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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

John 5



In chaps. 5 and 6 the word ‘life’ occurs 18 times; in the rest of the Gospel 18 times. ‘Thy son liveth’ (John 4:51) leads up to this subject.

This chapter falls into two main divisions; [1] The Sign at the Pool of Bethesda and its Sequel (1–16); [2] The Discourse on the Son as the Source of Life (17–47).

Verse 1

1. μετὰ ταῦτα. See on John 3:22.

ἑορτὴ τ. ABD, Origen, and many later authorities omit the article, which though very ancient, was probably inserted owing to a belief that Tabernacles or the Passover was the feast intended. Insertion would be more likely than omission. If ἑορτή is the true reading, this alone is almost conclusive against its being the Passover; S. John would not call the Passover ‘a feast of the Jews.’ Moreover in all other cases where he mentions Passovers he lets us know that they are Passovers and not simply feasts, John 2:13, John 6:4, John 11:55, &c. He gives us three Passovers; to make this a fourth would be to put an extra year into our Lord’s ministry for which scarcely any events can be found, and of which there is no trace elsewhere. In John 7:19-24 Jesus justifies the healing at this feast. Would He go back to an event like this after a year and a half? Almost every other feast, and even the Day of Atonement, has been suggested; but the only one which fits in satisfactorily is Purim. We saw from John 4:35 that the two days in Samaria were either in December or January. The next certain date is John 6:4, the eve of the Passover, i.e. April. Purim, which was celebrated in March (14th and 15th Adar), falls just in the right place in the interval. This feast commemorated the deliverance of the Jews from Haman, and took its name from the lots which he caused to be cast (Esther 3:7; Esther 9:24; Esther 9:26; Esther 9:28). It was a boisterous feast, and some have thought it unlikely that Christ would have anything to do with it. But we are not told that He went to Jerusalem in order to keep the feast; Purim might be kept anywhere. More probably He went because the multitudes at the feast would afford great opportunities for teaching. Moreover, it does not follow that because some made this feast a scene of unseemly jollity, therefore Christ would discountenance the feast itself. Assuming Purim to be right, why does S. John not name it? Not because it was without express Divine sanction; the Dedication (John 10:22) was a feast of man’s institution. More probably because Purim had no reference to either Christ or His work. ‘The promised salvation is of the Jews,’ and S. John is ever watchful to point out the connexion between Jesus and the O.T. The Passover and Feast of Tabernacles pointed clearly to Him; the Feast of Dedication pointed to His work, the reconsecration of the Jewish people to Jehovah. To refer the political festival of Purim to Him whose kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36), might cause the gravest misunderstanding. The feast here has no symbolical meaning, but is a barren historical fact; and the Evangelist leaves it in obscurity.

ἀνέβη. Went up, because to the capital.

Verses 1-9


Verse 2

2. ἔστιν. The present tense is no evidence that this Gospel was written before the destruction of Jerusalem. S. John might easily write of the place as he remembered it. Even if the building were destroyed the pool would remain; and such a building, being of the nature of a hospital, would possibly be spared. See on John 11:18.

ἐπὶ τῇ προβατικῇ κ.τ.λ. Reading and interpretation are somewhat uncertain: κολυμβήθρα is preferable to κολυμβήθρᾳ, ἡ ἐπιλεγομένη to τὸ λεγόμενον, and Βηθζαθά to Βηθεσδά or Βηθσαϊδά. It is better to supply πύλῃ rather than ἀγορᾷ with προβατικῇ, although the ellipse of πύλῃ occurs nowhere else; for we know from Nehemiah 3:1; Nehemiah 3:32; Nehemiah 12:39, that there was a sheep-gate. It was near the Temple, for by it sacrifices probably entered the Temple. There is evidence, however, that there were two pools at this place, and so we may translate, Now there is at Jerusalem, by the sheep-pool, the pool (or, reading τὸ λεγ., the place) called, &c. We cannot be sure from ἐπιλεγομένη (‘surnamed’) that the pool had some other name as well. ‘The pool’ might be the name, Bethzatha the surname. Beth-esda = ‘House of Mercy,’ or (-Aschada) ‘of outpouring,’ or (estâu) ‘of the Portico.’ Bethzatha may mean ‘House of the Olive.’ The traditional identification with Birket Israel is not commonly advocated now. The ‘Fountain of the Virgin’ is an attractive identification, as the water is intermittent to this day. This fountain is connected with the pool of Siloam, and some think that Siloam is Bethesda. That S. John speaks of Bethesda here and Siloam in John 9:7, is not conclusive against this: for Bethesda might be the name of the building and Siloam of the pool, which would agree with ἐπιλεγομένη, as above.

Ἑβραϊστί. In Aramaic, the language spoken at the time, not the old Hebrew of the Scriptures. See on John 20:16. The word occurs only in this Gospel (John 19:13; John 19:17; John 19:20, John 20:16) and in Revelation (John 9:11, John 16:16). See on John 1:14, John 4:6, John 7:30, John 11:44, John 15:20, John 9:37, John 20:16.

