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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

John 16

Verses 1-99

Chap. 16

We are still in the first part of the second main division of the Gospel, the inner Glorification of Christ in His last discourses (13 17). We now enter upon the third division of this first part (see introductory note to chap. 13).

The Promise of the Paraclete and of Christ’s Return

As has been remarked already, the subjects are not kept distinct; they cross and interlace, like the strands in a rope. But the following divisions may conduce to clearness; 1. The World and the Paraclete (1 11); 2. The Disciples and the Paraclete (12 15); The Sorrow of Christ s Departure turned into Joy by His Return (16 24); 4. Summary and Conclusion of the Discourses (25 33).

1 11. The World and the Paraclete

1. These things ] These discourses generally, especially the last section about the world’s hatred of Him and them (15:18 27).

should not be offended ] Literally, should not be made to stumble: comp. 6:61; 1 John 2:10 . The metaphor is frequent in S. Matt. and S. Mark, occurs thrice in S. Luke (7:23, 17:1, 2), and twice in S. John. The fanatical hatred of the Jews might make Jewish Apostles stumble at the truth.

2. out of the synagogues ] Or, out of the synagogue , i.e. excommunicate you. Comp. 9:22; 12:42.

yea, the time cometh ] Better, nay, there cometh an hour . Comp. v . 25. ‘You might think excommunication an extreme measure; but ( ἀλλά ) they will go far greater lengths than this.’

that whosoever ] Literally, in order that every one who . The Divine purpose is again clearly indicated (see on 12:33). Every one , Jew and Gentile alike, will put down the Christians as blasphemers and atheists and the perpetrators of every crime. The history of religious persecution is the fulfilment of this prophecy.

doeth God service ] Better, offereth service to God . The verb expresses the offering of sacrifice (comp. Hebrews 5:1 , Hebrews 8:3 , Hebrews 9:7 ); the substantive expresses a religious service (Romans 9:4 ; Hebrews 9:1 , Hebrews 9:6 ).

3. unto you ] These words are of doubtful authority.

they have not known ] Better, they did not recognise . The verb implies that they had the opportunity of knowing; but they had failed to see that God is Love, and that Jesus came not to shut out, but to bring in, not to destroy, but to save. The very names ‘Father’ (here used with special point) and ‘Jesus’ might have taught them better things.

4. But ] Making a fresh start; But, to return (to v . 1).

have I told ] See on v . 6.

when the time ] Rather, when their hour , according to the better reading; i.e. the hour appointed for these things ( v . 2).

ye may … of them ] Better, ye may remember them, that I told you . ‘I’ is emphatic, ‘I Myself, the object of your faith.’

And these things … beginning ] Better, But these things I told you not from the beginning . Not exactly the same phrase as in 15:27 ( ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς ) but ἐξ ἀρχῆς (here and 6:64 only): the one expresses simple departure, the other consequence and continuity. There is no inconsistency between this statement and passages like Matthew 10:16-39 , Matthew 10:24 :9; Luke 6:22 , &c. ‘These things’ will cover a great deal more than the prediction of persecutions, e.g. the explanation of the persecutions, the promise of the Paraclete, &c.

because I was with you ] See notes on Matthew 9:15 .

5. I go my way to ] Or, I go away unto ; the notion is that of withdrawal (see on v . 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.

none of you asketh ] As far as words go S. Peter had asked this very question (13:36) and S. Thomas had suggested it (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.

6. I have said ] Better, I have spoken as in v . 1. A similar correction is needed in v . 4 for ‘have I told:’ it is the same Greek word in all three cases, and means ‘to speak,’ not ‘to say’ or ‘to tell.’

sorrow hath filled ] So that there is no room for thoughts of My glory and your future consolation.

7. I tell you the truth ] ‘I’ is again emphatic; ‘I who know, and who have never misled you.’ Comp. 14:2.

It is expedient ] So Caiaphas had said (11:50) with more truth than he knew; so also the taunt at the crucifixion, ‘Himself He cannot save.’ ‘That’ here = ‘in order that’ (S. John’s favourite particle, ἴνα ). Comp. v . 2 and 12:43.

