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Contains the second journey of Jesus to the feast at Jerusalem, and whatever John washes to record of what occurred between it and the third journey, in supplementing the three first Gospels.
When Jesus had the conversation with the woman of Samaria there were yet four months to harvest, therefore to the Passover, which, according to John 5:1, Jesus keeps in Jerusalem. The healing of the son of the royal servant followed soon after His arrival in Galilee. There is thus left a period of from three to four months, which must be filled up from the three first Gospels. Important events must have occurred during this time, the rather, since the imprisonment of the Baptist required Jesus to occupy his vacant place.
John 5:1. “After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.”
Lücke remarks, “Whenever John wishes to designate the immediate succession of time, he uses μετὰ? τ oῦ?το ; but when the more remote succession, μετὰ? ταῦ?τα .” One will, however, be disposed a priori to mistrust so minute a distinction; and this mistrust is shown, on closer investigation, to be well founded; for the distinction is wrecked directly on ver. 14, where, according to the theory of Lücke, we should expect τ oῦ?το , since the relation of one fact only has preceded. Μετὰ? ταῦ?τα , which is always used in the Apocalypse, is also the regular phrase in the Gospel, where μετὰ? τ oῦ?το occurs by way of variation, but only four times altogether. Μετὰ? ταῦ?τα is found nowhere else so frequently as in the Gospel and in the Apocalypse. Matthew has neither μετὰ? ταῦ?τα nor τ oῦ?το , and Mark only once μετὰ? ταῦ?τα .
It is a matter of controversy even to the present day, what is to be understood by the “feast of the Jews.” We must at once reject the opinion, that John himself does not designate any particular feast. It is opposed to this, that all the other feasts in John are distinct feasts; that the feasts govern his grouping of the narrative, as especially here the feast forms the beginning of the third group; and that the mention of the feasts in John has a chronological significance, so that he mentions the Passover even when Christ did not attend it. If now it is established that John means a particular feast, it is further evident, from the fact that Jesus went to Jerusalem to this feast, that only one of three great feasts can be thought of. For the celebration of these feasts only was connected with the temple; and from the object which Jesus had in His attendance, to exert an influence upon the people assembling to the feast—cf. remarks on John 2:13
His going up presupposes that of the people. Further, the words τῶ?ν Ἰ?ουδαίων , having reference to Leviticus 23:2, are never used by John of any other than the three great festivals ordained in the Law,—twice of the Passover, once of the Feast of Tabernacles. The very fact, however, of the attendance of Jesus is especially in favour of the Passover; for, according to the practice of the Jews at that time, the Passover was the only one of the three chief feasts which was regularly kept by the whole people at the temple. We are led to the Passover also by the passage, John 4:35, according to which, when Jesus went to Samana, there were yet four months to the harvest, which began with the Passover. which was therefore, at that time, the next of three chief feasts. But the main argument in favour of the Passover we give in the words in which it has been previously presented in the Christology. “The dispute is decided at once in favour of the Passover. if the article is to be regarded as genuine. That there are good authorities in favour of this conclusion, is evident from the fact, that Tischendorf has restored it to the text.
The omission of the article might very easily have originated with those who did not know what to make of it. The feast must either be the feast par excellence, or the feast mentioned before. In the former case, it must be the Passover, which was shown to be. the one fundamental feast of the nation by the fact that it was instituted before any of the others, before the Sabbath itself, and even before the conclusion of the covenant on Sinai, of which it lay at the foundation (for proofs of the superior worth attached to the Passover, see Lund, jüd. Heiligthümer, p. 974). And in the latter case, we are still brought to the feast of the Passover, as being the only festival mentioned before. Not only is it noticed at the commencement of the second group, which answers to that of the third, and comes very near to it, in spite of the distance between the two, in consequence of the striking similarity of the words employed (chap. John 2:13, And the Passover of the Jews was at hand; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem; chap. John 5:1, After this was the feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem ); but it also occurs a very short time before, in chap. John 4:45. Then, when He was come into Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things which He did at Jerusalem at the feast: for they also went unto the feast.
But, even if the article is not genuine, we can only refer it to the Passover. For, as it is a priori impossible that there should be any uncertainty as to what feast it was, we must complete the passage (‘there was feast (not even a feast) of the Jews’) from the context. According to Winer, the definite article may be omitted ‘when the omission does not introduce any ambiguity into the discourse, or leave the reader in any uncertainty whether he is to understand the word definitely or indefinitely.’ This is the case here. Every unbiassed reader thinks at once of the Passover. The decision of this point rests upon what goes before, especially as the expression, ‘and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,’ precludes the possibility of any other being intended than one of the three leading festivals; and among these it is most natural to fix upon the Passover, inasmuch as this was the only one at which it was a universal custom to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The words, καθʼ? ἑ?ορτὴ?ν , in Matthew 27:15 and Mark 15:6, are perfectly analogous; so perfectly so, that every other analogy is rendered superfluous in consequence. On the latter passage, Fritzsche observes: quamquam ἡ? ἑ?ορτὴ? de quibusvis feriis in genere dicitur, tamen h. l. quum de Paschate agatur (Marc. John 14:1) καθʼ? ἑ?ορτὴ?ν ad Paschatis feriis refem debet: singulis Paschatis feriis; and Lücke (on John 2 p. 8) says: The formula κατὰ? δὲ? ἑ?ορτὴ?ν is certainly used to denote the Passover, but only in connection with the history of the Passion. In itself, it leaves the feast undetermined. The applicability of these words to the passage before us is at once apparent.”
Another important argument in favour of the Passover is derived from the parable in Luke 13:6 sqq. At the time when Jesus related this parable, three years—this is a round number, but at least two years and a half—of His ministry had already passed. According to ver. 8, the fig-tree was to receive a respite for another year. From this we obtain, in all, at least three years and a half, answering to the four Passovers of John, if a Passover be recognised in our text. Three Passovers besides this are expressly mentioned by John 2:13; John 6:4, and then the last. Finally, it is also of importance, that Irenaeus, the oldest among the teachers of the ancient Church, whose view of our text is well known, refers it decidedly to the Passover. He proves, in 2:39 (Bened. 22), that four Passovers fall into the period of the Messianic work of Christ. The first in 2:13 : “Dehinc iterum subtrahens se invenitur in Samaria, quando et cum Samaritana disputabat et filium centurionis absens verbo caravit. Et post haec iterum secunda vice ascendit in diem festum Paschae in Hierusalem, quando paralyticum, qui juxta natatoriam jacebat 38 annos, curavit, jubens ut surgeret et auferret grabbatum suum et iret.”
These are the important grounds in favour of the Passover, against which the following argument has been principally urged:—“Jesus spoke John 4:35 in December: from John 6:4, however, it is evident that the Passover was still impending; consequently, a feast must be meant occurring in the period between December and the Passover, and this is no other than the feast of Purim.” But nothing even that is plausible can be objected to the view, that the Passover here is the second of the public ministry of Jesus; and that in John 6:4 the third. That then John passes over in silence a period of almost a year of the ministry of Jesus, proves nothing; for the opposition which Jesus had encountered in chap. 5, and the plots directed against His life, cf. vers. 16, 18, must have caused Him to hurry away from Judea. The occurrences in Galilee had been anticipated by the three first Evangelists, whose omissions it is everywhere John’s object to supply, and who had confined themselves to these occurrences. Cf. Christol. S. 184. The omission can appear strange to those only who do not correctly understand the relation of John to the three first Gospels.
Ver. 2. “Now there is in Jerusalem, by the sheep-gate, a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.”
The ἔ?στι need not be explained by supposing that the pool still remained after the destruction of Jerusalem. For it is not the pool in itself which is regarded, but the pool in its property as a sanitary institution, with its five porches. We also need not, with Bengel and others, conclude from the ἔ?στι the composition of the Gospel before, the destruction of Jerusalem, to which there are such strong opposing arguments. The Present tense may very well be such an one of presentiation, as occurs so frequently in the Gospel of John, John 1:44 sq., John 4:7—in general, certainly, of actions; and that the ἔ?στι is to be thus rendered, is shown by the following κατέβαινεν . The descent of the angel coincides with the property of the pool as Bethesda. That with προβατικῇ? is to be supplied πύλῃ? (although no other example can be adduced of such an omission), is evident from Nehemiah 3:1, The nearest gate to the sheep-gate was, according to Nehemiah 3:3; Nehemiah 12:39, the fish-gate; so that these gates probably received their names from the sheep-market and the fish-market, which were before them. The sheep-gate was particularly adapted to be the place of the sheep-market, because it was near the temple; and its locality is determined by the circumstance, that, according to Nehemiah 3:1, on the restoration of the walls and gates, it was built by the priests. The high priest, together with the priests, commenced the building for a pattern to the rest, and there can be no doubt that they built the part nearest to the temple. It was also natural that the building should commence here. “A porta gregis,” remarks Raschi, “inchoatur aedificatio murorum atque ibi etiam finitur.” Cf. ver. 32, according to which the last division of workers built the portion up to the sheep-gate. Further, on the dedication of the walls, the company of the priests went directly from the sheep-gate into the temple, Nehemiah 12:39-40. For the “prison-gate” belonged to the temple itself, corresponding to the golden gate, built up at the present day, leading to the mosque Sakhara (Von Raumer, S. 308). We are led to the same position for the gate by the statement in Nehemiah 3:1, that the tower Hananeel was in its vicinity; and that this tower was on the eastern side of the city, was proved in the Christology, in reference to Zechariah 14:10. The exact determination of the position of the sheep-gate, and thus of the pool of Bethesda, is of importance, in that there are in the same locality at the present day remarkable analogies to the pool of Bethesda. On the eastern side of the city there are still the medicinal baths of Hammam es Shefator Aines Shefa, concerning which Walcott and Tobler have shown, that they are fed from the large and deep reservoir under the rock of the mosque, which occupies the site of the ancient temple. Bitter, 16, 1, S. 387, 417. On the eastern side of the city, “on the eastern slope of the southern part of Moriah,” is also situated the fountain of Mary, which in its changes affords so striking a coincidence to the waters of the pool of Bethesda. “The fountain of the Virgin,” says Bitter, S. 454, 5, “is sometimes quite dry, and then suddenly gushes up again between the stones. An Arab told us, that the water comes from the spring under the great mosque.
T. Tobler had already, in the winter months of 1815, frequently visited the same fountain early in the morning and late in the evening, in order to make more exact observations as to their intermittent appearances.
