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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
John 6

 

 

Other Authors
Introduction

CHAP. 6. CHRIST THE SUPPORT OF LIFE

This chapter, like the last, contains a discourse arising out of a miracle. It contains moreover an element wanting in the previous chapter,—the results of the discourse. Thus we obtain three divisions; 1. The Sign on the Land, the Sign on the Lake, and the Sequel of the Signs (1–25). 2. The Discourse on the Son as the Support of Life (26–59). [3] The opposite Results of the Discourse (60–71).


Verse 1

1. μετὰ ταῦτα. See on John 5:1. How long after we cannot tell; but if the feast in John 5:1 is rightly conjectured to be Purim, this would be about a month later in the same year, which is probably A.D. 29. But S. John is not careful to mark the precise interval between the various scenes which he gives us. Comp. the indefinite transitions from the First Passover to Nicodemus, John 2:23, John 3:1; from Nicodemus to the Baptist’s discourse, John 3:22; John 3:25; from that to the scene at Sychar, John 4:1-4; &c., &c. The chronology is doubtless correct, but it is not clear: chronology is not what S. John cares to give us. The historical connexion with what precedes is not the same in the four accounts. Here it is in connexion with the miracles at Bethesda and probably after the death of the Baptist: in S. Matthew it is in connexion with the death of the Baptist: in S. Mark and S. Luke it is after the death of the Baptist, but in connexion with the return of the Twelve. The notes on Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:40-44, and Luke 9:10-17 should be compared throughout.

ἀπῆλωεν. Departed, we do not know from what place. The scene suddenly shifts from Judaea (John 5:18) to Galilee; but we are told nothing about the transit or the reason for it.

From the Synoptists we gather that the murder of the Baptist (Matthew 14:13), and the curiosity of Herod (Luke 9:9), rendered it expedient to leave Herod’s dominions; moreover the return of the Twelve (Luke 9:10) made retirement easy and perhaps desirable (Mark 6:30-31). Thus the four narratives combine.

τῆς Τιβεριάδος. Here, John 6:23 and John 21:1 only. The name is added to describe the sea more exactly, especially for the sake of foreign readers. Another slight indication that this Gospel was written outside Palestine: inside Palestine such minute description would be less natural. The Greek geographer Pausanias writes λίμνη Τιβερίς; Josephus uses one or other of the names here combined by S. John; S. Matt. and S. Mark have θάλ. τῆς Γαλιλαίας; S. Luke λίμνη Γεννησαρέτ. Perhaps we are to understand that the southern half of the lake is specially intended; for here on the western shore Tiberias was situated. The name Tiberias is not found in the first three Gospels. The magnificent town was built during our Lord’s lifetime by Herod Antipas, who called it Tiberias out of compliment to the reigning Emperor; one of many instances of the Herods paying court to Rome. Comp. Bethsaida Julias, where this miracle took place, called Julias by Herod Philip after the infamous daughter of Augustus, and Sebaste, so called in honour of Augustus (see on John 4:7). The new town would naturally be much better known and more likely to be mentioned when S. John wrote than when the earlier Evangelists wrote.


Verses 1-15

1–15. THE SIGN ON THE LAND FEEDING THE FIVE THOUSAND


Verse 2

2. ἠκολούθει. Imperfects of continued action throughout the verse in contrast to ἀπῆλθεν and ἀνῆλθεν in John 6:1; John 6:3. Ἐθεώρουν implies reflecting attention; John 6:19, John 2:23, John 7:3, John 12:45, John 14:19, John 16:16. The multitude went round by land, while Jesus crossed the lake: it would be all the greater because the Baptist was no longer a counter-attraction, and the Twelve had returned from a mission which must have excited attention. Jesus kept on working miracles (ἐποίει), and these continually attracted fresh crowds.


Verse 3

3. τὸ ὅρος. The mountain, or the mountainous part, of the district: the article indicates familiarity with the neighbourhood (John 6:15). We cannot determine the precise eminence. The object is retirement.


Verse 4

4. ἡ ἑορτὴ τ. . The feast of the Jews. Possibly a mere date to mark the time. As already noticed (see on John 2:13), S. John groups his narrative round the Jewish festivals. But the statement may also be made as a further explanation of the multitude. Just before the Passover large bands of pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem would be passing along the east shore of the lake. But we find that the multitude in this case are quite ready (John 6:24) to cross over to Capernaum, as if they had no intention of going to Jerusalem; so that this interpretation of the verse is uncertain. Equally doubtful is the theory that this verse gives a key of interpretation to the discourse which follows, the eating of Christ’s Flesh and Blood being the antitype of the Passover. From John 7:1 it would seem that Jesus did not go up to Jerusalem for this Passover.


Verse 5

5. ἔρχεται. Is coming; present of graphic description. The quiet which He sought is being invaded; yet He welcomes the opportunity and at once surrenders His rest to His Father’s work, as in the case of Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. But why does He address Philip? Because he was nearest to Him; or because his forward spirit (John 14:8) needed to be convinced of its own helplessness; or because, as living on the lake (John 1:44), he would know the neighbourhood. Any or all of these suggestions may be correct. Throughout we see how Jesus uses events for the education of His disciples. As Judas kept the purse it is not likely that Philip commonly provided food for the party. A more important question remains: “we notice that the impulse to the performance of the miracle comes in the Synoptists from the disciples; in S. John, solely from our Lord Himself.” This is difference, but not contradiction: S. John’s narrative does not preclude the possibility of the disciples having spontaneously applied to Christ for help either before or after this conversation with Philip. “For the rest the superiority in distinctness and precision is all on the side of S. John. He knows to whom the question was put; he knows exactly what Philip answered; and again the remark of Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.… Some memories are essentially pictorial; and the Apostle’s appears to have been one of these. It is wonderful with what precision every stroke is thrown in. Most minds would have become confused in reproducing events which had occurred so long ago; but there is no confusion here” (Sanday).

ἀγοράσωμεν. Must we buy: deliberative subjunctive.


Verse 6

6. πειράζων. This need not mean more than to try whether he could suggest anything; but more probably, to test his faith, to prove to him how imperfect it still was in spite of His having been so long with him (John 14:9). Jesus had no need to inform Himself as to Philip’s faith: He ‘knew what was in man.’ In Philippo non desideravit panem, sed fidem (S. Augustine).

αὐτός. Without suggestions from others; John 15:27. The Evangelist knows the Lord’s motives (John 2:24-25, John 4:1-3, John 5:6, John 7:1, John 13:1; John 13:3; John 13:11, John 16:19, John 18:4, John 19:28). Unless this is most audacious invention it almost amounts to proof that the Evangelist is the Apostle S. John.

τί ἔμελλεν ποιεῖν. The miracle and the lesson deduced from it.


Verse 7

7. διακοσίων δην. Two hundred shillingsworth would fairly represent the original. The denarius was the ordinary wage for a day’s work (Matthew 20:2; comp. Luke 10:35); in weight of silver it was less than a shilling; in purchasing power it was more. Two hundred denarii from the one point of view would be about £7, from the other, nearly double that. S. Philip does not solve the difficulty; he merely states it in a practical way; a much larger amount than they can command would still be insufficient. See on Mark 8:4.


Verse 8

8. εἷς ἐκ τ. μαθ. Of course this does not imply that Philip was not a disciple; the meaning rather is, that a disciple had been appealed to without results, and now a disciple makes a communication out of which good results flow. The name of this second disciple comes in as a sort of afterthought. There seems to have been some connexion between S. Andrew and S. Philip (John 1:44, John 12:22). In the lists of the Apostles in Mark 3 and Acts 1. S. Philip’s name immediately follows S. Andrew’s. On S. Andrew see notes on John 1:40-41. The particulars about Philip and Andrew here are not found in the Synoptists’ account.


