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Includes what took place on the last visit paid by Jesus to the Feast of Tabernacles, and from that date onwards to the final Passover. The narrative of ch. 7 refers to the former of those feasts; and ch. John 8:1 to John 10:21 records what occurred between the Feast of Tabernacles and that of the Dedication. The transactions at the Feast of Dedication are narrated in vers. 22-39. In vers. 40-42 mention is made of a short abode on the other side of the Jordan. The journey of Jesus to Bethany in order to raise Lazarus occupies ch. John 11:1-53; in ver. 54 Jesus goes back to Ephraim. The return to Bethany is in ch. John 12:1-12; the entrance into Jerusalem, vers. 12 seq.; and finally, the conclusion of the first part of the whole is found in vers. 37 seq.
All in this section tends to prepare for Christ’s death on the cross. The hatred of the Jews is exhibited in its continuous growth; and Jesus increases that hatred, as if designedly, by the unintermitting assertion of the dignity of His person—an assertion which was a lasting offence to the Jews. These confessions and testimonies of Christ to Himself are a rich source of edification to faith; while the copiousness with which the Evangelist records the solemn vanity of the subterfuges resorted to by the Jews,—who, notwithstanding all the specious arguments which they adduced against Christ, fell under the desolating judgment of God,—is fruitful in instruction and warning. The latter holds good especially in reference to ch. 7, which places in lively presentation before us the natural man, hating and flying from Christ, loving and cherishing his sins, while denying that he does so, and wilfully transferring to the theological domain what belonged simply to the moral. “In this chapter,” says Anton, “we have a complete collection of judgments, one saying this and another that about Christ. Thus do the poor children of men fluctuate in doubt, and through their own fault; because they are not influenced in their contention by pure love of truth, with which they are only trifling. Let us judge ourselves accordingly.”
John 7:1. “After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for He would not walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him.”
Jesus had also previously betaken Himself to Galilee. He had remained there during the whole year, between the Passover of ch. 5 and the Passover of ch. John 6:4. But reference is only to the walking which took place after the event recorded in ch. 6; because with that was connected the representation of the “brethren,” who were discontented because Jesus kept Himself so long at a distance from Judea. The Jews in this passage were not Jews, as contradistinguished from Galileans: the name designates, as is shown in ch. 2, the whole people. But their rulers were the soul of the people; and they not only had their seat in Galilee, but exercised uncontrolled influence there; whereas in Galilee they were held in check by Herod: comp. on ch. John 4:1. “They sought to kill Him,” points back to ch. John 5:16; John 5:18. The fact recorded in that chapter formed a turning-point. The Jews were led by it to purposes of murder: and not merely under a transitory impulse, for they from that time kept that end firmly and steadily in view. The persevering and energetic hatred of the Pharisees, as recorded by John, is corroborated by the synoptical accounts of the mission of the emissaries who came about the same time from Jerusalem to Galilee: see Matthew 15:1 seq., John 16:1 seq.; Mark 7:1 seq., John 8:11 seq. In consequence of the movements of these Pharisaic spies, Jesus retreated into the region of Tyre and Sidon, Matthew 15:21. The present verse embraces in one the events of an entire half-year. We perceive in this condensation an indirect reference to the earlier Evangelists, who do in fact furnish the details that fill up the gap lying here before us. The whole supplement lies in Matthew 15-18. In ch. 14 he records the feeding of the five thousand, in harmony with our ch. 6, and the miraculous intervention of Jesus upon the lake. In ch. Matthew 19:1, he relates that Jesus finally left Galilee to go up to Jerusalem; and the setting forth must be identical with that of Matthew 7:10, for after this also we hear of no more returning to Galilee. But Matthew, who before the passion limits his record of what took place to the events in Galilee, omits the residence of Jesus at Jerusalem during the Feasts of Tabernacles and Dedication, and all that is related in John down to ch. Matthew 10:39, bringing our Lord from Perea into Judea, in harmony with Matthew 10:40. “And it came to pass,” says Matthew, “that when Jesus had finished these sayings, He departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judea beyond Jordan.” That Judea lay for Jesus beyond Jordan, shows that He came direct from Perea. Πέραν τοῦ? Ἰ?ορδάνου , is an expression used subjectively with reference to the position of the traveller; and it is the same in effect as the διὰ? τοῦ? πέραν τοῦ? Ἰ?ορδάνου of Mark 10:1, where the phrase is a standing geographical designation. The section of Matthew which furnishes the supplementary details to ch. Matthew 7:1, contains many allusions to the nearness of the consummation of our Lord’s destiny; so that we find ourselves at the threshold of the Passover. “From that time forth,” we read in ch. Matthew 16:21, “began Jesus to show unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders, and chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.” The fact of the Transfiguration, related in ch. 17, presupposes the near approach of the gloomy season of sorrow. It formed, as it were, a defence against the temptations of that season. A repeated pre-intimation of the coming passion is found in ch. Matthew 7:22 seq. Mark records the feeding of the five thousand, and the miracle on the sea, in ch. 6; the journey into Judea in ch. Mark 10:1. Thus what lies intermediate between these is the complement of our ver. 1. The various changes of place which are mentioned in this section, explain the περιεπάτει
He journeyed round. Luke gives the feeding in ch. Luke 9:10-17; and what is recorded in Luke 9:18-41, falls under John 9:1 in John. In Luke 9:51-56 he tells us that Jesus, “when the time was come that He should be received,” went up through Samaria to Jerusalem. The ungracious reception that He met with at the hands of the Samaritans, shows that He was going up to a feast: “because His face was as though He would go up to Jerusalem.” Here we have the parallel of our John 9:10.
Jesus probably chose, on account of His delay in setting out, the nearest way; and as He travelled incognito, οὐ? φανερῶ?ς ἀ?λλʼ? ὡ?ς ἐ?ν κρυπτῷ? , it is obvious that He would avoid the common way on which the Galileans went up to Jerusalem. They were in the habit of taking the longer way through Perea, in order to escape the attacks of the Samaritans. Luke appends a series of events, which belong to various times. In the main and in the leading events, he preserves strictly the chronological order, καθεξῆ?ς , ch. John 1:3. But after having done this hitherto, so far as regards the main narrative—connecting, however, sometimes the order of events with the order of time—he gives here, before passing on to the narrative of the passion, a supplementary series of events, which he had not inserted chronologically. It is characteristic of this supplement, that the notes of time and place are everywhere undefined. And the harmony of the Gospels has been damaged much by violent attempts to enforce a chronological arrangement upon them, and to assign to a definite time things that belong to the most various periods, and are chronologically indifferent. See in Wieseler’s “Synopsis” a specimen of the difficulties and incongruities in which this theory involves the harmonist. It is not till ch. John 18:35 seq. that Luke resumes the order of time: there Jesus goes through Jericho to Jerusalem.
Ver. 2. “Now the Jews Feast of Tabernacles was at hand.”
The Evangelist marks the point of view which he occupied in constructing the account of ver. 1, and consequently gives the chronological limitation of the “walking” of ver. 1. The point of commencement was given in ch. John 6:4, from the time of the last Passover but one. The point of conclusion we have here. It is, in fact, until the next Feast of Tabernacles drew nigh. This, the last of the great yearly feasts, fell on the 15th day of the seventh month, and thus was divided from the Passover by half a year. The whole of the people, during this feast, abandoned their houses and dwelt in tents. The significance of this festivity was explained in Leviticus 23:42-43: “Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them up out of the land of Egypt.” The people brought vividly before their minds at this feast the grace which God had manifested to them formerly while travelling through the wilderness; and thus also they invigorated their faith that their ancient God would safely conduct them through the distresses and dangers of the present, although He might still lead them through rough and perilous paths; that He would never withdraw from them the needful protection; and that their cause, however threatening appearances might be, would finally issue in triumph.
Ver. 3. “His brethren therefore said unto Him, Depart hence, and go into Judea, that Thy disciples also may see the works that Thou doest.”
Ver. 4. “For there is no man that doeth anything in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly: if Thou do these things, show Thyself to the world.”
Ver. 5. “For neither did His brethren believe in Him.”
We have shown, in ch. John 2:12, that by the brethren of Jesus in the New Testament, we are to understand not literal brothers, but His nearest relations, the sons of Cleophas and Mary. This passage gives us the first seeming contradiction of that view. Three of the four cousins or brethren mentioned in Matthew 13:55, James, Simon, and Judas, belong to the number of the twelve Apostles. According to John 6:70, the collective twelve, already at that time, were assembled around the Lord. But here the brethren seem to be in open opposition to the Lord: they seek to dictate to Him; they are referred to by Him as in league and friendship with the world; and the Evangelist expressly says, that they did not believe in Christ. Accordingly, it seems clear that the brethren of Jesus must be distinguished from the cousins who were already among the number of the Apostles.
We might, indeed, suppose that the brethren of Jesus here were other relatives than those who were received into the circle of the Apostles. Undoubtedly there were such relatives. In Matthew 13:55, besides the three among the Apostles, Joses is mentioned. In ver. 56 we read: “And His sisters, are they not all with us? “And the husbands of these sisters belonged, according to Old Testament and Jewish usage generally, to the number of His “brethren,” or relations of Jesus: comp. for example. Genesis 31:23; Genesis 31:37. But when we more narrowly examine this argument, we find that it is an unsatisfactory escape. It is not here as in Acts 1:14. There the enumeration of the Apostles had preceded, and that reckoning gives “with His brethren “a limitation: to wit, with those amongst His brethren who were not Apostles, such as Joses and the husbands of the sisters. But, on the other hand, there is no such limitation here thrown around them by the context; and there is no warrant for understanding by the brethren only a portion of the brethren.
When we study the question fully, however, we find that there is no reason for excluding the three Apostles named from the number of the brethren. On the one hand, the words, “neither did His brethren believe in Him,” ver. 5, have been too rigorously pressed; and a worse meaning has been imposed upon the expressions of vers. 3 and 4 than rightly belongs to them. On the other hand, it has been overlooked, that in the apostolical circle there was as yet much imperfection. The manner in which the Lord, in ch. John 6:70, replied to the confident confession which Peter, in the name of all, uttered, “We believe that Thou art Christ, the Son of God,” points to the fact that this confession went beyond the real faith of the Apostles. The manner also in which He spoke of the treachery of Judas, intimated that germs of unbelief were still existing amongst the rest. The declaration which Christ then made, as the Searcher of hearts, finds its actual warrant and voucher in the circumstance we are now considering.
The “brethren” do not refer to the fact that Jesus was under legal obligation to go up to the feast. They recognise in Him the Christ, the Son of God, in harmony with ch. John 6:69, who as such was elevated above all prescriptions of the law. They do not derive their argument from the law, but only and entirely from the mission of Jesus, from the dignity of His person, which must secure its full acknowledgment in the very centre of the people. They manifest likewise their zeal for the honour and for the honourable recognition of Christ. They perceive correctly enough, that Jesus could not, and should not, limit His influence to an obscure corner of Galilee; and that the Saviour of the world must manifest Himself to the world. Not many days afterwards, Jesus set His own seal upon the correctness of this assumption; for He went up to the feast in Jerusalem, and there publicly taught in the temple. In “If Thou doest these things, show Thyself unto the world,” the if does not express any doubt; but it only points to the inference, that the one must necessarily draw the other after it. The if has the same force as in 1 John 4:11: “If God hath thus loved us, we ought also to love one another:” Romans 11:21. “Εἰ? itself,” says Winer, “retains the conditional signification if even where, in point of meaning, it stands for ἐ?πεί , since; the sentence is, so far as regards the expression, conditional, if (such being actually the case), and the categorical meaning does not for the moment come into view.” Jesus contradicted His own mission, and thwarted His own Messianic work, by keeping Himself concealed so long. For a whole year and a half He had not emerged from Galilee. The brethren rightly perceived that this state of things could not go on any longer. The position which they here lay down, that “there is no man that doeth anything in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly,” Jesus Himself, in ch. John 18:20, recognises as a sound one, and declares it to be a rule which He had followed. The error of the brethren—who set out with a right principle, that a continued separation of Jesus from the Temple, the house of God, the spiritual house of the whole nation, was morally impossible—lay simply and solely in this, that they attempted to prescribe to Jesus His time and hour. That they were so free in suggesting their thought, sprang from the fact that they knew Christ so familiarly after the flesh. Even Mary, in ch. John 2:4, was kept within her limits; and there, too, the hour was concerned.
