Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.
And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
Verse 2. - Now at daybreak. The word ὄρθρου does not occur in John; πρωί and πρωία are our evangelist's words for "early morning," though ὑπὸ τὸν ὄρθρον is found in Luke 24:1 and Acts 5:21. He came again to the temple (the temple courts - ἱερόν, not ναός, is here used); and all the people came to him. The form πᾶς ὁ λαός is a deviation from John's usual phrase, although λαός is found in John 11:50 and John 18:14. There is some ground for the deviation. The scenes of the previous day had been broken up into various groups. The favouring crowd from the provinces sympathized with a portion of the Jerusalem populace; then the hostile crowd at the beck of the authorities had been checked by the "officers" who had been themselves baffled and thunderstruck with the dignity and claims of Jesus. Great excitement had prevailed, and before the stormy scenes and recriminations of the previous day recommenced, the whole temple throng came unto him. If the eighth day of the feast was referred to - i.e. if the great day of the feast were the eighth day - the difficulty of the whole people having gathered about him is diminished, because there were special gatherings for the eighth day (see notes, John 7:37). It might have seemed that they had composed their differences, and were now waiting some symptom and signal of the great Leader's will. [And he sat down, and was teaching them.] This expression is synoptic rather than Johanninc; i.e. it belongs to the methods of the Galilaean ministry (Matthew 5:1; Mark 9:35) rather than to the hostile encounters of the metropolis (but see Matthew 23:2). He was prepared for long discourse and various instruction. Here, as in John 7:14, the word ἐδίδασκε is used without specifying the topic or theme on which he dwelt. The calm morning was soon overclouded, and the people violently excited, by a very ominous disturbance, planned with subtle care and malicious intention on the part of the authorities, who were ready at all costs and by any device to break the spell which Jesus was exerting over some of the people.
And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
Verse 3. - And the scribes and Pharisees are bringing - dragging by main force - (to him) a woman taken in adultery; and, having caused her - forced her, notwithstanding the hideous shame of her discovery - to stand in the midst, they say unto him, Master. The "scribes" are not elsewhere referred to in John's Gospel, although the phrase, "scribes and Pharisees," is very frequently used in the synoptic Gospels for the opponents of our Lord and the subjects of his invective. They come together in the final scenes as combining to thwart and tempt him. John refers to "Pharisees" twenty times, and four times in connection with the "priests;" but never with the "scribes." The scribes are elsewhere in the New Testament spoken of as νομικοί or νομοδιδάσκαλοι, and also as "rabbis" in the Mishna. The scribes and Pharisees are no deputation from the Sanhedrin, nor are they representatives of the party of Zealots, as some have pretended. There is no indication of any mere sectional animosity or of any genuine desire to receive an authoritative or prophetic response to their inquiry. The Sanhedrin itself would certainly not have condescended at this epoch to have submitted any question of its own action to the arbitrament of Jesus. Numerous witnesses of the act of adultery are inconceivable, though in the excitement and confusion of the Feast of Tabernacles in a crowded city and suburbs, this may have been more feasible than might otherwise be supposed. The probability is that the act was undeniably committed in such a way as to bring this woman under the cognizance of these reformers or defenders of the theocracy who cropped up on all sides, and that a group of bigots scow at once that capital might be made for their antagonism to Jesus by proposing to him a query which would, however it might be answered, lower his prestige. According to ver. 10 (omitted in Codex B), these scribes and Pharisees were, if not the "witnesses" of adultery, the "accusers" ready to take the case before the highest court. Considering the long desuetude of the Law, and the impossibility of even the Sanhedrin legally inflicting the penalty of stoning, even if it were so disposed, the whole question looks like a subtle but ill-considered plot to entangle the Lord in his judgments, and to induce him to sacrifice his influence with the people. The absence of the guilty man is noteworthy (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22).
They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
Verse 4. - Master - Teacher - this woman has been taken committing adultery, in the very act. Ἐπαυτοφώρω originally meant in ipso furto, "in the very theft;" afterwards more generally in the commission of this particular sin. The burning shame and bestial bluntness of the charge make no excuse or palliation possible.
Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
Verse 5. - Now Moses in the Law commanded us, that such should be stoned (or, to stone such); but what sayest thou? The Law (Deuteronomy 22:23, etc.) prescribed stoning for both parties when the woman is the betrothed bride of another man, and if she make no sufficient attempt to foil the purpose of her seducer. For ordinary adultery the death penalty is left indefinite (Leviticus 20:10). It is no proof that strangulation was the method of punishment in the days of our Lord because the Talmud and Maimonides thus express it. Meyer concludes that the woman was a betrothed bride. This offence is, broadly speaking. "adultery" of an aggravated kind. The reference to the method of the punishment is not demonstrable proof of this, because it would be easily feasible to transfer the method of the death from the extreme case to the ordinary ease of nuptial infidelity (cf. Exodus 31:14 for the punishment of unspecified death for sabbath violation (repeated Exodus 35:2), interpreted of "stoning" in the special illustrative case, Numbers 15:32-36). This is Moses' Law - "what sayest thou?" This query involves an ascription to Jesus of the right of authoritatively interpreting the Law. thus attributing to him the functions of a new legislator. Some have objected to the bare possibility of such an appeal being made to Jesus by any species of Jewish authority. The whole context shows that the process was malicious, ironical, crafty. The entire audience knew that this law had never been accepted or applied literally; that the Sanhedrin had not enforced it; and that, if they had endeavoured to do so, the Roman power had taken from the nation the jus gladii. The question, therefore, became one of casuistry inflamed by a concrete case, and having as its ally a secret sympathy with the offenders. It was not uncommon for the rabbis to discuss the incidence of obsolete laws. Many of the glosses upon the ancient law, and laborious trifling with specific regulations of the so called oral law, turn upon customs that were absolutely impracticable under the new conditions of the Jewish life. This, however, was no mere quibble of words about possible duties. The query was put with dramatic force and in concrete form. The shame and life of a fellow creature were the materials which this eager and bloodthirsty group were utilizing for their vile purpose.
This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
Verse 6. - But this they said tempting him, that they might have (whereof) to accuse him. They sought a ground of formal accusation against Jesus. This implies some court before which the charge they desired to formulate it might be brought. The precise accusation is difficult to determine, and sundry distinguished scholars, Lucke, De Wette, and Alford, declare the problem or question insoluble. Augustine has been followed by a great body of expositors, who have supposed that an affirmative reply would have been inconsistent with the gentleness and mildness of our Lord's treatment of sinners, while a negative reply would at once have given them a charge to bring before the Sanhedrin of such a relaxation of the Law as would endanger his position as a Rabbi, still more as the Prophet like unto Moses. Almost all critics agree as to the use to which Christ's enemies were ready to put a negative reply, and therefore they coincide with Augustine in this part of his explanation. But the interpretation put upon the affirmative reply would not furnish the ground of any accusation before any court. An apparent inconsistency would be no civil charge, and would have no weight before any legal tribunal. The condemnation of adulterers to death by stoning would have been Christ's allowance of the letter of the Law to stand. The Romans could take no umbrage at this until the act had been carried into execution. It may probably have been known that, let the Sanhedrin record what verdict and punishment they pleased, the Roman magistrates would not have carried it into capital execution. How, then, could the scribes and Pharisees have carried an accusation or information before a Roman tribunal? The solution was suggested by Baumgarten-Crusius and Luthardt, and adopted by Moulton, that Christ was asked to say "Aye" or "No" to an instant, tumultuous act of vengeance upon the adulteress. Let him say "No," they would accuse him of deliberately ignoring and repudiating the authority of the Law of Moses; let him say "Yes," they were ready to stone the woman there and then, and subsequently to throw the responsibility of such violation of Roman jurisdiction upon the Lord Jesus as its instigator. Meyer's objection, that no question at all had been put to Christ on this supposition, is not clear. It was this. Clearly apprehending that adultery is a capital offence, and that there was a case before them upon which no doubt could be thrown, they ask him, with the stones in their hands, "Shall we kill this damsel or not?" If he says "No," then they were prepared to denounce the Prophet for his dogmatic trifling with the Law; if "Yes," they are ready to do the deed, and fasten upon Jesus all the shame and guilt of the proceeding before the Roman governor. It was a very analogous problem to that concerning the tribute money recorded in Matthew 22. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger was writing on the ground (εἰς τὴν γὴν, into the earth). Some manuscripts, E, G, and about ninety cursives, add, μὴ προσποιούμενος, "not troubling himself with them" - "as though he beard them not" (Authorized Version). This act is unparalleled in Scripture, even if the custom is still occasionally practised in the East. Mr. O'Neil, in his instructive volume, 'Palestine Explored,' records a curious instance of a youth, who, after playing some practical joke upon an old man, feigned utter ignorance of the surprise and cry of the old man by instantaneously assuming the position of one entirely abstracted from all sublunary thought, in fact, by sitting on the ground and scribbling with his finger in the dust, "as though he heard and saw nothing of what had happened." Such an intention can only be attributed to our Lord on the understanding that it was a current method of indicating an indisposition to have anything to say to the intruders. He was seated; he turned aside from the excited crowd, and by a significant symbol expressed his displeasure at their proceedings, and his perception of their craftiness. Conjecture has been busy, but vainly, with the inquiry as to what our Lord wrote on the ground, and some have urged (Godet) that he wrote the memorable sentence which follows, as a judge might write the verdict upon the case submitted to him. This is not probable, and it would detract from the symbolism of the act.
So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
Verses 7, 8. - But when they continued asking him; he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and with his finger was writing on the ground. The imperfect tense of ἔγραφεν, twice repeated, seems more in harmony with the symbolic meaning of the act than with the record on his part of any special sentence of his supreme wisdom. Christ refused to act the part of the civil magistrate, or to countenance stormy outbreak of murderous passion against this flagrant sinner, to save himself from their bitter malice. He rose, when the appearance of indifference could not be maintained, and at once arrested the outbreak of their unscrupulous fury without presuming to repudiate the letter of the Law. He lifted the discussion from the judicial to the moral sphere. He does not mean that none but the sinless can condemn, or pronounce verdict upon the guilty; but he calls for special freedom from similar offence on the part of any man who should wish or dare to display his own purity by taking part in the execution. The narrative would not suggest that every one of these accusers had been in his time guilty of like offence, but ἀναμάρτητος must at least mean that he was free from the desires which might lead to the commission of such sin, and Christ calls for inward saintliness and freedom from all irregular propension. He calls for personal chastity as the only possible moral condition for precipitately executing this ancient and severe law. The question before the crowd (asked so craftily) was, not whether Moses' Law was to stand or not, but whether these particular men, with their foul hearts and spurious zeal, were or were not at that particular moment to encounter the displeasure of Roman power by dashing the stones at the head of this poor trembling creature of sin and shame; whether they were morally competent to condemn to immediate death, and carry the verdict into execution. Before this tremendous summons from the Holy One, conscience could sleep no longer. The hypocrisy of the entire manoeuvre stared them in the face.
And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
Verse 9. - And they when they heard it (being convicted by their own conscience), they went out one by one. Their conscience convinced them that the spirit of the Law is greater than its letter. The phrase expressing the action of conscience was probably an explanatory and true gloss, which accounted for the sudden change of front. It was a proof of the ally which Divine law has within the human breast. The whole crowd, rather than the humbled woman, is condemned, but self-condemned and silent. This event speaks for the moral sense which had been paralyzed rather than obliterated in this people. (The expression, "one by one," εἱς κὰθ εἱς, in which εἱς is treated as indeclinable, is occasionally found in later Greek, but only once in the New Testament (Mark 14:19), is not in D, but in several of the codices and cursives, and it is retained in R.T.) The slow rather than simultaneous disappearance of the gang of accusers is a highly dramatic touch, and the remaining clause, beginning from the eldest, even unto the last, heightens the impression. The phrase πρεσβυτέρων need not refer to office, but to age, and the "last" need not necessarily mean the youngest, but those that were left when the most responsible men found that they had carried their question too far, and had retired. And Jesus was left alone; i.e. so far as these accusers were concerned. The multitudes who had gathered round him were still waiting for his words (see ver. 2). This fact is involved in the substance of the narrative, whether the pericope belongs to the Gospel of John or not. And the woman where she was, in the midst of the assembly that remained, more likely cowering in shame and mortal fear than standing brazen-faced or daring before that awful Presence. These two ("Miseria et Misericordia," as said Augustine), "Misery and Pity," face one another, and in the presence of a multitude of disciples and other listeners, Misery waits for Pity to speak - for perfect holiness and perfect mercy to do its will. There is One seated there who is without sin. He is at liberty, on his own showing, to condemn, and even to execute his fierce displeasure against a sin which he had, in his great inaugural discourse, charged upon the ill-regulated desires and evil glances of men.
When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
Verses 10, 11. - And Jesus lifted up himself, and said to her, Where are they? (these thy accusers). The question (with or without the additions) implied that our Lord had not seen the obvious effect of his words upon the accusing party. There was no triumph in his eye, no flush of victory over his enemies. Hath no one condemned thee? pronounced upon thee the sentence of condemnation? Has no one declared that thine is a case of stoning? - No one? Then the judgment has yet to be uttered, if it be left with him. Shall he cast the first stone; and leave the multitude, having tasted blood, to complete the terrible work? She said, No one, Lord. And he said (to her), Neither do I condemn thee. He had not come to condemn, but to save. A time is coming when the Father would commit all judgment into his hands - when his awful word, "I know you not," or "Depart from me," will be the signal of doom. But now his mission is to heal, not to wound; to comfort, not to punish; to reveal the heart of God, not to execute the crude judgments of men; to soothe, not to stone. He does not say, "Be of good courage; thy sins are forgiven." he does not say, "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; Her faith hath saved her;" but, Go, and henceforth sin no more. He justifies the position that he will not quench the smoking flax nor break the bruised reed. He condemns the sin, but for a while spares the sinner. He refuses to set up his judgment against Moses, or take into his human hands the administration of civil or political law. He does not say, "Go in peace," or "Go to peace;" but from this moment, this awful "now" (ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν), "sin no more." The reticence and abruptness of the narrator are not like the style of apocryphal writers. Such a narrative could not have been invented by the second-century disciples, by docetic Ebionites, by the ordinary fabricators of apocryphal literature. If the text is so varied, conflicting, and ill-sustained as to envelop it in doubt; if the place in the gospel narrative be uncertain; if the use of a few words suggests a non-Johannine source; and if the position between John 7:52 and John 8:12 be difficult to accept; - there is yet nothing inconsistent with the Johannine teaching, or the sublime and unapproachable originality of the character of the Johannine Christ. The narrative will remain for all time an illustration of the blending of judgment with mercy, which has received its highest expression in the life work and Person of the Christ.
