrees with his work and office, according to the prophecy of him in Isaiah 40:3 and with the time of his ministry, the year of jubilee; and with the nature of his ministry, which was clear, open, and public; and performed with vigour, and in a powerful manner, with much assurance and certainty, with boldness and intrepidity, and with great zeal and fervency, and in an evangelical way; for it was such a cry as debased the creature, and exalted Christ:

this was he, of whom I spake; when he first entered upon his ministry and baptism, before he saw Christ, or baptized him; see Matthew 3:11.

he that cometh after me; for Christ came into the world after John; he was born six months after him; he came after him to be baptized by him, and attended on his ministry; and came later into the public ministry than he did,

is preferred before me; by God, the Father, in setting him up as Mediator; constituting him the head of the church; causing a fulness of grace to dwell in him; appointing him the Saviour of his people; and ordaining him judge of quick and dead. And by the prophets, who spake much of him, and sparingly of John; and of him as the Messiah and Saviour, and of John only as his harbinger: and by John himself, who represents him as coming from above, and as above all; and himself as of the earth, earthly: and by all Gospel ministers, and every true believer; and good reason there is for it:

for he was before me; which cannot be meant of honour and dignity; for this is expressed before; and it would be proving one thing by the same: nor of his birth, as man; for John in that sense was before him, being born before him; besides, being born before another, is no proof of superior worth; others were born before John, whom he yet excelled: but of his eternal existence, as the word, and Son of God, who was before John, or any of the prophets; before Abraham, and Noah, and Adam, or any creature whatever: the Arabic and Persic versions read, "for he was more ancient than me"; being from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.

{8} John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh {b} after me is preferred {c} before me: for he was before me.

(8) John is a faithful witness of the excellency of Christ.

(b) That is, He before whom I am sent to prepare him the way: so that these words refer to the time of his calling, and not of his age, for John was six months older than Christ.

(c) This sentence has in it a turning of the reason as we call it, as one would say, a setting of that first which should be last, and that last which should be first: for in plain speech it is this, He that comes after me, is better than I am, for he was before me. We find a similar turning of the reason in Lu 7:47: Many sins are forgiven her, because she loved much, which is this much to say, She loved much, because many sins are forgiven her.

John 1:15. It is to this great fact of salvation to which the Baptist bears testimony, and his testimony was confirmed by the gracious experience of us all (John 1:16).

μαρτυρεῖ] Representation of it as present, as if the testimony were still sounding forth.

κέκραγε] “clamat Joh. cum fiducia et gaudio, uti magnum praeconem decet,” Bengel. He crieth, comp. John 7:28; John 7:37, John 12:44; Romans 9:27. The Perfect in the usual classical sense as a present (βοῶνκαὶ κεκραγώς, Dem. 271, 11; Soph. Aj. 1136; Arist. Plut. 722, Vesp. 415). Not so elsewhere in the N. T. Observe, too, the solemn circumstantial manner in which the testimony is introduced: “John bears witness of Him, and cries while he says.”

οὗτος ἦν] ἦν is used, because John is conceived as speaking at the present time, and therefore as pointing back to a testimony historically past: “This was He whom I meant at the time when I said.” With εἰπεῖν τινα, “to speak of any one,” comp. John 10:36; Xen. Cyr. vii. 3. 5; Plato, Crat. p. 432 C; Hom. Il. ζ. 479. See on John 8:27.

ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμ. ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν] “He who cometh after me is come before me;”—in how far is stated in the clause ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν, which assigns the reason. The meaning of the sentence and the point of the expression depend upon this,—namely, that Christ in His human manifestation appeared after John, but yet, as the pre-mundane Logos, preceded him, because He existed before John. On γίνεσθαι with an adverb, especially of place, in the sense of coming as in John 7:25, see Krüger on Xen. Anab. i. 2. 7; Kühner, II. p. 39; Nägelsbach, note on Iliad, ed. 3, p. 295. Comp. Xen. Cyrop. vii. 1. 22, ἐγένετο ὄπισθεν τῶν ἁρμαμαξῶν; Anab. vii. 1. 10; i. 8. 24. Both are adverbs of place, so that, however, the time is represented as local, not the rank (ἐντιμότερός μοῦ ἐστι, Chrysostom; so most critics, even Lücke, Tholuck, Olshausen, Maier, De Wette),[102] which would involve a diversity in the manner of construing the two particles (the first being taken as relating to time), and the sentence then becomes trivial, and loses its enigmatical character, since, indeed, the one who appears later need not possess on that account any lower dignity. Origen long ago rightly understood both clauses as relating to time, though the second is not therefore to be rendered “He was before me” (Luther and many, also Brückner, Baeumlein), since ἦν is not the word;[103] nor yet: “He came into being before me,” which would not be referable “to the O. T. advent of Christ” (Lange), but, in harmony with the idea of μονογενής, to His having come forth from God prior to all time. It is decisive against both, that ὍΤΙ ΠΡῶΤΌς ΜΟΥ ἮΝ would be tautological,—an argument which is not to be set aside by any fanciful rendering of ΠΡῶΤΟς (see below). Nonnus well remarks: ΠΡῶΤΟς ἘΜΕῖΟ ΒΈΒΗΚΕΝ, ὈΠΊΣΤΕΡΟς ὍΣΤΙς ἹΚΆΝΕΙ. Comp. Godet and Hengstenberg; also in his Christol. III. 1, p. 675, “my successor is my predecessor,” where, however, his assumption of a reference to Malachi 3:1 is without any hint to that effect in the words. According to Luthardt (comp Hofmann, Weissag. u. Erf. II. 256), what is meant to be said is: “He who at first walked behind me, as if he were my disciple, has taken precedence of me, i.e. He has become my master.” But the enigma of the sentence lies just in this, that ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμ. expresses something still future, as this also answers to the formal ἔρχεσθαι used of the Messiah’s advent. Hofmann’s view, therefore, is more correct, Schriftbew. II. 1, p. 10 ff.,—namely, that the meaning of the Baptist is, “while Jesus is coming after him, He is already before him”. But even thus ἐμπρ. μου γέγ. amounts to a figurative designation of rank, which is not appropriate to the clause ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν, which assigns the reason, and manifestly refers to time.

ὍΤΙ ΠΡῶΤΌς ΜΟΥ ἮΝ] is a direct portion of the Baptist’s testimony which has just been adduced (against Hengstenberg), as John 1:30 shows, presenting the key to the preceding Oxymoron: for before me He was in existence. The reference to rank (Chrysostom, Erasmus, Beza, Calvin, Grotius, and most comm., also B. Crusius and Hofmann), according to which we should construe, “He was more than I”, is at once overthrown by ἦν, instead of which we ought to have ἘΣΤΊΝ. Comp. Matthew 3:11. Only a rendering which refers to time (i.e. only the pre-existence of the Logos) solves the apparent opposition between subject and predicate in the preceding declaration.

πρῶτος in the sense of ΠΡΌΤΕΡΟς, answering to the representation, “first in comparison with me”.[104] See Herm. ad Viger. p. 718; Dorvill. ad Charit. p. 478; Bernhardy, Eratosth. 42, p. 122. We must not, with Winer and Baur, force in the idea of absolute priority.[105] Comp. John 15:18; and Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 74 [E. T. p. 84]. This also against Ewald (“far earlier”), Hengstenberg, Brückner, Godet (“the principle of my existence”). To refuse to the Baptist all idea of the pre-existence of the Messiah, and to represent his statement merely as one put into his mouth by the evangelist (Strauss, Weisse, B. Bauer, De Wette, Scholten, and many others), is the more baseless, the more pointed and peculiar is the testimony; the greater the weight the evangelist attaches to it, the less it can be questioned that deep-seeing men were able, by means of such O. T. passages as Malachi 3:1, Isaiah 6:1 ff., Daniel 7:13 ff., to attain to that idea, which has even Rabbinical testimony in its support (Bertholdt, Christol. p. 131), and the more resolutely the pioneer of the Messiah, under the influence of divine revelation, took his stand as the last of the prophets, the Elias who had come.

[102] This rendering is not ungrammatical (in opposition to Hengstenberg), if it only be maintained that, even while adopting it, the local meaning of ἔμπροσθεν is not changed. (Comp. Genesis 48:20; Bar 2:5.)

[103] So, too, in Matthew 19:8 and John 20:27, γίνεσθαι does not mean esse, but fieri (against Baeumlein); so also in passages such as Luke 1:5, 2 Peter 2:1.

[104] Comp. the genitive relation in πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως, Colossians 1:15.

