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New Testament

Week 15: John 1:1–4:42


1) Introduction.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without
him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1–3.)
a) Immediately you know that John’s gospel is going to be very different than the Synoptic
Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
i) John begins with a very forceful statement on the deity and premortal existence of
Jesus Christ that takes a deep, almost philosophical approach to Jesus. We’re in a
completely different world here.
ii) [SLIDE 2] As you read through John, you notice that John tells different stories than
the ones in the Synoptics.1
(1) The wedding at Cana, the Samaritan woman at the well, the woman taken in
adultery, raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus’ long discourse at the Last Supper
and washing of his disciples’ feet, Doubting Thomas—all of these stories are
found only in John.
(2) Jesus’ birth and genealogy, the calling of the twelve apostles and the seventy, the
Sermon on the Mount, the Mount of Transfiguration, the Olivet Discourse on the
second coming, Jesus’ suffering in Gethsemane,2 angels appearing at the empty
tomb, Jesus’ final commission to the twelve—these stories are found in the
Synoptic Gospels, but not in John.3
iii) You’ll also notice that John’s chronology of the ministry of Jesus is different from the
Synoptics.4 Matthew, Mark, and Luke present us with a one-year ministry of Jesus,
beginning in Galilee and ending in Jerusalem for the Passover. John, however, lists
four visits by Jesus to Jerusalem (2:13; 5:1; 10:22; 11:55), three associated with the
Passover feast, suggesting that Jesus’ public ministry lasted two to three years.
(1) Likewise, in John Jesus cleanses the Temple at the beginning of his ministry
(2:13–22), while in the Synoptics he does so at the end (Matthew 21:12–13; Mark
11:15–17; Luke 19:45–46).5
(2) How do we resolve these chronological discrepancies? One way is to consider that
the author of the Gospel of John is presenting his material thematically, rather
1
Daniel B. Wallace indicates that “over 90% of the material in John’s Gospel is unique, not found in the other gospels.”
See his paper, “The Gospel of John: Introduction, Argument, Outline,” page 12; http://bible.org/seriespage/gospel-john-
introduction-argument-outline
2
The Gospel of John records that Jesus went to garden across the Kidron Valley after the Last Supper, but the narrative
immediately turns to Judas’ betrayal and Jesus’ arrest. No mention is made of Jesus praying in the garden, his agony, or the
disciples sleeping while he suffered. See 18:1–11.
3
Likewise, many of the most frequent expressions found in the Synoptic Gospels are rare or missing entirely from John:
“kingdom of God/heaven,” “apostle,” “Sadducees,” “scribes,” “forgive,” “demons,” “publicans [tax collectors].”
4
One major example of this is that the Synoptics agree that the crucifixion took place on the day of the Passover (e.g.,
Mark 14:12; 15:42), John’s gospel claims that Jesus died the day before the Passover (18:28; 19:14). We’ll discuss this more in
lessons 17 and 18.
5
Many gospel harmonies try to resolve this by claiming that Jesus cleansed the temple twice—once at the start of his
ministry, and the second time at the end. (The “Gospels, Harmony of” entry in the LDS Bible Dictionary takes this approach,
referring to the account in John as “First cleansing of temple” [685] and the account in the Synoptics as a separate event,
“Moneychangers cast out” [693].) However, this just ignores the fact that each gospel only has one cleansing account.

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Hurricane West Stake Adult Religion Class New Testament: John 1:1–4:42 Week 15, Page 2

than chronologically. In other words, he wasn’t writing a chronological


biography, but rather selecting and ordering his information about Jesus in such
a way as to make clear his major theological themes.6
iv) John also does not contain any parables. Rather it contains metaphors like the living
water (4:10–15), the bread of life (6:33–35, 48–51), the good shepherd (10:1–18),
and the vine (15:1–8).
v) Finally, in contrast to the short, distinct sayings of Jesus in the Synoptics,7 in the
Gospel of John Jesus has long dialogues with other people (which often turn into
monologues) where he discourses on deep subjects using irony, double meaning, and
cryptic language.
b) [SLIDE 3] Date.
i) The generally accepted date for John is the early 90s A.D., making it the last of the
four gospels to be written.8
(1) However, there are good arguments to be made that it was written in the early
60s A.D., before the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple.9 If that’s the case, then
John would actually be the earliest of the four gospels.
c) Authorship.
i) This is the only gospel in which the author writes himself into the story: He is the
“disciple whom Jesus loved” who was at the Last Supper (13:23–26), at the foot the
cross (19:25–27), at the empty tomb (20:1–10), and at Jesus’ post-resurrection
appearance at the Sea of Galilee (21:7).10 It was this unnamed disciple whom Jesus
promised would remain on the earth until the Lord’s return (21:20–23). At the
conclusion he reveals that “this is the disciple who is testifying to these things and
has written them” (NRSV 21:24).
(1) The author always refers to himself in the third person and does not mention his
own name in the gospel.11
ii) Of all the gospels, this one is the least disputed as to authorship. It’s accepted by
many scholars that John the apostle himself was the author,12 or at least that the
gospel was written by a disciple of John based on his teaching.

