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Tuesday, November 28th, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
John 5

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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Jesus in Jerusalem manifests Himself as the Life by communicating strength to an impotent man .

Verse 1

John 5:1 . μετὰ ταῦτα , “after this”; how long after does not concern the narrative. ἦν ἑορτὴ τῶν Ἰουδαίων . See critical note. Even if the article were the true reading, this would not, as Lücke has shown, determine the feast to be the Passover. Rather it would be Tabernacles, see W.H [52] ii. 76. We are thrown upon general considerations and that these yield a very uncertain result is shown by the variety of opinion expressed by commentators. The feasts we have to choose from are: Purim in March, Passover in April, Pentecost in May, Tabernacles in October, Dedication in December. It is chiefly between Purim and Passover that opinion is divided, because some feast in spring is supposed to be indicated by John 4:35 . Against Passover it is urged that in chap. 6 another Passover is mentioned; but this is by no means decisive, as John elsewhere passes over equally long intervals of time. Lampe, Lightfoot, Grotius, Whitelaw, and Wordsworth argue for Passover: Tischendorf, Meyer, Godet, Farrar, Weiss, and others strongly favour Purim; while Lücke seems to prove that no sure conclusion can be reached. [For a full and fair presentation of opinions and data see Andrew’s Life of our Lord , p. 189 sqq. ] The feast, whatever it was, is mentioned here to account for Jesus being again in Jerusalem.

[52] Westcott and Hort.

Verse 2

John 5:2 . ἔστι δὲ ἐν τοῖς Ἱεροσολύμοις . From the use of the present tense Bengel concludes that this was written before the destruction of Jerusalem [“Scripsit Johannes ante vastationem urbis”]. But quite probably John considered the pool one of the permanent features of the city. Its position is more precisely defined in the words ἐπὶ τῇ προβατικῇ , rendered in A.V [53] “by the sheep market” and in R.V [54] “by the sheep gate”. Others read κολυμβήθρᾳ , and render “by the sheep- pool a pool ”; Weiss, adopting this reading, supplies οἰκία or some such word: “there is by the sheep-pool a building”. But this does some violence to the sentence; and as the “sheep gate” is mentioned in Nehemiah 3:32 ; Nehemiah 12:39 , the reading, construction, and rendering of R.V [55] are to be preferred. ἡ ἐπιλεγομένη Ἑβραϊστὶ Βηθεσδά . The pool has recently been identified. M. Clermont Ganneau pointed out that its site should not be far from the church of St. Anne, and in 1888 Herr Shick found in that locality two sister pools, one fifty-five and the other sixty feet long. The former was arched in by five arches, while five corresponding porches ran alongside the pool. By the crusaders a church had been built over this pool, with a crypt framed in imitation of the five porches and with an opening in the floor to get down to the water. That they regarded this pool as that mentioned here is shown by their having represented on the wall of the crypt the angel troubling the water. [Herr Shick’s papers are contained in the Palestine Quarterly , 1888, pp. 115 134, and 1890, p. 19. See also St. Clair’s Buried Cities , Henderson’s Palestine , p. 180.] The pool had five porches. Bovet describes the bath of Ibrahim near Tiberias: “The hall in which the spring is found is surrounded by several porticoes in which we see a multitude of people crowded one upon another, laid on couches or rolled in blankets, with lamentable expressions of misery and suffering”. Here lay πλῆθος τῶν ἀσθενούντων , and these were of three kinds, τυφλῶν , χωλῶν , ξηρῶν .

[53] Authorised Version.

[54] Revised Version.

[55] Revised Version.

Verse 3

John 5:3 . ἐκδεχομένων … νοσήματι . See critical note.

Verse 5

John 5:5 . ἦν δέ τις ἄνθρωπος … ἀσθενείᾳ . “And there was a certain man there who had spent thirty-eight years in his infirmity:” ἔτη ἔχων , cf. John 5:6 and John 8:57 ; and Achil. Tat., 24. How long he had lain by the water is not said. To find in the man’s thirty-eight years’ imbecility a symbol of Israel’s thirty-eight years in the wilderness is itself an imbecility.

Verse 6

John 5:6 . Jesus when He saw the man lying and had ascertained ( γνοὺς , having learned from the man or his friends) that already he had passed a long time (in that infirmity) says: θέλεις ὑγιὴς γενέσθαι ; “Do you wish to become whole (healthy)?” This question was put to attract the man’s attention and awaken hope. But the man is hopeless: it is not a question of will, he says, but of opportunity. His very weakness enabled others to anticipate him; ἐν ᾧ ἔρχομαι ἐγὼ , “while I am coming,” he could, then, move a little, but not quickly enough. At each bubbling up of the water, apparently only one could be healed. The ἄλλος πρὸ ἐμοῦ καταβαίνει was a great aggravation of his case.

