Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

John 21

Verse 1

1. μετὰ ταῦτα. This vague expression (see on John 3:22) suits an afterthought which has no direct connexion with what precedes. Ἐφανέρωσεν, manifested (see on John 2:11) is one of S. John’s expressions [1]: so also is the construction ἐφ. ἑαυτόν; John 7:4, John 11:33; John 11:55, John 13:4; 1 John 3:3; Revelation 6:15; Revelation 8:6; Revelation 19:7 : see also note on John 8:53 [2]. Πάλιν, as John 21:14 shews, points back to the manifestation to S. Thomas and the rest (John 20:26).

ἐπὶ τ. θ. τ. Τιβεριάδος. By the sea of Tiberias. Contrast John 6:19; Revelation 5:13. S. John alone (see on John 6:1) uses this name for the lake [3]. The departure to Galilee is commanded Matthew 28:7; Mark 16:7. S. John does not relate the command, but gives its result (see on John 2:19, John 18:11). S. Matthew gives only the appearances in Galilee, S. Luke and [S. Mark] only those in Jerusalem. S. John gives some of both.

The repetition of ἐφανέρωσεν is quite in S. John’s style [4], Οὔτως gives a tone of solemnity to what is coming.

Verses 1-14


Verse 2

2. Probably all seven disciples belonged to the neighbourhood; we know this of four of them. For Θωμᾶς see on John 11:16, John 14:5, John 20:24; all particulars about him are given by S. John [5]. S. John alone mentions Nathanael [6]; see on John 1:46. The descriptive addition, ὁ ἀπὸ Κανᾶ τ. Γ., occurs here only: see on John 2:1. If one of οἱ τ. Ζεβεδαίου were not the writer, they would have been placed first after S. Peter, instead of last of those named [7]. The omission of their personal names is in harmony with S. John’s reserve about all that is closely connected with himself [8]. The ἄλλοι δύο are probably not Apostles; otherwise, why are the names not given?

Verse 3

3. S. Peter, as so often, takes the lead: and again we have precise and vivid details, as from an eyewitness. In the interval of waiting for definite instructions the disciples support themselves by their old employment, probably at Capernaum or Bethsaida. Night was the best time for fishing (Luke 5:5); and the ἐκείνῃ may indicate that this failure was exceptional: or it may mean ‘in that memorable night’ (John 11:49; John 11:51, John 19:27; John 19:31, John 20:19).

ἐπίασαν οὐδέν. Failure at first is the common lot of Christ’s fishers. His Presence again causing success after failure might enforce the lesson that apart from Him they could do nothing (John 15:5). Πιάζειν occurs six times in this Gospel besides here, and also Revelation 19:20 : elsewhere only Acts 3:7; Acts 12:4; 2 Corinthians 11:32 [9]. The asyndeta, λέγει, λέγουσιν, ἐξῆλθον, are in S. John’s style [10]: John 18:34-36.

Verse 4

4. ἐπὶ τὸν αἰγ. Pregnant construction; ‘He came to and stood on the beach.’ Comp. John 1:32-33, John 3:36 (John 19:13, John 20:19); Matthew 3:2. ΄έντοι, howbeit or nevertheless, implies that their not knowing was surprising: μέντοι, besides here, occurs four times in S. John (John 4:27, John 7:13, John 12:42, John 20:5); elsewhere three times [11]. For οὐκ ᾔδεισαν see on John 20:14.

Verse 5

5. παιδία. Perhaps a mere term of friendly address, like our ‘young people’ (1 John 2:14; 1 John 2:18); less affectionate than τεκνία (John 13:33; 1 John 2:1; 1 John 2:12; 1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:7; 1 John 3:18; 1 John 4:4; 1 John 5:21), which implies the filial relationship. Thus Jesus addressed the Magdalene as Γύναι before He called her by name (John 20:15-16). Προσφάγιον occurs here only: it seems to mean anything eaten with bread, especially fish: comp. ὄψον, ὀψάριον (John 6:9). Possibly it means no more than ‘something to eat:’ but it may also mean ‘fish;’ and ἔχειν in fishing and fowling is used in the sense of ‘to catch.’ Perhaps we should translate Have ye taken any fish? This agrees with the context better than enquiries about food. A negative answer is anticipated: comp. John 4:29, John 7:31, John 8:22, John 18:35.

