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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament
John 2

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

John 2:1. As usual John specifies time and place and circumstance. The time was τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ. The Greeks reckoned σήμερον, αὔριον, τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ. So Luke 13:32, ἰάσεις επιτελῶ σήμερον καὶ αὔριον, καὶ τῇ τρίτη τελειοῦμαι. The “third day” was therefore what we call “the day after to-morrow”. From what point is this third day calculated? From John 1:41 or John 1:44? Probably the latter. Naturally one refers this exact specification of time to the circumstance that the writer was present. The place was ἐν κανᾷ τῆς γαλιλαίας, “of Galilee” to distinguish it from another Cana, as in all countries the same name is borne by more than one place (Newcastle; Tarbet; Cleveland, Ohio, and Cleveland, N.Y.; Freiburg). This other Cana, however, was not the Cana of Joshua 19:28 in the tribe of Asher (Weiss, Holtzmann); but more probably Cana in Judaea (cf. Henderson’s Palestine, p. 152; Josephus, Antiq., xiii., 15, 1; and Lightfoot’s Disq. Chorog. Johan. praemissa). Opinion is now in favour of identifying “Cana” with Kefr Kenna, five miles north-east of Nazareth on the road to the Sea of Galilee. Robinson (Researches, iii., 108 and ii., 346) identified it with Khurbet Kâna, three hours north of Nazareth, because ruins there were pointed out to him as bearing the name Kâna el Jelil, Cana of Galilee. Dr. Zeller, however, who resided at Nazareth, declares that Khurbet Kâna is not known to the natives as Kâna el Jelil. Major Conder (Tent Work, i., 153), although not decided in favour of Kefr Kenna, shows that the alteration in the form of the name can be accounted for, and that its position is in its favour (Henderson’s Palestine, 151–3).— γάμος ἐγένετο, a marriage took place. Jewish marriage customs are fully described in Trumbull’s Studies in Oriental Social Life.— καὶ ἦν μήτηρ τοῦ ἰησοῦ ἐκεῖ. This is noticed to account for the invitation given to Jesus and His disciples. Joseph is not mentioned, probably because already dead. Certainly he was dead before the crucifixion.


Verse 2

John 2:2. ἐκλήθη δὲ καὶ ἰησοῦς καὶ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν γάμον. “And both Jesus was invited and His disciples to the marriage.” To translate ἐκλήθη as a pluperfect “had been invited” is grammatically possible, but it is impossible that the disciples should have been previously invited, because their existence as disciples was not known. They were invited when they appeared. The collective title οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ is anticipatory: as yet it could not be in use. The singular verb ( ἐκλήθη) with a plural nominative is too common to justify Holtzmann’s inference that it indicates, what of course was the fact, that the disciples were asked only in consequence of Jesus being asked. Cf. Luke 2:33. In this instance Jesus “came unto His own” and His own received Him, at any rate as a friend.


Verse 3

John 2:3. Through this unexpected addition to the number of guests the wine began to fail, ὑστερήσαντος οἴνου. ὑστερέω, from ὕστερος, signifies “to be late,” and hence “to come short of,” “to lack,” and also “to be awanting”. Cf. Matthew 19:20, τί ἔτι ὑστερῶ; and Mark 10:21, ἕν σοι ὑστερεῖ. Here the meaning is “the wine having failed,” or “given out”. Consequently λέγει μήτηρ τοῦ ἰησοῦ πρὸς αὐτὸν, οἶνον οὐκ ἔχουσι. Bengel supposes she wished him to leave “velim discedas, ut ceteri item discedant, antequam penuria patefiat”. Calvin suggests “fieri potest, ut [mater] tale remedium [miraculum] non expectans eum admonuerit, ut pia aliqua exhortatione convivis taedium eximeret, ac simul levaret pudorem sponsi”. Lampe says: “Obscurum est”. Lücke thinks Jesus had given proof of His miracle-working previously. The Greek commentators and Godet suppose that when she saw Him recognised as Messiah the time for extraordinary manifestation of power had arrived. The words show that she was on terms of intimacy with the family of the bridegroom, that she knew of the failure of the wine and wished to relieve the embarrassment. She naturally turns to her oldest son, who had always in past emergencies proved helpful in counsel and practical aid. But from the words of Jesus in reply, “Mine hour is not yet come,” it certainly would seem as if she had suggested that He should use Messianic powers for the relief of the wedding guests.