Verse 8

John 5:8 . The impotent man having declared his helplessness, Jesus says to him, Ἔγειρε , a command to be obeyed on the moment by faith in Him who gave it. Cf. John 6:63 , and Augustine’s “Da quod jubes, et jube quod vis”. ἆρον τὸν κράββατόν σου , “take up your pallet”. κράββατος is the Latin grabatus , and is late Greek; see Rutherford’s New Phryn. , 137; and McLellan’s Greek Test. , p. 106, for references and anecdote. He was commanded to take up his bed that he might recognise that the cure was permanent. No doubt many of the cures at the pool were merely temporary. περιπάτει “walk,” ability was given not merely to rise, but to walk. The cures wrought by Christ are perfect, and do not only give some relief.

Verse 9

John 5:9 . καὶ εὐθέως … Immediately on Christ’s word he became strong, and took up his bed and walked: ἦρε aorist of one act, περιεπάτει imperfect of continued action. John 5:10 should begin with the words ἦν δὲ σάββατον , as this is the starting-point for what follows.

Verse 10

John 5:10 . “It was a Sabbath on that day,” the Jews therefore said to him that had been healed, Σάββατόν ἐστιν , “It is Sabbath”. οὐκ ἔξεστί σοι ἆραι τὸν κράββατον . The law is laid down in Exodus 23:12 ; Jeremiah 17:21 . “Take heed to yourselves and bear no burden on the Sabbath day;” cf. Nehemiah 13:15 . The rabbinical law ran: “Whosoever on the Sabbath bringeth anything in, or taketh anything out from a public place to a private one, if he hath done this inadvertently, he shall sacrifice for his sin; but if wilfully, he shall be cut off and shall be stoned” (Lightfoot in loc. ).

Verse 11

John 5:11 . The man’s reply reveals a higher law than that of the Sabbath, the fundamental principle of all Christian obedience: Ὁ ποιήσας … περιπάτει . He that gives life is the proper authority for its use.

Verse 12

John 5:12 . As the healed man transferred the blame to another, ἠρώτησαν … περιπάτει . “Who is the man,” rather, “the fellow?” ὁ ἄνθρωπος used contemptuously. As Grotius says: “Quaerunt non quod mirentur, sed quod calumnietur”.

Verse 13

John 5:13 . But the man could give them no information. He did not know the name of his healer. ὁ γὰρ Ἰησοῦς ἐξένευσεν , “for Jesus had withdrawn” or “turned aside”. ἐκνεύω , from νεύω , to bend the head, rather than ἐκνέω , to swim out. Cf. Judges 4:18 (where, however, Dr. Swete reads ἔκκλινον ), John 18:26 . See also Thayer and Wetstein. The reason why Jesus took Himself away, and the explanation of His doing so without observation, are both given in ὄχλου ὄντος ἐν τῷ τόπῳ . He did not wish observation and it was easy to escape in the crowd.

Verse 14

John 5:14 . Though the healed man had failed to keep hold of Jesus, Jesus does not lose hold of him, but εὑρίσκει αὐτὸν ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ , “finds him,” as if He had been looking out for him, cf. John 1:44 ; John 1:46 , “in the temple,” where he may have gone to give God thanks. Jesus says to him Ἱδε ὑγιὴς γέγονας … γένηται . μηκέτι ἀμάρτανε , present imperative, “continue no longer in sin”. χεῖρον . There is then some worse consequence of sin than thirty-eight years’ misery and uselessness. Apparently Jesus feared that health of body might only lead the man to further sin. His physical weakness was seemingly the result of sin, cf. Mark 2:5-10 . Jesus is not satisfied with giving him physical health. Oscar Holtzmann observes that we have here the two leading Pauline ideas, that the Saviour frees from many O.T. precepts, and yet that His emancipation is a call to strive against sin ( Johan. , p. 60).

Verse 15

John 5:15 . ἀπῆλθεν ὁ ἄνθρωπος . “The man went off and reported to the Jews that the person who healed him was Jesus. He had asked His name, and perhaps did not consider that in proclaiming it he was endangering his benefactor.

Verse 16

John 5:16 . The consequence however was that “the Jews persecuted Jesus,” ἐδίωκον , not in the technical sense; but, as the imperfect also suggests, they began from this point to meditate hostile action; cf. Mark 3:6 . καὶ ἐζήτουν αὐτὸν ἀποκτεῖναι , on the ground that He was a Sabbath-breaker, and therefore worthy of death; ὅτι ταῦτα ἐποίει ἐν σαββάτῳ . The plural and the imperfect show that the cure of the impotent man was not the only case they had in view. Their allies in the provinces had made them acquainted with similar cases. It would almost seem as if He was in the habit of thus signalising the Sabbath.

