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Bible Commentaries

Godet's Commentary on Selected Books

John 11


11 and 12

Everything is henceforth ripe for the catastrophe; the development begun in chap. 5 reaches its utmost limit. Yet one more good work, and the condemnation of Jesus will be finally pronounced. Chap. 11 places us in the presence of this denouement.

Of the sojourn in Peraea the Synoptics relate to us some particular incidents which John omits: the conversation with the Pharisees respecting divorce, the presentation of the little children, the scene of the rich young man, the ambitious request of James and John. The fourth evangelist mentions only the fact which brings this sojourn to a close the visit to Bethany.

It is evident that the point of view of the development of Jewish unbelief governed this selection; comp. the story of the session of the Sanhedrim, as the consequence of the miracle ( Joh 11:47-53 ), the relation established between this miracle and the entrance into Jerusalem on Palm-day ( Joh 12:17-18 ), and, finally, the relation between the latter and the final catastrophe ( Joh 12:19 ).

The entire cycle is divided into three sections:

1. Chap. 11: The resurrection of Lazarus, with its immediate result, the sentence of condemnation pronounced upon Jesus;

2. Chap. John 12:1-36: Three events which form the transition from the active ministry of Jesus to His passion;

3. Chap. John 12:37-50: A retrospective glance cast by the evangelist at the great fact of Jewish unbelief which has been described since chap. 5.

Verses 1-2

Vv. 1, 2: “ Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus, of Bethany, of the village of Mary and Martha, her sister. 2. Mary was she who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair; and it was her brother, Lazarus, who was sick.

As it is the sickness of Lazarus which is the occasion of all that follows, the word ἀσθενῶν , sick, is placed at the beginning. The particle δέ is the now of transition ( Joh 11:5 ). The name of the place where Lazarus lived is carefully noticed, because it is the situation of this village (in Judea) which occasions the following conversation between Jesus and His disciples.

But how can the author designate Bethany as the village of Mary and Martha, two persons whose names have not yet been mentioned in this gospel. He evidently supposes that the two sisters are known to the readers through the evangelical tradition, especially through the fact related in Luke 10:38-42. Bethany, at the present day, El-Azirieh (from El-Azir, the Arabian name of Lazarus) is a poor village situated on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, three-quarters of a league from Jerusalem, which is inhabited in our day by about forty Mussulman families. The supposed house of Lazarus, and also his sepulchre, have been pointed out since the fourth century, as they are still pointed out. The two prepositions, ἀπό and ἐκ , used here as parallel to each other, are not absolutely synonymous, as Meyer and Weiss think.

The passage Joh 1:45 does not prove anything in favor of this assertion. It seems to me that the first clause refers rather to the residence, the second to the origin: Lazarus lived at Bethany, whence he was. The name of Mary is placed first, as more conspicuous because of the fact mentioned in John 11:2. But it seems to follow from John 11:5; John 11:19, that Martha was the eldest and from Luke 10:38 ff., that she was the principal personage in the house. The narratives in Matthew 26:6 ff., and Mark 14:3 ff., prove that the oral tradition did not in general mention the name of Mary in the story of the anointing; for the expression there is simply a woman. And perhaps this omission may explain the form of the narrative of John in John 11:2: “This Mary, of whom I am here speaking to you, is the woman of whom it is related that she anointed...and wiped...” Through the closing part of the verse John returns from this episode to the fact which forms the subject of the narrative, by connecting the information to be given respecting Lazarus with the name of Mary as the last one mentioned: “ She it was whose brother, Lazarus, was sick.

Hengstenberg devotes twenty-six pages to the work of proving that (according to the idea which was generally prevalent before the Reformation) Mary, the sister of Lazarus, is the same person with Mary Magdalene ( Luk 8:2 ) and with the woman of sinful life who anointed the feet of Jesus (Luke 7:36 ff.). He composes a little romance on this theme, according to which Galilee was the scene of Mary's dissolute life; Martha, her sister, in the course of a feast-journey, formed the acquaintance of the rich Pharisee Simon, a resident at Bethany, and married him; afterwards, she received into her house her sister Mary, who had abandoned her erroneous ways, and also her brother Lazarus, who had fallen into poverty. Thus we have an explanation of the entrance of Mary into the banqueting-room (Luke 7:0); she was there, as it were, at home, and the attack of Simon was the malicious bantering of a brother-in-law.

There is nothing, even to the parable of the poor Lazarus and the wicked rich man, which may not in this way find its explanation, etc., etc. This dissertation proves only one thing; the facility with which a sagacious and learned man proves everything which he wishes to prove. The only argument which has any value is a certain resemblance in the expressions between Joh 11:2 and Luke 7:37-38. But the scene is so different; on one side, Galilee; on the other, Judea; there, the first period of Jesus' ministry; here, one of the days which precede His Passion; there, a discussion as to the pardon of sins; here, a conversation on the sum expended; and the repetition of such homage is, according to the customs of the East, so natural, that we cannot accord the least probability to the double identity of persons which Hengstenberg seeks to establish.

Verses 1-16

I. The Preparation: John 11:1-16 .

John first describes the general situation, John 11:1-2; then, the conduct of Jesus towards the two sisters, John 11:3-6; finally, His conversations with the disciples before departing, John 11:7-16.


Vv. 1-16.

1. The writer turns at the beginning of this chapter to the narrative of those things which were more immediately connected with the death of Jesus; the eleventh and twelfth chapters set forth what was more public and what brought the hostility of the enemies to its highest point, and the following chapters (xiii.-xvii.) what belonged within the circle of His immediate friendship with His disciples.

2. The raising of Lazarus is the greatest of the miracles recorded in the Gospel history, but it was not the cause of Jesus' death. It was, at the most, one of the special causes of the hastening of the determination on the part of the Jewish leaders to take more decisive measures. The careful reader of the history will see that the rulers were steadily, though slowly, moving towards this end from an early period. They were determined to set aside and destroy His influence and power, but they were afraid to move too rapidly. They hesitated, therefore, and for a considerable period kept their counsels to themselves. But events moved faster than they thought, and the influence of Jesus was constantly increasing. They were in the condition, accordingly, of men who are impelled by circumstances which they cannot control to act more precipitately than prudence or fear would dictate. This miracle thus hastened their action and brought on the final resolution. In view of it, they became convinced that they could not wait as they had done, that the hour was at hand, and that, in the deadly conflict, either He or themselves must perish. But, if the raising of Lazarus had not occurred, the result would not have been changed. It is doubtful whether it would even have been delayed beyond the feast which was then approaching. The progress of things was such, at this time, that the crisis must come.

3. In the consideration of the question as to the omission of this miracle from the narrative of the Synoptics, the exact position and bearing of it on the result is an all-important element. Its relation to the end was not such as to make the account of it necessary to their narrative, or to render its omission, together with all that which immediately preceded the last week in Jerusalem, a matter of special difficulty. To John's plan and purpose, however, the recording of it might well have been regarded as in a high degree important, if not essential, for it was the last and greatest of the σημεῖα . To have omitted this miracle from his narrative would have been to leave the proof from the works, as presented to his readers, without that which would give it its greatest emphasis and its most convincing force. The very apprehension of the Jewish rulers respecting the influence of this miracle may give us some measure of its value to the mind of one who, as an eye and ear witness of the history, was familiar with all the facts, as he was presenting the proofs of the truth to the minds of others. With the record of it, his argument from the “works” reaches its climax.

4. As to particular words and phrases in John 11:1-16, the following points may be noticed:

( a) The prepositions ἀπό and ἐκ seem to be used in John 11:1, as in John 1:45, as substantially equivalent to each other. The same thing seems to be true, in this case, of the verbs φιλεῖν and ἀγαπᾶν (John 11:3; Joh 11:5 ).

( b) The words οὐ πρὸς θάνατον ( Joh 11:4 ) must refer to the final result, since the resurrection of Lazarus was in the thought of Jesus, though it could not, at this moment, have been in that of His disciples.

( c) If Joh 11:5 is to be regarded, with Meyer, as having a parenthetical character, in so far as the οὖν of Joh 11:6 is connected with John 11:4, the force of this οὖν and of Joh 11:6-7 is best explained as showing how the action of Jesus was guided by the thought of promoting the glory of God in this case. If, on the other hand, as would seem, more probably, to be the correct view, the οὖν refers back to John 11:5, the explanation given by Westcott may be regarded as the best one. He says: “The delay and the return were alike consequences of the same Divine affection and of the same Divine knowledge. Because the Lord loved the family, He went at the exact moment when His visit would be most fruitful, and not just when He was invited.”

( d) The thought of Joh 11:9 is most simply taken as indicating that the danger suggested by the disciples was not to be apprehended the appointed time for His work was not yet ended; and Joh 11:10 serves to strengthen this thought by intimating that it is only after the appointed time is over that the danger comes. Godet's explanation of Joh 11:10 as meaning, “If I were to seek to prolong my career by refusing to go where duty calls, a real danger would attend my course,” and thus as referring to the desire of the disciples that He should remain where He was, though ingenious, appears to be somewhat artificial and improbable.

( e) The words of Joh 11:12 can hardly be explained unless we hold that the disciples were thinking of Jesus as knowing or having heard of the condition of Lazarus, and as intending to go to Bethany for the purpose of miraculously curing his disease. In their eagerness to keep him from the dangers of that region, they seize upon this favorable indication, and press it upon Jesus, without fully understanding or reflecting upon the circumstances in all their bearings. The very difficulty which lies in the way of an altogether satisfactory explanation of their words may even be regarded as showing the reality of the story. Their minds were working, not reflectively and with calmness, but under the influence of anxiety for their Master and with an eagerness for any escape from threatened danger.

( f) Joh 11:15 answers in its thought to John 11:4, and shows the design of the miracle as related to faith. It will be noticed, also, that the faith is that of the disciples. The last miracle, like the first, has its individual reference to them. But the faith here was far beyond the faith which followed the miracle at Cana; it was an addition to all the growth from that time to the present.

( g) The words of Thomas in Joh 11:16 point to the apostolic authorship of the book, for a later writer would have felt little interest in recording such a saying, and certainly would have been unlikely to invent it for the purpose of inserting it here.

Verses 1-57


UP to this point, decided faith and unbelief have been only exceptional phenomena; the masses have remained in a state of passive indifference or of purely outward admiration. From this time, the situation assumes a more determinate character. Jesus continues to make known the Father, to manifest Himself as that which He is for humanity. This revelation meets with increasing hostility; the development of unbelief, becomes the predominating feature of the history. Faith indeed still manifests itself partially. But, in comparison with the powerful and rapid current which bears on the leaders and the entire body of the nation, it is like a weak and imperceptible eddy.

It is in Judea especially that this preponderant development of unbelief is accomplished. In Galilee opposition is, no doubt, also manifested; but the centre of resistance is at Jerusalem. The reason of this fact is easy to be understood. In this capital, as well as in the province of Judea which depends on it, a well-disciplined population is found, whose fanaticism is ready to support its rulers in every most violent action which their hatred may undertake. Jesus Himself depicts this situation in the Synoptics by that poignant utterance: “It cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem” ( Luk 13:33 ).

