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Chap. 10. Christ is Love
In chapters 5 and 6 two miracles, the healing of the paralytic and the feeding of the five thousand, formed the introduction to two discourses in which Christ is set forth as the Source and the Support of Life . In chapters 7 and 8 we have a discourse in which He is set forth as the Source of Truth and Light , and this is illustrated (9) by His giving physical and spiritual sight to the man born blind. In chap. 10 we again have a discourse in which Christ is set forth as Love , under the figure of the Good Shepherd giving His life for the sheep, and this is illustrated (11) by the raising of Lazarus, a work of Love which costs Him His life. As already stated, the prevailing idea throughout this section (5 11) is truth and love provoking contradiction and enmity. The more clearly the Messiah manifests Himself, and the more often He convinces some of His hearers of His Messiahship (7:40, 41, 46, 50, 8:30, 9:30 38, 10:21, 42, 11:45), the more intense becomes the hostility of ‘the Jews’ and the more determined their intention to kill Him.
1 18. “The form of the discourse in the first half of chap. 10 is remarkable. It resembles the Synoptic parables, but not exactly. The parable is a short narrative, which is kept wholly separate from the ideal facts which it signifies. But this discourse is not a narrative; and the figure and its application run side by side, and are interwoven with one another all through. It is an extended metaphor rather than a parable. If we are to give it an accurate name we should be obliged to fall back upon the wider term ‘allegory.’
This, and the parallel passage in chap. 15, are the only instances of allegory in the Gospels. They take in the Fourth Gospel the place which parables hold with the Synoptists. The Synoptists have no allegories distinct from parables. The fourth Evangelist has no parables as a special form of allegory. What are we to infer from this? The parables certainly are original and genuine. Does it follow that the allegories are not?
(1) We notice, first, that along with the change of form there is a certain change of subject . The parables generally turn round the ground conception of the kingdom of heaven. They … do not enlarge on the relation which its King bears to the separate members.… Though the royal dignity of the Son is incidentally put forward, there is nothing which expresses so closely and directly the personal relation of the Messiah to the community of believers , collectively and individually, as these two ‘allegories’ from S. John. Their form seems in an especial manner suited to their subject matter, which is a fixed, permanent and simple relation, not a history of successive states. The form of the allegories is at least appropriate.
(2) We notice next that even with the Synoptists the use of the parable is not rigid. All do not conform precisely to the same type. There are some, like the Pharisee and Publican, the Good Samaritan, &c., which give direct patterns for action, and are not therefore parables in the same sense in which the Barren Fig-tree, the Prodigal Son, &c. are parables.… If, then, the parable admits so much deviation on the one side, may it not also on the other?
(3) Lastly, we have to notice the parallels to this particular figure of the Good Shepherd that are found in the Synoptists. These are indeed abundant. The parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:4-7 ; Matthew 18:12 , Matthew 18:13 ).… ‘I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ (Matthew 15:24 ).… ‘But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no Shepherd’ (Matthew 9:36 ), which when taken with Matthew 11:28 , Matthew 11:29 (‘Come unto Me all ye that labour,’ &c.), gives almost an exact parallel to the Johannean allegory.” S. pp. 167 169.
1 10. The Allegory of the Door of the Fold
1. Verily, verily ] This double affirmation, peculiar to this Gospel (see on 1:51), never occurs at the beginning of a discourse, but either in continuation, to introduce some deep truth, or in reply. This verse is no exception. There is no break between the chapters, which should perhaps have been divided at 9:34 or 38 rather than here. The scene continues uninterrupted from 9:35 to 10:21, where we have a reference to the healing of the blind man. Moreover 10:6 seems to point back to 9:41; their not understanding the allegory was evidence of self-complacent blindness. This chapter, therefore, although it contains a fresh subject, is connected with the incidents in chap. 9, and grows out of them. The connexion seems to be that the Pharisees by their conduct to the man had proved themselves bad shepherds; but he has found the Good Shepherd: they had cast him out of doors; but he has found the Door: they had put him forth to drive him away; the Good Shepherd puts His sheep forth to lead them. We are not told where these words are spoken; so that it is impossible to say whether it is probable that a sheepfold with the shepherds and their flocks was in sight. There is nothing improbable in the supposition.
He that entereth not by the door ] The Oriental sheepfolds are commonly walled or palisaded, with one door or gate. Into one of these enclosures several shepherds drive their flocks, leaving them in charge of an under-shepherd or porter, who fastens the door securely inside, and remains with the sheep all night. In the morning the shepherds come to the door, the porter opens to them, and each calls away his own sheep.
some other way ] Literally, from another quarter: the word occurs here only in N.T.
the same ] Better, he ; literally, that one . It is a pronoun of which S. John is very fond in order to recall with emphasis some person or thing previously mentioned. Comp. 1:18, 33, 5:2, 39, 9:37, 12:48, 14:21, 26, 15:26. In 1:33 (‘the same said unto me’), 5:11, and 12:48 it is inaccurately translated, as here, ‘the same.’
a thief and robber ] Everywhere in this Gospel (8, 10, 12:6, 18:40), as also 2 Corinthians 11:26 , these words are given correctly as renderings of the Greek equivalents; but everywhere else in N.T. (Matthew 21:13 , Matthew 21:26 :55, Matthew 21:27 :38, &c., &c.) the word here translated ‘robber’ is less well translated ‘thief.’ The ‘robber’ is a brigand, a more formidable criminal than the ‘thief;’ the one uses violence, the other cunning.