Verse 17

John 5:17 . In some informal way these accusations were brought to the ears of Jesus, and His defence was: Ὁ πατήρ μου … ἐργάζομαι . “My Father until now works, and I work”; as if the work of the Father had not come to an end on the seventh day, but continued until the present hour. Nay, as if the characteristic of the Father were just this, that He works. Philo perceived the same truth; παύεται οὐδέποτε ποιῶν ὁ θεὸς ἀλλʼ ὥσπερ ἴδιον τὸ καίειν πυρὸς καὶ χίονος τὸ ψύχειν , οὕτω καὶ Θεοῦ τὸ ποιεῖν . God never stops working, for as it is the property of fire to burn and of snow to be cold so of God to work ( De allegor. , ii. See Schoettgen in loc. ). Jesus means them to apprehend that there is no Sabbath, such as they suppose, with God, and that this healing of the impotent was God’s work. The Father does not rest from doing good on the Sabbath day, and I as the Father’s hand also do good on the Sabbath. In charging Him with breaking the Sabbath (John 5:18 ), it was God they charged with breaking it. But this exasperated them the more “because He not only was annulling ( ἔλυε , ‘laws, as having binding force, are likened to bonds, hence λύειν is to annul, subvert, deprive of authority ,’ Thayer) the Sabbath, but also said that God was His own Father, making Himself equal to God”. The Jews found in ὁ πατήρ μου (John 5:17 ) and the implication in κἀγὼ ἐργάζομαι a claim to some peculiar and exclusive ( ἴδιον ) sonship on the part of Jesus; that He claimed to be Son of God not in the sense in which other men are, but in a sense which involved equality with God. Starting from this, Jesus took occasion to unfold His relation to the Father so far as it concerned men to know it.

The passage 19 30 divides itself thus: John 5:19-20 exhibit the ground of the Son’s activity in the Father’s activity and love for the Son; John 5:21-23 , the works given by the Father to the Son are, generally, life-giving and judging; John 5:24-27 , these works in the spiritual sphere; John 5:28-29 , in the physical sphere; and John 5:30 , reaffirmation of unity with the Father.

Verse 19

John 5:19 . The fundamental proposition is οὐ δύναται ὁ υἱὸς ποιεῖν ἀφʼ ἑαυτοῦ οὐδέν . “The Son can do nothing of Himself.” This is not, as sometimes has been supposed, a general statement true of all sons, but is spoken directly of Jesus. δύναται is moral not physical ability though here the one implies the other; but cf. John 5:26 . So perfect is the Son’s sympathy with the Father that He can only do what He sees the Father doing. He does nothing at His own instance. That is to say, in healing the impotent man He felt sure He was doing what the Father wished done and gave Him power to do. ἃ γὰρ … ποιεῖ , as Holtzmann observes, the force of the repetition lies in ὁμοίως , pariter , “in like manner”.

Verse 20

John 5:20 . And the Son is enabled to see what the Father does, because He loves the Son and shows Him all that He Himself does. The Father is not passive in the matter, merely allowing Jesus to discover what He can of the Father’s will; but the Father δείκνυσιν , shows Him, inwardly and in response to His own readiness to perceive, not mechanically but spiritually, all that He does; πάντα apparently without limitation, for ποιεῖ is habitual present as φιλεῖ in previous clause, and cannot be restricted to the things God was then doing in the case of the impotent man. Besides, a merely human sonship scarcely satisfies the absolute ὁ πατήρ and ὁ υἱός of this passage. καὶ μείζονα … θαυμάζητε , the Father through the Son will do greater works than the healing of the impotent man; cf. 14:12; “that ye may marvel”; this seems an inadequate motive, but John 5:23 explains it. In the following passage, spiritual quickening is meant in John 5:21-27 , while in John 5:28-29 , it is the bodily resurrection that is in view.

Verse 21

John 5:21 . ὥσπερ γὰρ … ζωοποιεῖ . This is one of the “greater works” which the Father shows to the Son. The Jews believed in the power of God to give life and to raise the dead; see Deu 32:39 ; 1 Samuel 2:6 ; Isaiah 26:19 . In our Lord’s time there was in use the following prayer: “Thou, O Lord, art mighty for ever; Thou quickenest the dead; Thou art strong to save; Thou sustainest the living by Thy mercy; Thou quickenest the dead by Thy great compassion; Thou makest good Thy faithfulness to them that sleep in the dust; Thou art faithful to quicken the dead. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who quickenest the dead.” There is therefore no need to ask, what quickening of the dead is here meant? What was meant was that the power which they all believed to be in God was likewise in the Son. He quickens οὓς θέλει , i.e. , no matter how dead the person is; even though he has lain as long useless as the impotent man. The question of the human will is not touched here, but it may be remarked that the will of the impotent man was consulted as the prime requisite of the cure.

Verse 22

John 5:22 . But not only does the Son quicken whom He will, but He also judges; οὐδὲ γὰρ … υἱῷ . “For not even does the Father judge any one, but has given all judgment to the Son.” “For since He knows Himself to be the sole mediator of true life for men, He can also declare that all those who will not partake through Him of this blissful life, just therein experience judgment whereby they sink into death.” Wendt, ii. 211; and cf. John 5:27 . οὐδὲ γὰρ introduces the fresh statement, that He judges, not only as the reason for what goes before, but on its own account also, as an additional fact to be noticed. It would seem an astonishing thing that even “judgment,” the allotting of men to their eternal destinies, should be handed over to the Son. But so it is: and without exception, τὴν κρίσιν πᾶσαν , “all judgment,” of all men and without appeal.