Verse 9

9. παιδάριον. A little lad, or (less probably) servant. The ἕν of some MSS., if genuine, would emphasize the poverty of their resources; the provisions of a single boy. S. Andrew has been making enquiries; which shews that the disciples had considered the matter before Jesus addressed S. Philip, as the Synoptists tell us.

κριθίνους. The ordinary coarse food of the lower orders; Judges 7:13. S. John alone mentions their being of barley, and that they belonged to the lad, who was probably selling them. With homely food from so scanty a store Christ will feed them all. These minute details are the touches of an eyewitness.

ὀψάρια. The force of the diminutive is lost; fishes, not ‘small fishes.’ The word occurs in this Gospel only (John 6:11, John 21:9-10; John 21:13), and literally means a little relish, i.e. anything eaten with bread or other food: and as salt fish was most commonly used for this purpose, the word came gradually to mean ‘fish’ in particular. S. Philip had enlarged on the greatness of the difficulty; S. Andrew insists rather on the smallness of the resources for meeting it.


Verse 10

10. χόρτος πολύς. As we might expect early in April (John 6:4). S. Mark (Mark 6:39-40) mentions how they reclined in parterres (πρασιαὶ πρασιαί), by hundreds and by fifties, on the green grass. This arrangement would make it easy to count them.

οἱ ἄνδρες. The men, as distinct from the women and children, who would not be very numerous: τοὺς ἀνθρώπους, the people, includes all three. S. Matthew (Matthew 14:21) says that the 5000 included the men only. Τὸν ἀριθμόν, accusative of closer definition; Winer, p. 288.


Verse 11

11. εὐχαριστ. The usual grace before meat said by the head of the house or the host. ‘He that enjoys aught without thanksgiving, is as though he robbed God.’ Talmud. But it seems clear that this giving of thanks or blessing of the food (Luke 9:16) was the means of the miracle, because [1] all four narratives notice it; [2] it is pointedly mentioned again John 6:23; [3] it is also mentioned in both accounts of the feeding of the 4000 (Matthew 15:36; Mark 8:6). It should be remembered that this act is again prominent at the institution of the Eucharist (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:17; Luke 22:19; 2 Corinthians 11:24). It is futile to ask whether the multiplication took place in Christ’s hands only: the manner of the miracle eludes us, as in the turning of the water into wine. That was a change of quality, this of quantity. This is a literal fulfilment of Matthew 6:33.


Verse 12

12. συναγάγετε. S. John alone tells of this command, though the others tell us that the fragments were gathered up. It has been noticed as a strong mark of truth, most unlikely to have been invented by the writer of a fiction. We do not find the owner of Fortunatus’ purse careful against extravagance. How improbable, from a human point of view, that one who could multiply food at will should give directions about saving fragments!


Verse 13

13. κοφίνους. All four Evangelists here use κόφινος for basket, as does S. Matthew (Matthew 16:9) in referring to this miracle. It is the wallet which every Jew carried when on a journey, to keep himself independent of Gentile food (Juv. III. 14). In the feeding of the 4000 (Matthew 15:37; Mark 8:8), and in referring to it (Matthew 16:10), σπυρίς is the word for basket. See on Mark 8:8; Acts 9:25.

ἄρτ. τ. κριθ. S. John insists on the identity of the fragments with the original loaves. He mentions the bread only, because only the bread has a symbolical meaning in the subsequent discourse. S. Mark says that fragments of fish were gathered also. Each of the Twelve filled his wallet full, so that the remnants far exceeded the original store. For the plural verb with a neut. nom. comp. John 19:31.

The expedients to evade the obvious meaning of the narrative are worth mentioning, as shewing how some readers are willing to ‘violate all the canons of historical evidence,’ rather than admit the possibility of a miracle: [1] that food had been brought over and concealed in the boat; [2] that some among the multitude were abundantly supplied with food and were induced by Christ’s example to share their supply with others; [3] that the whole is an allegorical illustration of Matthew 6:33. How could either [1] or [2] excite even a suspicion that He was the Messiah, much less kindle such an enthusiasm as is recorded in John 6:15? And if the whole is an allegory what meaning can be given to this popular enthusiasm?


Verse 14

14. οἱ οὖν ἄνθρ. The people therefore, the whole multitude. The plural, ἃ ἐπ. σημεῖα, which some authorities read, includes the effect of previous miracles. The imperf., ἔλεγον, indicates that this was repeatedly said. Ὁ Ἰησοῦς has been inserted here, as elsewhere, in some MSS., because this was once the beginning of a lesson read in church. The same thing has been done in our own Prayer Book in the Gospels for Quinquagesima and the 3rd Sunday in Lent: in the Gospel for S. John’s day the names of both Jesus and Peter have been inserted; and in those for the 5th S. in Lent and 2nd S. after Easter the words ‘Jesus said’ have been inserted. In all cases a desire for clearness has caused the insertion. Comp. John 8:21.

ὁ πρ. ὁ ἐρχ. The Prophet that cometh; the Prophet of Deuteronomy 18:15 (see on John 1:21 and John 11:27). The miracle perhaps reminded them of the manna, and Moses, and his promise of a greater than himself. S. John alone tells us of the effect of the miracle on the spectators (comp. John 2:11; John 2:23). It exactly corresponds with what we know of the prevailing Messianic expectations, and explains the strange fluctuations of opinion about Jesus. His ‘signs’ pointed to His being the Messiah, or at least a great Prophet: but He steadfastly refused to act the part expected from the Messiah.


Verse 15

15. μέλλουσιν. Are about to (John 6:6) take Him by force and make Him king; carry Him, whether He will or no, to Jerusalem and proclaim Him king at the Passover. They will have a σωτηρία according to their own ideas, not according to God’s decree: earthly deliverance and glory, not spiritual regeneration. This also is peculiar to S. John; but S. Luke (Luke 9:11) tells us that He had been speaking of ‘the kingdom of God;’ and this would turn their thoughts to the Messianic King. The whole incident explains the remarkable expression ‘He immediately compelled (ἠνάγκασε) His disciples to embark’ (Matthew 14:22; Mark 6:45). There was danger of the Twelve being infected with this wrongheaded enthusiasm. Some such command is implied here; for they would not have left Him behind without orders.

In his Divine Epic S. John points out the steady increase of the enmity against Jesus; and nothing increased it so much as popular enthusiasm for Him: John 3:26, John 4:1-3, John 7:40-41; John 7:46, John 8:30, John 9:30-38, John 10:21; John 10:42, John 11:45-46, John 12:9-11.

πάλιν. He had come down to feed them: ‘again’ refers to John 6:3. After dismissing first the disciples and then the bulk of the multitude, He ascended again, but this time alone, to pray (Matthew 14:23; Mark 6:46).


Verse 16

16. ὀψία. The second (6 P.M. to dark) of the two evenings which S. Matthew (Matthew 14:15; Matthew 14:23) gives in accordance with Jewish usage. The narrative here makes a fresh start: κατέβησαν does not imply that the disciples went up again with Jesus; this is excluded by αὐτὸς μόνος.


Verses 16-21

16–21. THE SIGN ON THE LAKE WALKING ON THE WATER


Verse 17

17. ἤρχοντο. The imperfect expresses their continued efforts to reach Capernaum. S. Mark says ‘unto Bethsaida,’ which was close to Capernaum. See on Matthew 4:13; Luke 5:1.

οὔπω. Not yet, implying that they expected Him. Perhaps they had arranged to meet Him at some place along the shore. He is training them gradually to be without His visible presence; in the earlier storm He was with them (Matthew 8:23-26). The description is singularly graphic. Darkness had come on; their Master was not there; a storm had burst on them, and the lake was becoming very rough: 25 or 30 furlongs would bring them about ‘the midst of the sea’ (Mark 6:47), which is 6 or 7 miles across. Many travellers have testified to the violent squalls to which the lake is subject.


