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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
John 8

 

 

Verse 1

1. τὸ ὄρος τῶν Ἐ. The M. of Olives, which is mentioned 10 times by the Synoptists, is not mentioned by S. John (comp. John 18:1); and when he introduces a new place he commonly adds an explanation: John 1:44, John 4:5, John 5:2, John 6:1, John 19:13; John 19:17. Πορεύεσθαι εἰς, frequent in the Synoptists, does not occur in S. John.


Verses 1-11

1–11. The number of various readings in this section is very large, and we have not the data for constructing a satisfactory text.


Verse 2

2. ὄρθρου δὲ κ.τ.λ. Comp. Luke 21:38; καὶ πᾶς ὁ λαὸς ὤρθριζε πρὸς αὐτὸν ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ ἀκούειν αὐτοῦ. S. John never uses πᾶς ὁ λαός, S. Luke frequently does. S. John uses λαός only twice; it occurs more than 30 times in S. Luke, more than 20 in the Acts: καθίζειν is frequent in the Synoptists and the Acts; only twice in S. John: καθίσας ἐδίδασκεν occurs Luke 5:3. He sat to teach with authority; Matthew 5:1; Matthew 23:2; Mark 9:35. Ὄρθρου, ὀρθρινός, ὀρθρίζειν occur Luke 24:1; Luke 24:22; Luke 21:38; none of them in S. John, who uses πρωΐ or πρωΐας and πρωϊνός (John 18:33, John 21:4; Revelation 2:28; Revelation 22:16). see on John 7:20.


Verse 3

3. οἱ γραμμ. κ. οἱ Φαρ. This phrase occurs in all three Synoptists, in S. Luke thrice. S. John nowhere mentions the scribes. He speaks of the hierarchy as οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς or οἱ ἄρχοντες with or without οἱ Φαρισαῖοι, or else simply as οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι. This is probably not an official deputation from the Sanhedrin; there is nothing to shew that the woman had been before the Sanhedrin. Their bringing her was a wanton outrage both on her and all generous and modest spectators. She might have been detained while the case was referred to Christ.


Verse 4

4. κατείληπται. Hath been taken. The vividness of this, and still more of ἐπαυτοφώρῳ (literally, ‘in the very act of theft’), is another piece of brutal indelicacy.


Verse 5

5. ἐν δὲ τῷ νόμῳ. Of the two texts given in the margin of our Bible, Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22, probably neither is correct. It is often assumed that ‘put to death’ in Jewish Law means stoning: such however is not Jewish tradition. The Rabbis taught that it meant strangulation; i.e. the criminal was smothered in mud and then a cord was twisted round his neck. But, for the case of a betrothed woman sinning in the city, stoning is specified as the punishment (Deuteronomy 22:23-24), and this is probably what is indicated here. Such cases would be rare, and therefore all the better suited for a casuistical question.

σὺ οὖν τί λέγεις; What therefore sayest Thou? This is the only place in the whole paragraph where S. John’s favourite particle οὖν occurs; and that not in the narrative, where S. John makes such frequent use of it, but in the dialogue, where he very rarely employs it. Scarcely anywhere in this Gospel are there 12 verses of narrative without an οὖν; but see John 2:1-17, and contrast John 4:1-26, John 20:1-9.


Verse 6

6. πειράζοντες. This verb is frequent in the Synoptists of trying to place Christ in a difficulty; never so used by S. John, who, however, uses it once of Christ ‘proving’ Philip (John 6:6).

ἵνα ἔχ. κατ. This clause must be borne in mind in determining what the difficulty was in which they wished to place Him. It seems to exclude the supposition that they hoped to undermine His popularity, in case He should decide for the extreme rigour of the law; the people having become accustomed to a lax morality (Matthew 12:39; Mark 8:38). Probably the case is somewhat parallel to the question about tribute, and they hoped to bring Him into collision either with the Law and Sanhedrin or with the Roman Government. If He said she was not to be stoned, He contradicted Jewish Law; if He said she was to be stoned, He ran counter to Roman Law, for the Romans had deprived the Jews of the right to inflict capital punishment (John 18:31). The Sanhedrin might of course pronounce sentence of death (Matthew 26:66; Mark 14:64; comp. John 19:7), but it rested with the Roman governor whether he would allow the sentence to be carried out or not (John 19:16): see on John 18:31 and John 19:6.

κάτω κύψας κ.τ.λ. It is said that this gesture was a recognised sign of unwillingness to attend to what was being said; a call for a change of subject. McClellan quotes Plut. II. 532: ‘Without uttering a syllable, by merely raising the eyebrows, or stooping down, or fixing the eyes upon the ground, you may baffle unreasonable importunities.’ Κατέγραφεν means ‘kept writing’ (comp. John 7:40-41), or ‘began to write, made as though He would write’ (comp. Luke 1:59). Either rendering would agree with this interpretation, which our translators have insisted on as certain by inserting the gloss (not found in any earlier English Version except the Bishops’ Bible), ‘as though He heard them not.’ The Greek is μὴ προσποιούμενος, which Stephens admitted into his editions of 1546 and 1549, but not into that of 1550, which became the Textus Receptus. But it is just possible that by writing on the stone pavement of the Temple He wished to remind them of the ‘tables of stone, written with the finger of God’ (Exodus 31:18; Deuteronomy 9:10). They were hoping that He would explain away the seventh commandment, in order that they themselves might break the sixth.


Verse 7

7. They will not take the hint; and therefore with marvellous skill He lifts the whole question from the judicial sphere, into which He declined to enter (comp. Luke 12:14), to the moral one, in which their guilty consciences rendered them powerless. Thus the self-made judges were foiled, while the majesty of the Law remained intact. The abruptness of the reply reminds us of John 2:19.

ἀναμάρτητος. Quite classical, but here only in N.T. It may mean either ‘free from the possibility of sin, impeccable;’ or ‘free from actual sin, sinless:’ if the latter, it may mean either ‘free from sin in general, guiltless;’ or ‘free from a particular sin, not guilty.’ The context shews that the last is the meaning here, ‘free from the sin of impurity:’ comp. ‘sin no more,’ John 8:11, and ‘sinner,’ Luke 7:37; Luke 7:39. The practical maxim involved in Christ’s words is that of Matthew 7:1-5; Romans 14:4. As to its application to them comp. Matthew 12:39; Mark 8:38. He is contending not against punishment being inflicted by human law, but against men taking the law into their own hands.

λίθον. Some authorities have τὸν λίθον, the stone required for executing the sentence. Others take it of the first stone, which in stoning for idolatry was to be thrown by the witnesses (Deuteronomy 13:9; Deuteronomy 17:7); probably as a check on rash testimony. Thus in stoning Stephen the witnesses take off their upper garments in order to throw the better (Acts 7:58).


Verse 8

8. πάλιν κ. . He again refuses to have the office of judge thrust upon Him. The Reader of men’s hearts knew how His challenge would work: no one would respond to it.

ἔγραφεν. Imperfect, as in John 8:6. A Venetian MS. ascribed to the 10th century has the remarkable reading ‘wrote on the ground the sins of each one of them.’ The same strange idea appears in Jerome and elsewhere, shewing how soon men began to conjecture what He wrote. Others suppose that He wrote the answer in John 8:7. As has been shewn on John 8:6, it is not certain that He wrote anything.


Verse 9

9. The variations in this verse are considerable, but the substance is the same. Καὶ ὑπὸ τ. συνειδήσεως ἐλεγχόμενοι is probably a gloss like μὴ προσποιούμενος in John 8:6. Another gloss here is ‘understanding His upbraiding.’ Both additions are right as interpretations. The word of God, ‘sharper than any two-edged sword,’ had pierced them and proved ‘a discerner of the thoughts of their hearts’ (Hebrews 4:12).

