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Bible Commentaries
John 7

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and CollegesCambridge Greek Testament Commentary

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Verses 1-99

Chap. 7

“Chapter 7, like chapter 6, is very important for the estimate of the fourth Gospel. In it the scene of the Messianic crisis shifts from Galilee to Jerusalem; and, as we should naturally expect, the crisis itself becomes hotter. The divisions, the doubts, the hopes, the jealousies, and the casuistry of the Jews are vividly portrayed. We see the mass of the populace, especially those who had come up from Galilee, swaying to and fro, hardly knowing which way to turn, inclined to believe, but held back by the more sophisticated citizens of the metropolis. These meanwhile apply the fragments of Rabbinical learning at their command in order to test the claims of the new prophet. In the background looms the dark shadow of the hierarchy itself, entrenched behind its prejudices and refusing to hear the cause that it has already prejudged. A single timid voice is raised against this injustice, but is at once fiercely silenced.” S. p. 144.

As in chapters 5 and 6 Christ is set forth as the Source and Support of Life , so in chapters 7, 8, and 9. He is set forth as the Source of Truth and Light .

Chap. 7. Christ the Source of Truth and Light

Chapter 7 has three main divisions: 1. The controversy with His brethren (1 9); 2. His teaching at the Feast of Tabernacles (10 39); 3. The effect of His teaching ; division both in the multitude and in the Sanhedrin (40 52).

1 9. The controversy with His brethren

1. After these things ] The interval is again vague (see introductory note to chap. 6); but comparing 4:4 with 7:2 we see that it covers about five months, the interval between the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles.

walked in Galilee ] To this ministry in Galilee, of which S. John tells us nothing, most of the incidents narrated Matthew 14:34-35 belong. The tenses here are all imperfects, implying continued action.

he would not walk in Jewry ] From this we understand that He did not go up to Jerusalem for the Passover mentioned 6:4. ‘Jewry’ is found here in all the English versions excepting Wiclif’s; it was common in the earlier translations. But in the A. V. it has been retained (probably by an oversight) only here, Luke 23:5 , and Daniel 5:13 : elsewhere Judæa has been substituted. In Daniel 5:13 the same word is translated both ‘Jewry’ and ‘Judah!’ Comp. the Prayer Book version of Psalms 76:1 .

2. the Jews’ feast of tabernacles ] Again an indication that the Gospel was written outside Palestine: see on 6:1, 4. An author writing in Palestine would be less likely to specify it as ‘the feast of the Jews .’ Tabernacles was the most joyous of the Jewish festivals. It had two aspects; (1) a commemoration of their dwelling in tents in the wilderness, (2) a harvest-home. It was therefore a thanksgiving (1) for a permanent abode, (2) for the crops of the year. It began on the 15th of the 7th month, Tisri (about our September), and lasted seven days, during which all who were not exempted through illness or weakness were obliged to live in booths, which involved much both of the discomfort and also of the merriment of a picnic. The distinctions between rich and poor were to a large extent obliterated in the general encampment, and the Feast thus became a great levelling institution. On the eighth day the booths were broken up and the people returned home: but it had special sacrifices of its own and was often counted as part of the Feast itself. The Feast is mentioned here, partly as a date, partly to shew what after all induced Christ to go up to Jerusalem.

3. His brethren ] See on 2:12.

Depart hence ] The bluntness of this suggestion, given almost as a command, shews that they presumed upon their near relationship. It would be more natural in the mouths of men older than Christ, and therefore is in favour of their being sons of Joseph by a former marriage rather than sons of Joseph and Mary (comp. Mark 3:21 , Mark 3:31 ). They shared the ordinary beliefs of the Jews about the Messiah, and therefore did not believe in their Brother. But His miracles perplexed them, and they wished the point brought to a decisive issue. There is no treachery in their suggestion; its object is not to put Him in the power of His enemies.

thy disciples also ] His brethren seem to imply that they themselves are not His disciples even nominally.

4. there is no man that doeth ] More simply, no man doeth .

and he himself seeketh ] i.e. no one does anything in secret and is thereby personally seeking to act with openness. To conceal His miracles is to deny His Messiahship; the Messiah must accept His position.

to be known openly ] Literally, to be in openness or frankness . The word for ‘frankness’ occurs nine times in this Gospel and four times in the First Epistle; not in Matt. or Luke; only once in Mark.

If thou do these things ] Feeding the 5000, and other miracles. If Thou doest such miracles at all, do them at Jerusalem at the Feast and convince the whole nation. It is assuming a false position to do such things and hide them in obscure parts of Galilee: it is claiming to be the Messiah and being afraid to shew one’s credentials. They knew probably that He had not gone up to Jerusalem for the Passover.

shew thyself ] Better, manifest Thyself . See on 1:31, 21:1, and comp. 9:3, 17:6.