στοάς. Colonnades or cloisters. These would shelter the sick. The place seems to have been a kind of charitable institution, and Jesus, we may suppose, had come to heal this patient.

Verse 3

3. τυφλ., χ., ξ. The special kinds of ἀσθενοῦντες. The words which follow in T.R., and the whole of John 5:4 are an interpolation, though a very ancient one, for it was known to Tertullian (De Bapt. v.). “The whole passage is omitted by the oldest representatives of each great group of authorities” (Westcott). The conclusion of John 5:3 was added first as a gloss on John 5:7; and John 5:4 may represent the popular belief with regard to the intermittent bubbling of the healing water, first added as a gloss, and then inserted into the text. The water was probably mineral, and the people may have been right in supposing that it was most efficacious when it was most violent. The MSS. which contain the insertion vary very much.

Verse 4

4. Omit the whole verse, with אBC1D against AL and the majority of later authorities; a gloss probably embodying an ancient tradition. Insertion in this case is easily explained, omission not.

Verse 5

5. ἔτη. Accusative after ἔχων, like χρόνον in John 5:6; having (passed) thirty-eight years in his infirmity. Not that he was 38 years old, but had had this malady 38 years. To suppose that S. John regards him as typical of the nation, wandering 38 years in the wilderness and found paralysed by the Messiah, is perhaps fanciful.

Verse 6

6. γνούς. Perhaps supernaturally, as He knew the past life of the Samaritan woman (see on John 2:25): but He might learn it from the bystanders; the fact would be well known.

θέλεις. Dost thou wish? Note that the man does not ask first. Here and in the case of the man born blind [9], as also of Malchus’ ear (Luke 22:51), Christ heals without being asked to do so. Excepting the healing of the royal official’s son all Christ’s miracles in the Fourth Gospel are spontaneous. On no other occasion does Christ ask a question without being addressed first: why does He now ask a question of which the answer was so obvious? Probably in order to rouse the sick man out of his lethargy and despondency. It was the first step towards the man’s having sufficient faith: he must be inspired with some expectation of being cured. Comp. S. Peter’s Βλέψον εἰς ἡμᾶς (Acts 3:4). The question has nothing to do with religious scruples; ‘Art thou willing to be made whole, although it is the Sabbath?’

Verse 7

7. ἄνθρ. οὐκ ἔχω. Not only sick, but friendless. See on John 4:11.

ὅταν ταραχθῇ. Whenever &c. The disturbance took place at irregular intervals: hence the need to wait and watch for it.

βάλῃ. Literally, throw me in; perhaps implying that the gush of water did not last long, and there was no time to be lost in quiet carrying. But in this late Greek βάλλειν has become weakened in meaning: John 12:6, John 13:2, John 18:11, John 20:25; Matthew 9:2; Matthew 9:17; Matthew 10:34.

ἔρχομαι ἐγώ. Unaided and therefore slowly.

ἄλλος. Not ἄλλοι; one other is hindrance enough, so small is the place in which the bubbling appeared.

Verse 8

8. ἔγειρε, ἆρον. As with the paralytic (Mark 2:9), Christ does not ask as to the man’s faith: He knew that he had it; and the man’s attempting to rise and carry his bed after 38 years of impotence was an open confession of faith.

κράβαττον. Grabatus (Cic. Div. II. LXIII.); a pallet: probably only a mat or rug, still common in the East. The word is said to be Macedonian (Mark 2:4; Mark 6:55; Acts 5:15; Acts 9:33).

Verses 8-11

8–11. κράβαττον is the form now generally received in N.T. for κράββατον.

Verse 9

9. ἦρενπεριεπάτει. The taking up took place once for all (aor.), the walking continued (imp.): comp. John 4:27; John 4:30; John 4:40; John 4:47; John 4:50, John 6:66, John 11:27. It is scarcely necessary to discuss whether this miracle can be identical with the healing of the paralytic let down through the roof (Matthew 9; Mark 2; Luke 5). Time, place, details and context are all different, especially the important point that this miracle was wrought on the Sabbath.

Verses 9-16


ἦν δὲ σάββατον. Now on that day was a Sabbath. This is the text for what follows. Jesus had proclaimed Himself Lord of the Temple (see on John 2:17); He now proclaims Himself Lord of the Sabbath. This is a new departure: ritual must give way to love. The fourth commandment was the favourite sphere of Jewish religiousness. By ostentatious rigour in enforcing it the Pharisees exhibited their zeal for the Law. Here, therefore, Jesus confronted them. He came to vindicate the Law and make it once more lovable. So long as it remained an iron taskmaster it would keep men from Christ, instead of being a παιδαγωγός to bring them to Him (Galatians 3:24).

Verse 10

10. οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι. The hostile party, as usual, and perhaps members of the Sanhedrin (John 1:19). They ignore the cure, and notice only what can be attacked. They had the letter of the law strongly on their side: comp. Exodus 23:12; Exodus 31:14; Exodus 35:2-3; Numbers 15:32; Nehemiah 13:15; and especially Jeremiah 17:21. Acts of healing (except in urgent cases) and carrying furniture were among the thirty kinds of work forbidden by the fourth commandment, according to Rabbinical interpretation.