ἀρξ. ἀπὸ τ. πρεσβυτέρων. The elders in years, not the official Elders. Meyer suggests that the oldest would be shrewd enough to slip away without compromising themselves further: certainly they would have the largest experience of life and its temptations.

μόνος. The multitude may or may not have withdrawn with the woman’s accusers; the disciples probably had not moved. But of the actors in the scene only two were left, she who needed compassion and He who could bestow it: relicti sunt duo, misera et Misericordia (S. Augustine). The woman was in the midst, where the brutality of her accusers had placed her (John 8:3).


Verse 10

10. A gloss, καὶ μηδένα θεασάμενος πλὴν τῆς γυναικός, has been inserted here, as in John 8:6; John 8:9 : πλήν occurs nowhere in S. John’s writings excepting Revelation 2:25. Ἐκεῖνοι οἱ κατήγοροί σου is another insertion.

οὐδείς σε κατέκρινεν; Did no man condemn thee? shewing how long He had waited for an answer to His challenge. Κατακρίνω occurs nine times in the Synoptists, but not in S. John, who uses κρίνω.


Verse 11

11. οὐδείς, κύριε. We must remember that κύριε need not mean more than ‘Sir’ (see on John 6:34): but as we have no such ambiguous word in English, ‘Lord,’ though possibly too strong, is best.

οὐδὲ ἐγώ. Ἐγώ is very emphatic, ‘not even I, though ἀναμάρτητος.’ He maintains in tenderness towards her the attitude which He had assumed in sternness towards her accusers: He declines the office of judge. He came not to condemn, but to seek and to save. And yet He did condemn, as S. Augustine remarks, not the woman, but the sin. With regard to the woman, though He does not condemn, yet He does not pardon: He does not say ‘thy sins have been forgiven thee’ (Matthew 9:2; Luke 7:48), or even ‘go in peace’ (Luke 7:50; Luke 8:48). “We must not apply in all cases a sentence, which requires His Divine knowledge to make it a just one” (Alford). He knew, what her accusers did not know, whether she was penitent or not.

ἀπὸ τ. ν. μ. ἁμάρτανε. From henceforth continue no longer in sin (see on John 5:14). The contrast between the mere negative declaration and the very positive exhortation is striking. There is πάρεσις, but not ἄφεσις, τῶν ἁμαρτημάτων (Romans 3:25); her sins are passed by for the present, while she has time to amend.

John 8:12 to John 9:41. CHRIST THE SOURCE OF TRUTH AND LIGHT

In John 8:12-46 ἀλήθεια occurs 7 times, ἀληθής 4 times, ἀληθινός and ἀληθῶς each once.


Verse 12

12. πάλιν οὖν. The paragraph John 7:53 to John 8:11 being omitted, these words must be connected with John 7:52. The officers have made their report to the Sanhedrin, leaving Jesus unmolested. After an interval He continues His discourse: again, therefore, Jesus spake unto them, i.e. because the attempt to interfere with Him had failed. How long the interval was we do not know, but probably a few hours.

ἐγώ εἰμι τ. φῶς τ. κ. see on John 6:35. Once more we have a possible reference to the ceremonies of the Feast of Tabernacles, somewhat less probable than the other (see on John 7:37), but not improbable. Large candelabra were lighted in the Court of the Women on the evening of the first day of the Feast in memory of the pillar of fire at the Exodus, and these flung their light over the whole city. Authorities differ as to whether this illumination was repeated, but all are agreed that it did not take place on the last evening. Here, therefore, there was once more a gap, which Christ Himself may have designed to fill; and while the multitude were missing the festal light of the great lamps, He declares, ‘I am the Light of the world.’ ‘Light,’ according to tradition, was one of the names of the Messiah. In the case of the water we know that it was poured on each of the seven days, and that Christ spoke the probable reference to it on the last day of the Feast. But in this case the illumination took place possibly on the first night only, and Christ certainly did not utter this possible reference to it until the last day of the Feast, or perhaps not until the Feast was all over. But the fact that the words were spoken in the Court of the Women (see on John 8:20) makes the reference not improbable; and πάλιν may point to this: Jesus having appropriated the type of the Rock, now appropriates that of the Pillar of Fire.

ὁ ἀκολουθῶν. This expression also is in favour of the reference. ‘The Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light’ (Exodus 13:21). So Christ here declares that those who follow Him shall in nowise walk in the darkness. The negative (οὐ μή) is very strong. This use of ‘darkness’ for moral evil is peculiar to S. John: see on John 1:5, where (as here) we have light and life (John 8:4) closely connected, while darkness is opposed to both.

ἕξει. Not only with him but in him, so that he also becomes a source of light. see on John 7:38 and comp. ‘Ye are the light of the world’ Matthew 5:14. Τῆς ζωῆς means ‘giving life’ not merely ‘leading to life:’ see on John 6:35 and John 1:4. Note that as in the case of the living bread and the living water so also here the believer is not a mere passive recipient; he has to eat and to drink to appropriate the heavenly food, and here he has to follow to appropriate the heavenly light. In the early Church candidates for baptism first turned to the West and renounced Satan and his works and then to the East, ‘the place of light,’ and professed allegiance to Christ (the Light of the world and the Sun of righteousness) and a belief in the Trinity (Dionys. Areop. Eccl. Hier.; S. Cyril Cat. Myst. I.) From this very ancient custom the practice of turning to the east at the Creed is derived. Comp. Tert. Apol. XVI.; In Valent. III.; Apost. Const. II. vii. 57; Clem. Alex. Strom. VII. vii.; &c.


Verse 13

13. μαρτυρεῖς. Bearest witness (see on John 1:7). The Pharisees try to cancel the effect of His impressive declaration by a formal objection, the validity of which He had been heard to admit (John 8:31).


Verses 13-59

13–59. A comparison of the discourses in chapters 5–8 shews how the conflict increases in intensity. In 5 and 6. Christ proceeds almost without interruption, and the Jews demur rather than contradict. In 7 the interruptions are stronger. Here He is interrupted and contradicted at every turn.


Verse 14

14. κἂν ἐγὼ μ. Even if I should bear witness. Strong emphasis on ἐγώ. God can testify respecting Himself, and there are truths to which He alone can testify. Yet He condescends to conform to the standard of human testimony, and adds to His witness the words and works of His incarnate Son; who in like manner can bear witness of Himself, being supported by the witness of the Father (John 8:16).

ποῦ ὑπάγω. By Death and Ascension. Ὑμεῖς is emphatic: they knew neither the whence nor the whither of their own lives, and how could they know His? Throughout the chapter we find ἐγώ and ὑμεῖς in constant opposition.


Verse 15

15. κατὰ τ. σάρκα. According to His humanity, the form of a servant: comp. John 7:24; John 6:63. Treating Him as a mere man they had condemned His witness concerning Himself as invalid. Κρίνω acquires an adverse sense from the context: comp. John 3:17-18, John 7:51.

οὐ κρ. οὐδένα. Neither κατὰ τ. σάρκα nor anything else is to be supplied. No such addition can be made in John 8:16, and therefore cannot be made here. The words are best taken quite literally. ‘My mission is not to condemn, but to save and bless.’ Comp. John 12:47; John 3:17.


Verse 16

16. καὶ ἐὰν κρ. δὲ ἐγώ. But even if I should judge, like ‘even if I should bear witness’ (John 8:14). ‘I judge no man; not because I have no authority, but because judging is not what I came to do. Even if I do in exceptional cases judge, My judgment is a genuine and authoritative one (see on John 1:9), not the mock sentence of an impostor. It is the sentence not of a mere man, nor even of one with a divine commission yet acting independently; but of One sent by God acting in union with His Sender.’ Comp. John 5:30. For καὶδέ comp. John 8:17, John 6:51, John 15:27; 1 John 1:3; Matthew 16:18; Acts 22:29; Hebrews 9:21; 2 Peter 1:5. It is important to note which of the two conjunctions connects the clauses and leads: here and John 15:27 it is δέ, but in John 6:51 καί. See on John 8:31.