Verse 6

6. There is no need to seek symbolical meanings for the right and left side. The difference is not between right and left, but between working with and without Divine guidance.

Verse 7

7. The characteristics of the two Apostles are again delicately yet clearly given (John 20:2-9): S. John is the first to apprehend; S. Peter the first to act, and with impulsive energy [12]. Perhaps S. Peter’s haste to reach his Lord and S. John’s abiding in the boat to finish the fishing is meant to symbolize the early martyrdom foretold to the one (John 21:18) and the indefinite abiding suggested of the other (John 21:22).

ὁ κύρ. ἐστιν. For the third and last time S. John speaks in his own narrative: comp. John 1:38, John 13:25. The interval in time and thought between ‘Rabbi, where abidest thou?’ and ‘It is the Lord!’ sums up the contents of the Gospel.

ἐπενδύτης (here only in N.T.) is neither the ἰμάτιον nor the χιτών, but the workman’s ‘frock’ or ‘blouse,’ which he gathered round him “with instinctive reverence for the presence of his Master” (Westcott). Γυμνός need not mean more than ‘stripped’ of the upper garment. “No one but an eyewitness would have thought of the touch in John 21:7, which exactly inverts the natural action of one about to swim, and yet is quite accounted for by the circumstances” (Sanday).

Verse 8

8. τ. πλοιαρίῳ. In the boat, or by means of the boat. As in John 6:17-24, πλοῖον and πλοιάριον are both used; we are not sure whether with or without a difference of meaning. This mixture of the two words is not found in the Synoptists: excepting Mark 3:9, πλοιάριον is peculiar to S. John [13]. Ἀπό, in measuring distance, occurs only in S. John’s writings (John 11:18; Revelation 14:20) [14]: 200 cubits would be about 100 yards.

Verse 9

9. ἀνθρακιάν. see on John 18:18 : the word occurs only there and here in N.T. [15]; moreover κεῖσθαι is more frequent in S. John’s writings than elsewhere. We are uncertain whether ὀψάριον and ἄρτον are generic or not, fish and bread, or a fish and a loaf: ὀψάριον occurs only in S. John (John 6:9; John 6:11) in N.T. [16].

Verse 10

10. There is again (see on John 21:3) a solemn simplicity in the narrative; John 21:10-14 open in each case without connecting particles: comp. 15. passim and John 20:13-19 [17].

ἀπὸ τ. ὀψ. We have ἐκ τῶν as a nominative John 1:24, John 7:40, John 16:17; Revelation 11:9; and as an accusative, 2 John 1:4; Revelation 2:10 : here we have ἀπὸ τῶν as an accusative. Comp. ἐξ αὐτοῦ, John 6:39. This elliptical form is frequent in S. John, elsewhere rare [18]. Comp. Luke 11:49; Luke 21:16. Ὧν (attraction) ἐπιάσατε νῦν, which ye caught Just now: the aorist is worth keeping. For νῦν comp. John 11:8; ‘Just now the Jews were seeking to stone Thee.’ As their success in fishing depended partly on the Lord’s guidance, partly on their own efforts, so their refreshment comes partly from Him and partly from themselves.

Verse 11

11. ἀνέβη. The meaning probably is ‘went on board’ the vessel, now in shallow water. The details in this verse are strong evidence of the writer having been an eyewitness: he had helped to count these ‘great fishes’ and gives the number, not because there is anything mystical in it, but because he remembers it; just as he remembers and states the six large water-pots (John 2:6), the five loaves and two fishes, the 5000 men and the 12 baskets (John 6:9-13).