I go away ] There are three different Greek verbs in vv . 5, 7, and 10, and our translators have not been happy in distinguishing them. The verb in vv . 5 and 10 should be I go away : here for ‘I go away’ we should have I depart , and for ‘I depart’ we should have I go My way . In the first the primary idea is withdrawal ; in the second, separation ; in the third, going on to a goal .

the Comforter ] The Advocate (see on 14:16). The Spirit could not come until God and man had been made once more at one . In virtue of His glorified and ascended Manhood Christ sends the Paraclete. ‘Humanity was to ascend to heaven before the Spirit could be sent to humanity on earth.’

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 .

he will reprove ] ‘Convince’ (as the margin) or convict is to be preferred (see on 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. The word occurs once in S. Matthew (18:15) and once in S. Luke (3:19); but is somewhat frequent in the Epistles. Comp. 1 Corinthians 14:24 ; Titus 1:9 , Titus 1:13 , Titus 1:2 :15; James 2:9 ; Jude 1:15 , [22], &c.

The conviction wrought by the Advocate may bring either salvation or condemnation, but it must bring one of the two. It is given to men ‘for their wealth;’ but it may ‘be unto them an occasion of falling,’ if it is wantonly set aside.

9. Of sin ] Or, Concerning sin . This naturally comes first: the work of the Spirit begins with convincing man that he is a fallen, sinful creature in rebellion against God.

because they believe not on me ] This is the source of sin 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.

10. righteousness ] The word occurs here only in this Gospel; but comp. 1 John 2:29 , 1 John 2:3 :7, 1 John 2:10 ; 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 ‘righteousness’ 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.

I go to my Father ] Better, I go away (see on v . 7) to the Father ; ‘My’ is wanting in the best texts. Once more ‘because’ explains ‘will convict,’ not ‘righteousness.’ The life of Christ on earth as the pattern for all mankind being completed, and the reconciliation of man to God being completed also, 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.

ye see me no more ] ‘Contemplate’ or behold would be better than ‘see’ comp. v . 16, 6:40, 62, 7:3, 14:19, &c.). He shews His disciples that He has sympathy for them; in speaking of His return to glory He does not forget the sorrow which they feel and expect (erroneously, as Acts 2:46 shews) always to feel.

11. Of judgment … judged ] Better, Concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world hath been judged (see on 12:31 and 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 he 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.

12 15. The Disciples and the Paraclete

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 the truth of Christ revealed by the Spirit.

12. many things to say ] They are His friends (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. ‘Now’ is emphatic (see on v . 31): at Pentecost they will receive both understanding and strength. The word here used for ‘bear’ appears again in 19:17 of Christ bearing the Cross.

13. the Spirit of truth ] See on 14:17.

he will guide you ] ‘He and no other will be your guide.’ Christ is the Way and the Truth. The Spirit leads men into the Way and thus to the Truth. But He does no more than guide: He does not compel, He does not carry. They may refuse to follow, and if they follow they must exert themselves. Contrast Matthew 15:14 ; Luke 6:39 ; Acts 8:31 .

into all truth ] Better, into all the truth , i.e. the truth in its entirety: this is very clearly expressed in the Greek.

he shall not speak of himself ] This does not mean ‘shall not speak about Himself’ but ‘ from Himself.’ The Spirit, like the Son, cannot speak what proceeds from Himself as distinct from what proceeds from the Father: He is the Source of Divine energy and truth. Comp. 5:19 and 7:18. This expression ‘from himself, from itself’ ( ἀπό ) is peculiar to S. John: comp. 11:51, 15:4.

he will shew you things to come ] Better, He shall declare to you the things that are coming . The Greek verb means ‘to announce, proclaim, declare’ rather than ‘shew.’ Note the thrice repeated ‘He shall declare to you.’ The phrase ‘the things that are coming’ is identical in form with ‘He that cometh’ (Luke 7:19 ): among these things we may place the constitution of the Church and the revelation respecting the Last Judgment and its results.