Verse 19

19. ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης. Although this might mean ‘on the seashore’ (John 21:1), yet the context plainly shews that here it means ‘on the surface of the sea.’ Winer, p. 468. Would they have been frightened by seeing Jesus walking on the shore? S. Mark says it was about the fourth watch, i.e. between 3.0 and 6.0 A.M. S. Matthew alone gives S. Peter’s walking on the sea. S. Luke omits the whole incident.


Verse 20

20. ἐγώ εἰμι. All three narratives preserve these words; we infer that they made a deep impression. Comp. John 8:24; John 8:28; John 8:58, John 13:13; John 13:19, John 18:5-6; John 18:8.


Verse 21

21. ἤθελον. They were willing therefore to receive Him. The ‘willingly received’ of A.V. is perhaps due to Beza, who substitutes volente animo receperunt for the Vulgate’s voluerunt recipere. Ἤθελον λαβεῖν αὐτόν here seems to contrast with ἤθελεν παρελθεῖν αὐτούς in Mark 6:48. His will to pass them by was changed by their will to receive Him. But (comp. John 1:43, John 5:35) S. John does not mean that He did not enter the boat: he is not correcting S. Matthew and S. Mark: this would require ἀλλ' εὐθέως κ.τ.λ., ‘but (before He could enter) the boat was at the land.’ Ἠλθον conjectured by Michaelis for ἤθελον, and found in the Sinaiticus, is an attempt to avoid a difficulty. Εὐθέως probably points to something miraculous: He who had just imparted to S. Peter His own royal power over gravity and space, now does the like to the boat which bore them all.

ὑπῆγον. Were going, or intending to go; comp. ἤρχοντο (John 6:17). The imperfects mark the contrast between the difficulty of the first part of the voyage, when they were alone, with the ease of the last part, when He was with them. ‘Then are they glad, because they are at rest: and so He bringeth them unto the haven where they would be.’ Ὑπάγειν implies departure, and looks back to the place left (John 6:67, John 7:33, John 12:11, John 18:8).

The Walking on the Sea is no evidence that the writer was a Docetist, i.e. believed that Christ’s Body was a mere phantom: on the contrary, the event is narrated as extraordinary, quite different from their usual experience of His bodily presence. A Docetist would have presented it otherwise, and would hardly have omitted the disciples’ cry, φάντασμά ἐστι (Matthew 14:26; comp. Mark 6:49). Docetism is absolutely excluded from this Gospel by John 1:14 and by the general tone throughout; see on John 19:34-35, John 20:20; John 20:27. The whole incident should be compared with Luke 24:36-41; in both Christ’s supernatural return aggravates their distress, until they know who He is. And the meaning of both is the same. In times of trouble Jesus is near His own, and His presence is their deliverance and protection.


Verse 22

22. πέραν τ. θ. On the eastern side, where the miracle took place.


Verses 22-24

22–24. A complicated sentence very unusual in S. John (comp. John 13:1-4); but its very intricacy is evidence of its accuracy. A writer of fiction would have given fewer details and stated them with greater freedom. S. John explains what is well known to him.


Verses 22-25

22–25. THE SEQUEL OF THE TWO SIGNS

The people had wished to make Jesus a Jewish king. He has just manifested Himself to His disciples as King of the whole realm of nature. The wrongheaded multitude, to which we return, are now taught in parables.


Verse 23

23. This awkward parenthesis explains how there came to be boats to transport the people to the western shore.

εὐχαριστ. Unless the thanksgiving (John 6:11) was the turning-point of the miracle, it is hard to see why it is mentioned again here.


Verse 24

24. εἶδεν. A fresh seeing; not a resumption of εἰδον in John 6:22.

εἰς τὰ πλ. The boats from Tiberias, driven in probably by the contrary wind (Matthew 14:24; Mark 6:48) which had delayed the Apostles. There is no need to suppose that all the 5000 crossed over.


Verse 25

25. πέραν τ. θ. This is now the western shore, Capernaum (John 6:59).

πότε ὧδε γ.; Comp. John 1:15. They suspect something miraculous, but He does not gratify their curiosity. If the feeding of the 5000 taught them nothing, what good would it do them to hear of the crossing of the lake?


Verse 26

26. ἀμὴν ἀμήν. see on John 1:51. As so often, He answers, not the question, but the thought which prompted it (John 2:4, John 3:3; John 3:10, John 4:16): not because ye saw signs. They had seen the miracle, but it had not been a sign to them: instead of seeing a sign in the bread, they had seen only bread in the sign; it had excited mere curiosity and greed. Σημεῖα may be the generic plural and refer only to the Feeding; or it may include the previous miracles (John 6:2). As in the case of λαλιά (John 4:42), we are in doubt whether there is any shade of disparagement in ἐχορτάσθητε, were fed as with fodder. Luke 15:16; Luke 16:21; Revelation 19:21 incline us to think so; Matthew 5:6; Matthew 14:20 and parallels, Mark 7:27 incline us to think not. Quam multi non quaerunt Jesum, nisi ut illis faciat bene secundum tempus … Vix quaeritur Jesus propter Jesum (S. Augustine).


Verses 26-34

26–34. Distinction between the material bread and the Spiritual Bread


Verses 26-59

26–59. THE DISCOURSE ON THE SON AS THE SUPPORT OF LIFE

God’s revealed word and created world are unhappily alike in this; that the most beautiful places in each are often the scene and subject of strife. This marvellous discourse is a well-known field of controversy, as to whether it does or does not refer to the Eucharist. That it has no reference whatever to the Eucharist seems incredible, when we remember [1] the startling words here used about eating the Flesh of the Son of Man and drinking His Blood; [2] that just a year from this time Christ instituted the Eucharist; [3] that the primitive Church is something like unanimous in interpreting this discourse as referring to the Eucharist. A few words are necessary on each of these points. [1] Probably nowhere in any literature, not even among the luxuriant imagery of the East, can we find an instance of a teacher speaking of the reception of his doctrine under so astounding a metaphor as eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Something more than this must at any rate be meant here. The metaphor ‘eating a man’s flesh’ elsewhere means to injure or destroy him. Psalms 27:2 (John 14:4); James 5:3. [2] The founding of new religions, especially of those which have had any great hold on the minds of men, has ever been the result of much thought and deliberation. Let us leave out of the account the Divinity of Jesus Christ, and place Him for the moment on a level with other great teachers. Are we to suppose that just a year before the Eucharist was instituted, the Founder of this, the most distinctive element of Christian worship, had no thought of it in His mind? Surely for long beforehand that institution was in His thoughts; and if so, ‘Except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, ye have no life in you’ cannot but have some reference to ‘Take eat, this is My Body,’ ‘Drink ye all of it, for this is My Blood.’ The coincidence is too exact to be fortuitous, even if it were probable that a year before it was instituted the Eucharist was still unknown to the Founder of it. That the audience at Capernaum could not thus understand Christ’s words is nothing to the point: He was speaking less to them than to Christians throughout all ages. How often did He utter words which even Apostles could not understand at the time. [3] The interpretations of the primitive Church are not infallible, even when they are almost unanimous: but they carry great weight. And in a case of this kind, where spiritual insight and Apostolic tradition are needed, rather than scholarship and critical power, patristic authority may be allowed very great weight.

But while it is incredible that there is no reference to the Eucharist in this discourse, it is equally incredible that the reference is solely or primarily to the Eucharist. The wording of the larger portion of the discourse is against any such exclusive interpretation; not until John 6:51 does the reference to the Eucharist become clear and direct. Rather the discourse refers to all the various channels of grace by means of which Christ imparts Himself to the believing soul: and who will dare to limit these in number or efficacy?

To quote the words of Dr Westcott, the discourse “cannot refer primarily to the Holy Communion; nor again can it be simply prophetic of that Sacrament. The teaching has a full and consistent meaning in connexion with the actual circumstances, and it treats essentially of spiritual realities with which no external act, as such, can be coextensive. The well-known words of Augustine, crede et manducasti, ‘believe and thou hast eaten,’ give the sum of the thoughts in a luminous and pregnant sentence.

