Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary
1–27.] Injunction to vital union in love with Jesus and one another.
1.] The Vine and branches stand in a much nearer connexion than the Shepherd and the sheep, or the lord of the vineyard and the vines; and answer to the Head and members in Ephesians 5:23; Ephesians 5:30; Colossians 2:19, linked together by a common organization, and informed by one and the same life.
ἡ ἀληθινή, not only, ‘by which prophecy is fulfilled:’ not only, “in which the organism and qualities of the vine are most nobly realized” (Tholuck), but as in ch. John 1:9, true, i.e. original, archetypal. The material creations of God are only inferior examples of that finer spiritual life and organism in which the creature is raised up to partake of the divine nature; only ἀντίτυπυ, τῶν ἀληθινῶν,, Hebrews 9:24; ὑποδείγματα τῶν ἐν τοῖς οὐρ., ib. Hebrews 9:23 : see ch. John 6:32.
ὁ γεωργός, not only the tiller of the land, but the vine-planter and dresser; He who has originated the relation between the vine and branches by planting the Vine in this earth (the nature of man), and who looks for and ensures the bringing forth of fruit.
1–11.] Their relation to Him. Various suggestive circumstances have been imagined, but none of them are satisfactory. The vineyards on the way to Gethsemane (Lampe),—the carved vine on the great doors of the temple (Rosenmüller, Bibl. Exeget. Repert. i. 166 (Lücke),—see Jos. B. J. ver. 5. 4: Antt. xv. 11. 3); a vine trained about the window of the guest-chamber (Knapp, Lücke conj., Tholuck, 6), are all fanciful, and the two first (see on ch. John 14:31) inapplicable. The cup, so lately partaken (Meyer, Stier), is certainly nearer,—see below. But I believe with Lücke that most probably the Lord did not take the similitude from any outward suggesting occasion, but as a means of illustrating the great subject, the inner unity of Himself and His. Occasion enough was furnished, by the O.T. symbolism of the vineyard and the vine,—Isaiah 5:1 ff.: Jeremiah 2:21; Ezekiel 19:10 ff., and especially Psalms 80:8-19; by the intimate analogy of vegetable life (of which the tree bearing fruit is the highest kind, and of such trees the vine the noblest) with spiritual, and perhaps also by the γέννημα τῆς ἀμπ. having been so recently the subject of their attention and the Lord’s prophecy, Luke 22:18(206).
2.] The Vine contains fruitful, and unfruitful branches. Who are these unfruitful branches? Who are the branches? Clearly, all those who, adopting the parallel image, are made members of Christ by baptism, Romans 6:3-4; compare σύμφυτοι, ib. Romans 15:5, also Romans 11:17 ff. The Vine is the visible Church here, of which Christ is the inclusive Head: the Vine contains the branches; hence the unfruitful, as well as the fruitful, are ἐν ἐμοί.
Every such unfruitful branch (notice the μή in an hypothesis, not οὐ) the Father αἴρει,—pulls off and casts away: and every one that beareth fruit He καθαίρει (an allusion to αἴρει, but only in the Greek (?): “suavis rhythmus,” Bengel), prunes, by cleansing it of its worthless parts, and shortening its rank growth, that it may ripen and enlarge its fruit better. Cf. Æsch. in Ctes. (iii. 166, quoting Demosthenes), ἀμπελουργοῦσί τινες τὴν πόλιν ἀνατετμήκασί τινες τὰ κλήματα τοῦ δήμου.
The two, πᾶν κλ., καὶ πᾶν.…, are pendent nominatives, a construction usual with John in connexion with πᾶν, see ch. John 6:39; John 17:2.
