ουκ ην εκεινος    το φως αλλ ινα μαρτυρηση περι του φωτος

not was that one the light but s o to testify     concerning the light


non erat ille lux sed ut testimonium perhiberet de lumine

DRB: He was not the light, but was to give testimony of the light.

English Translations with variant readings:

NEB: He was not himself the light; he came to bear witness to the light.

CEV: John wasn’t that light. He came only to tell about the light.

GW: John was not the light, but he came to declare the truth about the light.

LB: John himself was not the Light; he was only a witness to identify it.

TM: John was not himself the Light; he was there to show the way to the Light

NCV: John was not the Light, but he came to tell people the truth about the Light.

NLT: John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light.

 Comments and Commentaries:

John understood clearly the he (the Baptist) was not the “light.” He had a clear mission and it had nothing to do with elevating himself or making much of what he did or didn’t do. It wasn’t about himself. Too often we make ourselves the subject of the bible and act as if it was written and we read it as if it was about us and how we can be happier more content and fulfilled people. The truth is it’s all about Jesus.

John made his testimony all about Jesus. Only Jesus can lead people to eternal life, neither John the Baptist or John the author could do that so both made it their mission to simply tell others about Jesus.

To be a “witness” is to tell the truth, as you know and understand it, to others. The term in this case seems to be suggestive of a court of law and that being called to the witness stand one must tell what they know to be true. What is true about Jesus. John knew it wasn’t about himself, it was about Jesus. What do you know is true about Jesus.

John never lost sight of his purpose in the book and he suggests in this short verse that John the Baptist had similar convictions. It wasn’t about himself, it was all about Jesus and both Johns talked about Jesus with others both in person and in their writings with a goal in mind. They wanted and looked for those who heard their testimony to believe in Jesus Christ as the light that came into to the world to reveal the true character and person of God himself to us all.

At the risk of overtranslation, we might render the verse, ‘He was not the light, but it was necessary that he bear witness to the light.’14  [1]


CLV (Chuck Larsen Version): This man, John, was not himself the light. He came to testify concerning the truth of the Light.

14 Cf. E. Delebeque, Etudes Classiques 54, 1986, pp. 147–158.

[1] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 121.