Verse 17

17. καὶ ἐν τ. ν. δέ. But in the law also, your law (about which you profess to be so jealous), it is written. Comp. ‘Thou art called a Jew and restest on the Law’ (Romans 2:17). The Sinaiticus here gives S. John’s usual γεγραμμένον ἐστίν (see on John 2:17), instead of γέγραπται, which he uses nowhere else of O.T. quotations; comp. John 20:31.

δύο ἀνθρώπων. Not so much a quotation as a reference to Deuteronomy 19:15; Deuteronomy 17:6. Note that the Law speaks of ‘two or three witnesses:’ here we have ‘two men.’ The change is not accidental, but introduces an argument à fortiori: if the testimony of two men is valid, how much more the testimony of two Divine Witnesses. Comp. ‘If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He hath testified of His Son’ (1 John 5:9).


Verse 18

18. ἐγώ εἰμι. There is I who bear witness of Myself (in My words and works), and there beareth witness of Me the Father (in Scripture and the voice from Heaven).


Verse 19

19. ποῦ ἐστίν. They do not ask ‘who’ but ‘where;’ they know well enough by this time the meaning of Christ’s frequent reference to ‘Him that sent Me:’ John 5:23-24; John 5:30; John 5:37-38, John 6:38-40; John 6:44, John 7:16; John 7:18; John 7:28; John 7:33. They ask, therefore, in mockery, what Philip (John 14:8) asks with earnest longing, ‘Shew us the Father: we see one of Thy two witnesses; shew us the other. Any liar can appeal to God.’

οὔτε ἐμὲ οἴδ. Ye know neither Me … If ye knew Me, ye would know, as in John 8:42 : here and in John 8:46 the A.V. translates imperfects as aorists. It is in the Son that the Father reveals Himself: John 14:9, John 16:3. By learning to know the Son the disciples came to know the Father: the Jews could not know the Father because they refused to know the Son.


Verse 20

20. ἐν τῷ γαζοφ. At the treasury is an admissible and in one respect safer translation. It is not certain that there was a separate building called the treasury, but comp. 1 Maccabees 14:49; and if there was, it is not probable that Christ would be able to address the multitude there. But the thirteen brazen chests, into which people put their offerings for the temple and other charitable objects, stood in the Court of the Women (see on Mark 12:41), and these chests seem to have been called ‘the treasury.’ The point appears to be that in so public and frequented a place as this did He say all this, and yet no man laid hands on Him (see on John 7:30), Moreover the Hall Gazith, where the Sanhedrin met, was close to the Court of the Women; so that He was teaching close to His enemies’ head-quarters.

καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐπ. And (yet) no one took Him; see on John 7:30. Comp. John 6:70, John 9:30, John 16:32.


Verse 20-21

20, 21. Omit (אBDLT) ὁ Ἰησοῦς: comp. John 3:2, John 4:46, John 6:14.


Verse 21

21. εἶπεν οὖν πάλιν. He said therefore again. The ‘therefore’ does not compel us to place what follows on the same day with what precedes; ‘therefore’ merely signifies that, as no one laid hands on Him, He was able to address them again. ‘Again’ shews that there is some interval, but whether of minutes, hours, or days, we have no means of determining. The connexion is in thought rather than in time. There is no distinct mark of time between John 7:37 (the close of the Feast of Tabernacles) and John 10:22 (the Feast of the Dedication), an interval of two months. See introductory note to chap. 6.

ὑπάγω. Comp. John 8:14 and John 7:33. Possibly in all three places there is a side reference to the Jews who were now leaving Jerusalem in great numbers, the Feast of Tabernacles being over.

ζητήσετε. See on John 7:33-34. Here Christ is more explicit: so far from finding Him and being delivered by Him, they will perish most miserably; in your sin shall ye die. The singular means ‘state of sin.’ Note the order, and contrast John 8:24.


Verse 22

22. μήτι ἀποκτενεῖ ἑαυτόν. They see that He speaks of a voluntary departure, and perhaps they suspect that He alludes to His death. So with sarcasm still more bitter than the sneer in John 7:35 they exclaim ‘Surely He does not mean to commit suicide? We certainly shall not be able to follow Him if He takes refuge in that!’


Verse 23

23. ἐκ τῶν κάτω ἐστέ. At first sight it might seem as if this meant ‘ye are from hell.’ Christ uses strong language later on (John 8:44), and this interpretation would make good sense with what precedes. ‘Ye suggest that I am going to hell by self-destruction: it is ye who come from thence.’ But what follows forbids this. The two halves of the verse are manifestly equivalent, and ‘ye are from beneath’ = ‘ye are of this world.’ They were σὰρξ ἐκ τῆς σαρκός (John 3:6) and judged κατὰ τ. σάρκα (John 8:15): He was ἐκ τοῦ οὐράνου (John 3:31). The pronouns throughout are emphatically opposed. The whole verse is a good instance of ‘the spirit of parallelism, the informing power of Hebrew poetry,’ which runs more or less through the whole Gospel. Comp. John 13:16, John 14:27.


Verse 24

24. ἀποθανεῖσθε. This is the emphatic word here, not ἐν τ. ἁμαρτ., as in John 8:21 The plural expresses the separate sins of each. “No reckoning made, but sent to your account with all your imperfections on your head.” But the sentence is not irreversible; it is pronounced conditionally, unless ye believe. Comp. John 1:12, John 3:15-18, John 6:40.

ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι. That I am, implying the self-existence of Divinity. Here and in John 8:24; John 8:28; John 8:58, John 13:19, the context supplies no predicate; elsewhere (John 4:26, John 9:9, John 18:5-6; John 18:8) it does. I AM is the great Name, which every Jew understood; Exodus 3:14; Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 43:10.


Verse 25

25. σὺ τίς εῖ; It is incredible that the Jews can have failed to understand. Christ had just declared that He was from above, and not of this world. Even if the words ‘I am’ were ambiguous in themselves, in this context they are plain enough. As in John 8:19, they pretend not to understand, and contemptuously ask, Thou, who art Thou? The pronoun is scornfully emphatic. Comp. Acts 19:15. Possibly both in John 8:19 and here they wish to draw from Him something more definite, more capable of being stated in a formal charge against Him. The tone of their question must be considered in determining the meaning of Christ’s reply.

τὴν ἀρχὴν ὅ τι καὶ λαλῶ ὑμῖν. The meaning of this obscure passage (comp. John 8:44) cannot be determined with certainty. There is doubt as to [1] whether it is a question or not; [2] whether we should read ὅ τι or ὅτι; [3] the meaning of every word except ὑμῖν. Under [3] the chief doubt is whether τὴν ἀρχήν is to be taken as an adverb (‘altogether, absolutely,’ or ‘first of all,’ or possibly ‘from the first’), or as a substantive (‘the Beginning’). The chief renderings of the whole sentence will be found in Godet, Meyer, or Westcott. Three may be noticed here. (i) How is it that I even speak to you at all? Τὴν ἀρχήν has the meaning of ‘at all’ in negative sentences, and the question or exclamation makes the sentence virtually negative. The Greek Fathers, whose authority in interpreting Greek dialogue is very great, seem almost to have taken this rendering for granted as the only one that occurred to them. It may remind us of Matthew 17:17, ‘O faithless and perverse generation! How long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you?’ Comp. οὐκ ἀγαπᾷς ὅτι σοι καὶ λαλῶ; Art thou not content that I condescend to speak to thee? Ach. Tat. vi. 20. (ii) What I from the beginning am even speaking to you of, or even that which I have spoken to you all along; i.e. My words from the first have been and are a revelation of My Person. This may be made interrogative by understanding ‘Do ye ask?’ before ‘what.’ Comp. Quis igitur ille est? Quem dudum dixi a principio tibi. Plaut. Captiv. III. 4:91. (iii) The Beginning (Revelation 21:6), that which I am even saying to you, which seems to be the interpretation of the early Latin Fathers; Initium quod et loquor vobis. But this would require λέγω; λαλῶ means ‘I speak,’ never ‘I say.’ Moreover, the attraction of τὴν ἀρχήν from the nominative (‘I am the Beginning’) to the accusative is awkward. The later Latin rendering of S. Augustine and others, Principium, quia et loquor vobis, ‘The Beginning, because I even (humble Myself to) speak with you,’ ignores the Greek.


