The NASB translates ante me factus est in Jn 1:15 as "has a higher rank than I". How does the NASB get this meaning for this phrase? I personally would translate this phrase as "was made before me" and don't see how the concept of rank is present in the phrase. Can someone explain how the NASB gets the idea of rank from this phrase?

15 Joannes testimonium perhibet de ipso, et clamat dicens: Hic erat quem dixi: Qui post me venturus est, ante me factus est: quia prior me erat.

John *testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’”

  • 1
    Is there another NASB that translates from the Latin? The normal NASB is a translation of the Greek NT! Commented May 29, 2020 at 3:46
  • @curiousdannii—Agreed. I wonder if perhaps he means the NAB (New American Bible). Commented May 29, 2020 at 3:54
  • @DerÜbermensch Even it is still a translation of the Greek. But the translation before it, the Confraternity Bible, was a translation of the Vulgate. Commented May 29, 2020 at 4:00
  • Please see brianpck's comment under my answer and consider whether you want to unaccept it or react otherwise.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented May 29, 2020 at 6:02
  • The NASB is very strict in translating the original languages into precise english as possible that reflects the literal meaning of the text, sometimes this results in a stilted reading however for accuracy of translation the NASB sets a higher standard than the KJV. both translations are perfectly valid, for ease of reading the NIV and ESV have become classic translations that blend accuracy with readability. in any case if none of those options are helpful to u there are plenty of valid translations to choose from between the ideals of word for word, and paraphrase translations, ...
    – Rich
    Commented May 29, 2020 at 9:51

2 Answers 2


This seems to be about a rarer meaning of facere, namely "consider". The verb habere can be used in the same way. If I consider a house to be large, I can say: domum magnam habeo/facio. (Or perhaps it is more common with a qualitative genitive?)

Thus ante me factus est means "he is esteemed before me", which is more naturally rendered in English as in the translation you quote.

Notice, however, that I'm working fully within Latin here. Such reasoning can lead to misreading the Vulgate, as it draws structurally so much from the source text.

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    I'm pretty sure this isn't the correct interpretation, since this is translating the Greek "γέγονεν" ("became"), which is translated identically in the previous verses of Jn 1, where it doesn't mean "consider."
    – brianpck
    Commented May 28, 2020 at 20:10
  • @brianpck That's very well possible. I was working fully within Latin, and that can easily lead to misreading the Vulgate.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented May 28, 2020 at 20:19

The New American Standard Bible was translated from the Greek (and Hebrew for the Old Testament), while consulting Aramaic texts, so the Vulgate doesn't really come into consideration. Here's the Greek:

Ἰωάννης μαρτυρεῖ περὶ αὐτοῦ, καὶ κέκραγεν λέγων, Οὗτος ἦν ὃν εἴπον, Ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν· ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν.

The word in question is ἔμπροσθεν, which can be translated as before, in the sense of having priority in time or place. However, it can also have the sense of priority with respect to rank.

I consulted Vincent's Word Studies for this particular verse, and he said the following:

Is preferred before me (ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν) — Literally, "is become," so Rev., "or is here (compare John 6:25) before me." Before is used of time, not of dignity or rank. The expression is enigmatical in form: "my successor is my predecessor." The idea of the superior dignity of Christ is not a necessary inference from His coming after John, as, on that interpretation, the words would imply. On the contrary, the herald who precedes is inferior in dignity to the Prince whom he announces.

J. B. Lightfoot holds that this verse carries a similar idea to that of Philippians 2:6, in which Christ is exalted (ὑπερύψωσεν) to the highest place.

The word πρῶτός also means before in phrase "He existed before me", therefore the context seems to demand that some difference be made between these two words which can both mean before, so that the latter can serve as an explanation for the former. It appears that the translator felt that the distinction probably hinged on John's attributing a greater dignity to Christ.

  • I would agree with Lightfoot and the NASB, and disagree with Vincent, in this instance. If it meant 'priority in time' then the following phrase "for He existed before me," also signifying 'priority in time,' would not explain anything. Also the Douay-Rheims has 'is preferred before me.'
    – Jasper May
    Commented May 28, 2020 at 18:23
  • @JasperMay. That's a very good point. I edited my answer, because I actually find Vincent's words hard to understand, so maybe I was misinterpreting him. On the one hand, he says "before is used of time, not of dignity" and then he goes on, seemingly arguing for the contrary. I'm not sure what he means exactly with "...as, on that interpretation." So, instead of interpreting him, I simply quoted it. Commented May 28, 2020 at 19:53
  • Ok, now you've quoted him, I also don't quite understand what he means.
    – Jasper May
    Commented May 28, 2020 at 20:26

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