He also, like Robinson, remarked the change of the water, which was usually two inches height of flood and ebb. But on the 21st January he remarked, what he had not seen before, a considerable gushing up of the water, which rose four and a half inches, and was connected with a gentle billowy motion. On the 14th March this bubbling up continued more than twenty minutes, till it attained its greatest height, when it gradually in two hours time resumed its original elevation: it rose at this time as much as six and a half inches, and on sinking back, presented a surface of mirror-like smoothness. The greatest altitude was remarked about three o’clock in the afternoon.” G. O. Schulz (Jerusalem, S. 89) mentions the popular legend, which is still among the Mohammedans connected with the intermittent fountain of the Virgin, that a hidden dragon produces its rising and falling.—ἐ?πιλεγομένη denotes an additional name. The fundamental signification, verba verbis adjicio, indicates that the pool had another, so to speak, natural name. The sacred name, here alone mentioned, which has not in vain seven letters, divided as usual into three and four, is, without doubt, the Aramaic בית חסדא , house or place of grace Ἑ?βραϊστὶ? refers to the language of the country at that time, the Aramaic, which was spoken by the Hebrews after their return from the exile). The insufficiently attested reading λεγομένη is opposed even by the character of the name, which has less that of a proper name than of an additional name. The genesis of the false reading is explained by supposing that those who made it did not perceive that here it is an added name which is spoken of, but allowed themselves to be led by the reasons which Lücke adduces in favour of the false reading. “According to the usage of John, λεγομένη merits the preference. The other reading is an ἀ?π . λεγ . in John, and in this meaning never occurs in the New Testament;” on which it may be remarked, that the corresponding ἐ?πικαλέομαι does so occur.
In what sense did the pool receive the name of Bethesda? Olshausen thinks that “probably this building was an institution formed by charitable persons, and hence the name Bethesda.” But it was not the building that was thus called, but the pool with the building, which is represented as only a secondary consideration. There is nothing in the narrative about human love, but the contrary in ver. 7; and on the other hand, if we refer the name to the Divine love, Bethesda, q.d., place of grace, we have the explanation directly in ver. 4. It would, moreover, be very wrong to draw from the Βηθ a proof that the name refers primarily to the building: בית occurs of all places (Gesenius, in the Thesaurus, No. 7), and especially in local names; as e.g. Bethaven, place of wickedness; Bethabara, place of transit.
Ver. 3. “In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.
Ver. 4. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first, after the troubling of the water, stepped in, was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.”
The enumeration in ver. 3 is completed in the number four. This, the mark of extension, occurs frequently in such enumerations in the Scriptures; as, e.g., in Genesis 24:35, Matthew 15:31. The withered are doubtless identical with the elsewhere so-called paralytics, who were such as suffered from palsy: cf. Matthew 12:10, Luke 6:6. They are probably mentioned last, because the sick man, who is subsequently spoken of, was one of them. The sick waited for the moving of the water. Tholuck remarks: “There is a gaseous spring of this kind in Kissingen, for example, which, after a rushing sound, about the same time every day, commences to bubble, and is most efficacious at the very time the gas is making its escape.” The affinity of the water with our mineral spring is intimated by notice of Eusebius in his Onomasticon (Ed. Clericus, Amsterdam 1707, p. 41), that one of the two pools which were shown at his time as those of Bethesda had a singularly red water, παραδόξως πεφοινιγμένον δείκνυσι τὸ? ὕ?δωρ . Jerome: “mirum in modum rubens.” With respect to the angel, Olshausen guards against “the current view, according to which the natural production of the phenomenon in the fountain by the powers of nature, is absolutely opposed to the supernatural production through the medium of an angel. But by tracing the phenomenon to an angel, the existence and co-operation of natural forces is not denied, but these forces are rather apprehended in their higher causality.” John would have recognised the angel in the bubbling at Carlsbad, not less than in the pool of Bethesda. “Circa balnea,” says Bengel, “frequens θεῖ?ον , aliquid divinae opis est.” This is a mode of viewing natural relations which has become foreign to an age which, in its fundamental, atheistic tendency, has constantly directed its gaze to the causas secundas, to which apply the words spoken by Paul of the heathen, ἐ?λάτρευσαν τῇ? κτίσει παρὰ? τὸ?ν κτίσαντα , and whose regard remains fixed on that “monstrum ingens cui lumen ademtum,” a Cosmos without God, a soulless nature. That the mode of consideration is that of the whole sacred Scriptures cannot be doubted, if we cast a glance at Matthew 6, according to which, God feeds the fowls of the air, and clothes the lilies; and at Psalms 29, which portrays the greatness of God in the tempest; at Psalms 104, which sings the praise of God in His works, which He has ordered with so much wisdom, that all His creatures are cared for, and which speaks of the cedar of Lebanon, which the Lord has planted; and at Psalms 147, where dragons and all floods, fire and hail, snow and vapour, storm-wind, fulfilling His word, mountains and all hills, fruit-trees and all cedars, are required to praise the Lord, who has glorified Himself in them. That here the Divine influence comes through the medium of an angel, makes no difference; for, according to the Scripture view, as far as the Divine operation extends, so far also extends the service of the angels, to whose department, according to Psalms 104:4, and Hebrews 1:7, belong also wind and flaming fire.
The phrase, κατὰ? καιρὸ?ν , indicates that a higher law ruled in this matter. Phavorinus explains it by, κατὰ? τὸ?ν εὔ?καιρον καὶ? προσήκοντα καιρὸ?ν καὶ? χρόνον . Thus κατὰ? καιρὸ?ν occurs in the meaning of, at the appointed time, in Romans 5:6 (cf. Philippi); and further in Isaiah 60:22, κατὰ? καιρὸ?ν συνάξω αὐ?τούς , suo vel opportuno tempore congregabo illos; Job 39:18, κατὰ? καιρὸ?ν ἐ?ν ὕ?ψει ὑ?ψώσει , Vulg.: cum tempus fuerit in altum alas erigit.
It is said that the angel went down into the pool, because he showed himself to be active there (Winer, S. 367).
When it is said that he who first stepped in after the troubling of the water was made whole of whatsoever disease he had, this is to be understood with the limitation which is afforded by the , nature of the case. Remarks like that of Lampe—“effectu nunquam fallente, quale quid nunquam in aquis medicatis observatum est”—are wholly foreign to the matter. On the contrary, the rule for the understanding of it is furnished by that, which, according to the testimony of experience, can generally be accomplished by a medicinal spring. It is only of such that the author intends to give an account: miracles belong everywhere in the Gospels only to Christ and His Apostles. The thought is this only, that the water had most healing virtue when it was in motion, and that remarkable cases had occurred of the cure of all kinds of diseases. A water which heals under all circumstances, could not be found in the Scriptures; for it would contradict the very idea of God Himself. A water which heals even without God, and indeed in opposition to God, is nothing else but an idol. Such water would also afford a contradiction to the declaration of the Lord in ver. 14, which places all diseases in relation to sin. If all diseases are punishment, there can be no absolute means of cure. That which has arisen in an ethical way, cannot be removed in a purely physical way. The limiting view is further required by the importance which the Apostle ascribes to the miraculous healings performed by Christ. If we press the literal statement, the fountain accomplished far more than Christ, who, according to John 15:24, did that which no other had done, and whose opening the eyes of the blind in John 9:32 is represented as without example. How necessary it is to understand the popular mode of representing the Scripture cum grano sails, and always to apply the rule which is furnished by the nature of the case—a rule which may be so easily lost in learned microscopic investigation, while the simple reader easily finds it—is shown, e.g., by the history of the plagues of Egypt. According to Exodus 9:6, all the cattle of the Egyptians die, and yet the immediately following plague, in ver. 9, smites beasts as well as men; as likewise the next plague of hail, which also, according to ver. 25, breaks all the trees of the field. He who, in his exposition, does not forget how it generally happens in case of damage by hail, will not deem it a contradiction, when in the following plague, John 10:5, the locusts devour every green tree of the field.
P. Anton says: “It is the description of this house, and it is the description of the state of the Church here upon earth.” It is specifically the description of its condition under the economy of the Old Covenant, under which there was much disease, and the healing power was insufficient, so that Jesus had to interpose in order to remedy the deficiency. In the sick man who could not obtain healing at the pool of Bethesda, is an emblem of the people of the Old Covenant; and Jesus, by healing him, presents Himself to His Church as the true Bethesda, as He afterwards in chap. 9 makes Himself known as the true pool of Siloam. The number of the porches at the pool of Bethesda being five, is perhaps not without significance, or allows at all events of a suitable application. Five, a divided ten, is in the Scriptures a sign of incompleteness, of halfness, imperfection, and need of supplementation: cf. on Revelation 9:9.
The words from ἐ?κδεχομένων to κατείχετο νοσήματι are declared to be spurious by the majority of recent commentators. That inclination has exercised considerable influence on this decision, is evident from the single fact, that Lachmann, who regards only the external authorities, has adopted it in his text. Tertulllan (de baptismo, c. 5) read the whole passage; and that the omission in several critical helps rests only on internal evidence the same which has disinclined so many recently to the passage, is proved even by the one fact, brought forward by De Wette: “Alexandrine authorities only omit the passage entirely.” That the Alexandrine criticism had gained a bad report even in profane antiquity on account of its audaciousness, is shown by the proofs which Wolf has given in his Prolegomena in Homerum. It also lessens much the importance of the testimonies against the genuineness, that those from whom they proceed cannot at all agree in them. They are manifestly at one only in their object to remove something that is inconvenient, but as to the means they are quite at variance. Some leave out all from ἐ?κδεχομένων to the end, others only ver. 4. Others again mark this verse with an asterisk as a sign of addition, or with an obelus as a sign of spuriousness; and these are the critical signs which acquired a bad reputation even in matters of profane criticism. Even in MSS. which do not venture to render suspicious or omit the passage as a whole, there are many variations in the details. The assertion, that there is no ground of supposing the omission, is manifestly false. According to the rendering most natural to an unpractised expositor, the passage truly affords sufficient ground for its omission. If the appearance of the angel is taken to be a bodily one, and the literal statement is so pressed as to signify that for the first who went down into the water the pool proved itself to be an infallible means of cure, the temptation must have been very great, in the times of a still plastic theology, to meddle with words which must have been highly offensive to the Greek character, so thoroughly penetrated with the spirit of illumination. There are numerous analogies to such an attack, on dogmatic grounds, on the genuineness of Scripture. The Greek mind threw it overboard because it could not reconcile itself to its imperfect comprehension. And because some could not understand the angel of the waters in Revelation 16:5, they omitted the words, of the waters. For the same reason they set aside the speaking altar in ver. 7, and the speaking eagle in Revelation 8:13. Luke 22:43-44 was omitted on dogmatic grounds, and likewise νεκροὺ?ς ἐ?γείρετε in Matthew 10:8. It is of paramount importance, however, that the words are necessarily required by the connection. The name Bethesda, place of grace, requires an explanation in what follows,—the rather, since the Apostle has expressly declared it to be a merely additional name. Bengel’s position, “versus 7 banc periocham aperte prsesupponit,” must be acknowledged to be correct on every unbiassed consideration. The words ὅ?ταν ταραχθῇ? τὸ? ὕ?δωρ there, refer back to ἐ?τάρασσε τὸ? ὕ?δωρ here, and ἐ?ν ᾧ? δὲ? ἔ?ρχομαι ἐ?γώ to ὁ? οὖ?ν πρῶ?τος ἐ?μβάς , κ .τ .λ . Against the assertion, that all that is necessary to know may easily be concluded from the seventh verse, it has been already urged by Von Hofmann, that it is in a high degree improbable “that the narrator, who has stated the site of the pool and the number of the porches, should be so sparing of his words precisely with regard to that which it is necessary to know in order to understand the occurrence, and should leave the character of the pool and its healing virtue to be guessed from the complaint of the sick man, which presupposes a knowledge of it.” It is further of importance to compare Revelation 16:5. It would be strange if the remarkable parallelism between the angel of the waters there, and the angel who moves the waters here, had been produced only by a gloss.