Verse 26

26. Here again we have a series of simple sentences, the precise meaning of which and their connexion with one another cannot be determined with certainty. see on John 7:33. The following seems to be the drift of the verse: ‘I have very much to speak concerning you, very much to blame. But I keep to My immediate task of speaking to the world those truths which before the world was I heard from God that cannot lie, Who sent Me:’ i.e. Christ will not desist from teaching Divine truth in order to blame the Jews. It is as the Truth and the Light that He appears in these discourses. If this seems unsatisfactory, we may adopt: ‘I have very much to speak and to blame concerning you. It will offend you still more. But nevertheless it must be spoken; for He who cannot lie commissioned Me thus to speak,’ i.e. it is both true in itself and is spoken with authority. Note the emphatic position of πόλλα.

κἀγὼ ἅ ἤκ. And the things which I heard from Him, these I on My part speak unto the world: literally, ‘into the world,’ so as to be sounded through it. Christ speaks as ‘not of the world’ (John 8:23).


Verse 27

27. οὐκ ἔγνωσαν. They perceived not that He was speaking. This statement of the Evangelist has seemed to some so unaccountable after John 8:18, that they have attempted to make his words mean something else. But the meaning of the words is quite unambiguous, and is not incredible. Even Apostles were sometimes strangely wanting. We have seen that there is an interval, possibly of days, between John 8:20 and John 8:21. The audience may have changed very considerably: but if not, experience shews that the ignorance and stupidity of unbelief are sometimes almost unbounded. Still we may admit that the dulness exhibited here is extraordinary; and it is precisely because it is so extraordinary that S. John records it.


Verse 28

28. εἶπεν οὖν ὁ Ἰ. Jesus therefore said; because of their gross dulness.

ὑψώσητε. On the Cross: see on John 3:14 and John 12:32. The Crucifixion was the act of the Jews, as S. Peter tells them (Acts 3:13-15).

τότε γνώσεσθε. Then shall ye perceive, as in John 8:27; the same verb is purposely used in both places (comp. John 8:43). Had they known the Messiah they would have known His Father also (John 14:9). But when by crucifying Him they have brought about His glory, then and not till then will their eyes be opened. Then will facts force upon them what no words could teach them. Comp. John 12:32.

ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι. That I am (see on John 8:24), and (that) of Myself I do nothing (John 5:19), but (that) even as the Father taught Me, I speak these things. The construction depends on γνώσεσθε probably as far as λαλῶ, and possibly as far as ἐστιν: but it would be quite in S. John’s style to begin an independent sentence with each καί. These aorists, ἤκονσα (John 8:26; John 8:40; John 3:32, John 15:15) and ἐδίδαξεν, refer back to the point before the Incarnation when the Son was commissioned and furnished for His work. Ταῦτα λαλῶ is not put for οὕτω λαλῶ (John 12:50). There is a reminiscence of this verse in the Ignatian Epistles (Magn. VII); ὁ κύριος ἄνευ τοῦ πατρὸς οὐδὲν ἐποίησεν. See on John 8:29, John 10:9.


Verse 29

29. ἀφῆκεν. It will depend on the interpretation whether the aorist or perfect is to be used in English. If it refers to God sending the Messiah into the world, then, as in the cases of ἤκουσα and ἐδίδαξεν, we must keep the aorist; He left. But if it refers to Christ’s experience in each particular case, the perfect may be substituted; He hath left. In some cases (comp. John 13:13; John 13:34, John 15:9; John 15:12) it is the idiom in English to use the perfect where the aorist is used in Greek, and then to translate the Greek aorist by the English aorist would be misleading. see on John 16:32 and comp. οὐκ ἀμάρτυρον αὐτὸν ἀφῆκεν (Acts 14:17).

ὅτι ἐγὼ κ.τ.λ. Because the things pleasing to Him I always do: πάντοτε is emphatic, and means ‘on every occasion,’ which is somewhat in favour of the second interpretation of οὐκ ἀφῆκέν με: ‘He hath never left Me alone because in every case I do what pleaseth Him.’ The emphasis on ἐγώ is perhaps in mournful contrast to the Jews. In any case it is a distinct claim to Divinity. What blasphemous effrontery would such a declaration be in the mouth of any but the Incarnate Deity! The theory that Jesus was the noblest and holiest of teachers, but nothing more, shatters against such words as these. What saint or prophet ever dared to say, ‘The things which are pleasing to God I in every instance do’? Comp. John 8:46, John 14:30, John 15:10. And if it be said, that perhaps Jesus never uttered these words, then it may also be said that perhaps He never uttered any of the words attributed to Him. We have the same authority for what is accepted as His as for what is rejected as not His. History becomes impossible if we are to admit evidence that we like, and refuse evidence that we dislike. Comp. 1 John 3:22, and Ign. Magn. VIII.; ὃς κατὰ πάντα εὐηρέστησεν τῷ πέμψαντι αὐτόν. See on John 3:8, John 4:10.


Verse 30

30. ἐπίστευσαν εἰς αὐτόν. Not merely αὐτῷ; See on John 1:12. Nothing exasperated His enemies so much as His success; and therefore in leading us on to the final catastrophe, the Evangelist carefully notes the instances in which He won, though often only for a time, adherents and believers. see on John 6:15.


Verse 31

31. Besides the ‘many’ who had full faith in Him there were some of His opponents disposed to believe His statements. Their faith, poor as it proves, is better than that of the many in John 2:23; belief that results from teaching is higher than that which results from miracles. Jesus recognises both its worth and its weakness, and applies a test, which might have raised it higher, but under which it breaks down.

πεπιστ. αὐτῷ. The change from ‘believed on Him’ to the weaker had believed Him is significant, as if S. John would prepare us for their collapse of faith. The expression οἱ πεπ. αὐτῷ Ἰουδαῖοι is remarkable; in this Gospel it almost amounts to a contradiction in terms.

ἐὰν ὑμεῖς μ. If ye abide (John 1:33) in My word, ye are truly (John 1:48) My disciples. Emphasis on ‘ye’ and ‘My;’ ‘you on your part’—‘the word that is Mine.’ ‘If ye abide in My word, so that it becomes the permanent condition of your life, then truly are ye My disciples, and not merely in appearance under a passing impulse.’ Comp. John 5:38, John 6:56, John 15:4-10. The form of expression, ὁ λόγος ὁ ἐμός, the word that is Mine (John 8:43; John 8:51), is very frequent in this Gospel: comp. ἡ χαρὰ ἡ ἐμή (John 3:29, John 15:11, John 17:13), ἡ κρίσις ἡ ἐμή (John 5:30, John 8:16), τὸ θέλημα τὸ ἐμόν (John 5:30, John 6:38), ὁ καιρὸς ὁ ἐμός (John 7:6; John 7:8), ἡ εἰρήνη ἡ ἐμή (John 14:27), αἱ ἐντολαὶ αἱ ἐμαί (John 14:15), ὁ διάκονος ὁ ἐμός (John 12:26), ἡ ἀγάπη ἡ ἐμή (John 15:9), ἡ δόξα ἡ ἐμή (John 17:24), ἡ βασιλεία ἡ ἐμή (John 18:36).


Verse 32

32. γνώσεσθε. Ye shall come to know (John 6:69, John 7:17; John 7:26).

τὴν ἀλήθειαν. Divine doctrine (John 1:17, John 17:17) and Christ Himself (John 14:6, John 5:33), ‘whose service is perfect freedom.’ See John 18:37.