She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
Verse 12-ch. 9:41-43. - Christ the Light of the world, with consequent discussions. Verse 12. -
(1) The solemn and formal assertion. If the passage we have just reviewed were an integral portion of the Gospel, and in its right place, the reference to the breaking of the morning, the first eye of the sun over the purple hills suddenly transforming their dark outline into the aspect of semitransparent jewellery, and their misty hollows into luminous folds of light, would be the obvious meaning or reason of the new imagery which he adopted: "I am the Light of the world." If, however, the entire pericope is not in its correct place, we must link vers. 12-20 with the discourses of the previous chapter. On the great day of the feast, in obvious allusion to the mystic drawing of water in Siloam, and transference of it to the temple court, Jesus had said, "If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink." Many critics imagine that now he refers to the habit, on the first evening of the Feast of Tabernacles, and probably, though not surely, on the other evenings, of kindling the golden candelabra in the court of the women, giving the signal for a brilliant illumination which was visible over the city and surrounding hills. As the water was a symbolic memorial of the smiting of the rock, so the sudden blaze in the temple court was a similar reminder of the fiery pillar in the wilderness, and commentators have found in such ceremonial and memories an occasion for our Lord's words. Surely they go much deeper, and have a wider signification. The creation of light by the Word of the Lord, and St. John's own statement in the prologue that in the Logos was life, and the Life was the light, and the Light shone into the darkness before the Incarnation, is a more adequate interpretation. "The Word was made flesh," and this was the grand occasion for the revelation of the glory of God. "We beheld his glory," says the apostle, "that of an only begotten Son of the Father." The gospel narrative supplies the material which induced the evangelist to preface it with imposing words. The life of men produced by him who is Life lightens the world with its glory. He is the Light of the world, because he is the Source of its life. This inversion of the sequences belonging to modern science and even to Mosaic cosmogony, partly shows what is meant by "Light," and the Light of life. Life in the Johannine thought is Divine blessedness, the very essence of Divine activity and essential being. The Father hath it in himself, and he has given to the Son to be similarly self-complete. He can confer this life on others, communicating his own perfection to some of the creatures of his hand, even bestowing upon them some of the essential elements of his own being. There are varied emanations and forth-puttings of this life - vegetable, animal, psychical, spiritual - and in each case the life becomes a luminous source of direction, a self-revelatory force, a light. The highest Life of all is the brightest Light - the true Lamp of all our seeing (see ch. John 1:9 and John 11:9, 10). Jesus said, "I am the Light of the world," illuminating its darkness far more impressively than temple fireworks, or even pillars of radiant cloud, nay, more than the sunbeams themselves; and that because he was the Holder and Giver of life. Again therefore Jesus spake to them, saying, I am the Light of the world. The "again" may point back to the discourses of the previous chapter, or to the disturbance of the audience and the teaching of that early morning. If it were the morning of the departure of thousands from the holy city, peculiar appropriateness is felt in the continuation: He that followeth me shall not (by any means) walk in the darkness - shall not start off along the defiles of his pilgrimage in the murk of the night and the heavy hiding mists, but he shall, in my companionship, have the light of life. My follower will see his way. Those who have entered into living fellowship with the living One awake from all death slumber and darkness, "walk in the light, as he is in the light;" "become light in the Lord;" "being made manifest are light;" being with the Lord become φωστήρες, torch bearers to the rest; and, more than all (Matthew 5:14), are themselves "the light of the world." The Messiah had been anticipated as "Light," as the Light of Gentiles as well as Jews (Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6; Malachi 4:2; cf. Luke 2:32, where Simeon had caught the spirit of the ancient prophets). Edersheim (quoting 'Bemidb. R.,' 3 and 15, and 'Yalkut on Isaiah 60): "The rabbis speak of the original light in which God had wrapped himself as in a garment, which was so brilliant that it could not shine by day because it would have dimmed the light of the sun. From this light that of sun, moon, and stars had been kindled. It was now reserved under the throne of God for the Messiah, in whose days it would shine once more." (The Logos was, in the language of Philo, the Archetype and the Outflow of the light.) But the entire meaning of the manifestation of the Divine life in the Messiah is the diffusion of it in others. All Christ's teaching about himself has this practical and ethical bearing. The ἕξει - "will have," "will be in possession of," light - harmonizes with all the wonderful teaching which blends the Christ and his followers in one entity, "I in them, they in me," of ch. 15, 17; and Paul's "Christ formed in you," "Christ liveth in me" (Colossians 1:27; Galatians 1:20). "Light," says Augustine, "reveals other things and its own very self, opens healthy eyes, and is its own witness."
The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true.
Verses 13-19. -
(2) The refusal of the Pharisees to accept this claim on his unsupported testimony, and Christ's reply. Verse 13. - The fact that the Pharisees respond shows that the circumstances of the previous day are changed. They have been the secret and organized opponents of Jesus throughout. The synoptic Gospels show with what perverse ingenuity and doggedness they followed him from place to place, venturing to assail him through his disciples, through his omissions of ritual, and by reason of his Divine freedom in interpreting the sacred Scripture; nor did they refrain from attributing his miracles to the power of the evil one (Matthew 9.). They were the nucleus of the bitter opposition to him current among the rulers in Jerusalem, and they reveal here a reminiscence of the discussion which had taken place in the temple or its neighbourhood after the healing of the impotent man (John 5:31, etc.). There the Lord had said that if he bore witness of himself, without any corroboration, his witness, thus isolated and deprived of evidence, would, on the ordinary grounds of a prima facie testimony, not be true; but be went on to say, further, that his testimony was variously corroborated by the manifest presence and cooperation of the Father. Forgetting thus his own vindication of himself - which many months of varied proof of his personality had confirmed for candid minds - they assail his comparison of himself to the Light of the world, with: Thou bearest witness of thyself; thy witness - according to the canon he had himself admitted and supplemented; but they forgetting the supplement, add - (thy witness) is not true. "If thou art simply making such exalted claims as this, in forgetfulness of the well known maxim about self-witness, we take the liberty to dispute and reject it."
Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go.
Verse 14. - Jesus answered and said to them, Even if I bear witness concerning myself - in case I bear testimony, I, being who and what I am, and surrounded by Divine attestations, charged with a consciousness of a whole army and legion of approving witnesses, and, above all, with the Father's own testimony to me - my witness is true - I satisfy in superlative fashion your own demand and also my own conceded test - because I know - οϊδα, with clear undisturbed self-consciousness I know, absolutely, invincibly, with perfect possession of the past and future - whence I came, and whither I am going. The whole of our Christian verities turn upon the consciousness by Jesus of that which lay before and after that human life of his. He embraced the two eternities in his inward self-consciousness. That "whence" and that "whither," with all their infinite sublimity and solemnity, give adequate evidence and sufficient weight to his personal claim to be the Light of the world, because he is the temporary Embodiment of the eternal life which was with the Father, but is manifest to men (cf. 1 John 1:4). But ye know not whence I come - am ever coming forth to you with Divine judgment and calls of mercy - nor whither I am going. "Neither the one nor the other;" not that Christ had not repeatedly told them in various and most expressive form. They could neither grasp the origin of his Personality, nor the method in which, as Messiah, through suffering, through an equation of his lot with man's (through the form of a slave and the death of a cross), he was doing the Father's will (cf. notes, John 7:27, 28; John 9:29).
Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man.
Verse 15. - You judge - i.e. you condemn me, you repudiate my claim to be the "Living Water" and the "Light of the world" - after the flesh (κατὰ τὴν σάρκα), according to the outward appearance; you look at my mere humanity. Our Lord did not accuse them of the fleshly, blinded, unjust judgments of unregenerate men. The article τὴν, and not the well known formula κατὰ σάρκα, prevents such an interpretation. He rather reasons and pleads with them. He suggests that they might, if they would, look below the surface of his flesh. Tim evangelist, who reports the substance of this discussion, has written. "The Word was made flesh." So if the incarnate Word had always been judged "after the flesh," we should never have seen his glory, nor recognized the nobler part of his Personality. I judge no man. Numerous efforts have been made to find the underlying modification of this assertion. Augustine, Chrysostom, Cyril, and many moderns add, "after the flesh," or "as you do" (the latter is the suggestion of Lucke, which, as Meyer says, comes to the same thing), or "now," pointing on to the actual assumption of his judiciary powers at the consummation of all things, and contrasting his earthly ministry of mercy with the ultimate majesty of his judgment throne (Westcott). Storr, Moulton, Godet. suggest "I by myself" - I alone, independently of the Father, judge no man. Meyer rejects all these attempts to add to the text, and maintains that our Lord is claiming the lofty position of Saviour rather than Judge. He came with that as his primary aim, purpose, intent; to heal, not to wound; to save, not to destroy; to give time for repentance, not to hurry sinners to their doom; to illumine, not to cover with darkness. Yet even Meyer admits a practical exception of great importance to be involved in the next clause, which does not differ from Westcott's interpretation.
And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.
Verse 16. - And yet (the καὶ δέ, equivalent to atque etiam - so Meyer, Luthardt, etc. - "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light;" "The light shineth, and the darkness comprehendeth it not." The prince of this world is judged by the simple uplifting of the Son of God; and so, though he did not come to judge or condemn, yet judgments did, by the very necessity of his nature, proceed from him) even if I judge - if by the mere contact of his purity and love and healing power with those who will not come to him for life, judgment is pronounced - my judgment is true; i.e. trustworthy. The reading of Tischendorf, ἀληθινή, would mean that it "answers to the fundamental conception of a judgment." This thought would make the apparent paradox of the sentence more difficult to resolve. Because I am net alone, but (or, because, on the other hand) I and the Father who sent me, together deliver this judgment; i.e. it does not rest on my mere human consciousness, on what you who judge after the flesh might suppose it would rest, but on the eternal decisions of him who gave me my commission. The Father is in me and with me. I think the Father's thoughts and do the Father's will. Christ's testimony concerning himself, his implicit judgments on human nature, his indirect condemnation of the whole crowd, by his gracious refusal to condemn the sinful woman to immediate doom, all issue forth with the sign manual of Almighty God, with whom and in whom he dwells as the only begotten Son.
It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true.
Verse 17. - Having laid down the principle on which he was justified in maintaining the truthfulness of the assumption which the Pharisees impugned, he proceeded to vindicate, for these Jewish legalists, its agreement with the very letter of the Law. He adopted here the identical ground which was taken by him when first of all he claimed this fellowship with the Father. Yea, and in your Law it has been written, that the witness of two men is true. Many have said that here Jesus puts himself on one side as in hostility to the Law; Baur and some others plead, from the very phrase "your Law," that Jesus could not have used such an expression, and that John could not have recorded it; and Reuss urges that this expression agrees with the "standpoint of the gospel,which aims at lowering and degrading the old dispensation." Nothing could be less in harmony with the facts (see Introduction, § VII. 2). Even Meyer says, "The words are anti-Judaic... though not antinomian." Surely our Lord was simply appealing to his bitter enemies to recognize the application of the principle found in their own Law, of which they were continually making a proud boast. He simply goes to common ground of argument, and is ready to show that even the letter of the Law sustains his claim for the sufficient reason that he is not alone, but the Father is manifestly with him. Just as he never said "our Father" when addressing his disciples, but either "my Father" or "your Father" (John 20:17), because God is not the Father of men in the full sense in which he was Father to the only begotten Son; so he could not say "our Law" or "Moses gave us the Law" without derogating from the unique relation he sustained to the Law (compare Paul's language, Romans 2:17, 21, 23). The quotation from Deuteronomy is not verbally exact; it even carries the statement of Scripture to a broader generalization, and is so worded that it applies to the case in point, by carrying the position to a legitimate consequence - "the witness of two men is true." By using the word "men," Christ suggests the contrast between two men on one side and the God-Man and the Father on the other. Lightfoot ('Horae Hebraicae') quotes 'Rosh-Shanah,' 1:2, 3, "that two persons well known must testify to the supreme court that they had seen the new moon! If these were unknown persons, they must bring proof that they were credible witnesses." Upon these common principles of jurisprudence the Lord was willing, in purely Jewish fashion, to rest his claim.
I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.
Verse 18. - I am the (one) that bears witness concerning myself - I have said it, and abide by it, and I know what I say and how fully I am fulfilling these words - and the Father that sent me heareth witness concerning me. His words reflected his own Divine self-consciousness. They bore one witness to his unique position. They brought out the inner thoughts of Christ, and revealed the life that was light. The word, the speech, of Christ was a fire kindled which would never be extinguished - it was the formal utterance of the eternal reality but it did not stand alone. The Father that sent him, by a long chain of events and revelations, by miracles and mighty energies, by the conference of the spirit of conviction upon the minds that gave candid attention to his verbal testimony, by the providential concurrence of facts with prophetic anticipation, was bearing witness concerning him. The argument is sufficient, so soon as we admit the terms used by Jesus, so soon as we recognize the ideas of the Son of God and of the Father, both alike revealed in the Person of Christ. We can understand, and to some extent sympathize with, the perplexity of the Pharisees. Later experiences have made it easier for us to understand the testimony of the Father, the presence and witness of God over and above the testimony of men and coincident with it (cf. John 15:27; Hebrews 2:4). All great spiritual revivals have given ample proof of the twofold testimony (see 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Romans 8:17, where Paul, the writer of the Epistle, shows himself familiar with this "Johannine" thought; cf. Hebrews 2:4).
Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.
Verse 19. - They said to him, in angry, wilful irony, Where is thy Father? - that he may bear to thee the witness which thou art appropriating. "Thou hast freed thyself from the charge of bearing unsupported testimony to thyself, by assuming the coordinate testimony of thy Father? Let thy Father manifest himself!" There is no need to explain this of the absence or insignificance of the earthly father of Jesus, or to suppose that they looked for some human attestation of such a kind (Augustine, Lange). They rather scoffed at his claim of unique relation to the Father, and asked with mockery," Where is he?" not "Who or what is he?" What proof has he given of any special relation to thee? Jesus answered this taunt with sublime patience and pity, with distress at the resolute and judicial blindness they were fastening upon themselves: Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye knew me, ye would know my Father also. Another stupendous utterance, implying the most intimate relation between his own personality and the Father's. Any fair or adequate knowledge of himself must reveal to them that he is in the Father and the Father in him; must bring forth to their consciences the overshadowing presence, the Divine glory. "You are wrapping yourself in impenetrable mists; you are refusing the light of life, and all the evidence given to you that I am the Light of the world. You do not see less recondite truths, nor perceive ideas far more elementary still; you cannot, in your spiritual blindness, apprehend the outline of my human character. If you had done this, you would have known my Father at least enough to prevent the utterance of so crude and disheartening a query. You know me not: why should I talk to you? All this ministry of mine has left me, so far as you Pharisees are concerned, perfectly unknown." There is awful severity and unutterable pathos in these closing words of the discourse.
These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come.
Verses 20-30. -
(3) Further controversy with different groups, ending in partial admission of his claims by some. Verse 20. - These words - an expression which emphasized the foregoing interview, and shut it off from the following context - spake he (Jesus) in the treasury, as he taught in the temple courts. The γαζοφυλακίον (Mark 12:41; Luke 20:1) may be the chamber in which the thirteen chests, with trumpet like orifices for the reception of alms, were erected. If so, it was in the "court of the women," or the place of public assembly most abundantly frequented by the multitude, and beyond which the women could not penetrate into the "court of the priests." Edersheim disputes Westcott's suggestion, that the gazith, or session house of the Sanhedrin, was close by, and that the language of Jesus was within earshot of them. This chamber, gazith, was in the southeast corner of the "court of the priests," and therefore far away from the treasure chamber. Supposing that the word γαζοφυλακίον was the treasury itself. the ἐν τῷ may point to the neighbourhood of the sacred enclosure. The reference shows that the locality even of the discourse had made profound impression on one of the disciples, and implies great publicity and imminent peril from these bold avowals. The clause added by the evangelist, And no man seized him; because his hour was not yet come, is a phrase repeated frequently, and one which delays, by a strange refrain, the tragic consummation (see Introduction, § VII. 5 (4)). Here it shows that some further attempt was made to lay violent hands on him, which for the moment failed. Seeing that avowals of his Divine nature wrought to a frenzy the passions of soma of his hearers, and finally led to his condemnation for a capital offence, the evangelist again and again shows that the Lord - who made these claims on his trial, as given in the synoptists - had frequently reiterated them at peril of his life. The language of the high priest shows how bitterly the ecclesiastical authorities resented this assumption. The Fourth Gospel makes the synoptic account of this matter more intelligible by showing us that it was not an isolated occurrence.
Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come.
Verse 21. - This verse introduces a new scene and place, and perhaps a new day. The audience may have greatly changed, even if it had within it some of the same bewildered and exasperated enemies. Again he said, therefore. The οϋν refers to the fact that his liberty had not been infringed. The providence of God, the fear of the people, the inadequacy or confusing nature of the reports of his speech which had been taken to the authorities, had for a while arrested the tragedy. "No one laid hands on him." In consequence of this circumstance he said unto them again (i.e. on a subsequent occasion), I go away, and ye shall seek me. So much he had said before to "the Jews," adding, "Ye shall not find me" (John 7:34). Thus also he spake, later on, to the disciples, adding, "Thither ye cannot come" (John 13:33). On all three occasions he was misunderstood. His departure was a mystery to the Jews, who thought, or at least said, that he, a pseudo-Messiah, might be contemplating a mission to the Greeks and to the Dispersion. His departure to the Father by a bloodstained pathway, by violent death, was unspeakably perplexing to his most intimate friends. The bare idea utterly conflicted with the current notion of the Christ; but it was in the last case (ch. 14.) modified by the promise that, though he was about to leave them and to return to his Father, yet he would come again - they should once more beheld him, and he would provide a place for them. Still, they would not be able for a while to follow him, even though willing to lay down their life for his sake (John 13:33, etc.). But in the face of a more bitter misunderstanding and an utter inability to perceive and know either him or the Father, Christ said not only, "Ye shall seek me," but ye shall die in your sin. The ἐν here indicates rather the condition in which they should die than the cause of their death. "In," not "of" (so Hengstenberg, Meyer, and Luthardt). He did not say, "perish by reason of this sin," but "die in this sin." They will die looking vaguely, hopelessly, for the Saviour whom they have, in such an hyperbole of spiritual dulness and of bitter malice alike, misunderstood and rejected. They will pass through the gate of death with no deliverance from sin secured. Knowing neither the Father nor the eternal life and light manifested in himself, they will seek and not find, they will die unsanctified, unatoned, unreconciled No gleam of light will play over the dark ness of the grave. Whither I go, ye cannot come. The eternal home of the Father's love will not open to such angry search. Such utter misunderstanding as they had evinced, such point blank refusal to walk in his light, will impede and block the way to the heart of the Father, whose perfect revelation and sufficient pleading they steadily resist. The language of this verse is probably the condensation and conclusion of s much longer debate.
Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come.
Verse 22. - The Jews therefore said (were saying one to the other), Will he kill himself, that (because) he saith, Whither I go, thither ye cannot come? This query was one of harsh mockery, and can hardly be exaggerated in malign intent. The suicide was supposed to have his place in Gehenna, According to Josephus ('Bell. Jud.,' 3:08. 5), "the darkest regions of Hades would receive the souls of such." The Jews then scoff at his departure as a spontaneous resort to a fate towards which they did rot care or mean to follow him. Edersheim declares this passage of Josephus not to be sustained by rabbinical authority, and he doubts this aspect of their scorn. He limits it to the Jewish guess that Jesus must be contemplating self. murder, and as putting deliberately such a distance between them and him that they could not traverse it. The very fact that they had it in their hearts to destroy him makes it probable that they were looking beyond the act of suicide, either to the hell of popular belief or the hatred of contemporaries. They obviously thought that none but a suicide can determine the time of his departure. Christ proceeded to show them that the reason why his death would separate them from him was a fundamental difference of nature.
And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.
Verse 23. - Yet this essential divergence is not based on fatalistic grounds, but on moral ones. The argument of the twenty-fourth verse explains the description of ver. 23. The ground of this utter alienation is the lack of belief, which will leave them in their sins to die. He said to them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above. You spring from the lower as opposed to the higher world; you are influenced by considerations drawn from the earthly, sensual, superficial, and transitory. It is not necessary to suppose that our Lord is clenching the Jews' harsh speech about the underworld with a tu-quoque, as though they verily belonged to the Gehenna to which they were consigning him; for the next pair of clauses are in parallel apposition with the former. In the words, Ye are of this world; I am not of this world, "This world" corresponds with the τῶν κάτω of the previous clause, and the "not of this world" corresponds with the τὰ ἄνω, the heavenly regions from which he has continually declared, in many varieties of phrase, that he had come, or descended, or been sent. Certainly and broadly speaking, this is true, as a contrast between Christ and all other men before their regeneration. Our Lord especially charges home upon these earth-bound souls, on these purely human, selfish, unspiritual, unrenewed, unbelieving men, this antagonism to himself, this refusal to walk in his light or receive his life. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh" (John 3:6). They are flesh. He does not exclude them forever from such participation in his own heavenly life as would reverse the descriptive and characteristic features of their being. The reason why they have not seen the kingdom or the King is that they are not born of the Spirit.
I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.
Verse 24. - Therefore I said unto you, Ye shall die in your sins: for if ye shall not have believed that I am (HE), ye will die in your sins. This last clause, "for," etc., gives our Lord's reason in full for the terrific fact. It is a virtual reference of the unregenerate, earthly, low-born condition of his hearers to the fact of their unbelief in him. This fleshly, worldly state may be, might be, reversed by their faith in his essential character, an adequate moral surrender to his claims. Let them believe him to be that which he really is, the separation would then cease, and, like himself, they too might be "called out of the world." They might be "born of the Spirit," enter into the fellowship of the Son of God, become "not of this world," "even as he is not of this world." They might "arise, and go to their Father." There is no impassable chasm between them, though it is an appalling one to be crossed only by a faith which is itself the form and essence of regeneration. The faith is especially defined. Three times in this chapter our Lord represents the object of faith, the central focus of the Divine revelation, to be "I AM." The predicate is unexpressed here, and the same may be said in ver. 28 and ver. 58. Elsewhere the predicate may easily be gathered from the context (John 9:9; John 18:5, 6, 8; Mark 13:6; Luke 21:8). Meyer and many others have said, "The true predicate here is 'the Christ:' 'I am the coming One,' 'the promised One,' 'the Sent of God.'" It is a somewhat dubious proceeding to draw the central idea of this chapter from an unexpressed ellipsis. The "I am" of these passages cannot be regarded as equivalent to the "I am that I am" of Exodus, or to the incommunicable name of the eternal One, but it is analogous to it. Throughout the prophets the unique and solitary grandeur of the Divine nature in its special covenant relations with Israel is expressed by the phrase, "I AM HE." This was the sum of the object of the Old Testament faith (Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 41:13; Isaiah 43:10, etc.). In like manner, the fulness of the Divine Ego in the incarnate Word is inexpressible by any one predicate. His entire revelation of himself had given this amplitude and indefinable breadth to his Personality. He had called himself the Son of God, the living Water, the veritable Bread, the Bread of God and of heaven, the Light of the world. He was indefinitely more than the current, popular idea of the Christ, immeasurably different from that which they persisted in expecting. Faith in that he is, in what he is, and in what he has revealed to them, is the germ of the life eternal. To refuse this faith is to refuse the hope that breaks over the gloom of Sheol, and to leave the full burden of sin upon the conscience. Compare St. Paul's words (1 Corinthians 15:17, 18), "If Christ be not risen... ye are yet in your sins."
Then said they unto him, Who art thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning.
Verse 25. - Then said they to him - the hostile Jerusalem party - in scornful mockery, Σὺ τίς εϊ; Who art thou? "Define thyself more closely; make thy claims clear and categorical. Give now a direct answer to a plain question." It is very remarkable that the Lord often refuses to respond in the precise form in which his interlocutors demand an answer. He sees the multitudinous sides of every truth, and frequently gives to his questioners the means of answering their question from the ground of deep spiritual conviction, rather than furnishes them with a formula which might easily be abused. Who art thou? How profoundly pathetic! How confirmatory of his own words, "Ye have not known me, nor my Father"! The reply which our Lord gave to the question has occasioned greater variety of interpretation than, perhaps, any other sentence in the Gospel: Τὴν ἀρχὴν ὅτι (or ὅτι,) καὶ λαλῶὑμῖν. The meaning of the words taken separately is disputable; the relation to the context has been very variously understood.
(1) The sentence may be taken interrogatively: τὴν ἀρχὴν regarded adverbially in the sense of "at all," and ὅτι in the sense of "why?" which is perhaps justified by Mark 9:11, 28. So that it might mean, Why do I even speak with you at all? This is the interpretation of the ancient Greek Fathers, Cyril and Chrysostom; is preferred by Lucke ('Comm.,' 2:301-313); and with slight modifications is adopted by Ewald (who gives it more the form of an exclamation, "How is it that I should have to speak to you at all!" [this rendering is put in the margin of R.T.], Westcott and Moulton (see note to Winer, 'Grammar of New Testament,' pp. 581, 582), Matthai, and others. Meyer has differed somewhat in successive editions, but (4th edit.) translates, "What I from the beginning am also speaking to you (do ye ask)?" Can you still be asking concerning that which I have been from the beginning saying to you, viz. "Who I am"? This interpretation is singularly obscure. It turns on the fact that, except in some virtually negative sentences, ἀρχὴν cannot have the force of "at all," and falls back on the conclusion that it must, when used adverbially, have the force of "from the first." Lucke devotes great space to the proof from classical Greek that ἀρχὴν never means ὅλως, or omnino, except in association with a negative sentence, and he discusses the four exceptions to this supposed rule which some grammarians have discovered in secular Greek (Lennep. 'Ap. Phalarid.,' pp. 82, 55, and 92), and thereupon, in a different way from Meyer, endeavours to supply the negative conception. In reply to Meyer, it is fair to say that Christ had not been constantly announcing in categorical terms who he was and is; and further, that the rendering practically introduces a clause, "do ye ask," which is not in the text; moreover, its rendering transforms λαλῶ into λελαλήκα.