3. καθαροί] See ch. John 13:10. In Ephesians 5:26, we have both the washing διὰ τὸν λόγον, and the word ( ἐν ῥήματι), united. The word of Christ dwelling in them by Faith (see John 15:7) is the purifying principle (ch. John 17:17). But the καθαροί here is not = κεκαθαρμένοι, pruned, in the sense of John 15:2. The ἤδη limits it to their present capacities and standing. There was more pruning at hand, when the sap should begin to flow,—when the Spirit should be shed abroad; and this future handling of the γεωργός is indicated by μείνατε ἐν ἐμοί.…
4.] κἀγὼ ἐν ὑμ. must not (with Euthym(207), Meyer, and Lücke) be taken as a promise, which (see on ἐν ἐμοί above) would be contrary to the sense: but (with Aug(208), Tholuck, Bengel, Stier, who however modifies it by rendering “so abide in Me that I may abide in you”) as a clause dependent on μείνατε ἐν ἐμοί, ‘Take care that ye abide in Me and I in you:’ both these being necessary to the bringing forth fruit: see John 15:5, where the two are similarly bound together.
Here the natural strictness of the similitude is departed from. The branch cannot sever itself from the vine: but, such a case supposed, every one will see the inevitable consequence. Bengel says well, “Hic locus egregie declarat discrimen naturæ et gratiæ.” It is the permitted freewill of the creature which makes the difference between the branches in the two cases.
5.] The interpretation of the allegory which each mind was forming for itself, the Lord solemnly asserts for them. Notice οὗτος—he and no other: ‘it is he, that.…’
χωρὶς ἐμ. is more than ‘without Me,’ it = χωρισθέντες ἀπʼ ἐμοῦ (Me(209).), separate from Me, from being in Me and I in you. The ὅτι regards what is implied in χωρὶς ἐμ. οὐ δ. π. οὐδ. rather than the word themselves: because union with Me ( μένειν ἐν ἐμοί) is the sole efficient cause of fruit being produced, you having no power to do any thing (not, ποιεῖν καρπόν: for φέρειν is here used throughout), to bring any thing to perfection, to do any of the ἀρεταί of that which ye are, separate from Me.
6.] This verse is a most important testimony against supra-lapsarian error, shewing us that falling from grace is possible, and pointing out the steps of the fall. Observe this is not said of the unfruitful branch, which the Father takes away (in judgment): but of one who will not abide in Christ, becomes separate from Him: (1) is cast out (of the vineyard, or of the Vine) like a ( τὸ κλῆμα, scil. τὸ ἄχρηστον, Euth.) branch in such a case: (2) becomes dried up, having lost the supply of life-giving sap (“quenched the Spirit,” 1 Thessalonians 5:19): (3) is gathered up with other such (Matthew 13:40) by the angels at the great day: (4) is cast into the fire, as the result of that judgment; and finally (5) ‘burneth;’ not ‘is burned,’ in any sense of being consumed; und muss brennen, Luther.
The aorists I take with Meyer as a consequence of the whole being spoken by our Lord as if the great day were come: hence also the presents, βάλλουσιν and καίεται.
7.] All bringing forth fruit is the result of answered prayer for the assisting grace of God: and therefore the answer of all prayer is here promised to those who abide in Christ and have His word (Hebrews 6:5) abiding in them.
αἰτήσασθε is the imperative used proleptically of the future time. This not having been seen, it has probably been altered to αἰτήσεσθε: see ch. John 14:13.
ὃ ἐὰν θέλητε, in the supposed case, is necessarily in the way of God’s will, and as tending to πολὺν καρπὸν φέρειν.
8.] ἐν τούτῳ belongs to the following, not the preceding: ἐν τούτῳ, ἵνα.… as in E. V., see reff.
ἐδοξάσθη again is proleptic, representing that in the spiritual dispensation the fact is habitually so. See on this sense of the aorist, Winer, edn. 6, § 40. 5. b. 2.
The πολὺς καρπός is not merely ‘large success in the apostolic mission,’ but ‘individual advance in bringing forth the fruits of the Spirit.’