5. For neither did his brethren believe in him ] Or, For not even did His brethren (as one would expect) believe on Him . It is marvellous that in the face of this verse any one should have maintained that three of His brethren (James, Simon, and Judas) were Apostles. This verse is also fatal to the common theory, that these ‘brethren’ are really our Lord’s cousins, the sons of Alphæus. Certainly one of the sons of Alphæus (James) was an Apostle; probably a second was (Matthew, if Levi and Matthew are the same person, as is almost universally admitted); possibly a third was (Judas, if ‘Judas of James’ means ‘Judas, brother of James,’ as is commonly supposed). By this time the company of the Twelve was complete (6:67, 70, 71); so that we cannot suppose that some of the Twelve have still to be converted. If then one, two, or three sons of Alphæus were Apostles how could it be true that the sons of Alphæus ‘did not believe on Him?’ ‘His brethren’ cannot be the sons of Alphæus. They seem to have been converted by the Resurrection. Immediately after the Ascension we find them with the Apostles and the holy women (Acts 1:14 ; comp. 1 Corinthians 9:5 , Galatians 1:19 ).

6. Then Jesus said ] Better, Jesus therefore saith .

My time is not yet come ] i.e. My time for manifesting Myself to the world; with special reference to the Passion. It is inadequate to interpret it of the time for going up to the Feast. Moreover, what sense would there be in ‘Your time for going up to the Feast is always ready?’ Whereas ‘You can always manifest yourselves’ makes excellent sense. See last note on 2:4.

7. The world ] Unbelievers; the common meaning in S. John. In v . 4 ‘the world’ means all mankind. See on 1:10.

cannot hate you ] Because you and it are of one mind; because you are part of it: it cannot hate itself; see on 15:19. Hence it is that they can always manifest themselves: they can always count upon favourable surroundings and a sympathetic audience.

me it hateth ] Comp. 3:20, 7:34, 36, 8:21, 12:39.

8. Go ye up unto this feast ] ‘Ye’ is emphatic; ‘this’ is wanting in authority; we should read, go ye up unto the feast .

I go not up yet ] ‘Yet,’ though very ancient, is possibly no part of the original text: it may have been inserted to avoid the charge of the heathen critic Porphyry, that Jesus here shews fickleness or deceit, and therefore cannot be Divine. But the sense is the same, whether ‘yet’ is inserted or not. He means ‘I am not going now; not going publicly in the general caravan of pilgrims; not going with you, who do not believe on Me.’ He does not say ‘I shall not go.’ The next two verses shew exactly what is meant by the negative.

9. he abode still in Galilee ] This in conjunction with v . 1 shews that S. John is quite aware that Galilee is the main scene of Christ’s ministry, as the Synoptists represent. The gaps in his narrative leave ample room for the Galilean ministry.

This opening scene (1 9) “is described by M. Renan as a ‘gem of history’ ( un petit trésor historique ). He argues justly that an apologist, writing merely ad probandum ; would not have given so much prominence to the unbelief which Jesus met with in His own family. He insists, too, on the individualising traits which the whole section bears. The brethren of Jesus are not ‘types’ but living men; their ill-natured and jealous irony is only too human.” S. pp. 144, 145.

10 39. The Discourse at the Feast of Tabernacles

Of this section vv . 10 15 form a sort of introduction.

“An equal degree of authenticity belongs to the verses which follow, 10 15. The whispered enquiries and debatings among the people, the secret journey, the sudden appearance in the temple in the midst of the Feast, and in particular the question that alludes to the Rabbinical schools and the custom of professed teachers to frequent them, compose a varied, clear, and graphic picture that has every circumstance of probability in its favour.” S. pp. 145, 146.

10. unto the feast ] These words have become transposed; they belong to the first clause, not to the second; Now when His brethren were gone up to the feast , then He also went up . This being so, it becomes possible, if not probable, that Christ’s declaration ‘I go not up to this Feast’ is true, even when made to mean ‘I shall not go up at all.’ All that is certain is that Christ appeared when the Feast was half over ( v . 14).

not openly ] Not in the general caravan, but either by a different route (e.g. through Samaria, as in 4:4, instead of down the eastern bank of Jordan), or several days later. One suspects that traces of Docetism are difficult to find in this Gospel when it is maintained that this verse contains such.

11. the Jews ] The hostile party, as usual: comp. v . 1. Both here and in v . 6 ‘then’ should rather be therefore : comp. 6:53, 67, 68. The force of the ‘therefore’ here is ‘because they did not find Him in the caravan of pilgrims from Galilee.’

sought … and said ] Both verbs are imperfects of continued action. They do not mention His name, perhaps in contempt; ‘Where is that man?’ Comp. 9:28.