Verse 23

John 5:23 . This extreme prerogative is given to the Son ἵνα πάντες τιμῶσι τὸν υἱὸν … This is one purpose, though not the sole purpose, of committing judgment to the Son; that even those supremely and inalienably Divine prerogatives of giving life and judging may be seen to be in Him, and that thus Deity may be honoured in and through Him. The great peril threatening the Jews was that they should deny honour to the Son, and hereby incur the guilt of refusing honour to the Father. In denouncing Him for breaking the Sabbath they were really dishonouring the Father. ὁ μὴ τιμῶν … αὐτόν . μὴ τιμῶν a supposed case, therefore μή : οὐ τιμᾷ actual negation. To dishonour the Father’s messenger is to dishonour the Father. Having explained the relation of His work to the Father’s, and having declared that life-giving and judging are His prerogatives, Jesus now, in John 5:24-30 , more definitely shows how these powers are to be exercised in the spiritual regeneration, and in the resurrection and final judgment of men. John 5:24-26 . The voice of Jesus gives life eternal. ἀμὴν , ἀμὴν , however incredible what I now say may seem.

Verse 24

John 5:24 . ὁ τὸν λόγον μου ἀκούων ; it was through His word Jesus conveyed life to the impotent man, because that brought Him into spiritual connection with the man. And it is through His claims, His teaching, His offers, He brings Himself into connection with all. It is a general truth not confined to the impotent man. But to hear is not enough: καὶ πιστεύων τῷ πέμψαντί με , belief on Him that sent Jesus must accompany hearing. Not simply belief on Jesus but on God. The word of Jesus must be recognised as a Divine message, a word with power to fulfil it. In this case, by the very hearing and believing, ἔχει ζωὴν αἰώνιον . As the impotent man had, in his believing, physical life, so whoever believes in Christ’s word as God’s message receives the life of God into his spirit. Faith has also a negative result; εἰς κρίσιν οὐκ ἔρχεται [ cf. οὐκ ἐθελόντων ὑμῶν ἐλθεῖν εἰς κρίσιν , quoted from Demosthenes by Wetstein. Herodotus also uses the expression]. Literally this means “he does not come to trial”; but has it not the fuller meaning “come under condemnation”? Meyer says “yes”: Godet says “no”. Meyer is right. This clause is the direct negative of the former: to come to judgment is to come under condemnation, cf. John 3:19 , αὕτη δὲ ἐστιν ἡ κρίσις , etc. ἀλλὰ μεταβέβηκεν ἐκ τοῦ θανάτου εἰς τὴν ζωήν . The perfect shows (1) that the previous ἔχει is an actual present, and does not merely mean “has in prospect” or “has a right to”; and (2) that the result of the transition continues. Had the impotent man not believed and obeyed, he would have remained in his living death, in now a self-chosen and self-fixed condemnation: but accepting the life that was in Christ’s command, he passed there and then from death to life.

Verse 25

John 5:25 . Ἀμὴν … introducing a confirmation of the preceding statement, in the form of an announcement of one characteristic of the new dispensation; ἔρχεται ὥρα καὶ νῦν ἐστιν , cf. John 4:3 . In this already arrived “hour” or epoch, the message of God is uttered by the voice of Jesus, τῆς φωνῆς τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ Θεοῦ and οἱ νεκροὶ , they who have not made the transition spoken of in the preceding verse, ἀκούσονται , shall hear it; καὶ οἱ ἀκούσαντες ζήσονται [or ζήσουσιν ], not “and having heard shall live,” nor “and when they hear shall live”; but “and those who have heard [or hear] shall live”. The insertion of the article indicates that not all, but only a certain class of the νεκροί are meant: all the dead hear but not all give ear (Weiss). ἀκουσούσιν in the former clause means hearing with the outward ear, ἀκούσαντες hearing with faith. The question, how can the spiritually dead hear and believe? is the question, how could the impotent man rise in response to Christ’s word? Perhaps psychologically inexplicable, it is, happily, soluble in practice.

Verse 26

John 5:26 . The 26th verse partly explains the apparent impossibility. ὥσπερ γὰρ … ἔχειν ἐν ἑαυτῷ . “The particles mark the fact of the gift and not the degrees of it” (Westcott). As the Father has in Himself, and therefore at His own command, life which He can impart as He will: so by His gift the Son has in Himself life which He can communicate directly to whom He will. ἐν ἑαυτῷ [similarly used Mark 4:17 , John 4:14 , etc.] excludes dependence for life on anything external to self. From this it follows that what is so possessed is possessed with uninter rupted fulness, and can at will be imparted. ἔδωκε , “the tense carries us back beyond time,” says Westcott. This is more than doubtful; although several interpreters suppose the eternal generation of the Son is in view. That is precluded both by the word “gave” [which “denotat id quod non per naturalem generationem, sed per benevolam Patris voluntatem est concessum,” Matthew 28:18 Luke 1:32 ; John 3:34 ; John 6:37 , Lampe] and by the context, especially by the last clause of John 5:27 . The opinions of the Fathers and Reformers are cited in Lampe. See further Stevens, Johan. Theol. , p. 60.

