Puns in John's Gospel: Overcome / Comprehend (1:5, Part 2)

Puns in John’s Gospel

John 1:5 “Overtake/Comprehend” (Part 2)



In Part 1, we explained the meaning of the word “pun,” and then highlighted John’s penchant for employing them in his Gospel. Then we considered the first instance of one, which comes as early as 1:5, involving the word “overcome” (or “comprehend” depending on the translation). Then we looked at the three other places where John uses that word in his Gospel (8:3, 4, and 12:35), concluding that we need to take a closer look at the context of his last usage before we could draw any reasonable conclusions. Finally, we offered a practical application for life and ministry.


In this installment, we need to look at how John uses that same word (katalambanŨ) in 12:35. To do that properly, we need to consider the larger context of John 12. And here is what we have: Up to a certain point in the Gospel, Jesus had repeated encounters with the...

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Puns in John's Gospel: Overcome / Comprehend (1:5, Part 1)

Puns in John’s Gospel

John 1:5 “Overtake/Comprehend” (Part 1)

The Gospel of John is known for both its simplicity and its sophistication. That is to say, on one level of reading, virtually anybody can understand it and find edification in it. But at another level of reading, the reader must go deeper and read with more insight and astuteness into the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. In my study of the Fourth Gospel over many years, I’ve observed that John loves to play with the various nuances of word meanings. When he does that, it’s called a pun. Others may call it double-entendre, double meaning, ambiguity, paronomasia, witticism, among other labels. While there might be slight differences between each of these terms, for our purposes here, I’m basically using the word pun synonymously with any and all of the above.

Now, John is also well-known for his use of irony and it is not uncommon for him to employ a pun at the same time that he speaks...

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