Ἰωάννην 1·15 Ἰωάννης μαρτυρεῖ περὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ κέκραγεν λέγων· οὗτος ἦν ὃν εἶπον· ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν, ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν 16 ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ πληρώματος αὐτοῦ ἡμεῖς πάντες ἐλάβομεν καὶ χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος· 17 ὅτι ὁ νόμος διὰ Μωϋσέως ἐδόθη, ἡ χάρις καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐγένετο.
John testifies about him and has cried out saying, “This one was of whom I said, ‘The one coming after me has become the one in front of me, because he was before me.’” Because from his completeness, we also all received grace in place of grace; because the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν “because he was before me” πρῶτός means “first”, so, in this context, the writer means that Jesus existed before John the Baptist existed.
χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος: “grace in place of grace”. ἀντὶ is anti in english. To clear this up, think of how antichrist (ἀντίχριστος) is opposite of christ. I know some translations render this “grace upon grace” or “one blessing after another”, but the context argues against it because of what is written in the following verse (17). John is setting up verse 17 with verses 15 and 16 (actually, it is set up from the beginning of the chapter, but that’s a different blog). He is showing the authority and divinity of Jesus as compared to Moses the man. With that in mind, “we also all received grace in place of grace” probably means “we also all received the grace and truth through Jesus Christ in place of the law”.
The best writing on this subject that I’ve found to illustrate this is found in “The Biblical Illustrator”
Points, of contrast between Judaism and Christianity
I. IN THE PERSONS REPRESENTING JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY.
1. Moses was the servant, Christ the master.
2. Moses was a subject, dependent, Christ was King of kings.
3. Moses was only a man, but Christ was the God-man.
4. Moses was the agent smiting the rock, Christ was the rock smitten.
5. Moses was but the channel of communication between God and His people; Christ is the source of all our mercy.
6. Moses was only the student; in Christ dwelt all the fulness of wisdom.
7. Moses was delegated; Christ spoke in His own name and on His own authority.
(from The Biblical Illustrator, S. Jones)
After going through my beginning parts of this blog, I shared it with my friend, Stephen Brown, who actually started me on the path of this blog by telling me that he was going to blog on it. He shared with me that he thought the “grace in place of grace” made sense because Jesus came to “fulfill the law and not to abolish it” (Matthew 5:17-18). That got me to thinking about John’s theology (Yes, John had theology as did all of the authors of the New Testament). John’s portrayal of the law seems to be conflicting with Matthew’s portrayal of the law. I did a search in John and in every occurrence, Jesus (and John) speaks of the law as “their law”, “your law”, or something similar. The Mosaic law never seems to be embraced by the Jesus that John portrays. I know that this may be a little controversial, but it is hard to escape the actual writings that we have. Anyone who is a student of the Bible knows that the Book of John is vastly different than the other three gospels. One may call it “the perspective of John” and “the perspective of Matthew”, but there’re big differences non-the-less.
Regardless of what you believe about the theology of John and Matthew, this one thing remains true: Jesus as God trumps anything that was given by Moses according to this passage. The author goes to great links in order to establish that thought in this text.
I’m sure I’ll get questions and I’m sure that more blogs on the subject will follow.