καὶ γένησθε] and that ye may become My (true) disciples, ἀπαρτισθήσεσθε, Euthym(210) (reading the future, see below.) “Fundamentum Christianismi, fieri discipulum Christi: fastigium, esse discipulum Christi.” Bengel. According to the reading γενήσεσθε, the actual result of what precedes is stated: and so ye shall become …
9.] The Love between the Father and Christ is compared with that between Christ and His disciples. The sense is best served by placing a colon (as in E. V.) after ὑμᾶς ἠγάπησα, making μείνατε κ. τ. λ. a separate injunction, and κἀγώ = οὕτως. With only a comma at ἠγάπησα, that which is the great assertion of the sentence, is suffered to slip by unnoticed; viz. that ‘as the Father hath loved the Son, so the Son His disciples.’
τῇ ἀγ. τῇ ἐμῇ may be rendered the love of Me, as in Luke 22:19 (211) 1 Cor.,—but the sense is not good, and the expression is not parallel with τῇ ἀγ. μου in John 15:10; so that I prefer my love, the love which I have towards you; remain in it: do not cast yourselves out of it. The other sense is implied in this, but not expressed.
10.] The way thus to remain is prescribed; even that way of simple obedience to His Will, which He followed to the Will of the Father.
On τῇ ἀγάπῃ μου, see above: in the last clause, αὐτοῦ is prefixed, as Meyer well says, to denote the high consciousness of bliss and dignity in abiding in the Father’s love.
11.] λελάλ. again proleptic, hastening to the end of the discourse, and treating it as ended.
ἡ χαρὰ ἡ ἐμή, not “joy concerning Me” (Euthym(212)), nor “joy derived from Me” (De Wette), nor “My joy over you” (Aug(213), Lampe, Lücke, former edd.), but My joy, properly speaking (see 2 Corinthians 2:3, ὅτι ἡ ἐμὴ χαρὰ πάντων ὑμῶν ἐστιν): “His own holy exultation, the joy of the Son in the consciousness of the love of God, of His Unity with the Father: see John 15:10.” (Lücke, 3rd edn.)
κ. ἡ χ. ὑμ. πλ.] That their joy might, by the indwelling of that His Joy, be uplifted and ennobled ( πληρωθῆ) even to fulness,—to the extreme of their capability and satisfaction,—and might remain so.
12.] That He may shew them that it is no rigid code of keeping commandments in the legal sense, John 15:11 is inserted, and now the commandment (as including all others) is again explained (see ch. John 13:34) to be, mutual love,—and that, after His example of Love to them.
12–17.] Union in love with one another enjoined on them.
13.] A difficulty has been unnecessarily found in this verse, because St. Paul, Romans 5:6 ff., cites it as a nobler instance of love, that Christ died for us when we were enemies. But manifestly here the example is from common life, in which if a man did lay down his life it would naturally be for his friends; and would be, and is cited as, the greatest example of love. Nor again is there any doctrinal difficulty: our Lord does not assert of himself, that He laid down his life only for his friends (as defined in the next verse), but puts forward this side of his Love as a great and a practical example for his followers. His own great Sacrifice of Himself lies in the background of this verse; but only in the background, and with but one side of it seen, viz. his Love to them. See 1 Timothy 4:10, and compare 1 John 3:16.
ἵνα, as in John 15:8, depends on αὕτη, not on any will implied in ἀγάπη (De Wette), nor used ἐκβατικῶς (Olsh.),—and answers to ‘scilicet, ut:’ see on this use of ἵνα, note on 1 Corinthians 14:13.
John 15:14 parallel to John 15:10,—and, like it, guarded, in John 15:15-17, from legal misinterpretation.
John 15:15 proleptically spoken, of the state in which He would place them under the Spirit. Nor is there any discrepancy with ch. John 13:13; John 13:16, and John 15:20 here, which are also spoken of their future condition: for in that sense both relations subsist together. It is the lower sense of δοῦλος which is brought out in this verse. The proleptical character of the saying is clearly shewn in the οὐκ οἶδεν τί ποιεῖ ὁ κ., for this was precisely their present condition, but was after His Ascension changed into light and knowledge.
