In verse one “the beginning” statement refers to the Word being present before creation (Carson 1991, 114). Carson notes the apparently self-conscious use of verbs. The being verb refers to the presence of the Word, but a verb for becoming is used for the created order (Carson 1991, 114). The term “logos” for “the Word” is a challenge. It was used in various ways within Greek philosophy. Yet John consistently makes allusions to the Old Testament rather than philosophy. It seems fairly clear to understand as God’s “powerful self-expression in creation, revelation, and salvation” (Carson 1991, 116). The word order and emphasis in the opening verse specifically tells of the identity of the Word as God (Carson 1991, 117).
Verses 3-4 emphasize the creative work of the Word. He made absolutely everything (Carson 1991, 118). Carson discusses the statements about “light” and “life,” noting that these are common motifs in many religious and philosophical contexts (Carson 1991, 118). Verse 5 is a statement Carson sees as purposely ambiguous. It speaks of the light in the darkness. The darkness does not overcome/comprehend it. While someone who has no exposure to Christian thought might see a philosophical dualism, the Christian will almost immediately se a correspondence of light and salvation (Carson 1991, 119).
From this foundation, John discusses the coming of John the Baptist, the one who introduces the light (Carson 1991, 120).
This John is among the many witnesses who point to the glory of Jesus. Jesus is presented as the light embodied, hence the “true” light (Carson 1991, 122). The work of the light coming to overcome “the world” is seen by Carson as a comment on the power of God’s Word. This is not because the world is so good or big, but because the world, as protrayed in the Gospel, is generally seen as bad (Carson 1991, 123). Carson discusses the idea of the Word “enlightening” every man, from verse 10. He concludes that the work of the Word is to make clear what people are. Some will reject the light and some will not. All will be shown (Carson 1991, 124).
Verse 11 takes up the concept of the Word coming to every person. Carson sees it as taking the idea of verse 10 and then moving it farther. Although all creation does belong to God, at times he identifies people as being specifically his people. Carson considers this consistent with John’s habit of alluding to the Old Testament, thus referring to Israel (Carson 1991, 125). God’s people are portrayed as rejecting God. However, in verses 12-13 the people who do believe are received very enthusiastically (Carson 1991, 126). They are children of God. Carson notes that Paul identifies believers as “sons” but that John only identifies Jesus as the “son.” The adoption, however, is wholly from God’s will (Carson 1991, 126).
Verse 14 returns to “the Word.” Here he “becomes flesh,” a strong statement of the real humanity of the Word (Carson 1991, 127). The language of dwelling among us is a strong allusion to the Old Testament view of God in the Tabernacle (Carson 1991, 127). It is in this context that God’s glory is seen. Carson notes that the nature of God’s glory is not simply raw power. It is “full of grace and truth,” another strong allusion to the character of God as revealed in the Old Testament (Carson 1991, 129). Carson notes that this glory of God is not always evident in Jesus but is shown through his works (Carson 1991, 130). John’s statement in vv. 16-17, of “grace for grace” is challenging. Carson evaluates several possible interpretations and concludes that the statement indicates an additional outpouring of grace (Carson 1991, 132).
At the end of the prologue, John concludes with the idea of Jesus as the final revelation of God. Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, the true Word of God, is the one who has made God known (Carson 1991, 134). He knows the fullness of deity as well as being the true man discussed earlier in the prologue.
Carson concludes that the prologue draws many parallels to things mentioned later. While it is innovative in form it is not unusual in making reference to many Old Testament concepts (Carson 1991, 136).
Carson notes the altogether reasonable report of “the Jews” sending investigators to question John the Baptist about Jesus. Carson notes that John’s use of “the Jews” is multi-faceted and not always negative (Carson 1991, 141). The question of these priests and Levites in John 1:10-21 strongly suggests their concern was with the nature of the claims of Jesus to be Messiah (Carson 1991, 142-143). John the Baptist does not see himself as either the Messiah or as the “Elijah” to come. John does make it clear that he recognizes his role as a forerunner of the Messiah (Carson 1991, 144).
Commenting on vv. 24-25, Carson entertains and rejects the idea of a second embassy questioning John. He also does not think the entire group consists of Pharisees. He favors a subset of the interogators being Pharisees, asking more questions (Carson 1991, 144). Carson observes that the most serious question is the authority to administer baptism. As a washing of purification it was surprising that it would be administered by another individual. Most washings were self-administered (Carson 1991, 145). John turns attention away from the question to the authority of Jesus (Carson 1991, 146).
Verses 29-34 continue to introduce Jesus as the Messiah. Carson observes that John makes a point to use many Messianic titles (Carson 1991, 147). Verse 29 identifies Jesus as the “Lamb of God,” a title which may well have been hard to understand as Messianic. Carson observes that the disciples did not grasp the role of suffering until after the resurrection (Carson 1991, 149). Carson examines several possible references before concluding that John may have been thinking of some literary references to a warrior lamb who would battle sin as a Messiah (Carson 1991, 150). The discussion continues with John’s witness of the Holy Spirit remaining on Jesus (Carson 1991, 151). The work of Jesus is that of the “chosen one” or “son of” God, who both reveals God and offers himself to save the world (Carson 1991, 152-153).
Verses 35-42 show various disciples attaching themselves to Jesus (Carson 1991, 154). Their early experience following Jesus helps them see the content of his life, persuading them that he is the Messiah (Carson 1991, 155).
Verses 43-51 portray two additional disciples, Philip and Nathaniel. Carson sees this as a demonstration that although the people as a whole did not receive Jesus, some did (Carson 1991, 157). The group follows Jesus into Galilee. Carson gives a brief geographical orientation (Carson 1991, 158). The encounter of Jesus and Nathanael serves to show Nathanael as a good Israelite and Jesus as the good which unexpectedly comes from Nazareth (Carson 1991, 160). Jesus is the true Son of God, real Israel (Carson 1991, 162).
Carson considers that John begins his narrative of Jesus’ “public ministry” in chapters 2-4, though the start of chapter two features a limited audience at a wedding (Carson 1991, 166). This portion of the Gospel features Jesus doing signs of his power. There is a repeated theme of the new replacing the old in chapters 2-4.
John narrates a variety of signs with the stated purpose of people believing that Jesus is the Christ (Carson 1991, 167). Carson notes that John’s careful counting of days, which occurs only here, culminates with the sign of turning water into wine on the seventh day (Carson 1991, 168). The sign, then, may be associated with rest.
In the narrative of the wedding at Cana, Carson notes the shame which would be associated with running out of wine (Carson 1991, 169). Jesus’ response to his mother’s request, though not disrespectful, is a rather abrupt and forceful statement (Carson 1991, 171). The reference to Jesus’ “hour” not having come may well suggest his coming death and resurrection. Carson considers Jesus to frequently move discussions of natural or temporal matters to refer to eternal situations (Carson 1991, 172). Likewise, Carson sees the use of a water pot for purification as a vessel for wine to represent a foreshadowing of the abundant joy of God’s cleansed people (Carson 1991, 173). Carson notes the closure of 2:11, where the sign reveals Jesus’ glory. Though the signs are not numbered clearly in the Gospel, most people will identify six or seven (Carson 1991, 175).
Carson, D. A. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991.
Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005.
Harris, Murray J. John: Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament. Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Academic, 2015.