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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
John 15

 

 

Other Authors
Introduction

CHAP. John 15:1-11. THE UNION OF THE DISCIPLES WITH CHRIST. THE ALLEGORY OF THE VINE

The allegory of the Vine is similar in kind to that of the Door and of the Good Shepherd in chap. 10 (see introductory note there): this sets forth union from within, the other union from without.

ἡ ἄμπ. ἡ ἀληθινή. For Ἐγώ εἰμι see on John 6:35. Christ is the true, genuine, ideal, perfect Vine, as He is the perfect Witness (Revelation 3:14), the perfect Bread (John 6:32), and the perfect Light (see on John 1:9). Whether the allegory was suggested by anything external,—vineyards, or the vine of the Temple visible in the moonlight, a vine creeping in at the window, or the ‘fruit of the vine’ (Matthew 26:29) on the table which they had just left,—it is impossible to say. Of these the last is far the most probable, as referring to the Eucharist just instituted as a special means of union with Him and with one another. But the allegory may easily have been chosen for its own merits and its O.T. associations (Psalms 80:8-19; Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 2:21; &c.) without any suggestion from without. The vine was a national emblem under the Maccabees and appears on their coins.

ὁ γεωργός. The Owner of the soil Who tends His Vine Himself and establishes the relation between the Vine and the branches. There is therefore a good deal of difference between the form of this allegory and the parable of the Vineyard (Mark 12:1) or that of the Fruitless Fig-tree (Luke 13:6). Γεωργός occurs nowhere else in the Gospels except of the wicked husbandmen in the parable of the Vineyard.


Verse 2

2. κλῆμα. Occurs here only (John 15:2-6) in N.T. In classical Greek it is specially used of the vine. Κλάδος (Matthew 13:32; Matthew 21:8; Matthew 24:32; Mark 4:32; Mark 13:28; Luke 13:9; Romans 11:16-21) is the smaller branch of any tree. So that κλῆμα itself, independently of the context, fixes the meaning of the allegory. Every vine-branch, every one who is by origin a Christian, if he continues such by origin only, and bears no fruit, is cut off. The allegory takes no account of the branches of other trees: neither Jews nor heathen are included. These could not be called κλήματ ἐν ἐμοῖ. Note the casus pendens in both clauses. Comp. John 6:39, John 7:38; 1 John 2:24; 1 John 2:27; Revelation 2:26; Revelation 3:12; Revelation 3:21.

καθαίρει. He cleanseth it. Mark the connexion with καθαροί in John 15:3. The play between αἴρει and καθαίρει is perhaps intentional; but cannot be reproduced in English. Καθαίρειν means freeing from excrescences and useless shoots which are a drain on the branch for nothing. The Eleven are now to be cleansed by suffering.


Verse 3

3. ἤδη ὑμεῖς κ. Already are ye clean because of the word. Distinguish διά with the accusative from διά with the genitive. A.V. confounds the two here and Matthew 15:3; Matthew 15:6. Ὁ λόγος is the whole teaching of Christ, not any particular discourse (John 14:23). Ἤδη assures the disciples that the chief part of their cleansing is accomplished: in the language of John 13:10, they are λελουμένοι. Ὑμεῖς is emphatic: many more will become καθαροί hereafter.


Verse 4

4. κἀγὼ ἐν ὑμῖν. This may be taken either as a promise (‘and then I will abide in you’), or as the other side of the command (‘take care that I abide in you’). The latter is better. The freedom of man’s will is such that on his action depends that of Christ. The branches of the spiritual Vine have this mysterious power, that they can cut themselves off, as Judas had done. Nature does something and grace more; but grace may be rejected. The expression ἀφ' ἑαυτοῦ, from itself, as the source of its own productiveness, is peculiar to S. John (John 5:19, John 7:18, John 11:51, John 16:13).


Verse 5

5. The text of the allegory is repeated and enlarged. That the disciples are the branches has been implied but not stated. Note the irregular construction and comp. John 5:44.

ὅτι χωρὶς ἐμοῦ. Because apart from Me (John 1:3; Ephesians 2:12). Christians cannot live as such if severed from Christ. Nothing is here said about those who are not Christians; but there is a sense in which the words are true of them also.