Lücke has urged against the genuineness of the passage, that “in the Gospel of John the angels appear only in the spiritual, ethical sphere as ministers of special Providence.” Such a separation, however, of the ethical and natural sphere is a modern invention, and entirely foreign to Holy Scripture. The material sphere forms no opposition to the “spiritual, ethical sphere;” but the condition of comprehensive action on the latter, is that the former be not inaccessible to the angels. The two angels in John 20:12 evidently performed material services. Bengel remarks on ver. 6 there: “Angeli sine dubio ministrarunt resurgenti eorumque alter lintea, alter sudarium composuit, cf. ver. 12.” The angel of the waters in Revelation 16:5, indicates that the angels take part in the opening and shutting of the fountains of salvation, to which also water in its proper sense belongs. In Revelation 7:2, it is given to the angels to hurt the earth and the sea. The angel who rolls away the stone from the tomb, Matthew 28:2, does not restrict his activity to the “spiritual, ethical sphere;” and as little does the angel who, according to Acts 12:23, smote Herod. According to Hebrews 1:7, the operations of nature are in the hands of the angels. Such a confinement of the ministry of the angels, whom the Scripture designates “ministering spirits,” with the widest compass of meaning, John could not have intended, even from his whole relation to the Old Testament, in which, e.g., the angel of the Lord smites the host of the king of Assyria, 2 Kings 19:35, and where the angels are represented as active in the plagues of Egypt, Psalms 78:49.
Ver. 5. “And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.”
The eight and thirty years passed in a diseased condition are represented as the possession of the sick person: cf. ver. 6, John 8:57, John 11:17. That the sick man was a paralytic—an expression which occurs only in Matthew and Mark, not in Luke and John—is evident from his inability to walk, and from the κράβαττος , Paralyticorum proprius, Mark 2:4, Acts 9:33. These thirty-eight years were brought already by Apollinaris, in his Catena, into connection with the thirty-eight years that Israel was under the curse during the journey through the wilderness. Since the sick man was in fact a type of the people of the Old Covenant, and represented the sick man Judah, the thirty-eight years are really remarkable: they serve as a hint at the resemblance of the former condition to the present; and for this reason only has John, as it seems, stated so exactly the duration of the sickness.
Ver. 6. “When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had already a long time, He saith unto him, “Wilt thou be made whole?”—κατακείμενος is to be supplied with ἔ?χει . But this does not refer to his lying at the pool of Bethesda, but to his lying sick in general. We are not by γνοὺ?ς to suppose information received from others. The appearances would render the long continuance of the sickness probable, and the certainty was afforded by the supernatural knowledge of Jesus. The only way to avoid mere guessing with respect to the object of the question of Jesus, “Wilt thou be healed?” is to adhere to the answer, which contains the confession of the sufferer that it is impossible for him to obtain healing. This is a necessary part of the case, because, otherwise, the question would have been natural, why Jesus healed at the healing fountain, and, so to speak, took upon Him the office of the angel. It must first of all be admitted, that the latter could not help the sick man.
Ver. 7. “The impotent man answered Him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.” This answer also leads to the conclusion, that the case was no other with the pool of Bethesda than with our medicinal baths, it being merely an experiment that was tried there. For, if the water after the troubling had had an absolutely healing virtue, the sick man would have obtained help in some manner, or some one would have taken pity on him. But on account of the doubtful result, the matter was left to take its own course; and the sick man bore the delay all the more patiently, since the compassion which his situation called forth probably procured him the means of subsistence: cf. Acts 3:2.
Ver. 8. “Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.” The same direction was given by Jesus to another paralytic in Matthew 9:6. The requisition to take up his bed, was for the object of rendering visible to the eyes of all the suddenly perfect cure, and of thus establishing the miraculous nature of the fact. Christ did not here, as elsewhere, require faith, because the sick man had not heard or seen anything of His works. “He will not reap where He has not sowed.” Calov, on the other hand, intimates, that under the command to rise, etc., there was the requisition of faith, and that the sick man answered this requisition. “He would not have attempted to rise, if he had not believed the word that he could rise.” Grotius, however, maintains the correct view thus far, that, for the reason stated by him, Christ did not require from the sick man a developed faith. The Berleburger Bibel remarks: “In this, Jesus granted it to us to know that the pool is an emblem of Himself, and that He is the tried pool, which must make us whole from all infirmities; and we, if we would only resign ourselves to Him, would be infallibly healed, however sick we might be.”
Ver. 9. “And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the Sabbath.” Jesus doubtless healed not although, but because, it was the Sabbath. There was no danger in delay. He would certainly have found the sick man in the same condition on the following day. We perceive the object in the result: Christ healed on the Sabbath in order to manifest Himself to be the Lord of the Sabbath, and that an occasion might be given for the following discourse, in which He made a solemn confession of His divinity.
Ver. 10. “The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the Sabbath day; it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.” According to the usual supposition, the Jews referred to Jeremiah 17:21: “Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the Sabbath day.” But the Mosaic law is sufficient: “Thou shalt not do any work;” to which also Jeremiah, in Jeremiah 17:22, traces back the special precept. We shall not need to look beyond Moses,—the rather, since Jesus, by summoning Moses at the conclusion as an accuser against the Jews, not obscurely intimates that the Jews had brought forward Moses as an accuser against Him.
Ver. 11. “He that made me whole, the same said unto me. Take up thy bed, and walk.” He appeals with perfect right to the authority of Him who had made him whole. This person has by the miracle proved Himself to be one who can command nothing that is ungodly.
Ver. 12. “Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk?” “En malitiae ingenium,” remarks Grotius, “Non dicunt: quis est ille qui te sanavit, sed quis jussit grabbatum tollere. Quaerunt non quid mirentur, sed quid calumnientur.”
Ver. 13. “And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed Himself away, a multitude being in that place.” These last words are not to give the reason for His disappearance, but to render evident its possibility. Jesus had lost Himself in the crowd. And yet there was probably also a reason in the presence of the multitude, as He wished to avoid a scene of excitement: cf. John 6:15; Matthew 16:16; Matthew 16:20. The miracle was not to remain concealed, for this would directly contradict its object. The contrary is evident also from the fact, that Jesus in ver. 14 makes Himself known to the man who was healed. But the deed was to work in stillness, on the minds of those who were in need of healing. “It is directly after such acts,” remarks Lücke, “that Jesus is fondest of withdrawing, also, according to the Synoptics (a mode of designation which has come down to us from the period of Rationalism, and might very well be given up).”
Ver. 14. “Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him. Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon thee.” There can scarcely be a doubt that the healed man had gone to the temple to give God the glory, to thank and praise Him for the cure which had been granted him: cf. Isaiah 38:19-22; Luke 17:15; Acts 3:7-8. If this was his object, the address of Christ had an admirable appropriateness to his state of mind. The words, “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon thee,” like those which Jesus speaks to a sick person in Luke 5:20 (“Thy sins are forgiven thee”), are based on the conception that sickness has an intimate relation to sin, and confirms in this respect the doctrine of the Old Testament, which derives sicknesses also, together with death, from sin, as being nothing but the preliminary stages of death, and as included in it—the rather, since it is said. In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt die; and which further threatens diseases as the punishment of sin. Leviticus 26:16; Deuteronomy 28:22 (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:30), and whose general doctrine of retribution, as it is confirmed by Christ in Luke 13:1 sq., and in the threatenings of judgment on Jerusalem, admits of no other view of sickness. Against those who have attempted to restrict the declaration of the text and Luke 5:20 to an individual case, I have already remarked (Beiträge, Th. 3, S. 580 f.) as follows: “1. If such a reference existed, it would be more distinctly intimated. Since the view that all sickness is a punishment of sin was widely diffused, no one would understand the declarations otherwise than as general; and since the Lord did not prevent this apprehension, it cannot be founded in a misunderstanding. 2. If the declarations had an Individual reference, Jesus must have given a proof of His omniscience, which is not at all intimated. For no one will maintain that palsy is always the consequence of certain sins. 3. The restriction to individual cases is inadmissible on account of the character of the healings generally. Even if we had no express declaration of Christ concerning the connection of sickness and sin, the mere fact that He healed sick persons would have been sufficient to establish this connection. A sick man, whom Christ—not a Hippocrates, to whom superior skill is granted, but the Saviour—heals, is by this very act declared to be a sinner. If we tear away the connection between sickness and sin, we destroy the relation of the demoniac to the sick person, and remove that which is common to the two. In like manner, also, the connection is removed from the healing of the sick with the raising of the dead, which is based on the principle, that death is the wages of sin.”
That John 9:2-3 affords no justification of the individual rendering, will be proved in the remarks on that passage.
Calvin says: “This admonition teaches, that all evil that we suffer is to be attributed to our sin. We should give glory to God, that He, the best of fathers, has no pleasure in our misery, and on this account never treats us more severely than He is offended by our sins.” Quesnel: “We will learn from these words,—1. That sickness and suffering are the punishment of sin, and that hence the best remedy which can be applied against it is repentance and conversion. 2. That suffering is to minister to our instruction; and that, after the healing of the body or the soul, we must be in great humility and profound gratitude towards God.” To sin, here designates not the condition of the dominion of sin, but the requisition is directed against sin in general; to sin no more, is to be the fixed purpose and the ruling principle in the life of him who by God’s grace has been freed from severe suffering. When this purpose is alive, and is the ruling power of the life, divine grace grants forgiveness for that which, from human weakness, still remains of sinful character.
The “worse” is not to be referred merely to the future existence, for the sick man had not experienced the full measure even of earthly punishment. No one is so miserable that he cannot be more so.
Ver. 15. “The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him whole.”
That we may attribute the best design to the healed person, is shown by the fact of his being healed (for Christ would not have healed a miscreant), and that he went immediately to the temple. He, innocent man, has no foreboding of the depth of pharisaic obduracy and malice. He wishes at the same time to show that he is grateful to Jesus, and to do his duty to his superiors, by pointing the Saviour out to them. He trusts that the impression of His Person will overthrow all their scruples.
Ver. 16. “And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath day.”