6
This helpful insight is from BYU professor William Hamblin. See his paper “John 2:13–2:25: The Purification of the
Temple,” page 2; http://byu.academia.edu/WilliamHamblin/Papers/408886/Purification_of_the_Temple_John_2_13-25_
7
Even Jesus’ lengthy sermons in the Synoptics (like the Sermon on the Mount and the Olivet Discourse) are compiled
from shorter, individual sayings. In contrast, in the Gospel of John Jesus speaks at great length and repetitiously.
8
This date is assumed largely due to its high Christology that is more developed than the other gospels. A high
Christology, as found in John, stresses Jesus’ divinity as opposed to the low Christology in the Synoptics that describes Jesus
as Christ (Messiah) and Son of God, but does not necessarily indicate that Jesus himself was divine. John also can’t date much
later than A.D. 100 because the earliest New Testament manuscript fragment still in existence—the Rylands Library Papyrus 52
(Ì52)—shows this gospel was in circulation in Egypt A.D. 125–50.
9
These arguments are largely based on John opposition to and vilification of the Jewish temple priesthood, which no
longer existed after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in A.D. 70.
10
He could also be the unnamed “another disciple” who went with Jesus to the courtyard of the high priest after Jesus’
arrest (18:15–16), and who witnessed Jesus’ death (19:35).
11
James and John, the sons of Zebedee who figure so prominently in the Synoptic Gospels, don’t appear at all in the
Gospel of John, except for one brief mention in 21:2. The only person identified as “John” in the Gospel of John is John the
Baptist (1:6, 15, 19–40; 3:22–36; 4:1; 5:33, 36; 10:40–41).
12
Although this belief is far from universal. See Robert Kysar, “John, Gospel of: Authorship,” The Anchor Bible Dictionary
3:919–20 (Kysar calls Johannine authorship “unlikely”); also
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authorship_of_the_Johannine_works

© 2011, Mike Parker http://bit.ly/ldsarc For personal use only. Not a Church publication.
Hurricane West Stake Adult Religion Class New Testament: John 1:1–4:42 Week 15, Page 3

(1) At the end of the 2nd century, Church Father Irenaeus of Lyons declared that
“John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself
publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.”13
(2) The Book of Mormon and modern revelation also identify the disciple who would
remain alive on the earth as John (3 Nephi 28:6; D&C 7:1–8).
d) [SLIDE 4] Themes.
i) Jesus as God’s incarnate, divine Word. John presents Jesus as the only begotten Son
of God who is himself divine and preexistent (1:1–18).
ii) Jesus as the I AM. Seven times Jesus uses the phrase “I am” to declare his identity and
relationship to the world (6:35, 51; 8:12; 10:7–9; 10:11–14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1–5) and
once in a way that indicates he is the God of the Jews (8:56–58; cf. Exodus 3:14).
iii) Jesus came to save the world, but he is not of this world, so the world rejected him.
He was in the world, but the world didn’t know him (1:10). God so loved the world
that he gave his only Son that the world might be saved (3:16–17). Jesus gives light
and life to the world (1:9; 6:33; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46). Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world
(18:36).
iv) Light vs. darkness. One of the recurring contrasts in John is the competition
between light (brought by Jesus) and darkness (which is of the world) (1:4–9; 3:19–
21; 5:35; 8:12; 9:5; 11:9–10; 12:35–36, 46).Jesus as the only begotten Son of God
who is divine, equal with the Father, and the very embodiment of God.
2) 1:1–18. The prologue.
a) In this introductory statement John explains who Jesus was before he came to earth and
who he was during his mortal ministry.14 We’re going to spend quite a bit of time here in
this lesson.
i) These verses were probably an ancient Christian hymn, one either written by John or
adapted by him to preface his gospel.15
b) [SLIDE 5] 1:1–3.
KJV John 1:1–3 NRSV John 1:1–3
1
In the beginning was the Word, and the 1
In the beginning was the Word, and the
Word was with God, and the Word was God. Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2
The same was in the beginning with God. 2
He was in the beginning with God.
3
All things were made by him; and without 3
All things came into being through him, and
him was not any thing made that was made. without him not one thing came into being.
i) 1:1a. “In the beginning” is almost certainly an allusion to Genesis 1:1. Matthew and
Luke begin their gospels with stories of Jesus’ birth. John affirms right up front that
13
Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3/1 (written A.D. 175–85); http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.iv.ii.html
14
In anticipation that someone is going to point to the Joseph Smith Translation of John 1:1–34 in the appendix to the
LDS edition of the Bible (pp. 807–08; http://lds.org/scriptures/jst/jst-john/1) and claim that this was the original reading of
John 1, allow me to make two points: (1) As we discussed back in lesson 2 (see http://scr.bi/LDSARCNT02n, pp. 14–15), the JST
is not, for the most part, a restoration of an original text; it is mostly new material in the style of midrash, interpretive
commentary that explains the text and fills in doctrinal gaps. (2) When the JST begins the gospel of John with “In the
beginning was the gospel preached through the Son. And the gospel was the word, and the word was with the Son, and the Son
was with God, and the Son was of God” (JST John 1:1), Joseph Smith was taking a completely separate approach that is
complimentary to, and not a replacement for, John’s original. Joseph’s text has some important and unique things to say, but
lack of time prohibits us from exploring them in this lesson.
15
Scholars refer to this a “the Hymn of the Word” or “the Logos Hymn.” See Richard Neitzel Hozapfel, Eric D. Huntsman,
and Thomas A. Wayment, Jesus Christ and the World of the New Testament (Deseret Book, 2006), 132.

