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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

John 20

Verses 1-99

CHAP. 20

We enter now upon the third and last part of the second main division of the Gospel. The Evangelist having set before us the inner Glorification of Christ in His last Discourses (13 17), and His outer Glorification in His Passion and Death (18, 19), now gives us his record of the Resurrection and Threefold Manifestation of Christ (20).

The chapter falls naturally into five sections. 1. The first Evidence of the Resurrection (1 10). 2. The Manifestation to Mary Magdalene (11 18). 3. The Manifestation to the Ten and others (19 23). 4. The Manifestation to S. Thomas and others (24 29). 5. The Conclusion and Purpose of the Gospel (30, 31).

S. John’s Gospel preserves its character to the end. Like the rest of his narrative, the account of the Resurrection is not intended as a complete record; it is avowedly the very reverse of complete ( v . 30); but a series of typical scenes selected as embodiments of spiritual truth. Here also, as in the rest of the narrative, we have individual characters marked with singular distinctness. The traits which distinguish S. Peter, S. John, S. Thomas, and the Magdalene in this chapter are both clear in themselves and completely in harmony with what is told of the four elsewhere.

Of the incidents omitted by S. John a good many are given in the other Gospels or by S. Paul: (S. Matthew and S. Mark) the angel’s message to the two Marys and Salome; ( S. Matthew and [ S. Mark ]) the farewell charge and promise; ( S. Luke and [ S. Mark ]) the manifestation to two disciples not Apostles; ( S. Matthew ) the earthquake, angel’s descent to remove the stone, soldiers’ terror and report to the priests, device of the Sanhedrin, manifestation on the mountain in Galilee (comp. 1 Corinthians 15:6 ); ([ S. Mark ]) the reproach for unbelief; ( S. Luke ) the manifestation to S. Peter (comp. 1 Corinthians 15:5 ), conversation on the road to Emmaus, proof that He is not a spirit (24:38, 39), manifestation before the Ascension (50, 51; comp. Acts 1:6-9 ); ( S. Paul ) manifestations to the Twelve , to S. James, and to S. Paul himself (1 Corinthians 15:6 , 1 Corinthians 15:7 , 1 Corinthians 15:8 ).

To these incidents S. John adds, besides the contents of chap. 21, the gift of the power of absolution, and the manifestation on the second Lord’s Day, when S. Thomas was present.

It may be freely admitted that the difficulty of harmonizing the different accounts of the Resurrection is very great. As so often in the Gospel narrative, we have not the knowledge required for piecing together the fragmentary accounts that have been granted to us. To this extent it may be allowed that the evidence for the Resurrection is not what we should antecedently have desired.

But it is no paradox to say that for this very reason, as well as for other reasons, the evidence is sufficient. Impostors would have made the evidence more harmonious. The difficulty arises from independent witnesses telling their own tale, not caring in their consciousness of its truth to make it clearly agree with what had been told elsewhere. The writer of the Fourth Gospel must have known of some, if not all, of the Synoptic accounts; but he writes freely and firmly from his own independent experience and information. All the Gospels agree in the following very important particulars;

1. The Resurrection itself is left undescribed.

2. The manifestations were granted to disciples only, but to disciples wholly unexpectant of a Resurrection.

3. They were received with doubt and hesitation at first.

4. Mere reports were rejected.

5. The manifestations were granted to all kinds of witnesses, both male and female, both individuals and companies.

6. The result was a conviction, which nothing ever shook, that ‘the Lord had risen indeed’ and been present with them.

All four accounts also agree in some of the details;

1. The evidence begins with the visit of women to the sepulchre in the early morning.

2. The first sign was the removal of the stone.

3. Angels were seen before the Lord was seen.

(See Westcott, Speaker’s Commentary , ii. pp. 287, 8.)

1 10. The first Evidence of the Resurrection

1. The first day ] Better, But on the first day ; literally, ‘day one.’ We have the same expression Luke 24:1 .

the stone taken away ] All four Gospels note the displacement of the stone; S. Mark alone notes the placing of it and S. Matthew the sealing. The words ‘taken away from’ should rather be lifted out of : the Synoptists all speak of ‘ rolling away’ the stone.