The words καὶ? ἐ?ζήτουν αὐ?τὸ?ν ἀ?ποκτεῖ?ναι are wanting in very important critical authorities, and the unfounded prejudice of the critics for the shorter reading has led them to declare the words to be spurious. But their genuineness is favoured, 1. by the Old Testament passage, Psalms 37:32, “The wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him;” 2. the mere word ἐ?δίωκον , without a statement of the manner of the persecution, is too vague; 3. the μᾶ?λλον , in ver. 18, presupposes that the Jews had already previously sought to kill Jesus. Lücke thinks, “The words, genuine and appropriate in ver. 18, make here an unsuitable addition. How could persons versed in the law seek to kill Jesus for a violation of the Sabbath, which, besides, was not clearly made out?” But the matter had already gone so far, that the Jews had attempted His life ( John 4:1-3); and already, at the first Passover. Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, and Jesus did not commit Himself even to those in whom there was already a beginning of faith. It was precisely with respect to the Sabbath that a special strictness prevailed at that time; and to bring this to bear upon Jesus was the more natural, since His proceeding seemed to have the character of a provocation. If they would not perceive in Him the Son of God, it was natural to apply here the Mosaic decision, according to which the man who gathered sticks on the Sabbath day was stoned. Numbers 15. That the punishment of death was then inflicted for the slightest violation of the Sabbath, if committed purposely (for this was the point on which it depended),—e.g., plucking ears of corn,—is shown by Lightfoot on Matthew 12:2.
Ver. 17. “But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.”
He answered them, to the charges which they had made against Him, in the direction indicated in ver. 16. Jesus does not here, as in Luke 13:15; Luke 14:5, enter into the question, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath day?” from a general human point of view. He bases His deduction on His wholly peculiar and individual relation to the Father. To present this fully before the chiefs of the people as a testimony for them, and, under some circumstances, against them, and to make a confession in reference to this, is the object for which He has brought on the whole conflict.
If any other than the Son of God in the most peculiar sense should say, “My Father,” etc., it would be a great error. The necessity of rest does not exist for God, but it does indeed for man, who is rendered dull and stupid by unceasing labour, and needs the regularly returning day of rest, as a corrective of the injury done by the week.
It is a confusing remark of De Wette, that Christ corrects the false opinion, that God has rested since the creation, by the idea of the continued creative or preserving activity of God. The thought of nature existing independently by the side of God, on which the failure to recognise the uninterruptedly continuous activity of God must be founded, could not enter the mind of a Jew. The proposition that God works unceasingly, on the Sabbath not less than on the other days, was common to the Jews with Christ. The rest on the seventh day in Genesis 2:3, as is expressly remarked, refers only to the creative work, and was always so referred by the Jews. It pertained only to the first Sabbath. The later Divine operation knows no distinction of days. That Christ called God His Father in a different sense from that in which He was so called by all Israel ( Isaiah 54:7), was implied, as the Jews perceived, in the conclusion which He drew from this relation. Only on participation in the Godhead could be based the entire exemption from the sabbatic command to which Christ lays claim. This is the real point at issue. If the Jews had believed Jesus to be the Son of God in the fullest sense, they would not have commenced a dispute with Him. With the expression “hitherto,” cf. ἀ?πʼ? ἀ?ρχῆ?ς κόσμου ἕ?ως τοῦ? νῦ?ν , Matthew 24:21. It indicates the uninterrupted operation from the beginning of the world to the present time, in which the act of healing just performed gave a testimony to the continuance of this agency. Quesnel: “Sublime defence against the charge of violating the Sabbath! It is marvellous how God causes the malice of the enemies of the truth to subserve the revelation of the sublimest truths of religion; and how He instructs His elect, while apparently He is speaking only to His enemies.” Calvin calls attention to the circumstance, that Christ, in justifying His action, justifies at the same time that of the sick man, in carrying his bed: “erat enim appendix et quasi pars miraculi, quia nihil quam ejus approbatio erat.”
Ver. 18. “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was His own Father, making Himself equal with God.”—“Christ,” says Calvin, “has taught us by His example that we need never give way to the rage of the ungodly, but rather maintain God’s truth, so far as necessity requires it, against the will and the opposition of the whole world.” To His own Father here, corresponds His own Son in Romans 8:32. It is the Father in the special individual sense, as opposed to the general conception of fatherhood. Tholuck incorrectly remarks, “Although in the Old Testament, in some few passages (?), God is designated as the Father of the people, it was an unusual thing for an individual Israelite to employ this name. . . . . Hence the charge of blasphemy which the Jews bring.” [Eng. Trans, p. 152 sq.] It was not the use of the name of Father in itself which offended the Jews (cf., e.g., Sir_23:1 ; Sir_23:4 , Wis_2:16 , where the pious are reproached by the ungodly: ἀ?λαζονεύεται πατέρα Θεόν ), but that Christ laid claim to such a fatherhood of God as involved a dispensation from the fourth commandment. This does not follow from the Divine fatherhood in the common sense, in which only the love like that of a father to a son is regarded, but involves a fatherhood in the most peculiar sense, and a claim to participation in the Godhead. Augustine: “Ecce intelligunt Judaei quod non intelligunt Ariani. Ariani quippe inaequalem Patri filium dicunt, et inde haeresis pulsat ecclesiam. Ecce ipsi caeci, ipsi interfectores Christi intellexerunt tamen verba Christi.”
Ver. 19. “Then answered Jesus, and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.”
Jesus does not begin by proving His intimate and inseparable connection with the Father, which forms the theme of the whole following discourse, but leaves this till vers. 31-47. He leads them first deeper into His relation to the Father, develops the significance of this, and demonstrates that, in consequence of this relation, it is of the utmost importance to place one’s self in the proper relation to Him in whose power are life and death, salvation and perdition. The solemn oath-like asseveration, ἀ?μὴ?ν ἀ?μὴ?ν λέγω ὑ?μῖ?ν , occurs three times in this discourse, and shows at the same time that here it is not anything doubtful, but absolute knowledge that is spoken of; and that here also it is things of paramount importance which are in question, for only with regard to such things are asseverations of this kind in place. As Heumann correctly says: “This strong and repeated asseveration shows, that what our Lord is now to bring forward is a most sacred truth, and that he who attacks this cannot be called a Christian.”
Jesus can do nothing of Himself, because there does not exist in Him a self separate from the Father. The words, ἀ?φʼ? ἑ?αυτοῦ? , are to be understood as if enclosed in quotation-marks, since Jesus takes them from the mouth or the heart of His opponents. P. Anton: “The words, of himself, as used by the Jews, had a poison in them; and Christ means that this must be removed, for the case is no otherwise.” That He acted ἀ?φʼ? ἑ?αυτοῦ? , was the central-point in the accusations of His opponents. It was on His own authority, they asserted, that Christ had broken the Sabbath, and said that God was His Father. That the Son can do nothing of Himself is a high privilege, as it proceeds from His inseparable connection of essence with the Father. The possibility of acting of one’s self, dissevered from God, exists only on the lower stage of creation. Thus Satan, e.g., speaks lies ἐ?κ τῶ?ν ἰ?δίων , John 8:44. As it is here said of the Son, that He can do nothing of Himself, so in John 16:13, of the Holy Spirit, that He does not speak of Himself. Quesnel says: “We will love this incomprehensible mystery, and, as true children of God, will strive to copy it, by acting not at all of ourselves, but in dependence on God and Christ, as the principle and pattern of our actions.”
The activity of the Father and the Son is always coincident; for, as the Son can do nothing without the Father, so the Father also can do nothing without the Son.
The words ἀ?φʼ? ἑ?αυτοῦ? are to a certain extent an interpolation, containing a side-thought, which does not enter into the following ἐ?ὰ?ν μή τι βλέπῃ? τὸ?ν πατέρα ποιοῦ?ντα : The Son can do nothing (of Himself), but what, etc.; or, “can do nothing” may be repeated before the ἐ?ὰ?ν .
To the negative assertion is directly added the positive: for what He doeth, that doeth the Son likewise. The unity of essence with the Father on which the negative assertion is founded, includes also the positive.
If Jesus stood in this relation to the Father, the Jews were greatly deluded if they supposed that they were maintaining the cause of God against Him;—without observing it, they were in the most proper sense among the number of those who fight against God. Calvin says: “Hic causae status est, quum illi in carnis aspectu defixi Christum contemnerent, jubet eos altius consurgere ac Deum intueri.”
Ver. 20. “For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth Him all things that Himself doeth: and He will show Him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.”
This showing, taken from the human relation of father to son, is not to be viewed as a dogmatic, but as a conceptional expression. Than these,—e.g., the healing of the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda. The marvelling will attain its highest point at the resurrection and the last judgment, in which these greater things will culminate.
Ver. 21. “For as the Father raiseth the dead and quickeneth, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will.”
The Saviour declares Himself more particularly concerning the greater works. Herein is comprised the entire life-giving activity of the Redeemer. It is afterwards divided into its two halves,—that on this side the grave, ver. 24, and that beyond, vers. 25-29,—both introduced by the corresponding ἀ?μὴ?ν ἀ?μὴ?ν λέγω ὑ?μῖ?ν , and limited with respect to each other by the use of the Present tense in connection with the Preterite of the one, and of the Future of the other. The words, “as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth,” are founded on Hosea 6:2, the only passage in the Old Testament in which, as here, raising up and quickening are immediately connected with each other: “After two days will He revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight.” (That it is not a mere rising which is here spoken of, but a resurrection, is shown by Simson, in his commentary on this passage. This is also favoured by comparison with the vision of Ezekiel in chap. 37, the parallelism of revivification, and the fact that life is mentioned as the consequence of the raising up.)
As the conception of life in the Old Testament far transcends that of mere bare life, and is repeatedly interchanged with that of salvation—cf. e.g., Deuteronomy 30:20, where it is said of God to Israel, “He is thy life;” Psalms 36:9, where the Psalmist says to God, “For with Thee is the fountain of life,” q.d., in Thee not only bare life, but that also which really deserves the name of life, has its origin; Thou art the fountain of all salvation; Psalms 16:11, where life is connected with joy and pleasure, because a miserable life is not to be called a life: cf. on the Old Testament conception of life, the remarks on John 1:4—so also the Scripture carries the idea of death still further. It comprehends under it all those conditions of which it may be said, “Thou hast a name to live, but art dead.” This conception meets us, even on the threshold of revelation, in the declaration, “On the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt die.” The miserable existence into which man fell from the moment of the apostasy is to be regarded as death. Death occurs thus also in Deuteronomy 32:39, “I kill and I make alive;” i.e., I deliver over to misery, and I lead to salvation. “The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: He bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up,” says Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:6, on the ground of her own experience, since she has out of deep misery attained to happiness. Cf. the passages dependent upon this, Tob_13:2 ; Wis_16:13 . Recovery from severe sickness is designated in Isaiah 38:9 and elsewhere as a reviving, a form of death being recognised in disease. Israel, as fallen into deep misery, is beheld by Ezekiel in chap. 37 as buried in death; and the bestowal of salvation is represented under the figure of a resurrection. In Psalms 22:29, the miserable are represented as those who go down to the dust, who cannot keep alive their own souls,—as deceased persons, the living dead. We find the same conception in Psalms 48:14, “God guides us even in death,” q.d., when we fall into a helpless condition; Psalms 68:20, “God is to us a God of salvation, and the Lord delivers us from death;” Psalms 85:6, “Wilt Thou not return and revive us?” Psalms 80:18, “So will we not go back from Thee: only quicken us;” Psalms 71:20, “Thou, who hast showed us great and sore troubles, wilt return and quicken us,”—where trouble is manifestly represented as death.