The points of contrast between this Draught of Fishes and the similar miracle at the beginning of Christ’s ministry are so numerous and so striking, that it is difficult to resist the conclusion that the spiritual meaning, which from very early times has been deduced from them, is divinely intended. Symbolical interpretations of Scripture are of three kinds: [1] Fanciful and illegitimate. These are simply misleading: they force into plain statements meanings wholly unreal if not false; as when the 153 fishes are made to symbolize Gentiles, Jews, and the Trinity. [2] Fanciful but legitimate. These are harmless, and may be edifying: they use a plain statement to inculcate a spiritual lesson, although there is no evidence that such lesson is intended; as when the miracle at Cana is made to symbolize the substitution of the Gospel for the Law, or the intermittent spring at Bethesda, to mean the meagreness of Judaism in contrast to the fulness of Christ. [3] Legitimate and divinely intended. In these cases the spiritual meaning is either pointed out for us in Scripture (Luke 5:10), or is so strikingly in harmony with the narrative, that it seems reasonable to accept it as purposely included in it. Of course it requires both spiritual and intellectual power to determine to which class a particular interpretation belongs; but in the present instance we may safely assign the symbolism to the third class.

The main points are these. The two Miraculous Draughts represent the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant. The one gathers together an untold multitude of both good and bad in the troubled waters of this world. Its net is rent with schisms and its Ark seems like to sink. The other gathers a definite number of elect, and though they be many contains them all, taking them not on the stormy ocean but on the eternal shore of peace.

Verse 12

12. ἀριστήσατε. Not the afternoon or evening δεῖπνον (John 12:2, John 13:2), but the morning ἄριστον, which could be rejected before going to one’s day’s work (Matthew 22:4), is intended: see on Luke 11:37. Here the Apostles listen to the invitation with mingled perplexity, awe, and conviction. They know that He is the Lord, but feel that He is changed, and reverence restrains them from curious questions (comp. John 4:27). Thus the writer shews knowledge of the inmost feelings of Apostles: John 2:11; John 2:17; John 2:22, John 4:27; John 4:33, John 6:21, John 9:2, John 20:20 [19].

Verse 13

13. They are afraid to approach, so He comes to them; and gives them the bread and the fish which were by the fire when they landed. It is futile to ask how it was provided; but from His invariable practice before His Resurrection we may suppose that He did not create it. It is a gift from the Lord to His disciples.

Verse 14

14. τοῦτο ἤδη τρίτον. Comp. John 2:11, John 4:54. The remark in all three cases guards against a possible misunderstanding of the Synoptic narrative [20]. We have a similar construction 2 Peter 3:1. The two previous manifestations are probably those related John 20:19-23; John 20:26-29, that to the Magdalene not being counted, as not granted to the disciples: but we have not sufficient knowledge to arrange the different appearances in chronological order. See on Luke 24:49.

Verse 15

15. Note that the writer speaks of ‘Simon Peter,’ but represents the Lord as calling him ‘Simon son of John.’ This is in harmony not only with the rest of this Gospel, but with the Gospels as a whole. Although Jesus gave Simon the name of Peter, yet, with one remarkable exception (see on Luke 22:34), He never addresses him as Peter, but always as Simon. Matthew 16:17; Matthew 17:25; Mark 14:37; Luke 22:31. The Synoptists generally call him Simon, sometimes adding his surname. S. John always gives both names, excepting in John 1:41, where the surname just about to be given would be obviously out of place. Contrast in this chapter John 21:2-3; John 21:7; John 21:11 with 16, 17. Should we find this minute difference observed, if the writer were any other than S. John? [20]. This being the general usage of our Lord, there is no reason to suppose that His calling him Simon rather than Peter on this occasion is a reproach, as implying that by denying his Master he had forfeited the name of Peter. That S. John should add the surname with much greater frequency than the Synoptists is natural. At the time when S. John wrote the surname had become the more familiar of the two. S. Paul never calls him Simon, but uses the Aramaic form of the surname, Cephas.

