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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

John 12



We now enter upon the third section of the first main division of this Gospel. It may be useful to state the divisions once more. THE PROLOGUE, John 1:1-18; THE MINISTRY, John 1:19 to John 12:50, thus divided—[1] THE TESTIMONY, John 1:19 to John 2:11; [2] THE WORK, John 2:13 to John 11:57; [3] THE JUDGMENT, 12. This third section, which now lies before us, may be subdivided thus—(α) the Judgment of men, 1–36; (β) the Judgment of the Evangelist, 37–43; (γ) the Judgment of Christ, 44–50.

We have not sufficient data for harmonizing this latter portion of S. John with the Synoptists. In the large gaps left by each there is plenty of room for all that is peculiar to the others. S. John’s plan is precise and consistent: but once more we have a blank of undefined extent (see introductory note to chap. 6 and on John 6:1). This chapter forms at once a conclusion to the Work and Conflict and an introduction to the Passion.

Verse 1

1. ὁ οὖν Ἰ. The οὖν simply resumes the narrative from the point where it quitted Jesus. John 11:55. This is better than to make it depend on John 11:57, as if He went to Bethany to avoid His enemies. His hour is drawing near, and therefore He draws near to the appointed scene of His sufferings.

πρὸ ἓξ ἡμ. τοῦ π. The Passover began at sunset on Nisan 14: six days before this would bring us to Nisan 8, which day, Josephus states, pilgrims often chose for arriving at Jerusalem. Assuming the year to be A.D. 30, Nisan 8 would be Friday, March 31. We may suppose, therefore, that Jesus and His disciples arrived at Bethany on the Friday evening a little after the Sabbath had commenced, having performed not more than ‘a Sabbath-day’s journey’ on the Sabbath, the bulk of the journey being over before the day of rest began. But it must be remembered that this chronology is tentative, not certain. For the construction see on John 11:18 and comp. John 21:8 and πρὸ δύο ἐτῶν τοῦ σεισμοῦ (Amos 1:1): πρὸ μιᾶς ἡμέρας τῆς ΄αρδοχαικῆς ἡμέρας (2 Maccabees 15:36). Here also the preposition seems to have been transposed; we should expect ἔξ ἡμέρας πρὸ τοῦ π. Perhaps S. John wishes to contrast this last week with the first; see on John 2:1.

ὅν ἤγ. ἐκ ν. . This descriptive phrase may have become a common designation of Lazarus (John 12:9): comp. ͂ν ἠγάπα ὁ Ἰ. (John 13:23, John 19:26, John 21:7; John 21:20).

Verses 1-36


Note the dramatic contrast between the different sections of this division; the devotion of Mary and the enmity of the priests, Christ’s triumph and the Pharisees’ discomfiture, the Gentiles seeking the Light and the Chosen People refusing to see it.

Verse 2

2. ἐποίησαν οὖν. They made therefore; because of His great miracle just mentioned (John 12:1) and its consequences. The banquet is a generous protest against the decree of the Sanhedrin (John 11:57). The nominative to ἐποίησαν is indefinite: if we had only this account we should suppose that the supper was in the house of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus; but S. Mark (Mark 14:3) and S. Matthew (Matthew 26:6) tell us that it was in the house of Simon the leper, who had possibly been healed by Christ and probably was a friend or relation of Lazarus and his sisters. Martha’s serving (comp. Luke 10:40) in his house is evidence of the latter point (see the notes on S. Matthew and S. Mark).

ὁ δὲ Λάζ. κ.τ.λ. This is probably introduced to prove the reality and completeness of his restoration to life: it confirms the Synoptic accounts by indicating that Lazarus was guest rather than host.

Verses 2-8


Verse 3

3. λίτραν. S. John alone gives Mary’s name and the amount. The pound of 12 ounces is meant. So large a quantity of a substance so costly is evidence of her overflowing love. Comp. John 19:39.

νάρδου πιστικῆς. The expression is a rare one, and occurs elsewhere only Mark 14:3, which S. John very likely had seen: his account has all the independence of that of an eyewitness, but may have been influenced by the Synoptic narratives. The meaning of the Greek is not certain: it may mean [1] ‘genuine nard’ (πίστις), and spikenard was often adulterated; or [2] ‘drinkable, liquid nard’ (πίνω), and unguents were sometimes drunk; or [3] ‘Pistic nard,’ ‘Pistic’ being supposed to be a local adjective. But no place from which such an adjective could come appears to be known. Of the other two explanations the first is to be preferred. The English ‘spikenard’ seems to recall the nardi spicati of the Vulgate in Mark 14:3 : here the Vulgate has nardi pistici. Winer, p. 121.

πολυτίμου. Horace offers to give a cask of wine for a very small box of it; Nardi parvus onyx eliciet cadum (Carm. IV. xii. 17).