This observation explains the relatively considerable place which the journeys to Jerusalem occupy in our Gospel. The general tradition, which forms the basis of the three Synoptical Gospels, was formulated with a view to the popular preaching, and to serve the ends of the apostolic mission; consequently it set in relief the facts which were connected with the foundation of faith. What had not this issue had little importance for a narrative of this kind. Now, it was in Galilee, that province which was relatively independent of the centre, that the ministry of Jesus had especially displayed its creative power and produced positive results. In this generally simple and friendly region, where Jesus found Himself no more in the presence of a systematic and powerfully organized resistance, He could preach as a simple missionary, give free scope to those discourses inspired by some scene of nature, to those happy and most appropriate words, to those gracious parables, to those teachings in connection with the immediate needs of human consciousness; in a word, to all those forms of discourse which easily become the subject of a popular tradition. There was little engaging in discussion, properly so-called, in this region, except with emissaries coming from Judea (Matthew 15:1-12; Mark 3:22; Mark 7:1; Luke 5:17; Luk 6:1-7 ).

At Jerusalem, on the other hand, the hostile element by which Jesus found Himself surrounded, forced Him into incessant controversy. In this situation, no doubt, the testimony which He was obliged to give for Himself took more energetic forms and a sterner tone. It became more theological, if we may so speak; consequently less popular. This character of the Judean teaching, connected with the almost complete failure of its results, was the occasion of the fact that the activity displayed at Jerusalem left scarcely any trace in the primitive oral tradition. It is for this reason, undoubtedly, that the visits to that capital almost entirely disappeared from the writings which contain it, our Synoptics. The Apostle John, who afterwards related the evangelical history, and who had in view, not the practical work of evangelization, but the preservation of the principal testimonies which Jesus bore to Himself, as well as the representation of the unbelief and faith which these testimonies encountered, was necessarily led to draw the journeys to Jerusalem out of the background where they had been left. It was these visits in the capital which had prepared the way for the final catastrophe, that supreme event the recollection of which alone the traditional narrative had preserved. Each one of these journeys had marked a new step in the hardening of Israel. Designed to form the bond between the Messianic bridegroom and bride, they had served, in fact, only to hasten that long and complete divorce between Jehovah and His people, which still continues to this hour. We can understand that, from the point of view of the fourth Gospel, the journeys to Jerusalem must have occupied a preponderant place in the narrative.

Let us cast a glance at the general course of the narrative in this part. It includes three cycles, having, each one, as its centre and point of departure, a great miracle performed in Judea: 1. The healing of the impotent man at Bethesda, chap. John 5:2. That of the one who was born blind, chap. 9; 3. The resurrection of Lazarus, chap. 11. Each of these events, instead of gaining for Jesus the faith of those who are witnesses of it, becomes in them the signal of a renewed outbreaking of hatred and unbelief. Jesus has characterized this tragic result by the reproach, full of sadness and bitterness ( Joh 10:32 ): “ I have showed you many good works from my Father; for which of them do ye stone me? ” These are the connecting links of the narrative. Each one of these miraculous deeds is immediately followed by a series of conversations and discourses in connection with the sign which has given occasion for them; then, the discussion is suddenly interrupted by the voluntary removal of Jesus, to begin again in the following visit. Thus the strife which is entered upon in chap. 5, on occasion of the healing of the impotent man, is resumed in the visit of Jesus at the feast of Tabernacles (chaps. 7 and 8); thus also, the discourses which are connected with the healing of the one born blind are repeated, in part, and developed at the feast of dedication, in the second part of chap. 10. This arises from the fact that Jesus is careful, each time, to leave Jerusalem before things have come to the last extremity. Herein is the reason why the conflict which has broken out during one visit re-echoes also in the following one.

The following, therefore, is the arrangement of the narrative: First cycle: In chap. 5, the strife, which had been vaguely hinted at in the first verses of chap. 4, commences in Judea in consequence of the healing of the impotent man; after this, Jesus withdraws into Galilee and allows the hatred of the Jews time to become calm. But in Galilee also, He finds unbelief, only in a different form. In Judea, they hate Him, they desire to put Him to death; in Galilee, His discontented adherents confine themselves to going away from Him (chap. 6). There did not exist there the stimulant of active hatred, jealousy: unbelief arose only from the carnal spirit of the people, whose aspirations Jesus did not satisfy. With the journey to the feast of Tabernacles (chap. 7), the conflict begun in chap. 5 is resumed in Judea, and reaches in chap. 8 its highest degree of intensity.

Such is the first phase (chaps. 5-8). Chap. 9 opens the second cycle. The healing of the one born blind furnishes new food for the hatred of the adversaries; nevertheless, in spite of their growing rage, the struggle already loses somewhat of its violence, because Jesus voluntarily withdraws from the field of battle. Up to this time, He had sought to act upon the hostile element; from this moment onward, He gives it over to itself. Only, in proportion as He breaks with the ancient flock, He labors to recruit the new one. The discourses which are connected with this second phase extend as far as the end of chap. 10 The third cycle opens with the resurrection of Lazarus; this event brings to its highest point the rage of the Jews, and impels them to an extreme measure; they formally decree the death of Jesus; and, soon afterwards, His royal entrance into Jerusalem, at the head of His followers (chap. 12), hastens the execution of this sentence. This last phase includes chaps. Joh 11:1 to John 12:36. Here Jesus completely abandons Israel to its blindness, and puts an end to His public ministry: “ And departing, He hid himself from them. ” The evangelist pauses at this tragical moment, and, before continuing his narrative, he casts a retrospective glance on this mysterious fact of the development of Jewish unbelief, now consummated. He shows that this result had in it nothing unexpected, and he unveils the profound causes of it: John 12:37-50.

Thus the dominant idea and the course of this part, are distinctly outlined

1. chap. 5-8: The outbreak of the conflict;

2. chap. 9, 10: The growing exasperation of the Jews;

3. chap. 11, 12: The ripe fruit of this hatred: the sentence of death for The progress of this narrative is purely historical. The attempt, often renewed even by Luthardt to arrange this part systematically according to certain ideas, such as life, light and love, is incompatible with this course of the narrative which is so clearly determined by the facts. It is no less excluded by the following observations: The idea of life, which, according to this system, must be that of chaps. 5 and 6, forms again the basis of chaps. 10 and 11. In the interval (chaps. 8, 9), the idea of light is the dominant one. That of love does not appear till chap. 13, and this in an entirely different part of the Gospel. Divisions like these proceed from the laboratory of theologians, but they do not harmonize with the nature of apostolic testimony, the simple reflection of history. The real teaching of Jesus had in it nothing systematic; the Lord confined Himself to answering the given need, which was for Him, at each moment, the signal of the Father's will. If in chap. 5. He represents Himself as the one who has the power to raise from the dead, spiritually and physically, it is because He has just given life to the limbs of an impotent man. If in chap. 6, He declares Himself the bread of life, it is because He has just multiplied the loaves. If in chaps. 7 and 8, He proclaims Himself the living

Jesus. water and the light of the world, it is because the feast of Tabernacles has just recalled to all minds the scenes of the wilderness, the water of the rock and the pillar of fire. We must go with Baur, to the extent of claiming that the facts are invented in order to illustrate the ideas, or we must renounce the attempt to find a rational arrangement in the teachings of which these events are, each time, the occasion and the text.

Verses 3-4

Vv. 3, 4. “ The sisters therefore sent to Jesus to say to him, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. 4. Jesus, having heard this, said: This sickness is not unto death; but it is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified thereby.

The message of the sisters is full of delicacy; this is the reason why the evangelist reproduces it as it came from their lips ( λέγουσαι , saying). The address, Lord, alludes to the miraculous power of Jesus; the term ἴδε , behold, to the impression which this unexpected announcement will not fail to produce upon Him; finally, the expression ὃν φιλεῖς , he whom thou lovest, to the tender affection which binds Jesus to Lazarus and makes it their duty not to leave Him in ignorance of the danger to which His friend is exposed. On the other hand, they do not insist; how could they press Him to come, knowing as they did the perils which await Him in Judea? They lay the case before Him: “Judge for thyself as to what must be done.”

The words of Jesus ( Joh 11:4 ) are not given as a reply to this message; the statement is: he said, not: he answered. They are a declaration which was directed as much to the disciples who were present, as to the absent sisters. The ever original and very often paradoxical character of the sayings of the Lord must be very imperfectly understood, if one imagines that He meant seriously to say that Lazarus would not die of this sickness, and that only afterwards, in consequence of a second message, which is assumed by the narrative, He recognized His mistake ( Joh 11:14 ).

No doubt, as Lucke observes, the glory of Jesus here on earth did not imply omniscience; but His moral purity excluded the affirmation of that of which He was ignorant. Reuss very fitly says: “Here is no medical statement.” The expression which Jesus makes use of is amphibological; whether it contained an announcement of recovery, or a promise of resurrection, it signified to the disciples that the final result of the sickness would not be death ( οὐ πρὸς θάνατον ). The glory of God is the resplendence which is shed abroad in the hearts of men by the manifestation of His perfections, especially of His power acting in the service of His holiness or of His love. And what act could be more fitted to produce such an effect than the triumph of life over death? Comp. Romans 6:4. In John 11:40, Jesus reminds Martha of the saying which He here utters, in the words: “ Did I not say unto thee, that, if thou believedst, thou shouldst see the glory of God?

We may and should infer from this expression, that, at the moment when Jesus was speaking in this way, the death of Lazarus and his resurrection were already present events to His view. For the very grave terms: for the glory of God, to the end that..., indicate more than a mere miracle of healing (see Keil). We must therefore go back to this very moment in order to locate rightly the hearing of the prayer for which He gives thanks in John 11:42. This manifestation of divine power must also have shed its brightness over Him who was its agent. How can God be glorified in the person of His Son, without a participation on the part of the latter in His glory? ῞Ινα , in order that, does not therefore indicate a second purpose in juxtaposition with the one which had been previously indicated ( ὑπέρ ); it is the explanation of the means by which the latter will be attained. We see in this passage how far the meaning of the name Son of God passes, in the mouth of Jesus, beyond that of the title Messiah: it designates here, as in John 11:30, the one who is so united with the Father that the glory of the one is the glory of the other. The pronoun δἰ αὐτῆς , by means of it, may be referred to the glory; but it is more natural to refer it to the sickness. This saying recalls that of John 9:3; but it passes beyond it in greatness, in the same degree in which the resurrection of Lazarus surpasses in glory the healing of the one who was born blind.

Verses 5-7

Vv. 5-7. “ Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6. When therefore he heard that he was sick, he remained yet two days in the place where he was; 7 then, when this time had passed, he says to the disciples, Let us go into Judea again.

It might be supposed that the remark introduced parenthetically into the narrative, in John 11:5, has as its purpose to prevent the idea that the delay of two days mentioned in Joh 11:6 arose from indifference. But the οὖν , therefore, of John 11:6, is opposed to this explanation. In order fully to understand the design of this remark, account must be taken of the μέν of John 11:6, which supposes a δέ understood in John 11:7: “Jesus loved Martha and Mary...and Lazarus....When therefore He heard of it, He remained, it is true ( μέν ); but, afterwards He said: Let us go...” We perceive thus that the remark of John 11:5: He loved, refers not to the: He remained, of John 11:6, but to the order to set out given in John 11:7. This quite simple explanation does away with several forced suppositions, for example, that Jesus meant: Although Jesus loved, or this other: Because He loved, He remained, to the end of testing longer the faith of the two sisters. Jesus uses here the term of dignity, ἀγαπᾷν , instead of that of tenderness φιλεῖν ( Joh 11:3 ), either, as the interpreters think, because the question is of the affection of Jesus for the two sisters but would not the Lord's disciple be raised above such prepossessions? or rather because the nobler term is better suited to the pen of the evangelist, while the expression of tenderness was more appropriate in the mouth of the sisters. Martha occupies here, as in John 11:19, the first place (see on Joh 11:1 ).

Bretschneider, Strauss and Baur explain the two days' delay mentioned in Joh 11:6 by a personal motive on Jesus' part. He purposely desired to allow Lazarus to die, in order that He might have the opportunity, not only of healing him, but of raising him to life; these writers find here a proof of the non-authenticity of the narrative. But there is no allusion in the text to such an intention of Jesus; and even John 11:15: “ I rejoice for your sakes that I was not there,” positively excludes it; for Jesus may well rejoice in a divine dispensation, but not in a thing which He had voluntarily and purposely caused. Moreover, it will appear from the sequel of the story that, at the moment when Jesus received the message of the sisters, Lazarus had already breathed his last. If indeed, counting backwards, we reckon the four days mentioned in John 11:17; John 11:39, which elapsed from the burial of Lazarus to the arrival of Jesus at Bethany, these days can only be as follows: the fourth and last is that in which Jesus makes the journey from Peraea to Bethany. From Bethany to Jericho is a journey of about six hours, and from Jericho to the Jordan of an hour and a half. It was therefore, in all, a journey of seven and a half or eight leagues from the Jordan, near the place where Jesus was, to Bethany; it might easily be made in one day. The second and third days are the two which Jesus passed in Peraea after having received the message of the sisters. Finally, the first is that in which the messenger arrived in Peraea to inform Jesus. It was therefore in the course of this day, a little while after the departure of the messenger, that Lazarus died, and also in the course of the same day that he was buried, according to the Jewish custom.

Thus towards evening, when Jesus received the tidings of His friend's sickness, He was already in the tomb. We see clearly how erroneous is the reckoning of Keim who says (i., p. 495): “Three days were needed for Jesus to go from that region of Peraea to Bethany.” Meyer is no less in error when he takes as the starting point of the four days which had elapsed since the burial of Lazarus ( Joh 11:17 ) the day which followed the two days of waiting in Peraea. How could Jesus have taken three whole days for reaching Bethany from the Jordan? As to the reason which prevented Jesus from setting out on the journey immediately, it may be supposed, no doubt, with Lucke and Neander, that it was the work of His ministry in Peraea. But is it not better to say, with Meyer, that it was the waiting for the signal from the Father, by which Jesus always regulated His action? God might certainly act as Jesus, as a man, would not have done, and prolong the time of waiting with the design of making the miracle more manifest and more striking, with a view to the glory of His Son and His own glory.

Verse 7

Ver. 7. The δέ which should answer to the μέν of Joh 11:6 is omitted, as often in Greek, because the opposition which the μέν had in view gives place to the simple historical succession; see Weiss. The expression ἔπειτα μετὰ τοῦτο , literally: afterwards, after that, John 11:7, is not a pleonasm; it tells how long this waiting appeared both to the sisters and to Jesus Himself. It must be noticed that Jesus did not say: “Let us go to Bethany,” but “Let us go into Judea. ” It is an allusion to the peril which threatens Him in that country; by it He calls forth on the part of His disciples the expression of the feeling of apprehension which He knows to be in the depths-of their hearts and which He wishes to overcome before starting on the journey. It is with the same purpose that He adds the word πάλιν , again, which reminds them of the dangers which He had just incurred during His last sojourn in Jerusalem. Meyer protests in vain against this intention; it appears clearly from the narrative.

Verses 8-10

Vv. 8-10. “ The disciples say to him; Master, the Jews were but now seeking to stone thee, and dost thou return thither? 9. Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any one walk during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world; 10 but if any one walk in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.

At the word Judea, as Jesus expected, the disciples uttered a protest. He took advantage of their objection to give them an excellent teaching with respect to their future ministry. The answer of Jesus ( Joh 11:9-10 ) has naturally a double meaning. The first meaning is clear: He who accomplishes the journey to which he is called during the twelve hours of the day, does not stumble; the light of the sun enlightens him and makes him discern the obstacles in his path; while he who wishes to continue his journey even after the night has come, is in danger of perishing. In the application, some give to the idea of day a purely moral sense. According to Chrysostom, de Wette, Bruckner the day designates a virtuous life, a life passed in communion with God, and the sense is: On the line of duty marked out, one has no serious danger to fear; but as soon as one turns aside from it, he exposes himself to the danger of perishing.

The sense is good; but the figure of the twelve hours is not explained. This last expression leads naturally to the temporal application of the idea of day. Bengel, Meyer, Hengstenberg, Weiss and Reuss have felt this. They understand by the twelve hours of day the divinely measured time of the earthly life: “The time which was granted me has not yet elapsed; so long as it continues, no one can injure me; but when it shall have elapsed, I shall fall into the hands of my enemies.” So already Apollinaris, “The Lord declares that before the time of His Passion, the Jews could do nothing to Him: the day is the time until the Passion; the night, the time after the Passion.” This sense seems to me incompatible with John 11:10, in which the term προσκόπτειν , to stumble, cannot designate a purely passive state, like that of Jesus falling into the hands of the Jews, and in which the expression: There is no light in him, cannot apply to Jesus. Meyer answers: “This is a point which pertains to the figure and which has no significance.” But John 11:10, which forms half of the picture, cannot be treated in this way.

I think (partly) with Tholuck, Lange and Luthardt, that the day here designates at once the time of life and the task assigned for this time; it is the day of the workman's labor, as in John 9:4. Only here the figure is borrowed from the situation in which Jesus finds Himself with His disciples. It is the morning; the sun rises; they have before them a good day's journey, twelve hours of daylight. During all this time, they will journey without danger. Before it is night, they will have reached the end of the journey, Bethany. In the moral sense this means: “I can go without fear to Judea, whither duty calls me. The twelve hours which are granted me for the accomplishment of my task will remain intact. The sun of the divine will, in assigning me my task, enlightens my path; I shall not stumble. The danger of stumbling and falling would begin for me only at the moment when, fleeing in a cowardly way from a foreseen danger, I should wish arbitrarily to prolong the time of my life, and to add a thirteenth hour of walking to the twelve which legitimately belong to me. From that moment I could only stumble, sin, perish. For the hour of life which God had not given me, would be an hour without duty or mission; the sun of the divine will would no more enlighten my course.” In other terms: “The Jews cannot take away from me one moment of the time which is accorded me, so long as I am in the accomplishment of my task; a real danger will assail me only if, as you would have me do, I seek arbitrarily to prolong my career, by refusing to go whither duty calls me.” This word applies to the believer who, in the time of persecution, would prolong his life by denying his faith, to the physician who would flee from the approach of a contagious malady, etc.

The man, after being placed in such a situation, can only sin and perish. Meyer objects to this sense, that the disciples asked Jesus only not to shorten His life, and did not ask Him to prolong it. But this amounts to precisely the same thing. To desert duty for fear of shortening one's life, is not this to strive to prolong it beyond due measure? The expression: the light is not in him, signifies that the divine will, no longer presiding over that life, cannot serve to direct it; such a man lives only on a venture, because he ought not to live any longer. The parallel 1 John 2:10-11, confirms this meaning. The analogy of the expressions and ideas between the two passages is remarkable. John there applies to the believer who loves or does not love his brother what Jesus here says of the man who is obedient or not obedient to the will of God. This saying is, both in matter and form, the counterpart of that in which Jesus gave the reason, John 9:4, of the act of healing the man who was born blind. Only, according to the fine remark of Lange, there it was evening; He saw the sun descending to the horizon: “I must not lose a moment of the time which remains for me to enlighten the world.” Here it is morning: “The time which is assigned me is sufficient for accomplishing my whole task; I must not through cowardice seek to add an hour to the day of work which is divinely assured to me.” In these two words: to lose nothing, to add nothing, is certainly summed up the duty of man in relation to the time of his earthly work.

Verses 11-13

Vv. 11-13. “ He spoke thus, and after this he says to them, Lazarus, our friend, sleeps; but I go to awaken him. 12. Whereupon they said to him;Lord, if he sleeps, he will recover. 13. But Jesus had spoken of his death, and they thought that he was speaking of the rest of sleep.

The words ταῦτα εἶπε , he spoke thus, and..., are not superfluous. They signify that this general maxim which He had just stated was applied by Him on the spot to the present case. Weiss wrongly asserts that this application is not found in what follows. It is in the words: I go to awaken him. The epithet: our friend, appeals to their affection for Lazarus, just as the expression: he whom thou lovest, in John 11:3, had made an appeal to His own friendship for him. Some interpreters have thought that it was at this moment that, either through a new message ( Neander); or through His prophetic consciousness ( Weiss), Jesus Himself learned of the death of Lazarus. But the promise of Joh 11:4 has proved to us that He had known this circumstance in a supernatural way, from the moment when the message of the two sisters had drawn his attention to the condition of His friend. Jesus likes to present death under the figure of sleep, a figure which makes it a phase of life.

Strauss found the misunderstanding of the disciples in Joh 11:12 inconceivable. Reuss calls it “a misapprehension which has precisely the import of that of Nicodemus.” He adds: “Men do not ordinarily sleep several days in succession.” But after having heard the words of John 11:4, it was natural that the disciples should not have believed in the possibility of the sick man's death. They might therefore think that this sleep of which Jesus was speaking was the crisis of convalescence, and that He wished to bring the sick man out of it healed by awaking him. It is very evident that, in their extreme desire not to go into Judea, they seek for a pretext, good or bad, for deterring Jesus from departing thitherward. In this situation, what improbability is there in this reply? The word σωθήσεται signifies here: will be healed of himself, without participation on thy part. The general term κοίμησις ( sleep, Joh 11:13 ) is derived from κεκοίμηται ( Joh 11:11 ), and must be determined here by a special complement ( τοῦ ὕπνου ).

Verses 14-16

Vv. 14-16. “ Then Jesus therefore said to them openly, Lazarus is dead; 15 and I rejoice for your sakes that I was not there, to the end that you may believe; but let us go to him. 16. Whereupon Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow-disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.

After having set aside ( Joh 11:9-10 ), the motive alleged by the disciples against this journey, and indicated the reason ( Joh 11:11-12 ) which obliges Him to undertake it, Jesus concludes by explaining Himself and gives the order for departing. Παρρησίᾳ , as in John 16:25: in strict terms, without figure. There would have been, as we have already seen, a manifest falseness in our Lord's expressing Himself, as He does in John 11:15, if this death had been the intentional effect of His own mode of action. The words: to the end that you may believe are the commentary on the limiting words: for your sakes. Undoubtedly the disciples were already believers; but, as Hengstenberg says, by growing, faith comes into being. At each new stage which it reaches, the preceding stage seems to it in itself nothing more than unbelief. Jesus knows how the increase of faith which is about to be produced in them around this tomb will be necessary for them, in a little time, when they shall find themselves before that of their Master. There is something abrupt in the last words: But let us go to him. It is a matter of constraining them and of overcoming in them the last remnant of resistance. They yield, but not without making manifest the unbelief hidden in the depths of the hearts of some of them.

The words of Thomas to the other disciples betrays indeed more of love for the person of Jesus than of faith in the wisdom of His course of action. Their meaning is this: “If He actually desires to have Himself killed, let us go and perish with Him.” The Thomas who speaks thus is indeed the same whom we shall meet again in John 14:5, John 20:25; much of frankness and resolution, but little of disposition to subordinate the visible to the invisible. This quite undesigned consistency in the role of the secondary personages, is, as has been admirably brought out by Luthardt, one of the striking features of John's narrative and one of the best proofs of the historical truth of this work. The name Thomas (in the Aramaic האמא , Hebrew האם ) signifies twin. The name Didymus, which has in Greek the same meaning, was undoubtedly that by which this apostle was most commonly designated in the churches of Asia Minor, in the midst of which John wrote. Thus is the repetition of this translation in Joh 20:24 and Joh 21:2 explained. Hengstenberg, Luthardt, and Keil see in this name of twin an allusion to the fact that Thomas carried in himself two men, a believer and an unbeliever, a Jacob and an Esau! He was a δίψυχος man ( Keil)!

What wisdom and what love in the manner in which Jesus prepares His disciples for this journey which was so repugnant to their feeling! What elevation in the thoughts which He suggests to their hearts on this occasion!

What grace and appropriateness in the images by which He endeavors to make these thoughts intelligible to them!

Verses 17-19

Vv. 17-19. “ Jesus on his arrival found that he had been in the tomb four days already. 18. Now Bethany was near to Jerusalem, at the distance of about fifteen furlongs; 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother's death.

For the four days, see on John 11:6. ῾Ημέρας is objective, rather than circumstantial. See on John 5:6. The expression: He found, marks the situation as it was according to the information given Him on His arrival. John sets forth the nearness of Bethany to Jerusalem, in order to explain the presence of such a large number of Jews ( Joh 11:19 ). Fifteen stadia make a distance of about forty minutes. This distance is reckoned from Jerusalem as the starting-point, ἐγγὺς τῶνΙεροσολύμων ; in this way the following preposition ἀπό is explained. The imperfect was refers to the part played by Bethany in this event which was already remote in time at the moment of John's writing. It is unnecessary to suppose that John is thinking of the destruction of this village in the Roman war. The turn of expression which is so common among the Greeks, αἱ περὶ Μάρθαν ( Joh 11:19 ), is removed by the Alexandrian reading, but wrongly, even according to Meyer and Tischendorf. It occurs again twice in the New Testament (Acts 13:13; Act 21:8 ). That it was introduced here by the copyists seems to me very questionable.

This form of expression points to Martha and Mary as surrounded by the servants of their household; it implies that the two sisters were in easy circumstances. It is commonly inferred from 1Sa 31:13 and 1 Chronicles 10:12, that the ceremonies of condolence continued for eight days; but the question in those passages is of royal personages. The passages cited by Lightfoot (pp. 1070ff.) also seem to me insufficient to prove this usage. The sequel proves that the term Jews which is here used preserves the unfavorable sense which it has throughout this entire Gospel. Notwithstanding the fact that Martha and Mary were closely connected with these persons, they yet mostly belonged to the party hostile to Jesus. This point is mentioned in order to make prominent the change of feeling which was produced in a certain number of them ( Joh 11:36-45 ).

Verses 17-27


Vv. 17-27.

1. The opinion of Godet is probably correct, that the death of Lazarus occurred on the day when the messenger came to Jesus from the sisters, after he had started from Bethany.

2. The persons referred to in Joh 11:19 must be regarded as belonging to the party of the rulers, because of the usual sense of the term the Jews in this Gospel. They were evidently friends of the two sisters, and had come to them for the purpose of consolation. Their minds would seem, therefore, to have been occupied at this time, as far as possible, with other feelings than those of hostility to Jesus.

3. Joh 11:22 seems to show that Martha had a hope probably in view of the other cases which had occurred that Jesus might now, by the exercise of miraculous power, raise her brother to life; and she understands His words in reply as not fulfilling this hope. Jesus then turns her thought to Himself.

4. The words, I am the resurrection and the life, find their explanation in what follows. The life into which faith introduces the soul is one which abides; the believer lives, even though physical death comes; he lives so truly and permanently that he never has any real experience of death in its deepest meaning; he lives, even in that he has, so to speak, the principle of the resurrection within himself. Christ is thus the source and animating principle of his inner life and the power which secures the resurrection. The resurrection is, as it were, the development of the life. He calls upon Martha to grasp this truth, and she answers the call with the declaration of her belief that He is the Christ, the Son of God. We have here, certainly, a very near approach to the words of John 20:31: “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

Verses 20-24

Vv. 20-24. “ When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him; but Mary still sat in the house. 21. Martha therefore said to Jesus: Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother would not have died; 22 And even now, I know that whatsoever thou shalt ask of God, God will give it thee. 23. Jesus says to her, Thy brother shall rise again. 24. Martha says to him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection, at the last day.

Martha, no doubt occupied with her household affairs, was the first to receive the news of the Lord's arrival, and, in her eagerness, she ran to meet Him, without the thought of telling her sister, whose grief was keeping her in the inner apartment. Such as the two sisters are represented to us in Luke 10:38 ff., such precisely we find them again here. The narrative of John seems even to allude to that of his predecessor. On the opposite supposition, the harmony in the characters is only the more striking. The words of Martha ( Joh 11:21 ) are not a reproach. How could she be ignorant that her brother was dead even before Jesus had received the news of his sickness? How, especially, could she allow herself to complain of His mode of acting, at the very moment when she is about to ask of Him the greatest of gifts? She simply expresses her regret that Jesus had not been there at the time of the sickness, and this regret serves only to prepare the way for the request which she has to make. She says, according to the T. R. and the Byzantine authorities: οὐκ ἐτεθνήκει , “would not be at this moment sunk in death,” instead of ἀπέθανεν , “would not have gone through the act of dying,” which is read by the Alexandrian authorities (see on Joh 11:32 ). The T. R. adds, with several Mjj., ἀλλά before καὶ νῦν : “ but even now.” This but is unnecessary: “I know that even now in his death my brother can experience the virtue of Thy prayer.” The indefinite expression whatsoever leaves that to be understood which is too great to be expressed. There is an evident reserve of delicacy in this indirect request. It is no doubt the greatness of the work expected which is expressed in the repetition of the word θεός , God, at the end of the two clauses of John 11:22: “Thou art the well-beloved of God, God will give Thee the life of my brother.” This confidence is inspired in Martha not only by the general knowledge which she has of Jesus and by the resurrections which had been effected in Galilee, but more especially by the message of John 11:4, and by this sudden arrival, which involved in itself also a promise.

There is in Martha's faith more of vivacity than of light. She believes in the miracle of power; but she is not yet initiated into the spiritual sphere within which alone such an act will assume its true meaning and value. Before satisfying her request, Jesus endeavors to put her into a condition to receive it. He proceeds, with this end in view, as He did in chaps. 5 and 6, by giving to His promise at first the most general form: Thy brother shall rise again. Hengstenberg even supposes that He makes no allusion in these words to the approaching resurrection of Lazarus, which, according to him, does not deserve the name of a resurrection. For the return to this wretched earthly existence cannot be called by this fair name. But is it not doing violence to the text, to refuse to see in these words the promise of the event which is to follow? The belief in the resurrection of the pious Israelites, as the opening act of the Messianic kingdom, had been already announced in Dan 12:2 and 2Ma 7:9 ; 2Ma 7:14 , etc.; it was generally spread abroad in Israel, and that especially “in the circles in which the Pharisaic teaching prevailed.”

There is not by any means, in the answer of Martha, an indication, as has been supposed, of a fall from the height of faith to which her heart had been raised. Only, in speaking thus, she wishes to assure herself of the meaning which Jesus Himself attaches to His promise. If she speaks only of the final resurrection which is to her mind certain, it is that she may give to Jesus the opportunity to explain Himself, and to declare expressly what she scarcely dares to hope for in the present case. There is as it were an indirect question here. Everything in Martha breathes a masculine faith, full of energy and activity. But this faith is not as spiritual as it is strong; it has not yet in a sufficient degree the person of the Lord as its object. Jesus, on His part, endeavors, in His reply, to develop it in this direction.

Verses 25-26

Vv. 25, 26. “ Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life; he that believes on me, even though he were dead, yet shall he live; 26 and whosoever lives and believes on me shall never die; believest thou this?

Martha has just spoken of the resurrection as of a future event; Jesus sets in opposition to this event His person ( ἐγώ , I; εἰμί , I am), as being in reality the resurrection. Victory over death is not a physical fact; it is a moral work, a personal act; it is the doing of Jesus Himself (John 11:28-29: John 6:39-40; Joh 6:44 ); and consequently He can accomplish it when he pleases, to-day even, if He wishes, as well as after the passing of ages. Jesus thus brings back the thought of Martha to Himself and gives to her faith its true object. He substitutes for adherence to dogmatic truth confidence in His person. This is what He had also done in chaps. 4 and 6, where, after some moments of conversation, He had substituted Himself for the abstract notions of living water and bread from heaven.

After having declared Himself to be the resurrection, Jesus proclaims Himself as the life. It might be supposed that He means to speak of the glorious and perfect life which follows the resurrection. But according to the explanation which follows ( Joh 11:25-26 ), it is better to hold, with Luthardt, that Jesus passes from the outward resurrection to the more profound fact which is its spiritual condition. If He is the principle of the physical resurrection, it is because He is that of life in the most exalted sense of that word (John 11:26, Joh 6:51 ). The spiritual life which He communicates to His own is for them, if they are dead, the pledge of a return to corporeal life; and, on the other hand, while still living, they are raised by it above the passing accident of physical death. The first declaration applies to Lazarus and to the other believers who were already dead. In virtue of the new life which they have received by faith, they continue living, and consequently they may, at the moment when Jesus wills, be recalled to corporeal existence. The second declaration ( Joh 11:26 ) applies to the two sisters and to all the believers who were still living; they remain sheltered from death; for to die in full light, in the serene brightness of the life which is in Jesus, and to continue to live in Him ( Joh 11:25 ) is no more the fact which human language has designated by the name of death (see on John 6:50, Joh 8:51 ). Jesus means therefore: In me the dead lives, and the living does not die. The terms to die, in the first clause, and to live, in the second, are to be taken in the strict sense.

This saying, by carrying the thought of Martha from the momentary and corporeal fact of the resurrection to its spiritual and permanent principle, gives to the person of Christ its true place in the miracle, and to the miracle its true religious significance. The resurrection of her brother becomes for her as if an emanation of the life of Jesus Himself, a ray of His glory, and thus the means of uniting the soul of Martha to Him, the source of life. Reuss sees in this answer of Jesus a means of setting aside the popular idea of the corporeal resurrection, or at least of divesting it of all theological value. One must be singularly preoccupied by his own theory to draw from this reply a conclusion which is so foreign to the context and so contrary to the perfectly free and clear affirmation of John 5:28-29. Jesus thus returned to the subject from which Martha had turned aside, the resurrection of Lazarus. Before acting, He asks her further: “ Believest thou this?

Verse 27

Ver. 27. “ She says to him, Yes, Lord, I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.

To see in this confession of Martha, as some have done, only a simple avowal of a want of understanding with reference to the preceding words of Jesus: “I do not comprehend all these profound things of which thou art speaking to me, but I hold thee to be the Messiah,” is strangely to depreciate its significance. This meaning would give to this scene which is of so grave import a character almost ridiculous. By her answer: Yes, Lord, Martha certainly appropriates to herself all that which Jesus has just affirmed respecting His person. Only, she does not feel herself in a condition to formulate spontaneously her faith in the things which are so new for her, and she makes use of terms which are familiar to her in order to express the thought that Jesus is to her all that which is greatest, and that, whatever He may affirm respecting His person, He will never say too much for the faith of her who speaks to Him. The Christ: the end of the theocratic revelations and dispensations; the Son of God: evidently something else than the Christ, unless there is an idle tautology here: the personage in whom God manifests Himself as in no other, and who is in an intimate and mysterious relation with God. The expression: who comes into the world, is not a third title, but an apposition explanatory of the two others. The present participle ἐρχόμενος , who comes, is the present of idea: the one who, according to the divine promise, should come, and in fact comes. The world: the foreseen theatre of his Messianic activity. There is a great psychological truth in this reply of Martha: by designating Him thus, she implicitly acknowledges that He is indeed all that which He has said: the resurrection and the life. ᾿Εγώ : I whom thou art questioning; πεπίστευκα (perfect): this is a conviction which I have gained.

Verses 28-30

Vv. 28-30. “ And having said this, she went away and called Mary, her sister, secretly, saying, The Master is here and calls thee. 29. She, as soon as she heard this, rises directly and comes to him. 30. Now, Jesus was not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him.

The words: He calls thee, are sufficient to prove that Jesus had indeed given this commission to Martha. He must have desired to prepare Mary, as He had prepared her sister; the miracle could not be really beneficial to the one or the other except on this condition. Very probably, though Weiss does not admit this idea, the precaution which Martha takes in discharging His message ( λάθρα , secretly) had been recommended to her by Jesus; He had heard how Mary was surrounded; and, if He did not flee from danger, no more did He seek it (see on Joh 11:30 ).

The liveliness of Mary's emotion on hearing this message is pictured in the verbs in the present tense: ἐγείρεται , she rises, and ἕρχεται , she comes. This reading, indeed, is preferable to the Alexandrian readings ἠγέρθη and ἤρχετο , she rose and she came, as in this case Tischendorf and Weiss acknowledge, who think that the aorist and imperfect were substituted for the present under the influence of the preceding ἤκουσεν , she heard. The Alexandrian reading appears to me to have been formed under the influence of John 4:30; but there are not the same reasons for presenting in the picturesque form the arrival of Mary here, as that of the Samaritans in chap. 4. In these cases it is painful to see how the position taken by Westcott and Hort deadens their critical tact. Jesus had not entered into Bethany. This was not only because the tomb must necessarily have been outside of the village ( Luthardt). There must have been some important reason which detained Him; otherwise He would have gone directly where His heart summoned Him, to the house of mourning. His purpose was undoubtedly to avoid everything which could attract attention; and the intention of the following verse is precisely to show how this design failed by reason of a will superior to His own, which had resolved to give to this miracle the greatest possible splendor.

Jesus had done what He ought; God did what He wished. There happened here something like what is related in Matthew 9:31; Mark 7:24; Mark 7:36.

Verses 28-44

Vv. 28-44.

1. There seems to be no sufficient reason to suppose, as many commentators do, that Jesus had bidden Martha to call her sister secretly. She acted probably on her own impulse possibly because she feared a meeting of Jesus with the Jews, but more probably because of the natural desire that her sister, like herself, might meet the Master more privately. Mary rose as quickly on hearing of His arrival as Martha had moved before, and she said to Him the same words. The differences in the character of the two sisters, which have been often insisted upon, and much to Martha's disadvantage, rest on rather weak foundations, so far as this passage, or even the one in Luke 10:40-42, is concerned.

2. The word ἐνεβριμήσατο has troubled all the writers on this Gospel. That the use of the word, outside of the New Testament, is confined to the feeling of anger or indignation, must, apparently, be admitted. It is to be observed, however, that the instances in which it occurs are not very numerous, and that words of this character, expressive of emotion, are those which may, perhaps, more easily than other words, pass into a somewhat wider or looser sense in the progress of a language from age to age. In the present case it is exceedingly difficult to find any satisfactory explanation of the word as meaning anger or indignation. The scene was one of sorrow the sisters were weeping, Jesus Himself wept, even the Jews were weeping. Anger would seem inconsistent with the occasion. The idea that the tears of the Jews were crocodile tears, which Meyer suggests, is entirely without foundation in the text, and contrary to the whole impression of the apostle's language. The suggestion that His indignation was excited against Satan, as having brought death into the world, is improbable, considering that there is no distinct reference to Satan in the sentence or in the context. This suggestion has all the characteristics of a device made to meet a difficulty. That He was indignant at Himself, or that His divine nature was indignant at His human nature, because He could not restrain His tears, is a supposition scarcely worthy of mention. That His indignation was aroused by the want or weakness of faith in the sisters is opposed by everything in the story; their faith was not weak as compared with that of His nearest disciples, and they were full of love to Him. Godet's suggestion, that the sobs of those around Him, pressing Him to raise His friend to life, turned His thought to His own death, and that He was indignant at the diabolical perversity of His enemies, some of whom were present, which would make the act of raising Lazarus a means of bringing about His crucifixion, is, to say the least, remote from any statement made in the verses, and has in it a certain artificiality. How can the author have been supposed to suggest all this to the reader's mind, when he says nothing about it, except in this one quite indefinite word, and when everything points to sorrow and not to indignation? In view of all the circumstances of the case, it may be seriously questioned whether the change of the word to a slightly different sense the violent emotion of grief, rather than anger is not to be supposed, in this passage, as belonging to the later language or the individual writer.

3. Meyer, in accordance with his theory of “crocodile tears,” regards the words of Joh 11:37 as indicating that the τινές there spoken of were “maliciously and wickedly disposed to treat Jesus' tears as a welcome proof of His inability” to heal Lazarus. Weiss has a similar view. Godet also. Godet argues for this view from the fact that the expression, But some of them, is found in Joh 11:46 as designating the evil-disposed party, and from the difficulty of discovering otherwise any relation between these words and the new emotion ( ἐμβριμώμενος ) in John 11:38. But the expression τινὲς δέ is one which might be found in any case where there happened to be two divisions, and can prove nothing; and the emotion of anger (as Godet supposes it to be) has as loose a connection with what precedes in John 11:33, as it would have in Joh 11:38 if Joh 11:37 were taken in the favorable sense. The natural sense of John 11:37, as the expression of weeping and sympathizing friends of the sisters, is the favorable one, and there is no indication to the contrary.

4. Meyer finds the “mobile, practical tendency” of Martha, as contrasted with Mary, exhibited here in her words ( Joh 11:39 ), which indicate a shuddering at the exposure of her brother's body to the gaze of those present. But the most that can be affirmed is, that it was she, and not Mary, who spoke. The reason of her speaking may have been something else than a greater “mobile, practical tendency.” The recording of Martha's words here is, no doubt, connected with the author's desire to present the miracle in its greatness; the glory of God was to be displayed in the most wonderful manner.

5. The simplest explanation of the closing words of Joh 11:41 is that the requests of Jesus and the answers from the Father are so coincident that the answer anticipates the possibility of utterance in words, and so the utterance becomes a thanksgiving that the prayer is already heard. The relation of the whole action in the case to the production of faith is prominently set forth in this prayer, as well as in the words addressed to Martha in John 11:40.

Verses 31-32

Vv. 31, 32. “ The Jews therefore who were with her in the house and were comforting her, when they saw that she rose up suddenly and went out, followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32. When therefore Mary had come to the place where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother would not have died.

One and the same thought had filled the soul of the two sisters and perhaps that of the dying man in his last hours: If Jesus were here! But on this common foundation of grief and regret some significant differences between the two sisters appear. We have remarked the masculine character of Martha's faith. Mary, on the contrary, seemed to be altogether overwhelmed by her grief: hers was a nature wholly feminine. And, like persons of vivid impressions, she makes no energetic effort to overcome the dejection which got the mastery of her. She lets herself fall at Jesus' feet, which Martha had not done; it is, moreover, the place which she loves (Luke 10:39; Joh 12:3 ). She does not add to the expression of her grief, as does her sister, a word of faith and hope. There are, finally, in the exclamation which is common to her and Martha, two shades of differences which are not accidental. Instead of ἐτεθνήκει , he is dead (the actual state), which the Byzantine authorities place in the mouth of Martha, John 11:21, she says: ἀπέθανε : he has done the act of dying; it is as if she were still at the cruel moment in which the separation was accomplished. This shade of difference in the received reading ( Joh 11:27 ) speaks in favor of its authenticity. Then the pronoun μου , of me, is placed in the mouth of Mary before ἀδελφός , the brother, and even, according to the Alexandrian reading, before ἀπέθανε : a part of herself, as it were, is gone. Thus, in Martha, a nature practical and full of elasticity, capable of energetically reacting against a depressing feeling; in Mary, a sensibility given up, without the least trace of reaction, to the feeling which absorbs her. What truth in every feature of this picture!

Jesus knows the human heart too well to attempt to apply to Mary the method which He has just employed with Martha. With a grief like hers, there is no need of teaching and speaking; there is need of sympathizing and acting.

Verses 33-34

Vv. 33, 34. “ When therefore Jesus saw Mary weeping and the Jews who were with her weeping, he shuddered in his spirit and was troubled, 34 and he said, Where have you laid him. They say unto him, Lord, come and see.

The particle therefore establishes a relation of causality between the grief of Mary and those with her and the extraordinary emotion by which Jesus is seized at this moment. This relation is likewise indicated by the words: when He said, and by the repetition of the participle weeping, which, like a refrain, ends the two clauses. It is now generally acknowledged that the term ἐμβριμᾶσθαι (from βριμάζειν , to neigh, to roar) can only designate a shudder of indignation. See the thorough demonstration in the essay of Gumlich, Stud. u. Krit., 1862, pp. 260-269. This sense is applicable even to passages such as Matthew 9:30, Mark 1:43, in which this word marks the stern tone of menace. We must set aside therefore, first of all, the meaning: to be seized with grief (Lucke), and to groan deeply ( Ewald).

But what can be the object of Jesus' indignation? According to Chrysostom, Cyril, and other Greek interpreters, this is the same emotion which He experiences on hearing the sobs and which He endeavors in vain to master. According to Chrysostom, τῶ πνεύματι , His spirit, designates the object of His indignation (He is indignant against His own spirit, that is to say, against the inward weakness which He feels), while Cyril sees in the Spirit the divine nature of Jesus reacting against His human nature; the same nearly, even at the present day, Hilgenfeld. The meaning given by Chrysostom, having very little naturalness in itself, would in any case require the use of ψυχή , the soul, instead of πνεῦμα , the spirit. For the soul is the seat of the natural emotions; comp. John 12:27; πνεῦμα , the spirit, designates the domain of the higher impressions appertaining to the relation of the soul to the divine. And if Jesus really struggled against a sympathetic emotion, how was it that He surrendered Himself to it the very next moment with perfect simplicity ( Joh 11:35 )? The explanation of Cyril tends to make the divine being and the human in Jesus two distinct personalities. Meyer and Weiss think that Jesus was indignant at the hypocritical tears of the Jews, which form a shocking contrast to the sincere grief of Mary. Reuss also inclines to this idea: Jesus revolts at the ostentation of this insincere grief. But the two participles weeping are in a relation of agreement, not of contrast.

Others apply this movement of indignation to the want of faith which Jesus discerned at once in Mary and in the Jews ( Keim, Strauss). But in the word weeping, twice repeated, the notion of grief is expressed, rather than that of unbelief; and a moment later, Jesus also weeps Himself! Some interpreters ( Calvin, Olshausen, Luthardt, Hengstenberg, Keil) think that the indignation of Jesus is directed against the power of death and against Satan, the invisible enemy who wields this terrible weapon against men ( Joh 8:44 ). It would be necessary to admit, with this explanation, that, while the indignation felt by Jesus ( Joh 11:33 ), is directed towards the murderer, the tears which He sheds in Joh 11:35 are the expression of the pity with which the victims inspire Him. But how does it happen that nothing of a like nature manifests itself in Jesus in the other resurrections which He has effected? There must be in this case a peculiar circumstance which produces this altogether exceptional emotion.

An analogous emotion is mentioned only in John 13:21, at the moment when Jesus sees the treason of Judas in preparation: “ He was troubled in his spirit. ” The spirit is the seat of the religious emotions, as the soul is that of the natural affections. Thus in John 12:27, Jesus says: My soul is troubled, because the foreseeing of His sufferings makes His nature shudder, while here and in chap. 13 it is in His spirit that He is agitated, because in both cases He sees Himself in immediate contact with evil in its blackest form, and because with a holy horror he feels the nearness of the invisible being who has taken possession of the heart of Judas, and (in our passage) of that of His declared enemies. This parallel throws light on the groaning of Jesus in John 11:33. On one side, the sobs which He hears around Him urge Him to accomplish the raising of His friend to life; but, on the other hand, He knows that to yield to this solicitation, and to cause the glory of the Father to break forth conspicuously at this moment, is to sign the sentence of His own death. For it is to drive to extremes His enemies and him who leads them to act.

From the most glorious of His miracles they will draw a ground of condemnation against Him. A portion of these very persons whose sighs were pressing Him to act, will be among those who will cause Him to pay with His life for the crime of having vanquished death. Horror seizes Him at this thought; there is a diabolical perversity here which agitates His pure soul even to its lowest depths. We may recall the words of Jesus: “I have done many good works; for which do you stone me?” This is what is most directly referred to in these words. This agitation extended so far as to produce in Jesus an outward commotion, a physical trembling, expressed by the words: He was troubled. But the expression is chosen by the evangelist in such a way as to remove any idea of an unreasonable or merely passive agitation: the question therefore is not of a simple reaction of the moral on the physical with the purpose of restraining within Himself the impression produced upon Him ( Weiss), or with that of preparing Himself by an energetic resolution for the conflict which He was about to engage in with the devil and with death ( Augustine, Calvin, Hengstenberg, Keil). The Greek term can scarcely express such ideas. It seems to me that the physical agitation indicated by these words: He was troubled, is the mark of an energetic reaction by which Jesus, in some sort, threw off the emotion which had for a moment overpowered Him and recovered the full control of His being. This internal revolution terminated in this sudden and brief question: Where have you laid him? The two καί , and, bring out the intimate connection between these different emotions which succeed each other so rapidly within Him.

Verses 35-37

Vv. 35-37. “ Jesus wept. 36. The Jews therefore said, Behold how he loved him. 37. But some of them said, could not he who opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that this man also should not have died?

The storm has passed; on approaching the tomb Jesus feels only a tender sympathy for the grief which had filled the heart of His friend at the moment of separation and for that which the two sisters had experienced at the same hour. The term δακρύειν , to weep, does not indicate, like κλαίειν ( Joh 11:33 ), sighs, but tears; it is the expression of a calm and gentle grief. Baur does not allow that one can weep over a friend whom one is to see again. This feature, according to him, proves the unauthenticity of the narrative. Assuredly, if this Gospel were, as he believes it to be, the product of speculative thought, this thirty-fifth verse would not be found in it; Jesus would raise His friend to life with the look of triumph and a buoyant heart, as the true Logos who had nothing human but the appearance of man. But the evangelist has said from the first: “The Word was made flesh,” and he maintains the proposition with perfect consistency. “One does not raise the dead with a heart of stone,” says Hengstenberg. Heb 2:17 teaches us that he who wishes to assist an unfortunate one, should, first of all, sink deeply into the feeling of the suffering from which he is about to save him. It is a strange fact that it is precisely the Gospel in which the divinity of Jesus is most strikingly affirmed, that leads us also best to know the profoundly human side of His life. The very criticism of the German savant proves how little such a Jesus is the child of speculation. The solemn brevity of the clauses in these verses, John 11:34-35, must be observed.

Even at the side of this tomb we find the inevitable division which takes place about the person of Jesus at each of His manifestations in acts or words. Among the Jews themselves there are a certain number whose hearts are moved at the sight of these tears; sympathy for misfortune is neutral ground, the purely human domain, on which all souls meet which are not completely hardened. But some among them find in these tears of Jesus a reason for suspecting His character. One of two things: either He did not have the friendship for Lazarus which he now affects to feel, or He did not really possess the miraculous power of which He claimed to have given the proof in the healing of the man born blind; in any case, there is something suspicious in His conduct. Some interpreters give a favorable meaning to this question of the Jews, John 11:37 (Lucke, Tholuck, de Wette, Gumlich and also, up to a certain point, Keil). But the evangelist identifies, by the very form of the expression ( some among them), these Jews of Joh 11:37 with those of John 11:46.

And with this sense it is not easy to understand the relation which can have existed between this question of the Jews and the new emotion of Jesus, John 11:38. Strauss finds it strange that these Jews do not appeal here to resurrections of the dead which Jesus had accomplished in Galilee, rather than to the healing of the man born blind. But it is precisely an evangelist of the second century who would not have failed to put into the mouth of the Jews an allusion to these resurrections, which were at that time well-known throughout all the Church by the reading of the Synoptics. The historical fidelity of the narrative of John appears precisely from the fact that the inhabitants of Jerusalem appeal to the last striking miracle accomplished by Jesus in this very city and before their eyes. This healing had occasioned so many discussions and so many different judgments that it naturally presents itself to their thought.

Verses 38-39

Vv. 38, 39. “ Jesus therefore, shuddering in himself again, comes to the sepulchre; it was a cave and a stone was placed before it. 39. Jesus says, Take away the stone. The sister of the dead man Martha, says to him, Lord, by this time he stinketh; for he has been dead four days.

The new inward disturbance which Jesus feels is evidently called forth by the malevolent remark of the Jews ( Joh 11:37 ); John himself gives us to understand this by the therefore ( Joh 11:38 ). But this agitation seems to have been less profound than the first, and more readily overcome. This very natural detail is a new proof of the fidelity of the narrative.

The sepulchre was a cave dug in the rock, either horizontally or vertically. The verb ἐπέκειτο signifies, in the first case, that the stone was placed before the entrance of the cave; in the second, that it was placed on its opening. Numerous tombs are seen around Jerusalem both of the one form and the other. If the tomb which is shown at the present day as that of Lazarus, was really such, it was of the second sort. It is a cave hollowed out in the rock into which one descends by a narrow staircase of twenty-six steps. Robinson has proved the non-authenticity of the tradition on this point, as on many others. The stones by which these caves were closed might easily be removed; they were designed only to keep off wild beasts. There is between the second movement of indignation in Jesus and the decisive command: Take away the stone, a relation analogous to that which we have noticed between the first emotion of this kind and the question: Where have you laid him? We can easily imagine the state of expectation into which this question threw the whole company.

Did the remark of Martha ( Joh 11:39 ), proceed, as some interpreters think, from a feeling of incredulity. But could she who hoped for the return of her brother to life before the promise of Jesus ( Joh 11:22-23 ), have doubted after such a declaration? This is impossible. By this remark she does not by any means wish to prevent the opening of the sepulchre; she simply expresses the anxiety which is caused in her mind by the painful sensation about to be experienced by Jesus and the spectators because of one who was so near and dear to her. As the dead man's sister, she feels a kind of embarrassment and confusion. We must recall to mind how closely the idea of defilement was connected, among the Jews, with that of death and corruption. Here, therefore, is an exclamation dictated by a feeling of respect for Him to whom she is speaking: “ Lord,” and by a sort of delicacy for the person of him who is in question: the sister of the dead man. It has been thought ( Weiss, Keil) that the affirmation of Martha: by this time he stinketh, was on her part only a supposition, since she justifies it logically by adding: For he is there four days already. But we must rather see in these words the declaration of a fact which she has herself ascertained by visiting the sepulchre; comp. John 11:31.

The words: For he is there...already, indicate the cause, not the proof, of the fact which the care of the two sisters had not been able to prevent. This reflection, far from proving, as Weiss thinks, that Lazarus had not been embalmed, implies, on the contrary, that he had been, with all possible care, but only after the manner of the Jews. Among the Egyptians the entrails and everything which readily decays were removed, while among the Jews the embalming was limited to wrapping the body in perfumes, which could not long arrest corruption. The expectation of Jesus' arrival had certainly not prevented them, as some have supposed, from performing this ceremony. Does not Joh 11:44 show that Lazarus had his limbs enveloped with bandages like other dead persons (comp. Joh 19:40 )? But even if Martha's remark did not arise from a feeling of incredulity, the fact indicated might nevertheless occasion in her a failing of faith at this decisive moment; so Jesus exhorts her to raise her faith to the whole height of the promise which He has made to her.

Verses 40-42

Vv. 40-42. “ Jesus says to her, Did I not say to thee, that if thou believest thou shalt see the glory of God? 41. They took away the stone therefore. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42. As for myself, I knew indeed that thou dost always hear me; but I said it because of the multitude who surround me, that they may believe that thou didst send me.

Some interpreters refer the words: Did I not say...? to the conversation in John 11:23-27. And it is certainly, indeed, to the expressions: He who believes on me (John 11:27; Joh 11:26 ), and Believest thou this? ( Joh 11:27 ) that our thoughts are turned by the words of Jesus: If thou believest...But the characteristic expression of our verse: the glory of God, is wanting in these declarations, while it constitutes the salient feature of the promise of John 11:4. It is therefore this last promise that Jesus especially recalls to Martha. He well knew that it had been reported to the two sisters by the messenger; it had formed the starting-point of the conversation of John 11:23-27, which was only its confirmation and development. The glory of God is here, exactly as in Romans 6:4, the splendid triumph of the omnipotence of God, in the service of His love, over death and corruption ( Joh 11:39 ). This is the magnificent spectacle which Jesus promises to Martha, and which He sets in opposition to the painful impressions which she apprehends for the bystanders and herself, when once the stone shall have been taken away. There is no reproach in the words: Did I not say...? as if Martha were wanting in faith in speaking as she did. In the presence of the manifest signs of dissolution already commenced, Jesus exhorts her to a supreme act of faith, by giving her His promise as a support. She has already climbed the arduous slopes of the mountain; only one last summit to reach, and the spectacle of the glory of God, of life triumphant over death, will display itself to her eyes. Man would always see in order to believe; Martha is called to give an example of the opposite course: to believe in order to see. These words of Jesus do not imply that He makes the fulfillment of His promise depend, as Meyer, Weiss and others think, on Martha's faith. He is now decidedly pledged and cannot withdraw. What He subordinates to the supreme act of faith which He demands of her, is not the miracle, it is the joy which she will have from it (“ see the glory”). The bodily eye beholds only the external wonder; but the divine love putting itself at the service of man to triumph over death this is a spectacle which one beholds only with the eyes of the soul. It was the inner sense for beholding it which Jesus had endeavored to form in Martha in the conversation which He had just had with her; He must not lose, at the decisive moment, the fruit of this effort. The received reading: the stone from the place where the dead was laid, seems to be a paraphrase. The Alexandrian text reads briefly: the stone; see our translation. This reading, however, does not easily explain the origin of the other two. May not that of A K Π : the stone from the place where he was, be the primitive text? Its brevity ( οὗ ἦν ) explains, on one side, the Byzantine gloss, and, on the other, the omission, in the Alexandrian documents, of this explanatory clause. Jesus lifts his eyes: the visible heaven is for man the most eloquent witness of the invisible wealth and power of God. By penetrating with His look its infinite depths, Jesus seeks inwardly the face of the Father; what more human! it is indeed in reality the Word made flesh (comp. Joh 17:1 ). The miracle is already accomplished to the view of Jesus; this is the reason why He renders thanks as if for a thing which is done: Thou hadst heard me. He thus confirms the view pronounced by Martha with relation to His miracles ( Joh 11:22 ); they are so many prayers heard. But what distinguishes His position from that of other divine messengers, who have accomplished similar works by the same means, is the perfect assurance of being heard, with which He addresses God. He draws freely, as Son, from the divine treasure. Besser admirably says: “No doubt, He performed all His miracles through faith, but through faith which was peculiar to Him, that of being the Son of God manifested in the flesh.”

If Jesus expresses His gratitude aloud, as He does here, it is not, as He Himself adds, because there is anything extraordinary in the conduct of the Father towards Him on this occasion. This act of thanksgiving is anything but an exclamation wrested from Him by surprise at an exceptional hearing of prayer; constantly heard by the Father, He thanks Him continually. That which, at this solemn moment, impels Him to give thanks to His Father aloud, is the sight of the people who surround Him. He has prepared His disciples and the two sisters, in the special conversations with them, to behold and understand the work which He is about to do. He desires also to dispose the people whom His Father has unexpectedly gathered around this tomb, to behold the glory of God, that is to say, to see in the miracle, not only a wonder, but a sign. Otherwise the astonishment which they experience would be barren; it could not result in faith. Here is the reason why Jesus expresses aloud, at this moment, the sentiment of filial thankfulness which incessantly fills His heart. Criticism has called this prayer “a prayer of ostentation” ( Strauss, Weisse, Baur), and has found in this circumstance a ground for suspecting the authenticity of the narrative.

It has not grasped the meaning of the act. Jesus does not render thanks because of the people, but He expresses aloud His act of thanksgiving because of the people. The Jews had said of the healing of the man born blind: As an infraction of the Sabbath, this cannot be a divine work. By rendering thanks to God on this day in presence of all the people, even before performing the miracle, Jesus positively calls upon God to grant or to refuse Him His cooperation . In the face of such a prayer God must be recognized either as the guarantor of His mission or as the accomplice in His imposture. Comp. the test of Carmel in the life of Elijah, and the quite similar expression of Jesus Himself in Luke 5:22-24. If Lazarus rises and comes forth at the call of Jesus, it will be God who has displayed His arm; Jesus will be recognized as sent by Him. If not, truly let all His other miracles be attributed to Beelzebub, and let Him be declared an impostor! Such is the situation as Jesus' act of thanksgiving establishes it. It is interesting to compare this expression: Thou hast heard me, with the assertion of Reville, following Scholten and saying: “The fourth Gospel has no knowledge of Jesus praying as a man.” ( Revue de theol ., 1865, iii., p. 316.)

Verses 43-44

Vv. 43, 44. “ And after having spoken thus, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. 44. And the dead man came forth, his feet and hands bound with bandages; and his face was wrapped in a napkin. Jesus says to them, Loose him and let him go.

The loud voice is the expression of a determined will which has the feeling of its own sovereignty. As one awakens a man from sleep by calling him by his name, so Jesus brings back Lazarus from death which is only a more profound sleep ( Joh 11:11-12 ) by loudly calling him. “Undoubtedly these external signs are only, as Hengstenberg says, for the persons present; the power of raising to life resides, not in the voice, but in the will which expresses itself through it;” we will rather say: in the power of God of which Jesus disposes by virtue of the hearing of His prayer. In speaking to the daughter of Jairus and to the young man of Nain, He simply said: Arise, or: Awake, because they were lying on the bed or the bier; here He says: Come forth, because Lazarus is shut within the sepulchre. The simplicity and brevity of these two words: δεῦρο ἔξω (literally, Here without!) form a magnificent contrast with their efficacy. How can Weiss assert that the voice of Jesus does nothing but recall to the light Lazarus whom God had raised to life? Do not the words of Joh 11:19-20 show us the power of God really acting through Jesus, and Jesus Himself raising the dead to life by this power of which He is the organ?

The act of coming forth, John 11:44, presents no difficulty, either because the bandages by which the shroud was fastened were sufficiently loose to allow movements, or because each limb was wrapped separately, as was the practice among the Egyptians. The detail: His face was wrapped about with a napkin, is the pencil-stroke of an eye-witness and recalls the ineffaceable impression produced on the bystanders by this spectacle of a living man in the costume of the dead. While they remained motionless with astonishment, Jesus, with perfect composure and as if nothing extraordinary had occurred, invites them to participate in the work: Each to his office; I have raised to life; it is for you to loose him. The command: Let him go, recalls that which Jesus gave to Jairus and his wife after having raised their child to life. Nothing disturbs His calmness after these unparalleled works which He has just accomplished. The term ὑπάγειν , go away, has something victorious in it, altogether like the command of Jesus to the impotent man who was healed: Take up thy bed, and walk!

The resurrection of Lazarus is the miracle of friendship, as the wonder of Cana is that of filial picty; and this, not only because the affection of Jesus for the family of Bethany was the cause of it, but especially because Jesus performed it with a distinct consciousness that, in raising His friend, He was rendering more certain and hastening His own death (comp. Joh 11:8-16 and Joh 11:33-38 ). The self-devotion of friendship rises here to the point of heroism. John had understood this. This thought is the soul of his narrative; it appears clearly from the following passage.

Verses 45-46

Vv. 45, 46. “ Many therefore of the Jews, those who had come to Mary and had seen that which he had done, believed on him. 46. But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them that which Jesus had done.

Again a division among the spectators, and a still more profound one than on any of the previous occasions. For it penetrated even into the midst of the Jewish party. It is impossible, indeed, to include the some of whom Joh 11:46 speaks in the class of the πολλοί , many, of John 11:45, and to ascribe to them, as a consequence, a benevolent intention in the step which they take before the enemies of Jesus, as Origen thought. There is an antithesis between the two subjects: many and some, as between the two verbs: believed ( Joh 11:45 ) and went away ( Joh 11:46 ). Only it must be carefully noticed that the first (the πολλοί , of Joh 11:45 ) are not merely a part of the visitors of Martha and Mary, but include them all; this is indicated by the participles in the nominative with the article οἱ : Those who had come and who had seen. In the opposite case, the participles ought to be in the genitive: many of those who came and saw.

The some of Joh 11:46 are therefore other Jews ( ἐξ αὐτῶν refers to the word ᾿Ιουδαίων alone), who saw without having come, either inhabitants of Bethany, or visitors who were not with Mary when she had run to the tomb and who had not been present at the scene. This explains the difficult expression: “who came to Mary. ” Why to Mary only? Is she named here as the one best known ( Weiss) or as the most afflicted ( Luthardt, Keil)? Both of these explanations are very unnatural. She is named because it was near her that the Jews who came found themselves when they went to the sepulchre and with her that they had been witnesses of the miracle (comp. John 11:31; Joh 11:33 ).

Verses 45-53


Vv. 45-53.

1. The result of the miracle was the production of the desired faith, not only in the sisters and the disciples, but also in many of the Jews who had come to express their sympathy with Mary. The strict rules of construction make οἱ ἐλθόντες the same with πολλοί , while ᾿Ιουδαίων refers to the whole body usually called the Jews in this Gospel. There is no serious objection to this view of the sentence. If it be adopted, the αὐτῶν may refer to the ἐλθόντες (Meyer), or it may refer to the ᾿Ιουδαίων (Godet). If, on the other hand, οἱ ἐλθόντες , by an irregularity, takes the place of τῶν ἐλθόντων , the statement would seem to correspond better with what we might antecedently expect as more probable. The declaration, in that case, is: Many of those Jews who have already been spoken of as coming to Mary believed, but some of them (those who did not believe) went and told the Pharisees. This explanation gives so simple and natural a meaning that it commends itself, if the substitution of the nominative participle can be supposed.

2. The difficulty which has been found by some writers in the fact that Caiaphas is spoken of in Joh 11:49 as high-priest of that year has no real foundation. The statement is not introduced with reference to Caiaphas, but to Jesus. The man who was high-priest in that remarkable year when Jesus died uttered the prophecy respecting His death.

3. The utterance of Caiaphas is spoken of as a prophecy. This is apparently a kind of figurative expression, by which the author would intimate, not that Caiaphas was inspired of God, but that, in the providential plan respecting Christ, it came to pass that an utterance was made which proved to be prophetic of the immediate future, and was made by the head of the Jewish system.

4. The precise condition of the minds of the Sanhedrim at this time is strikingly exhibited in these verses. They were awakened to see that the policy of inaction or delay would be no longer safe. The influence of Jesus, rapidly becoming greater, was likely to be much increased by this remarkable miracle, and action was necessary on their part, or it might be too late. It was natural that the party favoring more vigorous measures should now succeed in leading the body to commit itself and to begin more seriously and resolutely to work towards effecting the murder of Jesus.