2. is the shepherd of the sheep ] Better, is a shepherd of the sheep . There is more than one flock in the fold, and therefore more than one shepherd to visit the fold. The Good Shepherd has not yet appeared in the allegory. The allegory indeed is two-fold; in the first part (1 5), which is repeated (7 9), Christ is the Door of the fold; in the second part (11 18) He is the Shepherd; v . 10 forming a link between the two parts.
3. To him the porter openeth ] The ‘porter’ is the door-keeper or gate-keeper, who fastens and opens the one door into the fold. In the allegory the fold is the Church, the Door is Christ, the sheep are the elect, the shepherds are God’s ministers. What does the porter represent? Possibly nothing definite. Much harm is sometimes done by trying to make every detail of an allegory or parable significant. There must be back ground in every picture. But if it be insisted that the porter here is too prominent to be meaningless, it is perhaps best to understand the Holy Spirit as signified under this figure; He who grants opportunities of coming, or of bringing others, through Christ into the Kingdom of God. Comp. 1 Corinthians 16:9 ; 2 Corinthians 2:12 ; Colossians 4:3 ; Acts 14:27 ; Revelation 3:8 : but in all these passages ‘door’ does not mean Christ, but opportunity . See on 1 Corinthians 16:9 .
the sheep hear his voice ] All the sheep, whether belonging to His flock or not, know from His coming that they are about to be led out. His own sheep (first for emphasis) he calleth by name (Exodus 33:12 , Exodus 33:17 ; Isaiah 43:1 ), and leadeth them out to pasture. Even in this country shepherds and shepherds’ dogs know each individual sheep; in the East the intimacy between shepherd and sheep is still closer. The naming of sheep is a very ancient practice: see Theocritus 5:102.
4. when he putteth forth his own sheep ] Better, when he hath put forth all his own . Most of the best MSS. have ‘all’ for ‘sheep:’ ‘there shall not an hoof be left behind’ (Exodus 10:26 ). The word for ‘put forth’ is remarkable; it is the same as is used in 9:34, 35 of the Pharisees ‘casting out’ the man born blind. This is perhaps not accidental: the false shepherds put forth sheep to rid themselves of trouble; the true shepherds put forth sheep to feed them. But even the true shepherds must sometimes use a certain amount of violence to their sheep to ‘compel them to come’ (Luke 14:23 ) to the pastures. But note that there are no ‘goats’ in the allegory: all the flock are faithful. It is the ideal Church composed entirely of the elect. The object of the allegory being to set forth the relations of Christ to His sheep, the possibility of bad sheep is not taken into account. That side of the picture is treated in the parables of the Lost Sheep, and of the Sheep and the Goats.
5. And a stranger will they not follow ] Better, But a stranger they will assuredly not follow . The form of negative is very strong, as in 4:14, 48, 6:35, 37, 8:12, 51, 52: see on 8:51. By ‘a stranger’ is meant quite literally anyone whom they do not know, not necessarily a thief or robber.
6. This parable ] Better, This allegory . The word which the Synoptists use for ‘parable’ ( parabolê ) is never used by S. John; and the word here used by S. John ( paroimia ) is never used by the Synoptists. This should be brought out in translation; both are rendered by our translators sometimes ‘parable’ and sometimes ‘proverb.’ Paroimia occurs again 16:25, 29 and 2 Peter 2:22 , and nowhere else in N.T. Everywhere but here it is translated ‘proverb.’ Paroimia means something beside the way ; hence, according to some, a trite ‘ way side saying;’ according to others, a figurative ‘ out-of-the-way saying.’ On parabolê see on Mark 4:2 .
understood not ] Did not recognise the meaning.
7. Then said Jesus unto them again ] Better, Therefore said Jesus again . They did not understand; therefore He went through the allegory again more explicitly, interpreting the main features. ‘Unto them’ is of doubtful authority.
Verily, verily ] This is the important point, to recognise that the one door of the fold, through which the sheep and the shepherds enter, is Christ. I (with great emphasis) am the Door . Comp. ‘I am the Way’ (14:6).
the door of the sheep ] Better, ‘the Door to the sheep’ ( vv . 1, 2), and also ‘the Door for the sheep’ ( v . 9). Sheep and shepherds alike have one and the same door. The elect enter the Church through Christ; the ministers who would visit the flocks must receive their commission from Christ. Note that Christ does not say, ‘the Door of the fold ,’ but ‘the Door of the sheep .’ The fold has no meaning apart from the sheep.
8. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers ] These words are difficult, and some copyists seem to have tried to avoid the difficulty by omitting either ‘all’ or ‘before Me.’ But the balance of authority leaves no doubt that both are genuine. Some commentators would translate ‘instead of Me’ for ‘before Me.’ But this meaning of the Greek preposition is not common, and perhaps occurs nowhere in N.T. Moreover ‘instead of Me’ ought to include the idea of ‘for My advantage;’ and that is impossible here. We must retain the natural and ordinary meaning of ‘before Me:’ and as ‘before Me in dignity ’ would be obviously inappropriate, ‘before Me in time ’ must be the meaning. But who are ‘all that came before Me?’ The patriarchs, prophets, Moses, the Baptist cannot be meant, either collectively or singly. ‘Salvation is of the Jews’ (4:22); ‘they are they which testify of Me’ (5:39); ‘if ye believed Moses, ye would believe Me’ (5:46); ‘John bare witness unto the truth’ (5:33): texts like this are quite conclusive against any such Gnostic interpretation. Nor can false Messiahs be meant: it is doubtful whether any had arisen at this time. Rather it refers to the ‘ravening wolves in sheep’s clothing’ who had been, and still were, the ruin of the nation, who ‘devoured widow’s houses,’ who were ‘full of ravening and wickedness,’ who had ‘taken away the key of knowledge,’ and were in very truth ‘thieves and robbers’ (Matthew 7:15 , Matthew 7:23 :14; Luke 11:39 , Luke 11:52 ). Some of them were now present, thirsting to add bloodshed to robbery, and this denunciation of them is no stronger than several passages in the Synoptists: e.g. Matthew 23:33 ; Luke 11:50 , Luke 11:51 . The tense also is in favour of this interpretation; not were , but ‘ are thieves and robbers.’
but the sheep did not hear them ] For they spoke with no authority (Matthew 7:29 ); there was no living voice in their teaching. They had their hearers, but these were not ‘the sheep,’ but blind adherents, led by the blind.
9. by me ] Placed first for emphasis; ‘through Me and in no other way.’ The main point is iterated again and again, each time with great simplicity, and yet most emphatically. “The simplicity, the directness, the particularity, the emphasis of S. John’s style give his writings a marvellous power, which is not perhaps felt at first. Yet his words seem to hang about the reader till he is forced to remember them. Each great truth sounds like the burden of a strain, ever falling upon the ear with a calm persistency which secures attention.” Westcott, Introduction to the Study of the Gospels , p. 250.
he shall be saved ] These words and ‘shall find pasture’ seem to shew that this verse does not refer to the shepherds only, but to the sheep also. Although ‘find pasture’ may refer to the shepherd’s work for the flock, yet one is inclined to think that if the words do not refer to both, they refer to the sheep only.
With the verse as a whole should be compared ‘the strait gate and narrow way which leadeth unto life’ (Matthew 7:14 ). In the Clementine Homilies (iii. lii.) we have ‘He, being a true prophet, said, I am the gate of life; he that entereth in through Me entereth into life.’ See on 9:3.
10. and to kill ] To slaughter as if for sacrifice.
I am come ] Better, I came . ‘I’ is emphatic, in marked contrast to the thief. This is the point of transition from the first part of the allegory to the second. The figure of the Door, as the one entrance to salvation, is dropped; and that of the Good Shepherd, as opposed to the thief, is taken up; but this intermediate clause will apply to either figure, inclining towards the second one. In order to make the strongest possible antithesis to the thief, Christ introduces, not a shepherd, but Himself, the Chief Shepherd. The thief takes life; the shepherds protect life; the Good Shepherd gives it.
that they might have ] Rather, in both clauses, that they may have .
have it more abundantly ] Omit ‘more;’ it is not in the Greek, and somewhat spoils the sense. More abundantly than what? Translate, that they may have abundance .
11 18. The Allegory of the Good Shepherd
11. I am the Good Shepherd ] The word translated ‘good’ cannot he adequately translated: it means ‘beautiful, noble, good,’ as opposed to ‘foul, mean, wicked.’ It sums up the chief attributes of ideal perfection. Christ is the Perfect Shepherd, as opposed to His own imperfect ministers; He is the true Shepherd, as opposed to the false shepherds, who are hirelings or hypocrites; He is the Good Shepherd, who gives His life for the sheep, as opposed to the wicked thief who takes their lives to preserve his own. Thus in Christ is realised the ideal Shepherd of O.T. Psalms 23:0 ; Isaiah 40:11 ; Jeremiah 23:0 ; Ezek. 34, 37:24; Zechariah 11:7 . Perhaps no image has penetrated more deeply into the mind of Christendom: Christian prayers and hymns, Christian painting and statuary, and Christian literature are full of it, and have been from the earliest ages. And side by side with it is commonly found the other beautiful image of this Gospel, the Vine: the Good Shepherd and the True Vine are figures of which Christians have never wearied.
giveth his life ] Better, layeth down His life . The phrase is a remarkable one and peculiar to S. John, whereas ‘to give His life’ occurs in the Synoptists (Matthew 20:20 ; Mark 10:45 ). ‘To lay down’ perhaps includes the notion of ‘to pay down,’ a common meaning of the words in classical Greek; if so, it is exactly equivalent to the Synoptic phrase ‘to give as a ransom .’ It occurs again, vv . 15, 17, 13:37, 38, 15:13; 1 John 3:16 . In this country the statement ‘the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep’ seems extravagant when taken apart from the application to Christ. It is otherwise in the East, where dangers from wild beasts and armed bands of robbers are serious and constant. Comp. Genesis 13:5 , Genesis 13:14 :12, 31:39, 40, 32:7, Genesis 13:8 , 37:33; Job 1:17 ; 1 Samuel 17:34 , 1 Samuel 17:35 .