But certain though it is from these parallel passages, especially Hosea 6:2, that under the dead whom the Father raises and quickens are comprised the miserable, as being the living dead, yet it would still be arbitrary to exclude the dead commonly so called, since in the context there is nothing which hinders us from understanding the dead in the most comprehensive sense. It is meant to include both the dead in their graves, ver. 28, and those out of them, the walking corpses.
The word ζῳ?οποιεῖ? , He quickeneth, is to be taken with the same extension of meaning of the Son, as of the Father. It ends in the “resurrection of life,” in ver. 29; but it begins even in this life, when Christ delivers those who have fallen into deepest misery from the bands of such death, so that they pass from death unto life.
The antithesis of the judgment, in ver. 22, shows that the awakening to the resurrection of judgment, ver. 29, is not comprehended under the quickening. The godless existence to which those awake, does not deserve the name of life. They fall under the “second death,” Revelation 20:14, which is still worse than the first. To the same result leads also the expression, “whom He will.” This requires a quickening which takes place with a selection, and which is therefore not imparted to all without distinction.
If we should refer ζῳ?οποιεῖ? , in so far as it is declared of the Son, merely to a spiritual quickening, we might separate the quickening by the Son from that by the Father. The words ὥ?σπερ—ζῳ?οποιεῖ? refer manifestly to the Old Testament, as the alone warrant for a truth assumed to be already established and acknowledged, to which a new one is here to be added. In all passages of the Old Testament, however, it is not a spiritual quickening which is spoken of; and even in so far as this is considered, it must be understood as a transition from deep misery to salvation. A limitation to spiritual quickening is contradicted also by John 6:39, where ὃ? δέδωκέ μοι corresponds to οὓ?ς θέλει , and according to which, the life-giving activity of Christ will attain its highest point at the last day.
The Present is here that which is frequently used in general sentences, when the declaration applies equally to the present and the future (Buttmann, S. 177), or when the action is to be designated in itself only, without determining the time.
The words, “whom He will,” indicate that no other limit is set to the life-giving activity of the Son than His own will; so that thus he may be absolutely certain of life who only gains His favour, and that one’s whole energy should be directed towards this end, which is the only worthy end of human existence. It is a matter of course that the will is not an arbitrary will, but is governed by the law of Christ’s being, according to which He loves those who love Him, and grants life as the reward of faith.
Ver. 22. “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.”
To quicken and to judge are closely connected activities, so that he who exercises one must exercise the other. Thus, if the judging activity of God is exercised only through Christ, the quickening must also be exercised only through Him. Grotius: “Bene autem ponitur γὰ?ρ , quia ejusdem potestatis est absolvere et damnare, et recte hoc additum, ut quos spes non moret malis coerceantur.” The judging here, in antithesis to the quickening, is the judgment of condemnation. Of the believer it is said, in ver. 24, “He Cometh not into condemnation.” In ver. 27 also, the execution of judgment forms the antithesis to the gift of life. In ver. 29, it is only the resurrection of the godless which is a resurrection unto condemnation.
The judgment is completed at the last day. To exclude the last judgment, of which every reader must at once think, is purely arbitrary, and is opposed to vers. 24, 27, 29. As, however, the quickening activity takes its beginning in this life, ver. 24, so also the judging, ὁ? δὲ? μὴ? πιστεύων ἤ?δη κέκριται , John 3:18. That the judgment begins even in the present life, is shown also by ver. 30, and by John 9:39, where the Lord says that He is come for judgment into this world, that they which see not may see, and they which see may be made blind.
When it is said that the Father judgeth no man, it is evident from the analogy of ver. 21 that the thought is, that the Father judges only through the Son. It is a priori inconceivable that God, who bore of old the name, “Judge of the whole earth,” is excluded from the judgment. Bengel: “Pater non judicat solus, nec sine filio, judieat tamen ver. 45, Acts 17:31, Romans 3:6.”
Quesnel remarks: “To Christ belongs every visible and invisible judgment, special and general, for time and for eternity, by the withdrawal of grace or by the appointment of suffering.
I acknowledge Thee and adore Thee as my Judge, O Jesus, Thou unlimited monarch of life and death. My lot is in Thy hands; for Thou givest us Thy grace according to the measure which Thou hast determined, and Thou appointest the punishment according to the measure and desert of our sins. Judge me, Lord, not in Thine anger, but in Thy compassion. Punish me in this world, not in the other; not by taking from me Thy Holy Spirit, or by driving me from Thy presence, but rather by withholding the outward pleasures of this life, and the miserable gratifications of this ruined world.”
Ver. 23. “That all should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father who hath sent Him.”
If the Son no less than the Father has life and death in His hand, the direct consequence is this, that the Son is to be not less honoured than the Father; and foolish and ruinous the position of the Jews, who professed to honour the Father, but persecuted the Son even to the death. This declaration must have descended with overwhelming force upon their heads.
Bengel remarks on τιμῶ?σι : “vel libenter, judicium effugientes per fidem, vel inviti, judicis iram sentientes.” But that the honour here is rather that which is voluntary, is shown by what follows: ὁ? μὴ? τιμῶ?ν , etc. If they will not comply with their obligation, they fall under punishment; if they will not freely give honour to Him who has life and death in His hand. He will be glorified in them in their destruction. If they will not sing His praise, they must weep His praise.
Ver. 24. “Verily, verily, I say unto you. He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
Lücke remarks: “The formula, ἀ?μὴ?ν ἀ?μὴ?ν λέγω ὑ?μῖ?ν announces that the two propositions, which contain the principal declaration of Christ, are to be especially confirmed and emphasized.” Even in this is implied the essential difference of these propositions, of which the former (ver. 24) refers to the life-giving activity of Christ in this world, the other to the bestowal of life at the last day. P. Anton says, “How many asseverations occur one after the other in vers. 24, 25! Thus we may conceive how it must have seemed, when Jesus spoke this to the Jews, who would have killed Him on the spot if they could. And yet He discoursed to them so earnestly and so lovingly, after the manner of a helper, to set them right, to gain them over from their murderous lusts, and to free them from their false spirit.”
The words, ὁ? τὸ?ν λόγον μου ἀ?κούων , refer to Deuteronomy 18:15: “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto Him ye shall hearken;” and ver. 19: “And whosoever will not hearken unto My words, which He shall speak in My name, I will require it of him.” Heareth is therefore to be taken in the emphatic sense. He who hears merely outwardly, is as though he heard not. We are also not to be content with the mere outward hearing, because faith in relation to Him who sends is spoken of. It would be otherwise if it were written, ὁ? ἀ?κούων καὶ? πιστεύων , cf. John 12:47. He who hears My word—it is evidently the sense—and by this means shows his faith in Him, etc. Likewise emphatic is ἀ?κούειν in John 8:43; John 8:47, John 9:27, John 10:3; John 10:8, and other passages.
The λόγος here is different from the φωνή in ver. 25. The word is the Gospel, the voice is the Word of Power which calls to life the physically dead.
The circumstance that the life is designated as everlasting, casts a deep shadow on this present life, causing it to seem like a dark valley of death; and is in harmony with the Apocalypse, throughout which the eye of faith is represented as looking beyond the troubled present to the serene and clear future. But we are not on this account to regard the possession here (ἔ?χει ) as one of mere hope; for life, though it has its proper seat in eternity—as is also plainly shown by John 6:40, where life eternal is connected with the resurrection—stretches over into time: we taste the powers of the world to come, our conversation is in heaven. “His love can make the present time sweet as the eternal clime.” On the stretching over of eternal life into the present existence, cf. remarks on John 3:15.
To the μεταβέβηκε here corresponds that which is said of the unbelieving in John 3:18, “he is condemned already.” The transition from death to life, from ruin to salvation, has already been made by the believer, who has received the powers of the world to come, and can rejoice in God his Saviour, though he is still afflicted with many of the issues of death, which do not disappear until he passes into the future state of existence. Cf. 1 John 3:14; Romans 6:13. Augustine compares Luke 15:32: ὁ? ἀ?δελφός σου οὗ?τος νεκρὸ?ς ἦ?ν καὶ? ἀ?νέζησε , and remarks: “fit proinde jam quaedam resurrectio, et transeunt homines a morte quadam ad quandam vitam; a morte infidelitatis ad vitam fidei; a morte falsitatis ad vitam veritatis, a morte iniquitatis ad vitam justitiaei. Est ergo et ista quaedam resurrectio mortuorum.” Calvin: “Transitum a morte jam esse factum non inepte dicit, quia et incorruptibile est in filiis Dei vitae semen, ex quo vocati sunt, et jam in coelesti gloria per spem Christo consident, et regnum Dei in se habent certo constitutum
Spiritus, qui in illis habitat, vita est, quae reliquias mortis tandem abolebit.” If the true fountain of life is in Christ, and if faith is a true connection with Him, the transition from death unto life must necessarily commence in this present existence, although it doth not yet appear what we shall be.
Ver. 25. “Verily, verily, I say unto you. The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live.”
The dead are here the righteous that have fallen asleep. For life nowhere here stands of bare life, and the antithesis to life here is formed by the judgment in vers. 27. It is impossible to separate our declaration from vers. 28, 29, where all considerate expositors will admit the reference to the physical resurrection—as, e.g., Lücke understands “the φωνὴ? τοῦ? υἱ?οῦ? Θεοῦ? here of the λόγος in ver. 24; the dead who hear, of the spiritually dead, who hear and believe His word; and finally, the ζήσονται of the present ζωὴ? αἰ?ώνιός .” The grounds on which a difference from vers. 28, 29 has been assumed are not tenable. Appeal is made, 1. to καὶ? νῦ?ν ἐ?στι . This, however, might stand just as well also in ver. 28, and is indeed to be supplied from our verse with ἔ?ρχεται ὥ?ρα . The words, καὶ? νῦ?ν ἐ?στι , which are also used in John 4:23 of a matter which presupposes the atoning death of Christ and the effusion of the Holy Spirit, apply to all great future developments of the kingdom of God even to the end of days, in respect of all that Christ will do until the final completion of His kingdom. All this has its ground and warrant in the incarnation and epiphany of Christ. Especially with respect to the resurrection, the applicability of the words, καὶ? νῦ?ν ἐ?στι , is attested by the instances of Christ’s raising from the dead, which were as a prelude to the future resurrection. These words, moreover, make only a secondary statement; for here, as in John 4:23, the substance of the fact is represented as purely future. This does not agree with the spiritual awakening, which was then complete when Christ spoke these words. 2. Appeal is made to οἱ? ἀ?κούσαντες . This is said to make a distinction between those who hear and those who do not hear, which there is not in the case of the bodily resurrection. But it is a critical thing to found assertions of so much importance on the article. According to that which immediately precedes, all the dead—all those who have died in faith—hear the voice, by which even such a distinction is excluded. The article is rather to render prominent the thought, that to hear and to live are inseparably connected. The article designates the whole class of those who have heard, q.d., all who have heard.