τοὺς πόδας. The two Synoptists mention only the usual (Psalms 23:5) anointing of the head; S. John records the less usual act, which again is evidence of Mary’s devotion. The rest of this verse is peculiar to S. John, and shews that he was present. Note the emphatic repetition of τοὺς πόδας. To unbind the hair in public was a disgrace to a Jewish woman; but Mary makes this sacrifice also. In ἐκ τ. ὀσμῆς the ἐκ expresses that out of which the filling was produced: comp. LXX. in Psalms 127:5; ὃς πληρώσει τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν αὐτοῦ ἐξ αὐτῶν.

Verse 4

4. Ἰούδας ὁ Ἰσκ. S. Mark (Mark 14:4) says, quite indefinitely, τινες; S. Matthew (Matthew 26:8), οἱ μαθηταί. Each probably states just what he knew; S. Mark that the remark was made; S. Matthew that it came from the group of disciples; S. John that Judas made it, and why he made it. S. John was perhaps anxious that the unworthy grumbling should be assigned to the right person. For ὁ μέλλων αὐτὸν παρ. see on John 6:71.

Verse 5

5. τριακοσίων δην. Over £20, if we reckon according to the purchasing power of the denarius: see on John 6:7. Πτωχοῖς (no article), to poor people: comp. διάδος πτωχοῖς (Luke 18:22).

Verse 6

6. γλωσσόκομον. More classical form γλωσσοκομεῖον, from κομέω. It literally means a ‘case for mouthpieces’ of musical instruments, and hence any portable chest. Its occurring in LXX. only of the chest into which offerings for the Temple were put (2 Chronicles 24:8; 2 Chronicles 24:10-11) may have influenced S. John in using it of the box in which the funds of the little company, mainly consisting of offerings (Luke 8:3), were kept. The word occurs in N.T. only here and John 13:29.

ἐβάσταζεν. Either used to carry, or used to carry away, i. e. steal: comp. John 20:15. The latter is more probable: he took what was put therein. The καί after κλέπτης ἧν is epexegetic and introduces an explanation of the way in which he was a thief. S. Augustine, commenting on ‘portabat,’ which he found in the Italic Version, and which survives in the Vulgate, says “portabat an exportabat? sed ministerio portabat, furto exportabat.” We have the same play in ‘lift,’ e.g. ‘shop-lifting;’ and in the old use of ‘convey:’ “To steal” … “Convey the wise it call.” Merry Wives of Windsor, I. 3. “O good! Convey?—Conveyers are you all.” Richard II. IV. 1. The common meaning, ‘used to carry,’ gives very little sense. Of course if he carried the box he carried τὰ βάλλομενα, the gifts that were being put into it from time to time: comp. John 5:7, John 13:2, John 20:25.

Verse 7

7. ἄφες αὐτήν, ἵνα. Let her alone, that for the day of the preparation for My burial she may preserve it: or, more simply, Suffer her to keep it for the day of My burial. But ἐνταφιασμός (here and Mark 14:8 only) means the embalming and other preparations rather than the actual entombment: comp. John 19:40. The meaning is not clear: [1] Suffer her to keep what remains of it; not, however, for the poor, but for My burial, which is close at hand.’ But was there any of it left? [2] ‘Let her alone; (she has not sold it for the poor) that she may keep it for My burial.’ [3] ‘Suffer her to keep it (for she intended to do so) for the day of My burial:’ i. e. do not find fault with a good intention which she has unwittingly carried out. The words are spoken from the point of view of the past, when Mary’s act was still only a purpose.

Verse 8

8. τοὺς πτωχοὺς γὰρ κ.τ.λ. Comp. Deuteronomy 15:11. Every word of this verse occurs in the first two Gospels, though not quite in the same order. Here the emphasis is on ‘the poor,’ there on ‘always.’ The striking originality of the saying, and the large claim which it makes, are evidence of its origin from Him who spake as never man spake. Considering how Christ speaks of the poor elsewhere, these words may be regarded as quite beyond the reach of a writer of fiction. S. John, who gives Mary’s name, omits the promise of fame as wide as Christendom. S. Matthew and S. Mark, who give the promise, do not give her name: see on John 2:19, John 18:11.

Verse 9

9. ὁ ὄχλος πολύς. Large caravans would be coming up for the Passover, and the news would spread quickly through the shifting crowds, who were already on the alert (John 11:55) about Jesus, and were now anxious to see Lazarus. It is the ‘large multitude of the Jews’ who come; i. e. of Christ’s usual opponents. This again (comp. John 11:45-47) excites the hierarchy to take decisive measures. See on John 12:12. But perhaps here and in John 12:12 ὄχλος πολύς is virtually a compound word, the common people of the Jews, as distinct from the leaders. Ὄχλος, in Cretan πόλχος, seems to be akin to vulgus and ‘folk.’