12. an hireling ] The word occurs nowhere else in N.T. excepting of the ‘hired servants’ of Zebedee (Mark 1:20 ). The Good Shepherd was introduced in contrast to the thief. Now we have another contrast to the Good Shepherd given, the hired shepherd, a mercenary, who tends a flock not his own for his own interests. The application is obvious; viz., to those ministers who care chiefly for the emoluments and advantages of their position, and retire when the position becomes irksome or dangerous.
and not the shepherd ] Better, and not a shepherd , as in v . 2.
the wolf ] Any power opposed to Christ. See on v . 28.
and scattereth the sheep ] The best authorities omit ‘the sheep;’ but the words might easily be omitted as apparently awkward and superfluous after the preceding ‘them.’ But in any case the meaning is ‘snatcheth certain sheep and scattereth the flock.’
13. The hireling fleeth ] These words are of still more doubtful authority. Omitting both the doubtful portions the sentence will run (The hireling) leaveth the sheep and fleeth; and the wolf snatcheth them and scattereth ( them ); because he is an hireling and careth not , &c.
14 18. Further description of the True Shepherd. (1) His intimate knowledge of His sheep; (2) His readiness to die for them. This latter point recurs repeatedly as a sort of refrain, like ‘I will raise him up at the last day,’ in chap. 6.
14. and know my sheep, and am known of mine ] Better, and I know Mine, and Mine know Me .
15. As the Father knoweth me, even so , &c.] This rendering entirely obscures the true meaning. There should be no full stop at the end of v . 14, and the sentence should run; I know Mine, and Mine know Me, even as the Father knoweth Me and I know the Father . So intimate is the relation between the Good Shepherd and His sheep that it may be compared to the relation between the Father and the Son. The same thought runs through the discourses in the latter half of the Gospel: 14:20, 15:10, 17:8, 10, 18, 21.
16. other sheep I have ] Not the Jews in heathen lands, but Gentiles, for even among them He had sheep. The Jews had asked in derision, ‘Will He go and teach the Gentiles?’ (7:35). He declares here that among the despised heathen He has sheep. He was going to lay down His life, ‘not for that nation only’ (11:52), but that He might ‘draw all men unto Him’ (12:32). Of that most heathen of heathen cities, Corinth, He declared to S. Paul in a vision, ‘I have much people in this city’ (Acts 18:10 ).
not of this fold ] Emphasis on ‘fold,’ not on ‘this;’ the Gentiles were in no fold at all, but ‘scattered abroad’ (11:52).
them also I must bring ] Better, them also I must lead . No need for them to be removed; Christ can lead them in their own lands. ‘Neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem’ (4:21) is the appointed place. Note the ‘must;’ it is the Messiah’s bounden duty, decreed for Him by the Father: comp. 3:14, 9:4, 12:34, 20:9.
there shall be one fold, and one shepherd ] Rather, they shall become one flock, one shepherd . The distinction between ‘be’ and ‘become’ is worth preserving (see on 9:27, 39), and that between ‘flock’ and ‘fold’ still more so. ‘There shall become one fold’ would imply that at present there are more than one: but nothing is said of any other fold. In both these instances our translators have rejected their better predecessors: Tyndale and Coverdale have ‘flock,’ not ‘fold;’ the Geneva Version has ‘be made,’ not ‘be.’ One point in the Greek cannot be preserved in English. The words for ‘flock’ and ‘shepherd’ are cognate and very similar, poimnê and poimen: ‘one herd, one herdsman’ would be the nearest approach we could make, and to change ‘flock’ for ‘herd’ would be more loss than gain. The change from ‘flock’ to ‘fold’ has been all loss, leading to calamitous misunderstanding.
“The universalism of v . 16, which is so often quoted against the Gospel, seems rather to be exactly of the kind of which we have abundant evidence in the Synoptists: e.g. in Matthew 8:11 , 13:Matthew 8:24-30 , Matthew 8:28 :19; Luke 13:29 . A certain precedence is assigned to Israel, but the inclusion of the Gentiles is distinctly contemplated.” And if S. Matthew could appreciate this side of his Master’s teaching, how much more S. John, who had lived to see the success of missions to the heathen and the destruction of Jerusalem. “On the other hand, the nature of S. John’s universalism must not be mistaken. It implies a privileged position on the part of the Jews.” S. pp. 172, 173. Moreover, even O.T. prophets seem to have had a presentiment that other nations would share in the blessings of the Messiah. Micah 4:2 ; Isaiah 52:15 .