“But, on the other hand, there can be no doubt that the truth which is presented in its absolute form in these discourses is presented in a specific act and in a concrete form in the Holy Communion; and yet further that the Holy Communion is the divinely appointed means whereby men may realise the truth. Nor can there be any difficulty to any one who acknowledges a divine fitness in the ordinances of the Church, an eternal correspondence in the parts of the one counsel of God, in believing that the Lord, while speaking intelligibly to those who heard Him at the time, gave by anticipation a commentary, so to speak, on the Sacrament which He afterwards instituted.” Speaker’s Commentary, N.T. Vol. II. p. 113.

The discourse has been thus divided; I. 26–34, Distinction between the material bread and the Spiritual Bread; II. 35–50 (with two digressions, 37–40; 43–46), Identification of the Spiritual Bread with Christ; III. 51–58, Further definition of the identification as consisting in the giving of His Body and outpouring of His Blood. On the language and style see introductory note to chap. 3.


Verse 27

27. ἐργάζεσθε. Work, not ‘labour,’ to keep up the connexion with John 6:28-30. They keep harping on the word ‘work.’ The meaning ‘work for’ is rare: ἐργ. χρήματα, Herod. I. 24. Comp. ‘Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again’ (John 4:13). The discourse with the woman should be compared throughout: ‘the food which abideth’ (see on John 1:33) corresponds with ‘the living water’ (see on John 4:14); ‘the food that perisheth’ with the water of the well. ‘Perisheth’ not only in its sustaining power but in itself; it is digested and dispersed (Matthew 15:17; 1 Corinthians 6:13). Comp. ‘Take no thought what ye shall eat’ (Matthew 6:25). Work, however, is needed to win the food that abides. Comp. the lines of Joan. Audenus;

Mandere qui panem jubet in sudore diurnum

Non dabit aeternas absque labore dapes.

ὁ υἱὸς τ. ἀνθρ. see on John 1:51. It is as the perfect Man that Christ in His communion with men sustains the life which He has bestowed (John 5:25). Hence He says, ‘the Father’ (of men as well as of Himself, John 20:17), not ‘My Father.’

τοῦτον γάρ. Keep the emphatic order; for Him the Father sealed, even God. To God belongs the authority to seal: He sealed, i.e. authenticated (John 3:33) Christ as the true giver of the food that abideth [1] by direct testimony in the Scriptures, [2] by the same in the voice from Heaven at His Baptism, [3] by indirect testimony in His miracles and Messianic work.


Verse 28

28. τί ποιῶμεν …; What must we do (John 6:5) that we may work? Perhaps they understood Him to mean that they must earn what they desire; certainly they see that Christ’s words have a moral meaning; they must do the works required by God. But how?


Verse 29

29. τὸ ἔργον. They probably thought of works of the law, tithes, sacrifices, &c. He tells them of one work, one moral act, from which all the rest derive their value, continuous belief (πιστεύητε, not πιστεύσητε) in Him whom God has sent. Comp. Acts 16:31. On ἵνα and ἀπέστειλεν see on John 1:8; John 1:33, John 4:47, John 17:3.


Verse 30

30. τίσὺ σημ.; Σύ is emphatic: ‘Thou urgest us to work; what doest Thou on Thy part?’ They quite see that in δν ἀπέστ. ἐκ. He is claiming to be the Messiah, and they require proof. The feeding of the 5000 was less marvellous than the manna, and the Messiah must shew greater signs than Moses. They demand ‘a sign from heaven,’ as so often in the Synoptists. Note that whereas He used the strong πιστεύειν εἰς ὅν they use the weak πιστεύειν σοι (see on John 1:12): πιστεύειν τινί occurs John 4:21, John 5:24; John 5:38; John 5:46, John 14:11; comp. John 2:22, John 4:50; it means no more than to believe a man’s statements, as distinct from trusting in his person and character.

τί ἐργάζῃ; They use the very word that He used in John 6:29.


Verse 31

31. ἐστιν γεγραμ. See on John 2:17. What follows is a rough quotation of ‘had rained down manna upon them to eat’ (Psalms 78:24), or possibly of Nehemiah 9:15. In either case they artfully suppress the nominative, ‘God,’ and leave ‘Moses’ to be understood. The ἐκ points to Nehemiah 9:15; not merely from above, but out of heaven itself.


Verse 32

32. ΄ωυσῆς. See on John 1:17. Christ answers their thought rather than their questions, τί ποιεῖς; τί ἐργάζῃ; He shews them that He understands their insinuation, that He is inferior to Moses, and He denies both their points; [1] that Moses gave the manna; [2] that the manna was in the truest sense bread out of heaven.

τὸν ἄρτοντὸν ἀληθινόν. Emphatic repetition of the article; the bread out of heaven, the true bread; ‘true’ in the sense of ‘real’ and ‘perfect,’ a complete realisation of what it professes to be; see on John 1:9. The manna was only a type, and therefore imperfect. Note the change from ἔδωκεν to δίδωσιν: God is continually giving the true bread; it is not given at one time and then no more, like the manna.


Verse 33

33. ὁ καταβαίνων. That which cometh down. Jesus has not yet identified Himself with the Bread, which is still impersonal, and hence the present participle: contrast John 6:41. There is a clear reference to this passage in the Ignatian Epistles, Romans 7; the whole chapter is impregnated with the Fourth Gospel. see on John 4:10, John 3:8, John 10:9.

τῷ κόσμῳ. See on John 1:10. Not to the Jews only, but to all. We have evidence (the γάρ introduces an argument) that it is the Father who gives the really heavenly Bread, for it is His Bread that quickens the whole human race.


Verse 34

34. κύριε. ‘Lord’ is too strong, making the request too much like the prayer of a humble believer: as in John 4:11; John 4:15; John 4:19, ‘Sir’ would be better (see on John 4:11). Not that the request is ironical, the mocking prayer of the sceptic. Rather it is the selfish petition of those whose beliefs and aspirations are low. Like the Samaritan woman (John 4:15) they think that this wonderful food is at any rate worth having. He fed them yesterday, and they are hungry again. He speaks of bread that abideth, and it will be well to obtain it. But their only idea of ‘abiding’ is a supply constantly (πάντοτε) repeated, like the manna; and for this they ask in good faith. They do not disbelieve in His power, but in His mission.


Verse 35

35. ἐγώ εἰμι. Comp. John 6:41; John 6:48; John 6:51 : the pronoun is very emphatic as in John 4:54. As in John 5:30, He passes from the third person to the first. These identifications are characteristic of this Gospel: Christ declares Himself to be the Light of the world (John 8:12), the Door of the Fold (John 10:7; John 10:9), the Good Shepherd (John 10:11; John 10:14), the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25), the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6), the True Vine (John 15:1; John 15:5). Ὁ ἄρτος τ. ζωῆς means ὁ ἄρτ. ζωὴν διδούς: comp. τὸ ὕδωρ τ. ζ., Revelation 21:6 (Revelation 22:1), and τὸ ξύλον τ. ζ., Genesis 2:9; Genesis 3:22; Genesis 3:24. ‘He that cometh to Me’ = ‘he that believeth on Me,’ and ‘shall in no wise hunger’ = ‘shall in no wise ever thirst’ (πώποτε, not, as in John 4:14, εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα); i.e. the believer shall experience the immediate and continual satisfaction of his highest spiritual needs. Christ’s superiority to the manna is this, that it satisfied only bodily needs for a time, He satisfies spiritual needs for ever. Note the Hebraic parallelism.