14. He shall glorify me ] Both pronouns are emphatic; ‘Me shall that Spirit of truth glorify.’ Just as the Son glorifies the Father by revealing Him (1:18; 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.

for he shall receive … unto you ] Better, because He shall take of Mine and shall declare it to you . The verb rendered ‘receive’ is the same as that rendered ‘take’ in v . 15, and ‘take’ is better, as implying that the recipient is not wholly passive ( lambanein , not dechesthai ). Comp. 10:17, 12:48, 20:22.

15. All things ] Literally, All things whatsoever: comp. 17:10.

therefore said I ] For this cause (12:18, 27) said I: see on 5:16, 18.

shall take ] Better, taketh : the Spirit is already revealing the Truth which is both of the Father and of the Son.

16 24. The sorrow of Christ’s departure turned into joy by His return

16. ye shall not see me ] Better, ye behold Me no more (comp. v . 10): the verb for ‘see’ in the second half of the verse is a more general term. When His bodily presence was withdrawn their view of Him was enlarged; no longer known after the flesh, He is seen and known by faith.

ye shall see me ] In the spiritual revelation of Christ by the Paraclete from Pentecost onwards: Matthew 28:20 .

because I go to the Father ] These words have probably been inserted to suit the next verse; the best MSS. omit them.

17. Then … disciples ] Better, Some of His disciples therefore said .

among themselves ] Better, as in 4:33, one to another ; so also in 19:24. The Greek for ‘among themselves’ (12:19) is different.

ye shall not see ] Ye behold Me not . As in the previous verse we have two different verbs for ‘see.’

and, Because I go ] They refer to what was said in v . 10. The Apostles are perplexed both about the apparent contradiction of not beholding and yet seeing and also the departure to the Father. ‘Because’ ( ὅτι ) should probably be ‘that,’ to introduce the saying ‘I go to the Father.’ As already indicated, the reason, ‘ because I go, &c.’ in v . 16 is not genuine.

18. we cannot tell what he saith ] More literally, we know not what He speaketh .

19. Now Jesus knew ] More literally, Jesus recognized or perceived (see on 8:55). We have here an indication that His supernatural power of reading the thoughts did not supersede His natural powers of observation, and perhaps was not used when the latter were sufficient: comp. 5:6, 6:15. A different verb is used for His supernatural knowledge (6:61, 64, 13:1, 3, 11, 18, 18:4, 19:28). But this distinction between ginôskein and eidenai is not always observed: comp. 2:24, 25, where ginôskein is used of supernatural knowledge. Omit ‘now’ at the beginning of the verse.

among yourselves ] Or, with one another . This is a third expression, differing from ‘among yourselves’ (12:19) and from ‘one to another (4:33). See on v . 17. The whole should run, Concerning this do ye enquire with one another , that I said .

ye shall not see me ] As in vv . 16, 17, ye behold Me not .

20. ye shall weep and lament ] In the Greek ‘ye’ comes last in emphatic contrast to the world. The verbs express the outward manifestation of grief. Comp. 20:11; Luke 23:27 . The world rejoiced at being rid of One whose life was a reproach to it and whose teaching condemned it.

and ye shall be sorrowful ] Here we have the feeling as distinct from the manifestation of grief. Omit ‘and.’

sorrow shall be turned into joy ] Not merely sorrow shall be succeeded by joy, but shall become joy. The withdrawal of the bodily presence of Christ shall be first a sorrow and then a joy. We have the same Greek construction 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 ).

21. A woman ] Or, The woman , like ‘the servant’ (15:15): in each case the article is generic, expressing the general law. The figure is frequent in O.T.; Isaiah 66:7 ; Hosea 13:13 ; Micah 4:9 . See on Mark 13:8 .

for joy ] Better, for the joy , the joy peculiar to the case.

a man ] A human being, one of the noblest of God’s creatures.