τῷ τεθεραπευομένῳ. To the man that had been cured. Contrast ὁ ἰαθείς in John 5:13.

Verse 11

11. ὁ ποιήσας. The man’s defiance of them in the first flush of his recovered health is very natural. He means, ‘if He could cure me of a sickness of 38 years, He had authority to tell me to take up my bed.’ They will not mention the cure; he flings it in their face. There is a higher law than that of the Sabbath, and higher authority than theirs. Comp. the conduct of the blind man, chap. 9. The attitude of both parties throughout is thoroughly natural.

ἐκεῖνος. Even He, with emphasis: S. John’s characteristic use of ἐκεῖνος; see on John 1:18, and comp. Mark 7:15; Mark 7:20; Romans 14:14.

Verse 12

12. ὁ ἄνθρ. Who is the man? ‘man,’ implying a contemptuous contrast with the law of God. Again they ignore the miracle and attack the command. They do not ask, ‘Who cured thee, and therefore must have Divine authority?’ but, ‘Who told thee to break the Sabbath, and therefore could not have it?’ Christ’s command was perhaps aimed at erroneous views about the Sabbath.

Verse 13

13. ἐξένευσεν. Withdrew or turned aside: literally (νεύω) ‘stooped out of the way of,’ ‘bent aside to avoid.’ Here only in N.T. It might mean (νέω) ‘swam out of,’ which would be a graphic expression for making one’s way through a surging crowd and natural in a fisherman of the sea of Galilee: but LXX. in Judges 4:18 is certainly νεύω not νέω (comp. 2 Kings 2:24; 2 Kings 23:16).

ὄχλου ὄντος. This is ambiguous: it may mean why He withdrew, viz. to avoid the crowd, or how He withdrew, viz. by disappearing in the crowd. Both make good sense.

Verse 14

14. μετὰ ταῦτα. see on John 3:22, John 9:35. Probably the same day; we may suppose that one of his first acts after his cure would be to offer his thanks in the Temple. On John 5:13-14 S. Augustine writes, “It is difficult in a crowd to see Christ; a certain solitude is necessary for our mind; it is by a certain solitude of contemplation that God is seen.… He did not see Jesus in the crowd, he saw Him in the Temple. The Lord Jesus indeed saw him both in the crowd and in the Temple. The impotent man, however, does not know Jesus in the crowd; but he knows Him in the Temple.” For ἴδε see on John 1:29.

μηκέτι ἁμάρτανε. Present imperative; continue no longer in sin. Comp. [John 8:11,] John 20:17; 1 John 3:6 The man’s conscience would tell him what sin. Comp. [John 8:7]. What follows shews plainly not merely that physical suffering in the aggregate is the result of sin in the aggregate, but that this man’s 38 years of sickness were the result of his own sin. This was known to Christ’s heart-searching eye (John 2:24-25), but it is a conclusion which we may not draw without the clearest evidence in any given case. Suffering serves other ends than punishment: ‘whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth;’ and comp. John 9:3.

χεῖρον. Not necessarily hell: even in this life there might be a worse thing than the sickness which had consumed more than half man’s threescore and ten. So terrible are God’s judgments; so awful is our responsibility. Comp. Matthew 12:45; 2 Peter 2:20.

Verse 15

15. τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις. See on John 1:19. Authorities differ as to whether εἶπεν or ἀνήγγειλεν is the verb. If the latter is correct, S. John perhaps intimates that the man’s announcement was virtually a prophetic declaration (comp. John 4:25, John 16:13-15; John 16:25; 1 John 1:5; the only places where he uses the word). But in no case need we suppose that the man purposes to convert ‘the Jews.’ On the other hand he does not act in malice against Jesus; in that case he would have said ‘He that bade me carry my bed.’ But he retains his old defiance (John 5:11). He had good authority for breaking the Sabbath—One who could work miracles; and this was the famous Teacher from Galilee.

Verse 16

16. διὰ τοῦτο. For this cause. We should mark the difference between διὰ τοῦτο (John 5:18, John 6:65, John 7:21-22, John 8:47, John 9:23, John 10:17, John 12:39, John 13:11, John 15:19, John 16:15) and οὖν, therefore.

ἐδίωκον. Once more we have contrasted effects of Christ’s work (see on John 2:16). The man healed returns thanks in the Temple, and maintains the authority of Jesus over the Sabbath: ‘the Jews’ persecute Him. This is the first declaration of hostility, and it comes very early in the ministry. Note the imperfects ἐδίωκον, ‘continued to persecute’; the hostility is permanent: ἐποίει, ‘was wont to do’; He went counter to the Law on principle. Ὅτι ἐποίει may be either the Jews’ or S. John’s statement. Perhaps some of the unrecorded miracles (John 2:23, John 4:45) were wrought on the Sabbath. His having convicted them of publicly profaning the Temple (John 2:14) would make them the more eager to retaliate for a public profanation of the Sabbath. Comp. a similar result in Galilee (Luke 6:1-11).