Verses 35-50

35–50. Identification of the Spiritual Bread with Christ


Verse 36

36. εἶπον ὑμῖν. When? no such saying is recorded. Ewald thus finds some slight evidence for his theory that a whole sheet of this Gospel has been lost between chapters 5. and 6. But the reference may easily be to one of the countless unrecorded sayings of Christ, or possibly to the general sense of John 5:37-44. In the latter case ‘you’ must mean the Jewish nation, for those verses were addressed to Jews at Jerusalem. Or the reference may be to the spirit of John 6:26, which accuses them of having seen His miracles without believing that they were signs.

καὶ ἑωράκ. see on John 1:18, Ye have even seen Me (not merely heard of Me) and (yet) do not believe. The tragic tone again (see on John 1:5), followed by a pause. The next sentence has no conjunction.


Verse 37

37. πᾶν ὃτὸν ἐρχ. Note the significant change of gender. What is given (see on John 3:35) is treated as impersonal and neuter, mankind en masse (comp. John 3:6); what comes, with free will, is masculine. Men are given to Christ without being consulted; but each, if he likes, can refuse to come, as the Jews did: there is no coercion. Comp. John 17:2; John 1:11. Note also the different verbs for ‘come’; ἥκω expresses the arrival (Revelation 15:4), ἔρχομαι the coming. Comp. ‘Come unto Me, all ye that labour’ (Matthew 11:28).

οὐ μὴ ἐκβ. Litotes (John 3:19, John 8:40): so far from casting out, will keep and protect, John 10:28. Quale intus illud est, unde non exitur foras? Magnum penetrale et dulce secretum (S. Augustine).


Verses 37-40

37–40. Digression on the blessedness of those who come to Christ as believers


Verse 38

38. ὅτι καταβ. Because I am come down. Four times in this discourse Christ declares His descent from heaven; John 6:38; John 6:50-51; John 6:58. The drift of John 6:38-40 is; ‘How could I cast them out, seeing that I am come to do My Father’s will, and He wills that they should be received?’ see on John 8:31.


Verse 39

39. τὸ θέλημαἵνα. See on John 1:8, John 4:47, John 17:3, and comp. John 6:29.

πᾶν. Casus pendens: comp. John 7:38, John 15:2, John 17:2; Luke 21:6. ‘Credentes dantur, credentibus datur.’ μὴ ἀπολέσω. His care for the fragments (John 6:12) would not be greater than His care for men’s souls. With ἐξ αὐτοῦ comp. ἐκ τῶν τ. in 2 John 1:4, ἐξ ὑμῶν, Revelation 2:10.

ἀναστήσω. The same gracious utterance is repeated as a kind of refrain, John 6:40; John 6:44; John 6:54 : but here ἀναστήσω probably depends on ἵνα, although it may be an independent future as in John 6:44; John 6:54. This is the ἀνάστασις ζωῆς (John 5:29), ἡ ἀν. ἡ πρώτη (Revelation 20:5-6), ἡ ἀν. τῶν δικαίων (Luke 14:14); the ultimate end of Christ’s work.

τῇ ἐσχ. ἡμέρᾳ. The phrase is peculiar to S. John; John 6:40; John 6:44; John 6:54; John 11:24; John 12:48; comp. John 7:37. Elsewhere ἡ ἡμέρα τῆς κρίσεως (1 John 4:17); ἡ ἡμ. ἡ μεγάλη (Revelation 6:17; comp. John 16:14); ἐκείνη ἡ ἡμ. (Matthew 7:22); ἡ ἡμ. τ. κυρίου (1 Corinthians 5:5); ἡ τ. θεοῦ ἡμ. (2 Peter 3:12); ἡμ. Χριστοῦ (Philippians 1:10); ἡμ. αἰῶνος (2 Peter 3:18); or simply ἡ ἡμέρα (Hebrews 10:25). The phrases from 2 Peter occur nowhere else.


Verse 40

40. τοῦτο γὰρπατρός μου. This is the true reading; but the opening words of John 6:39-40, being very similar, have become confused in inferior MSS. The best have πατρός in John 6:40, where the Son is mentioned, not in John 6:39, where He is not. Moreover John 6:40 is explanatory of John 6:39, and opens with γάρ; it shews who are meant by πᾶν ὃ δέδ. μοι, viz. every one that contemplateth the Son and believeth on Him. Not ὁρῶν but θεωρῶν: the Jews had seen Jesus; they had not contemplated Him so as to believe. Θεωρεῖν is frequent in S. John and the Acts, elsewhere not; John 7:3, John 12:45, John 14:19, John 16:10; John 16:16; John 16:19, John 17:24, John 20:6; John 20:12; John 20:14.

ἀναστήσω. Here, still more easily than in John 6:39, ἀναστήσω may be future. Ἐγὼ is very emphatic; ‘by My power as Messiah.’

Some think that a break in the discourse must be made here; John 6:25-40 being spoken on the shore of the lake, John 6:41-58 in the synagogue at Capernaum to a somewhat different audience.


Verse 41

41. ἐγόγγυζον. Talked in an undertone respecting Him: the word in itself does not necessarily mean that they found fault, but the context shews that they did (comp. John 6:61, John 7:12; Matthew 20:11; Luke 5:30). Moreover, O.T. associations have given this shade of meaning to the word, which is frequent in LXX. for the murmurings in the wilderness, especially in the compound διαγογγύζω: comp. 1 Corinthians 10:10. Some members of the hostile party (οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι), and possibly some of the Sanhedrin, were now present; but we are not to understand that the whole multitude were hostile, though carnally-minded and demanding a further sign: John 1:19, John 2:18, John 5:10, John 7:11, &c.

ἐγώ εἰμιοὐρανοῦ. They put together John 6:33; John 6:35; John 6:38.


Verse 42

42. οὗτος. Contemptuous; this fellow. ‘We know all about His parentage; there is nothing supernatural about His origin.’ Nothing can be inferred from this as to Joseph’s being still alive (see on John 2:1). Ἡμεῖς is emphatic; ‘we know it for ourselves.’ This is in favour of the speakers being of Galilee rather than from Jerusalem.


Verse 43

43. Christ does not answer their objections or explain. Even among the first Christians the fact of His miraculous conception seems to have been made known only gradually, so foul were the calumnies which the Jews had spread respecting His Mother. This certainly was not the place to proclaim it. He directs them to something of more vital importance than the way by which He came into the world, viz. the way by which they may come to Him.


Verses 43-46

43–46. Digression on the difficulty of coming to Christ as a believer


Verse 44

44. οὐδεὶς δύναται. It is a moral impossibility: comp. John 3:3; John 3:5, John 5:44, John 8:43, John 12:39, John 14:17, John 15:4-5. The οὐδείς corresponds to the πᾶν in John 6:37, as ἑλκύσῃ to δίδωσιν: all that are given shall reach Christ; none but those who are drawn are able to come to Him. The aor. ἐλθεῖν expresses the result, rather than the process, as in τὸν ἐρχόμενον (John 6:37), and ἔρχεται (John 6:45).

ἑλκύσῃ. Comp. John 12:32, πάντας ἑλκύσω πρὸς ἐμαυτόν. Unlike σύρειν, ‘to drag’ (Acts 8:3; Acts 14:19; Acts 17:6), ἑλκύειν does not necessarily imply force, but mere attraction of some kind, some inducement to come. Comp. Jeremiah 31:3, ‘with lovingkindness have I drawn thee’ (εἵλκυσά σε), and Virgil’s trahit sua quemque voluptas. Ἑλκίσῃ expresses the internal process, δίδωσιν (John 6:37) the result.

κἀγώ. The Father begins the work of salvation, the Son completes it. The Father draws and gives; the Son receives, preserves, and raises up to eternal life.


Verse 45

45. ἔστιν γεγρ. See on John 2:17. Here, as in John 13:18 and John 19:37, the quotation agrees with the Hebrew against the LXX. This is evidence that the writer knew Hebrew, and was probably a Jew of Palestine.