(2) Many have advocated an affirmative rendering. Augustine (with Lampe and Fritzsche) takes τὴν ἀρχὴν as the Ἀρχή of the universe, the principium (as Revelation 21:6), and translates," Believe that I am the Principium (the Logos), because I am also speaking with you (because, humbled on your account, I have descended to such words as these)." Chrysostom and Nonnus (who turned the Gospel into Greek hexameters) associate the sentence with what follows; thus: "I, the Ἀρχή, who also speak to you, have many things to say and judge of you." The accusative form is thus set at nought. Calvin takes τὴν ἀρχὴν as equal to ἐξ ἀρχῆς, "from the beginning" (so that the meaning would be, "I did not arise suddenly, but as I was formerly promised, so now I come forth publicly"), "because I also speak with you." In other words, "What I now speak is in accordance with the conditions made in all ages 'from the beginning.' So Delitzsch, Hebrew version of New Testament. Luthardt seems to approach this view, which he makes more difficult by insisting that τὴν ἀρχὴν does not mean "from" but "at the beginning." The view of Winer, Grimm, Alford, Stier, Godet, Thoma, and Plummer, is substantially the same, giving to τὴν ἀρχὴν the sense of omnino. Essentially, wholly, altogether (I am) that which even I am saying to you. The grammatical objection that this use of τὴν ἀρχὴν demands a negative sentence in classic Greek, is not conclusive. This is the only place in the New Testament where the word is used adverbially, and it is in reply to a mocking question which has much virtual negative in it. Green ('Critical Notes') urges that the sense of "altogether" (omnino) was preserved in all kinds of sentences without distinction. He does not prove it, but it is entirely probable that it might have this force in New Testament Greek. The great advantage of the rendering is that it brings the answer into relation with the entire previous discourse, in which Christ's testimony to himself had been disputed because (in the opinion of those who were debating with him) that testimony had not been adequately supported. "I am the Revelation of the Father, the Messenger from heaven, the Bread of God, the Light of the world - essentially that which I am saying to you." Believe my own testimony thus far, and that will answer the query, "Who art thou?" There is no great distinction between this view and that of De Wette: "Von vorne herein (vor allen Dingen) bin ich was ich auch zu euch rede," as Bruckner put it - "From the beginning, from the first, (I am) what I am also saying to you." Winer's view seems to me the best. Grimm thus translates: "Omnino, hoc est sine ulla exceptione sum, quod etiam vobis eloquor, non solum sum, sed etiam vobis, praedico id quod sum."
I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him.
Verse 26. - I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you. Hitherto, when the Lord uttered his great words of self-revelation, which always had an ethical end and were meant for the advantage of his hearers, they interrupted his speech and disputed his claims. They refused these testimonies to himself which, if true, would necessitate their instantaneous submission. He seems to have gathered all his self-witness together in the word, "I am," verify altogether, absolutely, from the beginning onwards, just what my words convey; but I have much more to say concerning you, even if I should have nothing more to say concerning myself. The testimonies and the judgments may be profoundly distasteful to you, but I dare not therefore withhold them. I am come to deliver them at any cost to myself or you. But he that sent me is true, whether you hear or forbear; and I am his Mouthpiece, so the truth has to be told. The thought of God, if we can only approach it, is the absolute truth about every thing and about every man. Jesus is the Word of God incarnate, and the Utterer of irreversible judgment. The things which I heard from him, these speak I into the world. Αἰς τὸν κόσμον, is a remarkable expression. "Speak into, so that the words may reach as far as and spread through the world" (Westcott). The expression seems to have left him above or outside the world, so that he appears as "the Mediator between two worlds."
They understood not that he spake to them of the Father.
Verse 27. - They understood (perceived) not that he spake to them of the Father. This difficult parenthesis of the evangelist calls attention to the fact that, during the immediately preceding discourse and controversy, Jesus had dropped his references to the Father, and had used the periphrasis, "he that sent me," probably suggesting to this strangely excited populace, fed with weird fancies and wild expectations, that the mysterious Being with whom they were conversing was but the Delegate of One mightier than he, who was hidden in the secret place of God's providence until the hour of his own manifestation should appear to have struck. They might have remembered the utter deference which the great prophet John had displayed before a Messiah whom as yet they knew not. They may have heard that even John himself, at a later date, sent from the prison two of his disciples to propound the query, "Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?" in other words, "Art thou the final Manifestation of all that I have predicted and believed? or is another to make his appearance with fire and axe and available force to compel obedience and to secure universal homage?" It is more than probable that the evangelist, being personally alive to the cross currents of passion, enthusiasm, and hostility which were at work in the hearts of the populace, saw by the very blankness and confusion on their faces, and the "asides" of the multitude, that they had not perceived that Jesus was throughout in these references speaking of the Father of all - the supreme Source of all power, the Lord of hosts. Even when he had said, "Ye have not known me, nor my Father," they had not risen to such a conception of the Lord's meaning as to suppose that the supreme Father himself was being suggested to them and cited as the corroborative Witness, as the supernatural Aid and Divine Presence which was giving validity to all that Christ has said about himself. Their ignorance and lack of perception need not astonish us when we reflect upon the obscurity and non-receptivity of the apostles themselves, and the like obtuseness of theologians and cultivated men of the world in every age from that day to this. The remark is, moreover, added doubtless to interpret the following verses, in which the ideas of ver. 26 are repeated, with the difference that, whereas he had already spoken of him that sent him, and who had authorized his words and judgments, Jesus now gives to him the beloved name of "the Father."
Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.
Verse 28. - But when Jesus turns to them again he calls special attention to the main source of their continuous misconception and rejection. Not only is he "the Son," and "the Son of God," but indubitably he is also "the Son of man." He has come down from heaven and is before them as a Man among men - "one Jesus." He has taken upon himself the form of a slave, the fashion of man. That the manifestation of the Divine should be perfectly realized in the human, though a fundamental truth lying at the heart of all revelation, is nevertheless not the alphabet of Divine teaching; nay, it is the very highest and most recondite of all truths. This humbled humanity of the incarnate Logos led on to other issues of enormous significance. The eternal Son in the form of God would become, as "Son of man," obedient unto death. The highest revelation of the Son of God, and therefore of the Father, would be effected by the surrender of that mysterious life of his for the world's behoof. The previous announcements of this truth, which we now see to be the very crown and culmination of the gospel, had greatly offended his hearers of all kinds, and on distinct grounds. In the words that follow a touch of deeper meaning than any which had preceded is supplied when he proceeds to associate this death of the Son of man with the wilful act of the ecclesiastical authorities in Jerusalem. Jesus therefore said (unto them), When ye shall have lifted up the Son of man (compare here notes on John 3:14; 6:62; 12:32). The word ὑψόω is used with the twofold sense of exaltation on the cross" signifying by what death he should glorify God" - and also of the issues of that lifting up by means of the tree of ignoble torment and mortal agony to the throne of glory. The twofold meaning of the word cannot be excluded here. Then ye shall come to know - then the process of proof will be completed - that I am (he) - that I am that which fundamentally I am declaring to you, that my testimonies have unique but trenchant confirmation - and that I am doing nothing from myself, but that even as the Father taught me, (so) these things I speak. The "he that sent me" (ver. 26), is here replaced by "the Father." "The things which I heard from (παρὰ) him" is replaced by "even as the Father taught me," and the ταῦτα λαλῶ are repeated. "The cross and the crown" will be the proof to the most obtuse and bigoted "that I am that which I say I am." The forecast is here given of the conversion of his murderers, the overwhelming effects produced by the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus, and the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:36; Acts 4:4; Acts 6:7; Romans 11:11). Bengel: "Cognoscetis ex re, quod nunc ex verbo non creditis."
And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.
Verse 29. - And he that sent me - of whom I now plainly speak to you as "the Father" - is with me. He is not in some inaccessible region of indifference to my mission or my word, but with me. He encompasses the Son of man, finds willing, unswerving response to his will in my words. He sent me, and commissioned me to undertake this work. He is affirming in his own way all my message, and corroborating my testimony. You have asked, "Where is thy Father?" and I now tell you, "He is with me." He (the Father) hath not left me at any moment of my career alone. He has confirmed and sustained my word, and upheld my life; and you can see the signs of this abiding communion: Because (i.e. Christ does not account for the abiding companionship by the fact of his own obedience, but refers to the reasons which his hearers might find for his great assertion; cf. Luke 7:47) I do always the things that are pleasing to him. I do this because he has never left me to my mere human nature. This self-consciousness of Christ is one of the loftiest and most entirely unique phenomena recorded in history. This absolute confidence with reference to his whole course lifts our Lord to a pinnacle of the loftiest elevation. He declares himself absolutely free from sin, and even in thought or deed to have left undone nothing that seemed good to the Father. If such an utterance had not flashed the conviction of his Divine nature upon some of his hearers, it is impossible to conceive what would or could have done so
As he spake these words, many believed on him.
Verse 30. - As he spake these words, many believed on him. This is another interjected comment or connecting link supplied by the evangelist, revealing intimate knowledge of the state of feeling and changeful emotions of the people. Another hint of the eyewitness and ear witness of this memorable scene; and, supposing that we read here a correct transcript of words that proceeded from his lips, we can do no other than cry with Thomas, "My Lord, and my God!" The remark is intercalated, as though St. John wished to emphasize the accuracy with which he had reported, on this occasion, the very words of his Lord, conveying their ambiguous phrase, and asserting in fresh form what had convinced St. John, on subsequent reflection, that he was what he said. The phrase, πιστεύειν εἰς, to believe in or on, a person, is to close with him, to accept all the collateral consequences of such trust, to be content to wait for fuller explanation, to cast self upon the object of faith, and allow the object of such trust to bear all the responsibility of the act. It is the form most frequently adopted by St. John (John 2:11; John 3:16, 18, 36; John 4:39, and many other places; cf. John 14:1, 12; John 17:20); only once in the synoptic narrative (Matthew 18:6 with Mark 9:42). The form πιστεύειν ἐπί occurs occasionally with the accusative (1 John 3:23, and frequently in the Acts); and πιστεύειν ἐπί with the dative, also! πιστεύειν ἐν, are used, implying even a closer and more intimate communion still with the Object of faith (see John 16:30). With these forms must be compared the more common one with the simple dative, πιστεύειν τινί, which occurs in vers. 31, 45, and John 14:11, etc., which implies acceptance of the saying, promise, or fact there propounded, and falls short of the moral surrender involved in the fuller form. John here asserts that many of his hearers, those who had hitherto refrained from full acceptance of Jesus as the Son of God, yielded to his claims there and then. This faith on the part of "some" is almost more wonderful than the unbelief of others. The difficulties in their way were appalling in comparison with the perplexities which beset our minds. The Lord appealed to his own inner consciousness, to his supernatural aid in speech, to the spotless, sinless character of his hidden life. It was remarkable that any strangers or enemies should have surrendered themselves to them. The event shows that the surrender could not stand the test.
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
Verses 31-59 describe a further conversation, not with the same audience. The words record a vivid conflict between the Lord and the Jews who believed him, who accepted the Messianic claims, but persisted in interpreting them, not by his word, but by their own ideas of the theocratic kingdom, by their privileges as children of Abraham, by their national animosity to their nearest neighbours the Samaritans, by their inability to press behind the veil of his humanity to his Divine nature. Their faith was of the most imperfect kind; but such as it was, it was made manifest to the observation of the apostle, and this throws light upon the fact that, among the many who believed on him, or rather alongside of these, there was a certain section of "the Jews," of the chief rulers and rabbis, who made a definite movement towards him. This doubtless excited the intense enthusiasm of the disciples, who might at once hope and almost expect that Jesus would with open arms accept their homage. But he at once puts this faith of theirs - perhaps ignorantly expressed - to a proof absolutely necessary for the salvation of his hearers. Verses 31, 32. -
(4) The test Christ supplied to those who admitted his testimony - true discipleship and freedom. Jesus therefore said to the Jews who had believed him - or, had become believing, and were now waiting for some special sign that their belief of his words was to be immediately rewarded by some closer conformity between his next step and their own prepossessions - If ye abide in my word, then are ye truly my disciples. Short of making the word of Jesus the resting place for both heart and intellect, full discipleship would be impossible. The true disciple receives and continues in the word of his Master. The expression expands and illustrates the difference between believing Christ to speak the truth, and believing in him. Many ancient Jews and modern Christians believe so much of Christ's word as is verified by their moral consciousness, and dispute or dispose of the rest as Aberglaube. The genuine disciple continues, abides, in the word of him who is the incarnate Word, yielding to it entire acquiescence, as the absolute reality of things, as the truth about God and man. He adds, And ye shall come fully to know the truth; i.e. to realize in the very depths of your being the trustworthy character of my word. "The Truth" (see John 14:6) is one of the distinguishing names which Jesus takes to himself. He is the Truth, and "full of grace and truth." So far this statement corresponds with John 7:16, 17. The "Jews" who had believed him would not feel the fiery ordeal and touch of flame applied to the sensitive skin of their pride and self-importance; but when he added, And the truth shall emancipate you, the case was altered. Truth only can set the mind free from its bondage under ignorance and prejudice and evil habit. If the Light of the world shines into the dark places of the heart, the chains erewhile misunderstood will not only become visible, but will be broken. Godet beautifully says that "the empire of sin in a human heart is based upon an illusion, a fascination. Let truth shine, and the spell is broken, the will is disgusted with that which seduced it - 'the bird escapes from the net of the fowler.'" But this proffer of freedom to his disciples by continuing in his word was too startling a suggestion for their nascent and imperfect faith. He had told them that without faith in him they would die in their sins (ver. 24); now he assures them that, unless they abide steadfastly in his word, they will not escape from a bondage manifest enough to his eye, if not to theirs. This brings from them an angry response.
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?