It were like making a blind man judge of colours, to introduce into the life of faith a strict and rigorous logical consistency. To pretend to dictate to the Lord, to master the Master, was a grievous fault, and one into which we are still ever liable to fall, when He manifests Himself otherwise than we think we have a right to expect. But in the case of all the disciples, and even of the Apostles, it was necessary that the Spirit should be first received; for “the Holy Ghost was not yet, because Jesus was not yet glorified,” ver. 39. We meet with many instances of infirmity among the Apostles which must appear incredible to one who does not know human nature. We have only to remember the word which Jesus, shortly before this narrative, was constrained to say to Peter when he, like these brethren here, was disposed to dictate to his Master ( Matthew 16:23), “Get thee behind Me, Satan; thou art an offence unto Me: thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men;” and the request of the two sons of Zebedee, to sit one on the right hand and the other on the left of Jesus, Matthew 20:20; and the contention of the Apostles for pre-eminence just before the institution of the Supper. As it regards the specific words, “Neither did they believe on Him,” we must not forget that John, in ch. John 20:8, charges himself, and in ch. John 20:27 his follow-apostle Thomas, with unbelief; nor that Jesus, shortly before, answered the Apostles inquiry why they could not cast out the unclean spirit, by “because of your unbelief,” and, indeed, included them with the unbelieving and perverse generation. That faith and unbelief are not terms of blank contrast, is shown by the expression, “I believe, help Thou mine unbelief;” as also by John 2:11, where it is said of the disciples, that they believed in Jesus after the miracle in Cana of Galilee—as if they had not “believed on Him before, although, in ch. John 1:51, Jesus had said to Nathanael, Thou believest. According to John 11:15, the Apostles, who, as being Apostles, must have had faith already, are represented as being brought to faith by the resurrection of Lazarus. That the unbelief of the brethren must here be understood relatively, like the Saviour’s charge of unbelief directed against all the Apostles, Matthew 17:20, is established by Acts 1:14, where we meet with the “brethren” of Jesus among the believers immediately after the resurrection. The notion that the light of faith arose upon them first through the resurrection of Christ, is without probability: for we see them in the midst of the circle of the believers, a circle with which Jesus had surrounded Himself during His earthly life; and there is nothing to intimate that they had entered it later than the rest. Moreover, the resurrection of Christ was an event too recent for such an influence to be reasonably imputed to it.
It would be amongst the cousins of Jesus, rather than amongst the other Apostles, that we should have expected to find such immaturity of faith. Strictly parallel with the account of their relative unbelief, is the rank which they invariably held in the lists of the Twelve: they are everywhere placed at the end; evidence that they were not till late such as justified their being called to the apostolical office, although we find them, ch. John 2:12, in the Lord’s company at a very early period of His mission. They had more to overcome than the others had. It is to this that the Lord’s word points. Matthew 13:57: “A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.” Not only here, but also on another occasion, Matthew 12:46 and the parallels, they were disposed to dictate to our Lord.
Let it not be objected, that the words which Jesus said to them scarcely suit the Apostles—“The world cannot hate you.” We have no trace that the Jewish zeal of persecution had ever included the Apostles in its range. Everywhere Jesus Himself, and alone, is the object of it. “They hated Me before they hated you,” ch. John 15:18, is an expression which indicates that there had been a time when their hatred was spent only upon Him. Their separation from the world was not yet complete. Whenever the disciples appeared elsewhere than in Christ’s company, they had nothing to fear from the world. It would be otherwise in the future, when the Holy Ghost should be poured out upon them, and glorify Jesus in them, and when they should in His power testify of the world that its works were evil, ch. John 15:19, John 17:14.
But it may be argued that the brethren of Jesus went up alone to Jerusalem, while Jesus, doubtless at the head of His twelve Apostles, went up some time afterwards. On this supposition, therefore, the brethren cannot have belonged to the apostolic circle. But how can it be proved that our Lord at that time had His twelve Apostles with him? The fact that Jesus, according to ver. 10, went up to the feast, “not openly, but as it were in secret,” makes it improbable that He was accompanied on this journey by a train so numerous and so likely to excite attention. The only Evangelist who gives us any more detailed account of this journey,
Luke, in ch. Luke 9:51 seq.,—says nothing of any such accompaniment of the collective Apostles. It would appear rather, from his narrative, that the Lord had with Him only His most confidential disciples. In Jerusalem, at the feast, Jesus had His twelve Apostles round Him. On the way from Perea to Judea He walked from place to place at the head of the Twelve, Matthew 20:17. Thus this passage furnishes no reason why we should recede from the results obtained from ch. John 2:12 in relation to the brethren of our Lord.
According to the opinion of the brethren, Jesus ought to go to Judea for this among other reasons (καί ), that His disciples might see the works which He did. These disciples were not the disciples of Jerusalem specifically, but the disciples generally. Only if His works were performed in the centre of the nation, where the whole of the people were gathered together at the feast, would they be visible to the whole generation of disciples. What was done in a corner was visible only to individuals; and even these had not all they desired in that respect: for they must have desired that the works of Jesus should be done in the fullest light of publicity, in view of the authorities, and before the wise and prudent, in order to silence the objection that Jesus could impose only on the masses, who could not test Him. A seal must be impressed upon the miracles of Galilee by the performance of similar miracles in Jerusalem. The objection that the Evangelists expression is obscure, recoils upon the expositors who have said so. Wherever obscurity is charged upon John, it is invariably the result of want of depth in the expositor.
No man—the brethren say in ver. 4—doeth anything in secret, while he himself seeketh to be before the public. Jesus must, in harmony with His own assumptions as the Son of God and the King of Israel, seek publicity. He contradicted the purpose of His own mission by remaining long in private, by shutting Himself up in a corner, by persistently shunning the metropolis, where the thrones were set for judgment, Psalms 122, and which was the judicial tribunal for all the manifestations of the popular life. For eighteen months Jesus had not left Galilee. The brethren knew full well that such a state of things could not continue much longer. Παρρησία signified originally freedom of speech, and then generally a free and open nature: comp. John 11:54, John 18:20, where Jesus admits the correctness of the principle laid down by the brethren, and asserts that He had always acted on it. The only mistake was the assumption of the brethren that Jesus must come forth from His retirement now, that is, at the specific time which they would prescribe to Him. “If Thou do these things”—the works of His Messianic vocation—“show Thyself to the world:” the universal theatre was, for the Jewish people, Jerusalem; if Jesus appeared publicly there. He made Himself known to the world. Sin is no less a mystery than the divinity of Christ. The brethren, still lingering on the beginnings of their faith, had no presentiment of the depth and energy of the Pharisees hatred to Christ. They were themselves convinced of His Divine mission. They knew Him to be in possession of the most glorious means to establish His credentials. They hoped, therefore, that if He would only show Himself to the world, He would succeed in vanquishing the worlds enmity, and probably in obtaining the recognition of the High Council.
On ver. 5, Heumann remarks: “They believed not on Him: that is, their faith in Him was not yet firm and strong enough; it had yet to contend with unbelief.” This lower position as to faith revealed itself, not in their leaving it undecided whether or not the works of Jesus were really Messianic (Lücke), but simply and solely in this, that they would dictate to Jesus, and prescribe Him the time and hour. Living faith in Jesus as the Son of God shows itself in this, that it suffers Him to act and rule absolutely as He will.
Ver. 6. “Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come; but your time is alway ready.”
We may compare with this, ch. John 2:4, where Jesus says to His mother, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.” As there, according to the context, the hour was the time appropriate to our Lord for lending help in the emergency, so here the time is that which was appropriate for Him to go to Judea, to appear there in full publicity, and to manifest Himself unto the world. The Jews sought to kill Jesus, ver. 1. Thus the time for showing Himself to the world was also the time of suffering,—the time of His departure, of the decease which Jesus must accomplish at Jerusalem. Like the hour in ch. John 2:4, and in John 7:30, the “time” here points to Ecclesiastes 3:1, where time and hour are connected together: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” The reference to this passage was an intimation that all the actions of Jesus were under the law of a Divine necessity. It was a folly that the brethren assumed the right to prescribe the period of a crisis of such universal significance. In these things Jesus could not regard His brethren upon earth, but only His Father in heaven. That here, as in the case of the οὔ?πω ἥ?κει ἡ? ὥ?ρα μου , the phrase was not the Evangelists, but our Lord’s, is shown by the ὁ? καιρός μου ἐ?γγύς ἐ?στι in Matthew 26:18: comp. also Mark 1:15.
The reason of our Lord’s regarding His time as not yet come, has been explained by some to be this, that He did not wish to show Himself in Jerusalem until the number of His Galilean dependants had become so great in Jerusalem, as to deter the Sanhedrim from laying hands on Him there. But we find no trace whatever of our Lord’s having made His Galilean friends His prop and defence in Jerusalem. Ver. 10 gives us the true reason why His hour was not yet come. Jesus would not enter the city suddenly, and in a manner provocative of excitement, and thus hasten the catastrophe. It was not at the Feast of Tabernacles, but at the following Passover, that He was to accomplish His decease; and there still remained much that was important both to be said and to be done. Thus it was expedient that He should go up to the Feast of Tabernacles, “not openly, but as it were in secret.”
Ver. 7. “The world cannot hate you; but Me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.”
Jesus bore His witness not merely by His word, but by His whole life and work. Every glance at Him must have pierced the hearts of the degenerate rulers. With the brethren of Jesus, and with the Apostles generally, it was not so: in them the world saw much that bore affinity with itself.
Ver. 8. “Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up unto this feast; for My time is not yet full come.” The Present, ἀ?ναβαίνω , is to be carefully noted. His going up to the feast is not affirmed by Jesus, nor is it denied; it is left, so far as His words go undetermined. It was below the majesty of Christ to give at that time a more definite explanation. The requirement of the brethren was to the effect that He should go up with them to the feast. Jesus contents Himself with repressing this assumption. If He had said, “Not now, but after some days,” they might surely have imagined that their representations had produced some effect upon Him. It was precisely in the same way that our Lord acted towards His mother, who would have intruded into the matters of His vocation. He did not say to her that He would presently accomplish what she wished. How little merely “diplomatic” criticism avails generally, is shown herein particular. Instead of οὐ?κ before ἀ?ναβαίνω , “the reading of most authorities” is οὔ?πω . But this reading is manifestly an intentional change, introduced by such as thought they could thereby obviate the seeming contradiction upon which Porphyry and others had laid so much stress, charging the Lord with uncertainty and caprice. Οὔ?πω does not harmonize with what precedes. If the Lord had intended definitely to intimate that He would go up later to the feast, He would have said, as we may suppose, “Go ye up now to this feast.” If we take into consideration the whole position in which the brethren stood with regard to Jesus, the style in which He spoke to them from the beginning, we shall be very far from thinking that He made them partakers of His secret, and admitted them to a privity with His design of going up at a later season to the feast. Such a confidence they had not deserved. He that exalteth himself shall be abased. Accordingly, we can do justice to the notion that there is here another specimen of John’s want of precision in language; and to Chrysostom’s supplementary νῦ?ν μεθʼ? ὑ?μῶ?ν .
Ver. 9. “When He had said these words unto them. He abode still in Galilee. 10. But when His brethren were gone up, then went He also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.”
That Jesus went up afterwards to the feast had no reference to the law of the Old Testament, from which He, as the Son of God, was free; comp. on ch. John 2:12. The right point of view is that from which the brethren spoke. Jesus must manifest Himself unto the world. That Jesus did not set out until after His brethren, was, as it were, another way of saying “not openly.” The great mass of the people who went to the feast, entered Jerusalem before the first and great day of the festival. But this is not enough for the full explanation of the “not openly,” etc. Jesus left His brethren behind, in order not to appear surrounded by the whole body of His Apostles, an accompaniment that could not fail to excite attention; and then He did not choose the ordinary way of the pilgrims, which led from Galilee through Perea, but took His own course through Samaria. The difficulties which encountered Him on this road, Luke 9:51, etc., must have deterred most pilgrims. The way through Perea was, while somewhat farther, very much more pleasant. The ὡ?ς softens the ἐ?ν κρυπτῷ? . His journey only resembled one that was private: the same softening force of the ὡ?ς we meet with often elsewhere in the Gospel,—e.g. ch. John 1:40, John 11:18. To travel in perfect incognito would have been inconsistent with Christ’s dignity. Publicity was avoided, only so far as was required by His aim to avoid exciting any great stir, and to suppress all suspicion that He was thinking of the establishment of a kingdom.