ἐν τοῖς προφήταις. In the division of the Scriptures, so called as distinct from the Law (John 1:45), and the Psalms or Hagiographa (Luke 24:44): comp. Acts 13:40, and (ἐν βίβλῳ τῶν πρ.) John 7:42. The direct reference is to Isaiah 54:13, which may have been part of the synagogue-lesson for the day (Luke 4:17); but comp. Jeremiah 31:33-34; Joel 3:16-17. The quotation explains how the Father draws men, viz. by enlightening them. Note that Jesus does not derive His teaching from the O. T, but confirms it by an appeal to the O.T. Comp. John 8:17; John 8:56, John 10:34.

διδακτοὶ θεοῦ. In classical Greek διδακτός is applied to doctrine rather than pupils, the things that can be taught rather than the persons taught. The Hebrew limmûd in Isaiah 54:13 is perhaps a substantive, and hence the genitive here without ὑπό; ‘God’s instructed ones,’ i.e. prophets in the wider sense. Comp. διδακτοῖς πνεύματος (1 Corinthians 2:13) for the genitive, and θεοδίδακτοι (1 Thessalonians 4:9) for the meaning.

πᾶς ὁ ἀκ.… κ. μαθ. Every one that hath heard and hath learned from (John 8:26; John 8:40, John 15:15) the Father, and no others; only those who have been ‘taught of God’ can come to the Son. The οὖν after πᾶς in T. R. is not genuine; very common in S. John’s narrative, it is very rare in discourses. Omit with אBCDLST against A.


Verse 46

46. ἑώρακεν. see on John 1:18. Hearing is not the same as seeing, and in order to hear and learn from the Father it is not necessary to see Him. The result of hearing is to lead men to the only One who has seen (John 1:18), and in whom the Father may be seen (John 14:9).

ὁ ὤν παρὰ τ. θ. The expression, as in John 7:29, implies a permanent relation, and points to the generation rather than the mission of the Son. On οὗτος see on John 3:32.


Verse 47

47. ἀμὴν ἀμ. With the authority of Him who alone has seen the Father, Jesus solemnly assures them that the believer is already in possession (ἔχει) of eternal life: see on John 3:36, John 5:24.


Verses 47-50

47–50. Christ returns from answering the Jews to the main subject


Verse 48

48. ἐγώ εἰμι. See on John 6:35 and John 1:21.


Verse 49

49. ἔφαγονἀπέθ. Ate the manna … and they died, see on John 8:52. The point is, not that they are dead now, but that they died then; the manna did not save them. He answers them out of their own mouths. On the other hand, the Bread of Life is a permanent source of spiritual life here and a pledge of resurrection hereafter.


Verse 50

50. οὗτος. May be subject or predicate; the latter seems to be better, as in John 15:12, John 17:3; 1 John 5:3, where αὕτη anticipates ἵνα. Of this purpose is the Bread which cometh down (see on John 6:58) from heaven that a man may eat thereof and (so) not die (comp. John 3:19). The ἵνα indicates the Divine intention (see on John 1:9, John 4:47); the indefinite τις shews the unbounded character of the offer.

μὴ ἀποθάνῃ. The ἀπέθανον in John 6:49 seems to shew that physical death is intended, otherwise the antithesis fails. The death of the believer is only sleep: he has partaken of the Bread of Life and will be raised up at the last day; John 6:40; John 6:44; John 6:54; comp. John 8:51, John 11:25-26.


Verse 51

51. ὁ ζῶν. Τῆς ζωῆς referred to its effects, like the Tree of Life, which was a mere instrument; ὁ ζῶν refers to its nature; not merely the Bread of life (John 6:48), the life-giving Bread, but the living Bread, having life in itself, which life is imparted to those who partake of the Bread.

ὁ ἐκ τ. οὐρ. καταβάς. At the incarnation. Now that the Bread is identified with Christ, we have the past tense of what took place once for all. Previously (John 6:33; John 6:50) the present tense is used of what is continually going on. In one sense Christ is perpetually coming down from heaven, in the other He came but once. He is ever imparting Himself to man; He only once became man.

ζής. εἰς τ. αἰῶνα. Just as ὁ ζῶν is stronger than τῆς ζωῆς, so ζής. εἰς τ. αἰῶνα is stronger than μὴ ἀποθάνῃ. With ὁ ἄρτος ὁ ἐκ τ. οὐρ. κ., ὃν ἐγὼ δώσω comp. γευσαμένους τ. δωρεᾶς τ. ἐπουρανίου, Hebrews 6:4.

ἡ σάρξ μου ἐστίν. The Sinaiticus transfers these words to the end of the verse to avoid the harsh construction. Later MSS. insert ἣν ἐγὼ δώσω between ἐστίν and ὑπέρ, with the same object. Both are corruptions of the true text, which is quite in S. John’s style, ὑπὲρ τ. τ. κ. ζωῆς being an expansion of what is expressed in the main sentence. Note the καὶδὲBut, moreover, or Yea and indeed (He will tell them this startling truth right out to the end) the Bread which I will give you is my Flesh,—for the life of the world. Comp. John 8:16-17, John 15:27; and esp. 1 John 1:3. Note also the emphatic ἐγώ; ‘I, in contrast to Moses.’ That in these words Christ looked onwards to the Eucharist, and that in thus speaking to believers throughout all time He included a reference to the Eucharist, has already been stated to be highly probable. (See above, Introduction to 26–58.) But that the reference is not exclusively nor even directly to the Eucharist is shewn from the use of σάρξ and not σῶμα. In all places where the Eucharist is mentioned in N.T. we have σῶμα, not σάρξ; Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24 ff. Moreover the words must have had some meaning for those who heard them at Capernaum. Evidently they have a wider range than any one Sacrament. Christ promises to give His Flesh (by His bloody death soon to come) for the benefit of the whole world. But this benefit can only be appropriated by the faith of each individual; and so that which when offered by Christ is His Flesh appears under the figure of bread when partaken of by the believer. The primary reference therefore is to Christ’s propitiatory death; the secondary reference is to all those means by which the death of Christ is appropriated, especially the Eucharist.

ἡ σάρξ. Human nature regarded from its lower side (see on John 1:14): here it is Christ’s perfect humanity given to sustain the spiritual life of mankind. He proceeds to state (53–58) how it is given.

τοῦ κόσμου. The true Paschal Lamb is for the whole human race: contrast, ‘There shall no stranger eat thereof’ (Exodus 12:43-45).


Verses 51-58

51–58. Further definition of the identification of the Spiritual Bread with Christ as consisting in the giving of His Body and the outpouring of His Blood.

In John 6:35-50 Christ in His Person is the Bread of Life: here He is the spiritual food of believers in the Redemptive work of His Death.


Verse 52

52. πρὸς ἀλλήλους. One with another (John 4:33, John 16:17): their excitement increases; they have got beyond murmuring about Him (John 5:4), but they are not all equally hostile (John 7:12; John 7:43; John 10:19). “They strove, and that with one another, for they understood not, neither wished to take the Bread of concord” (S. Augustine).

Πῶς. This is the old vain question (John 3:4; John 3:9) which continues to distract the Church and the world. All that men need know is the fact; but they insist in asking as to the manner. ‘Cur’ et ‘Quomodo’ exitiales voculae—‘Why’ and ‘How’ are deadly little words (Luther). Οὗτος is contemptuous (John 6:42): φαγεῖν is their own addition; they wish to bring out in full the strangeness of His declaration.


Verse 53

53. πίητε αὐτ. τ. αἶμα. Christ not only accepts what they have added to His words, but still further startles them by telling them that they must drink His Blood; an amazing statement to a Jew, who was forbidden to taste even the blood of animals (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:10-16). These words are the answer to their πῶς; by an expansion of the previous statement (comp. the answer to the πῶς; of Nicodemus, John 4:5). The words point still more distinctly to His propitiatory death; for ‘the blood is the life’ which He offered up for the sins of the world. The eating and drinking are not faith, but the appropriation of His death; faith leads us to eat and drink and is the means of appropriation. Taken separately, the Flesh represents sacrifice and sustenance, the Blood represents atonement and life, life by means of His death.