Verse 4

John 2:4. His complete reply is, τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί, γύναι; οὔπω ἥκει ὥρα μου. γύναι is a term of respect, not equivalent to our “woman”. See chap. John 19:26, John 20:13, Luke 13:12. In the Greek tragedians it is constantly used in addressing queens and persons of distinction. Augustus addresses Cleopatra as γύναι (Dio, quoted by Wetstein). Calvin goes too far when he says that this term of address was used to correct the superstitious adoration of the Virgin which was to arise. But while there is neither harshness nor disrespect, there is distance in the expression. Wetstein hits the point when he says: “Non poterat dicere: quid mihi tecum est, mater?”— τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί represents the Hebrew מַה־לִּי וָלָךְ (Judges 11:12), and means: What have we in common? Trench gives the sense: “Let me alone; what is there common to thee and me; we stand in this matter on altogether different grounds”. Or, as Holtzmann gives it, Our point of view an interests are wholly diverse; why do you mingle them?— οὔπω ἥκει ὥρα μου. not as Bengel, “discedendi hora,” but, mine hour for bringing relief. This implies that He too had observed the failure of the wine and was waiting a fitting opportunity to interfere. That the same formula is more than once used by Jesus of His death (see chap. John 7:30, John 8:20) merely indicates that it could be used of any critical time. Euthymius says it here means “the hour of miracle working”. Wetstein quotes from R. Sira “non quavis hora fit miraculum”. Especially true is this of the first miracle-of the Messiah, which would commit Him to a life of publicity ending in an ignominious death. That Mary found hope in the οὔπω is obvious from John 2:5. She did not find His reply wholly refusal. She therefore says to the servants (John 2:5), τι ἂν λέγῃ ὑμῖν ποιήσατε. The διακόνοι, or servants waiting at table, might not otherwise have obeyed an unimportant guest. His orders might perhaps be of an unusual kind.


Verse 6

John 2:6. There were there, hard by or in the feast-room, there were ὑδρίαι λίθιναι ἓξ κείμεναι, “six stone water jars standing”. Stone was believed to preserve the purity and coolness of the water. [According to Plutarch, Tib. Gracchus, these jars were sometimes used for drawing lots, wooden tablets being put in the jars and shaken.] Similar stone jars are still used in Cana and elsewhere. They were κείμεναι, set; “in purely classical Greek κεῖμαι is the recognised passive perfect of τίθεμαι” (Holden, Plutarch’s Themist., p. 121).— κατὰ τὸν καθαρισμὸν τῶν ἰουδαίων. For the washing of hands and vessels. Cf. Mark 7. “Abluendi quidem ritum habebant ex Lege Dei, sed ut mundus semper nimius est in rebus externis, Judaei praescriptâ a Deo simplicitate non contenti continuis aspersionibus ludebant: atque ut ambitiosa est superstitio, non dubium est quin hoc etiam pompae serviret, quemadmodum hodie in Papatu videmus, quaecunque ad Dei cultum pertinere dicuntur, ad meram ostentationem esse composita,” Calvin. The number and size are given that the dimensions of the miracle may appear. There were six χωροῦσαι ἀνὰ μετρητὰς δύο τρεῖς, “holding two or three firkins each”.— ἀνὰ is here distributive, a classical use; cf. also Matthew 20:9-10, Mark 6:40. Accordingly the Vulgate translates “capientes singulae metretas binas”. The Attic μετρητής held about nine gallons, so that averaging the jars at twenty gallons the six would together contain 120 gallons. The English translation has firkin, that is, vierkin, the fourth of a barrel, a barrel being thirty imperial gallons. It is difficult to assign any reason for giving the number and capacity of these jars, except that the writer wished to convey the idea that their entire contents were changed into wine. This prodigality would bring the miracle into closer resemblance to the gifts of nature. Also it would furnish proof, after the marriage was over, that the transformation had been actual. The wedding guests had not dreamt it. There was the wine. It was no mesmeric trick. Holtzmann, in a superior manner, smiles at the prosaic interpreters who strive to reduce the statement to matter of fact.