12. murmuring ] Talking in an under tone, not necessarily complaining: see on 6:41, 61. Here some are for, and some against Him. ‘Among the people’ should rather be among the multitudes ; the word is plural, and this is the only place in the Gospel where the plural is used: the singular ( He leadeth the multitude astray ) is common.

13. no man ] Quite literally; no man dared speak openly either for or against Him, they were so afraid of the hierarchy. Experience had taught them that it was dangerous to take any line which the rulers had not formally sanctioned; and though the rulers were known to be against Christ, yet they had not committed themselves beyond recall, and might turn against either side. ‘A true indication of an utterly jesuitical domination of the people.’ Meyer.

for fear of the Jews ] Literally, for the fear of the Jews , i.e. on account of the prevalent fear of the hierarchy and official representatives of the nation.

14. about the midst of the feast ] Literally, But now, when the feast was at the middle , or was half way past ; i.e. about the fourth day. But the expression is a vague one, so that we cannot be certain which day.

went up into the temple ] Whether He had been in Jerusalem or not since the beginning of the Feast, is uncertain: see on v . 10. This is perhaps the first occasion of His publicly teaching in the Temple; when He cleansed it (2:13 17) He delivered no discourse.

15. And the Jews marvelled ] According to the best MSS., The Jews therefore marvelled . ‘Therefore’ should also be inserted in v . 16; Jesus therefore answered them . S. John’s extreme fondness for this particle in narrative is worth keeping in view.

How knoweth this man letters ] Or, this fellow , as in 6:42. Their question is so eminently characteristic, that it is very unlikely that a Greek writer of the second century would have been able to invent it for them; he would probably have made them too cautious to commit themselves to any expression of astonishment about Him. The substance of His doctrine excites no emotion in them, but they are astounded that He should possess learning without having got it according to ordinary routine. He had never attended the schools of the Rabbis, and yet His interpretations of Scripture shewed a large amount of biblical and other knowledge. That does excite them. In Acts 26:24 , ‘much learning doth make thee mad,’ the word there translated ‘learning’ is the same as the one here translated ‘letters.’

16 36. The remark made on the Jews’ question in v . 15 applies also to their questions and comments throughout this dialogue. They are too exactly in keeping with what we know of the Jews in our Lord’s day to be the invention of a Greek more than a century later. They “are all exactly what we should expect from the popular mode of interpreting and applying the Messianic prophecies.” S. p. 146.

16. My doctrine is not mine ] ‘The teaching which I give does not originate with Me; that is the reason why I have no need to learn in the schools. He Who sent Me communicates it to Me.’

17. If any man will do his will ] As in 6:67 and 8:44, ‘will’ is too weak; it is not the simple future, but the verb ‘to will:’ If any man willeth to do His will . The mere mechanical performance of God’s will is not enough; there must be an inclination towards Him, a wish to make our conduct agree with His will; and without this agreement Divine doctrine cannot be recognised as such. There must be a moral harmony between the teaching and the taught, and this harmony is in the first instance God’s gift (6:44, 45), which each can accept or refuse at will. Comp. 14:21.

he shall know ] Literally, He shall come to know, recognise . See on v . 26 and 8:55.

whether it be of God , &c.] Literally, whether it proceeds from God (as its Fount), or I speak from Myself . Comp. 5:30, 15:4.

18. Proof almost in the form of a syllogism that He does not speak of Himself. It applies to Christ alone. Human teachers who seek God’s glory are not thereby secured from erroneous teaching. These verses (16 18) remind us, and might remind some of His hearers of an earlier discourse delivered in Jerusalem some seven months before: comp. 5:19, 30, 37, 44.

the same is true ] and therefore does not speak of himself, for whoever speaks what comes from himself is not true.

no unrighteousness is in him ] Or, unrighteousness is not in him . S. John does not say ‘falsehood’ as we might expect, but uses a wider word which points out the moral root of the falsehood. Comp. 8:46. Throughout S. John’s writings the connexion between truth and righteousness, falsehood and unrighteousness is often brought before us. Hence his peculiar phrases ‘to do the truth’ (1 John 1:6 ), ‘to do a lie’ (Revelation 21:27 , Revelation 22:15 ).

There is no need to suppose that anything is omitted between 18 and 19, though the transition is abrupt. Christ has answered them and now takes the offensive. He exposes the real meaning of their cavillings; they seek His life.

19. Did not Moses give you the law? ] Here the question should probably end: and none of you doeth the law should be a simple statement in contrast to the question preceding. The argument is similar to 5:45; Moses in whom they trust condemns them. Moreover it is an argumentum ad hominem: ‘ye are all breakers of the law, and yet would put Me to death as a breaker of it.’