Note also that Jesus uses ἀγαπᾷς twice, and the third time φιλεῖς (John 21:17), whereas S. Peter in all three answers says φιλῶ. The change is not accidental; and once more we have evidence of the accuracy of the writer: he preserves distinctions which were actually made. S. Peter’s preference for φιλῶ is doubly intelligible: [1] it is the less exalted word; he is sure of the natural affection which it expresses; he will say nothing about the higher love implied in ἀγαπῶ; [2] it is the warmer word; there is a calm discrimination implied in ἀγαπῶ which to him seems cold. In the third question Christ takes him at his own standard; he adopts S. Peter’s own word, and thus presses the question more home.

πλέον τούτων. More than these, thy companions, love Me. The Greek is as ambiguous as A.V. and R.V., but there cannot be much doubt as to the meaning: ‘more than thou lovest these things’ gives a very inadequate signification to the question. At this stage in S. Peter’s career Christ would not be likely to ask him whether he preferred his boat and nets to Himself. S. Peter had professed to be ready to die for his Master (John 13:37) and had declared that though all the rest might deny Him, he would never do so (Matthew 26:33). Jesus recalls this boast by asking him whether he now professes to have more loyalty and devotion than the rest.

σὺ οἶδας ὅτι φ. σε. Not only does he change ἀγαπῶ to φιλῶ, but he says nothing about ‘more than these:’ he will not venture any more to compare himself with others. Moreover he makes no professions as to the future; experience has taught him that the present is all that he can be sure of. Σύ is emphatic. This time he will trust the Lord’s knowledge of him rather than his own estimate of himself. Can all these delicate touches be artistic fictions?

βόσκε τ. ά. μ. Not only is he not degraded on account of his fall, he receives a fresh charge and commission. The work of the fisher gives place to that of the shepherd: the souls that have been brought together and won need to be fed and tended. This S. Peter must do.

Verses 15-17

15, 16, 17. Ἰωάνου (אBC1DL) for Ἰωνᾶ (Acts 2 from Matthew 16:17).

Verses 15-19

15–19. There had been an appearance to S. Peter alone (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5), and it was then, we may believe, that he was absolved. His conduct here (John 21:7) is not that of one in doubt as to his relation to his Master. But he has not yet been reinstated as chief of the Apostles. This takes place now. He received his Apostleship after the first Miraculous Draught; he receives it back again after the second.

Verse 16

16. Jesus drops πλέον τούτων, which the humbled Apostle had shrunk from answering, but retains His own word ἀγαπᾷς. With πάλιν δεύτερον comp. John 4:54 and πάλιν ἐκ δευτέρου (Acts 10:15), πάλιν ἄνωθεν (Galatians 4:9), rursus denuo. Winer, p. 755.

ποίμ. τ. προβάτιά μ. Tend, or shepherd, My sheep. Βόσκειν is ‘to supply with food,’ as of the herd of swine (Matthew 8:30; Matthew 8:33; Mark 5:11; Mark 5:14; Luke 8:32; Luke 8:34; Luke 15:15; the only other passages where it occurs in N.T.): ποιμαίνειν is ‘to be shepherd to:’ literally Luke 17:7; 1 Corinthians 9:7; figuratively Matthew 2:6; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2. Comp. Judges 1:12; Revelation 2:27; Revelation 7:17; Revelation 12:5; Revelation 19:15. It implies more of guidance than βόσκειν does. The lambs, which can go no distance, scarcely require guidance; their chief need is food. The sheep require both.

Verse 16-17

16, 17. προβάτια for πρόβατα: in John 21:16 the balance of evidence against πρόβατα is less strong than in John 21:17.

Verse 17

17. τρίτον. He had denied thrice, and must thrice affirm his love. This time Jesus makes a further concession: He not only ceases to urge the ‘more than these,’ but He adopts S. Peter’s own word φιλεῖν. The Apostle had rejected Christ’s standard and taken one of his own, about which he could be more sure; and Christ now questions the Apostle’s own standard. This is why ‘Peter was grieved’ so much; not merely at the threefold question recalling his threefold denial, not merely at his devotion being questioned more than once, but that the humble form of love which he had professed, and that without boastful comparison with others, and without rash promises about the future, should seem to be doubted by his Lord.