But it is decisive against the reference to the spiritual resurrection, that it is here the voice, and not the word, which is spoken of—mere hearing, not hearing and believing. Our declaration is thus distinguished from ver. 24, and accords with ver. 28.
With respect to the voice, cf. John 11:43, καὶ? ταῦ?τα εἰ?πὼ?ν φωνῇ? μεγάλῃ? ἐ?κραύγασεν , Λάζαρε , δεῦ?ρο ἔ?ξω ; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, where the φωνῇ? ἀ?ρχαγγέλου is spoken of; Mark 5:41; Luke 7:14; 1 Corinthians 15:52. The Old Testament passage is, as it seems, Ezekiel 37:7, “There was a voice (cf. John 1:25), and behold a noise, and the bones came near, bone to its bone.” What the voice, which was no other than that of God, said, is to be learned from the result. Usually in this passage the voice is identified with the noise; but the prophet clearly distinguishes the two by והנה .
The hearing is a part of the pictorial representation; as also the call which Jesus makes to the maiden, the young man at Nain, and to Lazarus, had no significance for the dead, but only for the bystanders.
Ver. 26. “For as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given the Son to have life in Himself.”
In Himself; so that He is, no less than the Father, the fountain of life to believers, and that the words of Psalms 36, “with Thee is the fountain of life,” apply also to Him. To have life in Himself, and indeed in such fulness that His wealth is sufficient for all, far transcends the stage of the creature, and presupposes His full divinity. Augustine: “Manet ergo Pater vita, manet et Filius vita: Pater vita in semetipso, non a Filio; Filius vita in semetipso, sed a Patre.”
Ver. 27. “And hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man.”
Son of man in itself means merely man, and is used in this sense here. The transfer of the judgment, however, is founded not on the humanity in itself, but on the fact that the Son of God, to whom indeed αὐ?τῷ? refers, is man, and that thus Christ is the God-man. On His incarnation is founded the right, which He alone possesses, to bestow life and to execute judgment. This is the reward of His humiliation in the flesh, and His obedience even unto death. A commentary on this is afforded by Php_2:6-11 . Allusion is here made, as in all passages where Christ is designated as the Son of man, to Daniel 7:13-14, where the Messiah appears as the Son of man in the clouds of heaven, and absolute dominion being given unto Him, He receives authority to judge the whole world. Even in this passage the gift of dominion is represented as the reward of the incarnation, and it is on this account that Christ is designated as the Son of man. Christ cannot as such have obtained this character in heaven: it must have been appropriated to Him on earth. The appearance of Christ in the flesh, which is expressly foretold in Daniel 9, is here presupposed.
The reason, “because He is the Son of man,” applies likewise to the bestowal of life. Bengel: “hic homo homines salvat, hic homo homines judicat.” That it is here specially declared of the judgment, is to be explained from the circumstance, that in Daniel the Son of man comes to judgment.
The Son of man was the rock on which the Jews stumbled. In opposition to them, Christ says that He will come to judgment not merely although, but because. He is the Son of map. His very humanity is the ground, not only of His power to bless, but of His authority to judge.
Ver. 28. “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in their graves shall hear His voice
Ver. 29. and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”
In opposition to those who would refer these words also to the spiritual resurrection, Augustine briefly and well remarks, “Quid evidentius? quid expressius? Corpora sunt in monumentis: animte non sunt in monumentis, nec justorum nee iniquorum.” Marvel not at this: the Lord does not, in order to decrease their astonishment, oppose to the lesser wonder a still greater, but the renewed affirmation, that that which He has ascribed to Himself in vers. 25-27 will surely take place. In like manner, the requisition not to marvel stands before the new exposition of the same matter in the conversation with Nicodemus, John 3:7.
This concluding exposition and confirmation is distinguished from vers. 25-27 by its close adherence to the Old Testament passage, Daniel 12:2: “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
The hour is coming. This is not a mere assertion: Jesus showed His power over death by raising the dead, and afterwards by His own resurrection. He certainly would not have said this, if there had not been already facts which showed Him to be the conqueror over death. The raising of the daughter of Jairus occurred in the beginning of our Lord’s Galilean ministry, and the raising of the young man at Nain had probably also taken place. To John in prison (that the Baptist was already imprisoned we learned from John 4:1-3) Jesus sent word, as of a fact, νεκροὶ? ἐ?γείρονται , Matthew 11:5.
The roots of well-doing and evil-doing are faith and unbelief. Where there is faith, it must manifest itself in works, as our Lord teaches in Matthew 7:19-20, that the tree may be known by its fruit; and our Lord frequently renders works prominent, because with respect to faith one may be very easily deceived. Full justice had been done to faith in ver. 24, cf. John 3:15; John 3:18; John 3:36.
Let us now cast another glance in recapitulation at the discourse of Christ from ver. 21. As the Father, so also the Son, has power to quicken and authority to judge; so that the Son must be not less honoured than the Father: vers. 21-23. Even in this present existence, His quickening power is shown in this, that He makes His faithful ones partakers of life (His judging activity in this life, which coincides with His saving, is passed over), ver. 24. But His power to quicken, and His authority to judge, will be most gloriously manifested at the last day, vers. 25-29.
Ver. 30. “I can of Mine own self do nothing: as I hear I judge: and My judgment is just; because I seek not Mine own will, but the will of Him who hath sent Me.”
This verse recurs to ver. 19, and forms the conclusion. That Jesus can do nothing of Himself—that the wall of separation which the Jews erected between Him and the Father exists only in their imagination—this is now quite evident after the comprehensive discussion of His relation to the Father.
As I hear I judge: a judicial act was the healing of the impotent man; a judicial declaration, the word, “Arise, take up thy bed, and walk.” Jesus might have spoken of doing instead of judging; but He emphasizes the judgment, in reference to Psalms 72:1-2, “Give the king Thy judgments, O God, and Thy righteousness unto the kings sons. He shall judge Thy people with righteousness, and Thy poor with judgment;” and to Isaiah 11:3-4, where it is said of the Messiah: “He judgeth not after the sight of His eyes, nor reproveth after the hearing of His ears; but with righteousness judgeth He the poor, and reproveth with equity for the meek of the earth.” The judging according to that which He hears (from the Father) forms the necessary supplementary positive to the negative declaration in this passage, “nor reproveth after the hearing of His ears.”
To seek not His own will, but the will of God, has been, as a penetrating life-principle, since Genesis 3, far beyond the common sphere of man, and only the God-man could thus truly speak of Himself. The Berleburger Bibel: “Even in such a person did God wish to show that it is a blessed thing to submit and not have one’s own will, and that in this God is graciously well pleased. To this submission we were not to be brought: it needed therefore that it should be displayed to us in the sublime person of Christ, whose example is animating. His will was dissolved and emptied into His Father’s will; His humanity was quite without itself—it was an instrument by which God worked. Such an obedient mind there has always been in the servants of God: Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do? “Calvin, with respect to this whole declaration, remarks: “Christus hic de nuda sua divinitate verba non facit, sed ut carne nostra indutus est, se ab externa specie minime aestimandum esse admonet, quia aliquid habeat homine altius.”
Ver. 31. “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true.”
Jesus had justified the founding of His Sabbath-ministry on the Divine example (vers. 19-30), by leading them into the depths of His relation to the Father. This was of the greatest significance. He places before His enemies the entire importance of the present question, bringing them to see, even if they did not purposely harden themselves, that it referred to nothing less than life and death; that it was thus possible that they might here commit a crime against Omnipotence, which could not be expiated but by their destruction; and that they might indeed be found to be such as in the most peculiar sense fight against God. It must greatly quicken our zeal in the investigation of the truth if we thus view the controversy in its whole circumference, and descend into its lowest depth. But seen as the Jews saw it, it was natural to object that the entire relation of the Father to the Son was a matter in suspense, having nothing in its support but the invalid self-testimony of Jesus, and resting at last on a mere assumption. This objection Jesus now meets in vers. 31-47. He shows that the asserted relation to the Father has the strongest proof in its support: the testimony of the Father Himself, which He has given in a threefold manner—by John, by the works of Christ, and by the prophecy of the Old Testament. The objection which Jesus here anticipates, is expressed in John 8:13: εἶ?πον οὖ?ν αὐ?τῷ? οἱ? Φαρισαῖ?οι , σὺ? περὶ? σεαυτοῦ? μαρτυρεῖ?ς· ἡ? μαρτυρία σου οὐ?κ ἔ?στιν ἀ?ληθής . When Jesus there answers, ver. 14: κἂ?ν ἐ?γὼ? μαρτυρῶ? περὶ? ἐ?μαυτοῦ? , ἀ?ληθής ἐ?στιν ἡ? μαρτυρία μου , this is only in apparent contradiction to our text. It is implied in the nature of the case, that in the latter truth stands only in the judicial sense, in which that only is considered true which can be proved by the testimony of uninterested persons.
Ver. 32. “There is another that beareth witness of Me; and I know that the witness which He witnesseth of Me is true.”
That this other is the Father, is implied in the nature of the case. For, in respect of an inward relation in the Divine essence, God alone can give a valid testimony. That this other is God, is evident moreover from the verbal reference in which καὶ? ὁ? πέμψας με πατὴ?ρ αὐ?τὸ?ς μεμαρτύρηκεν περὶ? ἐ?μοῦ? , ver. 37, stands to the words of our text, and from the parallel passages: John 8:18, “I am one that bear witness of Myself, and the Father that sent Me beareth witness of Me;” ver. 54, “If I honour Myself, My honour is nothing: it is My Father that honoureth Me;” and 1 John 5:9. To God also we are led by the words, “I know that His witness is true,” which refers anew to the secret connection of essence between the Son and the Father. If by the other we should understand the Baptist, we should thus too highly exalt the latter. The other cannot be the Baptist on this account, even that Jesus, in ver. 34, declares it to be beneath His dignity to ground Himself on a human testimony. By a reference to John also we obtain a wholly untenable antithesis between the testimony of John and the testimony of God, which He affords in the works of Christ. John is either of no significance here, or he is regarded as the Divine organ, so that it is not he who bears witness, but God by him. John himself, in John 1:33, grounds the significance of his testimony singly and alone on the Divine inspiration, which he had received.
If, then, this other is the Father, vers. 33-35 cannot be regarded otherwise than as containing the first witness which the Father has borne to the Son by the mouth of John, the greatest prophet under the Old Dispensation. Those who apprehend the thought otherwise, create for themselves another by their own insertions, instead of following the real connection: Another bears witness of Me, and primarily indeed by John.
Ver. 33. “Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth.”