ἐγνώρισα ὑμ.] Here again the allusion must be (see ch. John 16:12) to their future state under the dispensation of the Spirit: nay, even to the fulness and completion of it, as Aug(214) remarks, Tract. lxxxvi. 1, vol. iii. pt. ii.: compare the confession of one of the greatest Apostles, 1 Corinthians 13:10. “Sicut immortalitatem carnis et salutem animarum futuram exspectamus, quamvis jam pignore accepto salvi facti esse dicamur: ita omnium notitiam quæcumque Unigenitus audivit a Patre, futuram sperare debemus, quamvis hoc jam se fecisse dixerit Christus.” Aug(215) ut supra.
16.] See 1 John 4:10; 1 John 4:19. Further proof of His love, in his choosing His, when they had not chosen Him.
ἔθηκα] appointed: see Acts 13:47; 1 Thessalonians 5:9, and reff. Euth., Chrys., Thl. explain it ἐφύτευσα, in the parabolic sense. But the parable seems to be no further returned to than in the allusion implied in καρπός. ‘Ordained,’ in E. V., is objectionable, as conveying a wrong idea.
ὑπάγ. κ. καρ. φέρ.] ὑπ. probably merely expresses (see ref. and Matthew 18:15; Matthew 19:21, and πορευόμενοι, Luke 8:14) the activity of living and developing principle; not the missionary journeys of the Apostles (Grot., Lampe, Meyer). The καρπός is not the Church, to be founded by the Apostles, and endure;—this is evident, for here the fruit is spoken of with reference to themselves, and their ripening into the full stature of Christ. Much of their fruit will be necessarily the winning of others to Christ: but that is not the prominent idea here.
μένῃ] See 2 John 1:8; Revelation 14:13.
ἵνα ὅ τι ἂν …] This ἵνα is parallel with the former one, not the result of it; the two, the bringing forth of fruit and the obtaining answer to prayer, being co-ordinate with each other; but (John 15:7-8) the bearing fruit to God’s glory is of these the greater, being the result and aim of the other.
17.] ταῦτα refers (as almost always in John, see John 15:11; John 15:21; John 16:1; John 16:25; John 16:33; John 17:1; John 18:1 alli(216).) back to what has gone before. ‘The object of my enjoining these things on you is (for all since John 15:12 has been an expansion of καθὼς ἠγ. ὑμ.) that ye love one another’ (see 1 John 4:11). Then from the indefiniteness of this word ἀλλήλους our Lord takes occasion to forewarn them that however wide their love to one another, they cannot bring all within this category; there will be ὁ κόσμος, which will hate them.
18.] See ch. John 7:7. γινώσκετε, most probably imperative, know ye.… The assertion of their knowledge of the fact would in all likelihood be conveyed in the past tense, οἴδατε, or ἔγνωτε, or ἐγνώκατε: cf. for the imperative, ch. Luke 24:43; Luke 10:11; Luke 12:39; Galatians 3:7; Hebrews 13:23; for the indicative, ch. John 14:17 : Acts 20:34; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:22; 1 John 2:29 (see note there); John 4:2; for both combined, Matthew 24:32-33 (217); for the past tense in assertion, Luke 16:4; ch. John 5:42; John 6:69; John 8:52; John 8:55 alli(218). The great proof of this hatred to Him was yet to come, but is viewed as past. This knowledge brings comfort, 1 Peter 4:12-13.
John 15:19 not only explains this hatred, but derives additional comfort from it, as a sign that they were not (any longer) of the world; but chosen out of it by Him, and endued with a new life from above.
In τὸ ἴδιον ἐφίλει, not ὑμᾶς ἐφ., we have the true practice of the world hinted at, and the false character of the world’s love, as a mere φιλαυτία, set forth. “Suum dicitur pro vos, atque sic notatur Interesse mundi,” Bengel. In this ‘loving their own,’ the children of this world fall into hating one another.