Ver. 11. “Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, Where is he?”
The Jews are not here placed in antithesis to the multitude of ver. 12; but the Ἰ?ουδαῖ?οι represent the whole of the people, including the rulers, while the ὄ?χλοι designate a particular portion of the people, the multitude in opposition to the rulers. And since we are not justified in making the Jews here specifically the rulers, or generally those who were unfriendly to Jesus, we cannot understand the ἐ?κεῖ?νος , He, in a contemptuous sense. It was said with a different feeling, by different people, with different tendencies. Ἐ?κεῖ?νος occurs sometimes with an emphatic meaning, as “the celebrated, the illustrious one” (Buttmann, S. u. K.). Jesus was regarded as a prominent personage by all parties. The thoughts of all factions and sects were deeply stirred concerning Him. Ἐ?κεῖ?νος , which occurs in this Gospel remarkably often, no less than seventy times, occurs thrice in the Apocalypse. This may at the first glance seem strange; but it is the same with οὗ?τος , which is only found twice in the Apocalypse. Hence we see that the difference must be explained by the generic difference in the kind of writing, and learn how little is to be gained by a merely mechanical study in this department of criticism.
Ver. 12. “And there was much murmuring among the people concerning Him: for some said. He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people. 13. Howbeit no man spake openly of Him for fear of the Jews.”
Why it was only a murmuring, we learn from ver. 13. The παρρησία , which is denied, there forms the counterpart of the γογγυσμός here. They did not dare to represent aloud and boldly their opinions, because the legitimate authorities had given no definitive utterance. Even they who felt in unison with the generally known enmity of the rulers, shrank from bluntly avowing their sentiments: partly because a change of mind on the part of the rulers was possible (comp. ver. 26); partly, and especially, because a vigorous assertion of open opinion, as such, and apart from the substance of that opinion, would have been regarded as an aggression upon the domain of the Pharisaic omnipotence. The people were not supposed to form any independent judgment. If the Pharisees had allowed that public sentiment to express itself when favourable to themselves, they would have exposed themselves to the effects of all the capricious changes to which that public sentiment was liable. So in our earlier empire, oppressed by the burden of despotism, political movements in favour of the government were no more open or tolerated than those which were opposed to it. The spiritual slavery in which the Pharisaic party held the people, is illustrated here in a very remarkable manner. That even the pharisaically-minded did not dare to give free utterance to their thoughts, is a circumstance that could not have been invented; it is a trait which was derived only from reality. The testimony of Josephus agrees perfectly in the general with our view of the Pharisaic oppressions; e.g. in the work on the Jewish War, I. v. 2, he says of Alexandria: “She ruled the rest, and the Pharisees ruled her.” They had all things in their hand; they persecuted and delivered, they bound and loosed whom they would. According to the Archaeol. 18. 1. 2, among the Pharisees themselves the younger durst not contradict the elder.
Good is often used in the Old Testament for well-disposed. So, in 1 Samuel 2:26, it is said of Samuel. In Proverbs 2:20; Proverbs 14:29, the good are parallel with the righteous. In Ecclesiastes 9:2, the good as such are opposed to the sinners. On the “he deceiveth the people,” Lampe remarks: “They thus justify their scheming to put Jesus to death, because such seducers of the people were adjudged by the law to die, Deuteronomy 13:6.” Augustine: Dictum est hoc ad eorum solatium, qui postea praedicantes verbum Dei, futuri erant ut seductores et veraces, 2 Corinthians 6:8.
For fear of the Jews: The Individual was afraid of the Whole. The term Jews here also signifies the mass of the people; but the Pharisees, especially the rulers, were the soul of this mass. Fear of the Jews was the power which restrained the tongues of the well-disposed: testimony also how far from consummate was the faith of these likewise. Perfect faith casts out fear.
Ver. 14. “Now, about the midst of the feast, Jesus went up into the temple, and taught.”
Quesnel: “Here, then, the moment was come, the crisis appointed of the Father, which Jesus waited for, that He might declare Himself to the priests.” It does not mean literally the midmost day of the feast: all the days were “in the midst of the feast,” which fell between the first and the last. Bengel supposes,, that the day on which Jesus entered into the temple to teach was a Sabbath: Die Sabbati frequens proe coeteris medii festi dieus erat auditorium, et opportunus de Sabbato sermo, ver. 22.
Ver. 15. “And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters (Scripture), having never learned? Γράμματα , of themselves, meant the sciences, literoe generally; and the term owed its use to the fact that writings, read and written, were the foundation of all learning. Acts 26:24. But, because among the Jews all science had reference to holy Scripture, the word γράμματα here is in reality identical with the ἱ?ερὰ? γράμματα of 2 Timothy 3:15. The “having never learned,” had, so to speak, an official meaning: “inasmuch as he has never been in our high schools;” for only in these, according to the common opinion of the time, could any real knowledge be obtained (Cod. Sota in Lampe: Etsi quis in Scriptura et Mischna versatus est, neque tamen sapientibus operam dedit, is plebeius est). That Jesus had never frequented those schools, they very well knew; for he was a well-known person, ch. John 6:41 (Grotius: Nemo proeceptorum in discipilorum suorum grege eum viderat). The marvelling (comp. Acts 4:13) could have existed only if they failed to recognise who Jesus was. It must cease as soon as they should recognise in Christ the true Son of God. But, on the other hand, their marvelling might become the way and preparation for faith. Therefore our Lord offers them the key for the explanation of the wonderful fact.
Ver. 16. “Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me.”
We have to compare Deuteronomy 18:18, where God says, concerning the great Prophet afterwards to be sent, “I will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak unto them all that I shall command Him.” If that prophecy were here fulfilled, the fact must lose all its strangeness.
Ver. 17. “If any man will do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself.” What Jesus said in ver. 18 was not a mere assertion. We may discern the reason of it in this, that it would make the fact of ver. 15 self-intelligible,—a fact for which the Jews, as their marvelling showed, had at least no other explanation. However, it was only appropriate that other evidence should also be appealed to. And foremost among other demonstrations must be this, that the Divine mission of Jesus approved itself to every one who was found walking in God’s ways. To do the will of God, is only another expression for that which is recorded in Luke 1:6 of Zachariah and Elisabeth: “They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” Doing the will of God cannot refer to any particular point; it embraces the whole domain of morals, and especially the grander mental requirements of the love of God and man. We may compare, in the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 10:12, “And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul?” and Micah 6:8, “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” In the New Testament, see Matthew 7:21, and ver. 23, where ἐ?ργαζόμενοι τὴ?ν ἀ?νομίαν is the antithesis of doing the will of the Father in heaven; John 12:50; Luke 12:47; John 9:31, where to have the fear of God and doing His will are connected; and 1 Thessalonians 4:3. In Ephesians 2:3, the opposite of doing the will of God is doing the will of the flesh and of the mind. It is not said simply, “he that doeth the will of God,” but “he that willeth to do the will of God.” If it be so that the doing is impaired by much imperfection, yet the fundamental direction of the will must tend to perfect conformity with the will of God; the law of God must be the joy and delight of the heart; and to satisfy its requirements must be its meditation day and night: comp. Psalms 1:2; Psalms 119. The emphasis laid upon the willing here is opposed to the emphasis laid upon knowing by the Jews of that day. The prerogative of the Jews to be monopolists of the knowledge of the will of God, was set aside. Beyond that, there must be the most decisive inclination to do the will of God when known; the will of man must entirely and absolutely coincide with the will of God. The mere concert between knowledge and the will of God is an insufficient harmony. Anton: “He who would cultivate the γνῶ?ναι (understanding), must also learn to amend his θέλειν , his willing. He who omits this latter, has nothing but a blind, foolish, evil-disposed nature. The people act as if they could not understand such things. It were better if they said. We will not understand them.” Calvin points to the fact, that the words contain a concealed condemnation of those who heard, a disclosure of the secret perverseness, etc., of their disposition, which kept them from access to Christ: Uno simul oblique illos perstringet. Nam unde fit, ut discernere nequeant, nisi quod rectae intelligentiae caput ipsos deficit, pietas scil. et studium obsequendi Deo. They came with a long series of stately arguments against Christ. He points to the fact, that all that was mere hypocrisy and idle words. The real reason of their conduct lay in the evil disposition of their hearts. Grotius: Sicut oculi de coloribus tum demum recte judicant, cum nullo pravo humore suffusi sunt. To the willing to do the will of God in this passage, corresponds, in ch. John 8:47, the being of God. He whose will coincides with the will of God, is of God, because such harmony can be found only in a spirit to which God has communicated Himself. The antithesis of willing to do the will of God, is the working evil of ch. John 3:20, with which the doing the truth of ver. 21 is parallel. To be willing to do the will of God, was a state and condition possible only within the limits of the covenant people. Only to them was opportunity afforded of knowing that will; of attaining that knowledge which is necessarily presupposed in the being willing to do it. Comp. Romans 2:18, γινώσκεις τὸ? θέλημα . . . κατηχούμενος ἐ?κ τοῦ? νόμου : only under the law are those higher influences felt which can evoke that willingness; comp. on ch. John 3:21. The Gentiles, after the example of Cornelius, could attain to that willing readiness only through connection with the covenant people.
Whosoever would lead souls to Christ—this is the practical result of our passage—should not tarry long about the specious arguments with which the natural man seeks to disguise the hateful perversion of his state of will; he should, above all things, strive to excite this willingness to do the will of God. Knowledge will then spring up of itself; the man will then be ashamed of the hypocrisy and the delusion by which he sought to transfer the purely subjective guilt of his opposition from himself to the object of his opposition. But why is it that the divinity of the doctrine of Christ is at once to be perceived, when there is simply a sincere will to do the will of God? The will of God is, for example, that man should perceive his misery and seek the forgiveness of his sins. Whoever has hidden this will of God in his heart, will with great joy receive the doctrine of Christ concerning His own eternal divinity, and the atonement which has its foundation in that divinity. Whosoever. on the contrary, gilds his own misery, and indulges in pride, must by this teaching of Christ be offended in the inmost secret of his soul. The will of God is, that we should love Him with all our soul, and with all the powers of our being. He who desires to fulfil this will, must with rejoicing seek the way to Christ, in order to find in Him the death of his lusts and passions, which the love of God must mortify and destroy. He, on the other hand, who is untroubled about the will of God, nourishes and cherishes these lusts and passions, and thereby loses the very key to the doctrine of Christ: he cannot make a beginning with Jesus, whose high utterances concerning Himself seem to him no better than mere pretensions. As the exemplar of perfection, as the living ideal of holiness, Christ must be dear and precious to all who desire to do the will of God; to all who desire it not, He must be hateful. He not only bears witness by His word; He testifies by His whole being against the world, that the works thereof are evil, ver. 7. He who will do these works must make it his great endeavour to disembarrass himself of that burdensome testimony, of that fatal embodiment of his conscience, by discrediting the witness to whom the homines bonoe voluntatis look up with hearty and longing love. That holds good in the fullest degree which was said in Wisd. of Sol. ch. John 2:12-14, concerning the relation of the ungodly to the ideal person of the righteous,—an ideal which was realized first in Christ: “Let us lie in wait for the righteous; because he is not for our turn, and he is clean contrary to our doings: he upbraideth us with our offending the law, and objecteth to our infamy the transgressings of our education. He professeth to have the knowledge of God; and he calleth himself the child of the Lord. He was made to reprove our thoughts.” In the discourses of Christ the old man is everywhere drawn out of his hiding-place, and exhibited in all his abominable vileness. Take, for example, the Sermon on the Mount, the conversation with Nicodemus, or ch. 6, where Jesus makes all life depend on the eating of His flesh and blood, and thus absolutely decrees the natural man to death. This is very agreeable to all those who will to do the will of God, and who therefore—what is inseparably bound up with the other—hate the old man. But, on the other hand, it offends and exasperates those whose desire is to abide in the old nature of the old man. “New birth,”—how hateful a word to the natural man!
This saying further shows what we must think of those who oppose “morality “to faith in the historical Christ. Every man is immoral or unmoral in the same degree as he is estranged from faith in the “historical Christ.” The virtues in which he probably seems to be rich, become, when closely scanned, shining sins. What Bengel says is true: Patris doctrina et filii doctrina eadem. Qui ergo consensionem cum voluntate Patris habet, doctrinam Filii agnoscet.
Ver. 18. “He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.”