Verse 27

John 5:27 . Not only has the Father given to the Son this great prerogative, but καὶ ἐξουσίαν … ἀνθρώπου ἐστί . κρίσιν ποιεῖν , like judicium facere , and our do judgment , is used by Demosthenes, Xenophon, Polybius, etc., in the sense “to judge,” “to act as judge”. This climax of authority [although καὶ is omitted before κρίσιν by recent editors on good authority] is based upon the fact ὅτι υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου ἐστί . [Strangely enough, Chrysostom ascribes this punctuation to Paul of Samosata, and declares it to be an inconsequence. He himself begins John 5:28 with this clause, and reads “marvel not at this, that He is the Son of Man”.] The absence of the article condemns all interpretations which render these words “the Son of Man” and understands that Jesus claims the prerogative of judgment as the Messiah. Where “the Son of Man” means the Messiah the articles regularly appear. Besides, direct allusion to the Messianic functions would here be out of place. The words must be rendered “because He is a son of man,” that is, a man. How is this a reason for His being Judge of men? Various explanations are given: the Judge must be visible since the judgment is to take place with human publicity (Luther Maldonatus, Witsius), because as man the Son carries out the whole work of redemption (Meyer, etc.), because men should be judged by the lowliest and most loving of men (Stier), because the Judge must share the nature of those who are brought before Him (Westcott), because only as man could Jesus enter into the sphere in which the judicial office moves or have the compassion which a judge of men should possess (Baur), because the judgment of humanity is to be a homage rendered to the holiness of God, a true act of adoration, a worship; and therefore the act must go forth from the bosom of humanity itself (Godet). But undoubtedly Beyschlag is right when he says: “The eternal love condemns no one because he is a sinner; as such it does not at all condemn; it leaves it to men to judge themselves, through rejection of the Saviour who is presented to them. The Son of Man is the judge of the world, just because He presents the eternal life, the kingdom of heaven to all, and urges all to the eternal decision, and thus urges those who continue unbelieving to a continuing self-judgment” ( Neutest. Theol. , i. 290). By His appearing in human form as God’s messenger, and by His offer of life eternal, He necessarily judges men. As His offer of life to the impotent man tested him and showed whether he would abide in death or pass into life: so are all men judged precisely by that appearance among them in human form which stumbles them and tempts them to think His claims absurd, and which yet as the embodied love and life of God necessarily judges men. Therefore μὴ θαυμάζετε τοῦτο .

Verse 28

John 5:28 . And another reason for restraining surprise is ὅτι ἔρχεται ὥρα , etc. It has been proposed to render this as if ὅτι were explanatory of τοῦτο , do not wonder at this, that an hour is coming. But (1) τοῦτο usually, though not invariably, refers to what precedes; and (2) when John says “Do not wonder that” so and so, he uses μὴ θαυμάσῃς ὅτι without τοῦτο ; and (3) the ordinary rendering suits the passage better: Marvel not at this [that my voice gives life] because a time is coming when there will result from my voice that which if not really greater will strike you more sensibly. The bodily resurrection may be said to be greater than the spiritual as its consummation, completion, and exhibition in results. Besides, the Jews of our Lord’s time looked upon the resurrection as the grand demonstration of God’s power. But here the οἱ ἐν τοῖς μνημείοις shows that the surprise is to be occasioned by the fact that even the physically dead shall hear. πάντες … κρίσεως . That the resurrection is alluded to is shown by the change from οἱ νεκροί of John 5:25 to οἱ ἐν τοῖς μνημείοις . Some rise to life, some to κρίσιν , which from its opposition to ζωήν must here be equivalent to κατακρίσιν . If it is asked with regard to the righteous, With what body do they come? much more may it be asked of the condemned. The entrance into life and into condemnation are determined by conduct; how the conduct is determined is not here stated. For the expressions defining the two types of conduct see on chap. John 3:20-21 . That the present reception of life is the assurance of resurrection is put strikingly by Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:5 . The fact that some shall rise to condemnation discloses that even those who have not the Spirit of God in them have some kind of continuous life which maintains them in existence with their personal identity intact from the time of death to the time of resurrection. Also, that the long period spent by some between these two points has not been utilised for bringing them into fellowship with Christ is apparent. In what state they rise or to what condition they go, we are not here told. Beyond the fact of their condemnation their future is left in darkness, and was therefore probably meant to be left in darkness.