© 2011, Mike Parker http://bit.ly/ldsarc For personal use only. Not a Church publication.
Hurricane West Stake Adult Religion Class New Testament: John 1:1–4:42 Week 15, Page 4

Jesus’ mission began in the premortal world, long before he was born. He was not
just a mortal man chosen by God as a prophet, or even as the messiah; he was there
with God “in the beginning” of all things.
ii) 1:1a. The Greek word translated “Word” is λόγος (logos). In the New Testament this
word appears 330 times, and is usually translated saying (e.g., Mark 9:10), account
(Matthew 12:36), or speech (Acts 20:7). It usually refers to something uttered by a
living voice that embodies a conception or idea.16
(1) In his prologue John calls Jesus “the Word” four times (1:1, 14). He’s using it in
sense that Greek philosophers did,17 referring to God’s will, mind, plan, or
wisdom. Jesus is the complete expression of the Father’s plan of salvation.
(2) In modern revelation Jesus is identified as “the Word, even the messenger of
salvation” (D&C 93:6–8).18
iii) 1:1b. The Greek word translated “with” is προς (pros) implies not just proximity
(Jesus was next to God, or in God’s presence), but an intimate personal relationship
(Jesus was in active communion with God). Jesus is unique because of his special
relationship with the Father.
iv) 1:1c. The verse ends by telling us “the Word was God.”
(1) There has been a great deal of debate over the best way to translate and
understand this phrase. The Greek reading of the verse is:
Greek Greek transliteration Literal English translation
εν αρχη ην ο λογος En arche en ho logos, In beginning was the Word,
και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον kai ho logos en pros ton theon, and the Word was with the God
και θεος ην ο λογος kai theos en ho logos. and God was the Word.
(a) The tricky part here is that God on the second line, who is clearly God the
Father, is identified as ton theon (“the God”), while God on the third line, who
is Jesus Christ (the Word) has no definite article.19 That leaves us with three
ways to translate it:
(i) We could use an indefinite article: “and the Word was a god.”20
(ii) We could leave it without the article (as the KJV does): “and the Word was
God.”21

16
For example, 1 Timothy 1:15 declares, “This is a faithful saying (logos), and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus
came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” In this case the author of 1 Timothy is repeating a well-known saying
that the reader would have recognized (“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”).
17
This usage began with the Greek philosopher Heraclitus (c. 500 B.C.), who used logos to mean not just teaching or word,
but also proportion, meaning,, universal law, and truth. This has some connection with the teaching in the early part of D&C
88 that Jesus Christ is “in all and through all things, the light of truth” (88:6).
18
The language and themes of John, particularly those found in the beginning of chapter 1, are prominently echoed in
some of Joseph Smith’s revelations. D&C 88 and 93 are two primary examples.
19
There is no indefinite article (like a or an in English) in Koine Greek, but its place is often supplied by an indefinite
pronoun (any, certain); see, for example, Matthew 8:19; 17:14; Mark 5:25; 14:51; Luke 5:12; 8:22; John 4:46; 5:4.
20
This is the translation used by Jehovah’s Witnesses in their New World Translation of the Bible. See
http://www.watchtower.org/e/bible/joh/chapter_001.htm. No other Bible translation follows this reading, and it’s clearly a
doctrinally-driven reading (the Witnesses do not believe Jesus is equal with God the Father).
21
This is the reading followed by virtually every mainstream Bible translation, including the NRSV, NIV, NASB, ESV, NLT,
NAB, NJB, and RSV.

© 2011, Mike Parker http://bit.ly/ldsarc For personal use only. Not a Church publication.
Hurricane West Stake Adult Religion Class New Testament: John 1:1–4:42 Week 15, Page 5

(iii) A third approach is to accept that there is a difference between the first
and second theos and qualify the second one: “The Word was with God,
and the Word was divine.”22
(b) Unfortunately, the translation that one prefers is likely going to be based on
one’s view of who Christ is.
(i) Most Bibles use the second option because it supports the common
Christian view of the Trinity, that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the
Holy Ghost are three persons in one divine being.
(ii) However, John’s gospel is very explicit that the Father is greater than the
Son (14:28), so the third option may better capture the meaning and intent
of the verse than the other two.23
(2) In any event, the KJV’s translation shouldn’t trouble us, for the Book of Mormon
testifies that Jesus is God,24 and the Testimony of the Three Witnesses declares
that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are “one God.”
v) 1:2. This verse repeats the content of verse 1b: “The same [i.e., the Word] was in the
beginning with [or in the presence of] God.”25
vi) 1:3. The scriptures abundantly testify that Jesus was the agent through whom the
Father carried out the creation.26 In modern revelation Jesus is described as “the
word of [God’s] power” (Moses 1:32–33), the creative force.
c) [SLIDE 6] 1:4–5.
KJV John 1:4–5 NRSV John 1:4–5
4
In him was life; and the life was the light of What has come into being 4in him was life,27
men. and the life was the light of all people.
5
And the light shineth in darkness; and the 5
The light shines in the darkness, and the
darkness comprehended it not. darkness did not overcome it.
i) 1:4a. The statement “in him was life” could men physical life (in the creation and the
resurrection), but also spiritual life (as in 1 John 5:11).
ii) 1:4b. Is the life Jesus brings restricted only to males? No: “Men” is better translated
mankind or humanity (both men and women).
iii) 1:5a. This is the first occurrence of a major theme of John’s gospel—the opposition of
light and darkness.
iv) 1:5b. The word rendered “comprehended” in the KJV is κατελαβεν (katelaben). The
word means “to seize or grasp,” either physically28 or mentally.29

22
This approach is favored by the NET (“and the Word was fully God”) and the NEB (“what God was, the Word was”).
23
LDS scholar Kevin Barney recently explored this issue in detail. See “Can Biblical Languages Unlock the Secrets of the
Universe?”, Patheos.com, 18 January 2011; http://bit.ly/fgiCIc. I’m grateful to Kevin for sharing this with me.
24
See, for example, Mosiah 13:34; Alma 42:15; and the Title page (“JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD”).
25
D&C 93:29 teaches that “man was also in the beginning with God,” but that’s beyond the scope of John’s introduction
here.
26
See, for example, Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2; Mosiah 3:8a; D&C 76:24.
27
Koine Greek has no punctuation, so the decision on where to end one sentence and begin the next is sometimes unclear
and subject to the judgment of the translator. Most modern translations follow the KJV by including “what was made” with the
statement in verse 3; the NSRV breaks with this by putting it with the thought in verse 4.
28
For example, the KJV renders the same word “taken” in John 8:3, “come upon” in John 12:35, and “overtake” in 1
Thessalonians 5:4.
29
See, for example, “perceive/perceived” in KJV Acts 4:13; 10:34.