Verses 33-46. -
(5) The offer of spiritual freedom to the seed of Abraham provoked bitter hostility and misapprehension. Verse 33. - They answered him, We be Abraham's seed - taking the highest position of national grandeur and racial pride. Vast were the pretensions which the Jews often assumed from this lofty ancestry. "They were all children of kings;" "Solomon's feast was not too good for them;" "He was heir of the world;" "They were the inheritors in him of all the nations." They had rung this cry into the ears of John the Baptist, when this last prophet had called upon them for repentance. Their following boast is difficult to understand: We have never yet been enslaved to anyone; and great difference of opinion has prevailed over the meaning cf. these words. It is incredible that John should represent: the Jews as ignorant of their national political history. The first word of their Decalogue included a reference to the "house of bondage" from which Jehovah had delivered the seed of Abraham. Moreover, their political humiliation at the hand of the border kingdoms of Assyria, Babylon, and Syria was the perpetual theme of prophet and psalmist. The terrible reverses that they had subsequently experienced at the hand of Antiochus and of the Roman power, and the galling submission to Rome which at the moment was rousing their fiercest passion, would render any such boast simply preposterous. Godet's suggestion, that they were making a boast of their personal civil freedom, that Abraham's seed were not sold into positive slavery, however mortifying their political servitude had proved, is far fetched and too far away from the facts of the case; neither does it harmonize with the character of this angry retort. Probably a reference is made to the ideal freedom from slavery and from dependence which they had, in their hour of deepest depression from all and every form of tyranny whatsoever, religiously maintained. They did, as their wonderful psalter shows, cherish a conviction that David's throne and Abraham's inheritance ideally stood through all the ages, lustrous and magnificent to the eye of faith. When the holy and beautiful house was burned with fire, when their exile was complete, they still saw all visible things, even "heaven and earth," departing or rolled up like a scroll, while their Creator and redeeming King was seated still on his eternal throne. From St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, they clearly held that the mere possession of the Law, whether they kept it or not, was their much-prized pledge of independence from all other authority or servitude. If so, they may have been on this occasion boasting of their ideal freedom in virtue of their he reditary privileges, and forgetful of the lessons even of the agelong story of Ishmael and Esau, and the deportation and abolition of Israel as a nation. One can scarcely refrain a momentary thrill of admiration at the hardihood of their eager faith, and the overwhelming strength of confidence they manifested in their destiny as a people. All the spiritual salvation and ideal freedom which they desired they possessed as children of Abraham. How sayest thou - "Upon what possible principle dost thou promise to us that which we already are proud of possessing, viz. glorious liberty?" Is it from the emancipating power of truth? We have the truth; we are the depositaries of infallible truth. We already possess as our birthright what thou art offering to us as the full result of discipleship. How sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?
Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.
Verse 34. - Jesus answered them; i.e. those "Jews who believed him," but whose retort showed their faith to be of the most feeble and imperfect kind, and which, if it were momentarily assumed, was ready to disappear at the first touch of trial. A promise of Divine love had been treated by them as an insult, not so much to their national history, as to their religious triumph over their civil and political disasters. There is no reason to believe that in these, or in the following words, the unbelieving Jews had once more become the interlocutors, as Tholuck and Hengstenberg have done on different grounds. Meyer, Ellicott, Lange, and many others agree with the view here advanced. The answer to them (αὐτοῖς, those who were the subjects of ἀπεκρίθησαν) is introduced with peculiar solemnity: Verily, verily I say unto you, every one (πᾶς) that doeth sin - ὁ ποιῶν ἁμαρτίαν is different from πράσσων φαῦλα of John 3:20; it is the precise opposite of ποιῶν ἀλήθειαν of John 3:21, and does not mean "everyone who committeth separate acts of transgression," but it means "everyone who is living a life of sin" - is the bond slave (of sin). Godet is strongly disposed, on the ground of the exceedingly small authority of D and b alone (and certain quotations of Origen), to believe that the τῆς ἁμαρτίας is a gloss. Certainly the whole passage would be easier to interpret if our Lord had simply said that the man under the habitual power of sin is a slave, and had then, in vers. 35 and 36, advanced to the contrast between the slave and the Son. But there is great unanimity among all the authorities as to the accuracy of the Received and Revised Texts, though Westcott and Hort place it in brackets. The interpretation, consequently, is simply this, that Christ did "pass from the idea of bondage under sin to that of bondage generally, and from the idea of sonship to the Son" (Westcott). The notion of personal transgression producing a bondage, and enfettering the soul and the will, and separating it from the glorious liberty of true sonship, lay outside of their notion of discipleship. They were not requiring deliverance from sin or its bondage; what they wanted was the full realization of the national hope. The language of this verse can be paralleled from the writings of the classics and rabbis, and is largely handled by St. Paul (Romans 6. and 7.). The relation between sin as a principle and sins as acts of the will is a great New Testament revelation. The personal commission of sin augments the force of the corrupt tendency which leads to and facilitates fresh transgression. Every compliance with evil forges a new fetter, and imposes it on the will of the transgressor. "The strong man guards his house, and his goods are in peace" (Luke 11:21).
And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.
Verse 35. - This being the fact as to sin and its servitude, the Lord proceeds to deal with servitude in God's house. Servitude and its spirit are manifested in the house of the Father. The bond slave abideth not in the house forever. So long as he is a bond slave and not emancipated from the fetters of mere race, so long as he is ruled by the servile spirit, there is no perpetuity about his relation to the Father. He can be sold away (Genesis 21:10; Galatians 4:30). An involuntary subject of the Law, who belongs to the theocracy as a slave merely, and because he cannot help himself, and occupies a position which a slave does in the family of sin, has lost all freedom and spontaneity in his service, and will find himself cast out at last. But the son abideth forever. Sonship is the only principle on which continuance in the house can be secured. It has been much debated whether the ὁ υἱός of the thirty-fifth verse goes beyond the idea of sonship, the generic antithesis to the idea of slave. Certainly this seems the primary reference. In the following verse, the Son, in his loftiest functions, and as identifying himself with "the truth" of ver. 32, entirely fulfils the conception of "Sonship" and eternal abiding in the Father's house, and therefore is entrusted with the power of emancipating all slaves, of adopting sons into the Father's royal house. Thus we may suppose that the first use of the term "son," though laying special emphasis on the spirit and conditions of sonship, yet points to him who entirely embodies, enshrines, and has from before all worlds realized the Divine idea of Son - the only begotten Son - in the bosom of the Father.
If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
Verse 36. - Therefore if the Son - who abideth ever in the Father's bosom, and fills the house with his glory, and is the Heir of all things - make you free, ye shall be free indeed (ὄντως, "essentially," only here used by St. John, who elsewhere uses the word ἀληθῶς, ver. 31; John 1:48; John 4:42; John 7:40; John 6:14). The Son is he who gives power to become the sons of God. "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus frees from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2). Only by acquiring the true spirit and regenerated life of a son can any man be delivered from the bondage induced by ignorance of the actual truth about God, about man, and about the relation between God and man. This knowledge is produced by the Son of God, who is the Truth. A full and believing apprehension of the Son of God, a realization of what he is, confers a new life and reveals the wonderful possibilities and relations of human nature. The incarnation of the Son of God as a veritable Son of man emancipates the soul fettered by the tyranny of nature and baffled by the mastery of time and sense, inasmuch as it discloses the august majesty of its own origin. Essential freedom accrues to him who knows that sin is pardoned, that death is vanquished, that the prince of this world is cast out. The eager Jew might look through the battered walls of Zion and the charred fragments of its gorgeous temple, and still see the adamantine structure and its agelong triumph. But the disciples of Jesus, with John as their leader, when these words were recorded by him as they fell from the Lord in their true connection, saw the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven as a bride adorned for her husband, with its open gates, its crystal stream, and the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb as the Light of it. The freedom of a perfect service and the glorious liberty of the sons of God was theirs, in proportion as they accepted their emancipation from the Son himself (1 Corinthians 7:22; Romans 8:35, 36; 2 Corinthians 3:18). The sons are "free indeed," whatever the world, or the Hebrew Christians, or the philosophers might think or say.
I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.
Verse 37. - I know (οϊδα, I know absolutely, I do not come to know it from your retort) that ye are the seed of Abraham. They belonged to the noble race, "whose are the fathers;" they were the σπέρμα of him who received the promises. Christ admitted the pedigree, but he proceeds to show that mere hereditary descent would be of no avail to them apart from moral considerations. These ideas, these revolutionary conceptions, so far as Judaism was concerned, were not the evolution of Christian ideas in the second century. It is most instructive to see how clearly St. Paul had already grasped them, and woven them into a powerful argument when dealing with the Judaizers in Galatia, many years before this Gospel was written (see the entire argument of Galatians 3, which thus rests on the teaching of the Christ himself). But ye seek to kill me. This charge is certainly difficult to suppose applicable to those who "had come to believe in him" (ver. 31). One of three suppositions must be made - either
(1) the believing Jews were surrounded by angry groups of his bitter enemies, to whom he here addressed himself; or
(2) the Lord spoke here to them as representing the large company of Jerusalem opponents, whom he knew at that moment to be planning his death, and as all orators and debaters are in the habit of dealing with opposing arguments by showing the character they assume in others, who make them their boast; or
(3) those who had come to believe him up to a certain point had as rapidly relapsed, at the first touch of spiritual proof, into disbelief and cruel hostility. This seems the more natural interpretation of the fact, which may, at the same time, have become patent from some angry manifestation of his implacable foes. There is much to be found in the background and scenery of this dramatic colloquy, reported with such extreme brevity, which would, if we exactly knew how to paint it, solve its difficulties. Ye seek to slay me, because my word - the word which is mine - makes no progress - or, advance - in you. Ξωρέω has both transitive and intransitive meanings; thus it means "leave," "depart," "turn," or "come to," with εἰς (2 Peter 3:9, "contain;" John 2:6; John 21:25; Mark 2:2); but it has the force frequently in Plato "to make progress or advance," and it has this force here. So Meyer, Westcott, R.T., etc. (Luthardt and Tholuck suggest "find entrance," which would require εἰς rather than ἐν). Not only did they not continue in Christ's word (ver. 31), but the word itself made no way in their minds; it was barred out by prejudices, and thus choked at its very first working. Christ thus represents his word first as the very atmosphere and home in which his true disciples abide, and then as a powerful influence which grows evermore in power and command as it is pondered. It means more and more to those who abide in it; it implicitly contains a whole universe of truth and reality, of impulse and motive, for those who allow to it "free course" - who are of the truth, and hear his voice.
I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.
Verse 38. - I speak the things which I have seen with the (my) Father: and do you therefore the things which ye heard from the (your) father; or, and you therefore do the things which ye heard from your father. We need not, with Meyer, limit the Lord's vision of the Divine things which he saw with the Father to his premundane Personality. He describes himself in constant communion with the Father. The Father is with him. He knows the mind and will and good pleasure of the Father. His is the perfectly pure heart, which is as an eye forevermore beholding the Father. That the Only Begotten sees and knows what no other sees, is constantly taught in this Gospel (see John 3:32; John 6:46). In Christ, moreover, the disciple may verily see the Father (John 14:7, 9; 1 John 2:23). The probable textual reading given above would draw a species of contrast between Christ's "seeing" (παρὰ τῷ) with the Father, and the Jews' "hearing" (παρὰ τοῦ) from the Father, as though such communication were less intimate than "seeing." This must not be pressed (see ver. 40). If the ποιεῖτε be imperative, the language would be an appeal to the Jews to act out that which, from prophets and teachers and interpreters of the Divine will, they had heard. Moulton treats the clause as one more, one last, exhortation. The word of Christ had not advanced within them - it remained as a barren formula; let them give it free course now. Their opposition had not as yet been malignant or hopeless; one more chance is given them. The more ordinary interpretation is to make the ποιεῖτε indicative. If it be so, and still more if the ὑμῶν (omitted by B, L, P) be genuine, "the father" to whom reference is made as theirs, is in contrast with the Father of Christ, and, without pointedly saying so, Jesus implies that it is another father altogether. In ver. 44 Christ does indeed declare that the father with whom they are in ethical relation and sympathy is not God, but the devil - the very opposite of the God of Abraham, the very antithesis of the Father of infinite love. At this point he simply suggests, "Therefore the things which ye heard from your father ye do," ye habitually do, ye are now doing in your hatred and murderous sentiments towards myself. Surely this implies a severity which is hardly compatible with an address to Jews who believed him. The interpretation of the following verse is governed by that of this.
They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham.
Verse 39. - They answered and said. If the second interpretation be accepted, then, irritated by the suggestion that "the Father" whose properties and claims he saw and revealed to them was different from "the father" whose nature and ways they "heard" and practised, and counting, moreover, on the concession of the fact that they were Abraham's "seed," they cried, Our father is Abraham; we are spiritually, ethically, related to him, and if we are doing that which we have heard from our father, then we can claim that all we are doing is along the lines of our Abrahamic dignity. But if ver. 38 be regarded as a final expostulation, according to the first of the interpretations of ποιεῖτε, then the Jews merely disclosed their determination to misapprehend the plain words of the Divine Lord, and when he was reminding them of the Father, of their Father, they at once stood back upon their hereditary pride, and declared that they were doing the works of their great ancestor. Jesus saith to them, If ye are Abraham's children, as you say - for the position of "children" is involved in the idea and claim of spiritual Fatherhood which ye boast - then, with such spiritual and ethical relations as these, ye would do the works of Abraham - works of faith; you would be open to the access of spiritual revelations with childlike simplicity; you would have accepted the heavenly voice; you would have known whence it came; you would have resembled him in his moral sensitiveness, in his gentle loving kindness, in his victorious faith; but -
But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.
