I'm translating the 15th verse of John 1, and I'm curious to know the nuances of translating the phrase ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν, and especially the word γέγονεν.

Below is the NA28 text and my translation.

15 Ἰωάννης μαρτυρεῖ περὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ κέκραγεν λέγων· οὗτος ἦν ὃν εἶπον· ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν, ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν.

John bears witness about Him and has cried out, saying, "This was He of whom I said, 'He who comes after me was made before me, because He was before me.'"

I feel uncomfortable with my translation of γέγονεν. I think I chose a fairly literal meaning of the word, but it doesn't seem to make sense in this context.

How would you translate the word γέγονεν in this verse, and what is your rationale for doing so?

Is the meaning that you choose common, and literal, or is it less common, and less literal?

  • Are you translating "was made" because of the Latin translation "factus est"? Remember that "factus est" (from fieri) and γέγονεν are usually translated "has become," which seems to make a lot more sense of the passage. Another point: you translate two different words with "before," but it seems pretty clear that the first one isn't meant temporally.
    – brianpck
    Jul 7, 2019 at 23:14
  • @brianpck The ESV gives "He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me," in which it is clear that the first before is not temporal. But is it clear to us that ἔμπροσθέν is not temporal? If that's the case then my translation is off! The King James Bible gives "He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me." What's the rationale for translating γέγονεν as "preferred"? Is it a liberal translation, or was this a common meaning of the word?
    – ktm5124
    Jul 7, 2019 at 23:18
  • @brianpck One other question regarding the ESV and KJV use of "ranks" and "is preferred" — why are these in the present tense, when γέγονεν is perfect? Even the Douay Rheims uses "is preferred", which is present tense, not perfect.
    – ktm5124
    Jul 7, 2019 at 23:21

1 Answer 1


I think the meaning of γέγονεν (3rd singular perfect of γίγνομαι) is 'has become' here, as @brianpck says, but to achieve good English usage we can use 'is now' to express the change in state, thus:

He who comes after me is now before me, because he is foremost.

In answer to @ktm5124 about the change of tenses, I think that reported speech ("I said that he who came after me was now before me") is being translated into direct speech ("I said 'he who comes after me is now before me'") but those with a better grasp of Greek sequence of tenses may correct me.

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