2. Then she runneth ] She runneth therefore , concluding that the body must be gone.

Simon Peter ] His fall was probably known and his deep repentance also: he is still chief of the Apostles, and as such the one consulted first.

and to the other ] The repetition of ‘to’ implies that the two Apostles were not lodging together, although v . 3 implies that they were close to one another.

whom Jesus loved ] Perhaps the expression is meant to apply to Simon Peter also; ‘the other disciple whom Jesus loved.’ This becomes probable when we notice that the word for ‘loved’ is not that used of S. John in 19:26, 21:7, 20 ( agapân ), but the more general word ( philein ). See on 11:5.

They have taken ] She does not attempt to determine who, whether friends or foes.

we know not ] This possibly implies that other women had been with her, as stated by the Synoptists. If so, she may have outstripped them in going to the garden.

3. and that … sepulcher ] Better, and the other disciple, and they were coming towards the sepulcher .

4. So they ran ] More exactly, But they began to run .

did outrun ] Literally, ran on more quickly than , as being much the younger man. Would a writer of the second century have thought of this in inventing a narrative?

5. stooping down, and looking in ] In the Greek this is expressed in a single word, which occurs again v . 11 and Luke 24:12 , in a literal sense, of ‘bending down to look carefully at;’ and in a figurative sense in 1 Peter 1:12 and James 1:25 (see notes in both places). In Ecclus. 14:23 it is used of the earnest searcher after wisdom, in 21:23 of the rude prying of a fool.

saw ] Better, seeth , at a glance ( blepei ).

6. Then cometh , &c.] Better, Simon Peter therefore also cometh ; because S. John has remained standing there in awe and meditation. S. Peter with his natural impulsiveness goes in at once. Both Apostles act characteristically.

seeth ] Or, beholdeth ( theôrei ). He takes a complete survey, and hence sees the ‘napkin,’ which S. John in his short look had not observed.

7. the napkin ] See on 11:44: the same word is used here.

about his head ] Literally, upon His head: there is no need to mention His name. The writer is absorbed in his subject.

in a place by itself ] Literally, apart into one place .

8. Then … that other ] Better, Therefore went in also the other . He is encouraged by his older companion. Note how all the details tell of the eye-witness: he remembers even that the napkin was folded. Contrast the want of detail in Luke 24:12 .

and believed ] More difficulty has perhaps been made about this than is necessary. ‘Believed what?’ is asked. That Jesus was risen. The whole context implies it; and comp. v . 25. The careful arrangement of the grave-cloths proved that the body had not been taken away in haste as by a foe: and friends would scarcely have removed them at all. It is thoroughly natural that S. John speaks only of himself, saying nothing of S. Peter. He is full of the impression which the empty and orderly tomb made upon his own mind. S. Luke (24:12) speaks only of S. Peter’s wonder, neither affirming nor denying his belief.

9. they knew not the scripture ] S. John’s belief in the Resurrection was as yet based only on what he had seen in the sepulchre. He had nothing derived from prophecy to help him. The candour of the Evangelists is again shewn very strongly in the simple avowal that the love of Apostles failed to grasp and remember what the enmity of the priests understood and treasured up. Even with Christ to expound Scripture to them, the prophecies about His Passion and Resurrection had remained a sealed book to them (comp. Luke 24:25-27 ).

he must ] Comp. 3:14, 12:34; Matthew 16:21 , Matthew 16:26 :54; Mark 8:31 ; Luke 9:22 , Luke 9:17 :25, Luke 9:22 :37, Luke 9:24 :7, Luke 9:26 , Luke 9:44 . The Divine determination meets us throughout Christ’s life on earth, and is pointed out with increasing frequency towards the close of it. Comp. Ephesians 3:11 .

10. Then the disciples ] The disciples therefore ; because nothing more could be done at the sepulchre.

11 18. The Manifestation to Mary Magdalene

11. But Mary ] She had returned to the sepulchre after the hurrying Apostles. Mark 16:9 states definitely, what we gather from this section, that the risen Lord’s first appearance was to Mary Magdalene: the details of the meeting are given by S. John alone.

stood ] Or, continued standing , after the other two had gone.

stooped down, and looked ] See on v . 5.

12. seeth ] Or, beholdeth , as in v . 6, a long contemplative gaze.

two angels ] This is the only place where angels appear in S. John’s narrative. Comp. 1:51, 12:29, [5:4].

in white ] In the Greek ‘white’ is plural, ‘garments’ being understood, as in Revelation 3:4 : in Revelation 3:5 , Revelation 3:18 , Revelation 3:4 :4 ‘garments’ is expressed. Omit ‘the’ before ‘one’ and for ‘the other’ read ‘one;’ one at the head and one at the feet .