σὺ οἶδας· σὺ γινώσκεις. Once more (John 7:27, John 8:55, John 13:7, John 14:7) we have a sudden change between οἶδα and γινώσκε: οἶδας refers to Christ’s supernatural intuition; γινώσκεις to His experience and discernment; Thou recognisest, seest, that I love Thee. see on John 2:25.

β. τ. προβάτιά μ. One is tempted to think that ἀρνία, προβάτια, πρόβατα, supported by S. Augustine’s agnos, oviculas, oves, and apparently by the old Syriac, is right: but the balance of evidence is against it. If πρόβατα is admissible, it must (on the external evidence) come second, not third. But in any case there is a climax: leading the sheep is more difficult work than feeding the lambs; and feeding the sheep is the most difficult of all. To find healthful στερεὰ τροφή for τέλειοι Christians tasks the shepherd’s powers more than finding γάλα for νήπιοι (Hebrews 5:13).

S. Peter seems to recall this charge in his First Epistle (John 5:2-3), a passage which in the plainest terms condemns the policy of those who on the strength of this charge have claimed to rule as his successors over the whole of Christ’s flock.

Verse 18

18. ἀμὴν ἀμήν. This peculiarity of S. John’s Gospel (see on John 1:51) is preserved in the appendix to it [21]. Νεώτερος, younger than thou art now. The middle instead of ἐζώννυες σεαυτόν would have been correct, as in Acts 12:8; but then the contrast between σεαυτόν and ἄλλος would have been lost: ἐζώννυσο is ‘thou didst gird (thyself);’ ἐζώννυες σεαυτόν is ‘thou didst gird thyself.’

ἐκτενεῖς τ. χ. Either for help, or in submission to the enforced girding to which the condemned are subjected. Ὅπου οὐ θ. means to death: not that S. Peter will be unwilling to die for his Lord, but that death, and especially a criminal’s death, is what men naturally shrink from. The expression would be a strange one if ἄλλος means God, and the reference is to His equipping the Apostle for an unwelcome (!) career. And what in that case can ὄταν γηράσῃς mean?

The common interpretation that ‘stretch forth thy hands’ refers to the attitude in crucifixion, and ‘gird thee’ to binding to the cross, is precarious, on account of the order of the clauses, the taking to execution being mentioned after the execution. But it is not impossible; for the order of this group of clauses may be determined by the previous group, and the order there is the natural one. The girding naturally precedes the walking in the first half; therefore ‘gird’ precedes ‘carry’ in the second half, and ‘stretch forth thy hands’ is connected with ‘gird’ rather than ‘carry’ and therefore is coupled with ‘gird.’ Or again ‘carry thee &c.’ may possibly refer to the setting up of the cross after the sufferer was bound to it: in this way all runs smoothly.

Verse 18-19

18, 19. This high charge will involve suffering and even death. In spite of his boastfulness and consequent fall the honour which he once too rashly claimed (John 13:37) will after all be granted to him.

Verse 19

19. ποίῳ θανάτῳ. By what manner of death. This comment is quite in S. John’s style: comp. John 12:33, John 18:32 [22]. It will depend on the interpretation of John 21:18 whether we understand this to mean crucifixion or simply martyrdom. That S. Peter was crucified at Rome rests on sufficient evidence, beginning with Tertullian (Scorp. 15); and that he requested to be crucified head downwards is stated by Eusebius (H. E. III. i. 2) on the authority of Origen.