ὃν ἤγειρεν. See on John 12:1. These repeated references to the raising of Lazarus (John 11:45; John 11:47, John 12:1; John 12:9-10; John 12:17) greatly strengthen the historical evidence for the miracle. They are quite inconsistent with the theory either of a misunderstanding or of deliberate fraud.

Verses 9-11


Verse 10

10. οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς. see on John 7:32. Nothing is here said about the Pharisees (comp. John 11:47; John 11:57), who are, however, not necessarily excluded. Both would wish to put Lazarus out of the way for the reason given in John 12:11 : but the chief priests, who were mostly Sadducees, would have an additional reason, in that Lazarus was a living refutation of their doctrine that ‘there is no resurrection’ (Acts 23:8).

ἵνα καὶ τ. Λάζ. Whatever may be true about John 11:53, we must not suppose that this verse implies a formal sentence of death: it does not even imply a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

S. Augustine comments on the folly of the priests—as if Christ could not raise Lazarus a second time! But this ignores the ‘also’: the hierarchy meant to put both to death. Their folly consisted in failing to see, not that He could raise Lazarus again, but that He could raise Himself (John 2:19). Note that it is the unscrupulous hierarchy, who attempt this crime. Comp. John 18:35, John 19:6; John 19:15; John 19:21.

Verse 11

11. ὑπῆγονἐπίστευον. The imperfects express a continual process: were going away and believing. It is best to leave ‘going away’ quite indefinite; the idea of falling away from the hierarchy lies in the context and not in the word.

The climax is approaching. Of ‘the Jews’ themselves many are being won over to Christ, and are ready to give Him an enthusiastic reception whenever He appears. The remainder become all the more bitter, and resolve to sweep away anyone, however innocent, who contributes to the success of Jesus.

Verse 12

12. τῇ ἐπαύριον. From the date given John 12:1, consequently Nisan 9, from Saturday evening to Sunday evening, if the chronology given on John 12:1 is correct. S. John seems distinctly to assert that the Triumphal Entry followed the supper at Bethany: S. Matthew and S. Mark both place the supper after the entry, S. Matthew without any date and probably neglecting (as often) the chronological order, S. Mark also without date, yet apparently implying (John 14:1) that the supper took place two days before the Passover. But the date in Mark 14:1 covers only two verses and must not be carried further in contradiction to S. John’s precise and consistent arrangement. S. John omits all details respecting the procuring of the young ass.

ὄχλος πολύς. Perhaps, as in John 12:9, we should read ὁ ὄχλος πολύς, and understand the expression as one word, the common people. In both verses authorities are divided as to the insertion or omission of the article. But ‘the common people’ here are not Judaeans, but pilgrims from other parts, who have no prejudice against Jesus.

Verses 12-18


Verse 13

13. τὰ βαΐα τῶν φ. Literally, the palm-branches of the palm-trees; i.e. those which grew there, or which were commonly used at festivals. Βαῑ̔ον (here only) means a palm-branch, apparently of Coptic origin. S. Matthew (Matthew 21:8) has κλάδους ἀπὸ τ. δένδρων; S. Mark (Mark 11:8) στιβάδας ἐκ τ. δ. As often, it is S. John who is the most precise. Comp. Simon’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem (1 Maccabees 13:51). The palm-tree was regarded by the ancients as characteristic of Palestine. ‘Phœnicia’ (Acts 11:19; Acts 15:3) is probably derived from φοίνιξ. The tree is now comparatively rare, except in the Philistine plain: at ‘Jericho, the city of palm-trees’ (Deuteronomy 34:3; 2 Chronicles 28:15) there is not one. For κραυγάζω see on John 18:40.

Ὡσαννά. This is evidence that the writer of this Gospel knows Hebrew. see on John 6:45. In the LXX. at Ps. 117:25 we have a translation of the Hebrew, σῶσον δή, ‘save we pray,’ not a transliteration as here. (Comp. ‘Alleluia’ in Revelation 19:1; Revelation 19:6). This Psalm was sung both at the F. of Tabernacles and also at the Passover, and would be very familiar to the people. It is said by some to have been written for the F. of Tabernacles after the return from captivity, by others for the founding or dedicating of the second Temple. It was regarded as Messianic, and both the Psalm and the palm-branches seem to imply a welcoming of the Messiah. In what follows the better reading gives Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord, even the king of Israel. The cry of the multitude was of course not always the same, and the different Evangelists give us different forms of it.

Verse 14

14. εὑρών. S. John does not repeat the well-known story of the finding: see on John 9:35. On ἐστιν γεγραμμένον see on John 2:17.

Verse 15

15. μὴ φοβοῦ. The quotation is freely made from Zechariah 9:9 : μὴ φοβοῦ is substituted for χαῖρε σφόδρα, and the whole is abbreviated. In writing ὁ βας. σου and πῶλον ὄνου the Evangelist seems to be translating direct from the Hebrew. The best editions of LXX. omit σου, and all have πῶλον νέον. Comp. John 1:29, John 6:45, John 19:37. If the writer of this Gospel knew the O.T. in Hebrew, he almost certainly was a Jew.

Verse 16

16. οὐκ ἔγνωσαν. A mark of candour: see on John 2:22, John 11:12, John 20:9. After Pentecost much that had been unnoticed or obscure before was brought to their remembrance and made clear (John 14:26). But would a Christian of the second century have invented this dulness in Apostles? Ταῦτα, with threefold emphasis, refers primarily to the placing Him on the young ass. For ἐδοξάσθη see on John 7:39, John 11:4. The nom. to ἐποίησαν is οἱ μαθηταί: they themselves had unwittingly helped to fulfil the prophecy (Luke 19:29; Luke 19:37; Luke 19:39).

Verse 17

17. ὅτε τ. Λάζ. See on John 12:9. The multitude, therefore, that was with Him when He raised … were bearing witness. See on John 12:41. This special mention of the ‘calling from the tomb’ is very natural in one who was there, and remembered the φωνὴ μεγάλη (John 11:43) and the excitement which it caused; not so in a writer of fiction.

Verse 18

18. τοῦτο. Emphatic: other signs had made comparatively little impression; this one had convinced even His enemies. There are two multitudes, one coming with Jesus from Bethany, and one (13, 18) meeting Him from Jerusalem. The Synoptists do not notice the latter.

Verse 19

19. θεωρεῖτε. Either (indic.) Ye behold, or Behold ye? or (imper.) Behold. The first seems best: comp. John 5:39, John 14:1, John 15:18; 1 John 2:27-29. ‘Ye see what a mistake we have made; we ought to have adopted the plan of Caiaphas long ago.’

ἴδε ὁ κόσμος. The exaggerated expression of their chagrin, which in this Divine epic is brought into strong contrast with the triumph of Jesus. Comp. a similar exaggeration from a similar cause John 3:26; ‘all men come to Him.’ For ἴδε see on John 1:29. Ἀπῆλθεν, is gone away, implies that Jesus’ gain is the Pharisees’ loss. The words are perhaps recorded as another unconscious prophecy (John 11:50, John 7:35). After this confession of helplessness the Pharisees appear no more alone; the reckless hierarchy help them on to the catastrophe.

Verse 20

20. Ἔλληνες. In A.V. translated ‘Gentiles’ John 7:35 (where see note), and ‘Greeks’ here. Care must be taken to distinguish in the N.T. between Hellenes or ‘Greeks,’ i.e. born Gentiles, who may or may not have become either Jewish proselytes or Christian converts, and Hellenistae or ‘Grecians,’ as our Bible renders the word, i.e. Jews who spoke Greek and not Aramaic. Neither word occurs in the Synoptists. Ἔλληνες are mentioned here, John 7:35, and frequently in the Acts and in S. Paul’s Epistles. Ἑλληνισταί are mentioned only Acts 6:1; Acts 9:29 : in Acts 11:20 the right reading is probably Ἔλληνας.

τῶν ἀναβαινόντων. That were wont to go up to worship. This shews that they were ‘proselytes of the gate,’ like the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:27): see on Matthew 23:15. In this incident we have an indication of the salvation rejected by the Jews passing to the Gentiles: the scene of it was probably the Court of the Gentiles; it is peculiar to S. John, who gives no note of time.

Verses 20-33


Verse 21

21. Φιλίππῳ] Their coming to S. Philip was the result either [1] of accident; or [2] of previous acquaintance, to which the mention of his home seems to point; or [3] of his Greek name, which might attract them. see on John 1:45, John 6:5, John 14:8. In Κύριε they shew their respect for the disciple of such a Master (comp. John 4:11; John 4:15; John 4:19). Their desire to ‘come and see’ for themselves (θέλομεν ἰδεῖν) would at once win the sympathy of the practical Philip. see on John 1:46 and John 14:8.

Verse 22

22. τῷ Ἀνδρέᾳ] Another Apostle with a Greek name. They were both of Bethsaida (John 1:44), and possibly these Greeks may have come from the same district. S. Philip seems to shrink from the responsibility of introducing Gentiles to the Messiah, and applies in his difficulty to the Apostle who had already distinguished himself by bringing others to Christ (John 1:41, John 6:8-9).

Verse 23

23. ὁ δὲ Ἰ. ἀποκρίνεται. He anticipates the Apostles and addresses them before they introduce the Greeks. We are left in doubt as to the result of the Greeks’ request. Nothing is said to them in particular, though they may have followed and heard this address to the Apostles, which gradually shades off into soliloquy.

These men from the West at the close of Christ’s life set forth the same truth as the men from the East at the beginning of it—that the Gentiles are to be gathered in. The wise men came to His cradle, these to His cross, of which their coming reminds Him; for only by His death could ‘the nations’ be saved.

ἐλήλυθεν ἡ ὥρα. The phrase is peculiar to S. John 7:30; John 8:20; John 13:1; John 17:1 : contrast Matthew 26:45; Luke 22:14. The verb first for emphasis (John 4:21; John 4:23), ‘it hath come—the fated hour.’ see on John 7:6, John 13:1. The ἵνα indicates the Divine purpose (John 13:1, John 16:2; John 16:32; John 11:50); see Winer, p. 576. Δοξασθῇ, by His Passion and Death, through which He must pass to return to glory (John 7:39, John 11:4; John 1:51).

ἀμὴν ἀμήν. John 1:51. Strange as it may seem that the Messiah should die, yet this is but the course of nature: a seed cannot be glorified unless it dies. A higher form of existence is obtained only through the extinction of the lower form that preceded it. Except the grain of wheat fall into the earth and die it abideth by itself alone.

Verse 25

25. ψυχήνζωήν. Ψυχή is the life of the individual, ζωή life in the abstract. By a noble disregard of the former we win the latter: sacrifice of self is the highest self-preservation. See on Matthew 10:39; Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; Luke 17:33. Most of these texts refer to different occasions, so that this solemn warning must have been often on His lips. This occasion is distinct from all the rest. Ἀπολλύει is either destroyeth it or loseth it: selfishness is self-ruin.

ὁ μισῶν. He who, if necessary, is ready to act towards his ψυχή as if he hated it. Neither here nor in Luke 14:26 must μισεῖν be watered down to mean ‘be not too fond of:’ it means that and a great deal more. For ζωὴν αἰώνιον see on John 3:15-16.

Verse 26

26. ἐμοὶ ἀκολουθείτω. In My life of self-sacrifice: Christ Himself has set the example of hating one’s life in this world. These words are perhaps addressed through the disciples to the Greeks listening close at hand. If they ‘wish to see Jesus’ and know Him they must count the cost first. Ἐμοί is emphatic in both clauses. Note the pronouns in what follows. Where I am, i. e. ‘in My kingdom, which is already secured to Me:’ the phrase is peculiar to this Gospel (John 14:3, John 17:24): Winer, p. 332. The ἐκεῖ possibly includes the road to the kingdom, death. On ὁ δ. ὁ ἐμός see on John 8:31.

ἐάν τις. The offer is all-embracing: John 6:51, John 7:17; John 7:37, John 8:52, John 10:9. Note the change of order. Here the verbs are emphatic, and balance one another. Such service is not humiliating but honourable. The verse is closely parallel to John 12:25.

Verse 27

27. A verse of known difficulty: several meanings are admissible and none can be affirmed with certainty. The doubtful points are [1] the interrogation, whether it should come after τί εἴπω or ταύτης; [2] the meaning of διὰ τοῦτο.

ἡ ψυχή μ. τετάρακται. My soul has been and still is troubled. It is the ψυχή, the seat of the natural emotions and affections, that is troubled; not the πνεῦμα, as in John 11:35. But, to bring out the connexion with John 12:25-26, we may render, Now is My life troubled. ‘He that would serve Me must follow Me and be ready to hate his life; for My life has long since been tossed and torn with suffering and sorrow.’

τί εἴπω; What must I say? This appears to be the best punctuation; and the question expresses the difficulty of framing a prayer under the conflicting influences of fear of death and willingness to glorify His Father by dying. The result is first a prayer under the influence of fear—‘save Me from this hour’ (comp. ‘Let this cup pass from Me,’ Matthew 26:39), and then a prayer under the influence of ready obedience—‘Glorify Thy Name’ through My sufferings. But σῶσόν με ἐκ means ‘save me out of,’ i. e. ‘bring Me safe out of;’ rather than ‘save Me from’ (σῶσόν με ἀπό), i. e. ‘keep Me altogether away from,’ as in ‘deliver us from the evil one’ (Matthew 6:13). Note the aorist, which shews that special present deliverance, rather than perpetual preservation, is prayed for. S. John omits the Agony in the garden, which was in the Synoptists and was well known to every Christian; but he gives us here an insight into a less known truth, which is still often forgotten, that the agony was not confined to Gethsemane, but was part of Christ’s whole life. Comp. Luke 12:50. Others place the question at ταύτης, and the drift of the whole will then be, ‘How can I say, Father, save Me from this hour? Nay, I came to suffer; therefore My prayer shall be, Father, glorify Thy Name.’

διὰ τοῦτο. These words are taken in two opposite senses; [1] that I might be saved out of this hour; [2] that Thy Name might be glorified by My obedience. Both make good sense. If the latter be adopted it would be better to transpose the stops, placing a full stop after ‘from this hour’ and a colon after ‘unto this hour.’

Verse 28

28. ἦλθεν οὖν. There came therefore, i.e. in answer to Christ’s prayer. There can be no doubt what S. John wishes us to understand;—that a voice was heard speaking articulate words, that some could distinguish the words, others could not, while some mistook the sounds for thunder. To make the thunder the reality, and the voice and the words mere imagination, is to substitute an arbitrary explanation for the Evangelist’s plain meaning. For similar voices comp. that heard by Elijah (1 Kings 19:12-13); by Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:31); at Christ’s Baptism (Mark 1:11) and Transfiguration (Mark 9:7); at S. Paul’s Conversion (Acts 9:4; Acts 9:7; Acts 22:9), where it would seem that S. Paul alone could distinguish the words, while his companions merely heard a sound (see on Acts 9:4); and the mixed φωναὶ καὶ βρονταί of the Apocalypse (John 4:5, John 8:5, John 16:18). One of the conditions on which power to distinguish what is said depends is sympathy with the speaker.

ἐδόξασα. In all God’s works from the Creation onwards, especially in the life of Christ; δοξάσω, in the death of Christ and its results.

Verse 30

30. ἀπεκρίθη. He answered their discussions about the sound, and by calling it a voice He decides conclusively against those who supposed it to be thunder. But those who recognised that it was a voice were scarcely less seriously mistaken; their error consisted in not recognising that the voice had a meaning for them. Not for My sake hath this voice come, but for your sakes, i. e. that ye might believe. Comp. John 11:42.

Verse 31

31. νῦννῦν. With prophetic certainty He speaks of the victory as already won: comp. ὄπου εἰμί (John 12:26). Κρίσις τ. κόσμου τ. is the sentence passed on this world (John 3:17, John 5:29) for refusing to believe. The Cross is the condemnation of those who reject it.

ὁ ἄρχων τ. κ. τ. The ruler of this world. This is one of the apparently Gnostic phrases which may have contributed to render this Gospel suspicious in the eyes of the Alogi (Introduction, Chap. II. 1): it occurs again John 14:30, John 16:11, and nowhere else. It was a Gnostic view that the creator and ruler of the material universe was an evil being. But in the Rabbinical writings ‘prince of this world’ was a common designation of Satan, as ruler of the Gentiles, in opposition to God, the Head of the Jewish theocracy. Yet just as the Messiah is the Saviour of the believing world, whether Jew or Gentile, so Satan is the ruler of the unbelieving world, whether Gentile or Jew. He ‘shall be cast out’ (comp. John 6:37, John 9:34-35), by the gradual conversion of sinners, a process which will continue until the last day.

Verse 32

32. κἀγὼ ἐὰν ὑψωθῶ. Ἐγώ in emphatic opposition to ὁ ἄρχων τ. κ. τ. The glorified Christ, raised to heaven by means of the Cross, will rule men’s hearts in the place of the devil. We need not, as in John 3:14, John 8:28, confine ὑψωθῶ to the Crucifixion; ἐκ τῆς γῆς seems to point to the Ascension. Yet the Cross itself, apparently so repulsive, has through Christ’s death become an attraction; and this may be the meaning here. For the hypothetical ἐὰν ὑψωθῶ comp. ἐὰν πορευθῶ (John 14:3). In both Christ is concerned not with the time but the results of the act; hence not ‘when’ but ‘if.’ Comp. 1 John 2:8; 1 John 3:2.

ἑλκύσω. Not συρῶ (see on John 6:44). There is no violence; the attraction is moral and not irresistible. Man’s will is free, and he may refuse to be drawn. Previous to the ‘lifting up’ it is the Father who ‘draws’ men to the Son (John 6:44-45). And in both cases all are drawn and taught: not only the Jews represented by the Twelve, but the Gentiles represented by the Greeks. Πρὸς ἐμαυτόν, unto Myself, up from the earth. The two verses (31, 32) sum up the history of the Church; the overthrow of Satan’s rule, the establishment of Christ’s.

Verse 33

33. ποἱῳ θ. By what manner of death (John 10:32, John 18:32, John 21:9). For ἤμελλεν see on John 6:71.

Verse 34

34. ἐκ τ. νόμου. In its widest sense, including the Psalms and the Prophets, as in John 10:34, John 15:25. Comp. Psalms 89:29; Psalms 89:36; Psalms 110:4; Isaiah 9:7; Ezekiel 37:25, &c. The people rightly understand ‘lifted up from the earth’ to mean removal from the earth by death; and they argue—‘Scripture says that the Christ (see on John 1:20) will abide for ever. You claim to be the Christ, and yet you say that you will be lifted up and therefore not abide.’ For δεῖ see on John 3:14.

οὗτος ὁ υἱ. τ. ἀν. Οὗτος is contemptuous (John 9:16): ‘a strange Messiah this, with no power to abide!’ (See John 1:51.) Once more we see with how firm a hand the Evangelist has grasped the complicated situation. One moment the people are convinced by a miracle that Jesus is the Messiah, the next that it is impossible to reconcile His position with the received interpretations of Messianic prophecy. It did not occur to them to doubt the interpretations.

Verses 34-36


Verse 35

35. εἶπεν οὖν αὐ. ὁ Ἰ. Jesus therefore said to them: instead of answering their contemptuous question He gives them a solemn warning. Walk as ye have the light (ὡς not ἔως) means ‘walk in a manner suitable to the fact of there being the Light among you: make use of the Light and work, in order that darkness (see on John 1:5), in which no man can work, overtake you not.’ Καταλαμβάνειν is used 1 Thessalonians 5:4 of the last day, and in LXX. of sin overtaking the sinner (Numbers 32:23). Some authorities have it in John 6:17 of darkness overtaking the Apostles on the lake.

Verses 35-36

35, 36. ὡς for ἕως, and ἐν ὑμῖν for μεθ' ὑμῶν.

Verse 36

36. ὡς τ. φῶς ἔχετε. As ye have the Light (as in John 12:35), believe on the Light, that ye may become sons of light. Note the impressive repetition of φῶς (comp. John 1:10, John 3:17; John 3:31, John 15:19, John 17:14), and the absence of the article before φωτός. In all the four preceding cases τὸ φῶς means Christ, as in John 1:5; John 1:7-9. The expression ‘child of’ or ‘son of’ is frequent in Hebrew to indicate very close connexion as between product and producer (see on John 17:12): υἱὸς εἰρήνης, Luke 10:6; οἱ υἱοὶ τ. αἰῶνος τούτου, John 16:8; υἱοὶ βροντῆς, Mark 3:17. Such expressions are very frequent in the most Hebraistic of the Gospels; Matthew 5:9; Matthew 8:12; Matthew 9:15; Matthew 13:38; Matthew 23:15.

ταῦτα ἐλάλησεν. He gave them no other answer, departed, and did not return. S. John is silent as to the place of retirement, which was probably Bethany (Matthew 21:17; Mark 11:11; Luke 21:37). The one point which he would make prominent is the Christ’s withdrawal from His people. Their time of probation is over. They have closed their eyes again and again to the Light; and now the Light itself is gone. He was hidden from them.

Verse 37

37. τοσαῦτα. So many, not ‘so great’ (John 6:9, John 21:11). The Jews admitted His miracles (John 7:31, John 11:47). S. John assumes them as notorious, though he records only seven (John 2:23, John 4:45, John 7:31, John 11:47).

Verses 37-43


S. John here sums up the results of the ministry which has just come to a close. Their comparative poverty is such that he can explain it in no other way than as an illustration of that judicial blindness which had been foretold and denounced by Isaiah. The tragic tone returns again: see on John 1:5.

Verse 38

38. ἵναπληρωθῇ. Indicating the Divine purpose. Comp. John 13:18, John 15:25, John 17:12, John 18:9; John 18:32, John 19:24; John 19:36. It is the two specially Hebraistic Gospels that most frequently remind us that Christ’s life was a fulfilment of Hebrew prophecy. Comp. Matthew 1:22 (note), Matthew 2:15; Matthew 2:17, Matthew 4:14, Matthew 8:17, Matthew 12:17, Matthew 13:35, Matthew 21:4, Matthew 26:54; Mat_26:56, Matthew 27:9. The quotation closely follows the LXX. Τῇ ἀκοῇ ἡμῶν is what they heard from us rather than what we heard from God (1 Thessalonians 2:13): ὁ βραχίων Κυρίου means His power (Luke 1:5; Acts 13:17).

Verse 39

39. διὰ τοῦτο. For this cause: as usual (John 12:18; John 12:27, John 5:18, John 7:21-22, John 8:47, John 10:17) this refers to what precedes, and ὅτι following gives the reason more explicitly. For οὐκ ἐδύναντο see on John 7:7. It had become morally impossible for them to believe. Grace may be refused so persistently as to destroy the power of accepting it. ‘I will not’ leads to ‘I cannot’ (Romans 9:6 to Romans 11:32).

Verse 40

40. τετύφλωκεν. The nominative is ὁ Θεός. Here the quotation follows neither the Hebrew nor the LXX. of Isaiah 6:10 very closely. The nominative to ἰάσομαι is Christ. God has hardened their hearts so that Christ cannot heal them. Comp. Matthew 13:14-15, where Jesus quotes this text to explain why He teaches in parables; and Acts 28:26, where S. Paul quotes it to explain the rejection of his preaching by the Jews in Rome. For ἵνα see Winer, p. 575.

Verse 41

41. ὅτι εἶδεν. Because he saw. Here, as in John 12:17, authorities vary between ὅτι and ὄτε, and here ὅτι is to be preferred. Christ’s glory was revealed to Isaiah in a vision, and therefore he spoke of it. The glory of the Son before the Incarnation, when He was ἐν μορφῇ Θεοῦ (Philippians 2:6), is to be understood.

Verse 42

42. ὅμως μέντοι. Here only in N.T. For μέντοι see on John 4:27. In spite of the judicial blindness with which God had visited them many even of the Sanhedrin believed on Him. We know of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. But because of the recognised champions of orthodoxy both in and outside the Sanhedrin (John 7:13, John 9:22) they continually abstained (imperf.) from making confession. Ἀποσυναγωγος occurs in N.T. only here, John 9:22, John 16:2.

Verse 43

43. τὴν δόξαν τ. ἀνθρ. The glory (that cometh) from men rather than the glory (that cometh) from God (see on John 5:41; John 5:44). Joseph and Nicodemus confessed their belief after the crisis of the Crucifixion. Gamaliel did not even get so far as to believe on Him.

Verse 44

44. ἔκραξεν. The word implies public teaching (John 7:28; John 7:37).

οὐ πιστ. εἰς ἐμέ. His belief does not end there; it must include more. This saying does not occur in the previous discourses; but in John 5:36 and John 8:19 we have a similar thought. Jesus came as His Father’s ambassador, and an ambassador has no meaning apart from the sovereign who sends him. Not only is it impossible to accept the one without the other, but to accept the representative is to accept not him in his own personality but the prince whom he personates. These words are, therefore, to be taken quite literally. Only here and John 14:1 does S. John use πιστεύειν εἰς, so frequent of believing on Jesus, of believing on the Father.

Verses 44-50


The Evangelist has just summed up the results of Christ’s ministry (37–43). He now corroborates that estimate by quoting Christ Himself. But as John 12:36 seems to give us the close of the ministry, we are probably to understand that what follows was uttered on some occasion or occasions previous to John 12:36. Perhaps it is given us as an epitome of what Christ often taught.

Verse 45

45. ὁ θεωρῶν. He who beholdeth, contemplateth (John 6:40; John 6:62, John 7:3, John 14:17; John 14:19, John 16:10; John 16:16-17; John 16:19, &c.).

Verse 46

46. ἐγὼ φῶς. I, with great emphasis, am come as light (John 12:35-36, John 8:12, John 9:5). Ἵνα, of the Divine purpose. Till the Light comes all are in darkness (John 1:5); but it is not God’s will that anyone should abide in darkness. With πᾶς comp. John 1:7, John 3:15, John 11:26 : there is no limitation of race.

Verse 47

47. ἀκούσῃ. In a neutral sense, implying neither belief nor unbelief (Matthew 7:24; Matthew 7:26; Mark 4:15-16). For ῥήματα see on John 3:34.

μὴ φυλάξῃ. Keep them not, i.e. fulfil them not (Luke 11:28; Luke 18:21). A few authorities omit μή, perhaps to avoid a supposed inconsistency between John 12:47-48.

Verse 48

48. ἔχει. Hath his judge already, without My sentencing him (John 3:18, John 5:45). The hearer may refuse the word, but he cannot refuse the responsibility of having heard it. For the retrospective use of ἐκεῖνος see on John 1:18, and for ἐν τ. ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ see on John 6:39. This verse is conclusive as to the doctrine of the last judgment being contained in this Gospel.

Verse 49

49. ὅτι. Because. It introduces the reason why one who rejects Christ’s word will be judged by His word;—because that word is manifestly Divine in origin. With ἐξ ἐμαυτοῦ, out of Myself as source, without commission from the Father, comp. ἀπ' ἐμαυτοῦ, John 5:30, John 7:17; John 7:28, John 8:28; John 8:42, John 10:18, John 14:10.

αὐτός. Himself (and none other) hath given Me commandment (see on John 3:35, John 10:18), what I should say and how I should say it; εἴπω refers to the doctrine, λαλήσω to the form in which it is expressed (see on John 8:43, and comp. John 14:10, John 16:18).

Verse 50

50. The Son’s testimony to the Father. ‘The commission which He has given Me is (not shall be) eternal life’ (John 3:15-16). ‘The things therefore which I speak, even as the Father hath said to Me, so I speak.’

With this the first main division of the Gospel ends. CHRIST’S REVELATION OF HIMSELF TO THE WORLD IN HIS MINISTRY is concluded. The Evangelist has set before ns the TESTIMONY to the Christ, the WORK of the Christ, and the JUDGMENT respecting the work, which has ended in a conflict, and the conflict has reached a climax. We have reached the beginning of the end.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on John 12". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.