Verse 6

6. ἐβλήθη ἔξω. Is cast out of the vineyard. The vineyard is a further enlargement of the idea. The aorist shews the inevitable nature of the consequence: he is already cast out and withered by the very fact of not abiding in Christ. Winer, p. 345. These words were spoken in spring, the time for pruning vines. Heaps of burning twigs may have been in sight. This part of the picture looks forward to the day of judgment. Meanwhile the cast-out branch may be grafted in again (Romans 11:23) and the dead branch may be raised to life again (John 5:21; John 5:25). With συνάγουσιν, they gather, comp. αἰτοῦσιν, Luke 12:20 : the nominative is quite indefinite. Αὐτά refers to τὰ κλήματα implied in ἐάν τις.


Verse 7

7. ὃ ἐάν θέλ. αἰτ. Ask whatsoever ye will. Both in its comprehensiveness and in its limitation the promise is similar to that in John 14:13-14. One who abides in Christ and has His sayings (John 3:34) abiding in him cannot ask amiss: His words inspire and guide prayer.


Verse 8

8. ἐν τούτῳ. Looks back to John 15:5; John 15:7 or perhaps forward to ἵνα; comp. John 4:37, John 16:30; 1 John 4:17. The aorist ἐδοξάσθη is similar to those in John 15:6. The Father is already glorified in the union between Christ and His disciples. He is glorified whenever the occasion arises. For ἵνα see on John 1:8 : that ye may bear much fruit and become My disciples, or disciples to Me. Even Apostles may become still more truly disciples to Christ. A well-supported reading (γενήσεσθε) gives ye shall become.


Verse 9

9. καθὼς ἠγ. Authorities differ as to whether we should place a comma or a colon at ἠγάπησα: either, Even as the Father hath loved Me and I have loved you, abide in My love; or, Even as the Father hath loved Me, I also have loved you (John 17:18, John 20:21): abide in My love. The latter is better as keeping in due prominence the main statement, that the love of Christ for His disciples is analogous to that of the Father for the Son. The aorists may be translated as such, the love being regarded as a completed whole, always perfect in itself. But perhaps this is just one of those cases where the Greek aorist is best translated by the English perfect: see on John 8:29. Ἐν τ. ἀγ. τ. ἐμῇ may mean either My love or the love of Me. The former is more natural and better suited to the context, which speaks of His love to them as similar to the Father’s towards Him; but the latter need not be excluded. see on John 8:31.


Verse 10

10. καθὼς ἐγώ. This being a subordinate sentence, the tremendous import of it is liable to pass unnoticed. Looking back over a life of thirty years Jesus says, I have kept the Father’s commandments. Would the best man that ever lived, if only a man, dare to say this? see on John 8:29; John 8:46, John 14:9; John 14:30. Between the disciple and Christ, as between Christ and the Father, obedience proves love and secures love in return.


Verse 11

11. The verse forms a conclusion to the allegory of the Vine: comp. John 5:17, John 14:25, John 16:25; John 16:33. For ἡ χ. ἡ ἐμή see on John 8:31 : that the joy that is Mine may be in you means the joy which Christ experienced through consciousness of His fellowship with the Father, and which supported Him in His sufferings, may be in His disciples and support them in theirs. Here first, on the eve of His Passion, does Jesus speak of His joy. For ἡ χ. ὑμ. πλ. see on John 3:29. Human happiness can reach no higher than to share that joy which Christ ever felt in being loved by His Father and doing His will.


Verse 12

12. ἡ ἐντ. ἡ ἐμή. see on John 3:29. In John 15:10 He said that to keep His commandments was the way to abide in His love. He now reminds them what His commandment is (see on John 13:34). It includes all others. A day or two before this Christ had been teaching that all the Law and the Prophets hang on the two great commands, ‘love God with all thy heart’ and ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’ (Matthew 22:37-40). S. John teaches us that the second really implies the first (1 John 4:20). For ἵνα see on John 1:8 and comp. John 11:57, John 13:34, John 15:17.