Verse 30

John 5:30 . This judgment claimed by Jesus is, however, engaged in, not in any spirit of self-exaltation or human arbitrariness, nor can it err, because it is merely as the executor of the Father’s will He judges. οὐ δύναμαι … οὐδέν . The first statement of the verse is a return upon John 5:19 , “The Son can do nothing of Himself”; but now it is specially applied to the work of judgment. καθῶς ἀκούω κρίνω . As He said of His giving life, that He was merely the Agent of God, doing what He saw the Father do: so now He speaks what He hears from the Father. His judgment He knows to be just, because He is conscious that He has no personal bias, but seeks only to carry out the will of the Father. In John 5:31-40 Jesus substantiates these great claims which He has made in the foregoing verses. He refers to the μαρτυρία borne by John the Baptist, by the works given Him by the Father, and by the Father in Scripture.

Verse 31

John 5:31 . Ἐὰν εγὼ μαρτυρῶ … ἀληθής . Jesus anticipates the objection, that these great claims were made solely on His own authority [ ἔγνω τοὺς Ἰουδαίους ἐνθυμουμένους ἀντιθεῖναι , Euthym.]. The Jewish law is given by Wetstein, “Testibus de se ipsis non credunt,” or “Homo non est fide dignus de se ipso,” and cf. Deuteronomy 19:15 . The same law prevailed among the Greeks, μαρτυρεῖν γὰρ οἱ νόμοι οὐκ ἐῶσιν αὐτὸν ἑαυτῷ (Demosth., De Cor. , 2), and among the Romans, “more majorum comparatum est, ut in minimis rebus homines amplissimi testimonium de sua re non dicerent” (Cicero, pro Roscio , 36, Wetstein). Grotius says: “Romani dicunt neminem idoneum testem esse in re sua”. But how can Jesus say that if His witness stands alone it is not true? Chrysostom says He speaks not absolutely but with reference to their suspicion [ πρὸς τὴν ἐκείνων ὑπόνοιαν ]. And on occasion He can maintain that His testimony of Himself is true, chap. John 8:13 , where He says “Though I witness of myself my witness is true,” and demands that He be considered one of the two witnesses required. Here the point of view is different, and He means: Were I standing alone, unauthenticated by the Father, my claims would not be worthy of credit. But ἄλλος ἐστὶν ὁ μαρτυρῶν περὶ ἐμοῦ (on the definite predicate with indefinite subject vide Winer, p. 136). “It is another that beareth witness of me,” namely, the Father [ σημαίνει τὸν ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς ὄντα θεὸν καὶ Πατέρα , Cyril, Melanchthon, and the best modern interpreters, Holtzmann, Weiss, Westcott]. Grotius, following Chrysostom and Euthymius, says “facillimum est ut de Johanne sumamus, quia de eo sunt quae proxime sequuntur”. Against this is (1) the disclaimer of John’s testimony, John 5:34 ; (2) and especially the accentuated opposition of ὑμεῖς , John 5:33 , and ἐγώ , John 5:34 . For other reasons, see Lücke. Of this witness Jesus says οἶδα ὅτι … ἐμοῦ . Why this addition? Is it an overflow of satisfaction in the unassailable position this testimony gives Him? Rather it is the offset to the supposition made in John 5:31 , “my witness is not true”. [Cyril’s interpretation is inexact, but suggestive: μονονουχὶ τοῦτο διδάσκων , ὅτι Θεὸς ὢν ἀληθινὸς , οἶδα , φησὶν , ἐμαυτὸν , κεχαρισμένον δὲ οὐδὲν ὁ Πατὴρ ἐρεῖ περὶ ἐμοῦ .]

Verse 33

John 5:33 . Before exhibiting the Father’s testimony Jesus meets them on their own ground: ὑμεῖς , ye yourselves, ἀπεστάλκατε πρὸς Ἰωάννην , sent, by the deputation mentioned chap. 1, to John; which they would not have done had they not thought him trustworthy (Euthymius). The perfect is used, indicating that the result continued; as the perfect μεμαρτύρηκε indicates that “the testimony preserves its value notwithstanding the disappearance of the witness”. τῇ ἀληθείᾳ to the truth, especially of the Messianic dignity of Jesus.

Verse 34

John 5:34 . ἐγὼ δὲ οὐ … but for my part I do not depend upon a man’s testimony. In what sense is this to be taken? In John 3:11 λαμβάνειν τὴν μαρτυρίαν means “to credit testimony,” but this sense does not satisfy the present use. Grotius says, “Hic λαμβάνω est requiro , ut infra 41, 44, ubi in opposito membro ponitur ζητεῖν ut idem valens”. So too Lücke. Godet and Westcott prefer to emphasise the article, “ the testimony,” “the only real, infallible, unexceptionable testimony,” I do not accept from man. The sense is: You sent to John and he testified to the truth; but the testimony which! for my part accept and rely upon is not that of a man. The testimony which confirms Him in the consciousness that He is God’s messenger is not a human but a Divine testimony. ἀλλὰ ταῦτα λέγω but this I say, that is, this regarding the truth of John’s testimony I now mention ἵνα ὑμεῖς σωθῆτε , for your sakes, not for my own, that even on a man’s testimony you may be induced to believe.