[105] Philippi, d. Eingang d. Joh. Ev. p. 179: “He is the unconditioned first (i.e. the eternal), in relation to me.” The comparison of A and Ω in the Revelation is inapplicable here, because we have not the absolute ὁ πρῶτος, but πρῶτός μου.John 1:15. Ἰωάννης μαρτυρεῖπρῶτός μοῦ ἦν. At first sight this verse seems an irrelevant interpolation thrust in between the πλήρης of John 1:14 and the.πλήρωμα of John 1:16. Euthymius gives the connection: εἰ καὶ μὴ ἐγώ, φησι, δοκῶ τισιν ἴσως ἀξιόπισ· τος, ἀλλὰ πρὸ ἐμοῦ ὁ Ἰωάννης μαρτυρεῖ περὶ τῆς θεότητος αὐτοῦ· Ἰωάννης ἐκεῖνος οὗ τὸ ὄνομα μέγα καὶ περιβόητον παρὰ πᾶσι τοῖς Ἰονδαίοις. “John witnesses and cries, saying οὗτος ἦν ὃν εἶπον. This was He of whom I said ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος,” etc. This testimony was given to Andrew and John, John 1:30; but when the previous “saying” occurred we do not know, unless it be referred to the answer to the authorities, John 1:27. The meaning of the testimony will be considered in the next section of the Gospel, which is entitled “The Testimony of John”.15. bare witness] Better, bears witness. At the end of a long life this testimony of the Baptist abides still fresh in the heart of the aged Apostle. Three times in 20 verses (15, 27, 30) he records the cry which was such an epoch in his own life. The testimony remains as a memory for him, a truth for all.

and cried] Better, and cries. The word indicates strong emotion, characteristic of a prophet. Comp. John 7:28; John 7:37, John 12:44; Isaiah 40:3.

of whom I spake] As if his first utterance under the influence of the Spirit had been scarcely intelligible to himself.

He that cometh after, &c.] The exact meaning seems to be—‘He who is coming after me (in His ministry as in His birth) has become superior to me, for He was in existence from all eternity before me.’ Christ’s pre-existence in eternity a great deal more than cancelled John’s pre-existence in the world; and as soon as He appeared as a teacher He at once eclipsed His forerunner. But this is not quite certain. The words translated ‘is preferred before me,’ or ‘is become superior to me,’ literally mean ‘has come to be before me;’ and this may refer to time and not to dignity. But the perfect tense ‘has come to be, has become’ points to dignity rather than time. Moreover if ‘has become before me’ refers to time, this is almost tautology with ‘for He was before me,’ which must refer to time.