In formal connection with the “of myself” in ver. 17, the Lord points to a second way in which conviction of the divinity of His mission may be obtained. What was meant by seeking his own honour, the rulers of the Jews might discern in themselves, and all the rest of the Jews in the rulers. The receiving honours one of another, and not seeking the honour that comes from God alone, ch. John 5:44, comp. John 12:43, was then, as it is in all times of apostasy, when the love of God has grown cold, a fearfully wasting disease. Even His enemies were constrained to bear testimony to the Saviour, that this disease was not in Him. “Master,” said the Pharisees, in Matthew 22:16, to Jesus, “we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man; for thou regardest not the person of men;” probably with allusion to the very words of Christ in our present passage. That Jesus did not seek His own honour, but the honour of Him that sent Him, had from the beginning been confirmed by the relation which He had assumed towards the powers that regulated the popular life. This relation was that of the most express and unflinching opposition. But he who would receive honour must give honour, must flatter the spirit of the times, and must humble himself before its most prominent leaders and representatives. Had Jesus so acted, the Jews would never have sought to put Him to death. The saying before us gives us the standard by which all the ministers of the Church are now and ever to be judged. In its sense Paul says, 1 Thessalonians 2:4, “We thus speak, not as pleasing men, but God;” and in Galatians 1:10, “If I yet please men, I should not be the servant of Christ.”
The opposite of the truth is the lie, 1 John 2:27. The opposite of the true man is the liar and the deceiver: comp. 2 Corinthians 6:8, ὡ?ς πλάνοι καὶ? ἀ?ληθεῖ?ς , as deceivers and yet true, Matthew 27:63. Not to be true is, at the same time, unrighteousness, since truth is an obligation to our neighbour, especially in religious concerns, where salvation and perdition are involved: comp. Isaiah 41:26, where he that speaketh the truth is defined to be a righteous man.
Ver. 19. “Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill Me?”
The Lord, after He had adduced the evidences of His own Divine mission, occupies Himself with obviating the objection against it which had been derived from His violation of the Sabbath commandment; comp. ch. John 5:9: He that places himself in opposition to Moses, cannot be of God. The Lord formally meets the charge by a countercharge. Those who set Moses against Him, were themselves in gross discord with Moses. But vers. 21-24 show very plainly that the countercharge is only matter of form, and that the Lord’s real object was to obviate the objection. With the “Moses gave you the law,” we may compare Deuteronomy 33:4, “Moses commanded us a law,” where Moses himself speaks of himself, making himself objective from the position of the people. “None of you keepeth the law,” becomes positive, and is proved, in what follows: “Why go ye about to kill Me?” The expression was not one of hyperbole. The guilt was in the most proper sense a national one, in which individual men either actively participated, or passively by indifference and non-intervention. If the spirit of the law had been living and active in them, all Israel would, as in Judges 20:1, have risen up as one man against such blasphemy. “Thou shalt not kill,” was a commandment which made its strong appeal so soon as it became clear, as what followed made it clear, that the charge brought against Christ so vehemently was an unfounded charge. The law everywhere breathes the deadliest abhorrence of murder. “Keep thou far from a false matter,” we read in Exodus 23:7, “and the innocent and righteous slay thou not.” According to Deuteronomy 19:10, the innocent blood which was shed in the land of the Lord brought bloodguiltiness upon all the people. Just at the threshold of the giving of the law, Cain’s act was exhibited as a warning example to inspire horror. But here the theory in question was not murder in its ordinary form; the matter concerned was the entering into a murderous combination against Him in reference to whom Moses had said in the early revelation, “Whosoever will not hearken unto My words which He shall speak in My name, I will require it of him,” Deuteronomy 18:19. A more direct and determinate opposition to Moses could not be imagined.
Ver. 20. “The people answered and said. Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?”
The multitude did not speak thus out of ignorance of the rulers designs: that they sought to kill Jesus was a notorious fact; comp. ver. 25, on which Anton says: “God ordained it that these should presently come and say. Is not this he whom they seek to kill? These blab out their secret, so that they are straightway convicted, and are made αὐ?τοκατάκριτοι . They would not say it in words, but it is seen as clear as day.” That is the way of the world: plain facts, which on other occasions they are proud of, they shrink from and disguise when they are alleged as charges from which they cannot otherwise escape. “Thou hast a devil,” was the chorus of the Jews when they were pierced in their consciences, and had no other means of defence at hand: comp. ch. John 8:48; John 8:52, John 10:20. There they said, “He hath a devil, and is mad.” This passage, however (comparing ver. 21), shows that it was not a mere phrase when the Jews declared Jesus to be possessed by an unclean spirit. In any case he was in a disturbed condition of mind; but they attributed the disturbance to possession by an evil spirit. The very wickedness of this allegation shows that the “people” here are not to be regarded as the opposite of the “Jews;” we must not suppose that they were well affected, and unacquainted with the murderous designs of the rulers,—against which notion vers. 21 seq. are also decisive. “A preacher,” says Quesnel, “must not expect to find himself justified before the people of the world. The most moderate complaint is, in their view, a new offence.”
Ver. 21. “Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel thereat.”
Jesus ignores their interruption (Grotius: When He was reviled. He reviled not again, 1 Peter 2:23, ad convitium docendo respondet), to show that it had nothing to do with the matter, and was a mere evasion. He gives the ground of His countercharge, and at the same time removes the charge out of the way. “One work;” that is, which comes into consideration with regard to the question then before them. Amongst so many excellent works which Jesus had shown them from the Father (ch. John 10:32), there was but one upon which they could found their charge: all the others were, by their silent admission, unimpeachable. The very fact of this matter of offence being an isolated case, made it extremely probable that the offence was only assumed. Θαυμάζειν here signifies an angry astonishment: comp. the ἐ?μοὶ? χολᾶ?τε , Are ye angry at Me? in the following verse. Διὰ? τοῦ?το was by the fathers almost universally connected with the next verse; and this has found, even in modern times, some defenders, who appeal to the fact that John always elsewhere uses θαυμάζειν either absolutely or with the mere accusative, and that he is in the habit of beginning and not closing a sentence with διὰ? τοῦ?το ,—reasons which, as being merely empirical, have no decisive force. These facts do no more than establish the rule; they do not exclude exceptions to it. But, in itself, the connection of διὰ? τοῦ?το with what follows is not inadmissible. It would then express that the allusion in vers. 22, 23 referred to the objection taken by the Jews: “Therefore know ye, or, I say unto you.” In this sense διὰ? τοῦ?το is used in Matthew 18:23: διὰ? τοῦ?το (λέγω ὑ?μῖ?ν ὡ?μοιώθη ἡ? βασιλεία τῶ?ν οὐ?ρανῶ?ν . But the connection with what precedes, as first recommended by Theophylact, is most obvious; especially when we observe that in Mark 6:6 θαυμάζειν is used with διὰ? : comp. τί θαυμάζετε ἐ?πὶ? τούτῳ? , Acts 3:12. Decisive in favour of this connection is ch. John 5:16, διὰ? τοῦ?το ἐ?δίωκον τὸ?ν Ἰ?ησοῦ?ν οἱ? Ἰ?ουδαῖ?οι ; and ver. 18, διὰ? τοῦ?το οὖ?ν μᾶ?λλον ἐ?ζήτουν αὐ?τὸ?ν οἱ? Ἰ?ουδαῖ?οι ἀ?ποκτεῖ?ναι , where διὰ? τοῦ?το refers, as it does in our present passage, to the position which the Jews occupied towards Christ as the result of this work. The assertion, that “John inexactly introduces the ὄ?χλος as receiving the answer, whereas the discourse continues addressed to the rulers,” rests upon the unfounded distinction, in ver. 15, between the “people” and the “Jews.”
Ver. 22. “Moses gave you circumcision; not that it is of Moses, but of the fathers; and ye on the Sabbath-day circumcise a man.”
We read in Leviticus 12:3, in an ordinance connected with the uncleanness of women: “And on the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.” But this simple mention in passing, Christ could not certainly have had in His eye. He pointed rather to the communication of the institution of circumcision in the course of Moses history. Now the institution was part of the Torah, the Law. And, after the law was given, the obligation of circumcision was based upon that law; so much so, that it would not have been binding if it had not been found in the Torah. This was the codification of all the revelations of God. Whatever, in the pre-Mosaic times, had permanent significance, must needs be taken up into the Mosaic law. And in this sense it might be said that circumcision was of Moses. Since the time of Moses it might be said to have been given by him. But the reason of its being here referred to Moses was, that Moses was here brought into the lists as against Christ. This same Moses, by the law of circumcision, invaded the Sabbath. According to the law, circumcision must always take place on the eighth day; it must therefore, under some circumstances, come into collision with the Sabbath. Consequently, the Lord showed that the Sabbath commandment must be taken with some allowance; that the ordinance was directed against selfishness, which would turn everything to personal advantage, and not against the help and labour of charity. But in an historical interest, and probably with a glance at the adversaries, and their question, “How knoweth this man the Scripture, having never learned?” (they would have been very well pleased if they could have alleged against Him even the semblance of ignorance in this matter), it is further said, that the reference of circumcision to Moses was not intended to deny its patriarchal derivation. To make the reason of the parenthetical clause this, that the value of circumcision was enhanced by its greater age, is out of the question. “Not that” stands for “the matter is not as if” (οὐ?χ οἷ?ον , Romans 9:6): comp. Php_4:11 ; Php_4:17 ; John 6:46; 2 Corinthians 1:24. Against the supposition that “I say, I think “is to be implied (Winer), the passage first quoted is decisive. Ἐ?κ serves to define the originator. Circumcision goes back to God; but primarily it was introduced into Israel by the patriarchs, who, on the ground of the Divine appointment, impressed upon their descendants the inviolable observance of this rite.
Ver. 23. “If a man on the Sabbath-day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken, are ye angry at Me because I have made a man every whit whole on the Sabbath-day?” Kurtz rightly observes (Hist. of the Old Cov. i. 238, Clark’s Transl.): “Circumcision, which is to remove the growth of nature—that which is unholy and impure—from the principle and source of life, is, so to speak, to extend its power and influence through all the ramifications of life. It implies the obligation of withdrawing all the other relations of life from the dominion of nature, of circumcising the foreskin of the heart, of the lips, of the ear, etc.;” and we would add—what is the main concern, for the obligation is only secondary—assumes and confirms a state of grace to that end: comp. Deuteronomy 30:6. Meanwhile, true as this is, by circumcision only that individual member was primarily healed on which it was performed, and the selection of which is explained by Psalms 51:7, Job 14:4. It was translated from the natural condition of impurity (the Sept. render, in Leviticus 19:23, ערלה , foreskin, by ἀ?καθρσία ; according to the Arabic, this was the fundamental meaning of ערל : comp. Gesenius in the Thesaurus, sub voce) into that of purity, of ἁ?γιασμός and of τιμῇ? , 1 Thessalonians 4:4. But the healing act of Jesus referred directly to the whole man. We must not, however, infer from the juxtaposition of circumcision and the physical healing of Jesus, that circumcision also had a physically sanitary significance: the point of comparison is more general than that. Circumcision bears in the law a purely religious character. The sanitary use of it was an invention of later times, in order to obviate the mockery of those who would not admit its religious character.
Ver. 24. “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” Ὄ?ψιν—which in the New Testament John alone uses, ch. John 11:44, Revelation 1:16—signifies, in his phraseology, only the countenance. And that this meaning must be adhered to here, is shown by the original passage of the Old Testament, Leviticus 19:15, “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment; thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour;” and Deuteronomy 1:17, “Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great;” Deuteronomy 16:19; Malachi 2:9. To the κρίνειν κατʼ? ὄ?ψιν here corresponds the βλέπειν εἰ?ς πρόσωπον ἀ?νθρώπων , in Mark 12:14. The countenance represents the person as such. They had judged according to the countenance, when they had shunned to come forward against Moses with his beaming face; but, on the other hand, they condemned Christ, standing before them in humble guise, “without form and beauty.” The second part of the saying rests upon Zechariah 7:9, “Judge the judgment of truth;” Sept. κρίμα δίκαιον κρίνατε . Anton is perfectly right in saying, moreover, that the real reason of their hard judgment of Christ was not zeal for the law: “The people cared nothing here for the law. The mask is put on with great readiness, only for the sake of escaping, and keeping Christ far enough off.”
Vers. 25, 26. “Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he whom they seek to kill? But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?”