Verse 35

John 5:35 . ἐκεῖνος ἦν ὁ λύχνος ὁ καιόμενος καὶ φαίνων , “He was (suggesting that now the Baptist was dead) the lamp that burneth and shineth”. ὁ λύχνος ; for the difference between λύχνος a lamp and λαμπάς a torch, see Trench, Synonyms , p. 154, and cf. λαμπαδηδρομία the Athenian torch -race. The article “simply marks the familiar piece of household furniture” (Westcott). “The article simply converts the image into a definition” (Godet). “The article points him out as the definite light which could have shown them the way to salvation, John 5:34 ” (Weiss). Others find a reference to Psalms 132:17 , ἡτοίμασα λύχνον τῷ Χριστῷ σου . Grotius and Lücke think the reference is to Sir 48:1 , καὶ ἀνέστη Ἐλίας προφήτης ὡς πῦρ καὶ ὁ λόγος αὐτοῦ ὡς λαμπάς ἐκαίετο . In the mediæval Latin Hymns the Baptist is “non Lux iste, sed lucerna”. [Cicero, pro Milone , 21, and elsewhere, calls certain illustrious citizens “lumina,” but with a somewhat different significance.] ὁ καιόμενος , “burning and shining are not two different properties,” Meyer; a lamp must burn if it is to shine. ὑμεῖς δὲ ἠθελήσατε ἀγαλλιασθῆναι πρὸς ὥραν ἐν τῷ φωτὶ αὐτοῦ ; the expression seems intended to suggest the thoughtless and brief play of insects in the sunshine or round a lamp. [“Wie die Mücken im Sonnenschein spielen,” Hausrath in Holtzmann.] Like children following in a bridal procession, dancing in the torchlight: the type of sentimental religionists revelling in their own emotions.

Verse 36

John 5:36 . ἐγὼ δὲ “But I” in contrast to the ὑμεῖς of John 5:33 , ἔχω τὴν μαρτυρίαν μείζω , “have the witness which is greater,” i.e. , of greater weight as evidence than that of John. τὰ γὰρ ἔργα … ἀπέσταλκε , “the works which the Father ἔδωκε [or as modern editors read δέδωκεν ] to Him” comprise all that He was commissioned to do, but with a more special reference to His miracles. Lücke well says, “He who looked at the miracles as separate and individual displays of supernatural power and did not view the entire manifestation of Christ in its solidarity, was bound to find the miracles without significance and the latter incomprehensible”. The ἔργα are cited as evidence, chaps. John 10:25 ; John 10:38 , and John 14:11 ; evidence as here to the fact that the Father had sent Him.

Verse 37

John 5:37 . But over and above the evidence of the works καὶ ὁ πέμψας με πατήρ , αὐτὸς μεμαρτύρηκε , “And the Father who sent me has Himself also testified”. Where and how this testimony of the Father’s separate from the works has been given, is explained, John 5:38 ; John 5:40 But, first, Jesus states how it has no been given: οὔτε φωνὴν αὐτοῦ … ἑωράκατε . It is not by coming into your midst in a visible form and speaking as I speak that the Father has testified. “His voice you have never heard: His form you have never seen.” It is not by sensible sights and sounds the Father has given His testimony. [This interpretation is however ignored by most: by Meyer, who thinks the reference is to their insensibility to the revelation of God in Scripture; by Westcott, who says “the Jews by their disbelief of Christ failed to hear and see Him”; by Godet, who finds “a declaration of man’s natural impotence to rise to the immediate and personal knowledge of God”. Reference to the baptism is put out of the question by πώποτε . The reference to the two chief forms of prophetic revelation (Weiss) is too remote.]

Verse 38

John 5:38 . καὶ τὸν λόγον … you have not heard His voice as you have heard mine (John 5:25 ) and His word which you have heard, and which has been coming to you through all these centuries, you do not admit to an abiding and influential place within you. τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ is God’s revelation, which the Jews were conscious they had received; but though the word of God had come to them, they did not have it “abiding in” them; cf. 1 John 3:15 ; a phrase which in John denotes permanent possession and abiding influence. God’s message does no good until it inwardly possesses those to whom it comes. The proof that the Jews had not thus received it is: ὅτι ὃν ἀπέστειλεν … “whom God hath sent, Him ye believe not”. Had the revelation or word of God in law and prophets possessed them, they would inevitably have recognised Jesus as from the same source, and as the consummation of the message, the fulfilment of the promise. Not that the Jews held their Scriptures in no esteem, no, (John 5:39 ), ἐρευνᾶτε τὰς γραφάς ; the indicative is to be preferred, “Ye search the Scriptures”; the reason being ὅτι ὑμεῖς δοκεῖτε ἐν αὐταῖς ζωὴν αἰώνιον ἔχειν , “because you suppose that in them you have life eternal” already it is hinted, by the emphatic ὑμεῖς implicitly opposed to a contrasted ἐγώ , and by the emphatic ἐν αὐταῖς suggesting another source, that eternal life was not to be had in the Scriptures, but in something else. But it is of me these Scriptures themselves into which you search testify. καὶ ἐκεῖναι … ἐμοῦ . “They testify that in me is life eternal; and yet you will not come to me that you may have life.”