he was before me] The Greek is peculiar, being the superlative instead of the comparative; not simply ‘prior to me,’ but ‘first of me.’ Perhaps it means ‘before me and first of all.’John 1:15. Μαρτυρεῖ, bears witness) From this point the testimony of John is described more at large; and the whole passage, from John 1:15-28, is indeed composed of two members, but, however, both parts fall on the one day: for, in John 1:19, it is not said on the following day, or any like expression: and the discourse, John 1:29, etc., which John spake on the following day, has reference to the former part of the whole passage, rather than to the latter. Moreover, the following days are so closely connected with this one day, that the baptism of the Lord, and His sojourn in the wilderness, ought not to be interposed or subjoined, but be placed before. Therefore John in testifying of Him, and crying out [John 1:15], This is He of whom I spake, must either then have had Jesus before his eyes, after He had returned from the wilderness—comp. John 1:29; John 1:36, “John seeth Jesus coming unto Him: looking upon Jesus as He walked”—or at least have heard previously striking reports concerning Him.—κέκραγε, cried [cries]) This has the force of a present, as John 1:19, this is the record: because it is connected with μαρτυρεῖ, bears witness, and this itself, in its turn, is put instead of the Preterite. Some compare with this passage Aristides, who says, ἡ πόλις αὐτὴ συνομολογεῖ καὶ κέκραγε. John cries with confidence and joy, as becomes a great preacher [herald]: John 1:23 “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord,” in order that all might hear and believe, John 1:7 [to bear witness of the Light, that all men through Him might believe].—λέγων, saying) After the baptism of Jesus.—οὗτος, This) Jesus. John had spoken indefinitely before the baptism of the Lord, concerning the Christ coming after John, and he had not himself known Him by face: but in His baptism he recognised Him first, and immediately after bare witness that this Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.—εἶπον, I spake) Before the baptism of Jesus. Matthew, Mark, and Luke, describe what John the Baptist said before the baptism of Jesus: but the Evangelist John records what John the Baptist said after the baptism of Jesus, in such a way, however, that at the same time he refers himself to what had been said previously. In John 1:15 the expression is, ὃν εἶπὸν, whom I spake of, not περὶ οὗ εἶπον, respecting whom I said: wherefore there is no need to suppose that the whole subsequent discourse is here referred to, as if uttered by John before the baptism of the Lord. It is enough that he said, that after him comes One much more powerful, ἰσχυρότερος. The other words, ἔμπροσθεν, κ.τ.λ., the evangelist has appended, as promulgated by John the Baptist after that baptism. The speech is concise [in mode of expression] as often, in this sense: I spake, that there is one who is to come after me. And This is the very person who is come after me. This is the very person, saith he, who was made [is preferred] before me. (A similar mode of expression occurs Deuteronomy 33:18, “And of Zebulun he said, Rejoice, Zebulun, in thy going out; and, Issachar, in thy tents,” where similarly, under the title [lemmate] And to [or of] Zebulun he said, that also which he spake to Issachar is narrated). But, in verse 30, it is περὶ οὗ, concerning whom: and in the same passage the εἶπον, I said, now [no longer bearing the meaning it had in John 1:15] denotes those things which John the Baptist, at the actual time of the baptism, and immediately after and previously.—γέγονεν, was made) This is not said of His Divine nature, but of the office of the Christ: and it is said again, John 1:27, and a third time, John 1:30, where He is called ανήρ, a man. In this sense: He who was behind my back is now before my face, and has outstripped me, and left me behind Him. Jesus obtained this priority in His baptism [wherein He was proclaimed by GOD Himself to be the Son of GOD, before that He had any disciple.—V. g.]; John 1:31; John 1:34, “I knew Him not, but that He should be made manifest to Israel—I saw and bare record that this is the Son of God;” ch. John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease;” comp. Php 3:13, “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,” where ὀπίσω and ἔμπροσθε are contrasted: nor does ἔμπροσθεν ever mean before [prius], in reference to time; in which case there would be nothing else asserted in this clause than what is asserted in the following [for He was before me]: but it means before [ante], in reference to position, and here in reference to grade. Γίνεσθαι καὶ εἶναι, to become, and to be, with an adverb, often change the signification of the adverb into that of a noun: ch. John 6:25 [πότε ὧδε γέγονας]; Acts 13:5 [γενόμενοι ἐν Σαλαμῖνι]; Ephesians 2:13 [οἵ ποτε ὄντες μακρὰν ἐγγὺς ἐγενήθητε]; 2 Thessalonians 2:7 [ἔως ἐκ μέσου γένηται]; 2 Timothy 1:17 [γενόμενος ἐν Ῥώμῃ]; Romans 7:3 [εἂν γένηται ἀνδρὶ ἑτέρῷ]; ch. John 16:7 [γέγονασίν ἐν Χρίστῳ.] So 2 Samuel 11:23, ἐγενήθημεν ἐπʼ αὐτοὺς; Acts 5:34, ἔξω ποιῆσαι. E. Schmid has collected more examples, at Mark 4:10 [ἐγένετο κατὰ μόνας].—ὅτι, because) This is the idea: [I said that] He who was coming after me outstripped and left me behind, because He was far before me. The infinite excellence of His person is the foundation of His precedency, so to speak, in office.—πρῶτος μου) Before me [nay, even prior to Abraham; yea, also prior to the world.—V. g.] A parallel expression is that: I am not worthy to unloose His shoe’s latchet [thong], John 1:27.Verse 15. -