Verses 12-17

12–17. THE UNION OF THE DISCIPLES WITH ONE ANOTHER IN CHRIST


Verse 13

13. This verse and the next three are an expansion of καθὼς ἠγάπησα ὑμᾶς. The standard of Christian love is the love of Christ for His disciples: that is the ideal to be aimed at. For τ. ψυχὴν αὐ. θῇ see on John 10:11. Needless difficulty has been made about ὑπὲρ τ. φίλωναὐ., as if it contradicted Romans 5:6-8. Christ here says that the greatest love that any one can shew towards his friends is to die for them. S. Paul says that such cases of self-sacrifice for good men occur; but they are very rare. Christ, however, surpassed them, for He died not only for His friends but for His enemies, not only for the good but for sinners. There is no contradiction. Nor is there any emphasis on ‘friends;’ as if to suffer for friends were higher than to suffer for strangers or enemies. The order of the Greek words throws the emphasis on ‘life:’ it is the unique character of the thing sacrificed that proves the love. Christ says ‘for His friends’ because He is addressing His friends.


Verse 14

14. ὑμεῖς φίλοι. Ὑμεῖς is emphatic: ‘and when I say “friends” I mean you.’ This shews that ‘friends’ was used simply because He was speaking to Apostles.


Verse 15

15. οὐκέτι. No longer do I call you servants (see on John 8:34 and comp. John 14:30. He had implied that they were His servants John 12:26 and stated it John 13:13-16. The two relationships do not exclude one another. He had called them φίλοι before this (Luke 12:4); and they did not cease to be His δοῦλοι after this (Romans 1:10; 2 Peter 1:1; Revelation 1:1).

ὑμᾶς δὲ εἴρ. But you have I called friends; because all things that I heard from My Father I made known to you: as they were able to bear it (John 16:12). After Pentecost they would be able to bear much more. Thus he who wills to do his will as a servant shall know of the doctrine as a friend (John 7:17).


Verse 16

16. οὐχ ὑμεῖς. Not ye chose Me, but I chose you. Ὑμεῖς and ἐγώ are emphatic. Ἐκλέγειν refers to their election to be Apostles (John 6:70, John 13:18; Acts 1:2); therefore the aorist as referring to a definite act in the past should be preserved. So also ἔθηκα, I appointed you, i. e. assigned you to a definite post, as in 2 Timothy 1:11; Hebrews 1:2. This is better than ‘I ordained,’ as A. V. here and 1 Timothy 2:7, ‘ordain’ having become a technical term in ecclesiastical language. Comp. Acts 13:47; Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 12:28. The repetition of ὑμεῖς throughout the verse emphasizes the personal responsibility of the Apostles.

ὑπάγητε. see on John 1:7 : that ye should go and bear fruit. Ὑπάγητε must not be insisted on too strongly as if it referred to the missionary journeys of the Apostles. On the other hand it is more than a mere auxiliary or expletive: it implies the active carrying out of the idea expressed by the verb with which it is coupled (comp. Luke 10:37; Matthew 13:44; Matthew 18:15; Matthew 19:21), and perhaps also separation from their Master (Matthew 20:4; Matthew 20:7). The missionary work of gathering in souls is not specially indicated here: the ‘fruit’ is rather the holiness of their own lives and good works of all kinds. The second ἵνα is partly coordinate with, partly dependent on, the first: comp. the double ἵνα, John 13:34 and see on John 15:7. Several ancient commentators take δῶ as the first person in harmony with John 14:13. The three passages, John 14:13, John 15:7; John 15:16 should be compared.


Verse 17

17. ταῦτα. The verse sums up what precedes and prepares for a new departure (comp. John 15:11, John 14:25, John 16:1; John 16:25; John 16:33), ταῦτα referring to what has been said about being one with Him and with one another. For ἵνα see on John 1:8 and comp. John 15:12, John 11:57, John 13:34. The idea of purpose is probably to be included.

Note the solemn effect produced by prolonged asyndeton. In John 15:1-17 there is not a single connective particle. A Greek uninfluenced by Hebrew would be very unlikely to write thus. see on John 1:6.


Verse 18

18. γινώσκετε] Either ye know, or know ye, that it hath hated Me. As in John 14:1, the imperative seems preferable to the indicative: in John 15:27 and John 5:39 the context throws the balance the other way.

μεμίσηκεν expresses what has been and still is the case. Πρῶτον ὑμῶν is similar to πρῶτός μου (see on John 1:15); first of you, first in regard to you. To avoid the unusual construction some good authorities omit ὑμῶν. Comp. 1 John 3:13.