Verse 40

John 5:40 . καὶ οὐ … ἔχητε . The true function of Scripture is expressed in the words, ἐκεῖναί εἰσιν αἱ μαρτυροῦσαι περὶ ἐμοῦ : they do not give life, as the Jews thought; they lead to the life-giver. God speaks in Scripture with a definite purpose in view, to testify to Christ; if Scripture does that, it does all. But to set it on a level with Christ is to do both it, Him, and ourselves grave injustice.

This closes the description of the threefold witness to Christ, and in John 5:41-47 , He exposes the source of their unbelief. This exposure is introduced by a disclaimer on His part of any chagrin at the want of homage and acceptance He received.

Verse 41

John 5:41 . Δόξαν παρὰ ἀνθρώπων οὐ λαμβάνω , not “glory from men I am not receiving,” not quite “glory from men I do not seek,” but rather, that which is in my judgment glory, I do not receive from men: not what men yield me is my glory. Ambition is not my motive in making these claims.

Verse 42

John 5:42 . ἀλλʼ ἔγνωκα … but I know you, etc.; that is, I know why you do not receive me; the reason is that you have not the love of God in yourselves, and therefore cannot appreciate or understand one who acts in concert with God; if therefore they did offer Him homage, it could not be God in Him they worshipped (Holtzmann). [The motive of Jesus in making His claims is a subject inviting inquiry and full of significance.]

Verse 43

John 5:43 . ἐγὼ ἐλήλυθα … It is just because I have come in the Father’s name that you do not receive me. Not really loving God, they could not appreciate and accept Jesus who came in God’s name, that is, who truly represented God. But ἐὰν ἄλλος ἔλθῃ … λήψεσθε , “if another come in his own name,” and therefore seeking only such glory as the Jews could give, him ye will receive; cf. Matthew 24:5 ; Matthew 24:23-24 . “He did not say, ‘If I had come in my own name,’ because the thing was so inconceivable.” Mason, Conditions of our Lord’s Life , etc., p. 90. Possibly Jesus had here in view Antichrist (see Bousset’s Antichrist , 133); but neither Bar Cochba nor any other definite Pseudo-Christ. Schudt mentions sixty-four.

Verse 44

John 5:44 . The Jewish inability to believe arose from their earthly ambition: πῶς δύνασθε … οὐ ζητεῖτε . The root of their unbelief was their earthly idea of glory, what they could win or bestow. This incapacitated them from seeing the glory of Christ, which was divine and heavenly, which men could not give or remove. The glory παρὰ ἀλλήλων is contrasted with that παρὰ τοῦ μόνου Θεοῦ from the only God, the only source, arbiter, and dispenser of praise. Seeking credit as religious men from one another, they necessarily habituated themselves to current ideas, and blotted out Divine glory from their mind.

Verse 45

John 5:45 . μὴ δοκεῖτε … These words bear in them the mark of truth. They spring from Jesus’ own consciousness of His intimacy with the Father. To suppose that the Jews feared He would accuse them, is to suppose that they believed Him to have influence with God. Chiefly in view is the fact that Moses will accuse them. They thought they were defending Moses’ law in accusing Christ for Sabbath-breaking: but, on the contrary, they were themselves open to the accusation of Moses; εἰς ὅν ὑμεῖς ἠλπίκατε , in Vulgate “Moyses in quo vos speratis”.

Verse 46

John 5:46 . They will be accused by Moses because their unbelief in Christ convicts them of unbelief in Moses, εἰ γὰρ … ἐμοί . Had they believed the revelation made by Moses and understood it, they would necessarily have believed in Christ. “Disbelief in me is disbelief in him, in the record of the promises to the patriarchs, in the types of the deliverance from Egypt, in the symbolic institutions of the Law, in the promise of a prophet like to himself; for it was of me (the order is emphatic) he wrote,” Westcott.

Verse 47

John 5:47 . The converse is true, and true with an a fortiori conveyed by the contrast between γράμμασιν and ῥήμασι . If the writings you have had before you for your study all your life, and which you have heard read in the Synagogues Sabbath after Sabbath, have not produced faith in you, and enabled you to see God and appreciate His glory, how shall ye believe the once heard words of one whose coming was prepared for, and His identification made easy by all that Moses wrote?

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on John 5". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/john-5.html. 1897-1910.
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