13. Woman ] See on 2:4, 19:26.

my Lord, and I know not ] In v . 2 it was ‘ the Lord and we know not.’ In speaking to Apostles she includes other believers; in speaking to strangers she represents the relationship and the loss as personal. These words express the burden of her thoughts since she first saw that the stone had been removed. We may reasonably suppose that the Evangelist obtained his information from Mary Magdalene herself. “The extreme simplicity of the narrative, it may be added, reflects something of the solemn majesty of the scene. The sentences follow without any connecting particles till v . 19. (Comp. c. 15)” Westcott in loco .

14. And when ] Omit ‘and.’ Perhaps she becomes in some way conscious of another Presence.

saw ] Better, beholdeth , as in vv . 6, 12.

knew not ] Christ’s Risen Body is so changed as not to be recognised at once even by those who had known Him well. It has new powers and a new majesty. Comp. 21:4; Luke 24:16 , Luke 24:37 ; Matthew 28:17 ; [Mark 16:12 ].

15. the gardener ] Because he was there at that early hour.

if thou have borne him hence ] The omission of the name is very lifelike: she is so full of her loss that she assumes that others must know all about it. ‘Thou’ is emphatic; ‘Thou and not, as I fear, some enemy.’

I will take him away ] In her loving devotion she does not measure her strength. Note that throughout it is ‘the Lord’ ( v . 2), ‘my Lord’ ( v . 13), ‘Him’ thrice ( v . 15), never ‘His body’ or ‘the corpse.’ His lifeless form is to her still Himself.

16. Mary ] The term of general address, ‘Woman’ awoke no echo in her heart; the sign of personal knowledge and sympathy comes home to her at once. Thus ‘He calleth His own sheep by name ’ (10:3).

saith unto him ] We must add with the best authorities, in Hebrew . The insertion is of importance as indicating the language spoken between Christ and His disciples. S. John thinks it well to remind Greek readers that Greek was not the language used. Comp. Acts 22:2 , Acts 26:14 . The expression here used ( Hebraïsti ) occurs only in this Gospel (5:2, 19:13, 17, 20) and in Revelation (9:11, 16:16). See on 19:37

Rabboni ] More exactly, Rabbuni . This precise form occurs also in Mark 10:51 , but has been obliterated in the A. V. It is said to be Galilean, and if so natural in a woman of Magdala. Would any but a Jew of Palestine have preserved this detail?

Master ] Or, Teacher . Its literal meaning is ‘my Master,’ but the pronominal portion of the word had lost almost all meaning. S. John’s translation shews that as yet her belief is very imperfect: she uses a mere human title.

17. Touch me not, for , &c.] This is a passage of well-known difficulty. At first sight the reason given for refraining from touching would seem to be more suitable to a permission to touch. It is perhaps needless to enquire whether the ‘for’ refers to the whole of what follows or only to the first sentence, ‘I am not yet ascended to the Father?’ In either case the meaning would be, that the Ascension has not yet taken place, although it soon will do so, whereas Mary’s action assumes that it has taken place. If ‘for’ refers to the first clause only, then the emphasis is thrown on Mary’s mistake; if ‘for’ refers to the whole of what is said, then the emphasis is thrown on the promise that what Mary craves shall be granted in a higher way to both her and others very soon. The translation ‘touch Me not’ is inadequate and gives a false impression. The verb ( haptesthai ) does not mean to ‘touch’ and ‘handle’ with a view to seeing whether His body was real; this Christ not only allowed but enjoined ( v . 27; Luke 24:39 ; comp. 1 John 1:1 ): rather it means to ‘hold on to’ and ‘cling to.’ Moreover it is the present (not aorist) imperative; and the full meaning will therefore be, ‘ Do not continue holding Me ,’ or simply, hold Me not . The old and often interrupted earthly intercourse is over; the new and continuous intercourse with the Ascended Lord has not yet begun: but that Presence will be granted soon, and there will be no need of straining eyes and clinging ands to realize it. (For a large collection of various interpretations see Meyer.)

to my Father ] The better reading gives, to the Father ; with this ‘My brethren’ immediately following agrees better. The general relationship applying both to Him and them, is stated first, and then pointedly distinguished in its application to Him and to them.