ἐλευθερώσει. Free from the moral slavery of sin. The power of sin is based on a delusion, a fascination, the real nature of which the truth exposes, and so breaks the spell. Truth and freedom are inseparable. Truth destroys the bondage to appearances, whether attractive or repulsive; the seductions of sin and the servile fears of an ignorant conscience. Socrates taught that vice is ignorance, and the Stoics that the wise man alone is free. Plato Rep. IX. 589 E.


Verse 33

33. ἀπεκρίθησαν πρὸς αὐ. They answered unto Him. The subject is οἱ πεπιστευκότες αὐτῷ Ἰ. (John 8:31): it is quite arbitrary to suppose any one else. The severe words which follow (John 8:44) are addressed to them, for turning back, after their momentary belief, as well as to those who had never believed at all.

σπέρμα Ἀβρ. Comp. ‘kings of peoples shall be of her’ (Sarah), and ‘thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies’ (Genesis 17:16; Genesis 22:17). On texts like these they build the proud belief that Jews have never yet been in bondage to any man. But passion once more blinds them to historical facts (see on John 7:52). The bondage in Egypt, the oppressions in the times of the Judges, the captivity in Babylon, and the Roman yoke, are all forgotten. “They have an immovable love of liberty, and maintain that God is their only ruler and master” (Josephus, Ant. XVIII. i. 6). Some, who think such forgetfulness incredible, interpret ‘we have never been lawfully in bondage.’ ‘The Truth’ would not free them from enforced slavery. It might free them from voluntary slavery, by teaching them that it was unlawful for them to be slaves. ‘But we know that already.’ This, however, is somewhat subtle, and the more literal interpretation is not incredible. The power which the human mind possesses of keeping inconvenient facts out of sight is very considerable. In either case we have another instance of gross inability to perceive the spiritual meaning of Christ’s words. Comp. John 3:4, John 4:15, John 6:34.


Verse 34

34. Ἀμὴν ἀμήν. With great solemnity He points them to a bondage far worse than political servitude. see on John 1:51.

πᾶς ὁ ποιῶν τ. ἁμ. Everyone who continueth to do sin is the bond-servant of sin. Christ does not say that a single act (ὁ ποιήσας) of sin enslaves; it is a life of sin that makes a man a slave and the child of the devil (1 John 3:8). Ποιεῖν τὴν ἁμαρτ. is the opposite of ποιεῖν τὴν ἀλήθειαν (John 3:21) and of π. τὴν δικαιοσύνην (1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:7). ‘Servant’ is a good rendering of δοῦλος where nothing degrading is implied (Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1, &c.), but is too weak, where, as here, the degradation is the main point. Moreover, the connexion with δεδουλεύκαμεν must be preserved; ‘have been in bondage’ or ‘in slavery,’ and ‘bond-servants’ or ‘slaves,’ must be our renderings.

Some have thought that we have here an echo of Romans 6:16, which S. John may have seen. But may not both passages be original? The idea that vice is slavery—tot dominorum quot vitiorum—is common in all literature: frequent in the classics. 2 Peter 2:19 is probably an echo of this passage or of Romans 6:16. Comp. Matthew 6:24.


Verse 35

35. ὁ δὲ δοῦλος. The transition is somewhat abrupt, the mention of ‘bond-servant’ suggesting a fresh thought. Now the bond-servant (not the bond-servant of sin, but any slave) abideth not in the house for ever: the son (not the Son of God, but any son) abideth for ever. It is perhaps to avoid this abruptness that some important authorities omit τῆς ἁμαρτίας.


Verse 36

36. ἐὰν οὖν ὁ υἱός. As before, any son is meant. ‘If the son emancipates you, your freedom is secured; for he is always on the spot to see that the emancipation is carried out.’ The statement is general, but with special reference to the Son of God, who frees men by granting them a share in His Sonship. If they will abide in His word (John 8:31), He will abide in them (John 6:56), and will take care that the bondage from which He has freed them is not thrust upon them again.

ὄντως. Here only in S. John: comp. Luke 23:47; Luke 24:34; 1 Timothy 5:3; 1 Timothy 5:5; 1 Timothy 5:16. It expresses reality as opposed to appearance; ἀληθῶς (John 8:31, John 4:42, John 6:14, John 7:40) implies that this reality is known.


Verse 37

37. Having answered the conclusion οὐδενὶ δεδουλεύκαμεν πώποτε (John 8:33), Jesus proceeds to deal with the premise from which it was drawn. He admits their claim in their own narrow sense. They are the natural descendants of Abraham: his children in any higher sense they are not (John 8:39). Comp. ‘neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children’ (Romans 9:8).

οὐ χωρεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν. Maketh no advance in you. His word had found place in them for a very short time; but it made no progress in their hearts: it did not abide in them and they did not abide in it (John 8:31). They had stifled it and cast it out. See on John 8:31.


Verse 38

38. The text is somewhat uncertain. The things which I (in My own Person) have seen (see on John 1:18) with the Father I speak: ye also, therefore, do the things which ye heard from your father. We are uncertain whether ποιεῖτε is indicative or imperative: if indicative, παρὰ τ. π. means ‘from your father,’ the devil, as in John 8:41; if imperative, it means ‘from the Father,’ as in the first half of the verse. In the former case οὖν (rare in discourses) is severely ironical; ‘I speak those truths of which I have direct knowledge from all eternity with the Father: you, therefore, following My relation to My Father, are doing those sins which your father suggested to you.’ In the latter case the οὖν is simple; ‘I in My words follow the Father, of whom I have direct knowledge: you also, therefore, in your acts must follow the Father, of whom you have had indirect knowledge.’ This appeal to Christ’s having seen God is peculiar to S. John; it is made sometimes by Christ Himself (John 3:11, John 6:46), sometimes by the Evangelist or the Baptist (John 1:18, John 3:32). The connexion of John 8:38 with John 8:37 is not quite obvious: perhaps it is—‘My words make no progress in you, because they are so opposite in origin and nature to your deeds.’


Verse 39

39. Ἀβρ. ἐστε. They see that He means some other father than Abraham; but they hold fast to their descent.

εἰἐστε. If ye are children of Abraham: ἐστέ has been altered to ἦτε in some MSS. to bring the protasis into harmony with the supposed apodosis ἐποιεῖτε or ἐποιεῖτε ἄν. But the true reading is probably ποιεῖτε, either imperative or indicative: ‘If ye are children of Abraham, do the works of Abraham,’ or ‘ye do the works of Abraham;’ and these they manifestly did not do, and therefore could not be his children. Authorities are much divided between ἐστέ and ἦτε, ποιεῖτε and ἐποιεῖτε or ἐποιεῖτε ἄν.


Verse 40

40. ‘But, as it is, ye seek to commit murder of the most heinous kind. Ye would kill One who is your fellow-man, and that for telling you the truth, truth which He heard from God.’ The insertion of ἄνθρωπον, which the Lord nowhere else uses of Himself, involves His claim to their sympathy, and perhaps anticipates John 8:44, where they are called the children of the great ἀνθρωποκτόνος, lusting like him for blood.

τοῦτο Ἀβ. οὐκ ἐποί. Litotes, or understatement: comp. John 3:19, John 6:37. Abraham’s life was utterly unlike theirs. What had ‘the Friend of God’ (James 2:23) in common with the foes of God’s Son?


Verse 41

41. ὑμεῖς π. τ. ἐρ. Ye are doing the works of your father: ὑμεῖς in emphatic contrast to Ἀβραάμ. This shews them that He means spiritual not literal descent; so they accept His figurative language, but indignantly deny any evil parentage. ‘Thou art speaking of spiritual parentage. Well, our spiritual Father is God.’