Verse 7

John 2:7. The first order Jesus gives to the διακόνοις is one they may unhesitatingly obey.— γεμίσατε τὰς ὑδρίας ὕδατος, “Fill the water jars with water,” the water being specified in view of what was to follow.— καὶ ἐγέμισαν αὐτὰς ἕως ἄνω, “and they filled them up to the brim”. The corresponding expression, ἕως κάτω, is found in Matthew 27:51. ἕως ἔσω and ἕως ἔξω are also found in N.T. to indicate more precisely the terminus ad quem. In this usage ἕως is not perceptibly different from a preposition. “Up to the brim” is specified not so much to indicate the abundant supply as to suggest that no room was left for adding anything to the water. The servants did all their part thoroughly, and left no apparent room for Jesus to work. Thus they became instrumental to the working of a miracle.


Verse 8

John 2:8. The second order might stagger them more, ἀντλήσατε νῦν, καὶ φέρετε τῷ ἀρχιτρικλίνῳ. The ἀρχιτρίκλινος was originally the person who had charge of the triclinium or triple couch set round a dining table: “praefectus cui instruendi ornandique triclinii cura incumbit”; a butler or head waiter whose duty it was to arrange the table and taste the food and wine. Petron. Arb. 22, “Jam et Tricliniarches experrectus lucernis occidentibus oleum infuderat”. But apparently the person indicated in this verse is rather the συμποσιάρχης or συμποσίαρχος, the chairman elected by the company from among the guests, sometimes by lot. Cf. Horace’s “Arbiter bibendi,” Od., ii., 7. The requirements in such an official are described in Sirach 32:1; Plato, Laws, p. 640; see also Reid’s edition of Cicero, De Senect., p. 131. In general he regulated the course of the feast and the conduct of the guests. [Holtzmann and Weiss both retain the proper meaning of ἀρχιτρίκλινος.] Westcott suggests that the ἀντλήσατε νῦν may refer to drawing from the well, and that “the change in the water was determined by its destination for use at the feast”. “That which remained water when kept for a ceremonial use became wine when borne in faith to minister to the needs, even to the superfluous requirements of life,” a suggestive interpretation, but it evacuates of all significance the clause “they filled them up to the brim”. The servants obeyed, possibly encouraged by seeing that what they had poured in as water flowed out as wine; although if the words in the end of the ninth verse are to be taken strictly, it was still water when drawn from the water jars. But some refer the οἱ ἠντληκότες to drawing from the well. It is, however, more natural to refer it to the ἀντλήσατε νῦν of the eighth verse. Besides, drawing water from the well would be the business rather of the women than of the διάκονοι.


Verse 9

John 2:9. The architriklinos, then, when he had tasted the water which had now become wine, and did not know whence it had been procured, and was therefore impartially judging it merely as wine among wines, φωνεῖ τὸν νυμφίον, “calls the bridegroom,” or simply “addresses the bridegroom,” and says to him πᾶς ἄνθρωπος … The usage referred to was natural: and is illustrated by the ἑωλοκρασία, the mixture of all the heeltaps with which the harder heads dosed the drunken at the end of a debauch.— ὅταν μεθυσθῶσι, “when men have drunk freely,” R.V(33) The Vulgate more accurately has “cum inebriati fuerint”. And if the word does not definitely mean “when men are intoxicated,” it at least must indicate a condition in which they are unfit to discriminate between good wine and bad. The company then present was not in that condition, because they were able to appreciate the good wine; but the words of the architriklinos unquestionably imply that a good deal had already been drunk. The ἕως ἄρτι involves this. The significance of the remark consists in the certificate thus given to the quality of the wine. Bengel felicitously says: “Ignorantia architriclini comprobat bonitatem vini: scientia ministrorum veritatem miraculi”. Judging it by his natural taste and comparing it with the wine supplied by the host, the architriklinos pronounces this fresh supply better. What Christ introduces into the world will stand comparison with what is already in it. Christian grace must manifest itself not in sanctimonious and unpractical displays, but must stand comparison with the rough natural virtues, the courage, generosity, and force which are called for in the practical affairs of life.