Meyer remarks the solemnity of κόσμος thus repeated five times.
18–27.] Their relation to the world: and, John 15:18-21, ground of the world’s hatred. On the connexion, see above.
20.] Ch. John 13:16, but with a different reference: the sense here being, ‘Remember the saying, for it is true in this matter also:’ see Matthew 10:24, where it is used in the same sense. The subject of ἐδίωξαν is ὁ κόσμος as a noun of number.
A difficulty has been raised on ἐτήρησαν … τηρήσουσιν, and some have wanted to give this word a hostile sense, (as παρατηρεῖν,) quoting Matthew 27:36, and Genesis 3:15 (which is altogether an exceptional use, the reading being undoubtedly genuine): see also Jeremiah 20:13. But in John this cannot be. Nor is irony (Lampe, Stier) in this latter clause at all in keeping with the solemnity of the discourse. The words simply mean (as Thl.), ‘the keeping My word and the keeping yours are intimately joined, and when you find the world or any part of the world do the first, you may infer the other.’ The issue of εἰ τ. λ. μ. ἐτήρ. was to be proved by their rejection and killing of the Lord Jesus.
Beware of rendering as Kuinoel, “If they had kept my word, they would keep yours,” which is ungrammatical. The only idiomatic rendering in English is that of the E. V., If they have kept [or rather, If they kept] my word they will keep yours.
21.] ἀλλά—nay, so far is this from being so, that it is on this very account, because ye belong to Me, that they will thus treat you.
ταῦτα πάντα—all that is implied in μισεῖν and διώκειν.
τ. π., ‘these things, all of them:’ not π. τ., ‘all, every one of, these things:’ the former order gives the ταῦτα in the gross,—‘all this treatment,’—the latter in the particular, so that not one is excepted from the category.
It was on account of bearing the Name of Christ that the Christians were subjected to persecution in the early ages, and that they are even now hated by those who know Him not: but this is to them comfort and joy, see Acts 5:41; 2 Corinthians 12:10; Galatians 6:17; 1 Peter 4:14.
οὐκ οἴδασιν, not, ‘They know Him not as having sent Me’—but they know not (absolutely) Him who has sent Me. Ignorance of God (not desiring the knowledge of His ways) is the great cause of hostility to Christ and His servants.
22.] The sinfulness of this hate. See ch. John 9:41 and note.
ἐλάλησα, discoursed, generally: not, acquainted them with their sin. The sin spoken of is, not the generally sinful state of the world,—nor the sin of unbelief in Christ, which they of course could not have committed, had He never come: but the sin of hatred to Him and His, which might have been excused otherwise, but now that He had come and discoursed with them, had no excuse, since He had plainly shewn them the proofs of his mission from the Father.
Euthym(219) says well, ἀποστερεῖ τοὺς ἰουδαίους πάσης συγγνώμης ἐθελοκακοῦντας.
23.] See ch. John 14:9. Human regards, whether of love or of hatred, towards Him who is the only manifestation of the Father to His creatures, are in fact directed towards the Father Himself: see Psalms 69:9, cited in Romans 15:3.
24.] He refers to the testimony of His works among them also, as leaving them again without excuse;—they had had ocular witness of His mission.
ἐν αὐτοῖς—not to them (as Aug(220)), but as Acts 2:22, ἐν μέσῳ ὑμῶν.
ἐποίησεν is, not only by external evidence, but also by internal, the right reading. πεποίηκεν (as Lücke remarks, ii. 643) would imply that the ἄλλοι referred to were contemporaries of our Lord,—or, at all events, that their works still lasted.
ἑωράκασιν does not refer to the works (as Lücke), but to καὶ ἐμὲ καὶ τὸν πατέρα μου, see ch. John 14:9.
25.] ἀλλʼ,—but all this not as an accidental thwarting of My word and work among them, but as a matter predicted in Scripture.