I ascend ] Or, I am ascending . The change has already begun.

my God ] The risen and glorified Redeemer is still perfect man. Comp. Revelation 3:12 . Thus also S. Paul and S. Peter speak of ‘the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Comp. Ephesians 1:3 ; 2 Corinthians 11:31 ; 1 Peter 1:3 ; and see on Romans 15:6 ; 2 Corinthians 1:3 , where the expression is blurred in the A. V.

18. came and told ] Better, cometh and telleth ; literally, cometh telling instead of the more usual ‘having come telleth.’

Thus as Mary’s love seems to have been the first to manifest itself ( v . 1), so the first Manifestation of the Risen Lord is granted to her. It confirms our trust in the Gospel narratives to find this stated. A writer of a fictitious account would almost certainly have represented the first appearance as being to the Virgin, or to S. Peter, the chief of the Apostles, or to S. John, the beloved disciple, or to the chosen three. But these are all passed over, and this honour is given to her, who had once been possessed by seven devils, to Mary of Magdala, ‘for she loved much.’ A late and worthless tradition does assign the first appearance to the Virgin; but so completely has Christ’s earthly relationship to her been severed (19:26, 27), that henceforth she appears only among the other believers (Acts 1:14 ).

19 23. The Manifestation to the Ten and others

19. Then the same day , &c.] Rather, When therefore it was evening on that day, the first day of the week. Note the great precision of the expression. ‘That day,’ that memorable day, the ‘day of days.’

Oh! day of days! shall hearts set free

No minstrel rapture find for thee?

Thou art the Sun of other days,

They shine by giving back thy rays.

Keble, Christian Year, Easter Day .

Comp. 1:39, 5:9, 11:49, 18:13, where ‘that’ has a similar meaning. Evidently the hour is late; the disciples have returned from Emmaus (Luke 24:23 ), and it was evening when they left Emmaus. At least it must be long after sunset, when the second day of the week, according to the Jewish reckoning, would begin. And S. John speaks of it as still part of the first day. This is a point in favour of S. John’s using the modern method in counting the hours: it has a special bearing on the explanation of ‘the seventh hour’ in 4:52. See notes there and on 19:14.

when the doors were shut ] This is mentioned both here and v . 26 to shew that the appearance was miraculous. After the Resurrection Christ’s human form, though still real and corporeal, is not subject to the ordinary conditions of material bodies. Before the Resurrection He was visible, unless He willed it otherwise; after the Resurrection it would seem that He was invisible, unless He willed it otherwise. Comp. Luke 24:31 .

where the disciples were ] The best authorities all omit ‘assembled.’ S. Luke says more definitely, ‘the eleven and they that were with them’ (24:33); ‘the eleven’ meaning the Apostolic company, although one was absent. It was natural that the small community of believers should be gathered together, not merely for mutual protection and comfort, but to discuss the reported appearances to the women and to S. Peter.

for fear of the Jews ] Literally, because of the (prevailing) fear of the Jews (comp. 7:13). It was not certain that the Sanhedrin would rest content with having put Jesus to death; all the less so as rumours of His being alive again were spreading.

came Jesus ] It is futile to discuss how; that the doors were miraculously opened, as in S. Peter’s release from prison, is neither stated nor implied.

Peace be unto you ] The ordinary greeting intensified. His last word to them in their sorrow before His Passion (16:33), His first word to them in their terror (Luke 24:37 ) at His return, is ‘Peace.’ Possibly the place was the same, the large upper room where they had last been all together.

20. his hands and his side ] S. Luke (24:40), who does not mention the piercing of the side, says ‘His hands and His feet,’ and adds that He told them to ‘handle’ Him, the very word used in 1 John 1:1 .

Then were the disciples ] The disciples therefore were . Their sorrow is turned into joy (16:20), joy which at first made them doubt its reality (Luke 24:41 ).

when they saw the Lord ] Till then they had seen a form, but like Mary of Magdala and the two at Emmaus, knew not whose it was.

21. Then said Jesus ] Jesus therefore said ; because now they were ready to receive it. Their alarm was dispelled and they knew that He was the Lord. He repeats His message of ‘Peace.’

as my Father , &c.] Better, As the Father hath sent Me . Christ’s mission is sometimes spoken of in the aorist tense, as having taken place at a definite point in history (3:17, 34, 5:38, 6:29, 57, 7:29, 8:42, 10:36, 11:42, 17:3, 8, 18, 21, 23, 25), in which case the fact of the Incarnation is the prominent idea. Sometimes, though much less often, it is spoken of, as here, in the perfect tense, as a fact which continues in its results (5:36; 1 John 4:9 , 1 John 4:14 ), in which case the present and permanent effects of the mission are the prominent idea. Christ’s mission is henceforth to be carried on by His disciples.