20. Thou hast a devil ] The multitude who have come up from the provinces know nothing of the designs of the hierarchy, although dwellers in Jerusalem ( v . 25) are better informed. These provincials think He must be possessed to have such an idea. Comp. 10:20, and also Matthew 11:18 , where the same is quoted as said of the Baptist. In both cases extraordinary conduct is supposed to be evidence of insanity, and the insanity is attributed to demoniacal possession. In 8:48 the same remark is made, but in a much more hostile spirit (see note there); and there Christ answers the charge. Here, where it is the mere ignorant rejoinder of a perplexed multitude, He takes no notice of the interruption.

21. I have done ] Better, I did . Comp. v . 23.

one work ] The healing of the impotent man at Bethesda: it excited the astonishment of all as being wrought on the Sabbath. Christ reminds them that on that occasion all, and not the rulers only, were offended.

Most modern editors add to this verse the words translated ‘therefore’ in v . 22 [it is not S. John’s favourite particle (see on v . 15), but a preposition with a pronoun = for this cause, on account of this ]; ‘and ye all marvel on account of this.’ But this is cumbrous, and unlike S. John, who begins sentences with this phrase (6:16, 18, 8:47, 10:17, 12:39; mistranslated ‘therefore’ in all cases) rather than ends them with it. The old arrangement is best.

22. Moses therefore gave ] Better, For this cause (12:18, 27) Moses hath given . Comp. 8:47.

of Moses … of the fathers ] ‘Originating with Moses … originating with the fathers.’ Circumcision originated with the Patriarchs, and was a more ancient institution than the Sabbath. When, therefore, the two ordinances clashed, the younger had to give place; it was more fit that the Sabbath should be broken, than that circumcision should be administered on the wrong day. If then the Sabbath could give way to a mere ceremonial observance, how much more might it give way to a work of mercy? The law of charity is older and higher than any ceremonial law.

on the sabbath ] Rather, on a Sabbath ; so also in v . 23.

23. that the law of Moses should not be broken ] i.e. the law about circumcision on the eighth day (Leviticus 12:3 ), which was a re-enactment of the patriarchal law (Genesis 17:12 ). Some adopt the inferior rendering in the margin; ‘without breaking the law of Moses,’ or ‘without the law of Moses being broken;’ in which case ‘the law of Moses’ means the law about the Sabbath.

are ye angry ] The word occurs nowhere else in N.T. It signifies bitter and violent resentment.

because I have made ] Better, because I made . Comp. v . 21.

24. according to the appearance ] ‘According to the appearance’ Christ’s act was a breach of the Sabbath. This is almost certainly the meaning, although the word translated ‘appearance’ may mean ‘face,’ and is rightly translated ‘face’ in 11:44 (see note there). There is no reference here to Christ’s having ‘no form nor comeliness,’ as if He meant ‘Judge not by My mean appearance.’

25. Then said some ] Or, Some therefore said (see on 6:53, 7:11, 15), i.e. in consequence of Christ’s vindication of Himself. These inhabitants of the capital know better than the provincials, who speak in v . 20, what the intentions of the hierarchy really are.

26. boldly ] Or, with frankness , or openness ; the same word as in v . 4, where (as in 16:29) it has a preposition; here and v . 13 it is the simple dative.

Do the rulers know ] The word here translated ‘know’ is not the one translated ‘know’ in vv . 28, 29. The latter is the most general word for ‘know:’ this means rather to ‘acquire knowledge.’ Have the rulers come to know (or recognised )? See on 1:10. In the next verse we have both words. Comp. 8:55.

that this is the very Christ ] ‘Very’ is wanting in authority: that this man is the Christ is the right reading. This suggestion, however, is only a momentary thought. They at once raise a difficulty which for them demolishes the suggestion.

27. when Christ cometh ] Better, when the Christ cometh: see on 1:20.

no man knoweth whence he is ] Literally, no man comes to know (see on v . 26 and 8:55) whence He is . ‘Whence’ does not refer to the Messiah’s birthplace , which was known ( vv . 41, 42); nor to His remote descent , for He was to be the Son of David ( ibid. ); but to His parentage (6:42), immediate and actual. This text is the strongest, if not the only evidence that we have of the belief that the immediate parents of the Messiah would be unknown: but the precision and vivacity of this passage carries conviction with it, and shews how familiar the ideas current among the Jews at that time were to S. John. It never occurs to him to explain. The belief might easily grow out of Isaiah 53:8 , ‘Who shall declare His generation?’ Justin Martyr tells us of a kindred belief, that the Messiahship of the Messiah would be unknown, even to Himself, until He was anointed by Elijah. ( Trypho , pp. 226, 336.)

28. Then cried Jesus ] Better, Jesus therefore cried aloud . The word translated ‘cried’ signifies a loud expression of strong emotion. He is moved by their gross misconception of Him, a fact which the weakening of ‘therefore’ into ‘then’ obscures. Comp. v . 37, 1:15, 12:44.

in the temple ] S. John well remembers that moving cry in the Temple; the scene is still before him and he puts it before us, although neither ‘in the Temple’ nor ‘as He taught’ is needed for the narrative (see v . 14).