Verse 17

17. ἕως ἄρτι. See on John 2:10. My Father is working even until now; I am working also. From the Creation up to this moment God has been ceaselessly working for man’s salvation. From such activity there is no rest, no Sabbath: for mere cessation from activity is not of the essence of the Sabbath; and to cease to do good is not to keep the Sabbath but to sin. Sabbaths have never hindered the Father’s work; they must not hinder the Son’s. Elsewhere (Mark 2:27) Christ says that the Sabbath is a blessing not a burden; it was made for man, not man for it. Here He takes far higher ground for Himself. He is equal to the Father, and does what the Father does. Mark 2:28 helps to connect the two positions. If the Sabbath is subject to man, much more to the Son of Man, who is equal to the Father. Is not the Law-Giver greater than His laws? Note the co-ordination of the Son’s work with the Father’s.

Verses 17-18

17, 18. Defence of healing on the Sabbath based on the relation of the Son to the Father.

Verses 17-30


Verses 17-47


Verse 18

18. διὰ τοῦτο. See on John 5:16. ΄ᾶλλον shews that ἐδίωκον in John 5:16 includes attempts to compass His death. Comp. Mark 3:6. This is the blood-red thread which runs through the whole of this section of the Gospel; John 7:1; John 7:19; John 7:25, John 8:37; John 8:40; John 8:59, John 10:31, John 11:53, John 12:10.

ἔλυεν. Was loosing or relaxing, making less binding; solvebat. Not a single occasion, but a general principle, was in question. Comp. John 7:23, and see on John 10:35 : Matthew 5:19; Matthew 18:18.

ἴσον ἑ. π. τ. θ. They fully understand the force of the parallel statements, ‘My Father is working; I am working also,’ and the exclusive expression ‘My Father,’ not ‘our Father’ (John 8:41). ‘Behold,’ says S. Augustine, ‘the Jews understand what the Arians fail to understand.’ If Arian or Unitarian views were right, would not Christ at once have explained that what they imputed to Him as blasphemy was not in His mind at all? But instead of explaining that He by no means claims equality with the Father, He goes on to reaffirm this equality from other points of view: see especially John 5:23.

Verse 19

19. οὐ δ. ὁ υἱὸς π. ἀφ' . οὐδέν. It is morally impossible for Him to act with individual self-assertion independent of God, because He is the Son: Their Will and working are one. It was to this independent action that Satan had tempted Him (comp. ‘Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven’). The Jews accuse Him of blasphemy; and blasphemy implies opposition to God: but He and the Father are most intimately united. See on John 1:51.

ἀφ' ἑαυτοῦ. The expression is peculiar to S. John: comp. John 5:30, John 7:17; John 7:28, John 8:28; John 8:42, John 11:51, John 14:10, John 15:4, John 16:13. There is only one πηγὴ τῆς Θεότητος: the Son must in some sense be dependent; the very idea implies it. Comp. ‘I have not done them of mine own mind’ (ἀπ' ἐμαυτοῦ), Numbers 16:28.

ἐὰν μή τι βλ. Unless He seeth the Father doing it.

ἃ γὰρ ἄν. The negative statement is explained by a positive one. The Son cannot act of Himself, for He is ever engaged in doing the Father’s work, whatsoever it may be.

Verses 19-20

19, 20. Intimacy of the Son with the Father further enforced.

Verse 20

20. ὁ γὰρ π. Moral necessity for the Son’s doing what the Father does. The Father’s love for the Son compels Him to make known all His works to Him; the Son’s relation to the Father compels Him to do what the Father does. The Son continues on earth what He had seen in heaven before the Incarnation.

φιλεῖ. Some good authorities read ἀγαπᾷ (perhaps from John 3:35), but φιλεῖ is right. Φιλεῖν (amare) denotes affection resulting from personal relationship; ἀγαπᾷν (diligere) denotes affection resulting from deliberate choice: see on John 11:5, John 21:15.

μείζονα τ. Greater works than these will He shew Him. ‘The Father will give the Son an example of greater works than these healings, the Son will do the like, and ye unbelievers will be shamed into admiration.’ He does not say that they will believe. ‘Works’ is a favourite term with S. John to express the details of Christ’s work of redemption, much as ῥήματα in relation to λόγος (see on John 3:34). Comp. John 5:36, John 9:4, John 10:25; John 10:32; John 10:37, John 14:11-12, John 15:24. Of these passages, John 14:12 is analogous to this, shewing that what the Father does for the Son, the Son does for those who believe on Him.

Verse 21

21. ἐγείρει τ. ν. This is one of the ‘greater works’ which the Father sheweth the Son, and which the Son imitates, the raising up those who are spiritually dead. Not all of them: the Son imparts life only to ‘whom He will:’ and He wills not to impart it to those who will not believe. The ‘whom He will’ would be almost unintelligible if actual resurrection from the grave were intended.