They of Jerusalem are not placed here in opposition or antithesis to the Jews of ver. 15, or the multitude of ver. 20; but John points to the fact, that Jesus in the whole of this scene had to do mainly with inhabitants of Jerusalem. It was quite natural that these should play the primas partes in a gathering within the temple; especially at the Feast of Tabernacles, to which the strangers came up in much smaller numbers than to the Passover. The allegation in ver. 19 applies rather to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Before a Galilean public Jesus would certainly not have uttered it in so general terms; but in capital cities sin is wont to become concentred, and to come earlier to its maturity: comp. Micah 1:5; Isaiah 1:21. So with the gross δαιμόνιον ἔ?χεις . Ἀ?ληθῶ?ς , actually, indicates that the matter was hardly credible; and to this corresponds the following verse.
Ver. 27. “But we know this man whence he is: but when Christ Cometh, no man knoweth whence He is.”
We are not to suppose that they would maintain the rejection of Christ even against the rulers; but they adduce a reason to prove the impossibility of the assumption that the rulers had acknowledged Jesus as Christ. The words “no man knoweth whence He is,” cannot certainly have been intended to deny the derivation of the Messiah from David and from Bethlehem; that was too expressly attested by the Scripture, and recognised by the whole nation: comp. ver. 42; Matthew 2:5-6. They intimate, in perfect harmony with the Old Testament, that the Messiah had, besides His historical origin and life, a supernatural manner of existence; and that there was something in His manifestation which should absolutely transcend all human elements, and be past reduction to human standards. A manifestation or personality concerning which no man knows whence it is, must be such as goes absolutely beyond the region of natural causes and effects; and it is thus that the Messiah was always exhibited in the prophecies of the Old Testament: e.g. in Micah, ch. John 5:4, we read, “And He shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God;” in Isaiah 9:6 He receives the high names, “Wonderful, Counsellor, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace;” in Zechariah 9:10 He is represented as “ruling from sea to sea, and from the rivers to the ends of the earth;” according to Daniel 7:13, He cometh with the clouds of heaven; and according to Malachi 3:1, as the Lord to His temple. Of this wonderful nature, not explicable according to natural causes, they could not discern the mystery. All appeared to them to be after the ordinary manner, and even to fall below the highest standard of mortal greatness: comp. ch. John 6:62. The only failure in their reasoning was this, that they were utterly incapable of detecting His concealed glory. What they sought must have been there, and was there; but they lacked, through their guilt, the eye to perceive it. (Luther: “They must know, indeed, that He would have a marvellous course, as His mother had been a marvellous woman, and He had had a strange and marvellous advent.”) This concealment of the glory of Christ was as abundantly declared in prophecy as its reality was. We read in Isaiah 53:2: “He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.” This concealment of His glory was necessary, in order that the heart alone might be able to find Him, and they might be kept from Him whose eyes had not been opened by a burning desire for salvation. So God conceals Himself in nature, that He may in nature be found only by those who seek Him. In reference to the cause of the offence which the Jews here took, Anton well remarks: “If all came from this, that these men would not give themselves thorough pains about the Messiah. They thought, if He comes, He comes; if we get to know Him, we get to know Him. If anything depends upon it, it will be sure to come. And yet they said, each one, I have done my part; I have stood there a quarter of an hour, and yet I have not been able to lay hold of it! Yea, verily, it was only right that thou shouldst not lay hold of it. Bow down thy knees, deal with God as God. Thou hast no earnestness, no humility, and no perseverance.”
Ver. 28. “Then cried Jesus in the temple, as He taught, saying. Ye both know Me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of Myself, but He that sent Me is true, whom ye know not.
Ver. 29. But I know Him: for I am from Him, and He hath sent Me.”
In the first Gospels Jesus only once cries: His last cry upon the cross, Matthew 27:50; Mark 15:37. The affectionate John, especially adapted by his own tenderness for the expression of passion, often mentions the crying of Jesus: comp. ver. 37, ch. John 12:44; and, in harmony with this, the Angel in the Revelation, who represents Jesus, is introduced often as crying aloud, ch. John 7:2, John 10:3, John 18:2. Anton justly says: “A pitiful and piercing cry. Thus did the Lord pour out His grief at their blinded condition and dark conduct,” It is the same passion which is heard in the words, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” etc.—“Ye know Me, and whence I am.” Jesus simply repeats the words of His adversaries, that He may connect with them the direct opposite. In substance it is equivalent to, “ye think or assert that ye know Me, and know whence I am.” We must not suppose, with many expositors, that Jesus here attributes to His opponents an external knowledge of Himself. How much such an exposition must insinuate into the words, Augustine shows. The Jews had pretended absolutely to know Jesus. Had opposition to this been intended, the limitation of their knowledge to its own narrow sphere would have been more definitely expressed.—“And I am not come of Myself.” They restricted Christ entirely to the earth; on the other hand. He maintains His own divine mission. “But He that sent Me is true.” Ἀ?ληθινός , true, points to the fact that in God there is no distinction between idea and actuality—that with Him there is no mere semblance. But God would enter into the mere domain of semblance, of truthless and unreal being, if Christ were not sent of Him; for He had by His works impressed upon Him His seal. Instead of ἀ?ληθινός , we might read ἀ?ληθής . If God is not ἀ?ληθής , He ceases to be ἀ?ληθινός for only the God who practises truth is the true God. The reference to the legitimation of His pretensions by act, as it is contained in these words, sets aside the semblance of Christ’s having opposed an assertion by an assertion. Christ is wont to appeal to this actual warranty of facts, when His opponents limit Him to earth, and deny His connection with heaven: comp. ch. John 5:36, “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;” and ch. John 6:27, “For Him hath God the Father sealed;” ch. John 10:25; John 10:32, John 14:11, John 15:24; 1 John 5:10.
In the words, “whom ye know not,” many think they find a reason assigned why the Jews knew not Christ. Calvin: Significat non mirum esse, si notus Judaeis non sit, qui Deum ignorant: nam hoc est recte sapiendi initium, in Deum respicere. Others unfold the meaning thus: That they know not God they show by this, that they know not Him whom God hath sent, although they falsely pretend to know Him. We cannot know God without at the same time knowing Christ. But it is better to explain it thus: Whom ye know not, because ye, by rejecting Him whom God hath sent, have broken down the bridge; and thus the words declare the sad and tragical result of the misknowledge of Christ. To this points ch. John 8:19: “Ye neither know Me nor My Father: if ye had known Me, ye would have known My Father also.” Comp. on ch. John 5:37, John 1:18, John 6:46, John 14:6; Matthew 11:27. We cannot err touching Christ without at the same time erring concerning God, and thus becoming godless. This is the deadly abyss into which those are plunged who thoughtlessly separate themselves from Christ. Rationalism has had to find this true, even as Judaism had. Like Judaism, it wanted to hold fast God, while it abandoned the historical Christ. Like Judaism, it assumed the guise of turning away from Christ out of love to God. But how quickly did it tread the path from Deism to Pantheism and Atheism; to show that the God whom it opposed to Christ, was in truth God no more.
In the “I know Him, for I am from Him, and He hath sent Me,” lies the reason of the fact, that the failure to know Christ, on the part of the Jews, had for its lamentable result the failure to know God. No man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal Him.
Ver. 30. “Then they sought to take Him: but no man laid hands on Him, because His hour was not yet come.”
The Jews were exasperated because Christ absolutely denied to them, but appropriated Himself, God; that God whose interests and affairs they asserted to be in their hands. Πιάσαι , to seize, is the watchword of the Jews throughout this entire section, vers. 32, 44, John 8:20, John 10:39, John 11:57. Matthew and Mark have instead κρατεῖ?ν , which John does not use with such a meaning. Revelation 19:20 connects its phraseology with this of the Gospel. There the beast was taken who trod in the Jews footsteps in the endeavour to take Christ (in His members). On “His hour was not yet come,” comp. ch. John 2:4, John 7:6. Here the connection shows that the hour was the time for Jesus to be seized: comp. ch. John 18:12. “His hour was not yet come,” is said again in ch. John 8:20. The words are supremely full of comfort for all the servants of Christ: as they could not touch a hair of the Masters head, so they cannot touch a hair of the servants head until their hour is come. If this be so, they may be of good courage. And even when their hour is come, they are not in the hands of men, but in the hands of God. It is quite alien and inappropriate to say, that “the fear of that portion of the people who were more friendly to Jesus restrained His enemies.” What restrained them was rather the fidelity of their own consciences, under a Divine influence. When the hour was come, God caused that Divine influence to cease, and said again, as He said before the flood, “My Spirit shall no longer judge in man.” Then they seized and killed Christ, and in Him themselves.
Ver. 31. “And many of the people believed on Him, and said, When Christ cometh, will He do more miracles than these which this man hath done?
Amidst the waste of unbelief there was a refreshing breath of faith; a pledge for the Church of all ages, that her work shall never be entirely lost, that she never need say, “I have laboured in vain, and spent my strength for nought and in vain.” Humiles et pauperes salvos faciebat Dominus, says Augustine; He saved them then, and will save them in all ages. “Therefore we should scatter the seed, and patiently wait until in the course of time the fruit appears” (Calvin). The “many” here were the men who had the right will in ch. John 7:17. The conclusion of their argument was: “This must then be the Christ;” and in their speaking of Christ as yet to come, they place themselves in the position of the gainsayers: comp. ver. 27. The fact that Christ, when He should come, could do no greater works than His, was the proof to them that He must have already come.
Ver. 32. “The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning Him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him.”
The Pharisees are placed at the head, because the spiritual impulse proceeded from them; the high priests follow, because the sending was their official prerogative: the ἀ?ρχιερεῖ?ς , the high priests, with the other most eminent priests, the presidents of the classes of the priesthood, as the most prominent members of the high council. In ver. 45 the order is inverted. So also in ch. John 11:57. In ch. John 12:10, we have merely the ἀ?ρχιερεῖ?ς . The more concise specification of the council is found only exceptionally in the first Gospels: Mark 14:10, where the fuller description had just preceded, and John 15:10-11; Luke 23:4; Luke 23:23. The more full designation is throughout the common one.
Ver. 33. “Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto Him that sent Me. 34. Ye shall seek Me, and shall not find Me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come.”
Our Lord’s words are not addressed to the servants of the high priests, but—on occasion of the mission horn them, thus announced—to those with whom all has here to do, “the Jews,” “the people,” representing the whole mass. This is shown by the words, pointing to the people generally, “am I with you,” “ye shall seek Me.” He gives them to understand how foolish it was that they should not better use His now brief presence with them; that they should desire to put away from them Him who would quite soon enough leave them, removing from them with Himself all salvation, so that they should have abundant reason in painful longing to wish Him back again. (Grotius: Renuntiaturus legatiouem, quasi dicat: videte quomodo tractandus sit vobis legatus.) In the words, “ye shall seek Me, and shall not find Me,” we are directed first to Amos 8:12, “They shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it,” though they were then driving the prophet of God with contumely out of the land. Then to Proverbs 1:28, where Solomon makes insulted Wisdom say, “Then (when the consequences of their contempt fall upon them) shall they call, and I will not answer; they shall seek Me, and shall not find Me.” (Michaelis: Supponuntur autem hic, qui nonnisi ex sensu incumbentis mali, a quo liberari velint, sapientiam quaerunt. Si enim sincere ac serio quaererent, inventuri omnino essent. Ewald: In vers. 28-31, it is said that they shall in the hour of danger diligently seek despised wisdom; but, because they seek merely in anxiety and confusion, to no purpose.) The words, “they that seek me shall find me,” Proverbs 8:17, cannot be fulfilled here, because the seeking was not genuine. The passage in Proverbs is brought into still plainer parallel with this in John, when we observe that the Wisdom there spoken of is personal, the Angel of the Lord, who appeared incarnate in Christ: comp. on ch. 1. The passage is not at all appropriate to wisdom in the abstract. All points to a person who can both help and destroy. And that Christ refers specifically to this passage is all the more obvious, because He is elsewhere exhibited as Wisdom manifest in the flesh. Then we must compare also ch. John 5:2 seq. of the Song of Solomon. The bride, the daughter of Sion, had refused or delayed to admit the bridegroom, the heavenly Solomon: when she would afterwards open to him, it is too late—he is gone; she cannot find him, but the watchmen find her—the ministers of the Divine anger. It is said in ver. 6, “I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone; I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.” That we must not limit the quotation to Proverbs 1:28, but must include the passage in the Song of Solomon, is shown by the ὑ?πάγω , I go away, 1 withdraw, borrowed from it: this word in John’s account of the discourses of our Lord is so frequently repeated, and made so deeply emphatic, that we cannot but look for some Old Testament original of it. (Lampe remarks: “Familiare est nostro Evangelistae ὑ?πάγειν de exitu Christi”) Jesus thus declares Himself to be the bridegroom of the Canticles, and the Jewish Church to be the bride.