Ye both know me , &c.] Various constructions have been put upon this: (1) that it is a question; (2) that it is ironical; (3) a mixture of the two; (4) a reproach, i.e. that they knew His Divine nature and maliciously concealed it. None of these are satisfactory. The words are best understood quite simply and literally. Christ admits the truth of what they say: they have an outward knowledge of Him and His origin (6:42); but He has an inner and higher origin, of which they know nothing. So that even their self-made test, for the sake of which they are willing to resist the evidence both of Scripture and of His works, is complied with; for they know not His real immediate origin.

and I am not come of myself ] ‘Of Myself’ is emphatic; and ( yet ) of Myself I am not come . Comp. 8:42. The ‘and’ introduces a contrast, as so often in S. John: ‘ye know My person, and ye know My parentage; and yet of the chief thing of all, My Divine mission, ye know nothing. See on v . 30.

but he that sent me is true ] The word for ‘true’ here is the same as occurs 1:9 in ‘the true Light’ (see note there): the meaning, therefore, is not ‘truthful’ but ‘real, perfect;’ He that sendeth Me is a real sender , One who in the highest and most perfect sense can give a mission But perhaps here and in Revelation 3:7 and 19:11 the distinction between the two words for ‘true’ is not very marked. Such refinements (the words being alike except in termination) have a tendency to become obscured.

29. I know him ] ‘I’ in emphatic contrast to the preceding ‘ye,’ which is also emphatic. ‘I know Him, for I came forth from Him, and it is He, and no other, that sent Me.’ ‘Sent’ is aorist, not perfect. Comp. the very remarkable passage Matthew 11:27 .

30. Then they sought ] Better, Therefore they kept seeking (imperfect of continued action) in consequence of His publicly claiming Divine origin and mission. ‘They’ means the rulers, the Sanhedrin; not the people, who are mentioned in the next verse.

but no man laid hands ] Rather, and no man laid hands , ‘and’ introducing a contrast as in v . 28. See on 21:3. That ‘and’ in S. John often = ‘and yet,’ as here, is most true; that ‘and’ ever = ‘but’ is true neither of S. John nor of any other Greek writer.

because his hour ] The hour appointed by God for His Passion (13:1), this meaning being clearly marked by the context (see on v . 6 and 2:4). The immediate cause of their not seizing Him was that they were as yet afraid to do so; but S. John passes through proximate causes to the prime cause of all, the Will of God. When the hour was come God no longer allowed their fear, which still existed (Matthew 26:5 ), to deter them.

31. And many of the people ] Our version is somewhat perverse; in v . 30 ‘and’ is arbitrarily turned into ‘but;’ here ‘but’ is turned into ‘and.’ But (on the other hand, i.e. in contrast to the rulers) of the multitude many believed on Him (as the Messiah) and kept saying (in answer to objectors), When the Christ (see on v . 27 and 1:20) cometh, will He do more signs than this man did ? They express not their own doubts but those of objectors in saying ‘ when the Christ cometh:’ they believe that He has come. Some of them perhaps had witnessed the numerous Galilean miracles; they have at any rate heard of them.

32. heard that the people murmured such things ] Better, heard the multitude muttering these things (see on v . 12): it was not reported to them, they heard it themselves, and they went and reported it in the Sanhedrin, which gives an order for His apprehension. Note that in this the reckless hierarchy, who were mainly Sadducees, combine with the Pharisees (comp. v . 45, 11:47, 57, 18:3).

33. Then said Jesus ] Better, as in v . 30 and often, Therefore said Jesus , i.e. in consequence of their sending to arrest Him: probably He recognised the officers waiting for an opportunity to take Him. According to the best MSS., ‘Unto them’ should be omitted: Christ’s words are addressed to the officers and those who sent them.

It is very difficult to decide on the precise meaning of Christ’s words. Perhaps the simplest interpretation is the best. ‘I must remain on earth a little while longer, and during this time ye cannot kill Me: then ye will succeed, and I shall go to My Father. Thither ye will wish to come, but ye cannot; for ye know Him not ( v . 28), and such as ye cannot enter there.’ This is the first formal attempt upon His life. It reminds Him that His death is not far off, and that it will place a tremendous barrier between Him and those who compass it. It is the beginning of the end; an end that will bring a short-lived loss and eternal triumph to Him, a short-lived triumph and eternal loss to them.

unto him that sent me ] One suspects that here S. John is translating Christ’s words into plainer language than He actually used. Had He said thus clearly ‘unto Him that sent Me,’ a phrase which they elsewhere understand at once of God (see on v . 30), they could scarcely have asked the questions which follow in v . 35. Unless we are to suppose that they here pretend not to understand; which is unlikely, as they speak not to Him but ‘among themselves.’