17. Therefore ] Better, On this account , or, For this cause (12:18, 27). See on 7:22 and 8:47, and comp. 5:16, 18, 6:65. The Father’s love for the incarnate Son is intensified by the self-sacrifice of the Son.
that I might take it again ] literally, in order that I may take it again . This clause is closely connected with the preceding one: ‘that’ depends upon ‘because.’ Only because Christ was to take His human life again was His death such as the Father could have approved. Had the Son returned to heaven at the Crucifixion leaving His humanity on the Cross, the salvation of mankind would not have been won, the sentence of death would not have been reversed, we should be ‘yet in our sins’ (1 Corinthians 15:17 ). Morever, in that case He would have ceased to be the Good Shepherd: He would have become like the hireling, casting aside his duty before it was completed. The office of the True Shepherd is not finished until all mankind become His flock; and this work continues from the Resurrection to the Day of Judgment.
18. No man taketh it from me ] Better, No one taketh it from Me ; not even God. See on v . 28. Two points are insisted on; (1) that the Death is entirely voluntary; (2) that both Death and Resurrection are in accordance with a commission received from the Father. Comp. ‘Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit’ (Luke 23:46 ). The precise words used by the two Apostles of Christ’s death bring this out very clearly; ‘yielded up (literally ‘let go’) the ghost’ (Matthew 27:50 ); ‘gave up the ghost’ (John 19:30 ; see note there). The word used by S. Mark and S. Luke (‘breathed His last,’ or ‘expired’) is less strong. Here there is an emphasis on the pronoun; ‘but I lay it down of Myself.’
I have power ] i.e. right , authority, liberty: same word as in 1:12, 5:27, 17:2, 19:10. This authority is the commandment of the Father: and hence this passage in no way contradicts the usual N.T. doctrine that Christ was raised to life again by the Father. Acts 2:24 .
This commandment have I received ] Better, This commandment received I , viz., at the Incarnation: the commandment to die and rise again. Comp. 4:34, 5:30, 6:38.
19 21. Opposite Results of the Teaching
19. again ] As about the man born blind (9:6) among the Pharisees, and at the Feast of Tabernacles (7:43), among the multitude. ‘Therefore’ should be omitted here as wanting authority; and ‘there arose’ would be more accurate than ‘there was’ (see on 1:6); there arose a division again . See on 7:43.
among the Jews ] Some even among the hostile party are impressed, and doubt the correctness of their position: comp. 11:45.
20. He hath a devil ] See last note on 8:48, and comp. 7:20.
21. of him that hath a devil ] Better, of one possessed with a demon : the expression differs from that in v . 20.
Can a devil ] Or, Surely a demon cannot . See on 9:40. It was too great and too beneficent a miracle for a demon. But here they stop short: they state what He cannot be; they do not see, or will not admit, what He must be.
22 38. The Discourse at the Feast of the Dedication
Again we seem to have a gap in the narrative. Between vv . 21 22 (but see below) there is an interval of about two months; for the Feast of Tabernacles would be about the middle of October, and that of the Dedication towards the end of December. In this interval some would place Luke 10:1-13:21 . If this be Correct, we may connect the sending out of the Seventy both with the Feast of Tabernacles and also with John 10:16 . Seventy was the traditional number of the nations of the earth; and for the nations 70 bullocks were offered at the Feast of Tabernacles 13 on the first day, 12 on the second, 11 on the third, and so on. The Seventy were sent out to gather in the nations; for they were not forbidden, as the Twelve were, to go into the way of the Gentiles or to enter any city of the Samaritans (Matthew 10:5 ). The Twelve were primarily for the twelve tribes; the Seventy for the Gentiles. The words ‘other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must lead,’ must have been spoken just before the mission of the Seventy.
Dr Westcott, on the strength of a strongly attested reading in v . 22, Then there took place the Feast of the Dedication , would connect chap. 9 and 10:1 21 with this later feast rather than with the Feast of Tabernacles. In this case the interval of two months must be placed between chaps. 8 and 9.
22. And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication ] More literally, Now there took place at Jerusalem the Feast of the Dedication . This feast might be celebrated anywhere, and the pointed insertion of ‘at Jerusalem’ seems to suggest that in the interval between v . 21 and v . 22 Christ had been away from the city. It was kept in honour of the purification and restoration of the Temple (b. c. 164) after its desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes; 1 Macc. 1:20 60, 4:36 59 (note esp. vv . 36 and 59); 2 Macc. 10:1 8. Another name for it was ‘the Lights,’ or ‘Feast of Lights,’ from the illuminations with which it was celebrated. Christian dedication festivals are its lineal descendants.
“The feast was of comparatively recent institution.… It is not a feast the name of which would be likely to occur to any but a Jew; still less the accurate note of place in v . 23 (‘in the temple in Solomon’s porch’). Both these verses proclaim the eye-witness. So does the admirable question in the verse following. Attracted by His teachings and His miracles, but repelled by His persistent refusal to assume the Messianic character as they understood it, the Jews ask Jesus directly, ‘How long, &c.’ It is such a question as at this period of the ministry was inevitable, and the language in which it is expressed exactly represents the real difficulties and hesitation that the Jews would feel” S. pp. 174, 175.
and it was winter ] Omit ‘and,’ which is wanting in authority, and join ‘it was winter’ to the next verse. The words explain why Jesus was walking under cover.
23. in Solomon’s porch ] This was a cloister or colonnade in the Temple-Courts, apparently on the east side. Tradition said that it was a part of the original building which had survived the various destructions and rebuildings. No such cloister is mentioned in the account of Solomon’s Temple, and perhaps the name was derived from the wall against which it was built. It is mentioned again Acts 3:11 (where see note) and 5:12. Foundations still remaining probably belong to it.
24. Then came the Jews round about , &c.] Better, The Jews therefore compassed Him about (Luke 21:20 ; Hebrews 11:30 ; Revelation 20:9 ) and kept saying to Him . They encircled Him in an urgent and obtrusive manner, indicating that they were determined to have an answer.
How long dost thou make us to doubt? ] The margin is better with hold us in suspense . The literal meaning is How long dost Thou excite our mind? If Thou art the Christ tell us with openness (see on 7:4). They put a point-blank question, as the Sanhedrin do at the Passion (Luke 22:67 ). Their motives for urging this were no doubt mixed, and the same motive was not predominant in each case. Some were hovering between faith and hostility and (forgetting 8:13) fancied that an explicit declaration from Him might help them. Others asked mainly out of curiosity: He had interested them greatly, and they wanted His own account of Himself. The worst wished for a plain statement which might form material for an accusation: they wanted Him to commit Himself.
25. I told you, and ye believed not ] The best authorities have, and ye believe not: their unbelief still continues. To some few, the woman at the well, the man born blind, and the Apostles, Jesus had explicitly declared Himself to be the Messiah; to all He had implicitly declared Himself by His works and teaching.
the works ] in the widest sense, not miracles alone; His Messianic work generally. See on 5:36. The pronouns are emphatically opposed; ‘the works which I do … they .… But ye believe not.
26. as I said unto you ] These words are omitted by some of the best authorities, including the Vatican and Sinaitic MSS. But they may possibly have been left out to avoid a difficulty. If they are genuine they are best joined, as in our version, with what precedes . Nowhere in the Gospels does Christ make such a quotation from a previous discourse as we should have if we read, ‘As I said unto you, My sheep hear My voice, &c.’ The arrangement ‘Ye are not of My sheep, as I said unto you,’ is better, and the reference is to the general sense of the allegory of the sheep-fold, especially vv . 14, 15. He and His sheep have most intimate knowledge of one another; therefore these Jews asking who He is prove that they are not His sheep. Comp. 6:36, where there seems to be a similar reference to the general meaning of a previous discourse. It is strange that an objection should have been made to His referring to the allegory after a lapse of two months. There is nothing improbable in His doing so, especially if He had been absent from the city in the interval (see on v . 22). Might not a speaker at the present time refer to a speech made two months before, especially if he had not spoken in public since then?
27, 28. Note the simple but very impressive coupling of the clauses by a simple ‘and’ throughout and comp. vv . 3 and 12: note also the climax.
28. I give unto them ] Not ‘ will give.’ Here as in 3:15, 5:24 and often, the gift of eternal life is regarded as already possessed by the faithful. It is not a promise , the fulfilment of which depends upon man’s conduct, but a gift , the retention of which depends upon ourselves.
they shall never perish ] This is parallel to 8:51 (see note there); shall certainly not perish for ever , being the literal meaning, But the negative belongs to the verb, not to ‘for ever;’ and the meaning is, not ‘they may die, but shall not die for ever ,’ but ‘they shall never die for all eternity.’ Comp. 11:26.
neither shall any man pluck them ] Better, and no one shall snatch them . ‘No one ’ rather than ‘no man ’ (as in v . 18), for the powers of darkness are excluded as well as human seducers. ‘Snatch’ rather than ‘pluck,’ for in the Greek it is the same word as is used of the wolf in v . 12, and this should be preserved in translation.
This passage in no way asserts the indefectibility of the elect, and gives no countenance to ultra-predestinarian views. Christ’s sheep cannot be taken from Him against their will ; but their will is free, and they may choose to leave the flock.
out of my hand ] “His hand protects, bears, cherishes, leads them.” Meyer.
29. which gave them ] Better, which hath given them . Comp. 17:6, 24. This enforces the previous assertion. ‘To snatch them out of My hand, he must snatch them out of My Father’s hand; and My Father is greater than all:’ even than the Son (14:28). But the reading is not certain. The most probable text gives, that which the Father hath given Me is greater than all . The unity of the Church is strength invincible.
out of my Father’s hand ] The better reading is, out of the Father’s hand . ‘Out of His hand’ would have sufficed; but ‘Father’ is repeated for emphasis.
30. I and my Father are one ] ‘One’ is neuter in the Greek; not one. Person, but one Substance. There is no ‘My’ in the Greek; I and the Father are one . Christ has just implied that His hand and the Father’s hand are one, which implies that He and the Father are one; and this He now asserts. They are one in power, in will, and in action: this at the very least the words roust mean; the Arian interpretation of mere moral agreement is inadequate. Whether or no Unity of Essence is actually stated here, it is certainly implied, as the Jews see. They would stone Him for making Himself God, which they would not have done had He not asserted or implied that He and the Father were one in Substance, not merely in will. And Christ does not correct them, as assuredly He would have done, had their animosity arisen out of a gross misapprehension of His words. Comp. Revelation 20:6 , Revelation 22:3 .
31. Then the Jews ] Better, Therefore the Jews: their picking up stones was a direct consequence of His words. But ‘therefore’ should perhaps be omitted. They prepare to act on Leviticus 24:16 (Comp. 1 Kings 21:10 ). ‘Again’ refers us back to 8:59. The word for ‘took up’ is not the same in each case; the word used here is stronger, implying more effort; ‘lifted up, bore.’ But ‘again’ shews that it refers to raising up from the ground rather than carrying from a distance.
32. Many good works ] It is the same word as is used v . 14 of the Good Shepherd: many beautiful, noble, excellent works. Comp. ‘He hath done all things well ’ (Mark 7:37 ) and ‘God saw that it was good ’ (Genesis 1:8 , Genesis 1:10 , Genesis 1:12 , &c.). These excellent works proceed from the Father and are manifested by the Son.
for which of those ] Literally, for what kind of work among these ; i.e. ‘what is the character of the work for which ye are in the act of stoning me?’ It was precisely the character of the works which shewed that they were Divine, as some of them were disposed to think ( v . 21, 7:26). Comp. Matthew 22:36 , where the literal meaning is, ‘what kind of a commandment is great in the law?’ and 1 Corinthians 15:35 , ‘with what kind of body do they come?’ See on 12:33, 18:32, 21:19.
33. For a good work ] The preposition is changed in the Greek; concerning a good work . ‘That is not the subject-matter of our charge?’
and because ] ‘And’ is explanatory, shewing wherein the blasphemy consisted: it does not introduce a separate charge.
34 38. Christ answers the formal charge of blasphemy by a formal argument on the other side.
34. in your law ] ‘Law’ is here used in its widest sense for the whole of the Old Testament; so also in 12:34 and 15:25; in all three places the passage referred to is in the Psalms. Comp. 7:19, 1 Corinthians 14:21 . The force of the pronoun is, ‘for which you profess to have such a regard:’ comp. 8:17. On the Greek for ‘is it written’ see on 2:17.
I said, Ye are gods ] The argument is both à fortiori and ad hominem . In the Scriptures (Psalms 82:6 ) even unjust rulers are called ‘gods’ on the principle of the theocracy, that rulers are the delegates and representatives of God (comp. Exodus 22:28 ). If this is admissible without blasphemy, how much more may He call Himself ‘Son of God.’
35. If he called them gods ] More probably, If it called them gods , viz. the Law. ‘Them’ is left unexplained; a Jewish audience would at once know who were meant. But how incredible that any but a Jew should think of such an argument, or put it in this brief way! These last eight verses alone are sufficient to discredit the theory that this Gospel is the work of Greek Gnostic in the second century.
the word of God ] Practically the same as ‘the Scripture;’ i.e. the word of God in these passages of Scripture. The Word in the theological sense for the Son is not meant: this term appears nowhere in the narrative part of S. John’s Gospel. But of course it was through the Word, not yet incarnate, that God revealed His will to His people.
cannot be broken ] Literally, ‘cannot be undone’ or ‘unloosed.’ The same word is rendered ‘unloose’ (1:27), ‘destroy’ (2:19), ‘break’ (5:18 and 7:23), ‘loose’ (11:44). 1:27 and 11:44 are literal, of actual unbinding; the others are figurative, of dissolution or unbinding as a form of destruction. Here either metaphor, dissolution or unbinding, would be appropriate; either, ‘cannot be explained away, made to mean nothing;’ or, ‘cannot be deprived of its binding authority.’ The latter seems better. The clause depends upon ‘if,’ and is not parenthetical; ‘if the Scripture cannot be broken.’ As in 2:22, 17:12, 20:9, ‘the Scripture’ (singular) probably means a definite passage. Comp. 7:38, 42, 13:18, 17:12, 19:24, 28, 36, 37. Scripture as a whole is called ‘the Scriptures’ (plural); 5:39.
36. Say ye ] ‘Ye’ with great emphasis, ‘Do ye , in opposition to the Scripture, say?’
of him, whom the Father hath sanctified ] Omit ‘hath;’ both verbs are aorists. This also is emphatic, in opposition to ‘them unto whom the word of God came.’ Men on whom God’s word has conferred a fragment of delegated authority may be called ‘gods’ (Elohim) without scruple; He, Whom the Father Himself sanctified and sent, may not be called Son of God (no article before ‘Son’) without blasphemy! By ‘sanctified’ is meant something analogous to the consecration of Jeremiah before his birth for the work of a Prophet. (Jeremiah 1:5 ). When the Son was sent into the world He was consecrated for the work of the Messiah, and endowed with the fulness of grace and truth (see on 1:14), the fulness of power (3:35), the fulness of life (5:26). In virtue of this Divine sanctification He becomes ‘the Holy One of God’ (6:69; Luke 4:34 ). See on 17:17, 19, the only other passages in S. John’s writings where the word occurs.
37, 38. Having met their technical charge in a technical manner He now proceeds to justify the assertion of His unity with the Father by an appeal to His works.
37. believe me not ] A literal command. If His works are not those which His Father works, they ought not (not merely have no need ) to believe what He says. Comp. 5:24, 46; 6:30; 8:31, 45. His works are His Father’s (9:3, 14:10).
38. believe the works ] ‘Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed’ (20:29); but it is better to have the faith that comes with sight than none at all.
that ye may know, and believe ] The better reading probably is, that ye may come to know and continually know ; ‘attain to knowledge and advance in knowledge in contrast to your state of suspense’ ( v . 24). In the Greek it is the aorist and present of the same verb ‘to come to know, perceive, recognise:’ the aorist denotes the single act, the present the permanent growth. The apparent awkwardness of having the same verb twice in the same clause has probably caused a large number of authorities to substitute another verb in the second case. But the change of tense is full of meaning, especially in reference to the Jews. Many of them attained to a momentary conviction that He was the Messiah (2:23, 6:14, 15, 7:41, 8:30, 10:42, 11:45); very few of them went beyond a transitory conviction (2:24, 6:66, 8:31).
the Father is in me, and I in him ] For ‘in Him’ read with the best authorities in the Father . An instance of the solemnity and emphasis derived from repetition, so frequent in this Gospel.
39 42. Opposite Results of the Discourse
39. Therefore they sought again ] ‘Therefore’ is of rather doubtful authenticity; some important witnesses omit ‘again’ also. ‘Again’ refers us back to 7:30, 32, 44, and shews that ‘to take Him’ means, not, take Him and stone Him ( v . 31), but, arrest Him for the Sanhedrin.
he escaped ] Literally, went forth . There being nothing in the text to shew that His departure was miraculous, it is safest (as in 8:59, where the same word is used for ‘went forth’) to suppose that there was no miracle. He withdrew through the less hostile among those who encircled Him, while the others were making up their minds how to apprehend Him. The majesty of innocence suffices to protect Him, His hour not having come.
40 42. “The chapter ends with a note of place which is evidently and certainly historical. No forger would ever have thought of the periphrasis ‘where John at first baptized’ … ‘John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true.’ It would be impossible to find a stronger incidental proof that the author of the Gospel had been originally a disciple of the Baptist, or at least his contemporary, and also that he is writing of things that he had heard and seen. A Gnostic, writing in Asia Minor, even though he had come into relation with disciples of John, would not have introduced the Baptist in this way. In circles that had been affected by the Baptist’s teaching, and were hesitating whether they should attach themselves to Jesus, this is precisely the sort of comment that would be heard.” S. p. 179.
40. again beyond Jordan ] Referring back to 1:28. The hostility of the hierarchy being invincible and becoming more and more dangerous Jesus retires into Peraea for quiet and safety before His Passion. This interval was between three and four months, from the latter part of December to the middle of April. But some portion of this time was spent at Ephraim (11:54) after going to Bethany in Judaea to raise Lazarus. Nothing is told us as to how much time was given to Bethany or Bethabara in Peraea, how much to Ephraim.
at first ] John afterwards baptized at Aenon near Salim (3:23).
baptized ] was baptizing .
41. many resorted unto him ] There is no reason why the usual translation ‘came’ should be changed to ‘resorted.’ The testimony of the Baptist, and perhaps the miraculous voice at Christ’s Baptism, were still remembered there. Since then there had been the mission of the Seventy and Christ’s own work in Galilee.
and said ] Or, kept saying or used to say: it was a common remark.
John did no miracle ] Or sign . This is indirect evidence of the genuineness of the miracles recorded of Christ. It is urged that if Jesus had wrought no miracles, they would very possibly have been attributed to Him after His death. Let us grant this; and at the same time it must be granted that the same holds good to a very great extent of the Baptist. The enthusiasm which he awakened, as a Prophet appearing after a weary interval of four centuries, was immense. Miracles would have been eagerly believed of him, the second Elijah, and would be likely enough to be attributed to him. But more than half a century after his death we have one of his own disciples quite incidentally telling us that ‘John did no miracle’; and there is no rival tradition to the contrary. All traditions concur in attributing miracles to Jesus.
42. many believed on him there ] ‘There’ is emphatic. ‘ There ,’
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the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29