Verses 21-27

21–27. The Father imparts to the Son the power of raising the spiritually dead. It is very important to notice that ‘raising the dead’ in this section is figurative; raising from moral and spiritual death: whereas the resurrection (John 5:28-29) is literal; the rising of dead bodies from the graves. It is impossible to take both sections in one and the same sense, either figurative or literal. The wording of John 5:28 and still more of John 5:29 is quite conclusive against spiritual resurrection being meant there: what in that case could ‘the resurrection of damnation’ mean? John 5:24-25 are equally conclusive against a bodily resurrection being meant here: what in that case can ‘an hour is coming, and now is’ mean?

Verses 21-29

21–29. The intimacy of the Son with the Father proved by the twofold power committed to the Son (a) of communicating spiritual life, (b) of causing the bodily resurrection of the dead.

Verse 22

22. οὐδὲ γὰρ ὁ π. For not even doth the Father (to Whom judgment belongs) judge any man. The Son therefore has both powers, to make alive whom He will, and to judge: but the second is only the corollary of the first. Those whom He does not will to make alive are by that very fact judged, separated off from the living, and left in the death which they have chosen. He does not make them dead, does not slay them. They are spiritually dead already, and will not be made alive. As in John 3:17-18, the context shews that the judgment is one of condemnation. Note the emphatic position of πᾶσαν.

Verse 23

23. οὐ τιμᾷ. By not knowing the Father’s representative.

Verse 24

24. ὁ τ. λ. μ. ἀκούων. This shews that οὓς θέλει (John 5:21) implies no arbitrary selection. Each decides for himself whether he will hear and believe and thus have life.

πιστ. τῷ πέμψαντι. Believeth Him that sent (see on John 1:33). Here and John 8:31; Acts 16:34; Acts 18:8; Titus 2:8, the A.V. renders πιστ. τινί, ‘to believe a man’s word,’ as if it were πιστ. εἴς τινα, ‘to believe on a man.’ Here the meaning is, ‘believeth God’s word respecting His Son:’ see on John 1:12, John 6:20.

ἔχει. ζ. αἰών. Hath it already: see on John 3:36; John 3:16.

εἰς κρ. οὐκ ἔρχ. Cometh not into judgment.

μεταβ. κ.τ.λ. Is passed over out of death into life: comp. John 13:1; 1 John 3:14. This cannot refer to the resurrection of the body: it is equivalent to escaping judgment and obtaining eternal life; shewing that the death is spiritual and the resurrection spiritual also.

Verse 25

25. Repetition of John 5:24 in a more definite form, with a cheering addition: John 5:24 says that whoever hears and believes God has eternal life; John 5:25 states that already some are in this happy case.

ἔρχ. ὥρα. There cometh an hour: comp. John 4:21; John 4:23.

καὶ νῦν ἐστιν. These words also exclude the meaning of a bodily resurrection; the hour for which had not yet arrived. The few cases in which Christ raised the dead cannot be meant; [1] the statement evidently has a much wider range; [2] the widow’s son, Jairus’ daughter, and Lazarus were not yet dead, so that even of them ‘and now is’ would not be true; [3] they died again after their return from death, and ‘they that hear shall live’ clearly refers to eternal life, as a comparison with John 5:24 shews. If a spiritual resurrection be understood, ‘and now is’ is perfectly intelligible: Christ’s ministry was already winning souls from spiritual death.

Verse 26

26. So gave He also to the Son. Comp. ‘the living Father sent Me, and I live by the Father’ (John 6:57). The Father is the absolutely living One, the Fount of all Life. The Messiah, however, imparts life to all who believe; which He could not do unless He had in Himself a fountain of life; and this the Father gave Him when He sent Him into the world. The Eternal Generation of the Son from the Father is not here in question; it is the Father’s communication of Divine attributes to the Incarnate Word that is meant.

Verse 27

27. ἐξουσίαν ἔδωκεν. Gave Him authority (John 1:12, John 10:18), when He sent Him into the world. Aorists mark what was done once for all.

ὅτι υἱὸς ἀνθρ. ἐστίν. Because He is a son of man, i.e. not because He is the Messiah, but because He is a human being. Neither ‘son’ nor ‘man’ has the article. Where ‘the Son of Man,’ i.e. the Messiah, is meant, both words have the article: comp. John 1:51, John 3:13-14, John 6:27; John 6:53; John 6:62, John 8:28, &c. Because the Son emptied Himself of His glory and became a man, therefore the Father endowed Him with these two powers; to have life in Himself, and to execute judgment.

Before passing on to the last section of this half of the discourse we may remark that “the relation of the Son to the Father is seldom alluded to in the Synoptic Gospels. But a single verse in which it is, seems to contain the essence of the Johannean theology, Matthew 11:27 : ‘All things are delivered unto Me of My Father; and no man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.’ This passage is one of the best authenticated in the Synoptic Gospels. It is found in exact parallelism both in S. Matthew and S. Luke.… And yet once grant the authenticity of this passage, and there is nothing in the Johannean Christology that it does not cover.” Sanday. The theory, therefore, that this discourse is the composition of the Evangelist, who puts forward his own theology as the teaching of Christ, has no basis. If the passage in S. Matthew and S. Luke represents the teaching of Christ, what reason have we for doubting that this discourse does so? To invent the substance of it was beyond the reach even of S. John; how far the precise wording is his we cannot tell. This section (21–27) bears strong impress of his style.

