Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

John 17

Verse 1

1. ἐπάρας. As before the raising of Lazarus (John 11:41), Jesus looks heavenwards in calm confidence as to the issue (John 16:33). The attitude is in marked contrast to His falling on His face in the garden (Matthew 26:39). Εἱς τ. οὐρ. does not prove that He was in the open air: comp. Acts 7:55; Luke 18:13.

πάτερ. This is His claim to be heard: the prayer throughout is the prayer of a son. Comp. ‘Abba, Father’ in Mark 14:36, and see Lightfoot on Galatians 4:6. For ἡ ὥρα see on John 2:4 and John 12:23. S. John loves to mark each great crisis in Christ’s life: this is the last.

δόξασον. By His return to glory (John 17:5); so that His human nature might share the Divine attributes, and thus glorify the Father by continuing with higher powers in heaven the work which He has completed on earth. Comp. Philippians 2:9-11. The tone from the first is one of triumph.

Verses 1-5


The Son was sent to give to men eternal life, which consists in the knowledge of God. This work the Son has completed to the glory of the Father, and therefore prays to be glorified by the Father.

Verse 2

2. καθὼς ἔδωκας. Even as thou gavest (John 3:35) Him authority (John 1:12) over all flesh. The authority was given once for all (John 5:27), and is the reason for the petition in John 17:1. Πᾶσα σάρξ is a Hebraism not used elsewhere in this Gospel. Comp. Matthew 24:22; Luke 3:6; Acts 2:17; Romans 3:20, &c. Fallen man, man in his frailty, is specially meant; but the Second Adam has dominion also over ‘all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field, the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea.’ Psalms 8:7-8. In the following texts ‘all flesh’ includes the brute creation; Genesis 6:19; Genesis 7:15-16; Genesis 7:21; Genesis 8:17; Genesis 9:11; Genesis 9:15-17; Psalms 136:25; Jeremiah 32:27; Jeremiah 45:5. Once more, therefore, Jewish exclusiveness is condemned. The Messiah is King of ‘all flesh,’ not of the Jews only. For the casus pendens comp. John 6:39, John 7:38, John 15:2. Note the change from neut. sing. to masc. plur. in what follows: in order that all that Thou hast given Him, He should give to them eternal life. Believers are given to Christ as a united whole; they earn eternal life as individuals: comp. John 17:24, John 1:11, John 6:37.

Verse 3

3. αὕτη δέ. But the life eternal (just mentioned) is this: ‘is’ not ‘will be’ (see on John 3:36, John 5:24, John 6:47; John 6:54); and ‘is this’ means ‘this is what it consists in’ (John 3:19, John 15:12). The truth of man’s religion depends on his conception of God. For ἵνα after οὗτος comp. John 6:29; John 6:39; John 6:49-50, John 15:12; 1 John 3:11; 1 John 3:23; 1 John 5:3; 2 John 1:6.

ἵνα γινώσκουσιν. The present indicative after ἵνα is surprising, but not very rare in late Greek: comp. 1 Corinthians 4:6; Galatians 4:17 : Winer, p. 362. The future is comparatively common; Galatians 2:4. There is no need to give ἵνα a local as distinct from a final meaning in such constructions; ‘where’ or ‘in which case’ instead of ‘in order that.’ The meaning is rather ‘that ye may continue to recognise, as you do now.’ But γινώσκουσιν, though adopted by Tischendorf and Tregelles, is rejected by Westcott and Hort, who retain γινώσκωσιν with Alford and the Revisers. (Westcott and Hort adopt δώσει for δώσῃ in John 17:2.) It is the appropriation of the knowledge that is emphasized: hence γινώσκειν, not εἰδέναι. Comp. Wisdom of Solomon 15:3. For ἀληθινόν see on John 1:9, John 4:23 : ‘the only true God’ is directed against the many false, spurious gods of the heathen. This portion of the truth the Gentiles signally failed to recognise.

ὃν ἀπ. . Χρ. Him whom thou didst send (see on John 1:33),—Jesus Christ; or, Jesus as Christ. This portion of the truth the Jews failed to recognise. But the words are not without difficulty, even when we insert the ‘as;’ and the run of the Greek words is rather against the insertion of ‘as.’ If ‘Christ’ were a predicate and not part of the proper name we should expect ‘Jesus, whom Thou didst send, as Christ.’ Probably in this verse we have the substance and not the exact words of Christ’s utterance. That He should use the name ‘Jesus’ here is perhaps improbable; that He should anticipate the use of ‘Jesus Christ’ as a proper name is very improbable; and the expression ‘the true God’ is not used elsewhere by Christ and is used by S. John (1 John 5:20). We conclude, therefore, that the wording here is the Evangelist’s, perhaps abbreviated from the actual words.