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Hurricane West Stake Adult Religion Class New Testament: John 1:1–4:42 Week 15, Page 6

(1) The KJV translators chose to interpret it in here as a mental grasping—the


darkness does not “comprehend” (or “understand”) the light. But, in this context,
the meaning is more likely a physical grasping—the darkness does not “overtake”
or “overcome” the light.30 (Just as the light of creation overcame the primeval
darkness—Genesis 1:1–3.)
d) [SLIDE 7] 1:6–8, 15.
KJV John 1:6–8, 15 NRSV John 1:6–8, 15
6
There was a man sent from God, whose 6
There was a man sent from God, whose
name was John. name was John.
7
The same came for a witness, to bear 7
He came as a witness to testify to the light,
witness of the Light, that all men through so that all might believe through him.
him might believe.
8
He was not that Light, but was sent to bear 8
He himself was not the light, but he came to
witness of that Light. testify to the light.
*** ***
15
John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, 15
(John testified to him and cried out, “This
This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after
after me is preferred before me: for he was me ranks ahead of me because he was before
before me. me.’”)
i) The “John” spoken of in these four verses is John the Baptist, whose testimony is
given in full later in the chapter (1:19–42).
(1) The idea of a witness or testimony is very important in John’s gospel31; he is
probably telling us, right up front, that you don’t have to take his word for it,
because John the Baptist also witnessed it was true.
e) 1:9–13.
KJV John 1:9–13 NRSV John 1:6–8, 15
9
That was the true Light, which lighteth 9
The true light, which enlightens everyone,
every man that cometh into the world. was coming into the world.
10
He was in the world, and the world was 10
He was in the world, and the world came
made by him, and the world knew him not. into being through him; yet the world did not
know him.
11
He came unto his own, and his own 11
He came to what was his own, and his own
received him not. people did not accept him.
12
But as many as received him, to them gave 12
But to all who received him, who believed
he power to become the sons of God, even to in his name, he gave power to become
them that believe on his name: children of God,
13
Which were born, not of blood, nor of the 13
who were born, not of blood or of the will
will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
of God.
i) 1:9. How does Jesus “lighteth every [person] that cometh into the world”?
(1) Mormon taught that the Spirit of Christ “is given to every man, that he may know
good from evil” (Moroni 7:16–19), and Joseph Smith revealed that the Spirit of
30
Modern Bibles are divided on this. The NRSV, ESV, NAB (“the darkness did/has not overcome it”), NET (“the darkness
has not mastered it”), and NJB (“darkness could not overpower it”) prefer to interpret it physically, while the NIV (“the
darkness has not understood it”) and NASB (“the darkness did not comprehend it”) follow the KJV in interpreting it as mental.
The phrase “the light which shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not” appears seven times in the
Doctrine and Covenants (6:21; 10:58; 34:2; 39:2; 45:7; 88:49, 67). In each of these, “overcome” works just fine as a substitute
for “comprehend,” with the exception of 88:49, where it clearly means “understand.”
31
See 3:11, 32–33; 5:34; 19:35; 21:24.

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Hurricane West Stake Adult Religion Class New Testament: John 1:1–4:42 Week 15, Page 7

Christ “giveth light to every man that cometh into the world” and “every one that
hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God” (D&C 84:45–47).
(2) The Light of Christ is not a person, it is a power—the creative power of God that
emanates from him and has been given in fullness to the Son. This power fills the
universe, imposes laws, and brings order from chaos. Light, truth, power,
enlightenment, understanding, life, spirit, law, intelligence, energy, force,
motion, heat, instinct, priesthood—all these are synonymous and are aspects of
the Light of Christ. (See D&C 88:3–13; 93:36.)
ii) 1:10–11. John laments that “the world knew him not” and “his own [people] received
him not.”
(1) Jesus made the world and came to dwell with his own people, but the world did
not recognize him nor did his people receive him.
(2) The word translated “world” is κοσμος (kosmos); it refers to everything that God
has created. John uses this word repeatedly32 to contrast the spiritual light
brought by Christ with the spiritual darkness of the world, culminating with
Jesus’ statement to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).
iii) 1:12. The phrase “sons of God” is better translated “children of God,” since it applies
to both men and women.
(1) If we are already children of God, like the Primary song says, how can he give us
the power to become his children? John is speaking of a special, covenant
relationship that one enters into when one believes in Jesus Christ (See Mosiah
5:7).
iv) 1:13 is a continuation of the thought of 1:12: Those who are born again are not born
of human parents (“blood”), or human desire (“will of the flesh”), or of a husband’s
desire (“will of man”), but of God. (This is another major theme in John’s gospel, one
that Jesus will pick up again in chapter three in his dialogue with Nicodemus.)
f) [SLIDE 8] 1:14, 16–17.
KJV John 1:14, 16–17 NRSV John 1:14, 16–17
14
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt 14
And the Word became flesh and lived
among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory among us, and we have seen his glory, the
as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace
grace and truth. and truth.
*** ***
16
And of his fulness have all we received, and 16
From his fullness we have all received,
grace for grace. grace upon grace.
17
For the law was given by Moses, but grace 17
The law indeed was given through Moses;
and truth came by Jesus Christ. grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
i) 1:14b. The English phrase “only begotten” comes from a single Greek word,
μονογενους (monogenes), which means “unique” or “one of a kind.”
(1) The phrase “only begotten” can be misleading: It does not mean that Jesus is
God’s only son.33

32
Kosmos appears 9× in Matthew, 3× in Mark, 3× in Luke, and 79× in John.
33
Monogenes does refer to an only child in Luke 7:12; 8:42; 9:38; but it does not mean that exclusively.