Verse 11

John 2:11. No answer of the bridegroom is recorded, nor any detail of the impression made, but John notes the incident as “the beginning of signs”.— ταύτην εποίησεν ἀρχήν, deleting the article with Tisch(34) and W.H(35), and rendering “This as a beginning of signs did Jesus,” from which it can scarcely be gathered that no insight mentioned in the first chapter was considered by John to be supernatural. It is characteristic of this Gospel that the miracles are viewed as signs, or object lessons. The feeding of the five thousand presents Jesus as the bread of God; the strengthening of the impotent man exhibits Him as the giver of spiritual life; and so forth. So that when John here says that by this miracle Jesus ἐφανέρωσε τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, we are prompted to ask what particular aspect of His glory was manifested here. What was there in it to elicit the faith and reverence of the disciples? (1) He appears as King in physical nature. He can use it for the furtherance of His purposes and man’s good. He is, as declared in the Prologue, that One in whom is life. (2) A hint is given of the ends for which this creative power is to be used. It is, that human joy may be full. These disciples of the Baptist perceive a new kind of power in their new Master, whose goodness irradiates the natural joys and domestic incidents of human life. (3) When John recorded this miracle he saw how fitly it stood as the first rehearsing as it did the entire work of Christ, who came that human happiness might not untimely close in shame. Wine had become the symbol of that blood which brought reconcilement and renewal. Seeing this sign and the glory manifested in it ἐπίστευσαν εἰς αὐτὸν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ. “Testimony (John 1:36) directs those who were ready to welcome Christ to Him. Personal intercourse converts followers into disciples (John 2:2). A manifestation of power, as a sign of divine grace, converts discipleship into personal faith” (Westcott). “Crediderunt amplius” (Bengel). The different grades, kinds, and types of faith alluded to in this Gospel are a study. Sanday remarks on the unlikelihood of a forger making such constant allusion to the disciples. That they believed would seem a truism. If they had not, they would not have been disciples. It would have been more to the point to tell us the effect on the guests, and a forger would hardly have failed to do so. But John writes from the disciples’ point of view. Not happy are the attempts to interpret this seeming miracle as a cleverly prepared wedding jest and gift (Paulus); or as a parable (Weisse), or as a hastened natural process (Augustine, Olshausen). Holtzmann finds here an artistic Lehrdichtung, an allegory rich in suggestion. Water represents all that is mere symbol as contrasted with spirit and reality. The period of symbolism is represented by the water baptism of John: this was to find its realisation in Jesus. The jars which had served for the outward washings of Judaism were by Jesus filled with heart-strengthening wine. The O.T. gift of water from the rock is superseded by the gift of wine. Wine becomes the symbol of the spiritual life and joy of the new kingdom. With this central idea the details of the incident agree: the helplessness of the old oeconomy, “they have no wine”; the mother of the Messiah is the O.T. community; and so forth. The historical truth consists simply in the joyful character ascribed to the beginning of Christ’s ministry. (1) Against all these attempts it is the obvious intention of John to relate a miracle, a surprising and extraordinary manifestation of power. (2) Where allegory exists he directs attention to it; as in this chapter, John 2:21; also in chapters 10, 15, etc. (3) That the incident can be allegorised is no proof that it is only allegory and not history. All incidents and histories may be allegorised. The life and death of Caesar have been interpreted as a sun myth.

Few, if any, incidents in the life of Jesus give us an equal impression of the width of His nature and its imperturbable serenity. He was at this juncture fresh from the most disturbing personal conflict, His work awaited Him, a work full of intense strife, hazard, and pain; yet in a mind occupied with these things the marriage joy of a country couple finds a fit place.