ἀκολούθει μοι. Certainly the literal meaning cannot be excluded. It is plain from ἐπιστραφείς that S. Peter understood the command literally, and began to follow, then turned and saw S. John following. The correspondence between ἀκολούθει and ἀκολουθοῦντα cannot be fortuitous. But the act is another instance of the symbolism which runs through the whole of this Gospel [23]: comp. John 3:1, John 10:22, John 13:30, John 18:1. Thus the command is also to be understood, as elsewhere in the Gospels, figuratively, the precise shade of meaning being determined by the context: comp. John 1:43; Matthew 8:22; Matthew 9:9; Matthew 19:21. Here there is probably a reference to ἀκολουθήσεις δὲ ὕστερον (John 13:36); and ἀκολουθεῖν includes following to a martyr’s death, and perhaps death by crucifixion.

Verse 20

20. The details are those of an eyewitness. With ἐπιστραφείς comp. John 20:14; John 20:16. For ὃν ἠγάπα ὁ Ἰ. and ἀνέπεσεν see on John 13:23; John 13:25.

Verses 20-23


Verse 21

21. οὖτος δὲ τί; Literally, but this man, what? Not so much, ‘what shall he do?’ as ‘what about him?’ What is the lot in store for Thy and my friend? The question arises from sympathy and the natural wish that he and his habitual companion should be treated alike. An awful but glorious future has been promised to S. Peter; what is in store for S. John? Hence the οὖν. As usual, S. Peter acts on the first impulse; and we once more see the intimacy between these two Apostles [24]: comp. John 13:6-9; John 13:24, John 18:15, John 20:1; John 20:6.

Verse 22

22. ἐὰν αὐ. θ. μέν. Christ died and rose again that He might become the Lord and Master both of the dead and the living (Romans 13:9). He speaks here in full consciousness of this sovereignty. For the use of θέλω by Christ comp. John 17:24; Matthew 8:3 (and parallels), Matthew 26:39. While θέλω asserts the Divine authority, ἐάν keeps the decision secret. ΄ένειν should be rendered that he abide; it is S. John’s favourite word which we have had so often, and this important link with the rest of the Gospel must not be lost [25]: see on John 1:33. S. Peter’s lot was to suffer, S. John’s to wait. For ‘abide’ in the sense of remain in life comp. John 12:34; Philippians 1:26; 1 Corinthians 15:6. Ἕως ἔρχομαι is literally while I am coming. The words express rather the interval of waiting than the end of it. Comp. John 9:4; Mark 6:45; 1 Timothy 4:13. This at once seems to shew that it is unnecessary to enquire whether Pentecost, or the destruction of Jerusalem, or the apocalyptic visions recorded in the Revelation, or a natural death, or the Second Advent, is meant by Christ’s ‘coming’ in this verse. He is not giving an answer but refusing one. The reply is purposely hypothetical and perhaps purposely indefinite. But inasmuch as the longer the interval covered by the words, the greater the indefiniteness, the Second Advent is to be preferred as an interpretation, if a distinct meaning is given to the ‘coming.’ This agrees with τί πρός σε; which is evidently a rebuke. There is a sense in which ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ is a safeguard against curiosity and presumption rather than a shirking of responsibility. Σύ and αὐτόν are emphatic and opposed: ‘whatever I may will respecting him, thou must follow Me. This is what concerns thee.’

Verse 23

23. ἐξῆλθεν. There went forth therefore this word unto the brethren, That disciple dieth not. Comp. Luke 7:17. Οἱ ἀδελφοί for believers generally, common in the Acts (Acts 9:30; Acts 11:1; Acts 11:29; Acts 15:1; Acts 15:3; Acts 15:22-23, &c.), is not found elsewhere in the Gospels: but we see the way prepared for it in the Lord’s words to Mary Magdalene (John 20:17), to the disciples (Matthew 23:8), and to S. Peter (Luke 22:32). The mistake points to a time when Christians generally expected that the Second Advent would take place in their own time; and the correction of the mistake points to a time when the Apostle was still living. If this chapter was added by another hand after the Apostle’s death it would have been natural to mention his death, as the simplest and most complete answer to the misunderstanding. The cautious character of the answer given, merely pointing out the hypothetical form of Christ’s language, without pretending to explain it, shews that the question had not yet been solved in fact. Thus we are once more forced back within the first century for the date of this Gospel. Godet is inclined to believe that in some mysterious way the hypothesis is a fact; and that, as the primeval Church has its Enoch, and the Jewish Church its Elijah, so the Christian Church may have its S. John, preserved in special connexion with its progress to the very end.