The Greek for ‘send’ is not the same in both clauses; in the first, ‘hath sent,’ it is apostellein; in the second, ‘send,’ it is pempein . The latter is the most general word for ‘send,’ implying no special relation between sender and sent; the former adds the notion of a delegated authority constituting the person sent the envoy or representative of the Sender. Both verbs are used both of the mission of Christ and of the mission of the disciples. Apostellein is used of the mission of Christ in all the passages quoted above: it is used of the mission of the disciples, 4:38, 17:18. (Comp. 1:6, 19, 24, 3:28, 5:33, 7:32, 11:3.) Pempein is used of Christ’s mission only in the aorist participle (4:34, 5:23, 24, 30, 37, 6:38, 39, 40, 44, 7:16, 18, 28, 33, 8:16, 18, 26, 29, 9:4; and in all the passages in chaps. 12 16); the aorist participle of apostellein is not used by S. John, although the Synoptists use it in this very sense (Matthew 10:40 ; Mark 9:37 ; Luke 9:48 , Luke 10:16 ). Pempein is used of disciples here and in 13:20 (of the Spirit, 14:26, 16:7).

“The general result … seems to be, that in this charge the Lord presents His own Mission as the one abiding Mission of the Father; this He fulfils through His Church. His disciples receive no new commission, but carry out His.” Westcott in loco .

send I you ] Or, am I sending you ; their mission has already begun (comp. v . 17, 17:9); and the first and main part of it was to be the proclamation of the truth just brought home to themselves the Resurrection (Acts 1:22 , Acts 1:2 :24, Acts 1:4 :2, 33, &c.).

22. he breathed on them ] The very same Greek verb (here only in N.T.) is used by the LXX. in Genesis 2:7 (Wisdom 15:11) of breathing life into Adam. This Gospel of the new Creation looks back at its close, as at its beginning (1:1), to the first Creation.

We are probably to regard the breath here not merely as the emblem of the Spirit (3:8), but as the means by which the Spirit was imparted to them. ‘Receive ye,’ combined with the action of breathing, implies this. This is all the more clear in the Greek, because pneuma means both ‘breath’ and ‘spirit,’ a point which cannot be preserved in English; but at least ‘Spirit’ is better than ‘Ghost’ We have here, therefore, an anticipation and earnest of Pentecost; just as Christ’s bodily return from the grave and temporary manifestation to them was an anticipation of His spiritual return and abiding Presence with them ‘even unto the end of the world.’

Receive ye ] Or, take ye , implying that the recipient may welcome or reject the gift: he is not a mere passive receptacle. It is the very word used for ‘ Take ’ (Matthew 26:26 ; Mark 14:22 ; Luke 22:17 ) in the account of the institution of the Eucharist; which somewhat confirms the view that here, as there, there is an outward sign and vehicle of an inward spiritual grace. The expression still more plainly implies that some gift was offered and bestowed then and there: it is an unnatural wresting of plain language to make ‘Take ye’ a mere promise. There was therefore a Paschal as distinct from a Pentecostal gift of the Holy Spirit, the one preparatory to the other. It should be noticed that ‘Holy Ghost’ is without the definite article in the Greek, and this seems to imply that the gift is not made in all its fulness. See on 14:26, where both substantive and adjective have the article.

23. Whose soever sins , &c.] This power accompanies the gift of the Spirit just conferred. It must be noticed (1) that it is given to the whole company present; not to the Apostles alone. Of the Apostles one was absent, and there were others who were not Apostles present: no hint is given that this power is confined to the Ten. The commission therefore in the first instance is to the Christian community as a whole, not to the Ministry alone.

It follows from this (2) that the power being conferred on the community and never revoked, the power continues so long as the community continues. While the Christian Church lasts it has the power of remitting and retaining along with the power of spiritual discernment which is part of the gift of the Spirit. That is, it has the power to declare the conditions on which forgiveness is granted and the fact that it has or has not been granted.

