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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament
John 8

 

 

Verse 1

John 8:1. καὶ ἐπορεύθη ἕκαστος … The position of these words almost necessitates the understanding that the members of the Sanhedrim are referred to. But in this case the contrast conveyed in the next clause, ἰησους δὲ ἐπορεύθη, is pointless.— εἰς τὸ ὄρος τῶν ἐλαιῶν, to the Mount of Olives. Cf. Matthew 24:3; Matthew 26:30; Mark 13:3. Lodging probably in the house of Lazarus, He returned to the city before dawn (John 8:2) ὄρθρου δὲ πάλιν παρεγένετο εἰς τὸ ἱερόν. Plato, Protag., 310 A, reckons ὄρθρος a part of the night.— καὶ πᾶς λαὸς ἤρχετο, i.e., those designated ὄχλος in the preceding chapter.— καὶ καθίσας, and He sat down and began to teach them. But this quiet and profitable hour was broken in upon.


Verse 3

John 8:3. ἄγουσι δὲ οἱ γραμματεῖςκατειλημμένην. The scribes and the Pharisees, who in the synoptics regularly appear as the enemies of Jesus, bring to Him a woman taken in adultery. In itself an unlawful thing to do, for they had a court in which the woman might have been tried. Obviously it was to find occasion against Him that they brought her; see John 8:6. They knew He was prone to forgive sinners.— καὶ στήσαντεςτί λέγεις; “And having set her in the midst,” where she could be well seen by all; a needless and shameless preliminary, “they say to Him, Teacher,” appealing to Him with an appearance of deference, “this woman here has been apprehended in adultery in the very act”. ἐπʼ αὐτοφώρῳ is the better reading. Originally meaning “caught in the act of theft” ( φώρ), it came to mean generally “caught in the act,” red-hand. But also, as the instances cited by Kypke show, it frequently meant “on incontrovertible evidence,” “manifestly”. Thus in Xen., Symp., iii. 13, ἐπʼ αὐτοφώρῳ εἴλημμαι πλουσιώτατος ὤν, I am evidently convicted of being the richest. See also Wetstein and Elsner.


Verse 5

John 8:5. ἐν δὲ τῷ νομῷλιθοβολεῖσθαι. In Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22 death is fixed as the penalty of adultery; but “stoning” as the form of death is only specified when a betrothed virgin is “violated, Deuteronomy 22:23-24. And the Rabbis held that where death simply was spoken of, strangling was meant [“omnis mors dicta in Lege simpliciter non est nisi strangulatio”]. It is supposed therefore that by τὰς τοιαύτας the accusers refer to the special class to which this woman belonged. The words themselves do not suggest that; and it is better to suppose that these lawyers who had brought the woman understood “stoning” when “death” without further specification was mentioned. See further in Lightfoot and Holtzmann.— σὺ οὖν τί λέγεις; “What then sayest Thou?” as if it were possible He might give a decision differing from that of the law.


Verse 6

John 8:6. τοῦτο δὲαὐτοῦ. “And this they said tempting Him,” hoping that His habitual pity would lead Him to exonerate the woman. [“Si Legi subscriberet, videri poterat sibi quodammodo dissimilis,” Calvin. προσεδόκων ὅτι φείσεται αὐτῆς, καὶ λοιπὸν ἕξουσι κατηγορίαν κατʼ αὐτοῦ ὡς παρανόμως φειδομένου τῆς ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου λιθαζομένης, Euthymius.] The dilemma supposed by Meyer is not to be thought of. See Holtzmann. Their plot was unsuccessful; Jesus as He sat (John 8:2), κάτω κύψαςγῆν, “bent down and began to write with His finger on the ground,” intimating that their question would not be answered; perhaps also some measure of that embarrassment on account of “shame of the deed itself and the brazen hardness of the prosecutors” which is overstated in Ecce Homo, p. 104. The scraping or drawing figures on the ground with a stick or the finger has been in many countries a common expression of deliberate silence or embarrassment. [ ὅπερ εἰώθασι πολλάκις ποιεῖν οἱ μὴ θέλοντες ἀποκρίνεσθαι πρὸς τοὺς ἐρωτῶντας ἄκαιρα καὶ ἀνάξια, Euthymius.] Interesting passages are cited by Wetstein and Kypke, in one of which Euripides is cited as saying: τὴν σιωπὴν τοῖς σοφοῖς ἀπόκρισιν εἶναι.


Verse 7

John 8:7. The scribes, however, did not accept the silence of Jesus as an answer, but “went on asking Him”. For this use of ἐπιμένω with a participle cf. Acts 12:16, ἐπέμενεν κρούων; and see Buttmann’s N.T. Gram., 257, 14. And at length Jesus lifting His head, straightening Himself, said to them: ἀναμάρτητοςβαλέτω, “let the faultless one among you first cast the stone at her”. ἀναμάρτητος only here in N.T. In Sept(62) Deuteronomy 29:19, ἵνα μὴ συναπολέσῃ ἁμαρτωλὸς τὸν ἀναμάρτητον. It can scarcely have been used on this occasion generally of all sin, but with reference to the sin regarding which there was present question; or at any rate to sins of the same kind, sins of unchastity. They are summoned to judge themselves rather than the woman.


Verse 8

John 8:8. Having shot this arrow Jesus again stooped and continued writing on the ground, intimating that so far as He was concerned the matter was closed.


Verse 9

John 8:9. οἱ δὲἐσχάτων. “And they when they heard it went out one by one, beginning from the elders until the last.” [The words which truly describe the motive of this departure, καὶ ὑπὸ τῆς συνειδήσεως ἐλεγχόμενοι, are deleted by Tr. W.H.R.] πρεσβυτέρων refers not to the elders by office but by age. They naturally took the lead, and the younger men deferentially allowed them to pass and then followed. Thus κατελείφθη μόνοςἑστῶσα. Jesus was left sitting and the woman standing before Him. But only those would retire who had been concerned in the accusation: the disciples and those who had previously been listening to Him would remain.


Verse 10

John 8:10. ἀνακύψας … Jesus, lifting His head and seeing that the woman was left alone, says to her: γυνήκατέκρινεν; “Woman,” nominative for vocative, as frequently, but see critical note, “where are they? Did no man condemn thee?” That is, has no one shown himself ready to begin the stoning?


Verse 11

John 8:11. And she said: “No one, Lord”.— εἶπεἁμάρτανε. “Neither do I condemn thee,” that is, do not adjudge thee to stoning. That He did condemn her sin was shown in His words μηκέτι ἁμάρτανε. Therefore Augustine says: “Ergo et Dominus damnavit, sed peccatum, non hominem”.


Verse 12

John 8:12. πάλιν οὖν. “Again therefore Jesus spake to them”; “again” refers us back to John 7:37. Lücke and others suppose that the conversation now reported took place on some day after the feast: but there is no reason why it should not have been on the same day as that recorded in chap. 7. The place, as we read in John 8:20, was ἐν τῷ γαζοφυλακίῳ, “in the Treasury,” which probably was identical with the colonnade round the “Court of the Women,” or γυναικωνίς, “in which the receptacles for charitable contributions, the so-called Shopharoth or ‘trumpets,’ were placed” (Edersheim, Life of Christ, ii. 165). Edersheim supposes that here the Pharisees would alone venture to speak. This seems scarcely consistent with the narrative. The announcement made by Jesus was, ἐγώ εἰμι τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου. Notwithstanding Meyer and Holtzmann it seems not unlikely that this utterance was prompted by the symbolism of the feast. According to the Talmud, on every night of the feast the Court of the Women was brilliantly illuminated, and the night, according to Wetstein and others, was spent in dancing and festivity. This brilliant lighting was perhaps a memorial of the Pillar of Fire which led the Israelites while dwelling in tents. This idea is favoured by the words which follow and which describe how the individual is to enjoy the light inherent in Jesus: ἀκολουθῶν ἐμοί, “he that follows me”. Like the basket of fire hung from a pole at the tent of the chief, the pillar of fire marked the camping ground and every movement of the host. And those who believe in Christ have not a chart but a guide; not a map in which they can pick out their own route, but a light going on before, which they must implicitly follow. Thus οὐ μὴ περιπατήσει ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ, “shall not walk in the dark”; cf. Matthew 4:16. The Messiah was expected to scatter the darkness of the Gentiles, “Lux est nomen Messiae” (Lightfoot), ἀλλʼ ἕξει τὸ φῶς τῆς ζωῆς, but shall have light sufficient for the highest form of life. The analogous ἄρτος τῆς ζωῆς, τὸ ὕδωρ τ. ζ. show that the light of life means the light which is needful to maintain spiritual life.


Verses 12-20

John 8:12-20. Jesus proclaims Himself the Light of the World.


Verse 13

John 8:13. To this the Pharisees, seeing only self-assertion, reply: σὺἀληθής. A formal objection; cf. John 5:31. But the attempt to apply it here only shows how far the Pharisees were from even conceiving the conditions of a true revelation. They were still in the region of pedantic rules and external tests.


Verse 14

John 8:14. Jesus replies: κἂνὑπάγω, “even if I witness of Myself, My witness is true”. The difference between καὶ εἰ and εἰ καί is clearly stated by Hermann on Viger, 822; Klotz on Devarius, 519; and is for the most part observed in N.T. On the law regulating testimony, which was meant merely for courts of law, see John 8:31. The expressed ἐγώ indicates that He is an exception to the rule; the reason being because He knows whence He comes and whither He goes, ὅτι οἶδαὑπάγω. He knows His origin and His destiny. He knows Himself, and therefore the rule mentioned has no application to Him.— πόθεν ἦλθον cannot of course be restricted to His earthly origin. He knows He is from God, so ὑπάγω refers to His going to God. Cf. John 13:3. Moreover, He is compelled to witness to Himself, because ὑμεῖς οὐκ οἴδατεὑπάγω. He alone knew the nature of His mission, yet it behoves to be known by all men; therefore He must declare Himself. They would no doubt have replied, as formerly, John 7:27, Mark 6:3, that they did know whence He was. Therefore He reminds them that they judge by appearances only: ὑμεῖς κατὰ τὴν σάρκα κρίνετε. They had constituted themselves His judges, and they decided against Him, because “according to the flesh” He was born in Galilee, John 7:52. “For my part,” He says, “I judge (condemn) no one”; ἐγὼ οὐ κρίνω οὐδένα. As if He said, “I confine myself (John 8:16) to witnessing, and do not sit in judgment,” cf. John 3:17. “But even if I do judge (as my very appearance among you results in judgment, John 3:18-19, John 5:22) my judgment is true; there is no fear of its being merely superficial or prejudiced, because I am not alone, but I am inseparably united to the Father who sent me.” Cf. John 5:30, “as I hear I judge”. In Pirqe Aboth, iv. 12, R. Ishmael is cited: “He used to say, judge not alone, for none may judge alone save One”.


Verse 17

John 8:17. καὶ ἐν τῷ νόμῳπατήρ. He returns from “judging” to “witnessing,” and He maintains that His witness (John 8:18) satisfies the Mosaic law (Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15) because what He witnesses of Himself is confirmed by the Father that sent Him. The nature of this witness was given fully at John 5:37-47.— ἐγώ εἰμι μαρτυρῶν … Field maintains the A.V(63) “I am one that beareth witness,” against the R.V(64) “I am He that beareth witness”; ἐγώ εἰμι being equivalent to “There is I” or “It is I”. Misled perhaps by the Lord’s use of ἀνθρώπων (John 8:17), the Pharisees ask (John 8:19): ποῦ ἐστὶν πατήρ σου; “Patrem Christi carnaliter acceperunt” (Augustine), therefore they ask where He is that they may ascertain what He has to say regarding Jesus; as if they said: “It is all very well alleging that you have a second witness in your Father; but where is He?” The idea of Cyril that it was a coarse allusion to His birth is out of the question, and Cyril himself does not press it. Jesus replies: οὔτεᾔδειτε ἄν [or ἂν ᾔδειτε]. They ought to have known who He meant by His Father and where He was; and their hopeless ignorance Jesus can only deplore. They professed to know Jesus, but had they known Him they would necessarily have known the Father in whom He lived and whom He represented. Their ignorance of the Father proves their ignorance of Jesus.— ταῦταἱερῷ. On γαζοφ., see John 8:12. Euthymius, as usual, hits the nail on the head: “ ταῦτατὰ παῤῥησιαστικά. ἐπεσημήνατο γὰρ τὸν τόπον, δεικνύων τὴν παῤῥησίαν τοῦ διδασκάλου. “But no one apprehended Him, because not yet was His hour come.” His immunity was all the more remarkable on account of the proximity to the chamber where the Sanhedrim held its sittings, in the southeast corner of the Court of the Priests. See Edersheim’s Life of Christ, ii. 165, note.


Verse 21

John 8:21. εἶπεν οὖν πάλιν. On another occasion, but whether the same day (Origen) or not we do not know, although, as Lücke points out, the αὐτοῖς favours Origen’s view, Jesus said: ἐγὼ ὑπάγωἐλθεῖν. This repeats John 7:34, with the addition “and ye shall die in your sin”; i.e., undelivered by the Messiah, in the bondage of sin and reaping its fruit. He adds the reason why they should not find Him (cf. John 7:34): ὅπουἐλθεῖν. He goes to His Father and thither they cannot come, if they do not believe in Him.


Verses 21-30

John 8:21-30. Further conversation with the Jews, in which Jesus warns them that He will not be long with them, and that unless they believe they will die in their sins. They will know that His witness is true after they have crucified Him.


Verse 22

John 8:22. As before, so now, the Jews fail to understand Him, and ask: ΄ήτιἐλθεῖν; “Will He kill Himself, etc.?” They gathered from the ὑπάγω that the departure He spoke of was His own action, and thought that perhaps He meant to put Himself by death beyond their reach. Many interpreters, even Westcott and Holtzmann, suppose that the hell of suicides is meant by the place where they could not come. This is refuted by Edersheim (ii. 170, note); and, besides, the meaning obviously is, that as they had no intention of dying, His supposed death would put Him beyond their reach.


Verse 23

John 8:23. But disregarding the interruption, and wishing more clearly to show why they could not follow Him, and what constituted the real separation in destiny between Him and them, He says: ὑμεῖςτούτου, “You belong to the things below, I to the things above: you are of this world, I am not of this world”. The two clauses balance and interpret one another: “things below” being equivalent to “this world”. It was because this gulf naturally separated them from Him and His destiny and because their destiny was that of the world that He had warned them.


Verse 24

John 8:24. εἶπον οὖνὑμῶν. “Therefore said I unto you, ye shall die in your sins.” The emphatic word is now ἀποθανεῖσθε (cf. John 8:12); the destruction is itself put in the foreground (Meyer, Holtzmann). “For unless ye believe that I am He, ye shall, etc.” What they were required to believe is not explicitly stated (see their question, John 8:15), it is ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι “that I am,” which Westcott supposes has the pregnant meaning “that I am, that in me is the spring of life and light and strength”; but this scarcely suits the context. Meyer supposes that He means “that I am the Messiah”. But surely it must refer directly to what He has just declared Himself to be, “I am not of this world but of the things above” [“nämlich der ἄνωθεν Stammende; die allentscheidende Persönlichkeit,” Holtzmann]. This belief was necessary because only by attaching themselves to His teaching and person could they be delivered from their identification with this world.


Verse 25

John 8:25. This only adds bewilderment to their mind, and they, not “pertly and contemptuously” (Meyer, Weiss, Holtzmann), but with some shade of impatience, ask: σὺ τίς εἶ; “Who art Thou?” To this Jesus replies: τὴν ἀρχὴν τι καὶ λαλῶ ὑμῖν. These words are rendered in A.V(65) “Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning”; and in R.V(66) “Even that which I have also spoken unto you from the beginning”. The Greek Fathers understood τὴν ἀρχὴν as equivalent to ὅλως, a meaning it frequently bears; and they interpret the clause as an exclamation, “That I should even speak to you at all!” [ ὅλως, ὅτι καὶ λαλῶ ὑμῖν, περιττόν ἐστιν. ἀνάξιοι γάρ ἐστε παντὸς λόγου, ὡς πειρασταί, Euthymius.] With this Field compares Achilles Tatius, vi. 20, οὐκ ἀγαπᾷς ὅτι σοι καὶ λαλῶ; Art thou not content that I even condescend to speak to thee? In support of this rendering Holtzmann quotes from Clem., Hom. vi. 11, εἰ μὴ παρακολουθεῖς οἷς λέγω, τί καὶ τὴν ἀρχὴν διαλέγομαι; He even supposes that this is an echo of John, so that we have here an indication of the earliest interpretation of the words. This meaning does no violence to the words, but it is slightly at discord with the spirit of the next clause and of Jesus generally (although cf. Mark 9:19). Another rendering, advocated at great length by Raphel (Annot., i. 637), puts a comma after τὴν ἀρχὴν and another after ὑμῖν, and connects τὴν ἀρχὴν with πολλὰ ἔχω; “omnino, quia et loquor vobis, multa habeo de vobis loqui”. Raphel’s note is chiefly valuable for the collection of instances of the use of τὴν ἀρχήν. A third interpretation is that suggested by the A.V(67), and which finds a remarkable analogue in Plautus, Captivi, III. iv. 91, “Quis igitur ille est? Quem dudum dixi a principio tibi” (Elsner). But this would require λέγω, not λαλῶ. There remains a fourth possible interpretation, that of Melanchthon, who renders “plane illud ipsum verbum sum quod loquor vobiscum”. So Luther (see Meyer); and Winer translates “(I am) altogether that which in my words I represent myself as being”. To this Meyer and Moulton (see his note on Winer) object that τὴν ἀρχὴν only means “omnino” “prorsus” when the sentence is negative. Elsner, however, admitting that the use is rare, gives several examples where it is used “sine addita negativa”. The words, then, may be taken as meaning “I am nothing else than what I am saying to you: I am a Voice; my Person is my teaching”.


Verse 26

John 8:26. πολλὰ ἔχω … “many things have I to speak and to judge about you,” some of which are uttered in the latter part of this chapter.— ἀλλʼ πέμψας … But—however hard for you to receive—these things are what are given me to say by Him that sent me, and therefore I must speak them; and not to you only but to the world εἰς τὸν κόσμον.


Verse 27

John 8:27. His hearers did not identify “Him that sent me” with “the Father”: οὐκ ἔγνωσανἔλεγεν.


Verse 28

John 8:28. Therefore ( οὖν) Jesus said to them, ὅτανεἰμι, “when ye have lifted up the Son of Man, them shall ye know that I am He”. ὑψώσητε has the double reference of elevation on the cross and elevation to the Messianic throne, cf. John 3:14. The people were thus to elevate Him and then they would recognise Him, Acts 2:37, etc.— ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι “that I am He,” i.e., “the Son of Man”. What follows is not dependent on ὅτι (against Meyer, Holtzmann, Westcott); the καὶ ἀπʼ ἐμαυτοῦ begins a new statement, as the present, ποιῶ, shows. The sequence of thought is: ye shall know that I am Messiah: and indeed I now act as such, for of myself I do nothing, but as my Father has taught me, so I speak. This is the present proof that He was Messiah.


Verse 29

John 8:29. καὶ πέμψαςπάντοτε. His fidelity to the purpose of the Father that sent Him secured His perpetual presence with Him. By His entire self-abnegation and freedom from self-will He gave room to the Spirit of the Father. Or, as Westcott supposes, the ὅτι clause may give the evidence or sign of the preceding rather than its cause; and the meaning may be that the result of the Father’s presence is seen in the perfect correspondence of the conduct of the Son with the will of the Father.


Verse 30

John 8:30. ταῦτααὐτόν. “As He spake these things many believed on Him,” not only believed what He said, but accepted Him as the Messenger of God. The statement closes one paragraph and prepares for the next, in which it is shown what this faith amounted to (Holtzmann).


Verse 31

John 8:31. To those who have just been described as believing on Him Jesus went on to say, ἐὰν ὑμεῖςὑμᾶς. “If you”— ὑμεῖς emphasised in distinction from those who had not believed—“abide in my word”—not content with making this first step towards faith and obedience—“then”—but not till then—“are ye really my disciples.”


Verses 31-59

John 8:31-59. Discussion between Jesus and the Jews regarding their paternity.


Verse 32

John 8:32. καὶ γνώσεσθεὑμᾶς. By abiding in Christ’s word, making it the rule of their life and accepting Him as their Guide and Teacher, they would come to that knowledge of the truth which only experimental testing of it can bring; and the truth regarding their relation to Him and to God would turn all service and all life into liberty. Freedom, a condition of absolute liberty from all outward constraint, is only attained when man attains fellowship with God (who is absolutely free) in the truth: when that prompts man to action which prompts God. [Cf. the striking parallel in Epictetus, iv. 7. εἰς ἐμὲ οὐδεὶς ἐξουσίαν ἔχει· ἠλευθέρωμαι ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ, ἔγνωκα αὐτοῦ τὰς ἐντολὰς, οὐκέτι οὐδεὶς δουλαγωγῆσαί με δύναται.]


Verse 33

John 8:33. But this announcement, instead of seeming to the Jews the culmination of all bliss, provokes even in the πεπιστευκότες (John 8:31) a blind, carping criticism: σπέρμαγενήσεσθε; we are the seed of Abraham, called by God to rule all peoples, and to none have we ever been slaves. “The episodes of Egyptian, Babylonian, Syrian, and Roman conquests were treated as mere transitory accidents, not touching the real life of the people, who had never accepted the dominion of their conquerors of coalesced with them,” Westcott. Sayings such as “All Israel are the children of kings” were current among the people. How then could emancipation be spoken of as yet to be given them?


Verse 34

John 8:34. The answer is: ἀμὴνἁμαρτίας [ τῆς ἁμαρτίας is bracketed by W.H(68)]. The liberty meant is inward, radical, and individual. “Every one who lives a life of sin is a slave.” Cf. Romans 6:16; Romans 6:20; 2 Peter 2:19; Xen., Mem., iv. 5, 3; Philo’s tract “Quod omnis probus sit liber,” and the Stoic saying “solus sapiens est liber”. The relations subsisting ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ in the house of God, the Theocracy to which they boasted to belong, must be determined by what is spiritual, by likeness to the Head of the house; “this servitude would lead to national rejection,” Edersheim. It behoves them therefore to remember this result of the generally recognised principle that sin masters the sinner and makes him a slave (John 8:35), viz., “that the slave does not abide in the house,” does not permanently inherit the promises to Abraham, and the blessedness of fellowship with God; it is the Son who abide for ever. Cf. Hebrews 3:6. The slave has no permanent footing in the house: he may be dismissed or sold. The transition which Paul himself had made from the servile to the filial position coloured his view of the Gospel, Galatians 4:1-7; but here it is not the servile attitude towards God but slavery to sin that is in view. From this slavery only the Son emancipates, ἐὰν οὖνἔσεσθε. This implies that they were all born slaves and needed emancipation, and that only One, Himself the Son, could give them true liberty.— ὄντως ἐλεύθεροι in contrast to the liberty they boasted of in John 8:33. How the Son emancipates is shown in Galatians 4:1-7. The superficial character of the liberty they enjoyed by their birth as Jews is further emphasised in John 8:37.


Verse 37

John 8:37. οἶδαὑμῖν. “I know that you are Abraham’s seed; it is your moral descent which is in question, and your conduct shows that my word, which gives true liberty (John 8:31-32), does not find place in you.”— οὐ χωρεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν. The Greek Fathers all understand these words in the sense of A.V(69), “hath no place in you”. Cyril has διὰ τὴν ἐνοικήσασαν ἐν ὑμῖν ἁμαρτίαν δηλαδὴ, καὶ τόπον ὥσπερ οὐκ ἐῶσαν, etc. So Euthymius and Theophylact. Beza renders “non habet locum,” citing a passage from Aristotle, which Meyer disallows, because in it the verb is used impersonally. But Field has found another instance in Alciphron, Epist., iii. 7, in which χωρεῖν is used in the sense of “locum habere” (Otium Norvic., p. 67). The common meaning of χωρεῖν, “to advance,” is also quite relevant and indeed not materially different. It is frequently used for prosperous, successful progress. See Aristoph., Pax, 694, and other passages in Kypke; and cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:1, ἵνα λόγος τρέχῃ. “My word meets with obstacles and is not allowed its full influence in you.”


Verse 38

John 8:38. “And yet the word of Christ justly claimed acceptance, for it was derived from immediate knowledge of God,” Westcott.— ἐγὼ [or ἐγὼ, as recent editors read] … ποιεῖτε. “What I have seen with my Father I speak; and what ye have seen with your father ye do.” He makes the statement almost as if it were a necessary principle that sons should adopt their fathers’ thoughts. The οὖν might be rendered “and so”; it was because Jesus uttered what He had learned by direct intercourse with His Father that the Jews sought to slay Him. See John 8:16-19. The ἑώρακα (cp. John 3:31-32) might seem to indicate the knowledge He had in His pre-existent state, but the next clause forbids this.— ποιεῖτε, if it is to balance λαλῶ, must be indicative.


Verse 39

John 8:39. To this ambiguous but ominous utterance the Jews reply: πατὴρ ἡμῶν ἀβραάμ ἐστι, thereby meaning to clear themselves of the suspicion of having learned anything evil from their father. To which Jesus retorts: εἰ τέκναἐποιεῖτε ἄν. “If ye were Abraham’s children ye would do the works of Abraham”; according to the law of John 8:38. If their origin could be wholly traced to Abraham, then their conduct would resemble his.— νῦν δὲἐποίησεν. “But now—as the fact really is—you seek to kill me; and this has not only the guilt of an ordinary murder, but your hostility is roused against me because I have spoken to you the truth I heard from God. It is murder based upon hostility to God. This is very different from the conduct of Abraham.”— ἄνθρωπον seems to be used simply as we might use “person”—a person who: certainly, as Lampe says, it is used “sine praejudicio deitatis”. Bengel thinks it anticipates ἀνθρωπόκτονος in John 8:44, and Westcott says it “stands in contrast with of God … and at the same time suggests the idea of human sympathy, which He might claim from them (a man), as opposed to the murderous spirit of the power of evil”.


Verse 41

John 8:41. ὑμεῖςὑμῶν. You do not the works of Abraham: you do the works of your father. And yet (John 8:37) He had acknowledged them to be the children of Abraham. The only possible conclusion was that besides Abraham some other father had been concerned in producing them. This idea they repudiate with indignation: ἡμεῖςθεόν. “We were not born of fornication: we have one father, God”; not “Abraham,” as might have been expected, but “God”: i.e., they claim to be the children of the promise, within the Theocracy, children of God’s house (John 8:35).


Verse 42

John 8:42. But this claim Jesus explodes by the same argument: εἰ θεὸςἀπέστειλε. Were God your Father you would love me, for I am from God.— ἐξῆλθον ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ expresses “the proceeding forth from that essential pre-human fellowship with God, which was His as the Son of God, and which took place through the incarnation,” Meyer. The meaning of the expression is fixed by that with which it is contrasted in John 13:3, John 16:28. ἥκω is added, as ἐλήλυθα εἰς τὸν κόσμον in John 16:28, almost in the sense in which it is used in the Dramatists, announcing the arrival of one of the “personae” on the stage, “I am come from such and such a place and here I am”. The coming itself was the result of God’s action rather than of His own: οὐδὲἀπέστειλε. This is His constant argument, that as He came forth from God and was sent by Him, they must have welcomed Him had they been God’s children. Their misunderstanding had a moral root.— διατίἐμόν. They did not recognise His speech as Divine, because they were unable to receive the message He brought. “In λαλεῖν (= loqui) the fact of uttering human language is the prominent notion; in λέγειν (= dicere) it is the words uttered, and that these are correlative to reasonable thoughts within the breast of the utterer” (Trench, Synonyms, 271). All His individual expressions and the very language He used were misunderstood, because there was in them a moral incapacity to receive the truth He delivered.


Verse 44

John 8:44. This was the result and evidence of their paternity: ὑμεῖς … [ τοῦ πατρὸς is read by all recent editors]. “Ye are of the father who is the devil.” The translation, “of the father of the devil,” i.e., the (Gnostic) God of the Jews, is, as Meyer says, thoroughly un-Johannine. Perhaps a slight pause before the culminating words τοῦ διαβόλου would emphasise them and show that this had been in His mind throughout the conversation. Being, of this parentage they deliberately purpose [ θέλετε] and not merely unintentionally are betrayed into the fulfilment of his desires. Their origin is determined by the fact that “from the first the devil was a manslayer”. To what does ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς refer? Since the beginning of the human race, or since men first were killed; not since the devil’s beginning. Cyril and some others think it is the first murder, that of Abel, that is in view (cf. 1 John 3:15), but far more probably it is the introduction of death through the first sin (Wisdom of Solomon 2:23-24). So almost all recent commentators. Some think both references are admissible (see Lücke).— καὶ ἐν τῇ ἀληθείᾳ οὐχ ἕστηκεν, “and stands not in the truth”. R.V(70) has “and stood not”; so the Vulgate “et in veritate non stetit”. W.H(71) adopt the same translation, reading οὐκ ἔστηκεν, the imperfect of στήκω, I stand; but good reasons against this reading are given by Thayer s.v. ἕστηκεν is the usual perfect of ἵστημι with the sense of a present. The reference therefore is not to the fall of the angels, but to the constant attitude of the devil; οὐκ ἐμμένει, Euthymius. “The truth is not the domain in which he has his footing.” Meyer, Weiss. He does not adhere to the truth and live in it. The reason being, ὅτιαὐτῷ, “because truth is not in him”. There is not in him any craving for the truth. He is not true to what he knows. His nature is so false that ὅταν λαλῇ τὸ ψεῦδος ἐκ τῶν ἰδίων λαλεῖ, “whenever he speaks what is false, he speaks of his own”. “But the article may mean ‘the lie that is natural to him,’ ‘his lie’ ” (Plummer).— ἐκ τῶν ἰδίων means that he speaks out of that which is characteristically and peculiarly his (cf. Matthew 12:34); “because he is”—this is his character and description—“a liar and his father,” i.e., he is himself a liar and the father of all liars. This is added to reflect light on the first statement of this verse. So Holtzmann and most recent interpreters. But Weiss rightly defends the reference of αὐτοῦ to ψεῦδος as in A.V(72) Westcott proposes to translate: “Whenever a man speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own, for his father also is a liar”. Paley renders: “When (one) utters … he is speaking from his own, because he is a liar, and (so is) his father”. Westcott’s translation makes excellent sense and suits the context and gives a good meaning to the ἰδίων, but, as he himself owns, the omission of the subject ( ὅταν λαλῇ) is certainly harsh; it may be said, impossible.


Verse 45

John 8:45. ἐγὼ δὲ. “But I”—in contrast to the devil—“because I speak the truth you do not believe me.” Had I spoken falsehood you would have believed me, because it is your nature to live in what is false (cf. Euthymius).


Verse 46

John 8:46. τίςἁμαρτίας; Alford, who represents a number of interpreters, says: “The question is an appeal to His sinlessness of life, as evident to them all, as a pledge for His truthfulness of word”. Calvin is better: “Haec defensio ad circumstantiam loci restringi debet, ac si quicquam sibi posse obiici negaret, quominus fidus esset Dei minister”. Similarly Bengel.— εἰ δὲμοι; “If I speak truth, why do you not believe me?” It follows from their inability to convict Him of sin, that He speaks what is true: if so, why do they not believe Him?


Verse 47

John 8:47. He is believed by those who have another moral parentage, ὢνἐστέ. “He that is of God listens to the words of God,” implying that the words He spoke were God’s words. Their not listening proved that they were not of God. At this point the Jews break in: οὐἔχεις; “Say we not well that Thou art a Samaritan and hast a demon?” “In the language in which they spoke, what is rendered into Greek by ‘Samaritan’ would have been either Cuthi, which, while literally meaning a Samaritan, is almost as often used in the sense of ‘heretic,’ or else Shomroni. The latter word deserves special attention. Literally, it also means ‘Samaritan’; but the name Shomron is also sometimes used as the equivalent of Ashmedai, the prince of the demons. According to the Kabbalists, Shomron was the father of Ashmedai, and hence the same as Sammael or Satan. That this was a widespread Jewish belief appears from the circumstance that in the Koran Israel is said to have been seduced into idolatry by Shomron, while in Jewish tradition this is attributed to Sammael. If therefore the term applied by the Jews to Jesus was Shomroni—and not Cuthi, ‘heretic’—it would literally mean ‘Child of the Devil,’ ” Edersheim. The ordinary interpretation of “Samaritan” yields, however, quite a relevant meaning. To His refusal to own their true Abrahamic ancestry they retort that He is no pure Jew, a Samaritan.


Verse 49

John 8:49. δαιμόνιον ἔχεις, possessed, or crazed. Cf. John 10:20. To this Jesus replies: ἐγὼαἰῶνα. The ἐγώ is emphatic in contrast to the expressed ὑμεῖς of the last clause; “I am not out of my mind, but all I do and say springs from my desire to honour my Father, while you for your part and on this very account dishonour me”. This dishonour does not stir His resentment, because (John 8:50) ἐγὼμου, “I am not seeking my own glory”. Cf. John 5:41. Nevertheless His glory is not to be carelessly slighted and turned into reproach (Psalms 4:2) for ἔστιν ζητῶν καὶ κρίνων, “there is who seeketh it and judgeth” (John 8:22-23).


Verse 51

John 8:51. Therefore the emphasis in the next verse, precisely as in John 8:24 of chap. 5, is on “my word”.— ἐάν τιςαἰῶνα, “if any one keeps my word, he shall never see death”. For τηρεῖν see John 14:15-23, John 15:10-20, John 17:6, 1 John and Rev. passim; it is exactly equivalent to “keep”. θεωρεῖν θάνατον occurs only here. It is probably stronger than the commoner ἰδεῖν θάνατον (Luke 2:26, Hebrews 11:5), “expressing fixed contemplation and full acquaintance” (Plummer); although in John this fuller meaning is sometimes not apparent.


Verse 52

John 8:52. This confirms the Jews in their opinion that He is not in His right mind, νῦν ἐγνώκαμεν … they seem to have now got proof of what they had suspected; “antea cum dubitatione aliqua locuti erant,” Bengel. Their proof is that whereas Jesus says that those who keep His word shall never die, Abraham died and the prophets; therefore Jesus would seem to be making Himself greater than those most highly revered personages.


Verse 53

John 8:53. What did He expect them to take Him for?— τίνα σεαυτὸν σὺ ποιεῖς; For the μὴ σὺ μείζων cf. John 4:12.


Verse 54

John 8:54. To their question Jesus, as usual, gives no categorical answer, but replies first by repelling the insinuation contained in their question and then by showing that He was greater than Abraham (see Plummer).— ἐὰν ἐγὼ δοξάζω. “If I shall have glorified myself, my glory is nothing; my Father is He who glorifieth me.” He cannot get them to understand that it is not self-assertion on His part which prompts His claims, but fulfilment of His Father’s commission. This “Father” of whom He speaks and who thus glorifies Him is the same ὃν ὑμεῖς λέγετε ὅτι … “of whom you say that He is your God?”. His witness therefore you ought to receive; and the reason why you do not is this, οὐκ ἐγνώκατε αὐτόν, ἐγὼ δὲ οἶδα αὐτόν, “you have not learned to know Him, but I know Him”. The former verb denotes knowledge acquired, by teaching or by observation; in contrast to the latter, which denotes direct and essential knowledge.— καὶ ἐὰν εἴπωτηρῶ. So far from the affirmations of Jesus regarding His connection with the Father being false, He would be false, a liar and like them, were He to deny that He enjoyed direct knowledge of God. “But, on the contrary, I know Him and all I do, even that which offends you, is the fulfilment of His commission, the keeping of His word.”


Verse 56

John 8:56. And as regards The connection they claim with Abraham, this reflects discredit on their present attitude towards Jesus; for ἀβραὰμ πατὴρ ὑμῶν, “Abraham in whose parentage you glory,” ἠγαλλιάσατο ἵνα ἴδῃ τὴν ἡμέραν τὴν ἐμήν, “rejoiced to see my day”. The day of Christ is the time of His earthly manifestation: τῆς ἐπιδημίας αὐτοῦ τῆς μετὰ σαρκός, Cyril. See Luke 17:22-26; where the plural expresses the same as the singular here. “To see” the day is “to be present” at it, “to experience” it; cf. Eurip., Hecuba, 56, δούλειον ἦμαρ εἶδες, and the Homeric νόστιμον ἦμαρ ἰδέσθαι. ἵνα ἴδῃ cannot here have its usual Johannine force and be epexegetical (Burton, Moods, etc.), nor as Holtzmann says = ὅτι ὄψοιτο, because in this case the εἶδε καὶ ἐχάρη would be tautological. Euthymius gives the right interpretation: ἠγαλλ., ἤγουν, ἐπεθύμησεν (similarly Theophylact), and the meaning is “Abraham exulted in the prospect of seeing,” or “that he should see”. This he was able to do by means of the promises given to him.— καὶ εἶδε, “and he saw it,” not merely while he was on earth (although this seems to have been the idea the Jews took up from the words, see John 8:57); for this kind of anticipation Jesus uses different language, Matthew 13:17, and at the utmost the O.T. saints could be described as πόρρωθεν ἰδόντες, Hebrews 11:13; but he has seen it in its actuality. This involves that Abraham has not died so as to be unconscious, John 8:52, and cf. Mark 12:26.


Verse 57

John 8:57. This, however, the Jews completely misunderstand. They think that by asserting that Abraham saw His day, Jesus means to say that His day and the life of Abraham on earth were contemporaneous.— πεντήκονταἑώρακας; “Fifty years” may be used as a round number, sufficiently exact for their purpose and with no intention to determine the age of Jesus. But Lightfoot (Hor. Heb., 1046) thinks the saying is ruled by the age when Levites retired, see Numbers 4:3; Numbers 4:39 : “Tu non adhuc pervenisti ad vulgarem annum superannuationis, et tune vidisti Abrahamum?” Irenaeus (ii. 22, 5) records that the Gospel (presumably this passage) and the Presbyters of Asia Minor who had known John, testified that Jesus taught till He was forty or fifty. This idea is upheld by E. v. Bunsen (Hidden Wisdom of Christ), and even Keim is of opinion that Jesus may have lived to His fortieth year.


Verse 58

John 8:58. The misunderstanding of His words elicits from Jesus the statement: πρὶν αβραὰμ γενέσθαι, ἐγώ εἰμι. “Before Abraham was born I am.” “Antequam Abraham fieret, Ego sum,” Vulgate. Plummer aptly compares Psalms 90:2, πρὸ τοῦ ὄρη γενηθῆναισὺ εἶ. Before Abraham came into existence I am, eternally existent. No stronger affirmation of pre-existence occurs, and Beyschlag’s subtle attempt to evade the meaning is unsuccessful.


Verse 59

John 8:59. What the Jews thought of the assertion appeared in their action: ἦραναὐτόν. Believing that He was speaking sheer blasphemy and claiming equality with the great “I Am,” they sought to stone Him. For this purpose there was material ready to hand even in the Temple court, for, as Lightfoot reminds us, the building was still going on. “A stoning in the temple is mentioned by Josephus, Ant., xvii. 9, 3,” Meyer.— ἰησοῦς δὲ ἐκρύβη καὶ ἐξῆλθεν. “But Jesus went out unperceived”; on this usage vide Winer, and cf. Thayer. Why it should be supposed that there is anything miraculous or doketic in this (Holtzmann and others) does not appear. Many in the crowd would favour the escape of Jesus. The remaining words of the chapter are omitted by recent editors.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on John 8:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/john-8.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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