The notion that the seeking and not finding denotes only an entire disappearance (Grotius: Si me quaeritis non comparebo), appealing to such passages as Psalms 37:10, Isaiah 41:12, is entirely refuted by these really fundamental passages of Proverbs and the Song of Solomon; and it is contradicted by the simple “Ye shall seek Me,” in ch. John 13:33, which plainly shows that the seeking has an independent meaning. It is objected against the interpretation which these original passages establish, that the Jews did not seek Christ. There are who solve the difficulty by thus interpreting; “Ye shall desire the Redeemer whom ye have rejected in My person.” But Meyer rightly observes that this interpretation relaxes the tragic strength of the passage, which lies in this, that after they had persecuted and killed Him as present, they would then wish Him back as absent, but in vain. There needs, however, no such violence. In the words, “Ye shall seek Me,” there is meant only that they would have sufficient occasion to seek Christ—that they would fall into the deepest distress. They would have reason enough to wish back Christ, whom they could now no longer endure, whose presence was now intolerable to them. Whether they afterwards actually wished Him back, or hardened their hearts against any such wish, is nothing to the point; although there might be many, even in those days of distress and sorrow, who attained, if not to thorough repentance, yet to sorrow and remorse, and to a certain longing for Christ. In the conscience of the Jewish people there was a voice that cried, as in the conscience of Judas, its type, “I have sinned in the innocent blood.”—“Where I am, thither ye cannot come.” On earth they have tribulation and distress, and to that heavenly glory from which Jesus beholds their ruin they cannot attain: there they cannot find a compensation for that which the earth denies to them. What was refused to Peter for the moment, ch. John 13:36, was refused to the Jews for ever. It is the privilege of the servants of Christ to be where He is: comp. ch. John 12:26, John 14:3, John 17:24. Luther: “Thus must Germany learn where to go and abide. All this will have its truth amongst us also, as we shall find.”
Ver. 35. “Then said the Jews among themselves. Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? Will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?
Ver. 36. What manner of saying is this that he said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come?”
By the “dispersed of the Gentiles,” is generally understood, after an inapplicable comparison of 1 Peter 1:1, James 1:1, the Jewish Diaspora. Some then assume that the Hellenes here are Hellenist Jews.; but this is contrary to the usage of the New Testament, where the ἕ?λληνες ; are always the Greeks, in permanent contradistinction to the Jews, while the Greek-speaking Jews are always described as ἑ?λληνισταί . Others think that the Jewish Diaspora is really meant as the sphere of labour among the Greeks; but this introduces an inharmonious complexity into the passage, and hinders the true effect of the words in which the Jews express the thought that Jesus would entirely renounce His own people and turn absolutely to the Gentiles. The “dispersed of the Greeks” is rather the dispersion which consists of the Greeks themselves. The expression points to the great variety of countries which they entered into; and to the fact that they were not to be understood as Greeks in the stricter sense, but as including the countless peoples speaking the Greek tongue. The fundamental passage is Genesis 10:5, where, after the enumeration of the sons of Javan, it is said: “And by these were the isles of the Gentiles divided; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations.” We must further compare ver. 32: “These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations; and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood:” Sept., ἀ?πὸ? τούτων διεσπάρησαν νῆ?σοι τῶ?ν ἐ?θνῶ?ν ἐ?πὶ? τῆ?ς γῆ?ς μετὰ? τὸ?ν κατακλυσμόν . The starting-point of these words was the prophecy of Christ, in which He exhibited in prospect the rejection of the Jews and the transference of the kingdom of God to the Gentiles; especially Matthew 8:11, where Jesus took occasion from the faith of the centurion to say, “And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness.” Their own interpretation, however, does not satisfy the Jews. They suggest it only as a question of doubt, and in ver. 36 they seem to regard the problem as one not yet solved. There must, consequently, have been in the words of Christ an element which was contradictory to their interpretation. This lies in the ὑ?πάγω that He added, “to Him who hath sent Me.” Earthly-minded themselves, they cannot follow Him: they leave these words out in ver. 36 without further ado; but their omission shows that they felt the inadequacy of their interpretation. Nevertheless, there lies in their apprehension of the Lord’s saying an element of truth; and that is the reason why John has adduced these words. The Jews cannot but feel the presentiment that Isaiah 49:4-6 is about to be fulfilled.
There follows now, in vers. 37-52, what took place on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles.
Ver. 37. “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying. If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.”
The last day of the feast could not have been the seventh, which was in no way distinguished, and on which the number of the victims sacrificed was less than on any other day. It could have been only the eighth, which, like the first, was pre-eminent above the others,—1. on account of the holy convocation. Leviticus 23:36; Leviticus , 2. through the cessation of all work, which gave it the name Azereth, Numbers 29:35: on the six preceding days work was not absolutely forbidden, and they were only half feast-days. (In ch. John 19:31, that Sabbath is called a great one, which was distinguished above others by falling within the feast. In the Old Testament, comp. Isaiah 56:12, where they say, “And to-morrow shall be as this day, much more abundant;” where by the great day a noble one is meant, such an one as witnessed great things.) It has been objected that the feast proper consisted of only seven days (comp. Numbers 29:35), and that the eighth day was a specific festival; that all the sacrifices peculiar to this feast were appointed only for seven days; and especially that the bullocks, though specific festal sacrifices, were so distributed that the last seven fell on the seventh day, while the eighth day had only the offerings common to every feast-day, including even the new moon. But the reason that the eighth stood in a certain kind of independence was, as Philo tells us, that it not only fixed the conclusion of the Feast of Tabernacles, but marked also the conclusion of the whole festal year. Therefore the Azereth, or convocation, did not fall upon the seventh day, as in the case of the Passover; it was appointed for the following eighth day, which was also the reason why the sacrifices of the feast came to an end on the seventh day. The dignity of the day was not lessened by this, but heightened. But it is plain, notwithstanding this concomitant design, that the day belonged to the Feast of Tabernacles. In Leviticus 23 the duration of the feast is, on the one hand, limited to seven days, as in ver. 34; but, on the other, we read there of the eighth day of the feast, ver. 36. So in Numbers 29, on the one hand, we have in ver. 12, “And ye shall keep a feast unto the Lord seven days;” but, on the other, in ver. 35, “And on the eighth day ye shall have a solemn assembly: ye shall do no servile work therein.” The first Feast of Dedication was, according to 2Ma_10:6 , kept for eight days, in compensation for the Feast of Tabernacles, the festivity of which had been hindered by the enemy. Josephus says of the Feast of Tabernacles, Archgeol. iii. 10, 4: ἐ?φʼ? ἡ?μέρας ὀ?κτὼ? ἑ?ορτὴ?ν ἄ?γοντας .
It has been further objected, that the ceremony of pouring out water was peculiar to the seven days of the feast, the ceremony which gave Jesus occasion to represent Himself as the giver of the true water. But, it is very doubtful whether this rite did not belong to the eighth day also. R. Jehuda, in the Gemara, maintains expressly, and without contradiction, that it did (Cod. Succa, p. 404). If it did actually cease with the eighth day, then it might be said that the symbol lasted seven days, and on the eighth was its interpretation. Moreover, it must not be overlooked that there is no express allusion to this rite; although the supposition that Jesus saw it before His eyes at the time, is very probable and very attractive. There is no force in the objection, that in the ceremony it was a libation, whereas Jesus spoke of drinking; for water has always its reference to drinking, and in the passage on which the rite was founded it is introduced only as an antidote to thirst. They drew water every day of the Feast of Tabernacles from the fountain of Siloam,—which had been consecrated by Isaiah, ch. John 8:6, into a figure of the kingdom of God,—and poured it upon the altar. This ceremony had nothing whatever to do with the passage, 1 Samuel 7:6, with which De Wette and others have sought to connect it. There the water poured out was a symbolical “Lord, have mercy:” comp. the “I am poured out like water,” in Psalms 22:15; and 2 Samuel 14:14: “For we die, and are as water spilt upon the ground.” Simultaneous with the pouring out of water was the fasting and confession: “We have sinned against the Lord,”—the acknowledgment of evil as something deserved. But, on the contrary, the pouring out of water at the Feast of Tabernacles rested, according to the saying of the Talmud (Dachs, pp. 371-2), on the passage of Isaiah, “With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.” It was a remembrancer of this promise, and a prayer for its fulfilment. During the journey through the wilderness, deliverance had been announced in the form of the effusion of water. Hence Isaiah took occasion to exhibit the bestowment of future salvation under the same similitude. To give this passage of Isaiah a symbolical expression at the Feast of Tabernacles was obvious enough, especially as the passage referred to the guidance of the people through the wilderness, even as the feast itself was based upon that event. We have seen already, that this feast not only served as a remembrancer of benefits past, but that it was especially a pledge that God would graciously lead His people through the wilderness of this world, and safely guide them out of it at last. The feast was not only one of thanksgiving, it was also one of hope; and of this latter aspect of it, Isaiah 12:3 was the appropriate text. Jesus declares Himself to be the water of salvation, announced by the prophet Isaiah; and Isaiah himself gave the warrant for doing so. The connection of the springs of salvation with the person of the Messiah is plain, from the relation of ch. 12 to ch. 11, where all the salvation of the future is bound up with the person of the Messiah. And what Isaiah said in ch. 12 concerning the waters of salvation, receives its consummation also in ch. John 4:1, to which the words ἐ?άν τις διψᾷ?—πινέτω ) definitely allude: comp. on ch. John 6:45, John 4:14. Our words have a warning as well as an attractive side. Luther: “That He might terrify them against carelessness, and make them take heed not to forsake Him. For when He goes away He leaves none behind Him but sin, sorrow, the devil, death, sweat, toil, and woe. He takes all that is good away with Him.”
Ver. 38. “He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”
That was first confirmed on the day of Pentecost. The transcendent fulness of the spirit and life in the young Church streamed forth outwardly with a mighty influence, of which we find no trace in the old covenant. Luther: “He that cometh to Me shall be so furnished with the Holy Ghost, that he shall not be merely quickened and refreshed himself, and delivered from his thirst, but shall be also a strong stone vessel, from which the Holy Ghost in all His gifts shall flow to others, refreshing and comforting and strengthening them, even as he was refreshed by Me.
So St Peter, on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:41, who, by one sermon, as by a rush of water, delivered three thousand men from the devils kingdom, washing them in an hour from sin, death, and Satan.” That was only the first exhibition of a glorious peculiarity which distinguishes the Church of the New Testament from the Church of the Old. She has a living impulse which will diffuse the life within her, even to the ends of the earth. (Lyser: Copiosa derivatio ad exteriores est indicium abundantiae interioris.) Although the quotation from the Old Testament need not be strictly literal, yet its most characteristic elements must be found there, else the reference to what the Scripture had said would have no special force. Then we have, 1. The flowing forth of the water. In the passages commonly adduced, such as Isaiah 58:11, we do not find this characteristic. They refer only to the personal possession of the water, the personal enjoyment of salvation. 2. The very peculiar mention of the body, or belly, κοιλία , must necessarily have been derived from the Old Testament. But both are found united if we go back to the Song of Solomon, to which Christ referred in ch. John 7:33-34, even as the New Testament generally is pervaded with references to it, all resting upon the assumption of its spiritual meaning: comp. my Commentary. In Song of Solomon 4:12, the bride, the Church of God in the house of Messiah, is called, on account of her overflowing indwelling fulness of salvation, “a spring shut up, a fountain sealed “(Lyser, on the passage of John: Anima credentiura hic consideratur ut in fontem aquse vivae con versa); in ver. 15, “a fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.” The idea of reference to these passages is all the more obvious because there had been allusion to them already in ch. John 4:14. The body or belly is in Song of Solomon 7:2; and, just as here, with reference to the saving and quickening and invigorating power which proceeds from the Church: “Thy navel is a round goblet, which wanteth not liquor; thy belly is like an heap of wheat set about with lilies: ὀ?μφαλός σου κρατὴ?ρ τορευτὸ?ς μὴ? ὑ?στερούμενος κρᾶ?μα , κοιλία σου θιμωνιὰ? σίτου πεφραγμένη ἐ?ν κρίνοις .” In the navel—which, as part of the belly, represents the whole, as in the second member of the sentence—it is only the goblet-form that comes into view. Under the figure of a goblet always full of liquor, is exhibited the adaptation of the Church of the future, the people of God in the Messiahs time, to refresh the thirsty with the high waters of life. What the goblet full of liquor was to the thirsty, in the second clause the wheat is to the hungry.