Verse 28

28. μὴ θαυμ. Comp. John 3:7. Marvel not that the Son can grant spiritual life to them that believe, and separate from them those who will not believe. There cometh an hour when He shall cause a general resurrection of men’s bodies, and a final separation of good from bad, a final judgment. He does not add ‘and now is,’ which is in favour of the resurrection being literal.

πάντ. οἱ ἐν τ. μν. Not ‘whom He will;’ there are none whom He does not will to come forth from their sepulchres (see on John 11:7). All, whether believers or not, must rise. This shews that spiritual resurrection cannot be meant.

Verses 28-29

28, 29. The intimacy between the Father and the Son further proved by the power committed to the Son of causing the bodily resurrection of the dead.

Verse 29

29. τὰ φ. πράξ. Practised worthless things. see on John 3:20.

εἰς ἀνάστ. κρ. Unto the resurrection of judgment. These words are the strongest proof that spiritual resurrection cannot be meant. Spiritual resurrection must always be a resurrection of life, a passing from spiritual death to spiritual life. A passing from spiritual death to judgment is not spiritual resurrection. This passage, and Acts 24:15, are the only direct assertions in N.T. of a bodily resurrection of the wicked. It is implied, Matthew 10:28; Revelation 20:12-13. Comp. Daniel 12:2. A satisfactory translation for κρίνειν and κρίσις is not easy to find: they combine the notions of ‘separating’ and ‘judging,’ and from the context often acquire the further notion of ‘condemning.’ see on John 3:17-18, and for the genitive Winer, p. 235.

Verse 30

30. The Son’s qualification for these high powers is the perfect harmony between His Will and that of the Father.

οὐ δύν. ἐγώ. Change to the first person, as in John 6:35. He identifies Himself with the Son. It is because He is the Son that He cannot act independently: it is impossible for Him to will to do anything but what the Father wills. See on John 5:19.

καθὼς ἀκούω. From the Father: Christ’s judgment is the declaration of that which the Father communicates to Him. Hence Christ’s judgment must be just, for it is in accordance with the Divine Will; and this is the strongest possible guarantee of its justice. Matthew 26:39. The Jews were seeking to do their own will, and their judgment was not just.

Verse 31

31. οὐκ ἔστιν ἀληθής. Nothing is to be understood; the words are to be taken literally: ‘If I bear any witness other than that which My Father bears, that witness of Mine is not true.’ In John 8:14, we have an apparent contradiction to this, but it is only the other side of the same truth: ‘My witness is true because it is really My Father’s.’

Verses 31-35

31–35. These claims rest not on My testimony alone, nor on that of John, but on that of the Father.

Verses 31-47


Verse 32

32. ἄλλος ἐστίν. Not the Baptist (John 5:34), but the Father (John 7:28, John 8:26). On μαρτυρῶ see on John 1:7.

Verse 33

33. ἀπεστάλκ.… μεμαρτ. Ye have sent unto J., and he hath borne witness. The perfects express the abiding results of past actions. ‘What ye have heard from him is true; but I do not accept it; the testimony which I accept comes not from man. I mention it for your sakes, not My own. If ye believe John ye will believe Me and be saved.’ ‘Ye’ and ‘I’ in these two verses (33, 34) are in emphatic opposition. Note the article before μαρτυρίαν.

Verse 35

35. ἐκεῖνος κ.τ.λ. The A.V. is here grievously wrong, ignoring the Greek article twice over, and also the meaning of the words; and thus obscuring the marked difference between the Baptist and the Messiah: better, he was the lamp which is kindled and (so) shineth. Christ is the Light; John is only the lamp kindled at the Light, and shining only after being so kindled, having no light but what is derived. Λύχνος is again rendered ‘light’ Matthew 6:22, but ‘candle’ Matthew 5:15; Mark 4:21; Luke 8:16; Luke 11:33; Luke 11:36; Luke 15:8; Revelation 18:23; Revelation 22:5. ‘Lamp’ would be best in all places. No O.T. prophecy speaks of the Baptist under this figure. David is so called 2 Samuel 21:17 (see margin), and Elijah (Sirach 48:1); and S. Augustine applies ἡτοίμασα τῷ Χριστῷ μου λύχνον, paravi lucernam Christo Meo (Psalms 132:18), to the Baptist. The imperfects in this verse seem to imply that John’s career is closed; he is in prison, if not dead.

ἠθελ. ἀγαλλ. Like children, they were glad to disport themselves in the blaze, instead of seriously considering its meaning. And even that only for a season: their pilgrimages to the banks of the Jordan had soon ended; when John began to preach repentance they left him, sated with the novelty and offended at his doctrine.—For another charge of frivolity and fickleness against them in reference to John comp. Matthew 11:16-19.

Verse 36

36. ἐγὼ δὲ ἔχω. I have the witness which is greater than John; or, the witness which I have is greater than John, viz. the works (see on John 5:20) which as the Messiah I have been commissioned to do. Among these works would be raising the spiritually dead to life, judging unbelievers, as well as miracles: certainly not miracles only; John 7:3, John 10:38. See on John 3:35.

ἵνα τελ. Literally, in order that I may accomplish; comp. John 17:4. This was God’s purpose. See on John 4:34; John 4:47, John 9:3. S. John is very fond of constructions with ἵνα, especially of the Divine purpose.

Verses 36-40

36–40. The Father’s testimony is evident, (a) in the works assigned to Me, (b) in the revelation which ye do not receive.

Verse 37

37. ὁ πέμψας. See on John 1:33 : ἐκεῖνος, see on John 1:18, John 3:32. Note the change from aorist to perfect; The Father which sent Me (once for all at the Incarnation) He hath borne witness (for a long time past, and is still doing so) of Me. For the conjunctions see Winer, p. 613.

οὔτε φωνὴν κ.τ.λ. These words are a reproach; therefore there can be no allusion (as suggested in the margin) to the Baptism or the Transfiguration. The Transfiguration had not yet taken place, and very few if any of Christ’s hearers could have heard the voice from heaven at the Baptism. Moreover, if that particular utterance were meant, φωνήν would have had the article. Nor can there be any reference to the theophanies, or symbolical visions of God, in O.T. It could be no matter of reproach to these Jews that they had never beheld a theophany. A paraphrase will shew the meaning; ‘neither with the ear of the heart have ye ever heard Him, nor with the eye of the heart have ye ever seen Him, in the revelation of Himself given in the Scriptures; and so ye have not the testimony of His word present as an abiding power within you.’ There should be no full stop at ‘shape,’ only a comma or semi-colon. Had they studied Scripture rightly they would have had a less narrow view of the Sabbath (John 5:16), and would have recognised the Messiah.

Verses 37-40

37–40. The connexion of thought in the next few verses is very difficult to catch, and cannot be affirmed with certainty. This is often the case in S. John’s writings. A number of simple sentences follow one another with an even flow; but it is by no means easy to see how each leads on to the next. Here there is a transition from the indirect testimony to the Messiahship of Jesus given by the works which He is commissioned to do (John 5:36) to the direct testimony to the same given by the words of Scripture (37–40). The Jews were rejecting both.

Verse 38

38. ‘And hence it is that ye have no inner appropriation of the word’—seeing that ye have never received it either by hearing or vision. Ὁ λόγος is not a fresh testimony different from φωνή and εἶδος: all refer to the same—the witness of Scripture to the Messiah.

ὅτι ὃν ἀπ. Because whom He sent: see on John 1:33. Proof of the previous negation. One who had the word abiding in his heart could not reject Him to whom that word bears witness. 1 John 2:14; 1 John 2:24.

τούτῳ ὑμεῖς. In emphatic opposition. See on John 1:12, John 6:30, John 3:32.

Verse 39

39. ἐραυνᾶτε τ. γρ. It will never be settled beyond dispute whether the verb here is imperative or indicative. As far as the Greek shews, it may be either, ‘search,’ or ‘ye search,’ and both make sense. Comp. John 12:19, John 16:31. The question is, which makes the best sense, and this the context must decide. The context seems to be strongly in favour of the indicative, ye search the Scriptures. All the verbs on either side are in the indicative; and more especially the one with which it is so closely connected, οὐ θέλετε. Ye search the Scriptures, and (instead of their leading you to Me) ye are not willing to come to Me. The tragic tone once more: see on John 1:5. The reproach lies not in their searching, but in their searching to so little purpose. Jewish study of the Scriptures was too often learned trifling and worse; obscuring the text by frivolous interpretations, ‘making it of none effect’ by unholy traditions. Ὑμιε͂ς is emphatic: because ye are the people who think. Not that they were wrong in thinking that eternal life was contained in the Scriptures: their error was in thinking that by their dissection of them, letter by letter, they had found it. They had scrutinised with the utmost minuteness the written word (γραφαί), and missed the living word (λόγος) which spoke of the Messiah; ἐκεῖναι (John 1:8; John 1:18), precisely they, the very books ye study so diligently.

Verse 40

40. οὐ θέλετε. Ye are not willing to come to Me. This is at the root of their failure to read Scripture aright; their hearts are estranged. They have no will to find the truth, and without that no intellectual searching will avail. Here again man’s will is shewn to be free; the truth is not forced upon him; he can reject if he likes: John 3:19, John 7:17, John 8:44.

Verse 41

41. οὐ λαμβ. It is nothing to Me; I have no need of it, and refuse it (John 5:34). Glory would perhaps be better than ‘honour’ both here and in John 5:44, and than ‘praise’ in John 9:24 and John 12:43; see notes there. Christ is anticipating an objection, and at the same time shewing what is the real cause of their unbelief. ‘Glory from men is not what I seek; think not the want of that is the cause of My complaint. The desire of glory from men is what blinds your eyes to the truth.’