It should be noted (3) that the expression throughout is plural on both sides. As it is the community rather than individuals that is invested with the power, so it is classes of men rather than individuals on whom it is exercised. God deals with mankind not in the mass but with personal love and knowledge soul by soul. His Church in fulfilling its mission from Him, while keeping this ideal in view, is compelled for the most part to minister to men in groups and classes. The plural here seems to indicate not what must always or ought to be the case, but what generally is.

are remitted … are retained ] Both verbs are perfects, though there is some doubt about the reading as regards the former. The force of the perfect is ‘are ipso facto remitted’ ‘are ipso facto retained.’ When the community under the guidance of the Spirit has spoken, the result is complete.

retain ] i.e. ‘hold fast,’ so that they do not depart from the sinner. The word occurs here only in this Gospel. In Revelation it is used of ‘holding fast doctrine,’ &c. (2:14, 15, 25, 3:11; comp. 2 Thessalonians 2:15 ).

24 29. The Manifestation to S. Thomas and others

Peculiar to S. John

24. Thomas ] See on 11:16.

the twelve ] See on 6:67.

was not with them ] His melancholy temperament might dispose him to solitude and to put no trust in the rumours of Christ’s Resurrection if they reached him on Easter Day. And afterwards his despondency is too great to be removed by the testimony even of eye-witnesses. The test which he selects has various points of contact with the surroundings. The wounds had been the cause of his despair; it is they that must reassure him. The print of them would prove beyond all doubt that it was indeed His Lord that had returned to him. Moreover, the Ten had no doubt told him of their own terror and hesitation, and how Jesus had invited them to ‘handle Him and see’ in order to convince themselves. This would suggest a similar mode of proof to S. Thomas.

25. print … put … print … thrust ] The A. V. preserves the emphatic repetition of ‘print’ but obliterates the similar repetition of ‘put.’ The verb ( ballein ) rendered ‘thrust’ here and in v . 27 is the same as that rendered ‘put.’ Its literal meaning is ‘throw’ or ‘cast;’ but in late Greek its meaning becomes more vague and general; ‘place, lay, put.’ Comp. 5:7, 13:2, 18:11. Here put would be better in all three places.

I will not believe ] Or, I will in no wise believe ; the negative is in the strongest form. Comp. 4:48, 6:37, &c.

26. after eight days ] Including both extremes, according to the Jewish method. This is therefore the Sunday following Easter Day. We are not to understand that the disciples had not met together during the interval, but that there is no appearance of Jesus to record. The first step is here taken towards establishing ‘the Lord’s Day’ as the Christian weekly festival. The Passover is over, so that the meeting of the disciples has nothing to do with that.

again … within ] Implying that the place is the same. No hint is given as to the time of day.

then came Jesus ] Better, in the simplicity of the original, Jesus cometh .

27. saith , &c.] He at once shews to S. Thomas that He knows the test that he had demanded.

behold ] Better, see; it is the same word as S. Thomas used in v . 25.

be not ] Rather, become not . The demand for this proof did not make S. Thomas faithless, but it placed him in peril of becoming so. ‘Faithless’ and ‘believing’ are verbal as well as actual contradictories in the Greek. ‘Faithless’ and ‘faithful,’ ‘unbelieving and ‘believing’ would in this respect be better; but it is best to leave it as in the A. V.

28. And Thomas answered ] Omit ‘and.’ This answer and Christ’s comment, ‘because thou hast seen ,’ seem to shew that S. Thomas did not use the test which he had demanded. In accordance with his desponding temperament he had underrated the possibilities of being convinced.

My Lord and my God ] Most unnatural is the Unitarian view, that these words are an expression of astonishment addressed to God . Against this are (1) the plain and conclusive ‘said unto Him ;’ (2) the words ‘my Lord,’ which manifestly are addressed to Christ (comp. v . 13); (3) the fact that this confession of faith forms a climax and conclusion to the whole Gospel. The words are rightly considered as an impassioned declaration on the part of a devoted but (in the better sense of the term) sceptical Apostle of his conviction, not merely that his Risen Lord stood before him, but that this Lord was also his God. And it must be noted that Christ does not correct His Apostle for this avowal, any more than He corrected the Jews for supposing that He claimed to be ‘equal with God’ (5:18, 19); on the contrary He accepts and approves this confession of belief in His Divinity.

29. Thomas, because , &c.] ‘Thomas’ must be omitted on overwhelming evidence, although the addition of the name seems natural here as in 14:9. ‘Thou hast believed’ is half exclamation, half question (comp. 16:31).

blessed are they that have not seen ] Rather, Blessed are they that saw not. There must have been some disciples who believed in the Resurrection merely on the evidence of others. Jesus had not appeared to every one of His followers.