Verse 24

24. τούτωνταῦτα. It is more natural to understand ‘these things’ as referring to the whole Gospel and not to the appendix only. The Johannean phraseology is here of little weight as regards authorship: the Ephesian elders would naturally follow John 19:35. The change from present (μαρτυρῶν) to aorist (γράψας) indicates that the witness continues, the writing took place once for all. S. Chrysostom’s proposal to read οἶδα μέν for οἴδαμεν is quite inadmissible: but it does not follow from οἶδεν in John 19:35 that S. John would not write οἴδαμεν here. It would have been out of place in the middle of his narrative to add the testimony of the Ephesian elders to his own as to details which he saw with his own eyes at the foot of the cross. But it is not unnatural that at the close of his Gospel he should claim them as joint witnesses to the fidelity with which he has committed to writing this last instalment of evangelical and apostolic traditions. Comp. 1 John 5:18-20; 1 John 5:15; 1 John 3:14; 1 John 1:1; 3 John 1:12.

Verse 24-25


Again the question of authorship confronts us. Are these last two verses by the writer of the rest of the chapter? Are they both by the same hand? The external evidence, as in the case of the preceding verses, is in favour of their being both by the same hand, and by the writer of the first twenty-three verses, and therefore S. John. No MS. or version is extant without John 21:24, and all except the Sinaitic have John 21:25 also; nor is there any evidence that a copy was ever in existence lacking either this last chapter or John 21:24.

The internal evidence is the other way. The natural impression produced by John 21:24 is that it is not the writer of the Gospel who here bears witness to his own work, but a plurality of persons who testify to the trustworthiness of the Evangelist’s narrative. So that we possibly have in this verse a note added by the Ephesian elders before the publication of the Gospel. The change to the singular in John 21:25 would seem to imply that this verse is an addition by a third hand of a remark which the writer may have heard from S. John.

But the internal evidence is not conclusive, and the impression naturally produced by the wording of the verses need not be the right one. The aged Apostle in bringing his work a second time (John 20:30-31) to a conclusion may have included that inmost circle of disciples (to whom he had frequently told his narrative by word of mouth) among those who were able to guarantee his accuracy. With a glance of affectionate confidence round the group of devoted hearers, he adds their testimony to his own, and gives them a share in bearing witness to the truth of the Gospel. But this is less simple than the other hypothesis.

Verse 25

25. If this verse is an addition by an unknown hand it appears to be almost contemporary. The wording seems to imply that it would still be possible to write a great deal: additional materials still abound. Ἐάν with the subjunctive states an objective possibility with the prospect of a decision: Winer, p. 366. Late in the second century this possibility had ceased.

οἶμαι. The word occurs in N.T. Philippians 1:17; James 1:7 only. We should expect μηδέ after it: and Origen (Philoc. xv.) has ὡς ἄρα μηδὲ κόσμον οἶμαι χωρεῖν. The first person singular is very unlike S. John. The bold hyperbole which follows, and which may be a saying of S. John’s added by one who heard it, expresses the yearnings of Christendom throughout all ages. The attempts which century after century continue to be made to write the ‘Life of Christ’ seem to prove that even the fragments that have come down to us of that ‘Life’ have been found in their many-sidedness and profundity to be practically inexhaustible. After all that the piety and learning of eighteen hundred years have accomplished, Christians remain still unsatisfied, still unconvinced that the most has been made of the very fragmentary account of about a tenth portion of the Lord’s life on earth. What would be needed to make even this tenth complete? What, therefore, to complete the whole?

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on John 21". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.