34. Ye shall seek me ] From 13:33 it seems almost certain that these words are not to be understood of seeking His life: rather of seeking for help at His hands. Comp. 8:21. It is best, however, not to limit their application to any particular occasion, such as the destruction of Jerusalem, the great hour of Jewish need.

where I am, thither ye cannot come ] ‘Thither’ is not in the Greek and is perhaps better omitted, so as to bring out the emphatic opposition between ‘I’ and ‘ye.’

35. Then said the Jews ] The Jews therefore said , i.e. in consequence of what Christ had said, shewing that it is to the official representatives of the nation that His words are addressed.

Whither will he go , &c.] Better, Where does this fellow intend to go, seeing that we shall not find Him? Does He intend to go unto the dispersion among the Gentiles , &c.

the dispersed ] Or, the dispersion , meaning those Jews who were dispersed among the heathen outside Palestine; the abstract for the concrete, like ‘the circumcision’ for the Jews generally. The word for ‘dispersion’ ( diaspora ), occurs James 1:1 and 1 Peter 1:1 (see notes there), and nowhere else in N.T. There were three chief colonies of these ‘dispersed’ or ‘scattered’ Jews, in Babylonia, Egypt, and Syria, whence they spread over the whole world. ‘Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him,’ Acts 15:21 . These opponents of Christ, therefore, suggest that He means to go to the Jews scattered among the Gentiles in order to reach the Gentiles and teach them the very mode of proceeding afterwards adopted by the Apostles. But here it is spoken in sarcasm. Christ’s utter disregard of Jewish exclusiveness and apparent non-observance of the ceremonial law gave a handle to the sneer; which would be pointless if the word translated ‘Gentiles’ (margin ‘Greeks’) were rendered ‘Hellenists,’ i.e. Grecised Jews. Hellenes , or ‘Greeks,’ in N.T. always means Gentiles or heathen. See on 12:20.

36. What manner of saying is this ] Or, What is this saying? ‘this’ being contemptuous, like ‘this precious saying.’ They know that their scornful suggestion is not true.

37. In the last day, that great day ] Now on the last day , the great day . This was probably not the seventh day, but the eighth day, which according to Leviticus 23:36 , Leviticus 23:39 ; Numbers 29:35 ; Nehemiah 8:18 , was reckoned along with the seven days of the feast proper. To speak of the seventh day as ‘the great day of the feast’ would not be very appropriate; whereas the eighth day on which the people returned home was, like the first day, kept as a Sabbath (Leviticus 23:39 ), and had special sacrifices (Numbers 29:36-38 ). In keeping with the solemnity of the day Christ solemnly takes up His position and cries aloud with deep emotion (see on v . 28).

stood ] Or, was standing .

If any man thirst ] The conjectural reference to the custom of pouring water at the Feast of Tabernacles is probably correct. On all seven days water was brought from the pool of Siloam and poured into a silver basin on the western side of the altar of burnt offering, a ceremony not mentioned in O.T. Apparently this was not done on the eighth day. Accordingly Christ comes forward and fills the gap, directing them to a better water than that of Siloam. The fact that the water was poured and not drunk, does not seem to be a reason for denying the reference, especially when we remember how frequently Christ took an external fact as a text (comp. 4:10, 5:17, 19, 6:26, 27, (8:12?) 9:39, 13:8, 10, 12 17; Mark 10:15 , Mark 10:16 , Mark 10:23 , Mark 10:24 , &c.). The pouring of the water would be suggestive enough. In such cases there is no need for the analogy to be complete, and in the present case it would add point to the reference that it was not complete. Mere pouring of water could not quench even bodily thirst; Christ could satisfy spiritual thirst. ‘Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.’ Isaiah 12:3 .

38. as the scripture hath said ] This phrase undoubtedly refers to the words that follow: but inasmuch as no such text is found in Scripture, some have tried to force the phrase into connexion with what precedes, as if the meaning were ‘He that believeth on me in the way that Scripture prescribes.’ Although the exact words are not found in Scripture there are various texts of similar import: Isaiah 44:3 , 58:11; Zechariah 13:1 , 14:8, &c. But none of them contain the very remarkable expression ‘out of his belly.’

rivers of living water ] In the Greek ‘rivers’ stands first with strong emphasis; rivers out of his belly shall flow , (rivers) of living water , in marked contrast to the ewer of water poured each day during the Feast. ‘He that believeth on me’ is of course a stage far in advance of ‘if any one thirst.’ A man may thirst for spiritual satisfaction, and yet not end in believing on Christ. But the believer cannot end in satisfying his own thirst; he at once becomes a fount whence others may derive refreshment. Whether he wills to be a teacher or no, the true Christian cannot fail to impart the spirit of Christianity to others.