© 2011, Mike Parker http://bit.ly/ldsarc For personal use only. Not a Church publication.
Hurricane West Stake Adult Religion Class New Testament: John 1:1–4:42 Week 15, Page 8

(a) The same word appears in Hebrews 11:17, where it describes Isaac, son of
Abraham; Abraham had other sons (e.g. Ishmael), but Isaac was different.
(b) So rather than “only begotten son,” it would probably be better to translate
this “unique son.” Jesus is unique among the children of God in that he is
already divine, and the only Son of the Father in the flesh.34
ii) 1:14c. Jesus is “full of grace and truth.”
(1) Grace is God’s mercy, love, and help, without which all mankind would be lost.
(2) Modern revelation tells us that Jesus was filled with the “Spirit of truth” (D&C
93:11–14), which is the Holy Ghost (John 15:26), and also that he is the Spirit of
truth (D&C 93:9).
iii) 1:16. The Savior gives us of the fullness that he receives, “grace for grace.”
(1) The Greek literally reads “grace upon grace.” As we grow spiritually, we
cumulatively receive more help, more blessings, more gifts from God. The Lord
promised, “if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be
glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive
grace for grace” (D&C 93:20). Just like Jesus, we will grow until we are like God
the Father.
iv) John 1:17. John contrasts the law of Moses on the one hand, and grace and truth on
the other. The Law of Moses was not sufficient to exalt the children of Israel. The
Apostle Paul called it a “schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ” (Galatians 3:24).
g) 1:18.
KJV John 1:18 NRSV John 1:18
No man hath seen God at any time; the only
18
No one has ever seen God. It is God the
18

begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart,
Father, he hath declared him. who has made him known.
i) 1:18a: Clearly John didn’t mean to imply that no human being had ever seen God,
because there are several examples from the Old Testament of that happening (e.g.
Exodus 33:11).35
(1) See Matthew 11:27 and D&C 67:11–13. These passages clarify that no one has
ever seen the Father in glory unless he was first transfigured (Exodus 33:18–20),
and only Jesus himself has experienced the Father in the complete sense, which
is why only he can declare or make known the Father to us.
ii) [SLIDE 9] 1:18b. This is one of the most debated verses in the New Testament.
(1) The majority of later texts read monogenes huios (“the only/unique Son”), and
the KJV follows this textual tradition.

34
See 2 Nephi 25:12; Jacob 4:11; D&C 93:11.
35
The Joseph Smith Translation amends this verse to read “no man hath seen God at any time, except he hath borne
record of the Son” (JST John 1:19). This emendation solves the immediate problem of no man ever having seen God, but it
destroys the point of the verse, which is that, because no man has ever seen God, therefore we needed Jesus to reveal him two
us.

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Hurricane West Stake Adult Religion Class New Testament: John 1:1–4:42 Week 15, Page 9

(2) But many early manuscripts read monogenes theos (“the only/unique God”),
referring to Jesus as “God” in one of the only New Testament passages to do so.
(3) Most modern Bible translations incorporate theos (“God”) into the reading at this
point.36
h) [SLIDE 10] So what have we learned about Jesus Christ from John’s prologue?
i) Jesus existed before the world was, dwelling in communion with the Father.
ii) Jesus himself was divine before his mortal birth.
iii) Jesus was the agent through whom God executed the creation of all things.
iv) In Jesus is both life and light, which lights every human being, and through him we
can become children of God and receive grace upon grace.
v) He was born into mortality, but brought with him the glory of the Father and
revealed the Father to the world.
i) We’ve given a lot of time and attention in this lesson to these 18 verses because it’s
probably the most important passage in all four gospels. We’ll move a quicker through
the remaining material.
3) [SLIDE 11] 1:19–51; 3:23–36. John the Baptist and his disciples.
a) 1:19–34. Like the other gospels, John begins talking about Jesus’ ministry by describing
the mission and testimony of John the Baptist.
i) 1:19. John uses the term “the Jews” far more than any of the other gospel writers,37
usually in a derogatory manner.38 It almost always refers, not to everyday Israelites,
but to the authorities who oppose Jesus, especially the Pharisees and priests.
(1) It’s important that we understand this as we read, otherwise John’s Gospel can
come across as anti-Semitic.39
ii) 1:20–28. John denies being the messiah, Elijah, or the prophet who was to restore
Israel,40 but tells them his is a forerunner for the Christ.
iii) 1:29–34. When John sees Jesus walking by, he publicly testifies that he is “the Lamb
of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (1:29b) and that he “saw the Spirit
descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him” (1:32).41
iv) John later testifies that Jesus “must increase, but I must decrease” (3:30).
b) 1:35–51. Back in lesson 7 we discussed the calling of the twelve disciples who were called
apostles. John gives us a little more backstory, in which we learn that Andrew, Peter’s

36
In addition to the example from the NRSV, above, here are a few other translations of John 1:18b:
“The only one, himself God, who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known.” (NET)
“God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” (NIV)
“The only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” (NASB)
“The only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.” (ESV)
“The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.” (NAB)
37
The word appears 5× in Matthew, 6× in Mark, 6× in Luke, and 71× in John.
38
Although not always: Sometimes it’s neutral (5:1) or even positive (4:22).
39
And, in fact, that’s the way it was interpreted in the Middle Ages, and even until the early 20th century, and was used to
justify all sorts of horrible treatment of European Jews.
40
In the Dead Sea Scrolls two messianic figures are looked forward to, “one of Aaron and one of Israel,” in other words a
priestly Messiah and a kingly Messiah, who would be a descendant of David (1QS 9:11).
41
Presumably this took place after John baptized Jesus (as described in the Synoptic Gospels), however John’s Gospel
doesn’t say that John the Baptist baptized Jesus, only that he saw the Holy Spirit descending upon him.