Verse 40. - But now, as things are, ye are seeking - plotting, contriving, in subtle ways and by false charges - to kill me. The entire discourse is made more obvious by our Lord's discovery of the plot of the last few days, and by his allowing his friends and opponents to know that he had penetrated the thin, subtle disguise under which this murderous plan was veiled. The excitement produced by this bold charge among his own true disciples, and those who now for the first time heard of it, by our Lord's then and there lifting the veil from many a specious question; the look of guilt on the countenances of some, of truculent admission of the charge in the gesture of others; the loud murmurs and confused cries of the crowd, - must all be realized to apprehend the tremendous crisis which had now arrived. He aggravated the charge by describing himself as a man who hath declared to you the truth which I heard from God. This is the only place where the Lord speaks of himself as "a man" (cf. Acts 17:31; 1 Timothy 2:5). He here describes himself as One who is subject and liable to their murderous passion - a man, seeing that his eternal Personality has been presented to his antagonists in the form of man. His manhood was the link of relation between the God who sent him, taught him, surrounded and enveloped him, and the consciousness of his hearers. This is the highest representation of the very conception of a Divine commission and a Divine message. They were seeking to stamp out a Divine fire, to drown a heavenly voice, to refuse and trample upon a sacred Messenger. This did not Abraham. The father of the faithful was susceptible to the heavenly voice, he heard and obeyed the voice of Jehovah with childlike docility (Genesis 12, 14, 18, 22.). The visions, the commands, the messengers, the manifestations, of God to Abraham were so readily accepted that his faith is a proverb, and his greatest name is "friend of God." The wilful, hurried, malicious treatment of both the Divine Messenger and the sacred message, both of which Jesus declared to have come directly from God, proves the lack of relation with the Life of Abraham. They might be Abraham's "seed" (σπέρμα) but not his (τέκνα) children, and he in this sense could not be their "father."
Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.
Verse 41. - Instead of doing the works of Abraham, you are doing the works of your father. That is, you have a father with whom you are, nevertheless, in living, ethical relation. If you persist in boasting of your father, who is neither "the Father" nor Abraham, I must soon tell you who that father is. Loud interruption followed. Abrupt and startling was the retort: We are [were] not born of fornication; we have one Father, God. Many expositors think that these Jews began to babble against the possibility of their being bastard children of Sarah, or to protest that they were not Ishmaelites or any collateral branch of the seed of Abraham, like the Idumaeans or the sons of Keturah. This is far away from the context, and unworthy of the controversy. The idea is sufficiently explained by the second clause. The covenant relation between Jehovah and Israel is so constantly referred to in the Old Testament (Hosea 1:2; Hosea 2:4; Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 2:20) under the image of marriage and the unfaithfulness of particular generations to Jehovah; and their false worship and idolatry are so often regarded as "fornication" and "adultery" from God, the Husband of the dedicated spouse, so that nothing is more probable, when Jesus charged them with doing the works of their father, that they should have exclaimed, "Surely we have no idolatrous sympathies. None but Jehovah is our God. Thou must not charge us with any compromise with the accursed thing." The wild rage which the Jews had shown to Pilate in the matter of the shields, their abhorrence of the defilement of idols in the matter of food, their avoidance even of the supreme court of Roman justice under fear of idolatrous contamination, explain the outflash of this indignant rejoinder. This view is, in the main, advocated by De Wette, Lampe, Lucke, Lange, and Hengstenberg; but opposed by Meyer, Westcott: "We do not owe our position to idolatrous desertion of Jehovah. We are the offspring of the union of God with his chosen people. Our spiritual descent is as pure as our historical descent." Godet modifies it: "We have no idolatrous blood in our veins; we are Hebrews of the Hebrews." They claim to be the children of God, as well as children of Abraham (Deuteronomy 32:6; Isaiah 63:16; Malachi 2:10).
Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.
Verse 42. - But Jesus will not allow them to claim the full privilege of sons of God. Said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would be loving me, not seeking to slay me. Seeing that you do not love me, God is not your Father in the sense in which you are boasting such relation to him. The reason is: For I came forth out (ἐκ) of God. This expression only occurs in one other passage (John 16:28), and there the texts vary between ἐκ ἀπὸ, and παρά. It points to the momentous and unique fact of his incarnation, as the projection from the very essence of God involved in the essence of his being. The Father is the eternal Source of Christ's Divine nature. There are two ether forms of expression used by our Lord. In John 13:3 and John 16:30 ἐξελθεῖν ἀπό is adopted, which describes rather the act of the incarnated One; and in John 16:27 and John 17:8 ἐξελθεῖν παρά, whereby is suggested the procession of Christ into the condition of fellowship with the eternal Father or that of being πρὸς τὸν Θεόν or εἰς τὸν κόλπον. By ἐξελθεῖν ἐκ he implies an even sublimer conception of the prenatal glory, and that, as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews puts it, "he was the Effulgence of his glory, and the express Image of his substance." And I am come. I am here face to face with you. Meyer and others would make both verbs depend on ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ: but if we are right in the special meaning of the preposition, the force of it would be lost in the second clause. The ἐξῆλθον refers to his eternal procession from the very nature of God, and special indication of it when he took our human nature up into his own; and the ἤκω refers to his presence and appearance in their midst as a "Man who told them the truth." For neither have I come. The perfect tense here is used in contrast to the present ἥκω, to show that he has the whole past of his career as a divinely sent Messenger present in his consciousness. And he establishes the fact that he has proceeded from God by the dismission of every other alternative. I have not come from myself, as an act of self-determination; I have not come to do my own will, but the Father's. I have not come on any self-chosen, self-honouring path, with motives of self-interest; but in strict obedience to the Father's injunction - he sent me. You would have loved me, not hated me, you would have trusted me and rejoiced in me, and not sought to kill me, if God were your Father; for you would then have felt all through my career that that One Father, of whom you boast an intimate knowledge, was revealing himself as One near to you, close to you, in the bare fact of my presence among you.
Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.
Verse 43. - Why do ye not understand - come to appreciate and penetrate the significance of - my speech? There is delicate subtle distinction between λαλιά and λόγος, corresponding to that between λαλέω and λέγω. The former word connotes the form, manner, and tone of utterance, and the latter its inner substance and power. Λαλιά is a, word used for any manifestation of sound, a voice, the babble of children, the cries and songs of beasts or birds, for which purpose λὲγω and λόγος are not used (Trench, 'Syn. of N.T.'). Peter's λαλιά betrayed him to the Jerusalem crowd (Matthew 26:73). Λόγος is the substance of the message, the burden of the revelation. The speech (λαλιά) of Christ refers to the appropriate and significant clothing which he gave to his word (λόγος). He mournfully asks why they had failed to get to understand the method of his converse; why they perpetually failed to appreciate his discourse; why they persistently put wrong constructions upon his phrase, and imagined him to be speaking of earthly things when he was discoursing to them of heavenly ones. Why? Because ye cannot hear my word - the Divine communication I have made to you. They were morally so far from him that they could not listen so as to receive his revelation. The inward organ of receptivity was lacking, and "so the spiritual idiom in which he spake was not spiritually understood" (Alford). The Divine significance of the whole word of Christ, the new and strange doctrines of Messiah, of redemption, of the Father, of a sacrifice and death on the part of the Son of man for the salvation of the world excited their animosity and bitter antipathies. They were not conscious of any of the need he came to satisfy, and so they failed to apprehend the entire manner of his revelation. They were from beneath (ver. 23). He is disclosing heavenly things. "Their ears have they closed, lest they should hear."
Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
Verse 44. - Ye are of the father who is the devil. In this way the great bulk of the best commentators translate this difficult clause, Hilgenfeld, Volkmar, and Davidson translate, "You are of the father of the devil;" and suggest that here the evangelist betrays his fierce Gnostic (Ophite) antagonism to the Jews, and adopts the view that the God of the Old Testament, the "Creator," was the Father of the serpent. This is surely untenable. The Creator of all things, in the prologue, is none other than the Father acting through the Logos. In the third, fourth, and fifth chapters, the greatest honours are ascribed to the God of the Jewish people, and not the faintest hint given of such radical divergence from the standpoint of Judaism. In this very passage the father of the faithful Jews is spoken of with profound reverence. "The second-century Gnostic" must have so cleverly concealed his sentiments, and have refuted his position so frequently, that it is inexcusably inept for him to have shown his cloven foot on this occasion. Thoma ignores the wild conjecture of Hilgenfeld. Our Lord was not dealing with the parentage of the devil, but with the moral and religious parentage of those Jews who were manifesting the most bitter antagonism to himself and plotting his destruction. For them to claim spiritual kinship and childlike feeling to the Father whose holy nature and whose love to them he was revealing, was a strange contradiction in terms. Our Lord repudiated it in this terrible language. He had worsted the seductive suggestions of the devil, and when he saw and heard them repeated and set forth as Divine proposals, he gave them their true name. "You disclaim the faintest sympathy with other gods; you resent the bar sinister on your escutcheon; you say that religiously as well as historically you are not born of any fornication - there is no taint in your theological position; but I tell you plainly that you are from, you are manifesting the very essence and substance of, the father who is the prime enemy of God and man. The phrase is in perfect keeping with many synoptic phrases (Matthew 13:38; Matthew 23:15; cf. John the Baptist's language, Matthew 3:7). And the lusts of your father - those of falsehood and murder, lying and slaughter, being the top and chief of all his evil passions - ye are willing, desirous to do. He has engendered these very lusts within you. The paternity of your angry passions, your incapacity to see and accept my word, are both alike explained. There is no more terrible rebuke in the whole compass of revelation. The disciple whom Jesus loved, in preserving these words, shows very decidedly that he was a "Son of Thunder," and calls down fire from heaven (a very storm) which has been ever since descending upon the heads of these and all other bitter antagonists of the Son of man. He was a murderer (literally, a manslayer) from the beginning. This has often been referred to the spirit which animated Cain in the slaughter of his brother Abel. There is some corroboration of such a reference in 1 John 3:12, "Cain was ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ of that wicked one, and slew his brother;" and in the language of 1 John 3:15, "Whoso hateth his brother is a murderer." (So Lucke, Reuss, De Wette, and others.) But the narrative of the death of Abel makes no reference to the agency of the devil, but rather indicates that the sin of Cain was originated by his having been begotten in the image of the fallen Adam. The better interpretation and reference of the words may be seen in 1 John 3:8, "He that doeth sin is from the devil (ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου), for the devil sinneth from the beginning (ἀπ ἀρχῆς)." And sin entered into the world through the seduction and false statements of the devil, by which the first man was veritably slain, his moral nature killed outright. Grace was not shut out, but Adam died. In the day that he ate of the forbidden tree, man most surely and in the deepest sense died. "God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity. Nevertheless, through envy of the devil came death into the world: and they that do hold of its side do find it" (Wisd. 2:23, 24; Revelation 12:9); "Sin entered into the world, and death by sin" (Romans 5:12). The work of destruction at the beginning of humanity upon earth has never been exhausted. In murderous propensity, in lying and seductive words and ways, the children of wrath are ever showing their parentage. To this statement our Lord added what has by many been regarded as a distinct revelation of the fall of Satan himself from the condition of rectitude (cf. Jude 1:6; 2 Peter 2:4). He stands not; continues not - in the truth (ἕστηκεν in the perfect is the better reading, and demands this translation; the rendering of the Vulgate, stetit, favoured by Augustine, and involving a reference to the fall of the devil, would have required εἱστήκει, pluperfect). Jesus (lid not, therefore, explicitly assert anything with reference to the act of original revolt of the devil, but declared that the devil has no place in truth; he restlessly resists, throwing a hopeless, perilous glamour of falsehood round all he touches. Schaff suggests, rightly, that the combination of this statement with that of the prologue (John 1:3) presupposes the fall of this mighty and murderous spirit from a previous condition of rectitude, and the dictum of our Lord ought never to have been charged with the admission of an eternal principle of evil. The fall of the lost angels is not explicitly stated. Because there is no truth in him. The absence of the article before "truth" shows that in the previous clause the objective truth is meant, that the reality of things as known by him is referred to. The truth was that region or sphere of action in which he elected not to stand, and, as a matter of fact, does not stand nor find place. By "truth" is meant subjective truth or "truthfulness," the spirit which repudiates falsehood in all its forms and manifestations. There is no consistency with himself, no inward harmony with reality. This is given as reason why the devil stands not in the truth. Whensoever he speaketh a lie, he speaketh (λαλεῖ) from (ἐκ, out of) his own resources - from what is most entirely his own, revealing the depth of his truthless, loveless, fatal, godless nature. Schaff quotes from Gothe's 'Faust' the account which Mephistopheles gives of his own being. Here it is in Kegan Paul's translation -
"I am the spirit, who aye deny!