This last great declaration of blessedness is a Beatitude which is the special property of the countless number of believers who have never seen Christ in the flesh. Just as it is possible for every Christian to become equal in blessedness to Christ’s Mother and brethren by obedience (Matthew 12:49 , Matthew 12:50 ), so it is possible for them to transcend the blessedness of Apostles by faith. All the Apostles, like S. Thomas, had seen before they believed: even S. John’s faith did not shew itself until he had had evidence ( v . 8). S. Thomas had the opportunity of believing without seeing, but rejected it. The same opportunity is granted to all believers now.

Thus this wonderful Gospel begins and ends with the same article of faith. ‘The Word was God,’ ‘the Word became flesh,’ is the Evangelist’s solemn confession of a belief which had been proved and deepened by the experience of more than half a century. From this he starts, and patiently traces out for us the main points in the evidence out of which that belief had grown. This done, he shews us the power of the evidence over one needlessly wary of being influenced by insufficient testimony. The result is the instantaneous confession, at once the result of questioning and the victory over it, ‘My Lord and my God.’

30, 31. The Conclusion and Purpose of the Gospel

30. And many other signs truly ] The Greek cannot be exactly rendered without awkwardness: Therefore (as might be expected from what has been written here) many and other signs . The context shews that ‘signs’ must not be limited to proofs of the Resurrection: S. John is glancing back over his whole work ‘this book;’ and the ‘signs’ here, as elsewhere in this Gospel, are miracles generally. Comp. especially 12:37. The expression ‘many and other’ points the same way; many in number and different in kind from those related. The signs of the Resurrection from the nature of the case were all similar in kind.

31. but these are written ] On the one hand there were many unrecorded; but on the other hand some have been recorded. Note in the Greek the men and the de and comp. 19:23, 25. It was not S. John’s purpose to write a complete ‘Life of Christ;’ it was not his purpose to write a ‘Life’ at all. Rather he would narrate just those facts respecting Jesus which would produce a saving faith in Him as the Messiah and the Son of God. S. John’s work is ‘a Gospel and not a biography.’

that ye might believe ] That ye may believe .

that Jesus is the Christ , &c.] That those who read this record may be convinced of two things, identical in the Divine counsels, identical in fact, but separate in the thoughts of men, (1) that Jesus , the well-known Teacher and true man, is the Christ , the long looked for Messiah and Deliverer of Israel, the fulfiller of type and prophecy; (2) that He is also the Son of God , the Divine Word and true God. Were He not the latter He could not be the former, although men have failed to see this. Some had been looking for a mere Prophet and Wonder-worker, a second Moses or a second Elijah; others had been looking for an earthly King and Conqueror, a second David or a second Solomon. These views were all far short of the truth, and too often obscured and hindered the truth. Jesus, the Lord’s Anointed, must be and is not only very man but very God. Comp. 1 John 4:14 , 1 John 4:15 .

ye might have life ] Ye may have life . The truth is worth having for its own sake: but in this case to possess the truth is to possess eternal life. Comp. 1 John 5:13 . Note once more that eternal life is not a prize to be won hereafter; in believing these great truths we have eternal life already (see on 5:24).

through his name ] Rather, in His name (see on 1:12). Thus the conclusion of the Gospel is an echo of the beginning (1:4, 12). Comp. Acts 4:10 ; 1 Corinthians 6:11 .

It is quite manifest that this was in the first instance intended as the end of the Gospel. The conflict between belief and unbelief recorded in it reach a climax in the confession of S. Thomas and the Beatitude which follows: the work appears to be complete; and the Evangelist abruptly but deliberately brings it to a close. What follows is an afterthought, added by S. John’s own hand, as the style and language sufficiently indicate, but not part of the original plan. There is nothing to shew how long an interval elapsed before the addition was made, nor whether the Gospel was ever published without it. The absence of evidence as to this latter point favours the view that the Gospel was not given to the world until after the appendix was written.

Sixteen distinct marks tending to shew that chap. 21 is by S. John are pointed out in the notes and counted up by figures in square brackets, thus [1]. Besides these points it should be noticed that S. John’s characteristic ‘therefore’ occurs seven times ( vv . 5, 6, 7, 9, 15, 21, 23) in twenty-three verses.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on John 20". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.