39. this spake he of the Spirit ] S. John’s interpretation is to be accepted, whatever may be our theory of inspiration, (1) because no better interpreter of Christ’s words ever lived, even among the Apostles; (2) because it is the result of his own inmost experience. The principle of Christian activity has ever been the Spirit. He moves the waters, and they overflowed at Pentecost. Till then ‘the Spirit was not yet;’ the dispensation of the Spirit had not come.

the Holy Ghost was not yet given ] Both ‘the Holy’ and ‘given’ are of doubtful authority: ‘given’ is omitted by nearly all MSS. except the Vatican; it gives the right sense. Like ‘Holy Spirit’ in 1:33, ‘Spirit’ has no article and means a power of the Spirit.

because that Jesus was not yet glorified ] Comp. 16:7; Psalms 68:18 . The Spirit, “though given in His fulness to Christ Himself (3:34), and operating through Him in His people (6:63), was not, until after Christ’s return to glory, to be given to the faithful as the Paraclete and representative of Christ for the carrying on of His work.” Meyer.

40 52. Opposite Results of the Discourse

40. Many of the people , &c.] According to the best authorities; Of the multitude, therefore, some, when they heard these words, were saying , or, began to say .

Of a truth this is the Prophet ] The Prophet of Deuteronomy 18:15 , whom some identified with the Messiah, others supposed would be the fore-runner of the Messiah. Here he is plainly distinguished from the Messiah. See on 1:21 and 6:14.

41. Others said … some said ] Both verbs, as in v . 40, are imperfects of repeated action; kept saying, used to say .

Shall Christ come out of Galilee ] We have here an instance how little attention our translators paid to the Greek article: in the same verse they translate the article in one place and ignore it in another. In the next verse they ignore it again. In all three places it should be ‘ the Christ’ (see on 1:20). Why, doth the Christ come out of Galilee? It is quite inadmissible to infer, because S. John does not correct this mistake of supposing that Jesus came from Galilee, that he is either ignorant of the truth or indifferent to it. He knew that his readers would be well aware of the facts. On the other hand, could a Greek of the second century invent these discussions of the Jewish multitude?

42. of the seed of David ] Psalms 132:11 ; Jeremiah 23:5 ; Isaiah 11:1 , Isaiah 11:10 .

out of the town of Bethlehem ] Literally, from Bethlehem, the village where David was . Micah 5:2 ; 1 Samuel 16:0 .

43. a division ] Schisma , whence our word ‘schism.’ It means a serious and possibly violent division: 9:16, 10:19; 1 Corinthians 1:10 , 1 Corinthians 1:12 :25; comp. Acts 14:4 , Acts 23:7 . In N.T. it is never used in the modern sense of a separation from the Church, but of parties in the Church. In the Synoptists it is used only in its original sense of physical severing; ‘a worse rent is made;’ Matthew 9:16 ; Mark 2:21 .

among the people ] In the multitude .

44. some of them ] Some of the multitude, provoked by the controversy, would on their own responsibility have carried Him before the Sanhedrin. These ‘some’ are not the officers mentioned in the next verse.

45. Then came the officers ] Better, Therefore came the officers , i.e. because neither they nor any of the multitude had ventured to arrest Him. Under the control of God’s providence ( v . 30), they had been unable to find any good opportunity for taking Him, and had been over-awed by the majesty of His words ( v . 46).

to the chief priests and Pharisees ] See on v . 32. It would seem as if the Sanhedrin had continued sitting, waiting for the return of its officers; an extraordinary proceeding on so great a day (see on v . 37), shewing the intensity of their hostility. Their question is quite in harmony with this.

they said ] The pronoun used ( ekeinoi ) indicates that they are regarded as alien or hostile to the narrator.

Why have ye not brought ] Why did ye not bring?

46. Never man spake like this man ] The reading is doubtful; some of the best MSS. have Never man so spake . Possibly Christ said a good deal more than is recorded by S. John.

47. the Pharisees ] That portion of the Sanhedrin which was most jealous of orthodoxy, regarded both by themselves and others as models of correct belief: see next verse. For ‘then’ read therefore .

Are ye also deceived ] Strong emphasis on ‘ye;’ Surely ye also have not been led astray , ye, the officers of the Sanhedrin! Comp. v . 12.

48. What right have you to judge for yourselves, contrary to the declared opinion of the Sanhedrin and of the orthodox party? What right have you to wear our livery and dispute our resolutions?