The circumstance that they had sent unto John, is significant, because in so doing they had acknowledged John in his prophetic dignity and as the Divine organ: cf. John 1:19. Since the deputation was an official one, it is natural to assume that we have here before us an official transaction, and that this is not merely a private conversation. In John 1:19 also it is the Jews who are spoken of; and yet the whole narrative shows that the deputation was from the highest national court, the Chief Council.
Ver. 34. “But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved.”
John bore witness as a prophet; for if it had not been so, that which he spoke of Christ would not have had the dignity of a testimony, which exists only when one speaks that which he has seen and heard. Thus the testimony of John did not properly proceed from “a man,” but from the Holy Spirit, who spoke through the prophets. But since the Divine mission and inspiration of John was controverted by his opponents, since they gave him out to be a mere man left to himself, and the contrary could not be proved in a palpable manner—the Baptist not having performed miracles—in the present question his testimony was, so to speak, in a judicial sense that of a man. That this was the reason why Jesus declares that He will not insist on the testimony of John, as being that of a man, is evident from the fact, that afterwards the testimony of Moses is urged as perfectly valid, his Divine mission and inspiration being fully acknowledged by the opponents. How little it can be the object to depreciate the significance of John and of his testimony, is already evident from the high importance attributed to this testimony in chap. 1.
An analogy is afforded by Isaiah 7:13, where Isaiah says to the unbelieving Ahaz of Judea: “Is it too little for you to provoke man, that you provoke also my God?” “When Ahaz,” it was remarked on this passage in the Christology [Eng. Trans, ii. p. 43],“ had before refused to believe in the simple announcement of the prophet, he sinned to a certain degree against man only, against the prophet only, by unjustly suspecting him of a deceitful pretension to a Divine revelation. But when Ahaz declined the offered sign, God Himself was provoked by him, and his wickedness came evidently to light.” The testimony of the works of Christ stands to the testimony of John in a similar relation to that in which the sign here stands to the mere announcement. In both there is the same Divine causality, but the degree of demonstration is different.
But even though Jesus does not wish to lay great stress on the testimony of John, or to make it the central-point of His argument. He needs not to be quite silent concerning it, for this would be a severity towards His opponents. Perhaps they will, to their own salvation, cast aside their unfounded and criminal distrust of John, whose Divine mission, though it cannot be palpably demonstrated, is yet adequately attested to their consciences.
Ver. 35. “He was a burning and a shining light; and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.”
In the symbolism of the Mosaic law, and in Zechariah 4, the Church of the Lord is represented under the figure of a candlestick. “The light,” it was remarked on this symbol in the Third Part of my Contributions (Beiträge, S. 354), “can denote only the operations of the Spirit of God, the spiritual light, which is radiated “by the spiritually animated Church into the surrounding darkness.” Under the figure of lamps and candlesticks the Scriptures also represent individual believers, in whom the essence of the Church of God is particularized. Cf. Matthew 5:14-16, the parable of the ten virgins, and Php_2:15 . John was the burning and shining light, in comparison with which, all others may be disregarded. The ἦ?ν intimates that the ministry of John was already concluded. He was not then dead, but in prison; cf. John 4:1-3, where his imprisonment is referred to as having already taken place; and Jesus prophetically knows that the imprisonment will end in death, and that John will never again appear on the scene of his ministry.
The ἠ?θελήσατε intimates the subjective inclination as opposed to a consent to the Divine order. They wished to rejoice while they ought to have been led to repentance by the light, and to worthy preparation for the advent of the Saviour.
The πρὸ?ς ὥ?ραν intimates that their joy in the light was only brief. At first, there went out to John, Jerusalem and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, Matthew 3:5; but when they saw what was his real design, and were saluted as γεννήματα ἐ?χιδνῶ?ν , etc., a strong hatred took the place of their rejoicing, and led at last to his being delivered up to Herod. The real reproach, however, is contained not in the πρὸ?ς ὥ?ραν , but in the ἀ?γαλλιαθῆ?ναι , in that they misused the forerunner and preacher of repentance in order to promote their sweet dreams.
In his light: a part of the illumination brought by John, filled by the oil of the Holy Ghost, concerned the impending advent of the Messiah. This element they seized upon. They dreamed of freedom from Romish oppression, and of universal dominion, and did not consider that the Messiah must before all turn the energy of His righteousness against the house of God, and prove Himself primarily a consuming fire against the sin of the covenant-people.
Ver. 36. “But I have a greater witness than John: for the works which the Father hath given Me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father hath sent Me.”
We have here the second witness which God the Father (the Other, in ver. 32) bore to Christ. It is designated as greater than John in his capacity as witness, which is here alone regarded,—therefore than the witness of John, because it is more palpable, and admits of less objection. For, regarded in themselves, all truly Divine testimonies are alike. We best perceive what Jesus means by works from Matthew 11:4-5. They are not exclusively miracles. It is, however, implied in the nature of the case, and in the character of those against whom this proof is urged, that the miracles occupy unconditionally the first place; and this is denied by those only to whom such an emphasis on miracles in the Gospel of John would be inconvenient. That miracles are especially meant, is implied even in the reference to the starting-point of the whole conflict, the miraculous healing; at the pool of Bethesda. In John 7:21, “I have done one work, and ye all marvel,” the work is without doubt a miracle. The first place among the works is occupied by the raisings from the dead, to which the words καὶ? νῦ?ν ἐ?στι contain a hint.
In no Gospel is so much weight laid on miracles as in the Gospel of John, or are there so many and emphatic declarations of Christ concerning the deep significance of His miracles: cf. John 10:25; John 10:32; John 14:11; John 15:24. This strong emphasis presupposes that the Gospel of John bears the relation of a supplement to other representations, which give a particular account of these miracles. Otherwise John himself would not have needed to be so sparing in this respect.
Ver. 37. “And the Father Himself, who hath sent Me, hath borne witness of Me. Ye have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His shape. 38. And ye have not His word abiding in you: for whom He hath sent, ye believe not.”
The witness of the Father can be no other than that which He bore, first, by John; secondly, by the works of Christ; and, thirdly, as is further amplified in what follows, in Old Testament prophecy. The expositors who imagine some other witness are left to mere guess work, and vacillate in uncertainty. The Father, moreover, was of necessity expressly mentioned also in respect of the works as He who bears witness, because otherwise it would not have been evident that the works are comprised in the witness announced in ver. 32. It is there the testimony of a person that was spoken of, but previously only the testimony of the works. We are led to the conjoint reference to John even by the Perfect μεμαρτύρηκε , in harmony with ver. 33, and in distinction from ver. 36. And in the case of John, the supplementary reference to God as the real author of the testimony was not less necessary than in that of the works. For in vers. 33-35 the testimony was designated only as that of John, and the ἄ?λλος in ver. 32 had therefore not yet received its full application. The words, καὶ? ὁ? πέμψας—περὶ? ἐ?μοῦ? , consequently form the conclusion with respect to the two first testimonies, and at the same time form the transition to the third and last, the presentation of which begins in ver. 39.
Before the Saviour passes to this third testimony. He points out, as it were parenthetically, the great loss of the Jews when they do not accept the witness which the Father bears to the Son. With the Son the Father also disappears from them, for they never stood in a direct relation to the latter—the Old Testament passages, where a hearing and seeing of God are spoken of, refer not to the hidden God, but to His Revealer, who in Christ became incarnate; and when they reject Christ, the real Word of God, they thus lose at the same time the true possession of the word of God altogether. The Jews under the Old Dispensation had repeatedly heard the voice of God. It had spoken to them from Sinai, Exodus 20:19; Deuteronomy 4:12, and through the medium of the prophets. They had likewise repeatedly seen His form, or a symbol of His presence. Of Jacob, the father of the race, it is said in Genesis 32:30, “And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel; for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” According to Exodus 24:10, the elders saw the God of Israel; and according to Numbers 12:8, Moses beheld the similitude of God. God manifested Himself to the whole people under the similitude and symbol of fire. Cf. Deuteronomy 5:4, “The Lord talked with you face to face in the Mount, out of the midst of the fire:” ver. 24, “And ye said. Behold, the Lord our God hath showed us His glory, and His greatness, and we have heard His voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day that God doth talk with men, and He liveth:” John 4:36, “Out of heaven He made thee to hear His voice, that He might instruct thee; and upon earth He showed thee His great fire; and Thou heardest His words out of the midst of the fire,”—passages which are to be compared the rather, since in them, as in our text, the hearing and seeing are immediately connected with each other. Isaiah further, in chap. 5, sees the Lord sitting, therefore the εἶ?δος of the Lord; and Ezekiel also (chap. 5) beholds the glory of the Lord. All the Old Testament passages, however, refer not to God the Father, but to the Angel of the Lord, in whom the Logos is manifested in prelude to His incarnation. Cf. remarks on John 1:18. Isaiah saw the glory of Christ. When therefore the Jews do not accept the testimony of the Father to the Son, when they reject Christ, they thus dissolve all connection with God, and become ἄ?θεοι ἐ?ν τῷ? κόσμῳ? no less than the heathen. Never having stood in immediate relation to God the Father, when they now wantonly destroy the medium of connection with Him, there is nothing left to them but darkness, deception, and death, in which we see them buried even to the present day. If God be lost, all is lost. Moreover, by the rejection of Christ, they have not God’s word abiding in them; for Christ alone is the true and essential Word of God. Cf. on the Prologue. He who passes by Him, loses all real participation in the Divine word and revelation; for to him are left only disjecta membra, broken and unintelligible sounds. The word of God cannot be immanent in such an one, cf. Colossians 3:16; for to him it can stand only in a purely external, inactive relation. A proof of the truth of this declaration of Christ is afforded by the character of the Jews from the time of Christ up to the present. They have an entire codex of the Divine revelations, and yet they have not the word of God abiding in them. Cf. 2 Corinthians 3:14-16. Judaism bears the character of that which has lost its savour, which always makes its appearance where the salt of the Divine word is wanting.—
The whole passage stands in inseparable connection with John 1:18, John 6:46, John 14:6, Matthew 11:27; and a criterion of the correctness of the exposition is furnished by its ability to bring these passages under one point of view. The profound significance of connection with Christ is everywhere prominent in them, because by it alone is there a medium of connection with the Father.
On the words, τούτῳ? ὑ?μεῖ?ς οὐ? πιστεύετε , Lampe remarks: “πιστεύειν εἰ?ς τινα significat honorem soli Deo exhibendum. Sed πιστεύειν τινί , cum sit universalius, aliquando Deo, aliquando etiam hominibus convenit.” If they did not believe Him—which is an injury even to an honest man—how much less then in Him!
Ver. 39. “Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me.”