Verse 4

4. ἐδόξασα. I glorified Thee on the earth, having perfected. In confident anticipation Christ looks back from the point when all shall be accomplished, and speaks of the whole work of redemption as one act. The A.V. is very capricious throughout this chapter, rendering aorists as perfects and perfects as aorists. Comp. John 17:6; John 17:8; John 17:18; John 17:21-23; John 17:25-26. For δέδωκας see on John 3:35 : Christ did not choose His work for Himself. The ἵνα indicates God’s purpose in giving it.

Verse 5

5. This and John 17:4 are parallels: ‘I Thee glorified on earth; glorify Me Thou in heaven;’ the pronouns being placed side by side for emphasis. Καὶ νῦν means ‘now that all is completed;’ and παρὰ σεαντῷ ‘side by side with Thee, in fellowship with Thee.’ The imperfect, εἷχον, implies continual possession. The following great truths are contained in these two verses; [1] that the Son is in Person distinct from the Father; [2] that the Son, existing in glory with the Father from all eternity, working in obedience to the Father on earth, existing in glory with the Father now, is in Person one and the same.

Verse 6

6. ἐφανέρωσα. see on John 1:31. The manifestation was not made indiscriminately, but to persons fitted to receive it. Sometimes the Father is said to ‘give’ or ‘draw’ men to Christ (John 5:24, John 6:37; John 6:44; John 6:65, John 10:29, John 18:9); sometimes Christ is said to ‘choose’ them (John 6:70, John 15:16): but it is always in their power to refuse; there is no compulsion (John 1:11-12, John 3:18-19, John 12:47-48). For τετήρηκαν see on John 8:51 : the notion is that of intent watching. For τὸν λόγον and τὰ ῥήματα (John 17:8) see on John 3:34.

Verses 6-8

6–8. The basis of the intercession;—they have received the revelation given to them. The intercession itself begins John 17:9.

Verses 6-19


Verse 7

7. ἔγνωκαν. They have recognised and therefore know (John 5:42, John 6:69, John 8:52; John 8:55, John 14:9) that the whole of Christ’s work of redemption in word and act was in its origin and still is (εἰσίν) of God.

Verse 8

8. ἔγνωσανἐπίστευσαν. They recognised that His mission was Divine (see on John 16:28): they believed that He was sent as the Messiah. They had proof of the one; the other was a matter of faith.

Verse 9

9. ‘For them who have believed I, who have laboured to bring them to this belief, am praying; for the world I am not praying.’ Ἐγώ, αὐτῶν and κόσμου are emphatic. Περί indicates the subject of the petition: for ἐρωτῶ see on John 14:16. Of course this does not mean that Christ never prays for unbelievers; John 17:23 and Luke 23:34 prove the contrary: but it is for the chosen few, in return for their allegiance, that He is praying now. He could not pray for unbelievers that they should be kept (John 17:11) and sanctified (John 17:17), but that they should be converted and forgiven.

Verses 9-19

9–19. The intercession for the disciples based on their need.

Verse 10

10. τὰ ἐμά. All things that are Mine are Thine and Thine are Mine. This does not refer to persons only; it continues and also amplifies ὅτι σοί εἰσιν. The double mode of statement insists on the perfect union between the Father and the Son: what follows shews the perfect union between Christ and believers. Christ is glorified in them as the vine in its branches and fruit: they are the vehicles and monuments of the glory (1 Thessalonians 2:20). Δεδόξασμαι, ‘I have been and still am glorified.’

Verse 11

11. πάτερ ἅγιε. The expression occurs here only; but comp. Revelation 6:10; 1 John 2:20 and John 17:25. The epithet agrees with the prayer ἁγίασον αὐτούς (John 17:17), ἵνα ὦσιν καὶ αὐτοὶ ἡγιασμένοι (John 17:19). God has given His name (see on John 1:12) to Christ to reveal to His disciples; and Christ here prays that they may be kept true to that revelation of the Divine character. And even as (καθώς) the Father and Son are one in the possession of the Divine nature, so the disciples are to be kept one by the knowledge of it. Comp. Revelation 2:17; Revelation 22:4.

Verse 11-12

11, 12. for οὕς: οὕς in John 17:12 caused the omission of καί before ἐφύλαξα, a colon being placed at σου.

Verses 11-16

11–16. In John 17:6-8 the disciples’ acceptance of Christ is given as the basis of intercession for them: here another reason is added,—their need of help during Christ’s absence. This plea is first stated in all simplicity, and then repeated at intervals in the petition. Note the simple and solemn coupling of the clauses.

Verse 12

12. ἐτήρουν. The imperfect expresses Christ’s continual watching. Ἐγώ is emphatic: ‘I kept them while I was with them; but now do Thou keep them.’ Mark the change to ἐφύλαξα, I guarded: this is the protection which is the result of the watching.