(6) The testimony to this fact by the prophetic spirit. The evangelist, in support and vindication of the profound impression produced upon himself and others by the Christ, cites the startling and paradoxical testimony of the Baptist, which in John's own hearing the great forerunner had twice uttered, under very extraordinary circumstances (see vers. 26, 30). In the later verses this testimony is put in its proper place. Its repetition deepens the impression which the narrative gives of the vivid reality, and of the fact that the evangelist was trusting to a strongly impressed recollection, and is not romanticizing, as the Tubingen critics suppose. The sharp paradoxical form is thoroughly characteristic of the man who called on scribes and Pharisees to "repent," and spoke of God raising up seed to Abraham from the stones of the ground. From the synoptists we learn that John declared that the Coming One was "mightier" than himself, would deal with the Holy Ghost and with fire as he was able to do with water. He knew not the kind of manifestation which was coming on apace. But an enormous change passed over John the Baptist when he came into contact with our Lord, and at his baptism he sank abashed before the revelations which flashed on his soul. The enigmatical form of the Baptist's utterances was the beginning of the evangelist's faith in the personal pre-existence of the Logos who had become flesh in Christ. The testimony of the Baptist is here brought in, as the last great word of the prophetic ministry of the Old Testament, apart from the historic setting in which it afterwards occurs, as if, moreover, it was an abiding word which was yet sounding in the ears of men. The greatest of the sons of woman, and "more than a prophet," he who gathered up in his immense personality all the functions of prophet, priest, Nazarite, and master and teacher of men, the Elijah of the new revelation - John, the very ideal of Divine and supernatural voice in this world of ours, John, the veritable historic man, moreover, to whose disastrous martyrdom some of the Jews (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 18, 5, 2) referred the terrible judgments that befell their nation - John beareth witness. That was his function, and his testimony still stands, his "voice" is still heard wherever his great career is known or properly appreciated - in Palestine, in Alexandria, in Ephesus or Corinth. And he crieth (κέκραγεν); or, hath cried; and the cry is still heard among men: This was he of whom I spake; implying that John uttered words of strange enigmatical significance before he saw Jesus coming to his baptism, and that, as the evangelist subsequently shows, on two memorable occasions, the prophet recalled them and reaffirmed their truthfulness. Before I saw him, I said it: He that is coming after me hath become - hath been in mighty activity - before me. He came forth in many ways from the Father, and was the central reality of the old covenant; γέγονεν, he hath come in the voice of the Lord, in the Shechinah glory, in the Angel of the presence, chronologically "before me." The English Version has followed the traditionary interpretation from Chrysostom to Lucke, De Wette, Alford, McLellan, and has seen in this ἐμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν a reference to the higher rank or dignity of the Logos incarnate, and translated the second clause "is preferred before me," or "hath been made before me," etc. But such a statement would not have conveyed any thought of great importance. A herald is naturally exceeded and superseded by the dignity and rank of him for whom he prepares the way. Moreover, the two adverbs of place are used in metaphorical sense as adverbs of time (derived from the relative position of individuals in a line or procession), and it is scarcely probable that the second should be used in another sense altogether, which would have disturbed the antithesis between them. On the other hand, Hengstenberg, Meyer, Lange, Godet, etc., recognize the perception of the Baptist, and his utterance of belief in the pre-existence of the Christ, and that from such passages as Isaiah 6:1 and Malachi 3:1 he knew that he who was coming into the world, and about to baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire, to take the fan in his hand, etc., had been in reality before him. The difficulty of this interpretation is said to be that the proof which follows - because, or for (πρῶτός μου ἤν), he was before me - would be tautologous in the extreme; the reason given for the Lord having become before him being simply the asseveration of the fact. But the two very remarkable expressions, ἐμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν and πρῶτός νου ἤν, are not identical. The first may easily refer to the historic precedence of the activity of the Coming One in all the operations of the Logos; the second may refer to the absolute and eternal precedence of the Logos in itself. If so, the whole significance of the previous fourteen verses is gathered up, and shown to have been flashed upon the consciousness of John the Baptist, and uttered with such intensity that the evangelist caught the idea, and saw in it the key to the whole mystery. It would seem, however, that the ὅτι πρῶτός did not form part of the original utterance of John. After the baptism, the whole truth had broken upon the Baptist, and he clenched or saw an explanation of the mystery. As John 1:14 is parallel to John 1:1-5, so this verse is parallel to John 1:6-8, but with an advance of thought. John 1:6-8 set forth the Baptist's witness to the Word as the general light of men. This verse gives the Baptist's witness to the personal Word become flesh.

Bare witness (μαρτυρεῖ)

Present tense. Rev., correctly, beareth witness. The present tense describes the witness of the Baptist as abiding. The fact of the Word's becoming flesh is permanently by his testimony.

Cried (κέκραγεν)

See on Mark 5:5; see on Mark 9:24; see on Luke 18:39. The verb denotes an inarticulate utterance as distinguished from words. When used is connection with articulate speech, it is joined with λέγειν or εἰπεῖν, to say, as Luke 7:28, cried, saying. Compare Luke 7:37; Luke 12:44. The crying corresponds with the Baptist's description of himself as a voice (φωνή, sound or tone), Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23. The verb is in the perfect tense, but with the usual classical sense of the present.

Was He (ἦν)

The imperfect tense, pointing back to a testimony historically past.

After me (ὀπίσω μου)

Literally, behind me: in His human manifestation.

Is preferred before me (ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν)

Literally, "is become," so Rev., "or is here (compare John 6:25) before me." Before is used of time, not of dignity or rank. The expression is enigmatical in form: "my successor is my predecessor." The idea of the superior dignity of Christ is not a necessary inference from His coming after John, as, on that interpretation, the words would imply. On the contrary, the herald who precedes is inferior in dignity to the Prince whom he announces.

For (ὅτι)

Or because. The reason for the preceding statement: the key to the enigma.

He was before me (πρῶτός μου ἦν)


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