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Hurricane West Stake Adult Religion Class New Testament: John 1:1–4:42 Week 15, Page 10

brother, was originally a disciple of John the Baptist who learned of Jesus and then told
his brother. Likewise Philip finds Nathanael,42 and the two of them follow Christ.
i) 1:47. KJV “guile” means “deceit.”
4) [SLIDE 12] 2:1–12. The wedding at Cana.
a) This is, of course, one of Jesus’ best-known miracles, and it’s the first of seven miracles
he performs in the Gospel of John (as indicated in 2:11; see the online in this lesson’s
handout.)
b) 2:1–3. Jesus and his disciples are invited to a wedding at Cana,43 and Jesus’ mother is
there.44 The wine runs out, and his mother points this out to Jesus, with the implication
that she expects him to do something about it.
c) 2:4. Jesus’ response.
i) Jesus calls her “woman” in his response, something that sounds harsh to modern
English speakers, but was not derogatory in his language and time.45
ii) His question—“what have I to do with thee?”—sounds harsh, but that’s only because
of the way the King James translators chose to render it. The Greek literally reads,
“what to me and to you?” which is a Hebrew idiom that simply means “it’s really
none of my business, so I shouldn’t get involved.”46
iii) He reminds her that his “hour is not yet come,”47 which refers to his suffering, death,
and resurrection.48 This statement is a difficult to interpret in this context, but it
seems that Mary is expecting great miracles of the kind that will only take place once
Jesus has established his kingdom in glory, and he is reminding her that that hasn’t
come yet.
d) 2:5–12. Perhaps out of respect for his mother—or maybe as a sign that he was the
promised Messiah—he then changes six water pots of 20 to 30 gallons each (KJV “two
or three firkin apiece”) into really superior wine. It’s so good that the chief steward of
the party accuses the bridegroom of saving the best wine for last, rather than giving it
out first.49
5) [SLIDE 13] 2:13–25. The cleansing of the temple.
a) We’ve already mentioned the chronological issue here:50 John puts this event at the
beginning of Jesus’ ministry, while Matthew, Mark, and Luke have it during the final
week before Jesus’ crucifixion.
i) It’s more likely that the Synoptic authors have the order right: Jesus certainly would
have been arrested if he had done this at the beginning of his ministry, but at the end
he had many supporters and the priests would have been hesitant to move against
him.51
42
Nathaniel is the only one of the four not mentioned in the Synoptic Gospels. He is generally identified as Bartholomew
(Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14). See lesson 7, pages 2–3; http://scr.bi/LDSARCNT07n
43
Cana is about ten miles north of Nazareth, between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean.
44
Although she appears here and at the foot of the cross (19:25–27), Mary is never referred to by name in John’s Gospel.
45
See 4:21; 8:10;19:26; 20:13, 15; where it is used neutrally or even as a term of affection and respect.
46
See 2 Kings 3:13; Hosea 14:8.
47
A phrase repeated in 7:6, 8, 30; 8:20.
48
See 12:23, 27; 13:1; 17:1. See also 16:21.
49
The implication being that the guests would drink the good stuff first, and then wouldn’t notice the lesser quality of the
later wine because they were already inebriated.
50
See page 1.
51
See Mark 12:12; Luke 20:19; 22:2.

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Hurricane West Stake Adult Religion Class New Testament: John 1:1–4:42 Week 15, Page 11

ii) It’s possible that John puts it up front to establish immediately that Jesus was
opposed to the Jewish leadership.
6) 3:1–21. A nighttime meeting with Nicodemus.
a) 3:1–2. While Jesus is in Jerusalem, Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a member of the
Sanhedrin, comes to Jesus at night.52
i) Why at night?
(1) Perhaps he was afraid to be publicly seen with Jesus.
(2) Perhaps he couldn’t get a private audience with Jesus during the daytime.
(3) More likely, however, is that the timing is significant for John because of his
theme of the contest between light and darkness:53 Out of the darkness of his
religious life Nicodemus came to the Light of the world.
ii) Nicodemus had apparently seen the same miracles as others (2:23). But for
Nicodemus the signs just meant that Jesus was “a teacher come from God.”
b) [SLIDE 14] 3:3–4. Jesus teaches Nicodemus that he must be “born again, [or] he
cannot see the kingdom of God.” There’s an important double entendre going on here
that is completely lost in English, but explains Nicodemus’ response in verse 4:
i) The word “again” is translated from the Greek ανωθεν (anOthen). This word has two
meanings in Greek: either “again/anew” or “from above.”54 It appears in John five
times (3:3, 7, 31; 19:11, 23). In the latter three cases the context makes clear that it
means “from above.” In 3:3 and 3:7 it could mean either, but the primary meaning
intended by Jesus is born “from above,” or, in other words, born of God.55
ii) Nicodemus misunderstands him and thinks he means “born again,” i.e., born a
second time. He asks how this is physically possible.
c) [SLIDE 15] 3:5. Jesus then clarifies for him that a person “must be born of water and of
the Spirit, or he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” referring to baptism and a
spiritual rebirth.56
i) There’s a subtle wordplay going on in verses 3 and 5. Jesus first teaches that one
must be born “from above.” He then teaches that this birth is achieved through water
and Spirit. The Greek word πνευμα (pneuma) can either mean wind or spirit,
depending on the context.57 Jesus uses the symbols of water and spirit/wind, both of
which come “from above,” in explaining how one can be “born from above.”
52
Nicodemus doesn’t identify who his “we” includes—the Synoptic Gospels portray the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin as
united against Jesus, but perhaps he had silent supporters in them. Nicodemus appears in two other passages, where he
quietly supports Jesus (John 7:50; 19:39).
53
See page 3.
54
It’s impossible to translate this into English and catch the nuance. Most modern English Bibles stick with “born again”
in 3:3, but that’s probably because the phrase is so well-known in modern Christianity. (The NRSV and NET, however, use
“born from above.”)
55
In the Book of Mormon, Alma1 teaches: “Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds,
tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of
righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; and thus they become new creatures; and unless
they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.” (Mosiah 27:25–26, emphasis added.)
56
This is the majority Christian interpretation of this verse, one followed by Latter-day Saints. A minority viewpoint is that
Jesus is referring to a physical birth (which is accompanied by amniotic fluid, which resembles water) and a spiritual birth.
This interpretation seems to respond better to Nicodemus’ question in 3:4 and his statement in 3:6, but it finds no support in
early Christian interpretations of 3:5; the early Church Fathers all understood this verse to refer to baptism.
57
Spirits cannot be seen, but their presence can be felt, so ancient peoples quite often used the same word for both. The
same is true for Hebrew, where ‫( רוה‬ruwach) means wind, breath, or spirit.

