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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
John 8

 

 

Verses 1-59


The Feast of Tabernacles Continued. Christ the Light of the World

John 7:53 to John 8:11. The woman taken in adultery. All modern critics agree that this section is no original part of the Fourth Gospel. It is not in the author's style; it breaks the sequence of our Lord's discourses, and is omitted by most of the ancient authorities. Probably it is an authentic apostolic tradition inserted here to illustrate the principle of John 8:15. Some MSS place it at the end of the Gospel. The incident probably took place in Holy Week, and is therefore appropriately inserted by some MSS after Luke 21:38.

3. In adultery] The woman was only betrothed, not married, otherwise her punishment would not have been stoning, but strangulation, for so the rabbis interpreted Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22. But inasmuch as among the Jews betrothal was almost equivalent to marriage (see on Matthew 1:18), the sin of a betrothed woman was regarded as a species of adultery.

6. Punishment of death for this offence was obsolescent, and some think that they wished to make Jesus unpopular with the people by inducing Him to advocate its revival. More probably they wished to embroil Him with the Roman authorities, who would not allow a death-sentence to be executed without their permission. The displeasure of Jesus was largely due to the officiousness of the accusers. It was not their business to accuse and judge the woman, but that of the husband and the judges. They had neither a legal nor a moral right to interfere. Wrote] Christ was always reluctant to interfere in civil disputes: see Matthew 22:21; Luke 12:13-15; John 18:36. Writing on the ground was a symbolical action well known in antiquity, signifying unwillingness to deal with the matter in hand.

7. Without sin] Christ read their hearts, and under His searching glance all felt themselves sinners, if not against the letter, yet against the spirit of the seventh commandment: cp. Matthew 5:28. They could not condemn her without condemning themselves. A stone] The principal witnesses cast the first stone (Deuteronomy 17:7; Acts 7:58).

9. In the midst] viz. of the disciples who alone were left. Augustine says strikingly, 'the misera before the Misericordia.'

11. Neither do I condemn thee] i.e. to judicial punishment, such as your accusers demand. Our Lord's gentle dealing with the woman was due to His desire not to break the bruised reed. She had already suffered much, and (we may suppose) was bowed down under the burden of sin. He perceived that in her case a warning to sin no more would suffice: cp. Luke 7:36-50.

John 8:12 to John 10:21. The narrative of the Feast of Tabernacles (interrupted by the interpolated section John 7:52 to John 8:11) is resumed. The scene is the Temple (John 8:20), the time the last day of the feast (John 7:37).

12. The light of the world] The idea of the Messiah as 'the Light' was familiar to the Jews (see Luke 1:78-79; Luke 2:32), and was especially appropriate at the Feast of Tabernacles, during which (or perhaps on the first day only) the two colossal golden candlesticks in the Court of the Women were lighted. Christ as 'the Light of the world' dissipates the darkness of ignorance and sin. The light of life] i.e. My guidance which leads to life eternal.

13. See on John 8:17.

14. 'The law as to witnesses applies only to human witnesses. It does not apply to Me, who am more than man, seeing that I know that I came down from heaven, and shall return thither.'

15. 'You judge only by outward appearance, and hence cannot discern the Divine in Me.'

17. Cp. Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15.

17, 18. If the testimony of two men is true, how much more true is the testimony of two witnesses who are divine!

18. See on John 5:36, John 5:37.

20. In the treasury] or, rather, 'by the treasury.' The 'treasury' consisted of thirteen brazen trumpet-shaped chests, in which were placed the Temple tribute and the people's voluntary offerings. They stood in the Court of the Women.

21-30. Another discourse of Jesus, delivered probably on the same day (some think a few days later). Jesus speaks of His return to the Father, which is misunderstood by the Jews and explained by Him. He also seeks to convince them of sin, and to show them their need of a Saviour.

21. I go my way (by death), and ye shall seek me (vainly in your misfortunes as your deliverer), and shall die in your sins (RV 'sin') (because you refuse to believe on Me as your Saviour): cp. John 7:34.

22. Will he kill himself?] and thereby enter Gehenna, the punishment awarded to suicide? (Jos. 'Wars,' iii. 8, 5). In that case we shall certainly not care to follow Him! The mockery is more bitter than in John 7:35,; q.v.

23. Their earthly hearts are without the higher wisdom and divine life of those who are born of God.

24. I am he] viz. the Messiah, and the Saviour. He alone can say, 'Thy sins be forgiven thee.'

25. Even the same] viz. the Messiah. This rendering alone suits the context. Another translation is, 'Why do I even speak to you at all?'