Verse 12

John 2:12. From Nazareth to Capernaum and thence to Jerusalem. At John 2:12, as Calvin says, “transit Evangelista ad novam historiam”. This new section runs to the end of the fourth chapter, and gives an account of the first great series of public manifestations on the part of Christ (1) in Jerusalem, (2) in Judaea, (3) in Samaria, (4) in Galilee. These are introduced by the note of time, μετὰ τοῦτο, commonly used by John when he wishes merely to denote sequence without definitely marking the length of the interval. The interval in the present case was probably long enough at any rate to allow of the Nazareth family returning home, although this is not in the text. The motive for a fresh movement was probably the desire of the fishermen to return home. Accordingly κατέβη εἰς καφαρναοὺμ, down from the higher lands about Nazareth to the lake side, 680 feet below sea level. His destination was καφαρναούμ, the site of which is probably to be found at Khan Minyeh (Minia), at the north end of the plain of Gennesareth, where the great road to Damascus leaves the lake side and strikes north. [The most valuable comparison of the two competing sites, Tell Hum and Khan Minyeh, will be found in the Rob Roy on the Jordan. Mr. Macgregor spent several days sounding along the shore, measuring distances, comparing notes, and making careful examination, and concluded in favour of Khan Minyeh. Tell Hum was thought to represent Kefr Nahum (Nahumston); which, when it ceased to be a town and became a heap of ruins, might have been called Tell Nahum, and hence Tell Hum. Authoritative opinion is, however, decidedly in favour of Khan Minyeh.] With Jesus there went to Capernaum μήτηρ αὐτοῦ καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ καὶαὐτοῦ. From the manner in which His brothers are here mentioned along with His mother the natural inference is that they were of the same father and probably of the same mother. At Capernaum no long stay was made, the reason being given in John 2:13, ἐγγὺς ἦν τὸ πάσχα τῶν ἰουδαίων, the Passover was approaching, here called “of the Jews,” either for the sake of Gentile readers or because the Christian Easter was sometimes called πάσχα, and John wished to distinguish it.— καὶ ἀνέβη ἰησοῦς, the disciples also went, as appears from John 2:17. “Went up” because Jerusalem was the capital, and because of its height (2500 feet) above sea level. On these movements Prof. Sanday (Fourth Gospel, p. 53) makes the remark: “If it is all an artificial composition with a dogmatic object, why should the author carry his readers thus to Capernaum—for nothing? The apparent aimlessness of this statement seems to show that it came directly from a fresh and vivid recollection and not from any floating tradition.”