49. this people ] Very contemptuous; this multitude of yours (comp. 35, 36), whose ignorant fancies you prefer to our deliberate decisions.

who knoweth not the law ] The form of negative used implies censure; knoweth not when it ought to know. They ought to know that a sabbath-breaker cannot be the Messiah.

are cursed ] A mere outburst of theological fury. A formal excommunication of the whole multitude by the Sanhedrin (comp. 9:22) would be impossible. How could such a sentence be executed on the right individuals? It was reserved for a Christian hierarchy to invent the interdict. Excommunication en masse was unknown to the Jews.

50. he that came to Jesus by night ] The better reading seems to be, he that came to Him before . See on 3:1, 2. His ‘being one of them’ contradicts what is implied in v . 48, that no member of the Sanhedrin believed on Him.

51. Doth our law ] ‘Law’ is emphatic. ‘You condemn the multitude for not knowing the law; but are we not forgetting the law in condemning a man unheard?’ These learned theologians and lawyers were forgetting such plain and simple texts as Deuteronomy 1:16 , Deuteronomy 1:17 , Deuteronomy 1:17 :8, Deuteronomy 1:19 :15; involving the most elementary principles of justice.

any man, before it hear him ] Literally, the man (prosecuted) except it first hear from himself .

52. Art thou also of Galilee? ] ‘Surely thou dost not sympathize with Him as being a fellow-countryman?’ They share the popular belief that Jesus was by birth a Galilean ( v . 41).

out of Galilee ariseth no prophet ] Either their temper makes them forgetful, or in the heat of controversy they prefer a sweeping statement to a qualified one. Jonah of Gath-hepher (2 Kings 14:25 ) was certainly of Galilee; Nahum of Elkosh may have been, but the situation of Elkosh is uncertain; Hosea was of the northern kingdom, but whether of Galilee or not is unknown; Abelmeholah, whence Elisha came, was in the north part of the Jordan valley, possibly in Galilee. Anyhow, their statement is only a slight and very natural exaggeration (comp. 4 v . 29). Judging from the past, Galilee was not very likely to produce a Prophet, much less the Messiah.

Of the various questions which arise respecting the paragraph that follows (7:53 8:11) one at least may be answered with something like certainty, that it is no part of the Gospel of S. John . (1) In both tone and style it is very unlike his writings. His favourite words and expressions are wanting; others that he rarely or never uses are found. (2) It breaks the course of the narrative, which runs smoothly enough if this paragraph be omitted; and hence a few of the MSS. which contain it place it at the end of the Gospel. (3) All the very serious amount of external evidence which tells against the passage being part of the Gospel narrative at all of course tells against its being by S. John, and in this respect is not counterbalanced by other considerations. So that the internal and external evidence when put together is overwhelmingly against the paragraph being part of the Fourth Gospel.

With regard to the question whether the section is a genuine portion of the Gospel history , the internal evidence is wholly in favour of its being so, while the balance of external testimony is decidedly on the same side. (1) The style is similar to the Synoptic Gospels, especially to S. Luke; and four inferior MSS. insert the passage at the end of Luke 21:0 , the place m the history into which it fits best. (2) It bears the impress of truth and is fully in harmony with Christ’s conduct on other occasions; yet it is quite original and cannot be a divergent account of any other incident in the Gospels. (3) It is easy to see how prudential reasons may in some cases have caused its omission (the fear of giving, as S. Augustine says, peccandi impunitatem mulieribus ); difficult to see what, excepting its truth, can have caused its insertion. (4) Though it is found in no Greek MS. earlier than the sixth century, nor in the earliest versions, nor is quoted as by S. John until late in the fourth century, yet Jerome says that in his time it was contained ‘ in many Greek and Latin MSS .’ ( Adv. Pelag. ii. 17), and these must have been as good as, or better than, the best MSS. which we now possess.

The question as to who is the author , cannot be answered. There is not sufficient material for a satisfactory conjecture, and mere guesswork is worthless. The extraordinary number of various readings (80 in 183 words) points to more than one source.

One more question remains. How is it that nearly all the MSS. that do contain it (several uncials, including the Cambridge MS., and more than 300 cursives) agree in inserting it here? This cannot be answered with certainty. Similarity of matter may have caused it to have been placed in the margin in one copy, and thence it may have passed, as other things have done, into the text of the Cambridge and other MSS. In chap. 7 we have an unsuccessful attempt to ruin Jesus: this paragraph contains the history of another attempt, equally unsuccessful. Or, the incident may have been inserted in the margin in illustration of 8:15, and hence have got into the text.

53. That this verse, as well as 8:1, 2, is omitted in most MSS. shews that prudential reasons cannot explain the omission of the paragraph in more than a limited number of cases. Some MSS. omit only 8:3 11.

every man went unto his own house ] To what meeting this refers we cannot tell: of course not to the meeting of the Sanhedrin just recorded by S. John. It is unfortunate that the verse should have been left as the end of this chapter instead of beginning the next.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on John 7". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cgt/john-7.html. 1896.
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