ἐν ἑαντοῖς. In yourselves; for the source of life is absent.


Verse 54

54. The gracious positive of the previous minatory negative. From warning as to the ruinous consequences of not partaking He goes on to declare the blessed consequences of partaking, viz. eternal life, and that at once, with resurrection among the just hereafter.

ὁ τρώγων. Present; it is a continuous action, not one that may be done once for all (John 6:45). Φαγεῖν has no present, so that the same word could not be used; but the change to τρῶγειν rather than to ἐσθίειν is not meaningless: τρώγειν is ‘to eat with enjoyment’ (Matthew 24:38); see on John 13:18. Excepting these two texts the word occurs here only (John 6:54-58) in N.T.


Verse 55

55. ἀληθής. This reading has the highest authority; ἀληθῶς and ἀληθινή are corrections to make the passage easier. In John 4:37 we had ἀληθινός where we might have expected ἀληθής. The eating and drinking is no misleading metaphor, but a fact. see on John 1:9.


Verse 56

56. ἐν ἐμοὶ μένει, κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτῷ. This is one of S. John’s very characteristic phrases to express the most intimate mutual fellowship and union; John 14:10; John 14:20, John 15:4-5, John 17:21; 1 John 3:24; 1 John 4:15-16. Christ is at once the centre and the circumference of the life of the Christian; the source from which it springs and the ocean into which it flows. see on John 1:33.


Verse 57

57. Not a mere repetition, but an enlargement. In S. John there are no mere repetitions; the thought is always recut or reset, and frequently with additions. The result of this close union is perfect life, proceeding as from the Father to the Son, so from the Son to all believers. For καθὼςκαὶ … comp. John 13:15, 1 John 2:6; 1 John 4:17.

ὁ ζῶν πατήρ. The absolutely Living One, the Fount of all life. The expression occurs here only. Comp. Matthew 16:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Hebrews 7:25.

διὰ τὸν π.… δι' ἐμέ. Because of the Father, because the Father is the Living One (John 5:26); because of Me, because he thus derives life from Me. ‘By the Father … by Me’ would require the genitive.

ὁ τρ. με. Instead of the Flesh and Blood we have Christ Himself: the two modes of partaking are merged in one, the more appropriate of the two being retained.

κἀκεῖνος. He also. The retrospective pronoun repeats and emphasizes the subject: John 14:12 (where again it immediately follows the subject), John 1:18; John 1:33, John 5:11; John 5:39, John 9:37, John 10:1, John 12:48, John 14:21; John 14:26, John 15:26.


Verse 58

58. A general summing-up of the whole, returning from the Flesh and Blood to the main theme,—the Bread from heaven and its superiority to the highest earthly food. Οὗτος again may be subject or predicate; there is no ἵνα (John 6:50) or ὅτι to lead up to, but the οὐ καθὼς κ.τ.λ. seems to shew that οὗτος is the predicate. Ὁ καταβάς corresponds to ἀπέστειλε in John 6:57; both aorists refer to the historic fact of the Incarnation. In this sense Christ came once for all: in another sense He is always coming, ὁ καταβαίνων (John 6:50).

οὐ καθὼς κ.τ.λ. Irregularly expressed contrast to οὖτος: Of this nature (giving eternal life) is the Bread which came down from heaven; not as the fathers did eat and died (John 6:49). Comp. 1 John 3:11-12.


Verse 59

59. ἐν συναγωγῇ. In synagogue (no article), as we say ‘in church;’ comp. John 18:20. The verse is a historical note, stating definitely what was stated vaguely in John 6:22 as ‘on the other side of the sea.’ S. John cannot forget the circumstances of this solemn discourse, and he records them one by one; ‘these things He said—in full synagogue—while teaching—in Capernaum;’ a very early gloss (D) adds ‘on a sabbath.’ The verse shews that the Evangelist is aware of the Synoptic ministry in Galilee. ‘These things’ naturally refers to the whole discourse from John 6:26; we have no sufficient evidence of a break between John 6:40 and John 6:41. On the other hand there is strong evidence that from John 6:26 to John 6:58 forms one connected discourse spoken at one time in the synagogue at Capernaum. The site of Capernaum is not undisputed (see on Matthew 4:13); but assuming Tell Hûm to be correct, the ruins of the synagogue there are probably those of the very building in which these words were uttered. On one of the stones a pot of manna is sculptured.


Verse 60

60. τῶν μαθητῶν. The more numerous and somewhat shifting company out of which He had chosen the Twelve.

σκληρός. Not hard to understand, but hard to accept: σκληρός (σκέλλω) means originally ‘dry’ and so ‘rough;’ and then in a moral sense, ‘rough, harsh, offensive.’ Nabal the churl is σκληρός, 1 Samuel 25:3, and the slothful servant calls his master σκληρός, Matthew 25:24. Λόγος is more than ‘saying’ (John 3:34), and might cover the whole discourse. It was the notion of eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood that specially scandalized them: ‘This is a revolting speech; who can listen to it?’ Αὐτοῦ no doubt refers to λόγος; but it might mean ‘listen to Him.’ A century later we find the same thing: not only opponents but disciples take offence at such language; “They abstain from (public) thanksgiving and prayer, because they allow not that the Eucharist is the Flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which Flesh suffered for our sins.” Ignat. Smyrn. VI.


Verses 60-71

60–71. OPPOSITE RESULTS OF THE DISCOURSE


Verse 61

61. ἐν ἑαυτῷ. They talked in a low tone, but He knew without hearing; see on John 6:41 and John 2:24. As in John 1:42; John 1:47, John 4:18, John 5:14; John 5:42, John 6:26, &c., Jesus reads men’s hearts. For σκανδαλίζει see on John 16:1.


Verse 62

62. ἐὰν οὖν θ. Literally, If therefore ye should behold the Son of man ascending where He was before? The sentence breaks off (aposiopesis) leaving something to be understood: but what is to be understood? The answer to this depends on the meaning assigned to ‘behold the Son of man ascending.’ The most literal and obvious interpretation is of an actual beholding of the Ascension: and in that case we supply; ‘Would ye still take offence then?’ The Ascension would prove that their carnal interpretation of the eating and drinking must be wrong. Against this interpretation it is urged [1] that S. John does not record the Ascension. But it is assumed, if not here and John 3:13, yet certainly John 20:17 as a fact; and in all three cases it is in the words of our Lord that the reference occurs. S. John throughout assumes that the main events of Christ’s life and the fundamental elements of Christianity are well known to his readers. [2] That none but the Twelve witnessed the Ascension, while this is addressed to a multitude of doubting disciples. But some of the Twelve were present: and Christ speaks hypothetically; ‘if ye should behold,’ not ‘when ye shall behold.’ [3] That in this case we should expect ἀλλά instead of οὖν. Possibly, but not necessarily. The alternative interpretation is to make the ‘ascending’ refer to the whole drama which led to Christ’s return to glory, especially the Passion (comp. John 7:33, John 13:3, John 14:12; John 14:28, John 16:5; John 16:28, John 17:11; John 17:13): and in that case we supply; ‘Will not the sight of a suffering Messiah offend you still more?’ Winer, p. 750.


Verse 63

63. τὸ ζωοποιοῦν] That maketh to live or giveth life. ‘Quickeneth’ obscures the connexion with ζωή ἐστιν.

ἡ σάρξ. Not ἡ σάρξ μου, which would contradict John 6:51. The statement is quite general, affirming the superiority of what is unseen and eternal to what is seen and temporal (2 Corinthians 4:18; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 1 Corinthians 15:45), but with a reference to Himself. ‘My flesh’ in John 6:51 means ‘My human nature sacrificed in death,’ to be spiritually appropriated by every Christian, and best appropriated in the Eucharist. ‘The flesh’ here means the flesh without the spirit; that which can only be appropriated physically, like the manna. In this sense even Christ’s flesh ‘profiteth nothing.’ “The flesh was a vessel,” says S. Augustine; “consider what it held, not what it was.” Comp. John 3:6. Perhaps there is a reference to their carnal ideas about the Messiah.

