Here is my translation of John 1:1-18, from the NA-28 Greek text. The notes in the text are footnotes, not the verse numbers–I did not include verse numbers:

In the beginning was the Messenger—God’s living embodiment of Himself,[1] and the Messenger was with God, and the Messenger was God.[2] This Messenger was there at the beginning[3] with God. Everything was created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created. Life was in Him,[4] and that life was the light for[5] men and women. The light is shining into the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it.[6]

A man arrived, sent from God. His name was John. He came to be a witness[7]—to testify about this light[8] so that everyone might believe through John.[9] This man was not that light, but came to testify about the light.

This light was[10] the true light[11] who shines upon all people, and it was coming into the world.[12] He was in the world, and this world was made by Him, and the world did not acknowledge Him. He came to His own, and they did not welcome Him. But, to as many as received Him, He gave them permission[13] to become God’s children. He only gave this permission to the ones who trust in His name[14]—not those who are born from normal descent, or from sexual passions, or from our own scheduled birth plans, but those born from God. 

And so, the Messenger became a human being and lived among us. We saw His majesty—glory like that of the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John was bearing witness about the Messenger, crying out and saying, “This is the one I was talking about, when I said, ‘The one who arrives after me is mightier than me, because He existed before me.’”[15]

This is why[16] from the Messenger’s unlimited supply[17] we have each received one gracious blessing after another.[18] For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. Nobody has ever seen God at any time. The one and only God, whom the Father holds so dear[19]—He has made Him known!

Here is the Christmastide sermon I preached from this text. I didn’t use my own translation for the sermon, because I find that sometimes confuses people. So, I stuck with my normal preaching translation–the NIV (2011):


[1] This word carries a wide semantic range. Here, it refers to Jesus as the embodied personification of God’s message (Mounce, Expository Dictionary, pp. 1201, 448, 803). Mounce notes “[t]his flexibility has its root in the use of logos in Greco-Roman literary culture, where it could stand on its own for the spoken word, ‘a message,’ as well as what one does, ‘a deed,’” (p. 803). LSJ notes the term in this context means Christ personified as God’s agent in creation and world-government (Greek-English Lexicon, 1996, p. 1059; cf. BDAG, p. 601, ¶3). The “word” here is God’s divine message, personified in Jesus (Friberg, 3c). See especially Moises Silva’s conclusion on this matter (NIDNTTE, 3:169). 

Because “logos” here is a noun, I decided to render it as Messenger. One could argue I should be explanatory, and write “in the beginning was ‘God’s self-revelation’ or ‘very personal message.’” I chose not to do that, because I believe “logos” throughout this section refers to Jesus as a proper noun. So, I opted for Messenger, and I’ll leave it at that.

[2] In a copulative sentence with two nominatives, the one with the article is typically the subject. See Richard Young’s discussion (Intermediate Grammar, pp. 64-66). 

[3] I believe the preposition is specifying a point in time, which I rendered as “there at the beginning.”

[4] I take the preposition to be expressing metaphorical space. It’s tempting to go with association (“with Him was life”), but that isn’t what John appears to be saying (cp. John 5:26). 

[5] This is an objective genitive. 

[6] The phrase “the light is shining” is an imperfective aspect (present tense-form), while the “darkness has not overpowered it” is the perfective aspect (aorist). In the latter case, John seems to be viewing the darkness’ defeat as an undefined whole, viewing the situation in one grand sweep as if from a helicopter or via drone footage. The light is still shining, and the darkness has not overcome it.

[7] Woodenly, this reads “he came for a witness.” But, the word “witness” is a noun, which indicates that was why John came—to be a witness. 

[8] This is a subjunctive purpose clause which functions in apposition to the description of John as a witness. 

[9] The pronoun in ἵνα πάντες πιστεύσωσιν διʼ αὐτοῦ refers to John, not to Jesus. Both antecedents preceding and following this refer to John.

[10] This is an imperfect “being” verb, and you have to supply the subject—in this case, it is “the light.” 

[11] Here, both nominatives have the article, so we operate by Rule 3d in Young (Intermediate Grammar, p. 65), and conclude the first nominative is the subject, and the second is the predicate nominative. 

[12] The participle is an adverbial participle of attendant circumstance. It’s tempting to see means or reason, but I don’t think they fit.  

[13] God gives them the power to become His children. But, to forestall the idea that salvation is something we do, a translation ought to try to convey that. I think “permission” does the trick, here. See BDAG (p. 352, ¶2) and especially LSJ (s.v. “ἐξουσία,” 1996 ver.) for the rendering of “permission to.”

[14] This phrase τοῖς πιστεύουσιν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ is usually moved and folded into the middle of v.12. It’s an apposition, further explaining to whom Jesus gave permission to become God’s children. It doesn’t have to be moved to the middle of v.12; it can stand here on its own as an introduction to v.13. This makes better sense, or else v.13 just begins with no connective tissue. It’s the ones who believe in Jesus who get this permission, not those who are born from blood (etc.) It’s cleaner to leave this clause at the end of v.12. Because I’m leaving it here at the end (as it is in the Greek), I have to be a bit explanatory—which is why the sentence doesn’t simply begin with “to the ones who …”

[15] This sense has several different senses: “The one who arrives after me (in time—this is not about being a disciple of John) is mightier than me (i.e. before John in rank), because He existed before me (in time).

[16] The conjunction here specifies reason—the grounds for knowing something is true. John was right to say that Jesus is mightier than he—this is why from the Messenger’s unlimited supply we have each received … etc.). 

[17] The sense here is Christ’s fullness, completeness, the sum-total of His being (see BDAG, p. 829-830, ¶3b; LSJ, s.v. “πλήρωμα,” ¶6). Christ is a reservoir, dispensing grace upon grace. I chose to follow Julian Anderson’s translation (The New Testament in Everyday American English) and render this as “unlimited supply.” This might be a bit more concrete than John intended, but I feel the communicative clarity is worth it. 

[18] The best sense seems to be multiple graces being piled up on top of one another, like rolling waves. The NIV 2011’s rendering of one single grace surpassing another single grace seems to refer to the Old v. New Covenants, but I don’t think this is correct. But, I won’t quibble with those who like it.

[19] The well-known expression here is “in the bosum of the Father.” This really means something like “in closest association with” or “really close to.” See the discussion in the UBS Handbook on the Gospel of John. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s