Verses 41-44

41–44. Not that I seek glory from men; had I done so, you would have received Me. Your worldliness prevents you from receiving One whose motives are not worldly.

Verse 42

42. ἔγνωκα. I have come to know and therefore I know: comp. κέκραγα (John 1:15), ἥλπικα (John 5:45), οἶδα (John 5:32). Once more Christ appears as the searcher of hearts; comp. John 1:47; John 1:50, John 2:24-25 (see note), John 4:17-18; John 4:48, John 5:14.

ἐν ἑαυτοῖς. In yourselves, in your hearts. ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart’ (Deuteronomy 7:5) was written on their broad phylacteries (see note on Matthew 23:5), but it had no place in their hearts and no influence on their lives. It is the want of love, the want of will (John 5:40), that makes them reject and persecute the Messiah. The phrase ἡ ἀγάπη τ. θεοῦ occurs 1 John 2:5; 1 John 3:17; 1 John 4:9; 1 John 5:3; elsewhere in the Gospels only Luke 11:42.

Verse 43

43. καὶ οὐ λαμβ. The καί of tragic contrast, as in John 5:40. ‘I come with the highest credentials (John 10:25), as My Father’s representative (John 8:42), and ye reject Me (see on John 1:5).

ἐν τ. ὀν τ. ἰδίῳ. Double article; in the name that is his own, as a false Messiah (Matthew 24:5; Matthew 24:24). Both the verb, ἔλθῃ, and ἄλλος (not ἕτερος), which implies some kind of likeness, point to a pretended Messiah. Sixty-four such have been counted. On ἐκεῖνον see on John 1:18.

Verse 44

44. ὑμεῖς. Emphatic; ‘such men as you.’ It is morally impossible for you, who care only for the glory that man bestows, to believe on One who rejects such glory. This is the climax of Christ’s accusation. They have reduced themselves to such a condition that they cannot believe. They must change their whole view and manner of life before they can do so: comp. John 5:47. On πιστεῦσαι see on John 1:7.

π. τ. μόνου θ. From the only God, from Him who alone is God: whereas by receiving glory they were making gods of themselves. So that it is they who really make themselves equal with God (John 5:18). ‘The only God,’ as in John 17:3; 1 Timothy 6:16 : ‘God only’ would be τοῦ θ. μόνου (Matthew 12:4; Matthew 17:8) or μόνου τ. θ. (Luke 5:21; Luke 6:4). The second δόξαν has the article, the first has not: they receive glory, such as it is, from one another, and are indifferent to the glory, which alone deserves the name. They pride themselves on the external glory of Israel and reject the true glory which God would give them in the Messiah. The whole should run thus, How can ye believe, seeing that ye receive glory one of another: and the glory which cometh from the only God ye seek not. Winer, p. 723.

Verse 45

45. μὴ δοκεῖτε.Think not, because I reproach you now, that it is I who will accuse you.’ If this refers to the day of judgment (and the future tense seems to point to that), there are two reasons why Christ will not act as accuser [1] because it would be needless; there is another accuser ready; [2] because He will be acting as Judge.

ἔστιν ὁ κατ. Your accuser exists already; he is there with his charge. Note the change from future to present: Christ will not be, because Moses is, their accuser.

΄ωυσῆς. See on John 1:17. Moses represents the Law. It was zeal for the Mosaic Law which stirred the Jews on this occasion.

ἠλπίκατε. On whom ye have set your hope; present result of past action. Ἤλπικα is spero not speravi: see on John 5:42 and comp. 1 Timothy 5:5. The Jews eagerly claimed him as their own (John 9:28-29).

Verses 45-47

45–47. Do not appeal to Moses: his writings condemn you.

Thus the whole basis of their confidence is out away. Moses on whom they trust as a defender is their accuser.

Verse 46

46. εἰἐπιστεύετε. If ye believed (as in John 5:47) M., ye would believe Me: not ‘had ye believed,’ ‘would have believed,’ which would have required aorists. Comp. John 8:19 (where A.V. has a similar error), 42, John 9:41, John 15:19, John 18:36; and contrast John 4:10, John 11:21; John 11:32, John 14:28, where we have the aorist. The γάρ introduces the proof that Moses is their accuser; his statements and Christ’s agree: see on John 6:30.

περὶ γ. ἐμοῦ. Emphatic: For it was of Me he wrote. Christ here stamps the Pentateuch with His authority; accepting, as referring to Himself, its Messianic types and prophecies. Luke 24:27; Luke 24:44.

Verse 47

47. ἐκείνουἐμοῖς. These are the emphatic words, not γράμμασιν and ῥήμασιν. The comparison is between Moses and Christ; the contrast between writings and words is no part of the argument. It was a mere matter of fact that Moses had written and Christ had not. Comp. ‘If they hear not Moses and the prophets, &c., (Luke 16:31). For εἰ οὐ see on John 10:37. On ῥήμασιν see on John 3:34.

We pass now from a crisis in the work at Jerusalem to a crisis in the work in Galilee, each typical of the section to which it belongs and exhibiting the development of national unbelief.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on John 5". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.