22. And ye now therefore ] Or, Ye also therefore now . As in the case of childbirth, the suffering of the disciples was the necessary condition of the joy. This suffering was to repeat itself in a new form in the work of converting souls (Galatians 4:19 ).

I will see you ] In vv . 16, 17, 19 we had ‘ye shall see Me:’ here we have the other side of the same truth; and the same verb for ‘see’ is used in all four cases. In Galatians 4:9 we have both sides of the truth stated (see on 1 Corinthians 8:3 ).

no man taketh ] Or, according to some good authorities, no one shall take . Their sorrow shall depart, their joy shall remain.

23. in that day ] Not the forty days of His bodily presence between the Resurrection and the Ascension, but the many days of His spiritual presence from Pentecost onwards. Comp. v . 26 and 14:20.

ye shall ask me nothing ] The Greek is as ambiguous as the English. It is the same verb ( erôtân ) as is used in v . 19, and may mean either, as there, ‘ask no question,’ or, ‘make no petition’ (see on 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 (I) perfect knowledge.

Verily, verily ] See on 1:51.

Whatsoever … give it you ] The better reading gives, If ye shall ask anything of the Father, He will give it you in My name . The word for ‘ask’ here and in the next verse is aitein not erôtân . Note that the answer as well as the prayer (14:13, 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.

24. nothing in my name ] Because Jesus was not yet glorified, was not yet fully known to the Apostles.

ask ] The full meaning of the Greek is go on asking ; it is the present not aorist imperative. Comp. 5:14, [8:11,] 20:17, and contrast Matthew 7:7 with Mark 6:22 .

may be full ] Or, may be fulfilled , so as to be complete and remain so. His return to the Father will gain for them (3) perfect joy. See on 15:11 and comp. 17:13; 1 John 1:4 ; 2 John 1:12 .

25 33. Summary and conclusion of these discourses

25. These things ] As in v . 1 there is some uncertainty as to how much is included. Some refer ‘these things’ to v . 19 24; others to 15:1 16:24. Perhaps even the latter is too narrow a limit. 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 (2:22) to understand at the time.

in proverbs ] Better, in allegories (see on 10:6).

but the time cometh ] Better, there cometh an hour (4:21, 23, 5:25, 16:2, 32). Omit ‘but’ with the best authorities.

shew ] Or, declare , as in vv . 13, 14, 15. The best MSS. give a different compound of the same verb as is used in vv . 13, 14, 15, but the difference cannot well be marked in English.

plainly ] Frankly, without reserve (see on 7:4 and comp. 7:13, 26, 10:24, 11:14, 54, 18:20).

26. At that day ] As in v . 23 and 14:20 from Pentecost onwards.

ye shall ask in my name ] With the perfect knowledge just promised they will discern what may be asked in His name (see on 14:13): ‘ cognitio parit orationem .’

I say not unto you ] This does not mean ‘I need not say unto you; for of course I shall do so;’ which does not harmonize with v . 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 ).

that I will pray ] The pronoun is emphatic. On the word here rendered ‘pray’ ( erôtân ) see on 14:16.

for you ] More literally, concerning you .

27. himself ] Without My intercession.

loveth you ] On the difference between the two Greek verbs for ‘love’ see on 11:5. It is the more emotional word that is used here in both cases. At first sight it appears the less appropriate to express God’s love for the disciples: but the point is that it is a Father’s love, it flows spontaneously from a natural relationship as distinct from discriminating friendship.

because ye have loved me ] Both pronouns are emphatic and are next one another in the Greek, pointing to the closeness of the relationship; because ye Me have loved . Note the ‘because;’ it is their love for Christ which wins the Father’s love (14:21, 23).

have loved … have believed ] Both perfects signify what has been and still continues. No argument can be drawn from the order of the verbs as to love preceding faith: ‘have loved’ naturally comes first on account of ‘loveth’ immediately 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.

from God ] The better reading is, from the Father (see on 1:6, 15:26). It was specially because they recognised Him as the Son sent from the Father, and not merely as a Prophet sent from God (1:6), that they won the Father’s love.