ὁ υἱὸς τ. ἀπωλείας. The phrase occurs twice in N.T.; here of Judas, and 2 Thessalonians 2:3 of the man of sin.’ See on John 12:36 and comp. τέκνα ἀπολείας (Isaiah 52:4), υἱὸς θανάτου (2 Samuel 12:5). The connexion between ἀπώλετο and ἀπολείας cannot easily be shewn in English. Ἡ γραφή refers to Psalms 41:9 : see on John 10:35, John 13:18, John 12:38.

Verse 13

13. νῦν δέ. But now. Hitherto He has been with them to guard them, but now He is going away: and He is praying thus aloud in order that His words may comfort them when they remember that before He went He consigned them to His Father’s keeping. Comp. John 11:42. For τ. χαρὰν τ. ἐμήν see on John 8:31.

Verse 14

14. ἐγὼ δέδ. I, in emphatic opposition to the world, have given them the revelation of Thee; and the world hated them. The aorist expresses the single act of hate in contrast to the gift which they continue to possess. These are the two results of discipleship; Christ’s protection with the gift of God’s word and the world’s hate.

Verse 15

15. ἐκ τ. πονηροῦ. From the evil one: comp. 1 John 2:13-14; 1 John 3:12, and especially John 5:18-19. The world and the Gospel are regarded as in ceaseless opposition in S. John’s writings, and the evil one is ‘the ruler of this world’ (John 12:31, John 16:11). Just as Christ is that in which His disciples live and move, so the evil one is that out of which (ἐκ) He prays that they may be kept. Believers are ἐν τῷ ἀληθινῷ, ἐν τῷ υἱῷ αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ (1 John 5:20): but the world ἐν τῷ πονηρῷ κεῖται. In 1 John 4:4 we have the opposite mode of statement; Christ is in believers and the evil one is in the world. All these passages seem to shew that τοῦ πονηροῦ must be masculine.

Verse 16

16. What was stated in John 17:14 as the reason for the world’s hate is repeated as the introduction to a new petition for not merely protection but sanctification.

Verse 17

17. ἁγίασον. Sanctify or consecrate. It expresses God’s destination of them for their work and His endowment of them with the powers necessary for their work. The word is used of God’s consecration of Jeremiah, Moses, and the Chosen People (Jeremiah 1:5; Sirach 49:7; Sirach 45:4; 2 Maccabees 1:25). This prayer has been called “the Prayer of Consecration.” The Truth in which they are consecrated is the whole Christian revelation, the new environment in which believers are placed for their sanctification; just as a sickly wild plant is strengthened and changed by being transplanted into a garden. For ὁ λόγος ὁ σός see on John 8:31 : God’s revelation as a whole is meant, not any single utterance or collection of utterances: see on John 3:34.

Verse 19

19. Christ does for Himself that which He prays the Father to do for His disciples. In John 10:36 He speaks of Himself as consecrated by the Father; set apart for a sacred purpose. But only thus far is the consecration of Christ and of His disciples the same. In them it also implied redemption and cleansing from sin; and in this sense ἁγιάζω is frequently connected with καθαρίζω (2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 5:26; 2 Timothy 2:21; Hebrews 9:13). The radical meaning of the word is not separation, as is sometimes stated, but holiness, which involves separation, viz. the being set apart for God. In O. T. consecration is a ritual act; in N.T. a spiritual act, the consecration of the heart and will to God. Ἐν ἀληθείᾳ, in truth and reality, not in mere name, is different from ἐν τῇ ἀληθείᾳ, in the Truth (see on John 17:17). As a Priest consecrated by the Father (John 10:36) He consecrates Himself as a Sacrifice (Ephesians 5:2), and thereby obtains a real internal consecration for them through the Paraclete (John 16:7).

Verse 20

20. πιστευόντων. Present: the future body of believers is regarded by anticipation as already in existence: the Apostles are an earnest of the Church that is to be. The order emphasizes the fact that those who believe on Christ believe through the Apostles’ word.

Verses 20-26


Christ having prayed first for the Author of salvation, and then for the instruments of the work, now prays for the objects of it. The limitation stated in John 17:9 is at an end: through the Church He prays for the whole race of mankind (John 17:21).

Verse 21

21. ἓν ὦσιν. This is the purpose rather than the purport of the prayer: Christ prays for blessings for His Church with this end in view—that all may be one.

καθώς depends on the second ἵνα, not on the first (comp. John 13:34): the unity of believers is even as the unity of the Father with the Son (John 10:30); not a mere moral unity of disposition, but a vital unity, in which the members share the life of one and the same organism (Romans 12:4-5). Mere agreement in opinion and aim would not convert the world; whereas the eternal unity of believers will produce such external results (‘see how these Christians love one another’), that the world will believe that God sent their Master. Christian unity and love (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31; 1 Corinthians 13) is a moral miracle, a conquest of the resisting will of man, and therefore more convincing than a physical miracle, which is a conquest of unresisting matter. Hence the quarrels of Christians are a perpetual stumbling-block to the world.