Ver. 39. “But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet; because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
The water in the symbolism of Scripture can only be a figure of blessing and salvation; comp. my Commentary on Numbers 24:7; Song of Solomon 4:12. This is the sense in which it is everywhere used in John’s phraseology: comp. on ch. John 4:10. In Isaiah 12:3, the passage which forms the foundation for all similar ones, the well of salvation is spoken of. But the transition from the common signification of the water to that interpretation which the Evangelist here gives, is mediated by Isaiah 44:3, where the water is first explained as blessing, and the outpouring of the Spirit is then associated with it as the greatest of all blessings. For the rest, the Evangelist does not say generally, and without qualification, that the water signified the Holy Spirit; but he only refers to the fact, that what Jesus had said concerning the water, found its fulfilment in the outpouring of the Holy Ghost.
The Apostle did not design to say that the Holy Spirit—who is regarded here in His immanent influence upon the people of God and indwelling in their hearts—had absolutely never been present before the glorification of Jesus. Such a declaration would have contradicted the whole tenor of the Old Testament. David prays in Psalms 51, “Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me” ( 1 Samuel 16:13 records how the Holy Spirit came down upon David). The children of Israel vexed and rebelled against God’s Holy Spirit, Isaiah 63:10, whose presence in their midst was their high prerogative, their pre-eminence above the heathen world, ver. 11. Paul also, Acts 28:25, bears witness to the presence and dignity of the Holy Spirit under the old covenant. We cannot escape the difficulty by saying, “In the definite sense, as the Christian Spirit, He was not given.” The Holy Spirit generally is here spoken of, and not any definite aspect of the Spirit. The legitimate solution of the difficulty is this: “The difference, relative in itself, is uttered in an absolute form: because the advancement in the Spirits influence is so important that the earlier does not enter into consideration, and the word holds good, ‘The former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind,’” Isaiah 65:17. All that was said upon ch. John 1:17 is true here likewise. That the Holy Ghost comes so much more abundantly into mention in the New Testament, points us to the fact that a great change in this respect had taken place. The Old Testament speaks, in relation to the Spirit, always of a distant time. The more abundant effusion of the Holy Ghost belongs to the characteristic signs of the “end of the days.” The classical passage in relation to this whole subject, is Joel 2:28; and to this refer Isaiah 32:15, “Until the Spirit be poured from on high,” Isaiah 11:9, Isaiah 54:13; Jeremiah 31:33-34; Ezekiel 36:26 seq.; Zechariah 12:10; Daniel 9:24 (Christol. vol. iii.). The starting-point of the whole is the bestowment of the Spirit without measure on Christ, Isaiah 11:2, the fulness of which overflows upon His Church: He received not the Spirit for Himself merely, but as the Head of the Church, that He might be the new life of the human race.
The Apostle speaks first of the Spirit, then of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is, in His nature, the Holy One. The idea of holiness is that of separation from the world, of absolute elevation above it. It belongs to the nature of the Spirit to be altogether supernatural.
With the glorification of Christ the outpouring of the Holy Ghost stands historically connected: comp. ch. John 20:22; Acts 2:33. But how are we to understand that connection? The foundation of the change to which we have referred is the expiation and abolition of sin accomplished by Christ, Romans 8:3, and which is appropriated by faith. By this the wall of separation between God and man is removed, so that the Spirit, the bond of the Creator and the creature, may freely be imparted. In the fact of redemption accomplished, we find the root of the potency and influence of the Spirit. Immediately after the propitiation was effected, Christ utters the “Receive the Holy Ghost.” In ch. John 3:14-15, the redemption of Christ, His death upon the cross, appears as the foundation of the new birth of the Spirit. According to ch. John 3:5, the water, the pledge and medium of the forgiveness of sins, must go before the Spirit. And in the Old Testament the forgiveness of sins appears as the necessary condition of the impartation of the Spirit. David, in Psalms 51, prays first for the forgiveness of sins, vers. 5-11, and then for the renewed impartation of the gifts of the Spirit. In the classical passage, Jeremiah 31:31 seq., the forgiveness of sins is the fundamental blessing of the times of Christ, the foundation of the richer bestowment of the Holy Ghost: “I will put My law in their inward parts, for I will forgive their iniquities.” Before God can give. He must take away. The sins which separate between the people and God, Isaiah 59:2, must be removed; then, and not till then, can the internal grace of the Spirit be assured to the people, that it might become truly the people of God, that God’s name might be sanctified in it. Thus Jesus, after His glorification, distributes the good things which He first obtained in His sufferings.
Ver. 40. “Many of the people, therefore, when they heard this saying, said. Of a truth this is the Prophet.
Ver. 41. Others said, This is the Christ. But others said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee?
Ver. 42. Hath not the scripture said, That Christ Cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?
Ver. 43. So there was a division among the people because of Him.”
Some declared Christ to be the Prophet: comp. on ch. John 1:21. That does not mean that they assumed “decisively a distinction between the Prophet and the Messiah:” it only means that they left the question an open one. So much to them was certain, that the marks of the Prophet in Deuteronomy 18 would be present in Christ: whether also the other marks of the Messiah, as they are given, e.g. in Isaiah 9, 11, was still doubtful to them; and naturally so, as the kingly office of the Messiah lay in deep concealment during His condition of humiliation. Had it not been so, they would have distinguished between the Prophet and Christ. Others, who had a keener spiritual eye, and hence could discern the hidden glory beneath the form of a servant, beheld in Jesus at once the Christ. The former did not deny it: they only hesitated at once to avow it. The difference was only between a partial and a perfect apprehension of the truth. An absolute denial, therefore, encounters only the latter class. It does not deny the descent of Christ from David. The preceding, “Shall Christ come out of Galilee?” shows that they were thinking only of the local point of departure, and that the descent from David was only introduced as the basis for mentioning the place where David was: as and because of the seed of David, so also, etc., Christ must come out from Bethlehem, in order outwardly to exhibit the descent from David. (Comp. my Christol. vol. i.) Considering how plainly and decisively the Old Testament teaches the descent of Jesus from the stock of David, it would have been utterly impossible that He should have found acceptance if this point had been exposed to any doubt whatever. The certainty of the descent of Jesus from David was not only attested throughout the New Testament; it was also confirmed by the narrative of Hegesippus concerning the relatives of Jesus, whom Domitian summoned to Rome as the descendants of David: Euseb. Ecc. Hist. iii. 19, 20. Nor do they deny that Christ was born in Bethlehem. However that might be, it was not sufficient in their opinion to satisfy the prophecy of Micah in ch. John 5:1: “And thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel.” In this they lay the stress upon go forth, אצא . They maintain that Christ must, according to this prophecy, not only be born in Bethlehem, but go forth from that place to His work. But Jesus came immediately from Galilee. They overlook, in their polemical zeal (Calvin: En quomodo soleant homines ex Scripturis ipsis, quae ad Christum manu nos ducunt, sibi obstacula struere ne ad Christum veniant), that Micah 5:1 was supplemented and limited by Isaiah 9:1, where Galilee is marked out as the district which was to be elevated by the manifestation of the Messiah from the deepest humiliation to the highest glory. Anton: “Thus they toss about like a football, although there was in the Scripture a passage so plain, declaring that out of Galilee a great light of the Gentiles should rise. They declared that He must come out of the town of Bethlehem; that also was true. But they should have observed both, and learned to combine them delicately. But they separate them entirely. In His coming from Bethlehem, the special circumstance was, that Bethlehem was but a little place; therefore they should not have spoken so scornfully about Galilee. For God does not act according to the measure of men’s vanity, but would draw men away from that vanity. Therefore all the circumstances touching Christ are so ordered as to bring us down from our heights. They themselves say here, ‘from the village of Bethlehem.’ And the prophet said, ‘Thou that art little; but thou shalt not in fact be little, because the Greatest will spring forth from thee.’ Thus they made their sad distinctions.” On “there was a division,” Quesnel observes: “Divisions there must be. It is abandoning and betraying the truth, to cease to defend it when it is contended against. Neither fear of offence needlessly taken, nor a false love to peace, should restrain the lovers of truth and stop their tongues.”
Ver. 44. “And some of them would have taken Him; but no man laid hands on Him;” that is, because God’s secret influence restrained their hands until the hour of Jesus had come.
Ver. 45. “Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them. Why have ye not brought him? 46. The officers answered, Never man spake like this man.”
The mission of these officers was mentioned in ver. 32. John had since then adduced only a few of the words of Christ, a few leading statements out of longer discourses: comp. ver. 14, where it is said generally that Jesus taught. To the influence upon the officers here, corresponds that upon Judas band in ch. John 18:6. “This the officers themselves say,” remarks Anton; “by which we may gather that, if conscience had not urged them, they would not have said to their masters what they did. They very well knew that they would not curry favour thereby, but they said it nevertheless with true emphasis. Thus the things of God go on, however pressed down, step by step.” As it was with Christ, so also it is with His servants. Embittered opposition is never alone. It is everywhere accompanied by the acknowledgment of the men of good will, of whom there are always some to be found; and this recognition on their part serves, moreover, to bring into clear light the wicked will of the adversaries. “It is a strong word,” says Luther, “which they here speak in their humility. Highly do they honour the preaching of Christ, and joyfully or freely do they confess to His name. They know indeed that their masters want to put Him to death; but nevertheless they honour His word.”
Ver. 47. “Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived?
Ver. 48. Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?” Anton: “Thus again they wanted to insinuate their stratagem. But scarcely have they thus spoken, when a ruler comes out of their midst, and interposes his words. Thus they are put to shame.” Comp. also ch. John 12:42.—
John 7:49 “But this people, who knoweth not the law, are cursed.” In Deuteronomy 27:26, we read the last and the most comprehensive of the twelve curses against the transgression of the law: “Cursed is he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them.” That curse refers to the practical obedience of the law; but, in those times of moral perversion, when an infinite number of commandments was introduced, the knowledge and the obedience of the law so far coincided, that only the learned could be free from the curse of the law: a result which ought to have been sufficient of itself to proclaim the impropriety of the principles from which it proceeded. The Pharisees regarded the dependence of the common people on Christ as a consequence of the curse which rested upon them. God had sent upon them, in righteous judgment, a mighty spirit of error, so that they believed a lie: just as Jehovah, in 1 Kings 22:23, sent a spirit of lying into the mouth of all the prophets of Ahab, in order to bring upon him the destruction which he deserved. Instead of ἐ?πικαταρατός , Lachmann reads ἐ?πάρατος . Here once more we see plainly how apt a mere external criticism is to err. Ἐ?πάρατοί is a change introduced by the copyists, who were accustomed to the usage of classic Greek authors. Ἐ?πικαταρατός never occurs in them; but in the Septuagint and the Apocrypha it not seldom stands for the Hebrew ארור , which is only thus rendered, and so in Galatians 3:10; Galatians 3:13. Ἐ?πάρατος never occurs in the New Testament, Septuagint, or Apocrypha.
Vers. 50, 51. “Nicodemus saith unto them (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them), Doth our law judge any man before it hear him, and know what he doeth?”
