Nathaniel & Signs in JohnVolume 3, Number 80
Created Date: May 12, 2014
Posted Date: May 12, 2014
Believe in the Gospel of John; Part 6:
“And other words specific to this Gospel”
Last November we began a study of the Greek word “pisteu’o” in the Gospel of John where it is used more often than in any other New Testament book. (I’ve incorrectly stated in the last few studies that it’s found 99 times in John. It actually occurs 100 times but is translated “believe” 99 times and “commit unto” once in the King James Version.) So far we’ve covered the first two occasions it appears; in Vol 3, No 75we observed the first occasion where it’s used in the mission statement of John the Baptist: “to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe,” see . Then in studies 76 - 79 we studied the second place “believe” occurs where John teaches that true belief goes along with receiving and being born from above or of God: “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” .
Today we come to the third “believe,” where John quotes Jesus speaking to Nathanael whom He called to be an Apostle: “Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.”.” Events leading up to this are as follows:
•While in Galilee Jesus called Philip to be one of His Apostles,,
•Philip found Nathanial and told him they had found the one Moses and the prophets wrote about, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph,,
•Nathanial asked Philip if any good thing could come out of Nazareth to which Philip told him “come and see,”,
•When Jesus saw Nathanael coming, He said to him, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!”,
•Nathaniel asked Jesus how He knew him and Jesus told him that before Philip called him Jesus had seen him under a fig tree,,
•“Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.”,
Then “Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.”. Jesus’ double use of the word “verily” in verse 51 is noteworthy in that it is one of the evidences highlighting the purpose of John’s Gospel. “Verily” is translated from the Greek word “amen,” which means “something trustworthy,” “surely;” as in the phrase “so be it” or of course with our English word “amen.” The double use of the word “verily” is found 25 times in John’s Gospel, it’s use in being the first instance. On the other hand, its double use never appears in all of Matthew, Mark or Luke. It is used in those books but always only once in each context, as in “verily, I say unto you.” The double use of “verily” in John’s Gospel is not some idiosyncrasy of John himself; it is by inspiration of the Holy Spirit in order to emphasize the greater authority with which Jesus Christ, as God, spoke and so coming with double importance. For, as has been observed previously in these studies, Matthew is a record of Jesus Christ as God’s perfect King; Mark as God’s perfect Servant; Luke as God’s perfect Man while in John’s Gospel, Jesus Christ is presented as God Himself, John 1:1, 2 & 14. It is for this reason that in the Gospel of John we also see that Jesus “talks” to God, He does not pray to God as He does in Matthew, Mark and Luke.
There are a number of words that are either unique to John’s Gospel or they are used much more frequently than in the other Gospels, thus emphasizing the special character of John’s Gospel. Paul informs us that the Jews require signs,, and Jesus performed wondrous miracles, which were signs to Israel that He was indeed their Messiah; this in conformance to the Old Testament prophesies foretelling the blessings Israel’s Messiah would bring. Thus Jesus’ miracles were signs to Israel that He was who he said He was. In this regard we note that the Greek word “du’namis” (G1411) is found 120 times in the New Testament, translated “power” 77 times; “mighty work 11 times; “strength” 7 times; “miracle” 7 times; etc. We get our word “dynamite” from this word. It is used prominently in Matthew, Mark, Luke, the Pauline epistles as well as in the epistles by Peter and especially in the book of Revelation, which of course was written by John. However it is not found even once in the Gospel of John. So, whereas God’s perfect King presented in Matthew; His perfect Servant as presented in Mark and His perfect Man as presented in Luke all manifest the power of God; in John He is presented as God Himself ( ; 20:28 & 31); in other words, Jesus Christ was the Power.
On the other hand, the Greek word “semei’on” (G4492) is found 77 times in the NT and in 50 of those 77 it is translated “sign” as it normally should be. It is found 17 times in John’s Gospel, the most often in any NT book. The obvious reason is that John’s Gospel reveals the signs that Jesus Christ was and is God Himself. However, for some reason the translators of the King James version saw fit to translate “semei’on” with our English word “miracle” 13 out of the 17 times it is found in John.
When Jesus told Nathaniel what he was doing some time prior to coming into contact with Him, i.e., he was sitting under a fig tree, Nathaniel not only recognized that Jesus was the King of Israel (their Messiah) but that He was the Son of God, John 1:49. Jesus, as God, recognized that Nathaniel believed who He was and told him he would witness greater things than these, John 1:50. And Nathaniel did; he witnessed Jesus heal all manner of sick people, give sight to the blind, feed thousands with a small amount of food, control nature and even raise the dead. The Gospel of John records eight (8) signs highlighting the fact Jesus was not only Israel’s Messiah but God in the flesh, i.e., the Son of God. Immediately after Nathaniel’s encounter with Jesus, John records the first such sign, which Nathaniel and the other disciples witnessed. Jesus Christ turned water into wine at the marriage feast at Cana of Galilee,. And then we read: “This beginning of miracles (miracles should be translated “signs” for it is the Greek “semei’on”) did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him,” . And thus the fourth occasion of the word “pisteu’o/believe” occurs in John 2:11 where we have the definitive statement that Jesus’ disciples “believed on Him” after witnessing this sign.
The 5th “believe” in John is after Jesus told some unbelieving Jews that if they were to destroy this temple He would raise it up in 3 days. The Jews had in mind the building, the Temple in Jerusalem, which they said took 46 years to build,. They did not understand what Jesus was talking about, “But he spake of the temple of his body. When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.” John 2: 21 & 22. So this was another proof to the disciples that Jesus was who He said He was but this aspect didn’t sink in until after He rose from the dead.
Then, the 6th and 7th occasions of the word “believe” reveal an interesting fact. Six in Scripture is the number for man and here we learn: “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles (“miracles” should be translated “signs”) which he did.”. The exact identity of the “many” written of here is not known, except they were Jews because they were in attendance at the Passover feast in Jerusalem. But the 7th occasion of “pisteu’o/believe” in John again sheds light on the fact Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. The King James translators translated “pisteu’o” as “commit” in this sentence: “But Jesus did not commit himself unto them (believe them), because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.” . The number 7 in Scripture is the number for Spiritual perfection and so we find “believe” used in stating the fact that Jesus knew what was in man, He knew in this case that some, or all, of those who believed did so because they witnessed the miracles He performed, but they did not truly believe because they had not truly “received” Him nor “were born of God,” as we saw in . These people may have been similar to some today who “believe” there was a man named Jesus Christ; they may use His name in vain or if not they agree to the fact a man named Jesus lived some 2000 years or so ago, but they do not claim Him as the Lord Jesus Christ, their personal Savior. They do not believe in Him in the sense presented as Gospel in 1 Corinthians15:1 -5, that He died, was buried and rose again and that He did so to save those who believe to eternal life.