ἵνα, with the fullest sense of purpose, as always, and most especially in this formula. Beware of the evasive ecbatic sense.
ἐν τῷ νόμῳ αὐτῶν] See ch. John 10:34 and note. To suppose any irony in these words, as De W. does (“they are true followers-out of their law”), is manifestly against the whole spirit of our Lord’s reference to the law. It is ‘their law,’—“quem assidue terunt et jactant,” Bengel,—as condemning them, though their boast and pride.
δωρεάν, not, “to no purpose,” as Bengel (vergeblich), but as E. V., without a cause, answering to πρόφασιν οὐκ ἔχουσιν, John 15:22.
The citation is probably from the Messianic Psalms 69.
26.] This assurance carries on the testimony concerning Christ,—which the world should see and hear, and yet reject and hate Him,—even to the end of time, by means of the Spirit of Truth: so that on the one hand this seeing and hating must not be expected to cease as long as the Spirit bears this witness,—and on the other, He, the Spirit of Truth, will never cease to overcome the hating world by this His testimony.
ὁ παράκλ.] See ch. John 14:16 and note.
ὃν ἐγὼ πέμψω] Stier (whose comment on this verse should be consulted) dwells on the accurate division of the clauses here, ὁ παράκλ. ὃν ἐγὼ πέμψω,—but τὸ πνεῦμα τ. ἀληθ. ὃ παρὰ τ. πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται. The first clause he regards as spoken œconomically, of the Spirit in His office as Paraclete, sent from the Father by the glorified Son (or, by the Father in the Son’s name, ch. John 14:26), and bringing in the dispensation of the Spirit;—the second ontologically, of the essential nature of the Spirit Himself, that He proceeded forth from the Father. (And if from the Father, from the Son also,—see ch. John 16:15, and those passages where the Spirit is said to be His Spirit, Romans 8:9; Galatians 4:6; Philippians 1:19; 1 Peter 1:11; also Revelation 22:1.) Perhaps however it is better to take the whole œconomically, as Luthardt has done. Then ὃν ἐγὼ πέμψω παρὰ τ. π. is parallel with ὃ παρὰ τοῦ π. ἐκπορεύεται, and the procession from the Father is the sending by the Son. At all events, this passage, as Beza remarks, cannot be alleged either one way or the other in the controversy with the Greek Church on the procession of the Holy Spirit. See this done in the interest of the Greek view, by Theodor. Mops(221) in loc.
ἐκεῖνος, as opposed to the world which hates Christ. On the emphatic use of this pronoun as identifying the chief subject of the sentence, see note, ch. John 7:29.
27.] The disciples are not, as some have supposed, here mentioned as witnesses separate from and working with the Holy Spirit. The witness is one and the same—the Spirit will witness in and by them; the ὃταν ἔλθῃ ὁ παρ. belongs to the whole: see Luke 24:48-49, where this is strongly expressed. This verse alludes to the historical witness which the Holy Ghost in the ministers and eye-witnesses of the word, Luke 1:2, should enable them to give,—which forms the human side ( καὶ ὑμ. δέ, “quin et vos,” Erasm.) of this great testimony of the Spirit of truth, and OF WHICH OUR INSPIRED GOSPELS ARE THE SUMMARY: the divine side being, His own indwelling testimony in the life and heart of every believer in all time. But both the one and the other are given by the self-same SPIRIT—neither of them inconsistent with, or superseding the other.
Beware of taking μαρτυρεῖτε imperative as Hofmann, Schriftb. ii. 2, p. 15. It would thus be very abrupt and unnatural. The καὶ … δέ, and the reason, ὅτι κ. τ. λ., seem decisive against it.
ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, as in reff., and in the sense of Acts 1:21 :—‘from the beginning of the Lord’s ministry.’
The present tenses set forth the connexion between the being (continuing to be) witnesses, and the being (having been throughout) companions of the Lord in His ministry. Cf. ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς ὁ διάβολος ἀμαρτάνει, 1 John 3:8.
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