ἡμεῖς ἐκ πορνείας. The meaning of this is very much disputed. The following are the chief explanations: [1] Thou hast denied that we are the children of Abraham, then we must be the children of some one sinning with Sarah: which is false.’ But this would be adultery, not fornication. [2] ‘We are the children of Sarah, not of Hagar.’ But this was lawful concubinage, not fornication. [3] ‘We are not a mongrel race, like the Samaritans; we are pure Jews.’ This is farfetched, and does not suit the context. [4] ‘We were not born of fornication, as Thou art.’ But His miraculous birth was not yet commonly known, and this foul Jewish lie, perpetuated from the second century onwards (Origen, c. Celsum I. xxxii.), was not yet in existence. [5] ‘We were not born of spiritual fornication; our son-ship has not been polluted with idolatry. If thou art speaking of spiritual parentage, we have one Father, even God.’ This last seems the best. Idolatry is so constantly spoken of as whoredom and fornication throughout the whole of the O. T., that in a discussion about spiritual fatherhood this image would be perfectly natural in the mouth of a Jew. Exodus 34:15-16; Leviticus 17:7; Judges 2:17; 2 Kings 9:22; Psalms 73:27; Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 3:1; Jeremiah 3:9; Jeremiah 3:20; Ezekiel 16:15; &c. &c. See esp. Hosea 2:4. There is a proud emphasis on ‘we;’—‘we are not idolaters, like Thy friends the Gentiles’ (comp. John 7:35). Ἕνα also is emphatic: One Father we have, in contrast to the many gods of the heathen and of the first Samaritans (2 Kings 17:33): comp. John 8:48.


Verse 42

42. Moral proof that God is not their Father; if He were, they would love His Son. Comp. John 15:23 and ‘Every one that loveth Him that begat loveth Him also that is begotten of Him’ (1 John 5:1). Here, as in John 8:19, John 5:46, John 9:41, John 15:19, John 13:36, we have imperfects, not aorists: contrast John 4:10, John 11:21; John 11:32, John 14:28.

ἐκ. τ. θ. ἐξῆλθον κ. ἥκω. I came out from God and am here from God among you. See on John 16:28, the only other place where ἐκ τ. Θ. ἐξῆλθον occurs: it includes the Divine Generation of the Son. In the highest and fullest sense He is ‘of God:’ if they were God’s children they would recognise and love Him.

οὐδὲ γάρ. Proof of His Divine origin: for not even of Myself have I come. ‘So far from having come from any other than God, I have not even come of My own self-determination.’


Verse 43

43. τ. λαλιὰν τ. ἐμτ. λόγον τ. ἐμ. See on John 8:31. Λαλιά is the outward expression, the language used: ἡ λαλιά σου δῆλόν σε ποιεῖ (Matthew 26:73), ἡ λαλιά σου ὁμοιάζει (Mark 14:70). Elsewhere λαλιά occurs only John 4:42 and here. Λόγος is the meaning of the expression, the thoughts conveyed in the language. They perpetually misunderstand His language because they cannot appreciate His meaning. They are ἐκ τῶν κάτω (John 8:23), and He is speaking of τὰ ἄνω (Colossians 3:1); they are ἐκ τ. κόσμου τούτου (John 8:23), and He is telling of τὰ ἐπουράνια (John 3:12); they are ψυχικοί, and He is teaching πνευματικά (1 Corinthians 2:13; see notes there). They ‘cannot hear:’ it is a moral impossibility (see on John 6:44): they have their whole character to change before they can understand spiritual truths. Ἀκούειν, as in John 8:47, means ‘listen to, obey:’ comp. Psalms 81:11.


Verse 44

44. ὑμεῖς ἐκ τ. π. τ. δ. ἐστέ. At last Christ says plainly, what He has implied in John 8:38; John 8:41. ‘Ye’ is emphatic; ‘ye, who boast that ye have Abraham and God as your Father, ye are morally the devil’s children.’ 1 John 3:8; 1 John 3:10 is perhaps an echo of Christ’s words.

This passage seems to be conclusive as to the real personal existence of the devil. It can scarcely be an economy, a concession to ordinary modes of thought and language. Would Christ have resorted to a popular delusion in a denunciation of such solemn and awful severity? Comp. ‘the children of the wicked one’ (Matthew 13:38); ‘ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves’ (Matthew 23:15). With this denunciation generally comp. Matthew 11:20-24; Matthew 23:13-36.

A monstrous but grammatically possible translation of these words is adopted by some who attribute a Gnostic origin to this Gospel;—‘ye are descended from the father of the devil.’ This Gnostic demonology, according to which the father of the devil is the God of the Jews, is utterly unscriptural, and does not suit the context here.

θέλετε ποιεῖν. Ye will to do: see on John 6:67, John 7:17; comp. John 8:40. ‘Ye love to gratify the lusts which characterize him, especially the lust for blood; this shews your moral relationship to him.’ The θέλετε brings out their full consent and sympathy.

ἀνθρωποκτόνος. See on John 8:40. The devil was a murderer by causing the Fall, and thus bringing death into the world. In the Gospel of Nicodemus, he is called ἡ τοῦ θανάτου ἀρχή. Comp. ‘God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of His own eternity. Nevertheless, through envy of the devil came death into the world, and they that do hold of his side shall find it’ (Wisdom of Solomon 2:23-24): and ‘Cain was of that wicked one and slew his brother:’ and ‘whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer’ (1 John 3:12; 1 John 3:15).

οὐχ ἕστηκεν. Standeth not in the truth (John 3:29, John 6:22, &c.). The true reading however is probably ἔστηκεν, imperf. of στήκειν (John 1:26; Romans 14:4), a stronger form; stood firm. The truth is a region from which the devil has long since departed, because truth (no article) is not in him. In S. John the most complete union is expressed by mutual indwelling, ‘I in you, and you in Me:’ this is the converse of it. The devil is not in the truth because truth is not in him: there is absolute separation. The truth cannot be possessed by one who is internally alien to it.

τὸ ψεῦδος. Falsehood as a whole as opposed to ἡ ἀλήθεια as a whole: in English we speak of ‘the truth,’ but not of ‘the falsehood.’ But the article may mean ‘the lie that is natural to him;’ whenever he speaketh his lie.

ἐκ τῶν ἰδίων. Out of his own resources, or nature: the outcome is what may be expected from him: comp. 2 Corinthians 3:5.

ὅτι ψ. . κ. ὁ π. αὐ. Because he is a liar and the father thereof, either of the liar, or of the lie. Thus he lied to Eve, “Ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). The article before πατήρ does not at all prevent πατήρ being included in the predicate. It is, however, possible to take this obscure sentence (comp. John 8:26) very differently, and to make ὁ πατήρ the subject of the last clause; Whenever a man speaketh his lie, he speaketh of his own, for his father also is a liar: i. e. a man by lying proclaims himself to be a child of the devil acting in harmony with his parentage. But the change of subject from ‘the devil’ to ‘a man’ understood is very awkward. And here again a monstrous misinterpretation is grammatically possible;—‘for the devil is a liar, and his father also.’ It is not strange that Gnostics of the second and third centuries should have tried to wring a sanction for their fantastic systems out of the writings of S. John. It is strange that any modern critics should have thought demonology so extravagant compatible with the theology of the Fourth Gospel.


Verse 45

45. ἐγὼ δὲ ὅτι. But as for Me, because I say the truth, ye believe Me not: ἐγώ is in emphatic contrast to the ψεύστης. Just as the devil ‘stood not in the truth’ because of his natural alienation from it, so they do not accept the truth when Jesus offers it to them. They will listen to the devil (John 8:38); they will believe a lie: but the Messiah speaking the truth they will not believe. The tragic tone once more, but more definitely expressed: comp. John 1:5; John 1:10-11, John 2:24; John 3:10; John 3:19.


