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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
John 11



Other Authors


Christ’s love for His friends brings about His own death and shews the voluntariness (John 11:8) of His death, as declared John 10:18. Expressions of affection and tenderness abound in the chapter; comp. John 11:3; John 11:5; John 11:11; John 11:15; John 11:35-36.

We have now reached ‘the culminating point of the miraculous activity of our Lord,’ and at the same time the ‘crucial question’ of this Gospel—the Raising of Lazarus. Various objections have been urged against it, and through it against the Fourth Gospel as a whole. The principal objections require notice. They are based [1] on the extraordinary character of the miracle itself; [2] on the silence of the Synoptists; [3] on the fact that in spite of what is narrated John 11:47-53, no mention is made of the miracle in the accusation of Jesus.

[1] The extraordinary character of the miracle is a difficulty of modern growth. By the writers of N.T. raising the dead was regarded as on the same level with other miracles, not as something quite apart from all others. And surely the ancient view is both more reverent and more philosophical than the modern one. Only from a purely human standpoint can one miracle be regarded as more wonderful, i.e. more difficult of performance, than another. To Omnipotence all miracles, as indeed all works, are equal: distinctions of difficult and easy as applied to the Almighty are meaningless.

[2] It is certainly surprising that the Synoptists do not mention this miracle, all the more so because S. John tells us that it was the proximate cause of Christ’s arrest and condemnation. But this surprising circumstance has been exaggerated. It seems too much to say that “it must always remain a mystery why this miracle, transcending as it does all other miracles which the Lord wrought, … should have been passed over by the three earlier Evangelists.” Two considerations go a long way towards explaining the mystery. (i) The Synoptical Gospels, though three in number, in the main represent only one tradition, and that a very fragmentary tradition. That fragmentary testimony should omit important facts is not surprising; and that out of three writers who make use of this defective evidence not one should in this important instance have supplied the deficiency, is not more than surprising. (ii) The Synoptists, until they reach the last Passover, omit almost all events in or near Jerusalem: the ministry in Galilee is their province. The omission of this raising by them is very little more strange than the omission of the other raisings by John. Each side keeps to its own scheme of narration.

To explain that the Synoptists were silent in order not to draw attention, and perhaps persecution (John 12:10-11), on Lazarus and his sisters, whereas when S. John wrote they were dead (just as S. John alone records that it was S. Peter who cut off the high-priest’s servant’s ear), is not very satisfactory. There is no evidence that Lazarus and his sisters were living when the first Gospel was written, still less when S. Luke wrote. And if they were alive, were the chief priests alive, and their animosity still alive also?

[3] This last objection really tells in favour of the narrative. The hierarchy would have stood self-condemned if they had made His raising the dead a formal charge against Christ. The disciples had fled, and could not urge the miracle in His favour; and Christ Himself would not break the majestic silence which He maintained before His accusers to mention such a detail.

There are those who assume that miracles are impossible, and that no amount of evidence can render a miracle credible. This miracle is therefore dismissed, and we are to believe either that [1] Lazarus was only apparently dead, i.e. that Christ was an impostor and S. John a dupe or an accomplice; or that [2] the parable of Lazarus and Dives has been transformed into a miracle; or that [3] the narrative is a myth, or [4] an allegory. [1] and [2] only need to be stated: of [3] and [4] we may say with Meyer, “No narrative of the N.T. bears so completely the stamp of being the very opposite of a later invention … And what an incredible height of art in the allegorical construction of history must we ascribe to the composer!” Instead of an historical miracle we have a literary miracle of the second century. Contrast this chapter with the miracles of the Apocryphal Gospels, and it will seem impossible that both can have come from the same source. To tear out this or any other page from S. John, and retain the rest, is quite inadmissible. “The Gospel is like that sacred coat ‘without seam woven from the top throughout:’ it is either all real and true or all fictitious and illusory; and the latter alternative is more difficult to accept than the miracle” (Sanday).

Verse 1

1. ἦν δέ τις ἀσθ. Once more we note the touching simplicity of the narrative. The δέ is perhaps ‘but’ rather than ‘now’: it introduces a contrast to what precedes. Christ went into Peraea for retirement, but the sickness of Lazarus interrupted it. And thus once more the Lord’s repose is broken. Nicodemus breaks the quiet of the night (John 3:2); the Samaritan woman interrupts the rest beside the well (John 4:7); the importunate multitude invade the mountain solitude (John 6:5); and now His friend’s death summons Him from His retreat in Peraea. In all the claims of His Father’s work are paramount.

Λάζαρος. The theory that this narrative is a parable transformed into a miracle possibly represents something like the reverse of the fact. The parable of Dives and Lazarus was apparently spoken about this time, i.e. between the Feast of Dedication and the last Passover, and it may possibly have been suggested by this miracle. In no other parable does Christ introduce a proper name. Some would identify Lazarus of Bethany with the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16; Mark 10:17; Luke 18:18), and also with the young man clad in a linen cloth who followed Jesus in the Garden after the disciples had fled (Mark 14:51; see note there). The name Lazarus is an abbreviated Greek form of Eleazar = ‘God is my help.’ It is commonly assumed without much evidence that he was younger than his sisters: S. Luke’s silence about him (John 10:38-39) agrees well with this.

Βηθανίας. A small village on the S.E. slope of the Mount of Olives, about two miles from Jerusalem (see on Matthew 21:9).

ἑκ τ. κώμης. Acts 23:34 and Revelation 9:18 shew that no distinction can be drawn between ἀπό and ἐκ either here or John 1:45, as that ἀπό refers to residence and ἐκ to birthplace. Comp. Luke 21:18 with Acts 27:34. But the change of preposition should be preserved in translation; of Bethany, from the village of Mary. Κώμη is used of Bethlehem (John 7:42), and in conjunction with πόλις (Luke 13:22). It is an elastic word; but its general meaning is ‘village’ rather than anything larger. Mary is here mentioned first, although apparently the younger sister (Luke 10:28), because the incident mentioned in the next verse had made her better known. They are introduced as well-known persons, like the Twelve (John 6:67), Pilate (John 18:29), and Mary Magdalene (John 19:25). They would seem to have been people of position from the village being described as their abode (to distinguish it from the other Bethany in Peraea, to which Christ had just gone). The guests at the funeral (John 11:31; John 11:45), the feast, the family burying-place (John 11:38), and Mary’s costly offering (John 12:2-3), point in the same direction.

Verses 1-33


Verse 2

2. ἦν δὲ ΄. ἡ ἀλείψασα. Now Mary was she that anointed; or, Now it was (the) Mary that anointed. This of course does not necessarily imply that the anointing had already taken place, as those who identify Mary with the ‘sinner’ of Luke 7:37 would insist: it merely implies that when S. John wrote, this fact was well known about her, as Christ had promised should be the case (Matthew 26:13). S. John tells two facts omitted in the earlier Gospels; [1] that the village of Martha and Mary was Bethany, [2] that the anointing at Bethany was Mary’s act. The identification of Mary of Bethany with the ἁμαρτωλός of Luke 7 is altogether at variance with what S. Luke and S. John tell us of her character. Nor is there any sufficient reason for identifying either of them with Mary Magdalene. Mary of Bethany, Mary of Magdala, and the ‘sinner’ of Luke 7 are three distinct persons.

Verse 3

3. ἀπέστειλαν οὖν. This shews that John 11:2 ought not to be made a parenthesis; ‘therefore’ refers to the previous statement. Because of the intimacy, which every one who knew of the anointing would understand, the sisters sent. Note that they are not further described; S. John has said enough to tell his readers who are meant: but would not a forger have introduced them with more description?

κύριε, ἴδε δν φ. ἀσθ. Exquisite in its tender simplicity. The message implies a belief that Christ could cure a dangerous sickness, and no doubt (John 11:21; John 11:32) would heal His friend. Sufficit ut noveris. Non enim amas et deseris (S. Augustine). Thus of the seven typical miracles with which S. John illustrates the Lord’s ministry, the last, like the first, has its scene in the family circle. Like His Mother (John 2:3), the sisters state the trouble, and leave the rest to Him: and here, as there, He at first seems to refuse what He afterwards grants in abundance. On ἴδε see on John 1:29; on φιλεῖς, John 11:5, John 5:20.

Verse 4

4. εἶπεν. Not ἀπεκρίθη: His words are not a mere answer to the message, but a lesson to the Apostles also.

οὐκ ἔστιν πρὸς θ. Is not to have death as its final result: for ‘He Himself knew what He would do’ (John 6:6). Christ foresaw both the death and the resurrection, and (as so often) uttered words which His disciples did not understand at the time, but recognised in their proper meaning after what He indicated had taken place. Comp. John 2:22, John 12:16, John 21:23.

ἵνα δοξασθῇ. In two ways; because the miracle [1] would lead many to believe that He was the Messiah; [2] would bring about His death. Δοξάζεσθαι is a frequent expression of this Gospel for Christ’s Death regarded as the mode of His return to glory (John 7:39, John 12:16; John 12:23, John 13:31-32); and this glorification of the Son involves the glory of the Father (John 5:23, John 10:30; John 10:38). Comp. John 9:3; in the Divine counsels the purpose of the man’s blindness and of Lazarus’ sickness is the glory of God.

We ought perhaps to connect the special meaning of ‘glorified’ with the first clause: ‘This sickness is to have for its final issue, not the temporal death of an individual, but the eternal life of all mankind.’

It is worth noting that both the first and the last of the seven miracles of the ministry recorded by S. John are declared to be manifestations of glory (John 2:11, John 11:4; John 11:40) and confirmations of faith (John 2:11, John 11:15).

δι' αὐτῆς, i.e. διὰ τ. ἀσθενείας, not διὰ τ. δόξης τ. Θεοῦ.

Verse 5

5. ἠγάπα. The loss involved here, and still more in John 21:15-17, in translating both ἀγαπᾶν and φιλεῖν by ‘love’ cannot be remedied satisfactorily. Φιλεῖν (amare) denotes a passionate, emotional warmth, which loves and does not care to ask why; the affection which is based on natural relationship, as of parents, brothers, lovers, and the like. Ἀγαπᾶν (diligere) denotes a calm discriminating attachment, which loves because of the excellence of the loved object; the affection which is based on esteem, as of friends. Φιλεῖν is the stronger, but less reasoning; ἀγαπᾶν the more earnest, but less intense. The sisters naturally use the more emotional word (John 11:3), describing their own feeling towards their brother; the Evangelist equally naturally uses the loftier and less impulsive word. The fact that the sisters are here included is not the reason for the change of expression. Both words are used of the love of the Father to the Son; φιλεῖν (John 5:20), because the love is founded on relationship; ἀγαπᾶν (John 3:35, John 10:17, John 15:9, John 17:23-24; John 17:26), because of the character of the love.

τ. ΄άρθαν κ.τ.λ. The names are probably in order of age. This and John 11:19 confirm what is almost certain from Luke 10:38, that Martha is the elder sister. The separate mention of each of the three is touching and impressive.

Verse 6

6. ὡς οὖν ἤκουσεν. The connexion is a little difficult. Οὖν after the statement in John 11:5 prepares us for a departure instead of a delay: ‘He loved them; when therefore He heard.… He set out immediately.’ But perhaps it means that His love for them made Him delay until the time when His coming would do them most good. Or οὖν may lead on to John 11:7, and then we must place only a semicolon at the end of John 11:6. When therefore He heard that he is sick, at that time indeed He abode two days in the place where He was; then after this He saith, &c. The δέ after ἔπειτα, anticipated by τότε μέν, is felt, though not expressed: ἔπειτα in part supplies the place of δέ as in James 3:17. Comp. John 19:32, Luke 8:5-6, where μέν is followed by a simple καί.—΄ὲνἔπειτα and μὲνκαί are not rare in classical Greek. Winer, p. 720.

Verse 7

7. ἔπειτα μ. τ. see on John 3:22. The fulness of this expression emphasizes the length of the delay, so trying to the sisters, and perhaps to Jesus Himself. Winer, p. 754. But His life was a perfect fulfilment of the Preacher’s rule; ‘To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven’ (Ecclesiastes 3:1; comp. John 11:9, John 2:4). There was a Divine plan, in conformity with which He worked.

εἰς τ. . πάλιν. The πάλιν refers us back to John 10:40. His using the general term, Judaea, instead of Bethany, leads to the disciples’ reply. Judaea was associated with hostility, Bethany with love and friendship. Perhaps He wishes to prepare the disciples for the consequences of a return to Judaea.

Verse 8

8. Ῥαββί, νῦν κ.τ.λ. Rabbi (see on John 4:31) just now the Jews were seeking to stone Thee (John 10:31) and art Thou going thither again? ‘Again’ is emphatic. For νῦν comp. John 21:10.

Verse 9

9. οὐχὶ δώδεκα. As so often, Christ gives no direct answer to the question asked, but a general principle, involving the answer to the question. Comp. John 2:6; John 2:19, John 3:5; John 3:10, John 4:13; John 4:21, John 6:32; John 6:53, John 8:7; John 8:25; John 8:54, John 10:25. The meaning seems to be, ‘Are there not twelve working-hours in which a man may labour without fear of stumbling? I have not yet reached the end of My working-day, and so can safely continue the work I came to do. The night cometh, when I can no longer work; but it has not yet come.’ Comp. John 9:4. Thus it is practically equivalent to ‘Mine hour is not yet come;’ it is still right for Him to work: but the figure here adopted is of wider application, and contains a moral for the disciples and all Christians as well as an application to Christ; ‘Add nothing and lose nothing, but use the time that is allowed.’ The expression throws no light on S. John’s method of reckoning time. see on John 19:14.

προσκόπτει. Knock one’s foot against; offendere.

τὸ φῶς τ. κ. τ. The sun: the words were spoken just before the departure, which probably took place at dawn.

Verse 10

10. ἐν τῇ νυκτί. Christ’s night came when His hour came (John 17:1). Then the powers of darkness prevailed (Luke 22:53) and His enemies became a stumbling-block in His path, bringing His work to a close (John 19:30).

τ. φῶς οὐκ ἔστιν. The light is not in him. This shews that the meaning has slid from the literal to the figurative. Τὸ φῶς in John 11:9 is the physical light in the heavens; here it is the spiritual light in the heart. Comp. 1 John 2:10-11.

Verse 11

11. μετὰ τοῦτο. Perhaps indicates a pause. see on John 3:22.

Λ. ὁ φίλος ἡμ. κεκ. Lazarus, our friend, is fallen asleep. Equal in tender simplicity to the message (John 11:3). Sleep as an image of death is common from the dawn of literature; but the Gospel has raised the expression from a figure to a fact. Paganism called death a sleep to conceal its nature; the Lord does so to reveal its nature. A poetic euphemism has become a gracious truth. Comp. Matthew 27:52; Acts 7:50; Acts 13:36; 1 Corinthians 7:39; 1 Corinthians 11:30; 1 Corinthians 15:6; 1 Corinthians 15:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:13; 2 Peter 3:4. The thoroughly Christian term ‘cemetery’ (= sleeping-place) in the sense of a place of repose for the dead comes from the same root. The exact time of Lazarus’ death cannot be determined, for we do not know how long Christ took in reaching Bethany. Christ calls him ‘our friend,’ as claiming the sympathy of the disciples, who had shewn unwillingness to return to Judaea.

ἵνα ἐξ. This shews that no messenger has come to announce the death. Christ sees the death as He foresees the resurrection (John 11:4).

Verse 12

12. εἶπον οὖν αὐ. οἱ μ. The disciples therefore said to Him;—catching at any chance of escape from the dreaded journey. They accept it as quite natural that Jesus should know that Lazarus sleeps, and perhaps they think that He has caused the sleep. This slight touch is strong proof of their belief in His power.

εἰ κεκ., σωθήσεται. If he is fallen asleep, he shall be saved. The word σωθήσεται is perhaps purposely chosen as being capable of a spiritual meaning. The whole narrative is symbolical of spiritual death and resurrection; and S. John perhaps intimates that the disciples, like Caiaphas (John 11:50), spoke more truth than they themselves knew. Of course they mean, ‘He will recover.’ Comp. Ajax, 263.

ἀλλ' εἰ πέπαυται, κάρτ' ἄν εὐτυχεῖν δοκῶ.

Their first thought probably was that Jesus meant to go and cure Lazarus; and now they think that he will recover without His going, and that therefore He need not go. The A.V. reads like an expostulation against waking Lazarus, as if it meant ‘a sick man should not be disturbed’: but they are too full of anxiety about πορεύομαι to notice ἵνα ἐξυπνίσω αὐτόν. It is the going, not the wakening, that perturbs them. For other instances in which the disciples grossly misunderstand Christ, see John 4:33, John 14:5; John 14:8; John 14:22; Matthew 16:7; and comp. John 3:4; John 3:9, John 4:11; John 4:15, John 6:34; John 6:52, John 7:35, John 8:22; John 8:33; John 8:52. This candour in declaring their own failings adds to our confidence in the veracity of the Evangelists. It is urged that the misunderstanding here is too gross to be probable: but they had not unnaturally understood Christ Himself to have declared that Lazarus would not die (John 11:4); this being so, they could not easily suppose that by sleep He meant death. Moreover, when men’s minds are on the stretch the strangest misapprehensions become possible.

Verse 13

13. τ. κοιμ. τ. ὕπν. Recalling κεκοίμηται and ἐξυπνίσω in John 11:11.

Verse 14

14. τότε οὖν. Then therefore said Jesus. Here, as in Romans 6:21, A.V. makes ‘then’ cover both τότε and οὖν, ‘then’ of time, and then’ of consequence.

παρρησίᾳ. Without metaphor: see on John 7:13.

Λαζ. ἀπέθανεν. The abruptness is startling. Contrast the aorist ἀπέθανεν, which indicates the moment of transition from life to death, with the perfect κεκοίμηται, which indicates the state of rest which has begun and continues.

Verse 15

15. χαίρω. Christ rejoices, not at His friend’s death, but at His own absence from the scene, for the disciples’ sake. Had He been there, Lazarus would not have died, and the disciples would have lost this great sign of His Messiahship.

ἴνα πιστεύσητε. S. John’s favourite construction, indicating the Divine purpose: see on John 9:2-3. Would any forger have written this? Would it not seem utterly improbable that at the close of His ministry Christ should still be working in order that Apostles might believe? Yet S. John, who heard the words, records them, and he knew from sad experience (Mark 14:50; Mark 16:11; Luke 24:11; Luke 24:21) that this work was not superfluous. Just before the trial of faith which His Passion and Death would bring to them, His disciples had need of all the help and strength that He could give. see on John 2:11.

ἀλλὰ ἄγωμεν. He breaks off suddenly. Πρὸς αὐτόν is significant; not to the mourning sisters, but to the sleeping friend.

Verse 16

16. Θωμᾶς, ὁ λ. Δ. S. John thrice (John 20:24, John 21:2) reminds his readers that Thomas is the same as he whom Gentile Christians called Didymus; just as he interprets ΄εσσίας (John 4:25). Thomas is Hebrew, Didymus is Greek, for a twin. In all probability he was a twin, possibly of S. Matthew, with whom he is coupled in all three lists of the Apostles in the Gospels: in the Acts he is coupled with S. Philip. That S. Thomas received his name from Christ (as Simon was called Peter, and the sons of Zebedee Boanerges) in consequence of his character, is pure conjecture. But the coincidence between the name and his twin-mindedness (James 1:8; James 4:8) is remarkable. “In him the twins, unbelief and faith, were contending with one another for mastery, as Esau and Jacob in Rebecca’s womb” (Trench). It is from S. John that we know his character: in the Synoptists and the Acts he is a mere name (see on John 1:41). Not that S. John purposely sketches his character; the notices are too brief and too scattered for that. But the character shines through the lifelike narrative. He seems to have combined devotion to Christ with a tendency to see the dark side of everything. S. John’s care in distinguishing him by his Gentile name adds point to the argument derived from his never distinguishing John as the Baptist (see on John 1:6).

συμμαθηταῖς. The word occurs here only; perhaps it indicates that they shared his feelings. It has been remarked that S. Thomas would scarcely have taken the lead in this way had S. Peter been present, and that had S. Peter been there he would probably have appeared in the previous dialogue. If he was absent, we have an additional reason for the absence of this miracle from S. Mark’s Gospel, the Gospel of S. Peter, and undoubtedly the representative of the oldest form of the Synoptic narrative.

μετ' αὐτοῦ. Of course with Christ (John 11:8). It is strange that any should understand it of Lazarus. They could not die with him, for he was dead already, and S. Thomas knew this (John 11:14). ‘The Hope of Israel is going to certain death; there is nothing left for us but to share it.’ The words fitly close a section, of which the prevailing thought is death.

Verse 17

17. εὖρεν, i.e. on enquiry: comp. John 1:44, John 5:14, John 9:35. It would seem as if Christ’s miraculous power of knowing without the ordinary means of information was not in constant activity, but like His other miraculous powers was employed only on fitting occasions. It was necessary to His work that He should know of Lazarus’ death; it was not necessary that He should know how long he had been buried, nor where he had been buried (John 11:34). Comp. John 1:48, John 4:18, John 9:35, John 18:34. Thus Peter’s prison-gate opens ‘of its own accord;’ Mary’s house-door, which Rhoda could open, does not (Acts 12:10-16).

τέσς. ἡμ. No doubt he had been buried the day he died, as is usual in hot climates where decomposition is rapid; moreover, he had died of a malignant disease, probably a fever. Jehu ordered Jezebel to be buried a few hours after death (2 Kings 9:34); Ananias and Sapphira were buried at once (Acts 5:6; Acts 5:10). If Christ started just after Lazarus died, as seems probable, the journey had occupied four days. This fits in well with the conclusion that Bethabara or Bethany was in the north of Palestine, possibly a little south of the sea of Galilee; near Galilee it must have been (comp. John 1:28-29; John 1:43). But on the other hand Lazarus may have died soon after Christ heard of his illness; in which case the journey occupied barely two days.

ἐν τ. μνημείῳ. In the tomb. Our translators use three different English words for μνημεῖον; ‘grave’ in this chapter, John 5:28; Matthew 27:52, &c.; ‘tomb’ Matthew 8:28; Mark 5:2; Mark 6:29, &c.; ‘sepulchre’ of Christ’s resting-place. Τάφος, used by S. Matthew only, is rendered ‘tomb’ Matthew 23:29, and ‘sepulchre’ Matthew 23:27, Matthew 27:61; Matthew 27:64; Matthew 27:66, Matthew 28:1. ‘Tomb’ being reserved for μνημεῖον, τάφος might be rendered ‘sepulchre.’

Verse 18

18. ἦν δὲ ἡ Β. Ἦν. need not imply that when S. John wrote Bethany had been destroyed, but this is the more probable meaning; especially as no other Evangelist speaks of places in the past tense, and S. John does not always do so. The inference is that he wrote after the destruction of Jerusalem; and that what was destroyed in the siege he speaks of in the past tense; e.g. Bethany (here), the Garden of Gethsemane (John 18:1), Joseph’s garden (John 19:41), what was not destroyed, in the present tense; e.g. Bethesda (John 11:2, where see note).

ὡς ἀπὸ σταδ. δεκαπ. A Greek stade is 18 yards less than an English furlong; but the translation is sufficiently accurate, like ‘firkin’ (John 2:6). This distance, therefore, was under two miles, and is mentioned to account for the many Jews who came to condole with the sisters; and also to point out the dangerous proximity into which Jesus now entered. For the ἀπό comp. John 21:8; Revelation 14:20 : in all three cases the preposition seems to have got out of place. We should have expected ὡς σταδίους δ. ἀπὸ Ἱεροσολύμων, as in Luke 24:13. Comp. πρὸ ἔξ ἡμερῶν τοῦ πάσχα (John 12:1); and ante diem tertium Kal. Mart. for tertio die ante Kal. Mart. Or possibly the distance is looked at in the reverse way: Winer, p. 697.

Verse 19

19. ἐκ τῶν Ἰ. From among the Jews. ‘The Jews,’ as usual, are the hostile party: among the numerous acquaintances of the sisters were many of the opponents of Jesus. This visit was yet another opportunity for them to believe.

ἐλ. πρὸς τὴν ΄. κ. ΄. Had come to M. and M. Some good authorities support T. R. in reading πρὸς τὰς περὶ ΄. κ. ΄., ‘to M. and M. and their friends.’ Comp. οἱ περὶ τὸν Παῦλον, Paul and his companions, Acts 13:13.

παραμυθήσωνται. ‘The empty chaff’ of conventional consolation which so moved the spirit of Jesus (John 11:33). It formed a barrier between Him and the sorrow which He alone could console. Jewish ceremonial required that many (ten at least) should come and condole. Genesis 27:35; comp. 2 Samuel 12:17; Job 2:11. It is said that the usual period of mourning was thirty days; three of weeping, seven of lamentation, twenty of sorrow. But the instances in Scripture vary: Jacob, seventy days with an additional seven (Genesis 50:3; Genesis 50:10); Aaron and Moses, thirty days (Numbers 20:29; Deuteronomy 34:8); Saul and Judith, seven days (1 Samuel 28:13; Judges 16:24; comp. Sirach 22:12; 2 Esdras 5:20). Josephus tells us that Archelaus mourned for his father seven days, and the Jews for himself, thirty days (B. J. II. i. 1; III. ix. 5). The Mishna prescribes seven days for near relations.

Verse 20

20. ἡ οὖν ΄άρθα. Martha therefore. As in Luke 10:40, she takes the lead in entertaining, while Mary shrinks from it; and she was probably now engaged in some duty of this kind. As elder sister, and apparently mistress of the house (Luke 10:38), information would naturally come to her first. Without waiting to tell her sister she hurries out to meet Jesus. It is incredible that the coincidence between S. John and S. Luke as regards the characters of the sisters should be either fortuitous or designed. It is much easier to believe that both give us facts about real persons.

ἔρχεται. Is coming; the exact word of the message. They were perhaps still looking for His arrival, although they believed that it was now too late for Him to aid. Unwilling to mingle at once in the crowd of conventional mourners, He halts outside the village.

ἐκαθέζετο. The attitude of sorrow and meditation (Job 2:13). She does not know of Christ’s approach (John 11:28-29): Martha, in discharging the duties of hospitality to fresh arrivals, would be more likely to hear of it.

Verse 21

21. εἰ ἦς ὦδε, κ.τ.λ. Not a reproach, however gentle (she does not say ‘hadst Thou come’), but an expression of deep regret. This thought had naturally been often in the sisters’ minds during the last four days (comp. John 11:32). They believe that Christ could and would have healed Lazarus: their faith and hope are not yet equal to anticipating His raising him from the dead. The gradual progress of Martha’s faith is very true to life, and reminds us of similar development in the woman of Samaria (John 4:19), the βασιλικός (John 4:53), and the man born blind (John 9:11), though she starts at a more advanced stage than they do. If all these four narratives are late fictions, we have four masterpieces of psychological study, as miraculous in the literature of the second century as would be a Gothic cathedral in the architecture of that age. For the construction comp. John 4:10, John 14:28.

Verse 22

22. καὶ νῦν οἶδα. And even now (that he is dead) I know. She believes that had Christ been there, He could have healed Lazarus by His own power (comp. John 4:47), and that now His prayer may prevail with God to raise him from the dead. She has yet to learn that Christ’s bodily presence is not necessary, and that He can raise the dead by His own power. He gradually leads her faith onwards to higher truth. Θεός at the end of both clauses seems to emphasize her conviction that God alone can now help them: but it may be the repetition so common in S. John’s style.

αἰτήσῃ. Αἰτεῖσθαι ‘to ask for oneself’ (John 14:13-14, John 15:7; John 15:16, John 16:23; John 16:26; 1 John 5:14-15), is a word more appropriate to merely human prayer, and is not used by Christ of His own prayers or by the Evangelists of Christ’s prayers. She thus incidentally seems to shew her imperfect idea of His relation to God. Of His own prayers Christ uses ἐρωτᾶν (John 14:16, John 16:26, John 17:9; John 17:15; John 17:20), δεῖσθαι (Luke 22:32), προσεύχεσθαι (Matthew 26:36; Mark 14:32), θέλω (John 17:24). The Synoptists commonly use προσεύχεσθαι of Christ’s prayers (Matthew 26:39; Matthew 26:42; Matthew 26:44; Mark 14:35; Mark 14:39; Luke 3:21; Luke 5:16; Luke 6:12; Luke 9:18; Luke 9:28-29; Luke 11:1; Luke 22:41; Luke 22:44): S. John never uses the word.

Verse 23

23. ἀναστήσεται. He uses an ambiguous expression as an exercise of her faith. Some think that these words contain no allusion to the immediate restoration of Lazarus, and that Martha (John 11:24) understands them rightly. More probably Christ includes the immediate restoration of Lazarus, but she does not venture to do so, and rejects the allusion to the final Resurrection as poor consolation.

Verse 24

24. οἶδα ὅτι ἀναστ. This conviction was probably in advance of average Jewish belief on the subject. The O.T. declarations as to a resurrection are so scanty and obscure, that the Sadducees could deny the doctrine, and the Pharisees had to resort to oral tradition to maintain it (see on Mark 12:18; Acts 23:8]. But from Daniel 12:2 and 2 Maccabees 7:9; 2 Maccabees 7:14; 2 Maccabees 7:23; 2 Maccabees 7:36; 2 Maccabees 12:43-44, a belief in a resurrection of the good as an inauguration of the Messiah’s kingdom was very general. For ἐν τ. ἐσχ. ἡμέρᾳ see on John 6:39.

Verse 25

25. ἐγώ εἰμι. see on John 6:35. He draws her from her selfish grief to Himself. There is no need for Him to pray as man to God (John 11:22); He (and none else) is the Resurrection and the Life. There is no need to look forward to the last day; He is (not ‘will be’) the Resurrection and the Life. Comp. John 14:6; Colossians 3:4. In what follows, the first part shews how He is the Resurrection, the second how He is the Life. ‘He that believeth in Me, even if he shall have died (physically), shall live (eternally). And every one that liveth (physically) and believeth in Me, shall never die (eternally).’ The dead shall live; the living shall never die. Physical life and death are indifferent to the believer; they are but modes of existence.

Verse 26

26. πᾶς. There is no limitation; John 3:15, John 12:46. Comp. John 1:18, John 4:14, John 6:51, John 8:51, John 10:9. For οὐ μὴ ἀπ. εἰς τ. αἰῶνα see on John 8:51. Πιστεύεις τοῦτο; is a searching question suddenly put. She answers with confidence and gives the ground for her confidence.

Verse 27

27. ναί, κύριε. With these words she accepts Christ’s declaration respecting Himself, and then states the creed which has enabled her to accept it. The change from πιστεύω (the natural answer) to ἐγὼ πεπίστευκα is remarkable: I, even I whom thou art questioning, have believed; i.e. have convinced myself and do believe; comp. John 6:69; 1 John 4:16; 1 John 5:10. The full meaning of her confession she cannot have known: like the Apostles she shared the current imperfect views of the character and office of the Messiah. see on John 9:38.

ὁ εἰς τ. κ. ἐρχόμενος. (Even) He that cometh into the world: comp. John 6:14; Matthew 11:3; Luke 7:19; Deuteronomy 18:15. She believes that as the Messiah He has the powers mentioned John 11:25-26. How these will affect her own case, she does not know; but with a vague hope of comfort in store for them all she returns to the house. Ἔρχεσθαι εἰς τ. κόσμον is frequent in S. John (John 1:9, John 3:19, John 6:14, John 9:39, John 12:46, John 16:28, John 18:37): as applied to Christ it includes the notion of His mission (John 3:17, John 10:36, John 12:47; John 12:49, John 17:18). Not in the Synoptists.

Verse 28

28. λάθρα. Because of the presence of Christ’s enemies (John 11:19; John 11:31). Λάθρα with εἰποῦσα, rather than with ἐφώνησε (Matthew 1:19; Matthew 2:7; Acts 16:37).

ὁ διδάσκαλος. John 1:39, John 13:13-14, John 20:16, John 3:10; Mark 14:14. Their friendship is based on the relation between teacher and disciple. She avoids using His name for fear of being overheard.

Verse 29

29. ταχύ. As was natural in one so fond of sitting at His feet. Note the change from aorist to imperfect; the rising was momentary (ἠγέρθη), the coming continuous (ἤρχετο): comp. John 4:27; John 4:30; John 4:40; John 4:47; John 4:50, John 5:9, John 6:1-2; John 6:16-17; John 6:66, John 7:14; John 7:30-31; John 7:44, John 9:22, John 20:3.

Verse 30

30. ἦν ἔτι. Was still in the place. By remaining outside He could converse with the sisters with less fear of interruption: but the Jews, by following her, interfere with the privacy. See Winer, p. 705.

Verse 31

31. κλαύσῃ. Stronger than δακρύειν (John 11:35): it means to wall and cry aloud, not merely shed tears (John 20:11; John 20:13; Matthew 2:18; Matthew 26:75. It is used of Mary Magdalene (John 20:11; John 20:13), Rachel (Matthew 2:18), S. Peter (Mark 14:72), the widow at Nain (Luke 7:13).

Verse 32

32. ἔπεσεν. Nothing of the kind is told of Martha (John 11:21). Here again the difference of character between the two appears.

οὐκ ἄν μου ἀπ. The same words as those of Martha (John 11:21); but the pronoun is here more prominent, indicating how acutely personal her loss was. No doubt the sisters had expressed this thought to one another often in the last few days. Mary’s emotion is too strong for her; she can say no more than this; contrast John 11:22. The Jews coming up prevent further conversation. For the construction comp. John 5:10, John 14:28.

Verse 33

33. κλαίουσανκλαίοντας. The repetition emphasizes a contrast which is the key to the passage.

ἐνεβριμήσατο τ. πνεύματι. Infremuit spiritu; He was angered, or was moved with indignation in the spirit. Ἐμβριμᾶσθαι occurs five times in N.T., here, John 11:38; Matthew 9:30; Mark 1:43; Mark 14:5 (see notes in each place). In all cases, as in classical Greek and in the LXX., it expresses not sorrow but indignation or severity. It means [1] literally, of animals, ‘to snort, growl;’ then [2] metaphorically, ‘to be very angry or indignant;’ [3] ‘to command sternly, under threat of displeasure.’ What was He angered at? Some translate ‘at His spirit,’ and explain (α) that He was indignant at the human emotion which overcame Him: which is out of harmony with all that we know about the human nature of Christ Others, retaining ‘in His spirit,’ explain (β) that He was indignant ‘at the unbelief of the Jews and perhaps of the sisters:’ but of this there is no hint in the context. Others again (γ) that it was ‘at the sight of the momentary triumph of evil, as death, … which was here shewn under circumstances of the deepest pathos:’ but we nowhere else find the Lord shewing anger at the physical consequences of sin. It seems better to fall back on the contrast pointed out in the last note. He was indignant at seeing the hypocritical and sentimental lamentations of His enemies the Jews mingling with the heartfelt lamentations of His loving friend Mary (comp. John 12:10): hypocrisy ever roused His anger.

The πνεῦμα is the seat of the religious emotions, the highest, innermost part of man’s nature, the ψυχή is the seat of the natural affections and desires. Here and in John 13:21 it is Christ’s πνεῦμα that is affected, by the presence of moral evil: in John 12:27; Matthew 26:38; Mark 14:34, it is His ψυχή that is troubled, at the thought of impending suffering: comp. John 10:24.

ἐτάραξεν ἑαντόν. Turbavit se ipsum; He troubled Himself. Not a mere periphrasis for ἐταράχθη, turbatus est (John 13:21). He allowed His emotion to become evident by some external movement such as a shudder. His emotions were ever under control: when they ruffled the surface of His being (John 2:15), it was because He so willed it. Turbaris tu nolens: turbatus est Christus quia voluit (S. Augustine).

Verses 33-44

33–44. THE SIGN

Verse 34

34. ποῦ τεθ. αὐτόν; Again He does not use His supernatural powers (John 11:17). With ἔρχου κ. ἴδε contrast John 1:47. On both sides “grief speaks in the fewest possible words.”

Verse 35

35. ἐδάκρυσεν. Literally, shed tears: here only in N.T. see on John 13:30. His lamentation was less violent than that of the sisters and their friends (John 11:31; John 11:33). Once it is said of Him that He wailed aloud (ἔκλαυσεν, Luke 19:41); but that was not for the loss of a friend, but for the spiritual death of the whole Jewish nation. Now He sheds tears, not because He is ignorant or doubtful of what is coming, but because He cannot but sympathize with His friends’ grief. He who later shared the pains of death, here shares the sorrow for death. “It is not with a heart of stone that the dead are raised.” Comp. Hebrews 2:11. For the dramatic brevity comp. John 5:9, John 13:30, John 18:40.

Verse 36

36. ἔλεγονἐφίλει. Imperfects of continued action. As naturally as the sisters (John 11:3) they use φιλεῖν rather than ἀγαπᾶν (John 11:5). For Ἴδε see on John 1:29.

Verse 37

37. τινὲς δὲ ἐξ αὐ. But some of them, in contrast to those who speak in John 11:36, who are not unfriendly, while these sneer. The drift of this remark is ‘He weeps; but why did He not come in time to save His friend? Because He knew that He could not. And if He could not, did he really open the eyes of the blind?’ Or possibly, ‘He weeps; but why did He not take the trouble to come in time? His tears are hypocritical.’ They use the death of Lazarus as an argument to throw fresh doubt on the miracle which had so baffled them at Jerusalem; or else as evidence that His grief is feigned. Their reference to the man born blind instead of to the widow’s son, or Jairus’ daughter, has been used as an objection to the truth of this narrative. It is really a strong confirmation of its truth. An inventor would almost certainly have preferred more obvious parallels. But these Jews of course did not believe in those raisings of the dead: they much more naturally refer to a reputed miracle within their own experience. Moreover they are not hinting at raising the dead, but urging that if Jesus could work miracles He ought to have prevented Lazarus from dying.

Verse 38

38. ἐμβριμ. ἐν ἑαυτῷ. This shews that ‘in His spirit,’ not ‘at His spirit,’ is right in John 11:33, to which πάλιν refers. Their sneering scepticism rouses His indignation afresh.

It is remarkable that this chapter, which narrates the greatest exhibition of Divine power in the ministry of Christ, contains peculiarly abundant evidence of His perfect humanity. We have His special affection for His friends (John 11:5), His sympathy and sorrow (John 11:35), His indignation (John 11:33; John 11:38). In the rest of this Gospel, which is so full of the Divinity of Jesus, we have His humanity plainly set forth also; His weariness (John 4:6), His thirst (John 4:7, John 19:28), His love for His disciples (John 20:2), His special affection for ‘His own’ and for S. John (John 13:2; John 13:23, John 19:26, John 21:7; John 21:20).

μνημεῖον. See on John 11:17. The having a private burying-place, like the large attendance of mourners and the very precious ointment (John 12:3), indicates that the family is well off. Εἰς is unto, not into.

ἐπ' αὐτῷ. Upon it, or against it. An excavation in the side of a mound or rock may be meant. What is now shewn as Lazarus’ grave is an excavation in the ground with steps down to it. The modern name of Bethany, El-Azariyeh or Lazarieh, is derived from Lazarus.

Verse 39

39. ἄρατε τ. λίθον. Comp. τ. λίθον ἠ ρμένον. (John 20:1) not ἀποκεκυλισμένον (Luke 24:2 : comp. Mark 16:4, Matthew 28:2). The command would cause great surprise and excitement.

ἡ ἀδελφὴ τ. τετελ. Not inserted gratuitously. It was because she was his sister that she could not bear to see him or allow him to be seen disfigured by corruption. The remark comes much more naturally from the practical Martha than from the reserved and retiring Mary. There is nothing to indicate that she was mistaken; though some would have it that the miracle had begun from Lazarus’ death, and that the corpse had been preserved from decomposition.

τεταρταῖος. Literally, of the fourth day; quadriduanus. Westcott quotes a striking Jewish tradition: “The very height of mourning is not till the third day. For three days the spirit wanders about the sepulchre, expecting if it may return into the body. But when it sees that the aspect of the face is changed, then it hovers no more, but leaves the body to itself.” And “after three days the countenance is changed.”

Verse 40

40. εἶπόν σοι. Apparently a reference to John 11:25-26, and to the reply to the messenger, John 11:4 : on both occasions more may have been said than is reported. See on John 11:4.

Verse 41

41. ἦραν οὖν τ. λίθον. ὁ δὲ Ἰ. ἦρεν τ. ὀφθ. They lifted therefore the stone. But Jesus lifted up His eyes: comp. John 17:1.

ὅτι ἤκουσάς μου. That Thou didst hear Me. The prayer to which this refers is not recorded. He thanks the Father as a public acknowledgment that the Son can do nothing of Himself; the power which He is about to exhibit is from the Father (John 5:19-26).

Verse 42

42. ἐγὼ δὲ ᾔδειν. But I (whatever doubts others may have had) knew. No one must suppose from this act of thanksgiving that there are any prayers of the Son which the Father does not hear.

διὰ τ. ὄχλον. Shewing that others were present besides ‘the Jews’ who had come to condole. Εἶπον, I said the words, εὐχαρίστω σοι κ.τ.λ. His confidence in thanking God for a result not yet apparent proved His intimacy with God.

ὅτι σύ. That Thou, and no one else: σύ is emphatic. see on John 20:21.

Verse 43

43. ἐκραύγασεν. The word (rare in N.T. except in this Gospel) is nowhere else used of Christ. It is elsewhere used of the shout of a multitude; John 12:13, John 18:40, John 19:6; John 19:12; John 19:15. Comp. Matthew 12:19; Acts 22:23. This loud cry was perhaps the result of strong emotion, or in order that the whole multitude might hear. It is natural to regard it as the direct means of the miracle, awakening the dead: though some prefer to think that ‘I thank Thee’ implies that Lazarus is already alive and needs only to be called forth.

Verse 44

44. ἐξῆλθεν. It is safest not to regard this as an additional miracle. The winding-sheet may have been loosely tied round him, or each limb may have been swathed separately: in Egyptian mummies sometimes every finger is kept distinct.

κειρίαις. The word occurs here only in N.T. Comp. Proverbs 7:16. It means the bandages which kept the sheet and the spices round the body. Nothing is said about the usual spices (John 19:40) here; and Martha’s remark (John 11:39) rather implies that there had been no embalming. If Lazarus died of a malignant disease he would be buried as quickly as possible.

ὄψις. The word occurs in N.T. only here, John 7:24, and Revelation 1:16 : one of the small indications of a common authorship (see on John 1:14, John 4:6, John 5:2, John 7:30, [John 8:2,] John 13:8, John 15:20, John 19:37, John 20:16).

σουδαρίῳ. The Latin sudarium, meaning literally ‘a sweat-cloth.’ It occurs John 20:7; Luke 19:20; Acts 19:12. Here the cloth bound under the chin to keep the lower jaw from falling is probably meant. These details shew the eyewitness.

ἄφετε αὐ. ὑπ. The expression is identical with ‘let these go their way’ (John 18:8); and perhaps ‘let him go his way’ would be better here. Lazarus is to be allowed to retire out of the way of harmful excitement and idle curiosity. Comp. Luke 7:15; Luke 8:55. On all three occasions Christ’s first care is for the person raised.

The reserve of the Gospel narrative here is evidence of its truth, and is in marked contrast to the myths about others who are said to have returned from the grave. Lazarus makes no revelations as to the unseen world. The traditions about him have no historic value: but one mentioned by Trench (Miracles, p. 425) is worth remembering. It is said that the first question which he asked Christ after being restored to life was whether he must die again; and being told that he must, he was never more seen to smile.

Verse 45

45. πολλοὶ οὖν κ.τ.λ. The Greek is as plain as the English of A. V. is misleading, owing to inaccuracy and bad punctuation. Ἐκ τ. Ἰουδ. means of the Jews generally; of this hostile party ‘many believed;’ and these ‘many’ were those ‘who came and beheld’ the miracle. Many therefore of the Jews, even they who came to Mary and beheld that which He (see on John 6:14) did, believed on Him. Of the Jews who beheld, all believed. The reading for has the best authority though both are well supported: it is the last supreme miracle that is contemplated.

Verses 45-57


Verse 46

46. τινὲς δὲ ἐξ αὐτῶν. Again, of the Jews generally, rather than of those who saw and believed. With what intention they went away to the Pharisees, is not clear: possibly to convince them, or to seek an authoritative solution of their own perplexity, or as feeling that the recognised leaders of the people ought to know the whole case. Comp. John 5:15, John 9:13. The bad result of their mission has made some too hastily conclude that their intention was bad.

Verse 47

47. συνέδριον. They summon a meeting of the Sanhedrin. Even the adversaries of Jesus are being converted, and something decisive must be done. The crisis unites religious opponents. The chief priests, who were mostly Sadducees, act in concert with the Pharisees; jealous ecclesiastics with religious fanatics (comp. John 7:32; John 7:45, John 18:3).

συνέδριον, common in the Acts and not rare in the Synoptists, occurs here only in S. John; and here only without the article, as meaning a meeting of the Sanhedrin, rather than the council itself. It is the Greek equivalent of Sanhedrin, which though plural in form is treated as a singular noun of multitude: see on Matthew 26:3.

τί ποιοῦμεν; Not τί ποιῶμεν or ποιήσομεν, ‘What are we to do, if anything?’ But, What are we doing? i.e. something must be done, and we are not doing it.

οὗτος. Contemptuous: see on John 9:16.

πολλὰ π. σημεῖα. Πολλά is emphatic. It is no longer possible to question the fact of the signs. But instead of asking themselves what these signs mean, their only thought is how to prevent others from drawing the obvious conclusion. The contrast between their action and His (ποιοῦμενποιεῖ) is probably intended by the Evangelist, if not by them.

Verse 48

48. ἐλεύσονται οἱ Ῥωμ. An unconscious prophecy (comp. John 11:50, John 7:35, John 19:19) of what their own policy would produce. They do not inquire whether He is or is not the Messiah: they look solely to the consequences of admitting that He is.

ἡμῶν κ. τ. τόπον κ. τ. ἔθνος. ‘Ημῶν is very emphatic and does not depend on ἀροῦσιν: it belongs to both substantives; both our place and our nation. ‘Place’ is perhaps best understood of Jerusalem, the seat of the Sanhedrin, and the abode of most of the hierarchy. Other interpretations are [1] the Temple, comp. 2 Maccabees 5:19; [2] the whole land; so that the expression means ‘our land and people,’ which is illogical: the land may be taken from the people, or the people from the land, but how can both be taken away? [3] ‘position, raison d’être.’ In any case the sentiment is parallel to that of Demetrius and his fellow-craftsmen (Acts 19:27). They profess to be very zealous for religion, but cannot conceal their interested motives. For ἔθνος of the Jews comp. John 11:50.

Verse 49

49. Καϊάφας. This was a surname; τοῦ λεγομένου Καϊάφα, Matthew 26:3 (where see note on the Sanhedrin). His original name was Joseph. Caiaphas is either the Syriac form of Cephas, a ‘rock,’ or (according to another derivation) means ‘depression.’ The high-priesthood had long since ceased to descend from father to son. Pilate’s predecessor, Valerius Gratus, had deposed Annas and set up in succession Ismael, Eleazar (son of Annas), Simon, and Joseph Caiaphas (son-in-law of Annas); Caiaphas held the office from A.D. 18 to 36, when he was deposed by Vitellius. Annas in spite of his deposition was still regarded as in some sense high-priest (John 18:13; Luke 3:2; Acts 4:6), possibly as president of the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:21; Acts 5:27; Acts 7:1; Acts 9:1-2; Acts 22:5; Acts 23:2; Acts 23:4; Acts 24:1). Caiaphas is not president here, or he would not be spoken of merely as ‘one of them.’

τ. ἐνιαυτοῦ ἐκείνου. This has been urged as an objection, as if the Evangelist ignorantly supposed that the high-priesthood was an annual office,—a mistake which would go far to prove that the Evangelist was not a Jew, and therefore not S. John. But ‘that year’ means ‘that notable and fatal year.’ The same expression recurs John 11:51 and John 18:13. Even if there were not this obvious meaning for ‘that year,’ the frequent changes in the office at this period would fully explain the insertion without the notion of an annual change being implied. There had been some twenty or thirty high-priests in S. John’s lifetime.

ὑμεῖς οὐκ οἴδ. οὐδ. An inference from their asking ‘What do we?’ It was quite obvious what they must do. Ὑμεῖς is contemptuously emphatic. The resolute but unscrupulous character of the man is evident. We find similar characteristics in the Sadducean hierarchy to which he belonged (Acts 4:17; Acts 4:21; Acts 5:17-18). Josephus comments on the rough manners of the Sadducees even to one another: Σαδδουκαίων δὲ καὶ πρὸς ἀλλήλους τὸ ἧθος ἀγριώτερον (B. J. II. John 8:14).

Verse 50

50. συμφέρει ὑμῖν. It is expedient for you half-hearted Pharisees: ὑμῖν corresponds with the contemptuous ὑμεῖς, a point which is spoiled by the inferior reading ἡμῖν.

ἵνα εἶς ἄνθ. ἀποθ. Literally, in order that one man should die; S. John’s favourite construction pointing to the Divine purpose: see on John 1:8, John 4:34; John 4:47, and comp. John 16:7, John 6:29; John 6:40; John 6:50, John 9:2-3, John 12:23, John 13:34. The high-priest thus singles out the Scapegoat.

τοῦ λαοῦ. The Jews as a theocratic community; whereas τὸ ἔθνος (John 11:48, John 18:35) is the Jews as one of the nations of the earth (Luke 7:5; Acts 10:22. Τὰ ἔθνη of course means the Gentiles (Acts 10:45; Romans 11:13, Galatians 2:12, &c.).

Verse 51

51. ἀφ' ἑαυ. οὐκ εἶπ. Like Saul, Caiaphas is a prophet in spite of himself. None but a Jew would be likely to know of the old Jewish belief that the high-priest by means of the Urim and Thummim was the mouthpiece of the Divine oracle. The Urim and Thummim had been lost, and the high-priest’s office had been shorn of much of its glory, but the remembrance of his prophetical gift did not become quite extinct (Hosea 3:4); and ‘in that fatal year’ S. John might well believe that the gift would be restored. For ἤμελλεν see on John 6:71.

Verse 52

52. οὐχ ὑπὲρ τ. ἔθνους μόνον. S. John purposely uses the word which describes the Jews merely as one of the nations of the earth distinct from the Gentiles. We are not to understand that Caiaphas had any thought of the gracious meaning contained in his infamous advice. Balaam prophesied unwillingly, Caiaphas unconsciously.

συναγ. εἰς ἕν. Gather together into one (John 10:16, John 17:21). The idea of Jews scattered among Gentiles is here transferred to believers scattered among unbelievers. For ἀλλ' ἵνα see on John 1:8, and for τὰ τέκνα τ. Θεοῦ, 1 John 3:10. The Gentiles are already such potentially: they have the δύναμις, and will hereafter receive ἐξουσίαν τέκνα θεοῦ γένεσθαι (see on John 1:12).

Verse 53

53. ἀπ' ἐκείνης οὖν. From that (fatal) day therefore: it was in consequence of Caiaphas’ suggestion that they practically, if not formally, pronounced sentence of death. The question was how to get the sentence carried out.

Verse 54

54. . οὖν. Jesus therefore, because He knew that in raising His friend He had signed His own death-warrant, and that He must wait until His hour was come (John 13:1). For παρρησίᾳ see on John 7:13; for περιεπάτει, John 7:1. The time for freedom of speech and freedom of movement among them is over.

εἰς τ. χώραν ἐγγὺς τ. ἐρ. Into the country near the wilderness, a place of greater retirement than Peraea (John 10:40). The wilderness of Judaea is probably meant. But Ephraim cannot be identified with certainty. Eusebius makes it eight miles, Jerome twenty miles, N.E. of Jerusalem: both make it the same as Ephron. If the Ephraim of 2 Chronicles 13:19 and Josephus (B. J. VI. John 9:9) be meant, the wilderness would be that of Bethaven.

Verse 55

55. ἦν δὲ ἐγγ. τ. π. τ. . Now the passover of the Jews. ‘Of the Jews’ is added with full significance: see on John 2:13 and John 6:4.

ἵνα ἁγνίσωσιν ἑαυ. (Acts 21:24.) Again we have evidence that the Evangelist is a Jew. No purifications are ordered by the Law as a preparation for the Passover. But to be ceremonially unclean was to be excluded (John 18:28); hence it was customary for those who were so to go up to Jerusalem in good time, so as to be declared clean before the Feast began.

Verse 56

56. ἐζήτουν οὖν. They sought therefore: because they had come up expecting to see Him, but He remained in retirement. Note the imperfects of continued action. The restless, curiosity of these country-folk, standing talking together in the Temple, whither many of them had come to bring the offerings for their purification, and where Jesus was so often to be found, is very lifelike. It is better to make two questions than to take ὅτι after δοκεῖ: What think ye? That He will not come to the Feast?

Verse 57

57. οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς κ. οἱ Φ. see on John 7:32. The verse explains why the people doubted His coming to the Feast. Note that once more the Sadducean hierarchy takes the lead. Comp. John 11:47, John 12:10, John 18:3; John 18:35, John 19:6; John 19:15; John 19:21. In the history of the Passion the Pharisees are mentioned only once (Matthew 27:62), and then, as here, after the chief priests.

ἐντολάς. This is the better reading, which has been altered to ἐντολήν because only one command was given: comp. our phrase ‘to give orders.’ We have a similar use of ἐντολάς in Colossians 4:10, if ἐντολὰς refers to ἐὰν ἕλθῃ δέξασθε αὐτόν. Here the plural may indicate repetition of the order.

ἵναπιάσωσιν. see on John 4:47, John 7:30. The decree for His arrest had been published; the sentence of death was probably kept secret. But the Babylonian Gemara preserves a tradition that “an officer for 40 days publicly proclaimed that this man, who had seduced the people by his imposture, ought to be stoned, and that any one who could say aught in his defence was to come forward and speak. But no one doing so he was hanged on the eve of the Passover.”


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on John 11:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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Thursday, May 28th, 2020
the Seventh Week after Easter
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