Verse 14

John 2:14. On reaching Jerusalem Jesus as a devout Jew visited the Temple καὶ εὗρεν ἐν τῷ ἰερῷ, that is, in the outer court of the Temple, the court of the Gentiles.— τοὺς πωλοῦντας βόας καὶ πρόβατα καὶ περιστεράς, cattle and sheep and doves, the sacrificial animals. It was of course a great convenience to the worshippers to be able to procure on the spot all requisites for sacrifice. Some of them might not know what sacrifice was required for their particular offence, and though the priest at their own home might inform them, still the officiating examiner in the Temple might reject the animal they brought as unfit; and probably would, if it was his interest to have the worshippers buying on the spot. That enormous overcharges were sometimes made is shown by Edersheim, who relates that on one occasion Simeon, the grandson of Hillel, interfered and brought down the price of a pair of doves from a gold denar, 15s. 3d., to half a silver denar, or 4d. This Temple tyranny and monopoly and these exorbitant charges naturally tended to make the Temple worship hateful to the people; and besides, the old charm of sacrifice, the free offering by a penitent of what he knew and cherished, the animal that he valued because he had watched it from its birth, and had tested its value in the farm work—all this was abolished by this “convenient” abuse. That the abuse was habitual is shown by John Lightfoot, who quotes: “Veniens quadam die Bava Ben Buta in atrium, vacuum pecoribus illud reperit,” as an extraordinary thing. It was not the presence of oxen and sheep which was offensive, for such animals must pass into the Temple with their usual accompaniments. But it was an aggravation to have these standing all day in the Temple, and to have the haggling and chaffering of a cattle market mingling with the sounds of prayer. But especially was it offensive to make the Temple service a hardship and an offence to the people of God. Not only were there those who provided sacrificial animals but also τοὺς κερματιστὰς καθημένους, money changers seated, at their tables, for a regular day’s business—not a mere accidental or occasional furnishing with change of some poor man who had hitherto not been able to procure it.— κέρμα is a small coin, from κείρω, to cut short.— τὸ κέρμα used collectively in the next verse would be in Attic τά κέρματα.— κερματιστής is one who gives small change, a money changer (such as may be seen sitting on the open street at a table in Naples or elsewhere). In the fifteenth verse they are called κολλυβισταί, from κόλλυβος, a small coin, this again from κολοβός, docked, snipped short. Maimonides, quoted by Lücke, says the κόλλυβος was the small coin given to the money changer for exchanging a shekel into two half-shekels. The receiver of the change “dat ipsi aliquid superabundans,” gives the changer something over and above, and this aliquid superabundans vocatur collybus. In fact the word was transliterated, and in the Hebrew characters was read “kolbon”. This kolbon was about 2d., which was pretty high for providing the sacred half-shekel, which could alone be received into the Temple treasury and which every Jew had to pay. It was not only on the exchange of foreign money brought up to Palestine by Jews of the dispersion these money changers must have made a good percentage; but especially by exchanging the ordinary currency of Galilee and Judaea into the sacred half-shekel, which was the poll-tax or Temple tribute exacted from every Jew. This tax was either paid a week or two before Passover in the provinces or at the Passover in the Temple itself. To Jesus the usage seemed an intolerable abuse. καὶ ποιήσας φραγέλλιον ἐκ σχοινίων. φραγέλλιον is the Latin flagellum. Many commentators represent the matter as if Jesus made a whip of the litter; but John does not say ἐκ σχοῖνων, “of rushes,” but ἐκ σχοινίων, of ropes made of rushes. In the account of Paul’s shipwreck (Acts 27:32) σχοίνια are the ropes which held the boat to the ship; so that it is impossible on this ground to say with Dr. Whitelaw that “the whip could only have been designed as an emblem of authority”. It is quite probable it was not used; as Bengel says: “neque dicitur hominibus ictum inflixisse; terrore rem perfecit”.— πάντας ἐξέβαλεν. Holtzmann and Weiss consider that the following clause is epexegetical of the πάντας, as, grammatically, it is; and that πάντας therefore refers to the sheep and oxen, not to the men. In the Synoptical Gospels πάντας ἐξέβαλεν certainly refers to the men, and as the masculine is here retained it is difficult to refer it to the πρόβατα. After driving out the oxen and their owners, ἐξέχεε τὸ κέρμα καὶ τὰς τραπέζας ἀνέστρεψεν, or as W.H(36) read ἀνέτρεψεν.— τραπέζας were specifically “bankers’ tables,” hence τραπεζίται, bankers, so that we might translate “counters”. These He overturned, and poured the coin on the ground. We cannot evacuate of forcible meaning these plain terms. It was a scene of violence: the traders trying to protect their property, cattle rushing hither and thither, men shouting and cursing, the money changers trying to hold their tables as Jesus went from one to another upsetting them. It was indeed so violent a scene that the disciples felt somewhat scandalised until they remembered, then and there, not afterwards, that it was written: ζῆλος τοῦ οἴκου σου καταφάγεταί με, words which are found in the sixty-ninth Psalm, the aorist of the LXX being changed into the future. In ordinary Greek ἐσθίω has for its future ἔδομαι, but in Hellenistic Greek it has φάγομαι for its future. See Genesis 3:3, Luke 17:8. The disciples saw in their Master’s act a consuming zeal for God’s house. It was this zeal which always governed Christ. He could not stand by and wash His hands of other men’s sins. It was this which brought Him to this world and to the cross. He had to interfere. It might have been expected that the words of Malachi would rather have been suggested to them, “The Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to His temple: but who may abide the day of His coming? for He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver”. Their interpretation of His act was suggested by His words: μὴ ποιεῖτε τὸν οἶκον τοῦ πατρός μου οἶκον ἐμπορίου. At His first visit to the Temple He had called it His Father’s house. There is, no doubt, in the μον an appropriation from which others are excluded. He does not say “your Father’s house” nor “our Father’s,” but “my Father’s”. In this word and in His action His Messiahship was implied, but directly the act and even the word were no more than a reforming prophet might have felt to be suitable. Weiss (Life of Jesus, ii., 6) says: “He felt Himself to be the Son of Him who in a unique way had consecrated this place for His temple, and He exercised the authority of a Son against the turmoil which defiled His Father’s house. Those who looked deeper must ultimately have seen that the Messiah alone had a right to feel Himself in this sense the Chosen of Jehovah. As yet, however, there were no such observers. The followers by whom He was already surrounded did not require to deduce His Messiahship from this: they knew He was the Messiah.” Make not my Father’s house οἶκον ἐμπορίου. In Mark 11:17 the words are given as running, “Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves”; which seems to be a combination of Isaiah 56:7, “Mine house shall be called a house of prayer for all people,” and Jeremiah 7:11, “Is this house which is called by my name become a den of robbers in your eyes?” In the οἶκος ἐμπορίου there may be a reminiscence of Zechariah 14:21.