And rightly so; for everything
Is only good for perishing;
So better 'twere that nought had been,
And, therefore, all that you call sin
Ruin, whate'er with evil's rife
Is my true element of life." Gothe exactly expressed the ἐκ τῶν ἰδίων by "mein eigentliches element." Because he is a liar, and the father of the liar. This translation makes the αὐτοῦ refer to τεύστης, which is the most natural antecedent (so Bengel, Meyer, Lange, Godet, etc.), notwithstanding the difficulty of the construction. This language asserts not only the agelong proof which history gives of the falsehood of this terrible personality, but declares that he exerts an evil paternity in the life of every liar. "Brood of vipers" is a phrase used by John Baptist and Christ himself when addressing Pharisees. The well known imagery of the first promise, "I will put enmity between her seed and thy seed," etc., suggests the same thought. There is an awful significance in this power of the devil to sow his deadly seed in human life, and to produce thus, on the soil of human nature, "children of the wicked one" (cf. Paul's language, Acts 13:10, addressed to Elymas, υἱὲ διαβόλου, "son of the devil"). Another translation makes αὐτοῦ refer to ψεῦδος: He is a liar, and the father of falsehood, or thereof (Revised Version); thus drawing an abstract out of the concrete ψεύστης, or possibly referring to the first he which slew the spiritual life of men - to the "Ye shall not surely die" of Genesis 3:4. It is against this view that our Lord is here dealing with persons rather than with abstractions. Westcott and Moulton and Revised Version in margin have given indefiniteness to the subject of the verb λαλῇ, and translate, "Whensoever one [or, 'a man'] speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for his father also is a liar;" the idea being that the evil inheritance from the father of lies has even made falsehood the essential element, the proprium, of the liar. This, however, appears to involve a very complicated thought. The ἐκ τῶν ἰδίων, if strictly spoken, contradicts the idea of the liar's peculiarities being the result of inheritance. Still less satisfactory is the vain endeavour of the Gnostics, who found here a second reference to the father of the devil. They discovered in some Italic Versions, and in the usage of some of the Fathers, καθὼς καί, in place of καὶ, and so took it to mean, "he is a liar, as also his father." Higenfeld and Volkmar have fastened upon this text also, and thus found further proof of Gnostic (Ophite) heresy in the Gospel. Riggenbach and Godet have remarked that, if the father of the devil was spoken of in the previous clause, "his father" would mean "the father of the father of the devil"! We have already seen how groundless such a charge against the Gospel is, and how such a rendering would throw the entire context into confusion. If we accept the first translation, we find that our Lord announces a doctrine concerning the devil, and conveys more information than can be obtained from any other source. This is not mere accommodation to the consciousness of a daemoniac or the prejudices of the Jews, as some have interpreted Christ's language in the synoptic Gospels, but it is distinct dogmatic teaching about the personality, character, and method of the devil.
And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.
Verse 45. - Then, turning to these children of the wicked one, Christ delivered a tremendous denunciation: But because I say the truth - because I am the Organ, Utterance, and Incarnation of the truth - ye believe me not. If he spake lies to them, they would greedily receive them. The very cause of their lack of credence is the utterance of truth. The "I" is emphatic, and set over against the "you" of the second clause. There is a tragic force about this charge almost unparalleled, implying the most wilful estrangement from God, a rejection of known truth because it was truth, a love of darkness because it was darkness, a moral obtuseness which answers to the terrible language, "Lest they should see with their eyes," etc.
Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?
Verse 46. - Which of you convieteth me of sin? Ἐλέγχω is used in the sense of John 16:6-8 (see note) - Which of you can justify a charge of sin against me? can bring it home to me or others? Sin (ἁμαρτία) is not mere "error," as Erasmus and some others have urged, because the word throughout the New Testament (and in the classics when not accompanied by some explanatory term) always means "contrariety to the will of God," moral offence not intellectual defect (so Meyer, Luthardt, Godet, Westcott). Nor is it sound exegesis to limit ἁμαρτία to one particular form of sin (such as "false doctrine," Calvin, Melancthon, Tholuck). There is no need to limit its reference; and in the unanswered query, while we cannot say that by itself this passage is sufficient to demonstrate the sinlessness of Christ, it reveals a sublime depth in his translucent consciousness that places him - unless he were the most deluded or self-sufficient of human teachers - on a different position from all other Divine messengers. In proportion as other great moral prophets have set their own standard high, they have become conscious of their own defects; and from Moses to St. Paul, from Augustine to St. Francis, the saintliest men have been the most alive to their own departures from their ideas of right. The standard of Jesus is higher than that of any other, and he appears nevertheless absolutely without need of repentance, above the power of temptation, beyond the range of conviction. True, the Jews brought a charge of madness and folly upon him immediately; but, so far from convincing him or mankind, they stand forever covered with the shame of their own incompetence to apprehend his message or himself. He being, then, without sin, and assuming that he stands in the eternal truth, and is the absolute Truth of things, and that he cannot from his moral purity deceive or misinform them, and that his testimony to himself is final, sufficient, and trustworthy, asks, If I say the truth - without your having convicted me of sin or brought any moral obliquity or offence against me - if I say (the) truth, why do ye not believe me? The reason is in them rather than in him. Their non-belief discloses no flaw in his revelation, but makes it evident that they and he are on different planes of being, with a discrepant, opposed, moral paternity. "Why do ye not believe me?" He marvelled at their unbelief! He is from God; they are from God's great enemy. The moral perfection of Jesus as the God-Man is absolutely necessary to his character as "God's Lamb," as "the Only Begotten," "the Son," and as "the Judge," of the human race. As he subsequently said, "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing fit me." To account for this sinless, perfect humanity, the entire conception of the Divine nature blended in indissoluble union with his own is found imperative at every epoch of Christ's life. At every development of his official character, in every new combination of circumstance, in conflict and sorrow, when smarting from treachery and dying alone upon the cross, he is "perfect," he fulfils the perfect norm, he reaches the standard of Divine humanity. There is no discrepance here with even Mark's account of his language to the young ruler (Mark 10:18), for he does not there say that he is not good, nor does he do other than suggest that he is identified with the One who is good.
He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.
Verses 47-58. -
(6) THE I AM. The claim to be the Source of liberty and life, in reply to those who appealed to their Father God and their father Abraham, led Jesus to assert his anteriority to Abraham. Verse 47. - There was some pause after this searching inquiry. Silence showed that, if they could not convince him of sin, they were ready with no answer to his question. He assumes that his word is unanswerable; he is what he says he is, and is able to set men free from sin and to give them eternal life. Their position is still further explained by a distinct syllogism, of which the major premiss is: He that is of God heareth the words of God; words which it is obviously taken for granted he is freely, surely uttering. Who are the persons referred to? Some, like Hilgenfeld, discover here a Manichaean, Gnostic sense - "those who are essentially of a Divine origin and spiritual nature," are absolutely different from those who are of the psychic or hylic nature. Thus they cut away all force from the moral reproof which follows. Others insist that here Jesus speaks of the regenerated man, the true child of God, who has power to believe, who has come to the Father, being predestinated unto eternal life. Even this interpretation does not leave sufficiently ample play to the human freedom, and the personal self-responsibility, which pervades the teaching of the gospel. Elsewhere he speaks of these who are "of the truth" and "hear his voice," of "those whom the Father draws" to him by the very love and grace which he, the Son, lavishes upon them (see notes, John 6:37, 44; John 18:37; John 17:6, 9, 11). He also speaks of those who come to him being given to him. He is here contemplating this wide class, who are scattered through all time and places, with susceptible minds capable of hearing freely, and believing when they hear, the words of God. For this cause ye hear them not, because ye are not of God; i.e. seeing that ye do not hear the words of God, it is evident that ye are not of God. They are not excluded from becoming so by any irreversible fate, but their present obtuseness of spiritual perception, their refusal to accept truth on its clearest exposition, shows that they are not born of God; they are not being drawn to him by inworking of the Father's grace. The very form of the expression was once more meant to touch their conscience.
Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?
Verse 48. - But it brought from them a shout of derision and a burst of scornful mockery. The Jews answered and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a daemon? They imagine that the bare charge that they, the leaders of Israel, are "not of God," and that they reveal the fact by their inability to hear the words of God then sounding in their ears, was flat heresy, a gross lack of patriotism, and proved that, in his lofty self-assertion, he was no better than a Samaritan - the most hated of their neighbours. They return a harsh tu-quoque to our Lord's refusal to admit their Abrahamic descent, and his condemnation of their utter moral dissimilarity from their putative father. The sentence, "a Samaritan art thou!" is singularly insulting in its tone and form. We cannot measure the exact amount of insult they condensed into this word, whether it be of heresy, or alienation from Israel, or accusation of impure descent. It is remarkable that our Lord had shown special kindness to Samaritans (ch. 4.), and had made in his parable "the good Samaritan" the type of neighbourly love; but these very Jews had, in the height of this controversy, accused him of being a "Galilaean," and it is not probable that they used the term otherwise than as a soubriquet of scorn. Edersheim (loc. cit., 2:174, 175) would translate into Aramaic the language here cited, and finds in its form Shomroni the real interpretation of its meaning. Shomron is, according to him, used in rabbinical writing for Ashmedai, and in the cabbalists is used for Sammael or Satan. Arabian traditions are brought in to confirm this interpretation of the speech, which he regards as equivalent to "Thou art a child of the devil," thus retorting upon Jesus the charge that they were doing the works of their father, the devil. The one expression is thought by Edersheim equivalent to that which follows, thou hast a daemon; and his explanation is thought to cover our Lord's silence respecting it. In our opinion this is far-fetched and unnatural. Christ's silence is better justified by his refusal to regard such a term as conveying opprobrium, tic had risen above the distinction of race, and could afford to despise the taunt. In John 7:20 (see note) a similar charge had been made by the angry Jews. The Lord is accused of being mastered by some daemon, who is perverting his mind and confusing his speech. Some further force is added to the charge from the language of the Talmud, 'Jebamoth,' fol. 47, a: "R. Nachman, son of Isaac, said to a Samaritan, 'Thou art a Cuthite, and testimony from thy mouth has no validity.'"
Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me.
Verse 49. - To this Jesus answered, in calm and patient remonstrance, I have not a daemon. No strange or evil power haunts me; I am perfectly clear in my consciousness. Once before, when accused of complicity with Beelzebub, he had retorted with awful solemnity, and an appeal to the conscience of his enemies and to the patent facts of his own warfare with all the kingdom of Satan. It is interesting to observe that he takes no notice of the charge, "Thou art a Samaritan." If the above suggestion of Edersheim were accepted, the silence would be explained; but it was more probably occasioned by Christ's unwillingness to repudiate fellowship with this persecuted nationality. The parable of the good Samaritan was probably delivered about this time. Here he simply repudiated the second charge, and added, But I honour my Father, in declaring that these words of his would be acceptable to you if you were of God (ver. 47), and (the καὶ strengthens the contrast between the two clauses rather than between: the "I" and "you") - and, while I am doing honour to my Father, ye are dishonouring me; for you are casting these reproaches upon me, refusing my offers of mercy, freedom, and life, veritable revelations though they be of the heart of the Father.
And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.
Verse 50. - But, in honouring my Father, and in quietly bearing your unjustifiable reproaches, I am not seeking my glory (cf. vers. 28, 42; John 7:18). The claim of Christ to be and do so much is made because he has the happiness of the world, the salvation and life of men, and the glory of the Father as his consuming passion. He is not seeking his own glory; he is only crowning himself with the crown of utter self-abnegation. But, while he repudiates all care for his own glory, he knows that, there is One to whom that glory is dear, who seeketh his glory, and with whom it is perfectly safe, and who judgeth with absolute impartiality and infinite knowledge. Westcott quotes in illustration of ὁ ζητῶν, Philo on Genesis 42:22, "He that seeketh [maketh inquisition for blood] is not man, but God, or the Logos, or the Divine Law" ('De Jos.,' 29).
Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.
Verse 51. - Verily, verily. This impressive recommencement of discourse implies that a new turn is given to the conversation, and that the gravest solemnity and importance is attached to the utterance. It is impossible that the Jews should have listened unmoved to Christ's rejoinder on their rude taunt, or been unimpressed by the self-composed and lofty way in which the honour of our Lord was calmly entrusted by him to the Father. The Jews may say what they please, call him by any opprobrious name they choose; "there is One that seeketh" his glory, and he is content. He has, in earlier portions of this discourse, promised freedom and sonship to those who abide in his word; and now to those who believed on him he says, with extraordinary emphasis, If a man (any one) have kept my word, he shall never behold death. This "keeping" is more than "abiding" in the word. There is the additional notion of intently watching the "keeping," which issues in "fulfilling" and "obeying" (Meyer and Tholuck); see ver. 55; John 14:15, 21, 23; John 15:20; John 17:6. The opposite of τηρεῖν would be "to disregard;" the opposite of φυλάσσειν would be "to let slip" (Westcott). The promise is dazzling: "He shall never behold," i.e. steadily or exhaustively know by experience, what death means and is. He may pass through physical death, he may (γεύσηται) taste of dissolution, he may come before the judgment seat, he may see corruption (ἰδεῖν διαφθοράν); but he will not behold (θεωρεῖν) death. He will never know what death is (cf. here; John 4:14; John 5:24; John 6:51, where the Saviour speaks of the "living water," and "life eternal," and "living bread," which whoso partaketh shall never die.. See also John 11:26). He does not tell his disciples that they shall not see the grave, but that in the deepest sense they shall never die. "Death" and "life" are words that are lifted into a higher connotation. Death is a moral state, not an event in their physical existence.
Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death.
Verse 52. - The Jews - the adverse dominant party, ready always to misunderstand his words - (then) said to him, Now - in reference to their own charge (ver. 48), which he had solemnly disclaimed - we know (we have come to know, ἐγνώκαμεν) that thou hast a daemon. They imply that he must be under some most bewildering hallucination. These words have scattered their momentary hesitation. They must have reasoned thus: "He who claims such power for his own words must have personal immunity from death. This is a daemoniacal folly and delusion. There have been greater than he who heard and kept the words of God, and who, nevertheless, did not escape death." Abraham died, and the prophets (died); and thou sayest, If a man keep my word, he shall never taste of death. Here observe the wilful alteration of the Saviour's words. In place of τὸν λόγον τὸν ἐμόν, "the word that is mine," they quote him as saying, τὸν λόγον μου, "my word," "the word of me" which conveys a more personal claim; and again, in lieu of the remarkable phrase, οὐ θεωρήσῃ, they say, οὐ μὴ γεύσηται equivalent to "shall not in any way experience death" - a form of expression incompatible with the fact of the physical death of his followers and a fortiori of himself. The believer, even like the Lord, does taste of death (Hebrews 2:9), but he does not see it. The phrase, γεύσεται θανάτου, is a rabbinical one for "drinking the cup of death" (cf. John 18:11; Revelation 18:6).
Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?