26. 'I have much fault to find with you, but I refrain. I am not sent to judge you, but to teach you; and I teach you the absolute truth about God, which I learnt from Him before I came into the world.'

28. When ye have lifted up the Son of man (upon the cross), then shall ye know that I am he] (i.e. the Messiah), because My death will be followed by My Resurrection, which will be a token from God that My words are true.

31-59. John 8:31 begins another speech, delivered on the same day to those Jews who were inclined to regard Him as the Messiah. When these half-believers find that Jesus demands an entire change of heart, a breach with orthodox Judaism, and faith in Himself as the eternal Son of God, their feeling towards Him is changed to violent hatred.

31. Believed on him] RV 'believed him.' They had believed His statement (John 8:24-26) that He was the Messiah, but they had not believed 'on' Him with religious faith as the Light and Life of men.

31, 32. Christ's words exasperated these Pharisaic believers, because He implied (1) that they would have to amend their lives in order to abide in His word, whereas they considered their conduct perfect; (2) that they were ignorant of saving truth, whereas they regarded themselves in complete possession of it; (3) that they were not spiritually free, because superstitiously attached to the letter of the imperfect Mosaic Law.

33. They pretend to think that Jesus is alluding to their political bondage to the Romans. They indignantly deny the imputation of bondage. They declare themselves the superiors of their oppressors.

35. A slave, unlike a son, formed no part of the family. He could be sold or expelled at will. So these Jews, slaves of sin and of the letter of the Law, were no true members of the Messiah's kingdom, and would be expelled from it. The Son] RV 'the son.'

37. Their desire to kill Christ, the promised seed of Abraham, proved that they were not children of Abraham, but of Satan. Hath no place] RV 'hath not free course.' They had received Christ's word for a moment, and then contemptuously rejected it.

41. Fornication] i.e. impure or superstitious worship, as often in the OT. The Jews claim to be the true spiritual, as well as the natural, descendants of Abraham. Inheriting his covenant and faith, they have 'one Father, even God.'

43. They misunderstood his expressions (speech), because the subject-matter of His discourse (word) was altogether above them. He was speaking of spiritual things which are spiritually discerned.

44. He was a murderer from the beginning] viz. of the human race, when he sought to destroy our first parents, and abode (RV 'stood') not in the truth, i.e. in that state of innocence in which he was created. This is the only certain allusion in the Gospels to the fall of Satan (Luke 10:18 is doubtful).

46. Christ argues from His sinlessness to His veracity. Since His enemies can find no fault with His life, they ought to believe His words. Christ's sinlessness is affirmed not only by Himself, but by His most intimate disciples: cp. John 6:61; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5.

48. To Jesus' declaration that His hearers are 'not of God,' i.e. not true Israelites, they retort that He Himself is 'a Samaritan,' i.e. a heretic.

Hast a devil] They cannot deny Christ's miracles or the power of Christ's words, so they ascribe them to diabolical agency: cp. Matthew 12:24.

49. Christ's works cannot proceed from the devil, because they are designed to honour, not Satan, nor Himself, but God.

50. And (RV 'but') I seek not mine own glory: there is one (i.e. God) that seeketh it for Me, and judgeth those who withhold it from Me, and so dishonour Me.

51. By dishonouring Jesus the Jews have incurred the judgment of the Father (John 8:50), i. e. the penalty of eternal death. But this judgment is not irrevocable. If even now they will obey Christ's word, they may escape eternal death.

52. The Jews understand our Lord to speak of natural death, and so to claim to be immortal, and the giver of immortality. Such a claim, implying superiority to all the prophets of the OT., seems to them the effect of frenzy or diabolical possession.

53, 54. 'The Son' (says Westcott) 'makes Himself to be nothing. He is and declares Himself to be that which the Father, so to speak, makes Him.'

56. 'I am greater than your Father Abraham, for Abraham looked forward with exultation to the manifestation of one greater than himself, one in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed.'

He saw it] either in prophetic vision, or, as some think, from Paradise.

57. The Jews understand, or pretend to understand, our Lord to mean that He was alive in the time of Abraham!

58. Before Abraham, etc.] lit. 'Before Abraham was born, I AM.' Christ seems here to declare Himself to be the Jehovah, or I AM of the OT., the eternal, self-existent Creator: cp. Exodus 3:14.

59. Going through the midst of them, and so passed by] RV omits these words.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on John 8:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/john-8.html. 1909.

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