At John 2:18 the cleft begins to open between faith and unbelief. In the act in which the disciples had seen the fulfilment of a Messianic Psalm, the Jews see only an unauthorised interference and assumption, of authority. Characteristically they ask for a sign.— οἱ ἰουδαῖοι, as frequent in John, means “the Jewish authorities”; and ἀπεκρίθησαν is used as elsewhere of a reply to what has been suggested or affirmed not by word but by deed.— τί σημεῖον δεικνύεις ἡμῖν, ὅτι ταῦτα ποιεῖς; ὅτι on is used similarly in John 9:17 = εἰς ἐκεῖνο ὅτι. The blindness of the Jews is enough to put external evidence for ever out of repute. They never will see the sign in the thing itself. The fact that Jesus by one blow accomplished a much needed reform of an abuse over which devout men must often have sighed and which perhaps ingenuous Levites had striven to keep within limits, the fact that this unknown youth had done what none of the constituted authorities had been able to do, was surely itself the greatest σημεῖον. Might they not rather have said: Here is one who treats things radically, who does not leave grievances to mend themselves but effectively puts His hand to the work? But this blindness is characteristic. They never see that Jesus Himself is the great sign, but are always craving for some extraneous testimony. This Gospel throughout is an exhibition of the comparative value of external and internal evidence. To their request Jesus could not answer, “I am the Messiah”. He wished that to be the people’s discovery from their knowledge of Him. He therefore answers (John 2:19), λύσατε τὸν ναὸν τοῦτον, καὶ ἐν τρισὶν ἡμέραις ἐγερῶ αὐτόν. The saying was meant to be enigmatical. Jesus spoke in parables when He wished to be understood by the spiritual and to baffle the hostile. Those who cross-question Him and treat Him as a subject to be investigated find no satisfaction. John tells us (John 2:21) that here He spoke of the “temple of His body”. Bengel suggests that He may have indicated this, “adhibito nutu gestuve”; others suggest that He may have given such an emphasis to τοῦτον as to suggest what He intended; but this is excluded by John 2:22, which informs us that it was only after the resurrection that the disciples themselves understood what was meant. Those who heard considered it an idle challenge which He knew could not be put to the proof. He knew they would not destroy their unfinished Temple. His words then had one meaning for Himself; another for those who heard. For Himself they meant: “Destroy this body of mine in which dwells the Father and I will raise it in three days”. He said this, knowing they would not now understand Him, but that this would be the great sign of His authority. Paul refers the resurrection of Christ to the Father or to the Spirit; John here, as in John 10:17-18, refers it directly to Christ Himself.

Holtzmann suggests, as had previously been suggested by others, that “to do anything in three days” merely meant to do it quickly. Reference is made to Hosea 6:2, Matthew 13:40. This may be. Holtzmann further maintains that such an announcement as Jesus is here represented as making was impossible at so early a period of the ministry, that it must have been uttered on some other occasion and have been inserted here to suit John’s purpose. The origin of the expression he finds in the Pauline-Alexandrian conception of the body as the temple of God. If this was believed of ordinary men much more must that body be the temple in which dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9).

That the saying itself was historical is put beyond doubt by its quotation at the trial of Jesus, Mark 14:58; cf. Mark 15:29. There were those who had heard Him say that He would destroy the Temple; which gives this saying with just the kind of misunderstanding and perversion one would expect. But if the saying itself is historical, can Jesus have meant anything else by it than John tells us He meant? That He considered His body the Temple of God goes without saying.

It is indeed extremely unlikely that Jesus should at the very beginning of His ministry have spoken of His death and resurrection openly. Hence even Weiss seems to think that the words meant: Destroy this Temple, as you are doing by allowing such abuses in it, prohibit me from those reforms on the Temple which can alone save it, and eventually this Temple must be completely destroyed, its purpose gone, and its services extinct. But I will in its place raise a spiritual temple, the living Church. But if already Jesus had thought out the Messianic career, then He already was sure both that He would die and that He would rise again. Being in perfect fellowship with the living God He knew that He must be hated of men, and He knew that He could never fall from that fellowship but must conquer death. At no time then after His baptism and temptation could it be impossible to Him to speak covertly as here of His death and resurrection. On this point see Schwartzkopff, Die Weissagungen Christi.