Verse 53. - Art thou greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself? This use of ποιεῖν is not uncommon. "By thy own statements, whom wouldst thou have us believe that thou art?" (cf. John 5:18; John 10:33; John 19:7, 12). This claim to be Giver of immunity from death, and the further assumption that the belief of and continuance in his word would metamorphose and transfigure death itself, implied functions which "made" Jesus mightier, more august, than either Moses or Elijah, Abraham or the prophets, who were dead. "These all died who art thou?"
Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God:
Verse 54. - Our Lord does not immediately or directly reply to their question. He was not making himself to be anything. He was simply declaring the fact. He does not return on the astounding assertion of ver. 51, but confirms it by reaffirming his own relation to the Father, and that sense of absolute and perfect union with the Father on which his entire ministry was based. Jesus answered, If I glorify myself - if I, from the ground of my own human consciousness, and apart from the Father who is with me and in me, and who "seeketh my glory" (ver. 50), if I have no unique relation and access to the Father, as you Jews seem to imply - then my glory - the glory of giving eternal life, of conferring perfect freedom and sonship upon those who continue in and keep my word; then all this glory which I claim - is nothing. But neither is the hypothesis one of fact, nor is the conclusion (fair enough on that hypothesis) a truth. "I am not glorifying myself, making myself anything other than I am." It is my Father who is glorifying me (cf. ver. 50, both for construction and sense); of whom ye say, that he is our [your] God. They claimed for themselves that they were "of God," and that the Father of whom he spake was no other than their God and Father as well as his. But they have not comprehended their own Scriptures nor God's providence, nor all the revelation which the Father was making of himself in the Son; while their special and monopolizing claim concealed from them the face of the Father.
Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying.
Verse 55. - And (i.e. while you thus speak, and though you call him your God; cf. a similar use of καί, very nearly expressed, but not exactly, by the "yet" of the Authorized Version) ye have not come to know him by all the experiences through which you have passed (cf. John 7:29; John 17:25; and ver. 19). You do not know the only true God, you have not the knowledge which is life eternal. But I know him, absolutely, intuitively, by the open eye of clearest consciousness, with invincible and perfect assent. The use and contrast of the two verbs ἐγνώκατε and οϊδα, here and elsewhere, is very striking (see John 3:10; John 21:17). When our Lord, however, was broadly contrasting the Jewish knowledge of God with that of the Samaritans, and identifying himself with the Jews (John 4:22), he uses οϊδαμεν. If I should say that I know him not - which I do not and dare not say. Christ could not admit that his absolute knowledge was a delusion. The reality of the Father in his Divine-human consciousness, expressing itself through his human thought and word, was supreme, overmastering, sublime - I shall be, like you, a liar; I should deceive you wilfully, as you are deceiving yourselves. We cannot fail here again to observe the severity of Jesus as portrayed in this Gospel. (There is nothing surely here, or in other numerous utterances in this discourse, inconsistent with the Son of Thunder.) No cowardly modesty (Lange) is possible to him. He knows, and must speak. He cannot, dare not, be silent, or allow these bitter enemies, with their ready malice and perverse and continuous misinterpretation of his words, to be ignorant, either of the ground of his self-consciousness or his penetration of their flimsy excuses. So once more he adds, But I know him, and keep (τηρῶ) his word. He will not allow this Divine consciousness to be taken from him, even by the shame and agony of the cross (Lange).
Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.
Verse 56. - Christ then proceeds to the allegation that he was greater than Abraham, and exclaims, Abraham, your father, exulted (a word is used of tumultuous joy, Luke 1:47) - triumphantly rejoiced that he should see my day (so Revised Version, margin). Winer translates the ἵνα ἴδῃ in the same way, though that translation really means "exulted in the knowledge that he should see." The "rejoiced to see," of the Authorized Version and Revised Version, implies that, when he thus exulted, he had seen, which is not exactly compatible or consistent with the following clause. If Canon Evans's theory of the use of ἵνα in the New Testament in the sense of "the contemplated result" be sound, we have a sufficient translation in "exulted that he would or should see" my day. In Luke 17:22 we hear of "one of the days of the Son of man." All those days seem gathered together in the expression, "my day," and can only mean the whole day of his manifestation as the incarnate Word - the day in which, through himself, God had visited his people. When did Abraham exult with so lofty an expectation and desire? Many times in solemn vision and by heavenly voice and holy promise Abraham was led to believe that in himself and in his seed all the nations of the world would be blessed (Genesis 15:4; Genesis 17:17; Genesis 18:10; Genesis 22:18). This promise made him young again. He staggered not at the promise of God. His faith was counted for righteousness. He believed that God could and would do what seemed impossible. That which he rejoiced that he should see was the day of Christ, the revelation of the Father, and the way of life proffered to all nations. He anticipated a fulfilment of the promises to such an extent that he rejoiced in hope of the glory of God. So far thee is little difficulty. Our imagination easily pictures Abraham in the sacred tumult of a blessed hope concerning that which was eventually realized in the Messianic glory of the Lord Jesus. But our Lord added, He saw it, and was glad. And the interpretations of this clause are very conflicting. Calvin asks whether this does not contradict Luke 10:24, "Many kings and prophets desired to see the things which ye see, and yet did not see them." And he adds, "Faith has its degrees in beholding Christ. The ancient prophets beheld Christ at a distance, but not as present with them." We are reminded by others of Hebrews 11:13, "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen and greeted them from afar." Consequently, the only vision of the day of Christ vouchsafed to Abraham was the far off prophetic glance. This interpretation ignores the difference of two clauses, "exulted that he would see," and "saw it, and was glad." This second clause is supposed by Hengstenberg and others to refer to the vision of the angel of the Lord, the Logos (Genesis 18.), or to the revelation of the vicarious death and resurrection of Messiah in the sacrifice of Isaac (so Chrysostom and Erasmus). Others, again, have laid emphasis on the "birth of Isaac" as the fulfilment of promises previously made to his faith. Isaac was regarded as "heir of the world," and the embodiment of the Messianic hope. He was the child of promise, of the Spirit rather than of the flesh. This view has been urged by Hofmann, Wordsworth, Westcott. The proper sense was, doubtless, that, since the Lord became incarnate, Abraham's exulting hope has been realized; that which he desired and rejoiced in anticipation to see has now dawned upon him. This becomes an emphatic revelation by our Lord in one palmary case, and therefore presumably in other instances as well, of the relation and communion between the glorified life of the saints, and the events and progress of the kingdom of God upon earth. A great consensus of commentators confirms this in terpretation - Origen, Lampe, Lucke, De Wette, Godet, Meyer, Stier, Alford, Lange, Watkins, Thoma. It is objected that this kind of information about the invisible world is contrary to the manner of Christ, and would stand alone. This objection, however, ignores, and especially in the case of Abraham, other references by our Lord to the same idea and fact. The parable, so called, of the rich man and Lazarus, introduces Abraham as having been acquainted, during their lifetime, with the condition of the two dead men (see Luke 16:22-25). And when our Lord, in conflict with the Sadducees, would prove from Scripture and the language of Jehovah in the "passage concerning the bush" that the dead rise, he said, "Since God called himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he was not the God of the dead, but of the living;" therefore Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were living, and not dead (Luke 20:36-38). In like manner, Moses and Elijah are represented as conversing with Jesus concerning the decease (ἔξοδον) he was about to accomplish (Luke 9:30, 31). St. Peter (1 Peter 1:12) declares that the angels desire to look into the mysteries of human redemption. St. Paul tells us that the principalities and powers in heavenly places receive fresh illustration of the manifold wisdom of God by and from the Church on earth (Ephesians 3:10). So that the idea is one in harmony with many other lines of Divine revelation. Abraham rejoiced at the advent of Christ. He has seen it, and been gladdened. The angels sang their praises at the birth of Christ, and rejoiced over one penitent sinner (Luke 15.). The patriarchs also rejoice that the promises which they handed down to the generations that would follow them have been fulfilled. The 'Midrash' declares, says Wunsche, that Abrabam saw the Law giving on Sinai, and rejoiced at it. Westcott says the "tense" is decisive against this joy of Abraham in Paradise. But the aorist simply calls attention to the effect at once produced upon the consciousness of Abraham as soon as he became aware of the day of the Son of man. Rabbinical ideas of the knowledge communicated to Abraham concerning the career of his descendants, confirm and illustrate this interpretation; while the light thus cast upon the darkness of the grave expounds the great statement, "He that continueth in [keepeth] my word shall not see death."
Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
Verse 57. - The Jews, therefore, said unto him - once more misinterpreting his words, and giving a materialistic tone to his Divine hint - Thou hast not yet fifty years - "Thou art not fifty years old" - and hast thou seen Abraham? Christ did not say that be had seen Abraham, but that Abraham had seen and rejoiced in his day. The Jews chose to regard the language of Jesus as adding another immense improbability, if not falsehood, to his previous claims, viz. that he had actually lived to twice the age of Methuselah already. The "fifty years old" may have been simply used in round numbers for the age of man's prime and completed life (Numbers 4:3, 39; Numbers 8:24). There may have been, even if our Lord was only thirty-three years of age at the time of his Passion, that which apparently added to his years. A tradition is mentioned (Irenaeus, 100, 2, 22. 5) of the more advanced age of Jesus which the Ephesian presbyters preserved, and which Irenaeus regards as between the forty-fifth and fiftieth years. Ernest de Bunsen vainly finds a reference to Christ's age (John 2:20) in the forty-six years of the temple; but it is strange that, with the exception of the statement in Luke 3:23, there is nothing in the extraneous chronological data, e.g. the death of Herod and recall of Pontius Pilate, which need positively compress our Lord's life within fifty years (Westcott). And Keim has made the suggestion that our Lord did carry on his ministry for a much longer period than is commonly supposed. It is far more probable, however, that the Jews were using an expression for the term of a completed life, and were supplying no chronological data whatever.
Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
Verse 58. - The reply of Jesus to this taunt is one of the most surprising and baffling kind on any hypothesis of our Lord's consciousness being limited as that of all other of the sons of men. He gives the solemn emphasis of the Αμὴν ἀμὴν once more - Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was born (came into being), I am. Abraham came into existence by birth (the Vulgate translates, Antequam fierat Abraham Ego sum): I am. Numerous attempts have been made to explain this climacteric utterance on some humanistic theory. The contrast is very remarkable between γενέσθαι and εἰμι. Jesus Christ declared his own timeless existence to have been in his consciousness before Abraham came into being at all. The "I am" reminds us repeatedly, when used by Jesus, of the "I AM THAT I AM" of Exodus 3:14, and the "thou art" of Psalm 90. (89:2, LXX.); Psalms 102:28. His human consciousness gave utterance to the awful depths of the eternal Ego. Now, some critics have limited it in its meaning to "I existed in the counsel of God." But there are three objections to this interpretation: one is
(1) that the present tense, εἰμί, and not the past, η΅ν, was used by our Lord; and
(2) on this interpretation Abraham must have also equally pre-existed in the counsel of God; and
(3) such a statement would throw no light on the previous discourse. The Racovian Confession of Faith, based on the view of Socinus, explains, "Before Abram becomes Abraham, i.e. the father of many nations, I am it, the Messiah, the Light of the world." Not until my Messianic claims are acknowledged, and the many nations become children of Abraham, does Abraham really become Abraham, does his name derive its full meaning. This would be rabbinical trifling (J.P. Smith, 'Script. Test. to Messiah,' vol. 2). Beyschlag thinks that our Lord realized in his Person not a conscious pre-existence before Abraham, or before all worlds, but an impersonal principle, the image of God, which could only "be" in the eternal mind of God. There is a sense in which every man may realize such pre-existence as this, not merely "the Son of God," nor the new man in Christ, but every man whatsoever; but such a statement is entirely out of harmony with the whole passage that precedes. If the Jews had understood it in this sense, they would not have taken up stores to stone him, but, after their wont, would have said, "So also were we." "Ideas do not see one another." The first ἐγὼ εἰμί (ver. 12) brought out their angry unbelief, but this excites their murderous assault. We have to observe that this remarkable expression does not stand alone. St. John had reasons for saying "that the Word was with God, and was God. and was made flesh" (John 1:1, 3, 14). If Jesus, in his Divine consciousness, had never elsewhere spoken of having had a being before his manifestation (John 6:46, 62; John 17:5), of having taken part with the Father from the beginning (John 5:17), of being "one with the Father" (John 10:30, 33), of being greater than the temple or the sabbath, as being the Object of the eternal love in coming down from heaven, in laying down his life that he might take it again (John 10:17, 18); and if the language of the apostles (Hebrews 1:1, 2; Colossians 1:17; Revelation 1:18) had not entirely prepared our mind for the data on which such conclusions rested, a generation before this Gospel was reduced to form, we might join the effort to resist such a claim as that of eternal pre-existence. But the whole tenor of the Gospel and the entire New Testament teaching are seen, more and more, to turn upon this fundamental position - that in Christ dwells all the fulness of the Godhead, that he had life in himself, and eternity, and that the manhood has not only been lifted to the highest place in human remembrance, but to the midst of the throne.
Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
Verse 59. -
(7) The conflict and the victory. Therefore - because he said this, which if it had no basis in [act was rank blasphemy - they took up stones of the temple court to cast at (upon) him. "They rushed from the porch into the court of the Gentiles, to pick up stones to cast them at him; but once more 'his hour had not yet come,' and their fury proved impotent. Hiding himself in one of the many passages or gateways of the temple, he presently passed out" (Edersheim). But Jesus hid himself, and went forth from the temple [ going through the midst of them, and so passed by]. There is no need to imagine more than the exercise of his majestic energy before which daemoniacs quailed, and Pilate trembled, and the guards of the temple fell abashed. The crisis of his ministry in Jerusalem is approaching. How often would he have gathered them, and given to them eternal life, but they would not!