28. I came forth from ] Our translators are again right in marking a difference but not quite right in their way of doing so (see on v . 7). The Greek rendered ‘I came forth from’ here differs in the preposition used ( ek ) from that rendered ‘I came out from’ in v . 27 ( para ). It would be better to transpose the translations. In v . 27 it is the temporal mission of Christ from the Father that is meant (comp. 17:8); in v . 28 the Eternal Generation of the Son is also included (comp. 8:42). The 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.

29. said ] Rather, say .

plainly ] Literally, in plainness or openness . As in 7:4, the word here has a preposition (see on 7:26).

30. are we sure ] Better, we know ; it is the same verb as ‘thou knowest,’ and the capricious change of rendering is regrettable. There is a similarly capricious change 2 Corinthians 12:2 , 2 Corinthians 12:3 . Christ had spoken in the future tense ( v . 23); they emphatically speak in the present; ‘ now we know.’ They feel that His gracious promise is already being fulfilled.

thou knowest all things ] He had shewn them that He had read their hearts ( v . 19); like the Samaritan woman (4:29, 39) they conclude that He knows all.

by this ] Or, Herein (see on 4:37); literally ‘ in this.’ His all-embracing knowledge is that in which their faith has root.

we believe that ] The Greek might mean, ‘we believe, because, &c.’ But the A. V. is more in accordance with the context and with S. John’s usage.

forth from God ] They refer to Christ’s mission only ( v . 27), not to the Eternal Generation of the Son ( v . 28).

31. Do ye now believe? ] The words are only half a question (comp. 20:29). The belief of which they are conscious is no illusion, but it is not yet as perfect as they in their momentary enthusiasm suppose. ‘Now’ means ‘at this stage of your course;’ it is not the word used by the Apostles ( vv . 29, 30), but another of which S. John makes much use. The one ( nûn ) regards the present moment only, ‘now’ absolutely; the other ( arti ) regards the present in relation to the past and future, ‘at this crisis.’ Comp. v . 12, 13:7, 19, 33, 37, &c.

32. the hour cometh ] Better (as in v . 25), there cometh an hour .

yea, is now come ] Omit ‘now;’ the expression is not the same as 4:23.

that ye shall be scattered ] Rather, that ye may be scattered . ‘That’ = ‘ in order that ,’ expressing the Divine purpose (comp. v . 2). This part of the allegory of the sheep-fold is to be illustrated even in the shepherds themselves (10:12).

to his own ] ‘To his own home,’ as the margin has it here and the text of 19:27; or more generally ‘to his own property and pursuits,’ his belongings and surroundings. Comp. 1:11. The Greek in all three passages is the same, ‘his own’ being neuter plural.

shall leave ] Rather, may leave , depending upon ‘in order that.’

and yet ] The ‘yet’ is not expressed in the Greek, but implied, as often in S. John, in the collocation of the sentences. Comp. 1:10, 11, 3:19, 32, 6:70, 7:4, 26, 8:20, 9:30. Our translators have as a rule wisely omitted the ‘yet,’ leaving S. John’s simple constructions to tell their own meaning. Here the ‘yet’ is almost necessary.

the Father is with me ] The Divine background (as it seems to us) of Christ’s life was to Him a Presence of which He was always conscious (8:29), with the awful exception in Matthew 27:46 .

33. These things ] These farewell discourses.

might have peace ] Better, may have peace . Christ’s ministry ends, as His life began, with a message of peace (Luke 2:14 ).

ye shall have ] Rather, ye have ; the tribulation has already begun.

I have overcome ] The pronoun is very emphatic. 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 , 1 John 2:14 , 1 John 2:5 :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". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cgt/john-16.html. 1896.