Verses 18-25

18–25. THE HATRED OR THE WORLD TO BOTH HIM AND THEM

In strong contrast to the love and union between Christ and His disciples and among the disciples themselves is the hatred of the world to Him and them. He gives them these thoughts to console them in encountering this hatred of the world. [1] It hated Him first: in this trial also He has shewn them the way. [2] The hatred of the world proves that they are not of the world. [3] They are sharing their Master’s lot, whether the world rejects or accepts their preaching. [4] They will suffer this hatred not only with Him, but for His sake. All this tends to shew that the very hatred of the world intensifies their union with Him.


Verse 19

19. τὸ ἴδιον. Its own. In John 7:7 He told His brethren, who did not believe on Him, that the world could not hate them. This shews why. In their unbelief it still found something of its own (1 John 4:5). The selfishness of the world’s love is thus indicated. It loves not so much them, as that in them which is to its own advantage: hence the lower word φιλεῖν rather than ἀγαπᾷν (contrast John 15:17); it is mere natural liking. With the solemn repetition of κόσμος comp. John 3:17; John 3:31, John 12:36, John 17:14. For the construction comp. John 5:46, John 8:19; John 8:42, John 9:41, John 18:36 and contrast John 4:10, John 11:21, John 14:28. For διὰ τοῦτο see on John 7:21-22.


Verse 20

20. μνημονεύετε. See note on John 13:16 : of the passages noticed there Matthew 10:24 is similar in meaning to this. Christ may here be alluding to the occasion recorded in Matthew 10:24. On the blessedness of sharing the lot of Christ comp. 1 Peter 4:12-13.

εἰ ἐμὲ ἐδ. If they persecuted Me … if they kept (John 13:14, John 18:23) My word. Τηρεῖν must not be rendered ‘watch, lay wait for’ in a hostile sense: the two halves of the sentence are opposed, not parallel. Τὸν λ. or τοὺς λ. τηρεῖν is peculiar to S. John (John 8:51-52; John 8:55, John 14:23-24, John 17:6) always in the sense of the parallel phrase τὰς ἐντολὰς τ. (John 14:15; John 14:21, John 15:10). Both phrases link the Gospel with the First Epistle (1 John 2:3-5, 1 John 3:22; 1 John 3:24, 1 John 5:2-3), and these two with the Apocalypse (Revelation 3:8; Revelation 3:10, Revelation 12:17, Revelation 14:12, Revelation 22:7; Revelation 22:9). Comp. John 9:16; Revelation 1:3; Revelation 2:26; Revelation 3:3, and see on John 7:30; John 7:37; John 11:44; John 19:37; John 20:16. These passages shew that τηρεῖν cannot be taken in a hostile sense. The meaning of the verse as a whole is that both in failure and in success they will share His lot.


Verse 21

21. ἀλλά. But be of good cheer, it is διὰ τὸ ὄνομα μου. This thought is to turn their suffering into joy: Acts 5:41; Acts 21:13; 2 Corinthians 12:10; Galatians 6:14; Philippians 2:17-18; 1 Peter 4:14. With οὐκ οἴδασιν comp. John 7:28, John 16:3, John 17:25. They not merely did not know that God had sent Jesus; they did not know God Himself, for their idea of Him was radically wrong. And this ignorance is moral; it has its root in hatred of good: it is not the intellectual darkness of the heathen.


Verse 22

22. εἰ μὴἐλάλησα. He had spoken as man had never spoken before (John 7:16), in words sufficient to tell unprejudiced minds Who He was. Their hatred was a sin against light: without the light there would have been no sin. Ἔχειν ἁμαρτίαν is peculiar to S. John (John 15:24, John 9:41, John 19:11; 1 John 1:8): they would not have sin (John 19:11; Romans 7:7). Πρόφασιν is excuse rather than ‘cloke.’ The notion is not of hiding, but of excusing what cannot be hid: ‘colour’ (Acts 27:30) is better than ‘cloke’ (1 Thessalonians 2:5).

νῦν δέ here and in John 15:24 introduces a sharp contrast: the two verses exhibit the parallelism so frequent in S. John. For περὶ τῆς ἁμ. comp. John 8:46, John 16:8.


Verse 24

24. τὰ ἔργα. If they did not perceive that His words were Divine, they might at least have recognised His works as such (John 10:38, John 14:11, John 5:36). Here again their sin was against light: they admitted the works (John 11:47) as such that none other did (John 9:32), and like Philip they had seen, without recognising, the Father (John 14:9-10).