It is first said of Nicodemus that he came to Jesus by night. That this observation was not intended merely to designate his person, but that it rather contrasted his former fear of man with his present confession and defence of Jesus, is shown, as by the analogy of the second remark, “which was one of them,” so also by ch. John 19:39, where with “which at the first came to Jesus by night,” corresponds what in ver. 38 is said of Joseph of Arimathea, “being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews.” The comparison with this passage is decisive also against those who are not disposed to find in these words a simple contrast with the earlier conduct of Nicodemus; but make them at the same time contain a reference to the fact that Nicodemus was not yet perfectly free in his declaration, but still embarrassed with some remains of his earlier timidity. The opposition of Nicodemus is more express than at the first glance it might appear; and the source from which it flowed was plain enough to be discerned by his colleagues, as their answer shows. That he did not more openly adhere to Christ, might be attributed with equal propriety to a prudent caution as to fear. He would bring an argument to bear upon his colleagues, which in their known principles they could not very well evade. Lachmann reads, ὁ? ἐ?λθὼ?ν πρὸ?ς αὐ?τὸ?ν πρότερον ; Tischendorf merely, ὁ? ἐ?λθὼ?ν πρὸ?ς αὐ?τὸ?ν . “External authorities,” says Lücke, “do not warrant either reading absolutely.” But internal reasons strongly recommend νυκτός . The other readings give a mere personal designation, and we have seen already that this was not to be expected alone. The mere “who came to Him” is too indefinite. The connection with the following—“who came to Jesus, although he was one of them”—disturbs the evident reference of the εἷ?ς ὢ?ν ἐ?ξ αὐ?τῶ?ν to ver. 48. But πρότερον is probably a gloss, derived from the τὸ? πρῶ?τον in ch. John 19:38, which is found in several critical authorities, but in others was changed after the πρότερον , ver. 51. Nicodemus had been described in ch. John 3:1 as a member of the council. The “which was one of them” could not thus be a mere personal designation; but it pointed to the fact that the word in ver. 48, “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?” received, through the Divine appointment, an immediate and palpable contradiction in the person of Nicodemus. The members of the council had spoken contemptuously of the “people who knew not the law.” Nicodemus shows them that they themselves were exhibiting a shameful contradiction to the law. The law ordained, “Thou shalt not regard a false report,” Exodus 23:1. In Deuteronomy 1:16, it specially prescribed, to the judges, “Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother;” and ver. 17, “Ye shall hear the small as well as the great.” The law here at the same time lays hold of the organs of its own execution, and imposes rules upon them as a body.
Ver. 52. “They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.”
Much has been very wrongly said about the “almost incomprehensible errors of the Sanhedrim.” They only express themselves in a lively manner, as men do in common life, and when out of the schools. Their meaning was, that no prophet of any high mark, and no great number of prophets, had arisen in Galilee. The only prophet whose Galilean origin was generally acknowledged was Jonah of Gathhepher, 2 Kings 14:25. But if this had been objected to the council, they would have been but little embarrassed by it. They would have replied by some such proverb as our “one swallow does not make spring.” The Galilean origin of Nahum would not have been admitted as of any force. Why he, in his superscription, is called the Elkoshite, is a point controverted to the present day. The supposition that he was so called after some town in Galilee, rests simply and alone upon a statement of Jerome: Helcesi usque hodie in Galilaea viculus. Even should this supposition be right, there is nothing to prove that it was the current one in the days of our Lord. The witness nearest to that age, Jonathan, paraphrases the words in the prophet thus: “Nahum, of the family of Koschi.” Jerome says: Quidam putant Helcesaeum patrem esse et secundum Hebraeam traditionem etiam ipsum prophetam fuisse. Abenesra and Kimchi are not certain whether the denomination Elkoshite referred to his stock, or to his father, or to his country. Even if we assume the last, it is still doubtful whether Elkosh lay in Galilee. Finally, it is maintained by many that Elias sprang from Galilee. Had this been so, the supreme importance of that prophet—who in both Testaments always appears as the Coryphaeus of the collective prophets: comp. Malachi 4:5—might justify what has been said about the “almost incomprehensible error of the members of the Sanhedrim.” But the Galilean origin of Elijah cannot be demonstrated by the only passage that has been adduced to establish it, 1 Kings 17:1: comp. with Tob_1:2 . Elijah being there called “the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead,” the Septuagint regarded Tishbi as a place in Gilead. It translated: ὁ? ἐ?κ Θεσβων τῆ?ς Γαλααδ . So also Epiphanius: ἐ?κ Θεσβῶ?ν ἐ?κ τῆ?ς γῆ?ς Ἀ?ράβων . Tisbi is indicated by the clause, “of the inhabitants of Gilead,” to have been situated in Gilead; not that the prophet had the position of a citizen there, but dwelt m that place as a man without a home: his forefathers had immigrated to it. This explanation is favoured by the alliteration between Tishbi and Toshbi, תושב not being written plene, as it is everywhere else, for the sake of it. The interpretation, “born at Tishbe, but dwelling in Gilead,” robs this alliteration of its significance; and it is opposed by what Keil refers to: “Had Elijah been born in Galilee, the mention of his birth-place would have been a sufficient indication for any Israelite; and the remark that he belonged to the inhabitants of Gilead would have been superfluous, since the object was not to furnish a chronological memoir of his life:” and. with this Thenius agrees. It is not easy to understand why it was that, whereas the birth-place of most of the rest of the prophets is mentioned, the place of residence also is given in the case of Elijah, and a place, moreover,” which is not alluded to distinctively anywhere in the narrative. The objection of the Pharisees was not altogether an imaginary one. Judea is, throughout the Old Testament, in all respects the land pre-eminently; while Galilee of the Gentiles, Isa. 8:23, has only a corner-place assigned to it. The temple in Jerusalem, the spiritual dwelling-place of the collective nation, is the centre of all prophetical operation. These facts established so much at least, that the labours of Jesus might not be restricted to Galilee; and this our Saviour admitted always in act. He had just before been teaching the people in the temple. But the Pharisees, in going beyond this, altogether failed to perceive that Galilee of the Gentiles was precisely the most congenial starting-point for Him who was come to seek the lost; and that, according to the prophecy of Isaiah, it was the dense darkness of this region which was so pre-eminently enlightened by the outgoings of the great Light. They acted like those who in all ages, and in this age, hide behind the fig-leaves of solemn arguments the rebellion which has its root in a perverted heart. With perfect right Bengel remarks: Ex stupenda eorum multitudine, qui pereunt, vix quenquam invenias, qui non uno alterove hujus generis πρώτῳ? ψεύδει abreptus, veritatis salutaris efficaciam in se sufflaminet. The human heart is inexhaustible in the invention of such specious arguments, when the light from above shines into the darkness of his old nature. Instead of ἐ?γήγερται , Lachmann and Tischendorf read ἐ?γείρεται . This reading was an intentional correction, designed to set aside the historical difficulty, the “almost incomprehensible error of the Sanhedrim.”
The Section of the Adulteress
There can be no reasonable doubt that this section was not a component part of the original Gospel, but that it was introduced into it by another hand. It is wanting in so many and so important Codd. and MSS., that this of itself might be considered proof enough of its being spurious. We cannot, indeed, altogether and unconditionally agree with Bleek, when he says: “It is not to be thought of, that anxiety lest the Redeemers gentleness towards the adulteress might be abused by the unintelligent and thoughtless, was a sufficient reason why an entire genuine section of this Gospel should have been for many centuries, and in all parts of the Church, passed over in perfect silence, or actually struck out of the text of biblical manuscripts.” The supposed offence,—to which Augustine, although, indeed, with an “I suppose,” referred,—is so great, that the impossibility of thus explaining the omission cannot be maintained with absolute confidence: especially as we know that dogmatical objections have availed to the omission of other passages from the manuscripts: comp. on ch. John 5:3 seq. Meanwhile, what is given with the one hand is retracted with the other. Only well-grounded objection and offence could have had so pervasive an influence; and a narrative which furnishes such a stumblingblock could not possibly have proceeded from the Evangelist himself; and our exposition will make it plain that there is in the account a stumblingblock which no explanation will explain away.
Internal reasons tend in the same direction as the external. We find none of the peculiarities of John’s style in the narrative; on the other hand, every verse of it presents, as our exposition will show, something decidedly alien to his style. It is very suspicious, for instance, that the δέ occurs in this short section no less than eleven times, heaped together in a manner of which there is no example elsewhere in his writings; while, on the contrary, his favourite οὖ?ν is found only once. Moreover, all is at the very first glance intelligible and straightforward; we have none of that mystical dark-in-bright which everywhere characterizes John’s style, and none of that necessity to master the meaning of the writer by thoughtful reflection and pondering that we are accustomed to in his genuine productions. Nor is it without significance that the narrative interrupts the connection. Both before it and after it we have matter which directly refers to the question whether Jesus were the Christ, the Son of God. Then, again, John’s authorship is contradicted by the fact, that while the beginning of the account is borrowed from Luke, the motive of it was furnished by Paul. We have the starting-point in Romans 2:1, where the Apostle says to the Jews: “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things:” comp. vers. 22, 23, ch. John 3:23: “For there is no difference; for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” These statements of the Apostle have here put on an historical vestment. Lampe cannot help observing that our narrative presents much similarity to the parable of the prodigal son. Expositors of the middle ages declare plainly that the woman here represented heathenism, to which the grace of God, slighted by the Jews, was assigned by Christ. The last and strongest argument is the offence we have already touched upon. If we look at the element of mercy in it, the narrative makes good what Lyser says: Tota historia est mirifice consolatoria afflictis conscientiis, si quidem vident, ne infamem quidem adulteram a Christo rejici, modo agat poenitentiam. The Saviour’s love to poor sinners meets us in a most attractive form; and the delight in judging others is most effectually condemned.
But then, on the other hand, if we regard the account as history (and it must be so regarded if we receive it as from John), it does offer a very real and palpable stumblingblock; indeed, it is no less than offensive. Thinking only of his point, the author never reflected that what he gives in the form of history, must in that form awaken mistrust. “The narrative,” Hase strikingly remarks, “bears the ordinary stamp of the better apocryphal writers, who give one side of our Lord’s character aright,—indeed, display it gloriously,—but are wanting in that all-sided truth, which most effectually distinguishes between the actual occurrences of fact and the imagined incidents of fiction.”
There can be no doubt that our narrative was originally written with the express purpose of being interpolated into the Gospel of John. We find the simple evidence of this in the verses, chap. John 7:53 to John 8:12, which obviously serve no other purpose than to connect this supposed fact with what precedes, and to insert it fairly in the Gospel. How diligently and skilfully the writer accomplished this task, is proved by the fact, that several manuscripts which treat the section itself as spurious or suspicious, nevertheless acknowledge these verses as the Evangelists; that Beza, who clearly perceived the spuriousness of the section, decided that these verses should be retained; and that Wieseler, with others, defends them still. It is going altogether on a wrong track to seek traces of the recognition of this passage elsewhere; for instance, in what Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. iii. 39, records of Papias: “He tells us also another history of a woman who was traduced before our Lord, as having committed many sins, which was contained in the Gospel secundum Hebroeos.” That narrative has nothing in common with ours. The Gentile-Christian tendency of the latter would be quite out of harmony with the Gospel of the Hebrews. The “many sins “there, and the one offence here, are clearly distinct and discordant. The διαβλήθεισα leads us to think of a penitent sinner, like her of Luke 7:36 seq., against whom her past forsaken and forgiven sins were wrongfully alleged. It could refer to no other charge than an unwarranted one.
It is the mistake of an unscientific and partial criticism, to say that our narrative was “a morsel of oral tradition, which had an actual fact in our Saviour’s life for a foundation.” There is but one plain alternative: either John’s authorship, or a symbolical fiction which sought to gain authority by obtaining insertion in the Gospel of John. We have felt obliged to declare decidedly for the latter. If we take the design of the fiction into consideration, we must assign the date of it to a period in which the conflict with Jews and Jewish Christians was in full vigour. Only the most vivid polemical interest could have tempted any one to the bold expedient of usurping the apostolical authority, and putting interpolations into one of the holy Gospels. This requires us to keep within the limits of the second century, in which the conflict that gendered the pia fraus was most excited: comp. Graul’s “Christian Church on the Border of the Age of Irenaeus.” The fact that the interpolation found so much acceptance, points to a similarly early era. The Apostolical Constitutions towards the end of the third century, are familiar with our narrative in its integrity ( John 1:2; John 1:24); and this is all the more significant, from the fact already demonstrated, that it was originally written in order that it might be incorporated with the Gospel in the very place which it now occupies, and that it never had an independent existence. Wherever it has been given in any other connection, it has been certainly detached from its original place.
John 7:53. “And every man went unto his own house.”
Here we have a bootless circumstantiality; and all the more out of place, inasmuch as John in this part of his Gospel is very sparing of words, and everywhere aims to record only those particulars which were adapted to place in a clear light the great conflict between Jesus and the Jews, Moreover, it is very uncertain to what the “every man” refers, whether to the members of the council, who had been spoken of in what immediately precedes, or to the people generally. Probably the author thought of both at the same time, when he set the whole scene before his eyes. We cannot exclude the people, since the narrative of the combination of all parties again, in ver. 2, seems to correspond to their separation in this verse.
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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on John 7". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent