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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

John 16

Verse 1

1. ταῦτα. These discourses generally, especially the last section, about the world’s hatred of Him and them: see on John 15:11; John 15:17.

σκανδαλισθῆτε. The verb combines the notions of ‘trip up’ and ‘entrap.’ Σκάνδαλον is a later form of σκανδάληθρον (Aristoph. Ach. 687), which is the bait-stick in a trap, to touch which makes the trap close. Σκάνδαλον hence comes to mean any snare set to catch or trip up. The metaphor occurs often in LXX. and in S. Matt. and S. Mark, thrice in S. Luke, and twice in S. John (John 6:61 : comp. 1 John 2:10). The fanatical hatred of the Jews might make Jewish Apostles stumble at the truth.

Verses 1-11


Verse 2

2. ἀποσυναγώγους. see on John 9:32. The ἀλλά introduces a gradation, as in 2 Corinthians 7:11 : Nay, there cometh an hour. ‘You may think excommunication a strong measure, but they will go greater lengths than this.’ In ἵνα the Divine purpose again seems indicated (John 12:23, John 13:1); ‘an hour for every one that killeth you to think,’ ut omnis … arbitretur. In πᾶς the universality of the delusion appears: Jew and Gentile alike will put down Christians as blasphemers and atheists and the perpetrators of every crime. The history of religious persecution is the fulfilment of this prophecy: comp. Acts 8:1; Acts 9:1. Λατρείαν expresses a religious service (Romans 9:4; Hebrews 9:1; Hebrews 9:6); προσφέρειν the offering of sacrifice (Hebrews 5:1; Hebrews 8:3; Hebrews 9:7): offereth service to God.

Verse 3

3. οὐκ ἔγνωσαν. Did not recognise, implying that they had the opportunity of knowing. They failed to see that God is Love, and that Jesus came to bring in, not to shut out; to save, not to destroy. The very names ‘Father’ (here used with special point) and ‘Jesus’ might have taught them better things.

Verse 4

4. ἀλλά. But, to return (to John 16:1), these things have I spoken to you (John 16:1; John 16:4; John 16:6 must be rendered alike), that when their hour (the hour appointed for these things; John 16:2) is come, ye may remember them, how that I told you, Ἐγώ is emphatic, ‘I Myself, the object of your faith.’

ἐξ ἀρχῆς. Here and John 6:64 only: it expresses consequence and continuity, whereas ἀπ' ἀρχῆς (John 15:27) expresses simple departure. And these things I told you not from the beginning. There is no inconsistency between this statement and passages like Matthew 10:16-39; Matthew 24:9; Luke 6:22 : ταῦτα covers not only the prediction of persecutions, but the explanation of them, and the promise of the Paraclete, &c. All this was new. While He was with them to explain and exhort, they did not need these truths.

Verse 5

5. ὑπάγω πρός. I go away unto: the notion is that of withdrawal (see on John 16:7). Hitherto He has been with them to protect them and to be the main object of attack: soon they will have to bear the brunt without Him. This is all that they feel at present,—how His departure affects themselves, not how it affects Him. And yet this latter point is all important even as regards themselves, for He is going in order to send the Paraclete. As to Ποῦ ὑπάγεις, as far as words go S. Peter had asked this very question (John 13:36) and S. Thomas had suggested it (John 14:5); but altogether in a different spirit from what is meant here. They were looking only at their own loss instead of at His gain. Sorrow has so filled their hearts that there is no room for thoughts of His glory and their future consolation.

Verse 7

7. ἐγὼ τ. ἀλ. λ. ‘I who know, and who have never misled you:’ comp. John 14:2. For ἵνα comp. John 11:50. Note the different words for ‘go’ in John 16:5; John 16:7 : in ὑπάγω the primary idea is withdrawal, I go away; in ἀπέρχομαι, separation, I depart; in πορεύομαι, progress to a goal, I go my way. For παράκλητος see on John 14:16. Jesus as Man most possess the Spirit, before He can impart the Spirit to men: it is in virtue of His glorified Manhood that He sends the Advocate.

Verse 8

8. The threefold office of the Advocate towards those who do not believe, but may yet be won over. And He, when He is come, will convict the world concerning sin, and concerning righteousness, and concerning judgment. ‘Convict’ is better than ‘convince,’ much better than ‘reprove:’ it means forcing a man to condemn himself after a scrutiny in the court of conscience (see on John 3:20). This rendering gives additional point to the rendering ‘Advocate’ for Paraclete. To convince and convict is a large part of the duty of an advocate. He must vindicate and prove the truth; and whoever, after such proof, rejects the truth, does so with responsibility in proportion to the interests involved. Ἁμαρτίας, δικαιοσύνης and κρίσεως, not having the article, are left quite indefinite. The conviction about each may bring either salvation or condemnation, but it must bring one or the other. Comp. Acts 2:37; Acts 4:1-4; Acts 5:33, &c.

Verse 9

9. ἁμαρτίας. This must come first: the work of the Spirit begins with convicting man of having rebelled against God. And the source of sin is unbelief; formerly, unbelief in God, now unbelief in His Ambassador. Not that the sin is limited to unbelief, but this is the beginning of it: ‘Because’ does not explain ‘sin,’ but ‘will convict.’ The Spirit, by bringing the fact of unbelief home to the hearts of men, shews what the nature of sin is.

Verse 10

10. δικαιοσύνης. The word occurs here only in this Gospel; but comp. 1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:7; 1 John 3:10; Revelation 19:11. Righteousness is the keeping of the law, and is the natural result of faith; so much so that faith is reckoned as if it were righteousness (Romans 4:3-9) so certain is this result regarded. Here δικαιοσύνη is used not in the lower sense of keeping prescribed ordinances (Matthew 3:15), but in the highest and widest sense of keeping the law of God; internal as well as external obedience. The lower sense was almost the only sense both to Jew and Gentile (Matthew 5:20). The Spirit, having convinced man that sin is much more than a breaking of certain ordinances, viz. a rejection of God and His Christ, goes on to convince him that righteousness is much more than a keeping of certain ordinances. As before, ὅτι explains ἐλέγξει, not δικαιοσύνης. The pattern life of Christ being completed, the Spirit makes known to man the nature of that life, and thus shews what the nature of righteousness is. Sin being resistance to God’s will, righteousness is perfect harmony with it. For θεωρεῖτε, behold, comp. John 16:16, John 6:40; John 6:62, John 7:3, John 14:19, &c. Jesus here shews His sympathy with His disciples: in speaking of His return to glory, He does not forget the sorrow which they feel and expect always to feel. Contrast Acts 2:46.

Verse 11

11. ὁ ἄρχων. The ruler of this world hath been judged (see on John 12:31 and John 14:30). As the world has had its own false views about sin and righteousness, so also it has had its own false standards of judgment. The Advocate convicts the world of its error in this point also. The world might think that ‘the power of darkness’ conquered at Gethsemane and Calvary, but the Resurrection and Ascension proved that what looked like victory was most signal defeat: instead of conquering Satan was judged. This result is so certain that from the point of view of the Spirit’s coming it is spoken of as already accomplished.

Verse 12

12. πολλὰλέγειν. They are His friends (John 15:15), and there is nothing which He wishes to keep back from them; He would give them His entire confidence. But it would be useless to tell them what they cannot understand; cruel to impart knowledge which would only crush them. Ἄρτι is emphatic (see on John 16:31): at Pentecost they will receive both understanding and strength to know even that ‘which passeth knowledge’ (Ephesians 3:19).

Verses 12-15


The Paraclete not only convicts and convinces the world, He also enlightens the Apostles respecting Christ and thereby glorifies Him, for to make Christ known is to glorify Him. These verses are very important as shewing the authority of the Apostles’ teaching: it is not their own, but it is the truth of Christ revealed by the Spirit.

Verse 13

13. ὁδηγήσει. He will be your guide into this new country. Christ is the Way and the Truth. The Spirit of Truth (see on John 14:17) leads men into the Way and thus into all the Truth. Comp. ὑμεῖς δ' ἐμοῦ ἀκούσεσθε πᾶσαν τὴν ἀλ. Plato Apol. 17. But He does not compel, does not carry: they may refuse to follow; and if they follow they must exert themselves. Contrast Matthew 15:14; Acts 8:31.

ἀφ' ἑαυτοῦ. see on John 5:19, John 15:4. The Spirit, like the Son, cannot speak what proceeds from Himself as distinct from what proceeds from the Father, the Source of all Divine energy. This is the security for infallibility: Satan, who speaks out of his own resources, is consequently a liar (John 8:44).

Note the threefold ἀναγγελεῖ ὑμῖν. He shall declare to you the things that are coming (comp. ὁ ἐρχόμενος): among τὰ ἐρχόμενα we may place the constitution of the Church and all those truths which Christian experience would teach.

Verse 14

14. ἐκεῖνος ἐμέ. Both pronouns are emphatic; ‘Me shall that Spirit glorify.’ Just as the Son glorifies the Father by revealing Him (John 1:18, John 17:4) both in word and work, so does the Spirit glorify the Son by revealing Him. In both cases to reveal is necessarily to glorify: the more the Truth is known, the more it is loved and adored. Λήμψεται here and λαμβάνει in John 16:15 must be rendered alike, and by take rather than ‘receive;’ it implies that the recipient is not wholly passive: comp. John 10:17, John 12:48, John 20:22.

Verses 14-15

14, 15, 24. λήμψεται for λήψεται: Winer, p. 53.

Verse 16

16. θεωρεῖτε. Ye behold, as in John 16:10; John 16:17. Mark the difference between this and the more general word ὄψεσθε. When His bodily presence was withdrawn, their view of Him was enlarged: no longer after the flesh, He is seen and known by faith.

Verses 16-24


Verse 17

17. καὶ ὅτι. They refer to what was said in John 16:10 : there ὅτι is ‘because,’ here it probably is ‘that,’ to introduce what follows. They are perplexed about not beholding and yet seeing, and about His departure to the Father. For ἐκ τῶν see on John 21:10.

Verse 19

19. ἔγνω. Perceived or recognised: see on John 2:25. We are perhaps to understand from γινώσκειν being used rather than εἰδεναι that it was by His natural powers of observation that He perceived this. Where these sufficed we may believe that His supernatural power of reading men’s thoughts was not used: comp. John 5:6, John 6:15. In translation mark the difference between μετ' ἀλλήλων, one with another, πρὸς ἀλλήλους (John 16:17, John 4:33), one to another, and πρὸς ἑαυτούς (John 7:35, John 12:19), among themselves: Concerning this do ye enquire one with another.

Verse 20

20. We have two contrasts; between the Apostles (ὑμεῖς last to emphasize the contrast) and ὁ κόσμος: and between their present sorrow and their future joy. Κλαύσετε (John 11:33, John 20:11) and θρηνήσετε (Luke 7:32; Luke 23:27) express the outward manifestation of grief: λυπηθήσεσθε expresses the feeling. The world will rejoice at being rid of One whose life was a reproach to it and whose teaching condemned it. Their sorrow shall not merely be followed by joy, but shall become joy. The loss of Christ’s bodily presence shall be first a sorrow and then a joy. Γίνεσθαι εἰς is used of the rejected stone becoming the head of the corner (Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11), of the mustard sprout becoming a tree (Luke 13:19), of the first man Adam becoming a living soul (1 Corinthians 15:45). see on John 1:51.

Verse 21

21. ἡ γυνή. The article is generic; this is the general law: comp. ὁ δοῦλος (John 15:15). The metaphor is frequent in O. T. Isaiah 21:3; Isaiah 26:17; Isaiah 66:7; Hosea 13:13; Micah 4:9. See on Mark 13:8. Note the articles in what follows; the child, the anguish, the joy,—always to be found in such a case. But the joy effaces the anguish, because a human being (ἄνθρωπος), the noblest of God’s creatures, is born. ΄όχθου γὰρ οὐδεὶς τοῦ παρελθόντος λόγος.

Verse 22

22. καὶ ὑμεῖς. And ye therefore now, or Ye also therefore now. As in childbirth, the disciples’ suffering was the necessary condition of their joy. This suffering took a new form in the work of converting souls (Galatians 4:19). In John 16:16-17; John 16:19 we had ὄψεσθέ με: here we have the other side of the same truth, ὄψομαι ὕμας. In Galatians 4:9 we have both sides.

Verse 23

23. ἐκείνῃ. Not the forty days of His bodily presence after the Resurrection, but the many days of His spiritual presence after Pentecost. Comp. John 16:26 and John 14:20.

οὐκ ἐρωτ. Ask no question (John 16:19), or Make no petition (see on John 14:16). The former is better. When they are illuminated by the Spirit there will be no room for such questions as ‘What is this little while? How can we know the way? Whither goest Thou? How is it that Thou wilt manifest Thyself unto us and not unto the world?’ His going to the Father will gain for them [1] perfect knowledge. Αἰτήσητε must mean ‘pray,’ not ‘question.’ Note that the answer (according to the better reading as well as the prayer (John 14:13, John 15:16), is in Christ’s name; and all such prayers will be answered. His return to the Father will gain for them [2] perfect response to prayer.

Verse 24

24. αἰτεῖτε. Go on asking (present imperative; John 5:14, [John 8:11,] John 20:17 : contrast Matthew 7:7; Mark 6:22) that your joy may be fulfilled, may become complete and remain so (see on John 3:29). His return to the Father will gain for them [3] perfect joy.

Verse 25

25. ταῦτα. As in John 16:1 there is some uncertainty as to how, much is included. Some refer ‘these things’ to John 16:19-24; others to John 15:1 to John 16:24. Perhaps even the latter is too narrow; the words can apply to all Christ’s teaching, of which there was much which the multitudes were not allowed (Matthew 13:11) and the Apostles were not able (John 2:22) to understand at the time. For παροιμίαις see on John 10:6, and for παρρησίᾳ on John 7:13. Ἀπαγγελῶ, the better reading, looks to the maker of the announcement, ἀναγγελῶ to the recipients of it.

Verses 25-33


Verse 26

26. With the perfect knowledge just promised they will discern what may be asked in His name (see on John 14:13): cognitio parit orationem. The οὐ λέγω does not mean ‘I need not say, for of course I shall do so;’ which does not harmonize with John 16:27. The meaning rather is, that so long as through the power of the Advocate they have direct communion with the Father in Christ’s name, there is no need to speak of Christ’s intercession. But this communion may be interrupted by sin, and then Christ becomes their Advocate (1 John 2:1; Romans 8:34). Note the emphatic ἐγώ. On ἐρωτᾶν see on John 14:6.

Verse 27

27. αὐτός. Without My intercession; John 6:6. We might have expected ἀγαπᾷ for φιλεῖ here (see on John 11:5): but it is a Father’s love, flowing spontaneously from a natural relationship as distinct from discriminating friendship. It is their love for the Son which wins the Father’s love (John 14:21; John 14:23). The two pronouns, ὑμεῖς ἐμέ, are in emphatic contact. The two perfects signify what has been and still continues. No argument can be drawn from the order of the verbs as to love preceding faith: πεφιλήκατε naturally comes first on account of φιλεῖ just preceding. ‘Love begets love’ is true both between man and man and between God and man. ‘Faith begets faith’ cannot have any meaning between God and man. For π. τ. Θεοῦ we should probably read π. τ. πατρός (John 15:26). It was because they recognised Him as the Son sent from the Father, and not merely as a man sent from God (John 1:6), that they won the Father’s love.

Verse 28

28. Note the change from παρἀ τ. π. to ἐκ τ. π. In John 16:27 ‘I came forth from’ refers to the temporal mission of Christ from the Father (John 17:8); here ‘I came out from’ includes the Eternal Generation of the Son (John 8:42). This verse would almost form a creed. The Son, of one Substance with the Father, was born into the world, suffered, and returned to the Father.

Verse 29

29. ἴδε νῦν ἐν παρ. see on John 1:29 and John 7:4; John 7:13.

Verse 30

30. οἴδαμεν ὄτι οἶδας. We know that Thou knowest (comp. 2 Corinthians 12:2-3, where the A.V. is similarly capricious). Christ had spoken in the future tense (John 16:25): they speak in the present. They feel that His gracious promise is already coming true. He had shewn them that He had read their hearts (John 16:19); like Nathanael (John 1:50) and the Samaritan woman (John 4:29; John 4:39), and S. Thomas (John 20:28), they conclude that He knows all.

ἐν τούτῳ. Herein: see on John 4:37. His all-embracing knowledge is that in which their faith has root. The ὅτι is probably ‘that,’ not ‘because,’ as the context and S. John’s usage shew: John 13:35; 1 John 2:3; 1 John 2:5; 1 John 3:19; 1 John 3:24; 1 John 5:2. The disciples’ ἀπὸ Θεοῦ implies a less intimate union between the Father and Jesus than either παρὰ τ. π. (John 16:27) or ἐκ. τ. π. (John 16:28). Their views of Christ are still very imperfect.

Verse 31

31. ἄρτι πιστεύετε; The words are only half a question: comp. John 1:51, John 20:29. The belief of which they are conscious is no illusion, but it is far more defective than they in their momentary enthusiasm suppose. Ἄρτι means ‘at this stage of your course:’ contrast νῦν (John 16:29-30) and see on John 2:10.

Verse 32

32. ἵνα σκορπ. See on John 16:2. This part of the allegory of the sheep-fold will be illustrated even in the shepherds themselves (John 10:12). Comp. Πατάξω τ. ποιμένα, καὶ διασκορπισθήσονται τ. πρόβατα (Matthew 26:31). With εἰς τ. ἴδια comp. John 1:11, John 19:27 : ‘to his own home, property, or pursuits.’ Ἀφῆτε depends upon ἵνα; may be scattered and may leave: all this is part of the Divine plan. They must be taught their weakness, and this foretelling of it is, as it were, pardon granted by anticipation.

καὶ οὐκ εἰμί. And yet I am not. The ‘yet’ is implied, as so often in S. John, in the collocation of the sentences: John 1:10-11, John 3:19; John 3:32, John 6:70, John 7:4; John 7:26, John 8:20, John 9:20. As a rule it is best to leave S. John’s simple conjunctions to tell their own meaning.

ὁ πατὴρ μετ' ἐμοῦ. The Divine background (as it seems to us) of Christ’s life was to Him a Presence of which He was always conscious (John 8:29), with the awful exception of Matthew 27:46.

Verse 33

33. εἰρήνην. The purpose of all these farewell discourses (ταῦτα) is that they may have peace. His ministry ends, as His life began, with this message: ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη (Luke 2:14).

θλῖψιν ἔχετε. Ye have anguish: not ‘shall have;’ the anguish (John 16:21) has already begun.

ἐγώ. With great emphasis. At the very moment when He is face to face with treachery, and disgrace, and death, Christ triumphantly claims the victory. Comp. 1 John 2:13-14; 1 John 5:4. In His victory His followers conquer also.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on John 16". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.