Verse 25

25. τ. νόμφ. In the wide sense for the O. T. as a whole (John 10:34, John 12:34; Romans 3:19). The passage may be from Psalms 69:4 or Psalms 35:19 : there are similar passages Psalms 109:3 and Psalms 119:161. That their hatred is gratuitous is again inexcusable.


Verse 26

26. ἐγὼ πέμψω. Ἐγώ is an emphatic claim to Divinity. Here it is the Son who Bends the Advocate from the Father (see on John 1:6). In John 14:16 the Father sends in answer to the Son’s prayer. In John 14:26 the Father sends in the Son’s name. These are three ways of expressing that the mission of the Paraclete is the act both of the Father and of the Son, Who are one. see on John 1:33. For τ. πν. τ. ἀληθ. see on John 14:17.

ὃ π. τ. πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται. It seems best to take this much discussed clause as simply yet another way of expressing the fact of the mission of the Paraclete. If the Paraclete is sent by the Son from the Father, and by the Father in the Son’s name and at the Son’s request, then the Paraclete ‘proceedeth from the Father.’ If this be correct, then this statement refers to the office and not to the Person of the Holy Spirit, and has no bearing either way on the great question between the Eastern and Western Churches, the Filioque added in the West to the Nicene Creed. The word used here for ‘proceed’ is the same as that used in the Creed of Nicea, and the Easterns quote these words of Christ Himself as being against not merely the insertion of the clause ‘and the Son’ into the Creed (which all admit to have been made irregularly), but against the truth of the statement that the Spirit, not only in His temporal mission, but in His Person, from all eternity proceeds from both the Father and the Son. On the whole question see Pearson On the Creed, Art. viii.; Reunion Conference at Bonn, 1875, pp. 9–85, Rivingtons; Pusey On the Clause “and the Son,” a Letter to Dr Liddon, Parker, 1876. Ἐκπορεύεσθαι occurs in this Gospel only here and John 5:29, but is frequent in the other Gospels and in Revelation (Matthew 3:5; Matthew 4:4; Matthew 15:11; Matthew 15:18; Mark 7:15; Mark 7:18; Mark 7:20-21; Mark 7:23; Luke 4:22; Luke 4:37; Revelation 1:16; Revelation 4:5, &c.), and there seems to be nothing in the word itself to limit it to the Eternal Procession. On the other hand the παρά is strongly in favour of the reference being to the mission. Comp. John 16:27, John 17:8. In the Creeds ἐκ is the preposition invariably used of the Eternal Procession, τὸ ἐκ τ. πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον: and “the Greek Fathers who apply this passage to the eternal Procession instinctively substitute ἐκ for παρά” (Westcott). For ἐκεῖνος see on John 1:18; He in contrast to the world which hates and rejects Christ. Christ has the witness of the Spirit of truth, and this has the authority of the Father: it is impossible to have higher testimony than this.


Verse 27

27. καὶ ὑμ. δὲ μ. Nay, ye also bear witness, or Nay, bear ye also witness (Winer, p. 53): but the conjunctions are against μαρτυρεῖτε being imperative; comp. 3 John 1:12 and see on John 15:18 and John 8:16. The testimony of the disciples is partly the same as that of the Spirit, partly not. It is the same, so far as it depends on the illumination of the Spirit, who was to bring all things to their remembrance and lead them into all truth. This would not be true in its fulness until Pentecost. It is not the same, so far as it depends upon the Apostles’ own personal experience of Christ and His work; and this is marked by the emphatic ὑμεῖς. This is the case at once; the experience is already there; and hence the present tense. Comp. Acts 5:32, where the Apostles clearly set forth the twofold nature of their testimony, and Acts 15:28, where there is a parallel distinction of the two factors.

ἀπ' ἀρχῆς. Comp. 1 John 2:7; 1 John 2:24; 1 John 3:11 and especially John 3:8, where as here we have the present: Winer, p. 334. The context must decide the meaning (see on John 1:1, John 6:64): here the beginning of Christ’s ministry is clearly meant. They could bear witness as to what they themselves had seen and heard (Luke 1:2; Acts 1:22). see on John 16:4.

 


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on John 15:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/john-15.html. 1896.

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Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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