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Hurricane West Stake Adult Religion Class New Testament: John 1:1–4:42 Week 15, Page 12

ii) This will help us understand Jesus’ comparison of the actions of the wind and the
Spirit in verse 8.
d) [SLIDE 16] 3:6–8.
KJV John 3:6–8 NRSV John 3:6–8
6
That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and 6
“What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what
that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7
Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be 7
Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You
born again. must be born from above.’
8
The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou 8
The wind blows where it chooses, and you
hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell hear the sound of it, but you do not know
whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is where it comes from or where it goes. So it is
every one that is born of the Spirit. with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
i) Jesus continues his thought by contrasting a physical birth with a spiritual rebirth.
He explains that being reborn is like experiencing the wind—you can feel it, but you
can’t see it, or even know when or where it comes from.
e) 3:9. Nicodemus still fails to understand Jesus, probably because, as a Pharisee, his
entire theology centers on outward performances of the Law. He has no understanding
of the importance of inner change. He asks a final question, seemingly in frustration,
“How can these things be?” He then disappears from the discussion, and we don’t hear
from him again.
f) [SLIDE 17] 3:11–21. This section appears to be a direct quote from a discourse (perhaps
one given by John himself). Jesus speaks of “we” and “you” (plural58) without identifying
who the “we” and “you” are.
i) 3:12. Jesus contrasts “earthly things” (water, wind) with “heavenly things” (the
Spirit).
ii) 3:13. Jesus’ comment here is given in the past tense (“hath ascended”). Was this
discourse given after Jesus’ ascension?
iii) 3:14–15. The gospels frequently present Jesus as a “new Moses,” one called by God to
lead His people out of spiritual bondage.59
iv) 3:16. This beautiful verse is perhaps the most beautiful summary of entire plan of
salvation in the scriptures. It has been adopted by Christians worldwide as the
central message of atonement of Jesus Christ.
(1) For God so loved… The adverb “so” in Greek can refer to degree (“this is how
much God loved”) or manner (“this is the way in which God loved”). It’s quite
likely that John is using it both ways, as a double meaning, to express the nature
of God’s love, its method, intensity, and extent.
(2) …the world… Here’s another instance of the Greek word kosmos, referring to not
just to the world, but all of God’s creation.
(3) …that he gave his only begotten Son… Here we find the Greek word monogenes
again, “unique/one of a kind.”

58
Hebrew and Greek are different from English in that the second person plural is distinguishable from the singular. In
English we use “you” for both singular and plural, but this confusion does not exist in the Bible. The King James translators
use “thee” for singular and “ye” for plural.
59
See lesson 6, pages 5–6; http://scr.bi/LDSARCNT06n

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Hurricane West Stake Adult Religion Class New Testament: John 1:1–4:42 Week 15, Page 13

(4) …that whosoever believeth in him… The word “believeth” is the same word
translated in 2:24 as “commit” (πιστευων / pisteuOn). The idea behind this word
is to entrust or place confidence in. This is not just some intellectual assent to a
fact, like “I believe the sky is blue”; it is a commitment to trust in Jesus to save us
from sin and death.
(5) …should not perish… “Perish” (αποληται / apolletai) means to be lost, destroyed,
or killed.
(6) …but have everlasting life. Eternal life is the contrasting opposite of perishing.
g) 3:17–21. Jesus does not condemn the world (judge it guilty); rather, the world is
condemned by default because “men loved darkness rather than light” (3:19).60
i) This passage brings us full circle from when Nicodemus came to Jesus at night. Jesus
tells us that the way to truly come out of darkness unto light is to “do what is true...so
that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God” (NRSV 3:21). On
the other hand, those who do evil hate the light and do not come to it, because they
are afraid that their deeds will be exposed (3:20).
7) [SLIDE 18] 4:1–42. The Samaritan woman at the well.61
a) 4:1–3. To avoid opposition from the Pharisees, Jesus leaves Jerusalem and heads back
to Galilee.
b) 4:4. The traditional route was to go through the Transjordan (the east side of the Jordan
River) to avoid traveling through Samaria. [18.1] In this case, though, Jesus needed to
make a direct journey.62 [18.2] This took him through the land of Samaritans, which, as
we’ve previously discussed,63 were intensely disliked by Jews.
c) 4:5–6. About noontime, Jesus stops near a town called Sychar, which is only a mile or
two west of Mount Gerizim, the spiritual center of Samaritan worship (and the location
of the Samaritan temple until it was destroyed by the Jews in 128 B.C.). He rests at a
well.64
d) [SLIDE 19] 4:7–26. While he sits there, he has a dialogue with a Samaritan woman who
has come to draw water.
i) 4:7–9. At first, she’s shocked that Jesus asks her if he can drink from her pitcher.
The KJV phrase “have no dealings with” (4:9) is better translated “use nothing in
common”—to the Jews, Samaritans were ritually unclean, and so Jews would not use
Samaritan cups, utensils, and other eating and drinking instruments.
ii) 4:10–15. Jesus tells her that, if she knew whom she was talking to, she would have
asked him for a drink, and he would have given her “living water.” She inquires
about this living water, and he tells her:

