The first eighteen verses of the gospel of John contain
no words from Jesus, only the author's metaphysical
interpretation of his life. Of course these views may also
have been held by Jesus himself, but there is no evidence
of that from these verses, nor is there for the truth
of these views. We will have to see if they are supported
by the actual words of Jesus.
Verses nineteen through twenty-eight of the first chapter
report words from John the Baptizer regarding himself and
one whom he says will come after him. Similar words are
found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke (the Synoptic gospels),
which look like a report that had been handed down in
oral tradition and received by all the authors (Matt. 3:11-14;
Mark 1:7-8; Luke 3:16-17)
. But there are still no words
from Jesus, nor is there any evidence that John was referring
to Jesus when he spoke.
In these next few verses John proclaims that Jesus
is the one whom he said would come,
and that he knew him not until he beheld the Spirit as a dove
descending upon Jesus. But Matthew, Mark, and Luke all
report that it was Jesus who saw the vision of the dove
(Matt. 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22)
and also that a voice from heaven spoke to
him in words from the 2nd Psalm:
Thou art my beloved son; this day have I begotten thee.
although Matthew makes it seem as if it
was a public pronouncement, by altering the first two words
to "This is". But John reports nothing of the voice
nor the quotation from the Psalms; he doesn't even give
any indication that he ever baptized Jesus, as the Synoptics say.
This clearly indicates that the author of John did not
want to report anything which made Jesus seem like a lesser
or ordinary being. Matthew contains a statement
from John the Baptizer that he recognized Jesus
before the baptism, but this is not found in either Mark
or Luke, and anyway it is contradicted by the statement in John
that he "knew him not". Which report should we believe?
Did John recognize Jesus before the baptism,
and did John or Jesus see the vision? Which narrative
is the more plausible, that of the Synoptics, or that of John?
Is it more probable that Jesus had an awakening experience
at the time of the baptism, or that the event was
a pre-ordained signal to John? The writer of John
could simply have forgotten about the voice, but Paul also
reports that these words were spoken to Jesus
Then we are told that Andrew, after hearing John's words,
first followed Jesus, then came and told his brother Peter
that he had found the Messiah. But again, this is contradicted
by the story in the Synoptics, where it is Jesus
who calls Peter and Andrew, and then James and John
(Matt. 4:18-21; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11).
John's gospel goes on to report that Jesus (evidently)
next called Philip, who tells Nathanael, who is skeptical;
but after Jesus pronounces him as "without guile",
Nathanael declares Jesus to be the Son of God!
But Nathanael is not mentioned in the Synoptics,
either as a skeptic or in any other wise. Furthermore,
on every occasion when Jesus is addressed as the "son of God"
in Matthew, Mark and Luke, he rebukes them. Once more,
we must ask, did Jesus call the disciples, and appoint them,
as we are told in the records of Matthew, Mark, and Luke
(Matt. 10:2-4; Mark 3:13-15; Luke 6:13-16)?
Or did they themselves pick out Jesus and apply the label
of the Messiah to him? Who first asserted that he was
the messiah? The first reference to Jesus as such in the
Synoptics is at Caesarea Philippi, halfway through Mark,
and more than halfway through Matthew (Matt. 16:13-16;
Mark 8:27-29; Luke 9:18-20), except for the "devils"
who call him so, and he rebukes them. But even after Peter's
declaration at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus tells them sternly
to tell no one that (Matt. 16:20; Mark 8:30; Luke 9:21).
All scholars agree that the commendation of Peter by Jesus
in Matthew (Matt. 16:17-19) is an interpolation,
since it is not found in Mark or Luke, and it is contradicted
immediately in both Matthew and Mark when Jesus calls
Peter Satan and tells him to "get behind him"
(Matt. 16:23; Mark 8:33).
Finally in the last verse of the first chapter,
we have Jesus' first reference to himself,
but as the Son of man, not as the Son of God, if indeed it is a
reference to himself, which may be doubted as he does not use
the pronoun "I". Thus, at the conclusion of the first chapter
of John we have no words from Jesus claiming any divine identity,
only the words of other persons not even the author. Wherefore
need we believe their report? We must needs inquire further.