On the proof derived from the works, here follows the proof drawn from the miracles and prophecy of the Old Testament Scriptures. It is the third witness which the Other, ver. 32, has borne to Christ. The transition is made to this testimony at the conclusion of the parenthesis, in the reproach against the Jews, that they had not God’s word abiding in them, which is perceived in this, that they were unable to recognise Christ in the Old Testament, where He is so clearly revealed. The expression, ἐ?ραυνᾶ?τε τὰ?ς γραφάς , refers to Isaiah 34:16: “Seek ye out of the Book of the Lord.” By the Book of the Lord is here designated, not merely the collected prophecies of Isaiah, but the whole complexus of the sacred Scriptures, in which they were to be included,—the canon of the Lord, which was not yet closed at the time of the prophets, but was to be closed; so that the “Book of the Lord” exactly corresponds to “the Scriptures” here. On the ground of this prophetic passage, it was usual, as seems probable from John 7:52, to send an opponent to the Scriptures with an ἐ?ρεύνησον . The καὶ? ἐ?κεῖ?ναί , etc., is the result which will follow, when the requisition ἐ?ραυνᾶ?τε is complied with truly, and in the spirit of it. Instead of Kai might have stood a colon. In the Old Testament passage likewise the result is appended, which will follow on the investigation: “Seek ye out of the Book of the Lord, and read; no one of these shall fail.”
The rendering of ἐ?ραυνᾶ?τε as Indicative is opposed by the above passage, and by John 7:52, which is dependent on it. It further allows to the Jews what cannot be allowed them in this connection, immediately after ver. 38, which forms the transition to our text, from the proof derived from the works to that drawn from the Scriptures. And then also we should expect ὑ?μεῖ?ς before ἐ?ραυνᾶ?τε , instead of before δοκεῖ?τε .—Δοκεῖ?τε does not indicate a mere opinion or fancy opposed to the truth (Rothe, Stud. u. Crit 1860, 1, S. 67). As a ground for the ἐ?ραυνᾶ?τε was not merely the fact that eternal life was contained in Holy Scripture, but also that the Jews acknowledged this, and were thus, from their own admission, in duty bound to comply with the requisition ἐ?ραυνᾶ?τε : ὑ?μεῖ?ς is emphatic. The Saviour must have shared in their conception, or He would not have based His demand upon it; for to make use of a mere argumentum ad hominem would have been unworthy of Him. But besides this, it is evident that Christ agrees with the Jews in the proposition that in the Scriptures they have life. The inspiration of the Scriptures and their having life are coincident; but inspiration is here taught in the most decided manner. Only by presupposing this could a Scripture testimony of Christ be spoken of—(such a testimony can come from God alone)—or could Moses write concerning Christ, ver. 46, or could it be a duty to believe in the writings of Moses, ver. 47.
The Old Testament is regarded primarily as containing the law. The law itself promises life to him who keeps it. Leviticus 18:5 (cf. Romans 10:5). It has life in it in so far that it is a lamp to the feet, and affords the true and infallible pattern of moral conduct. The law is recognised most decidedly as bearing this character by our Lord and His Apostles. In Luke 10:25-27 the Lord answers the νομικὸ?ς who comes to Him with the question, “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” by asking in return what was written in the law on this point. The lawyer quotes as the sum of it, “Thou shalt love,” etc.; and the Lord answers, “Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.” When the Lord says that not one ἰ?ῶ?τα or κεραία shall pass from the law; when Paul says, ὁ? νόμος ἅ?γιος , καὶ? ἡ? ἐ?ντολὴ? ἁ?γία καὶ? δικαία καὶ? ἀ?γαθή , Romans 7:12; and when he speaks of ἡ? ἐ?ντολὴ? ἡ? εἰ?ς ζωήν , ver. 10, it is implied that the Scriptures contain eternal life in so far that it can be offered in general by the law. But the law is not sufficient for eternal life. The direction must be added, as to where forgiveness for transgression and power for new obedience are to be found, or the pointing to Christ. But that with respect to these things also the Scriptures contain eternal life (cf. 2 Timothy 3:15), Christ here teaches as emphatically as possible. He brings the severe reproach against the Jews, that they have no taste for this part of the Scriptures. The proposition, that we have eternal life in the Scriptures, is common to the Jews with Christ. They differ only in this, that the Jews supposed they had enough in the law, while Christ, together with the law, lays stress on the Gospel contained in the Scriptures.
In saying that the Scriptures testify of Him, the Lord refers to the whole range of the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. For here it is not Moses especially who is spoken of, but the Scriptures in general.
Ver. 40. “And ye will not come unto Me, that ye might have life”—q.d., and yet, although the Scriptures speak so plainly, ye will not, etc. Allusion is made to Isaiah 55, especially ver. 3, “Come unto Me—and your soul shall live;” the same passage to which our Lord also refers in John 4:10; John 4:13-14, John 7:37; Matthew 11:28. Cf. Christology 2, S. 378 sq.
But why do the Jews reject the testimony of the Scriptures, which are so highly esteemed even by them? Why will they not, on the basis of this testimony, come to Christ that they may obtain life? Our Lord answers this question in vers. 41-44: it is because they seek not the praise of God, but the empty honour of men. This is the sad solution of the riddle. After this digression, the Lord returns in vers. 45-47 to the testimony of the Scriptures. He especially sets before the Jews the testimony of Moses,—of him on whose authority (the fourth commandment) they had first brought the accusation against Him.
Vers. 41, 42. “I receive not honour from men. But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you.”
Jesus turns aside the reproach of ambition, which the Jews might, and indeed must, have brought against Him on the ground of the words, οὐ? θέλετε ἐ?λθεῖ?ν πρός με—the honour conferred by men can be of no consequence to the Son of God
He has the honour of the only-begotten of the Father, and is therefore raised above all other honour
He then brings against them the counter accusation that they have not the love of God in them, and therefore have not that which is laid down in their law as the foundation of all life and salvation. They manifest this want of love to God, in that they love not Him whom He has sent, of whom He has testified by His word and words, and who can say of Himself: He that seeth Me, seeth the Father. Want of love to God is still at the present day the deepest ground of diversion from Christ. Since ambition, or the taking of honour from men, has its ground in selfishness, or the want of love to God, Christ casts the accusation back from Himself upon those to whom it belongs. Grotius: “Emphasis est in illo ὑ?μᾶ?ς . Qualem me putatis, vos tales estis.” Christ makes the charge not as a supposition, but on the ground of clear and certain knowledge, as He who knows all men, and knows what is in man, and before whom, as before God, all hearts are manifest.
Ver. 43. “I am come in My Father’s name, and ye receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.”
The Lord proves His charge of the absence of love to God. John says, “He that loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen, how can he love God, whom he hath not seen?” Thus also they showed their want of the love of God, in that they did not recognise as such the visible image of the Father; and in the future they will show it still further, in their readiness to welcome him who, without a mission from above, places himself in the centre of their national life. The words, “I am come in My Father’s name, and ye receive Me not,” acquire their full significance and their profound earnestness only when their reference to Deuteronomy 18:19 is perceived: “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto My words, which He shall speak in My name, I will require it of him.” The Name of the Lord is His glory as historically manifested. Christ comes in the name of the Father; so that the latter, not the abstract God, but as historically revealed, is He who fills the consciousness and determines all things: cf. Matthew 7:22; 1 Samuel 17:45; 2 Chronicles 14:11.
The other comes in his own name, so that he is entirely sunk in himself, and the deeds and results proceeding from him. Why receive such an one? He who seeks his own, flatters and cajoles, refrains from all difficult requirements, demands no penitence or renunciation, because he well knows that in order to be able to live himself, he must let live. Salvation without repentance was, even under the Old Covenant, the watchword of the prophets out of their own heart. Bar-Cochba was wise enough to declare war against the hated Romans, instead of against bosom sins. How did Mahomet indulge the passions of his people, and how carefully did he avoid any conflict with the national spirit!
Ver. 44. “How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from the only God?”
To receive honour of another (Grotius: “plebs a primoribus, primores a plebe honorem venamini”) is represented here, as in John 12:42-43, as one of the most dangerous enemies of salvation. The fear of a conflict with the spirit of the time, of losing a good name, and of that pining and withered appearance, which it seems must come, when one is not raised and borne up by the recognition of his fellow-men, must stifle again the germs of faith. Only that mind can believe heartily which is fixedly intent on gaining the Divine approbation, and troubles itself not at all concerning the praise and blame of the ungodly multitude. Intentness on obtaining honour from men is especially distinctive of faith in times when an ungodly spirit has seized with great power on the masses—as in the times of Jesus the pharisaic, and now the rationalistic and democratic spirit. It is evident how important this declaration is for our own times. The desire to receive honour from men is very deeply seated in our theology; and not to break with the spirit of the age, but to mediate with it, is one of its most pressing cares. This is the worm that eats at its root, the curse that weighs it down.
God is designated as the Only, in order to intimate His absolute glory, which shows the endeavour to find honour elsewhere than with Him to be absolute folly. Cf. John 17:3; Romans 16:27; 1 Timothy 6:15; Jude 1:4; Jude 1:25. The unity of God is even in the Old Testament a designation of His absoluteness, as in Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Jehovah,”—an only Jehovah, who has not His equal. As in ver. 5, the commandment of unconditional love to Him is founded on the unity of God—cf. Mark 12:29-30; Mark 12:32; for to the multiplicity of the heathen God’s, and the limited powers of each, corresponds the division of the heart; and to the unity of God, on the other hand, the requirement of entire love, the love of the whole heart, and the whole soul, and all the powers,—so here the demand that the honour of God be preferred to that of others, and the charge against the Jews of receiving honour from one another, is also founded on this. In Job 23:13 also, “But He is one, and who can turn Him?” the unity of God designates His absoluteness: He is almighty, because there are no other God’s besides Him. If there is but one God, there is but One to be feared in heaven and earth, and but One to love.
Ver. 45. “Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is that accuseth you, Moses, in whom ye trust.”
The Lord had, in ver. 39, appealed against the Jews in general to the testimony of the Scriptures; here He meets them especially with the testimony of Moses, the revered lawgiver, on whose authority they had founded their accusation. Moses, in whom ye trust: it does not appear that the conception of a real intercession of Moses is here attributed to the Jews, but Moses is regarded as the representative of the law, which is meant substantially. Parallel with the trust in Moses is the supposition of having eternal life in the Scriptures, in ver. 39. We have the commentary in Romans 2:17-20; where to this trust in Moses corresponds the resting in the law as the certain representation of the will of God, the untroubled fountain of all knowledge and truth, and consequently a sure way to salvation. The Perfect tense, remarks Lücke, denotes that this trust in Moses existed among the people from antiquity.
Ver. 46. “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me.”
Jesus had doubtless Deuteronomy 18:15-19 principally m view. Cf. on John 1:21; John 1:46; Christol. 1, S. 114.
Ver. 47. “But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe My words?”
The emphasis is not on γράμμασι and ῥ?ήμασι , but on ἐ?κείνου and ἐ?μοῖ?ς . The antithesis is that of the ancient well established authority, and that now in process of formation. The discourse ends, like Psalms 95, with “a question of hopelessness” (Meyer).
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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on John 5". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://studylight.org/
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