60
Remember, “the natural man is an enemy to God” (Mosiah 3:19).
61
This chapter highlights another difference between John and the other gospels: In the Synoptics, Jesus commands his
apostles not to go to the Samaritans (Matthew 10:5), or, if they do, the Samaritans reject their message (Luke 9:52–56). In
John, however, Jesus himself approaches a Samaritan woman, and, in response to her testimony, “many of the Samaritans of
that city believed on [Jesus]” (John 4:39–42).
62
KJV “must needs” (4:4) is from the impersonal verb δει (dei), which means “had to.” In John’s gospel its use involves
God’s will or plan (3:7, 14, 30; 4:4, 20, 24; 9:4; 10:16; 12:34; 20:9), so the implication here is that Jesus went to Samaria in
order to do God’s work.
63
See lesson 10, page 2; http://scr.bi/LDSARCNT10n
64
Although there are many wells in Genesis, not one is called “Jacob’s well”; however, Jacob meets Rachel at a well
(Genesis 29:1–12). The name of the well might be symbolic for John, for both Jews and Samaritans would see Jacob as their
ancestor and spiritual forefather.

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Hurricane West Stake Adult Religion Class New Testament: John 1:1–4:42 Week 15, Page 14

“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the
water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will
become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (NSRV John 4:13b–
14.)
(1) She then asks him to give her this living water.
iii) 4:16–19. He instructs her to go get her husband and return to the well with him. She
confesses that she has no husband, and he tells her that’s true, because she has been
married five different times, and she is not married to the man with whom she is
currently living. She proclaims him to be a prophet.
iv) 4:20–24. The woman then opens up a religious discussion by telling him that her
ancestors worshipped on Mount Gerizim, but his people say that only true worship
can be done at the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus responds that the time is coming when
true worship will be done at neither place, but true worshippers will, instead,
worship the Father in spirit and in truth.
(1) His statement both predicts the coming destruction of the Jerusalem Temple,
and the going forth of the gospel of Christ, when all people—Jews, Samaritans,
and Gentiles—will worship God.
(2) 4:24 has frequently been a source of contention between Latter-day Saints and
traditional Christians. Since we believe that God has a glorified, immortal body,
how do we deal with Jesus’ statement that “God is a spirit”?
(a) Recall our discussion earlier from John 1:1 how the Word (Christ) was
referred to as “God” without a definite article (“the God”).65 Koine Greek has a
definite article, but no indefinite article. So the actual reading of this verse is,
literally, “God [is] spirit.”
(i) This is similar to John’s teaching that “God is light” (1 John 1:5) and “God
is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). Clearly God is not only these things, but they are
important elements of his total person.
(ii) Likewise, if God is a spirit, and Jesus teaches we “must worship in spirit,”
certainly that does not mean we have to leave our bodies to worship him.
(b) Latter-day Saints believe that “man is spirit” (D&C 93:33–34) and is, like God,
clothed with a physical body, for we were created in his image (Genesis 1:26–
27).
(c) Finally, claiming that God is only a spirit misses the point of verse. One non-
Mormon Bible commentary explains:
That God is spirit is not meant as a definition of God’s being—though this is
how the Stoics [a branch of Greek philosophy] would have understood it. It
is a metaphor of his mode of operation, as life-giving power, and it is no
more to be taken literally than 1 John 1:5, “God is light,” or Deuteronomy
4:24, “Your God is a devouring fire.” It is only those who have received this
power through Christ who can offer God a real worship.66

65
See pages 4–5.
66
J.N. Sanders, A Commentary on the Gospel According to St. John, edited and completed by B.A. Mastin (New York:
Harper & Row, 1968), 147–48.

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Hurricane West Stake Adult Religion Class New Testament: John 1:1–4:42 Week 15, Page 15

v) 4:25–26. The woman, hearing Jesus speak of a coming time when the religious order
will be changed, tells him she knows the Messiah is coming who will proclaim all
things. Jesus declares, “I that speak unto thee am he.”67
e) 4:27–30. At that moment the disciples show up, and are shocked that Jesus is speaking
to her. (Religious teachers avoided speaking to women in public.) The woman leaves her
water jar, goes into the city, and begins telling people about Jesus. A crowd forms and
they come out of the city to see him.
f) 4:31–38. Before the Samaritans arrive, Jesus has a dialogue with his disciples about
food. They encourage him to eat something (it’s after 12:00 noon already), but he tells
them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work” (NRSV
4:34). He then compares the spreading of his message to harvesting.
g) 4:39–42. The Samaritans from the city arrive, and they ask him to stay with them, which
he does for two days. Many Samaritans believe that he is the Savior of the world.
8) [SLIDE 20] Next week we’ll continue our study of the Gospel of John.
a) Reading: John 4:43–12:50.

67
Although it’s not as direct as other “I am” statements in John, this also qualifies as claim by Jesus that he is the I AM, the
God of Israel. See page 3.

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