Verse 46

46. τίς ἐξ ὑ. ἐλέγχει. Which of you convicteth Me of sin? See on John 3:20, John 16:8. For περὶ comp. John 10:33; 1 John 2:2. Many rebuked Christ and laid sin to His charge: none brought sin home to His conscience. There is the majesty of Divinity in the challenge. What mortal man would dare to make it? See on John 8:29, and comp. John 14:30, John 15:10; 1 John 3:5; 1 Peter 1:19; 1 Peter 2:22. Note the implied connexion between sin generally and falsehood, as between righteousness and truth, John 7:18. Perhaps we are to understand a pause in which He waits for their answer to His challenge. But they are as unable to charge Him with sin as to acquit themselves (John 8:7) of it: and he makes the admission implied by their silence the basis for a fresh question. ‘If I am free from sin (and none of you can convict Me of it), I am free from falsehood. Therefore, if I say truth why do ye on your part not believe Me?’


Verse 47

47. There is a pause, and then Christ answers His own question and gives a final disproof of their claim to be God’s children (John 8:41).

ὁ ὢν ἐκ τ. θ. The true child of God, deriving his whole being from Him: comp. John 8:23, John 3:31, John 15:19, John 17:14; John 17:16, John 18:36-37.

τὰ ῥήματα τ. θ. See on John 3:34. Christ here assumes, what He elsewhere states, that He speaks the words of God (John 8:26, John 7:16, John 17:8).

διὰ τοῦτο. For this cause: see on John 7:21-22. S. John uses the same test; ‘We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth and the spirit of error’ (1 John 4:6).


Verse 48

48. οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι. Not those who for the moment believed on Him (John 8:31), but the hostile party as a whole. This denial of their national prerogative of being sons of God seems to them malicious frenzy. He must be an enemy of the Chosen People and be possessed. καλῶς = ‘rightly;’ comp. John 4:17, John 13:13, John 18:23 : ἡμεῖς is emphatic; ‘we at any rate are right.’ For the position of ἡμεῖς comp. 1 John 1:4.

Σαμαρ. εἶ σύ. Σύ last, with contemptuous emphasis. The passage implies that this was a common reproach, but it is stated nowhere else. Yet it was most natural that one whose teaching so often contradicted Jewish traditions and Jewish exclusiveness should be called a Samaritan. It is therefore a striking touch of reality, and another instance of the Evangelist’s complete familiarity with the ideas and expressions current in Palestine at this time. Possibly this term of reproach contains a sneer at His visit to Samaria in chap. 4, and at His having chosen the unusual route through Samaria, as He probably did (see on John 7:10), in coming up to the Feast of Tabernacles. The parable of the Good Samaritan was probably not yet spoken. The two reproaches possibly refer to what He had said against them. He had said that they were no true children of Abraham; they say that He is a Samaritan. He had said that they were not of God: they say that He has a demon.

δαιμόνιον. It is unfortunate that we have not two words in our Bible to distinguish ὁ διάβολος, ‘the Devil’ (John 8:44, John 13:2; Matthew 4:1; Luke 8:12, &c.), from δαιμόνιον (John 7:20, John 10:20, Matthew 7:22, &c.) and δαίμων (Matthew 8:31; Mark 5:12; Luke 8:29; Revelation 18:2), ‘a devil,’ or ‘unclean spirit.’ ‘Fiend,’ which Wiclif sometimes employs (Matthew 12:24; Matthew 12:28; Mark 1:34; Mark 1:39, &c.), might have been used, had Tyndale and Cranmer adopted it: demon would have been better still. But here Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Geneva Version make the confusion complete by rendering ‘and hast the devil,’ a mistake which they make also in John 7:20 and John 10:20. The charge here is more bitter than either John 7:20 or John 10:20, where it simply means that His conduct is so extraordinary that He must be demented. We have instances more similar to this in the Synoptists; Matthew 9:34; Matthew 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15.


Verse 49

49. ἐγὼ δ. οὐκ ἔχω. He does not notice the charge of being a Samaritan. For Him it contained nothing offensive, for He knew that Samaritans might equal or excel Jews (John 4:39-42; Luke 10:33; Luke 12:16) in faith, benevolence, and gratitude. There is an emphasis on ‘I,’ but the meaning of the emphasis is not ‘I have not a demon, but ye have;’ which would require οὐκ ἐγώ for ἐγὼ οὐκ. Rather it means ‘I have not a demon, but honour My Father; while you on the contrary dishonour My Father through Me.’


Verse 50

50. ἐγὼ δὲ οὐ ζ. But it is not I who seek. ‘It is not because I seek glory for Myself that I speak of your dishonouring Me: the Father seeks that for Me and pronounces judgment on you.’ Comp. John 8:54 and John 5:41. There is no contradiction between this and John 5:22. In both cases God’s law operates of itself: the wicked sentence themselves, rather than are sentenced by Him or by the Son.


Verse 51

51. ἐμὸν λόγον τηρήση. Keep My word. The connexion with John 8:31; John 8:43 and John 5:24 must be preserved by retaining the same translation for λόγος: ‘keeping My word’ here corresponds to ‘abiding in My word’ in John 8:31. Τὸν λόγον τηρεῖν is a phrase of frequent occurrence in S. John; John 8:52; John 8:55; John 14:23; John 15:20; John 17:6; Revelation 3:8; Revelation 3:10 : τοὺς λόγους τηρεῖν, John 14:24; Revelation 22:7; Revelation 22:9 : so also the analogous phrase τὰς ἐντολὰς τηρεῖν; John 14:15; John 14:21, John 15:10; 1 John 2:3-5; 1 John 3:22; 1 John 3:24; 1 John 5:2-3; Revelation 12:17; Revelation 14:12. Of the three phrases the first is the most comprehensive; τὸν λόγον τ. is to observe the Divine revelation as a whole; τοὺς λ. or τὰς ἐντ. τ. is to observe certain definite injunctions. Τηρεῖν is not merely keeping in mind, but being on the watch to obey and fulfil. Comp. φυλάσσειν (τὸν νόμον, τὰ δόγματα, τὴν παραθήκην), which is being on the watch to guard and protect. By ‘keeping His word’ they may escape the judgment just mentioned. There is no need to suppose, therefore, that John 8:49-50 are addressed to His opponents, and John 8:51 to a more friendly group; a change of which there is no hint.

θ. οὐ μὴ θ. εἰς τ. αἰῶνα. Shall certainly not behold death for ever: i.e. shall never behold or experience death. Εἰς τ. αἰῶνα belongs like οὐ μή to θεωρήσῃ, not to θάνατον: it does not mean ‘he shall see death,’ but ‘death shall not be eternal.’ This is evident from John 4:14, which cannot mean ‘shall thirst,’ but ‘the thirst shall not be eternal,’ and from John 13:8, which cannot mean ‘shalt wash my feet,’ but ‘the washing shall not be eternal.’ In all three cases the meaning is ‘shall certainly never.’ Comp. John 10:28, John 11:26; 1 Corinthians 8:13.

θεωρήσῃ. Θεωρεῖν θάνατον occurs here only in N.T. It is stronger than ἰδεῖν θαν. (Luke 2:26; Hebrews 11:5) and ἰδεῖν διαφθοράν (Acts 2:27; Acts 2:31; Acts 13:35), expressing fixed contemplation and full acquaintance. Just as ‘keep My word’ here corresponds to ‘abide in My word’ in John 8:31, so ‘exemption from death’ here corresponds to ‘freedom’ there: εἰς τ. αἰῶνα occurs in both passages. The firm believer has (not shall have) eternal life and real freedom, and shall never lose either. Of this Christ solemnly (ἀμὴν ἀμήν, John 8:34; John 8:51) assures them.


Verse 52

52. νῦν ἐγνώκαμεν. ‘It was somewhat of a conjecture before (John 8:48), but now we have come to know it:’ comp. John 8:55, John 5:42, John 6:69. First they thought it; then they said it; then they knew it.

ἀπέθανεν. Died. As in John 6:49, the point is that he perished then, not that he is dead now: keeping God’s word did not save him.