τὰ ῥήματα. See on John 3:34. The authoritative ἐγώ, so frequent throughout this discourse (John 6:35; John 6:40-41; John 6:44; John 6:48; John 6:51; John 6:54), appears again: I, in contrast to mere human teachers. Λελάληκα, have spoken, in the discourse just concluded.


Verse 64

64. ἐξ ὑμῶν τινες. Of you some; for the order comp. ἐξ ὑμ. εἶς, John 6:70. Some followed Him without believing on Him.

ἐξ ἀρχῆς. The meaning of ἀρχή always depends on the context (see on John 1:1, John 15:27). Here the most natural limit is ‘from the begining of their discipleship.’ Comp. John 2:24-25. Οἳ οὐ πιστ. expresses a fact, οἳ μὴ π. a thought; ‘those, whoever they might be, who believed not:’ John 5:33, John 14:24, John 15:24.

τίς ἐστιν ὁ π. αὐ. Who it was that would betray Him. To ask, ‘Why then did Jesus choose Judas as an Apostle?’ is to ask in a special instance for an answer to the insoluble enigma ‘Why does Omniscience allow wicked persons to be born? Why does Omnipotence allow evil to exist?’ The tares once sown among the wheat, both ‘grow together till the harvest,’ and share sunshine and rain alike. Παραδίδοναι means to ‘hand over, deliver up;’ John 18:30; John 18:35, John 19:16.


Verse 65

65. Διὰ τοῦτο. For this cause; John 5:16; John 5:18, John 7:22, John 8:47, John 9:23, John 10:17, John 12:18; John 12:27; John 12:39, &c.

οὐδεὶς δύναται. See on John 6:44; John 6:37. The necessity for the internal preparation, the drawing by the Father, was strongly shewn in the case of Judas, who would be still more alienated by Christ’s refusal to be made a king (John 6:15) and by the σκληρὸς λόγος (John 6:60). The ἐκ indicates the Father as the source of conversion; except it have been given him from the Father: comp. John 3:27.


Verse 66

66. ἐκ τούτου. Combines the notions of ‘from that time’ and ‘in consequence of that;’ Upon this: we are to understand a continual drifting away. The phrase occurs in N.T. here and John 19:12 only.

ἀπῆλθον εἰς τὰ ὀπίσω. Not only deserted Him, but went back to their old life. This is the κρίσις, the separation of bad from good, which Christ’s coming necessarily involved; John 3:18-19.

οὐκέτι. No longer. ‘No more’ may mean ‘never again,’ which οὐκέτι does not mean; some may have returned again. Περιεπάτουν graphically expresses Christ’s wandering life; comp. John 7:1, John 11:54, Luke 8:1; Luke 9:58.


Verse 67

67. τοῖς δώδεκα. The first mention of them; S. John speaks of them familiarly as a well-known body, assuming that his readers are well acquainted with the expression (see on John 6:62). This is a mark of truth: all the more so because the expression does not occur in the earlier chapters; for it is probable that down to the end of chap. 4. at any rate ‘the Twelve’ did not yet exist. Pilate, Martha and Mary, and Mary Magdalene are introduced in the same abrupt way as persons well-known (John 18:29, John 19:25). Οὖν, in consequence of the frequent desertions.

μὴ κ. ὑμ. θέλετε. Surely ye also do not wish to go: we must avoid rendering θέλειν by the ‘will’ of the simple future: comp. John 7:17, John 8:44. Christ knows not only the unbelief of the many, but the belief and loyalty of the few.


Verse 68

68. Σίμων Πέτρος. see on John 1:42. S. Peter, as leader, primus inter pares, answers here as elsewhere in the name of the Twelve (see on Mark 3:17), and with characteristic impetuosity. His answer contains three reasons in logical order why they cannot desert their Master: [1] there is no one else to whom they can go; the Baptist is dead. Even if there were [2] Jesus has all that they need; He has ‘sayings of eternal life.’ And if there be other teachers who have them also, yet [3] there is but one Messiah, and Jesus is He. Contrast his earlier utterance, ‘Depart from me’ (Luke 5:8).

ῥήματα ζ. αἰων. see on John 3:34. No article; the expression is quite general, and seems to be an echo of John 6:63, the truth of which S. Peter’s experience could already affirm. It may mean either utterances about eternal life, or leading to eternal life. The analogy of the Bread of life, Light of life, Tree of life, and Water of life (John 6:35, John 8:12; Revelation 2:7; Revelation 21:6) is strongly in favour of the latter.


Verse 69

69. ἡμεῖς. Emphatic; we (in contrast to the deserters) have believed and have come to know (John 7:17; John 7:26, John 8:32; John 8:51): this has been the case for some time. Note the order; by believing they have come to know; sometimes (1 John 4:16) knowledge precedes faith.

ὁ ἅγιος τ. Θ. S. Peter’s confessions are worth comparing. 1. ‘Thou art the Son of God’ (Matthew 14:33); in this the other Apostles joined. 2. ‘Thou art the Holy One of God’ (John 6:69). 3. ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Matthew 16:16). They increase in fulness, as we might expect. For the last he is pronounced ‘blessed’ by Christ. see on John 1:21.


Verse 70

70. αὐτοῖς. He replies to all, not to their spokesman only.

οὐκ ἐγὼ ὑμᾶς τ. δ. ἐξ. Note the order throughout. Did not I choose (John 13:18, John 15:16) you the Twelve? Here probably the question ends: and of you one is a devil is best punctuated without an interrogation; it is a single statement in tragic contrast to the preceding question (comp. John 7:19). It would be closer to the Greek to omit the article before ‘devil’ and make it a kind of adjective; and of you one is devil, i.e. devilish in nature: but this is hardly English. The words contain a half-rebuke to S. Peter for his impetuous avowal of loyalty in the name of them all. The passage stands alone in the N.T. (comp. Matthew 16:23), but its very singularity is evidence of its truth. S. John is not likely to have forgotten what was said, or in translating to have made any serious change.


Verse 71

71. ἔλεγεν δέ. Now He spake, was meaning. For the accusative instead of περί c. gen. comp. John 8:54, John 9:19, John 1:15.

Ἰσκαριώτου. Here and in John 13:26 the true reading adds Iscariot not to the name of Judas (John 12:4, John 13:2, John 14:22), but to that of his father. If Iscariot means ‘man of Kerioth,’ a place in Judah (Joshua 15:25), or possibly Moab (Jeremiah 48:24), it would be natural for both father and son to have the name. In this case Judas was the only Apostle who was not a Galilean, and this would place a barrier between him and the Eleven.

ἔμελλεν. Was about to; John 12:4; Luke 22:23; comp. John 6:64. There is no need to include either predestinarian views on the one hand or the intention of Judas on the other. What has taken place, when viewed from a point before the event, may be regarded as sure to take place. εἷς ἐκ τ. δ. is in tragic contrast with what precedes; for he was to betray Himone of the Twelve. “Clean and unclean birds, the dove and the raven, are still in the Ark” (S. Augustine).

With regard to the difficulty of understanding Christ’s words in this sixth chapter, Meyer’s concluding remark is to be borne in mind. “The difficulty is partly exaggerated; and partly the fact is overlooked that in all references to His death and the purpose of it Jesus could rely upon the light which the future would throw on these utterances: and sowing, as He generally did, for the future in the bosom of the present, He was compelled to utter much that was mysterious, but which would supply material and support for the further development and purification of faith and knowledge. The wisdom thus displayed in His teaching has been justified by History.”

 


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on John 6:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/john-6.html. 1896.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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