Verse 20

John 2:20. The Jews naturally saw no reference to His own body or to its resurrection, and replied to the letter of His words, τεσσεράκοντα.… The Temple was begun to be rebuilt in the eighteenth year of Herod’s reign that is the autumn of 734–735. Jewish reckoning the beginning of a year was reckoned one year. Thus forty-six years might bring us to the autumn of 779 and the Passover of 780, i.e., 27 A.D. would be regarded as forty-six years from the rebuilding; and this is Edersheim’s calculation. But several accurate chronologists think the following year is meant.

The Synoptical Gospels insert a similar incident at the close of Christ’s ministry, and there alone. Harmonists accordingly understand that the Temple was twice cleansed by Him. “Bis ergo Christus templum … purgavit” (Calvin). It is easy to find reasons for such action either at the beginning or at the close of the ministry. On the whole it seems more appropriate at the beginning. The Messiah might be expected to manifest Himself at the Temple.

The next paragraph extends from John 2:23 to John 3:21, and contains (1) a brief description of the general result of Christ’s manifestation in Jerusalem (John 2:23-25), and (2) a longer description of an instance of the kind of faith and inquiry which were produced by this manifestation and of the manner in which Christ met it.


Verse 23

John 2:23. Time, place, and circumstance are again given. ὡς δὲ ἦν ἐν τοῖς ἰεροσολύμοις ἐν τῷ πάσχα ἐν τῇ ἑορτῇ. The last clause is added with a reference to John 2:13. Then the feast was near, now it had arrived. We are to hear what happened while Jesus resided in Jerusalem during the feast.— πολλοὶ ἐπίστευσαν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ, which can scarcely mean less than that they believed He was the Messiah. Nicodemus, however, seems willing only to admit He is “a teacher come from God”. Their belief was founded on the miracles they saw.— θεωροῦντες αὐτοῦ τὰ σημεῖα ἐποίει, seeing day by day the signs He was doing, and of which John relates none. This faith, resting on miracles, is in this Gospel never commended as the highest kind of faith, although it is by no means despised. It is what Luther calls “milk faith” and may grow into something more trustworthy. Accordingly, although Jesus had at once committed Himself to the men who were attracted without miracle by His personality and the testimony of the Baptist, to these αὐτὸς ἰησοῦς οὐκ ἐπίστευεν ἑαυτὸν, “Jesus on His part did not commit Himself”. It is necessary to consider not only whether we have faith in Christ but whether Christ has faith in us. Thoroughgoing confidence must always be reciprocal. Christ will commit Himself to the man who thoroughly commits himself to Him. The reason of this reserve is given in a twofold expression: positive, διὰ τὸ αὐτὸν γινώσκειν πάντας, “because He Himself knew all men”; negative, καὶ ὅτι οὐ χρείαν εἶχεν ἵνα τὶς μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, “and because He had no need that any one should witness concerning man”. Holtzmann, following Winer, thinks that the article is inserted because reference is made to the individual with whom Jesus had on each occasion to do. This seems quite unnecessary. ἄνθρωπος is here, as in A.V(37), “man,” the ordinary generic use of the article. The reason for this again is given in the closing words, αὐτὸς γὰρ … “For He Himself knew what was in man,” knew human nature, the motives, governing ideas, and ways of man. This knowledge was not supernatural. Westcott has an important note on this point, in which he points out that John describes the knowledge of Jesus “both as relative, acquired ( γινώσκειν) and absolute, possessed ( εἰδέναι)”. Each constitutes a higher degree of the kind of knowledge found among men. Reynolds says: “There are many other indications of this thought mastery, which the evangelists appear to regard as proofs of divine power; so that I think the real significance of the passage is an ascription to Jesus of Divine power. The supernatural in mind, the superhuman mental processes of Jesus, are part of the proof we have that though He was man He created the irresistible impression that He was more than man.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on John 2:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/john-2.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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