γεύσηται. They misunderstand and therefore exaggerate His language, all the more naturally as ‘taste of death’ was a more familiar metaphor than ‘contemplate death.’ The believer does taste of death, though he does not have a complete experience of it; to him it is but a passing phase. The metaphor ‘taste of death’ is not taken from a death-cup, but from the general idea of bitterness; Matthew 16:28; Hebrews 2:9; comp. John 18:11; Revelation 14:10.


Verse 53

53. μὴ σὺ μείζων. Exactly parallel to John 4:12. ‘Surely Thou, the mad Galilean, art not greater than our father Abraham, seeing that he died? and the prophets died.’ The anacoluthon, like their exaggeration, is very natural. The sentence should run καὶ τ. προφήτων οἵτινες ἀπέθανον. For ὅστις comp. 1 John 1:2; Hebrews 10:35. For σεαυτὸν ποιεῖν comp. John 5:18, John 10:33, John 19:7; John 19:12; 1 John 1:10 : it is a Johannean phrase, meaning to declare oneself to be such by word and deed.


Verse 54

54. ἐὰν ἐγὼ δοξ. If I shall have glorified Myself, My glory is nothing. There is (John 8:50) My Father who glorifieth Me—in miracles and the Messianic work generally. In translation distinguish between τιμᾷν (John 8:49) and δοξάζειν. see on John 6:71.


Verses 54-56

54–56. Christ first answers the insinuation that He is vainglorious, implied in the question ‘whom makest Thou Thyself? Then He shews that He really is greater than Abraham.


Verse 55

55. ἐγνώκατεοἶδα. And ye have not learned to know Him (John 8:52); but I know Him. Οἶδα refers to His immediate essential knowledge of the Father, ἐγνώκατε to the progressive knowledge of mankind by means of revelation. Here and elsewhere (John 7:15; John 7:17; John 7:26-27, John 13:7, John 21:17) A.V. obliterates the distinction between the two verbs. Comp. John 14:7. ἔσομαιψεύστης. Preserve the order; I shall be like unto you, a liar: referring back to John 8:44. Winer, p. 243.

τ. λ. αὐ. τηρῶ. Christ’s whole life is a continual practice of obedience (Hebrews 5:8; Romans 5:19; Philippians 2:8): His relation to the Father is analogous to that of the believer to Christ (John 15:10, John 17:11; John 17:18).


Verse 56

56. ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν. Whom you so confidently claim (John 8:39; John 8:53): he rejoiced in expecting One whom ye scornfully reject.

ἠγαλλιάσατο ἵνα ἴδῃ. Exulted that he might see My day; the object of his joy being represented as the goal to which his heart is directed. This is a remarkable instance of S. John’s preference for the construction expressing a purpose, where other constructions would seem more natural. Comp. John 4:34; John 4:47, John 6:29; John 6:50, John 9:2-3; John 9:22, John 11:50, John 16:7. Abraham exulted in anticipation of the coming of the Messiah through implicit belief in the Divine promises. Winer, p. 426. ‘My day’ is most naturally interpreted of the Birth of Christ: comp. Luke 17:22. The aorists εἶδεν and ἐχάρη point to a definite event.

καὶ εἶδεν κ. ἐχάρη. A very important passage with regard to the intermediate state, shewing that the soul does not, as some maintain, remain unconscious between death and the Day of Judgment. The Old Testament saints in Paradise were allowed to know that the Messiah had come. How this was revealed to them we are not told; but here is a statement of the fact. Ἐχάρη expresses a calmer, less emotional joy than ἠγαλλιάσατο and therefore both are appropriate: ‘exulted’ while still on earth; ‘was glad’ in Hades: ‘exulted’ in tumultuous anticipation; ‘was glad’ in calm beholding. Thus the ‘Communion of Saints’ is assured, not merely in parables (Luke 16:27-28), but in the plain words of Scripture. Hebrews 12:1.


Verse 57

57. πεντήκοντα ἔτη. The reading τεσσαράκοντα which Chrysostom and a few authorities give, is no doubt incorrect. It has arisen from a wish to make the number less wide of the mark; for our Lord was probably not yet thirty-five, although Irenaeus preserves a tradition that He taught at a much later age. He says (II. 22:5), a quadrigesimo autem et quinquagesimo anno declinat jam in aetatem seniorem, quam habens Dominus noster docebat, sicut evangelium et omnes seniores testantur qui in Asia apud Joannem discipulum Domini convenerunt. By ‘evangelium’ he probably means this passage. But ‘fifty years’ is a round number, the Jewish traditional age of full manhood (Numbers 4:3; Numbers 4:39; Numbers 8:24-25). There is no reason to suppose that Jesus was nearly fifty, or looked nearly fifty. In comparing His age with the 2000 years since Abraham the Jews would not care to be precise so long as they were within the mark.

ἑώρακας. see on John 1:18. They again misunderstand and misquote His words. Abraham’s seeing Christ’s day was not the same as Christ seeing Abraham.


Verse 58

58. Ἀμὴν ἀμήν. For the third time in this discourse (John 8:34; John 8:51) Jesus uses this asseveration. Having answered the charge of self-glorification (John 8:54-55), and shewn that Abraham was on His side not theirs (John 8:57), He now solemnly declares His superiority to him.

πρὶν' Αβρ. γ. ἐγώ εἰμι. Here A.V. has lamentably gone back from earlier translations. Cranmer has, ‘Ere Abraham was born, I am,’ perhaps following Erasmus’ Antequam nasceretur A., Ego sum; and the Rhemish has, ‘Before that Abraham was made, I am,’ following the Vulgate, Antequam Abraham fieret, Ego sum. See notes on ἦν in John 1:1; John 1:6. ‘I am,’ denotes absolute existence, and in this passage clearly involves the pre-existence and Divinity of Christ, as the Jews see. Comp. John 8:24; John 8:28; Revelation 1:4; Revelation 1:8; and see on John 8:24. ‘I was’ would have been less comprehensive, and need not have meant more than that Christ was prior to Abraham. In O.T. we have the same thought, πρὸ τοῦ ὄρη γενηθῆναισὺ εἶ, Psalms 90:2; Psalms 102:27.


Verse 59

59. ἦραν οὖν. They took up therefore; i.e. in consequence of His last words. They clearly understand Him to have taken to Himself the Divine Name, and they prepare to stone Him for blasphemy. Building materials for completing and repairing the Temple would supply them with missiles (comp. John 10:31-33): Josephus mentions a stoning in the Temple (Ant. XVII. ix. 3). They would not have stoned Him for merely claiming to be the Messiah (John 10:24).

ἐκρύβη κ. ἐξῆλθεν. Probably we are not to understand a miraculous withdrawal as in Luke 4:30, where the ‘passing through the midst of them’ seems to be miraculous. Comp. ἄφαντος ἐγένετο, Luke 24:31. Here we need not suppose more than that He drew back into the crowd away from those who had taken up stones. The Providence which ordered that as yet the fears of the hierarchy should prevail over their hostility (John 7:30, John 8:20), ruled that the less hostile in this multitude should screen Him from the fury of the more fanatical. It is quite arbitrary to invert the clauses and render, ‘Jesus went out of the Temple and hid Himself.’

As a comment on the whole discourse see 1 Peter 2:22-23, remembering that S. Peter was very possibly present on the occasion.

“The whole of the Jews’ reasoning is strictly what we should expect from them. These constant appeals to their descent from Abraham, these repeated imputations of diabolic possession, this narrow intelligence bounded by the letter, this jealousy of anything that seemed in the slightest degree to trench on their own rigid monotheism—all these, down to the touch in John 8:57, in which the age they fix upon in round numbers is that assigned to completed manhood, give local truth and accuracy to the picture; which in any case, we may say confidently, must have been drawn by a Palestinian Jew, and in all probability by a Jew who had been himself an early disciple of Christ” (Sanday).

 


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on John 8:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/john-8.html. 1896.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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