The parallel between this verse and 1 John 1:3 is remarkable. If ἀπαγγέλλομεν refers to the Gospel and not to the Epistle, as is probable, then S. John wrote his Gospel in order that this prayer of Christ might be fulfilled.

Verse 22

22. δέδωκας. see on John 3:35. The meaning of this gift of δόξα is clear from John 17:24; the glory of the ascended and glorified Christ in which believers are His συνκληρονόμοι (see on Romans 8:17). In full assurance of victory (John 16:33), Jesus speaks of this glory as already given back to Him (John 17:5) and shared with His followers.

Verses 22-24

22–24. Having prayed for them with a view to their unity, Jesus passes to His final petition, a share in His glory for His disciples. In leading up to this He states what He Himself has done for them: κἀγώ is emphatic.

Verse 23

23. The basis of the unity of believers is their union with Christ and through Him with the Father: in this way they are perfected into one, completed and made one. It is in the unity that the completeness consists. For τελειοῦσθαι comp. 1 John 2:5; 1 John 4:12; 1 John 4:17-18; for εἰς ἕν comp. John 11:52 (1 John 5:8).

γινώσκῃ. Come to know, recognise (John 17:3) gradually and in time. This is the second effect of the unity of Christians, more perfect than the first. The first (John 17:21) was that the world is induced to believe that God sent Christ; the second is that the world comes to know that God sent Christ, and moreover that He loved the world even as He loved Christ. The σύ and ἐμέ in what follows are emphatic.

Verse 24

24. πατήρ. Comp. John 17:1; John 17:5; John 17:11; John 17:25, John 11:41, John 12:27. The relationship is the ground of appeal; He knows that His ‘will’ is one with His Father’s. The position of ὅ δέδωκάς μοι (see on John 17:2) is remarkable: the fact of the gift is another ground of appeal.

θέλω. The expression, as used here by Christ, is unique: but comp. John 21:22; Matthew 8:3; Matthew 23:37; Matthew 26:39; Luke 12:49. It is His last will and testament, which the Christ on the eve of His death here deposits in the Father’s hands. For τ. δόξαν τ. ἐμήν see on John 8:31 : it is not the glory of the Word, the Eternal Son, which was His in His equality with the Father, but the glory of Christ, the Incarnate Son, with which the risen and ascended Jesus was endowed. In sure confidence Christ speaks of this as already given, and wills that all believers may behold and share it. Thus two gifts of the Father to the Son meet and complete one another: those whom He has given behold the glory that He has given. See on John 12:24.

καταβολῆς κόσμου. Christ thrice uses this expression; here, Luke 11:50; Matthew 25:34. Two of those who heard it reproduce it (1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8). Comp. Ephesians 1:4; Hebrews 4:3; Hebrews 9:26; Hebrews 11:11.

Verse 25

25. πατὴρ δίκαιε. The epithet (comp. John 17:11) harmonizes with the appeal to the justice of God which follows, which is based on a simple statement of the facts. The world knew not God; Christ knew Him; the disciples knew that Christ was sent by Him. ‘Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?’ Καί before ὁ κόσμος may be rendered ‘indeed:’ ‘it is true the world knew Thee not, but yet, &c.’

Verse 25-26

25, 26. SUMMARY

Verse 26

26. ἐγνώρισα. Shew in translation that the verb is cognate with ἔγνων in John 17:25; made known. In both cases the aorist should be kept in English. Christ knows the Father and makes known His name, i.e. His attributes and will (see on John 1:12), to the disciples. This imparting of knowledge is already accomplished in part,—‘I made known’ (comp. John 15:15); but the knowledge and the love which imparts it being alike inexhaustible, there is room for perpetual instruction throughout all time, especially after the Paraclete has been given,—‘I will make known’ (comp. John 14:26, John 16:13). With the double accusative, ἣν ἠγάπησάς με comp. John 7:24; Revelation 16:9; Ephesians 2:4 : this love is to rule in their hearts as a guiding principle, without which they cannot receive the knowledge here promised; ‘he that loveth not, knoweth not God (1 John 4:8).

κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτοῖς. These last words of Christ’s mediatorial Prayer are the thread which runs through all these farewell discourses. He is going away and yet abides with them. His bodily presence passes away, His spiritual presence remains for ever; not seen with the eye without, but felt as life and strength within. Having known Christ after the flesh, now they know Him so no more: they are in Christ, a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:16-17).

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on John 17". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.