5. The understanding of this prophetic utterance was made known to the author and his fellow-apostles, no doubt, by the events which followed, and the words took their place in the line of testimony the testimony unconsciously given, in this case, by an enemy to Christ and His future work.

6. It is noticeable that, while the raising of Lazarus is represented in this chapter as inciting the Jewish authorities to more active and decisive measures, it is not referred to afterwards as constituting an element in the accusation made against Him at His trial. This fact, which has been urged as bearing against the reality of the event and the truthfulness of the story, seems to indicate, on the other hand, the exact relation which the event had to the end. It excited the enemies to action, but it was not the cause of Jesus' death. It was not a matter to be brought forward in the trial, but it was one important circumstance which led to the hastening of the trial. Moreover, the trial before Pilate was, as Meyer remarks, connected rather with an accusation of a political character; while that before the Sanhedrim, it may be added, turned more towards a charge of blasphemy.

Verses 47-50

Vv. 47-50. “ The chief priests and Pharisees therefore gathered an assembly, and they said, What shall we do? For this man does many miracles. 48. If we let him alone, all will believe on him, and the Romans will come and they will destroy both our place and nation. 49. But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high-priest of that year, said to them: You know nothing at all, 50 and you do not consider that it is better for us that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.

The resurrection of Lazarus was not the cause of Jesus' death; but it occasioned and hastened the decree of His condemnation. The cup was full; this made it overflow. The Pharisees are specially named because they were the instigators of this hostile meeting (John 11:46; John 9:45); but it was the chief priests who officially convoked it.

The absence of the article before συνέδριον might be explained by supposing that John is here using this word as a proper name. It is more natural, however, to take the term in the general meaning of assembly or council, which it has also in the profane Greek. The present ποιοῦμεν , “what do we” takes the place of a future; it makes prominent the imminence of the danger. “It is absolutely necessary to do something, but what?” ῞Οτι : because of the fact that. “His doing must decide ours.” The fear expressed in Joh 11:48 was not without foundation. The least commotion might serve the Romans as a pretext for depriving the people of Israel of the remnant of independence which they still enjoyed, and in that case what would become of the power of the Sanhedrim? The disquietude of the rulers has reference especially to the destruction of their power. This is emphatically expressed by the position of the pronoun ἡμῶν ( of us, our) before the two substantives. Jesus reproduced this thought of the rulers in the words of the laborers in the vineyard, Matthew 21:38: “ Let us kill him and secure the inheritance. ” Jerusalem, Israel, belong to them. “ Our place ” naturally designates the capital, as the seat of their government, rather than the temple (Lucke, de Wette, etc.), or the whole of Judea ( Bengel). In the first sense, this term is also more naturally connected with the following expression: our nation; that which we govern from this place. As they speak from a political point of view, contrasting nation with nation, they employ the term ἔθνος , and not λαός , which is the name of honor for the people of Israel.

The expression: one of them, hardly allows us to suppose that Caiaphas was presiding over the assembly. Although, indeed, it seems now to be proved that the high-priest was at the same time president of the Sanhedrim (Schurer, Lehrb. der N. T. Zeitgesch., p. 411), we must not forget that this was not a regular meeting ( Joh 11:47 ). In the midst of a company of irresolute spirits, who are wavering between conscience and interest, an energetic man, who boldly denies the rights of conscience and unscrupulously puts forward reasons of state, has always the chance of carrying his point. If this had occurred in the best days of the theocracy, the expression: High- priest of that year, would be incomprehensible; for, according to the law, the pontificate was for life. But, since the Roman dominion, the masters of the country fearing the power which a permanent office gives, had adopted the custom of frequently replacing one high-priest by another.

According to Josephus ( Antiq., 18.2. 2), the Roman governor Valerius Gratus “took away the high-priestly office from Ananus and conferred it on Ishmael; then, having deposed the latter a little while afterwards, he established as high-priest Eleazar, the son of Ananus: after a year had elapsed, he deposed this last person and nominated Simon in his place; he held the office only one year, and Joseph, surnamed Caiaphas, was made his successor.” Caiaphas remained in office from the year 25 to the year 36 of our era; consequently, the entire ministry of Jesus was passed under his pontificate. These frequent changes justify the expression of the evangelist, and deprive criticism of the right to assert that the author of our Gospel was ignorant of the fact that the high-priesthood, from its foundation, was a life-office. But if Caiaphas had been high-priest for eleven official years, how could St. John use three times (John 11:49-51; Joh 18:13 ) the expression: “High-priest of that year? ” We find the pronoun ἐκεῖνος used here in the particularly emphatic sense which it has so frequently in this Gospel; not, that more remote year, in opposition to some other nearer one, but, that unique, decisive year, in which the Messiah was put to death and the priesthood, with the theocracy, came to its end. The apostrophe of Caiaphas to his colleagues has a certain character of rudeness.

This feature, as Hengstenberg observes, agrees with the behavior of the Sadducean sect to which Caiaphas belonged; comp. Acts 4:6; Acts 5:17, and Josephus, Antiq., 20.9. 1. In Bell. Jud., 2.8, 14, this historian says: “The Pharisees are friendly to each other, and cultivate harmony among themselves with a view to the common benefit; but the manners of the Sadducees are much more rude both towards each other and towards their equals, whom they treat as strangers.” Hengstenberg takes διαλογίζεσθε in an intransitive sense and the following ὅτι in the sense of because: You do not consider, seeing that it is more advantageous that...” But it is more natural to make the clause which begins with ὅτι the content of διαλογίζεσθε : “You know nothing and you do not consider that...” The reading διαλογίζεσθε : “You do not know how to clear up by reasoning...” is preferable to the simple λογίζεσθε which results from negligence or from a mistaken correction. The reading ἡμῖν , for us, has fundamentally the same sense as the variant ὑμῖν , for you; but it somewhat better disguises the egoistic and personal character of the opinion expressed (comp. the ἡμῶν of Joh 11:48 ). The use of the terms λαός and ἔθνος in Joh 11:50 is not arbitrary. The first (corresponding to the Hebrew am) designates the multitude of individuals forming the theocratic nation, in opposition to the single individual who is to perish, while the second, answering to goi, designates Israel as a political body in contrast with the foreign nationality, that of the Romans.

Verses 51-52

Vv. 51, 52. “ Now he did not say this of himself; but being high-priest of that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also that he might gather in one body the children of God who are scattered abroad.

This opinion of the high-priest was made especially remarkable by the contrast between the divine truth which it expressed and the diabolical design which inspired it. The evangelist calls attention to this. Some interpreters ( Luthardt, Bruckner) deny that John ascribes the gift of prophecy here to the high-priest as such. It was not as high-priest, but as high-priest of that year, that Caiaphas uttered this prophetic declaration. But the relation between the present participle ὤν , being, and the aorist, προεφήτευσεν , he prophesied, leads us naturally to the idea that the evangelist attaches to the office of Caiaphas the prophetic character of the words which he uttered at this moment. This must be acknowledged even if we are to find here only a Jewish superstition. In the Old Testament, the normal centre of the theocratic people is, not the royal office, but the priesthood. In all the decisive moments for the life of the people, it is the high- priest who is the organ of God for passing over to the people the decision with which its salvation is connected (Exodus 28:30; Numbers 27:21; 1 Samuel 30:7 ff.). It is true that this prerogative came not from a prophetic gift, but from the possession of a mysterious power, the Urim and Thummim. It is also true that from the time of the captivity, and even from the reign of Solomon, there is no longer any question of this power (see Keil, Bibl. Archaeol., p. 191). But the high-priest nevertheless remained by reason of his very office the head of the theocratic body, and this in spite of the moral contrast which might exist between the spirit of his office and his personal character.

If the heart of the high-priest was in harmony with his office, his heart became the normal organ of the divine decision. But if there was opposition in this personage between the disposition of his heart and the holiness of his office, it must be expected that, as in the present case, the divine oracle would be seen coming from this consecrated mouth in the form of the most diabolical maxim. What, indeed, more worthy of the Divine Spirit than to condemn His degenerate organ thus to utter the truth of God at the very moment when he was speaking as the organ of his own particular interest! Without attributing to Caiaphas a permanent prophetic gift, John means to say that, at this supreme moment for the theocracy and for humanity, it was not without the participation of the Divine activity that the most profound mystery of the plan of God was proclaimed by him in the form of the most detestable maxim. John has already more than once remarked how the adversaries of Jesus, when speaking derisively, were prophesying in spite of themselves: “ No one knows whence he is ” ( Joh 7:27 ). “ Will he go and teach the Greeks ” ( Joh 7:35 )? If the devil often travesties the words of God, it pleases God sometimes to parody those of the devil, by giving to them an unexpected truth. This “divine irony” manifested itself in the highest degree on this occasion, which was the prelude to the accomplishment of the most divine mystery under the form of the most monstrous act.

According to some interpreters, the ὅτι is not a direct complement of the verb he prophesied. Meyer: “he prophesied as to the fact that...” Luthardt, Weiss, Keil: “he prophesied, seeing that really Jesus was to...” Joh 11:52 is what has led them to these explanations, because this verse goes in fact beyond the import of the saying of Caiaphas. But it is quite unnatural to take this word: he prophesied, in an absolute sense: John certainly did not mean to insist so especially on this idea of prophecy. The meaning is simply: “he declared prophetically that to...” As to John 11:52, it is an explanatory appendix, which John adds in order to indicate that in the divine thought the force of the expression: one for all, had a far wider application than that which Caiaphas himself gave it. John never forgets his Greek readers, and he loses no occasion of recalling to them their part in the accomplishment of the divine promises. If we take into consideration the parallelism between this Joh 11:52 and the saying of John 10:16, we shall have no hesitation in applying the term children of God to heathen predisposed to faith through the revelation of the Logos (John 1:4; Joh 1:10 ); the sense is the same as that in which John uses the expressions: to be of God ( Joh 8:47 ), to be of the truth ( Joh 19:37 ). The term children of God naturally involves an anticipation; it designates the actual condition of these future believers from the point of view of its result which was to come. Meyer, Luthardt and others prefer to explain this term from the standpoint of the divine predestination. But we should be obliged to infer from this that all the rest of the heathen are the objects of an opposite predestination.

Verse 53

Ver. 53. “ From this day forth, therefore, they took counsel together to the end that they might put him to death. ” The therefore intimates that the proposition of Caiaphas was accepted ( Luthardt), probably in silence and without the intervention of an official vote. From this day forward, a permanent conspiracy was organized against the life of Jesus. The daily conferences of His adversaries became, according to the expression of Lange, “meetings of Messianic murder.” There was no more hesitation as to the end; the indecision was henceforth only with reference to the time and the means. Such was the importance of this meeting and consequently, in an indirect way, that of the resurrection of Lazarus.

Verses 54-57

Jesus is forced to withdraw to a retired place. On their part, the rulers take a new step in the path on which they have now entered.

Vv. 54-57. “ Jesus therefore abode no more openly among the Jews; but he departed thence and went into the country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim;and he remained there with his disciples. 55. Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand; and many went up to Jerusalem out of the country before the Passover, to purify themselves. 56. They sought for Jesus therefore and said among themselves, as they stood in the temple, What think you? Do you think that he will not come to the feast? 57. Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had also given commandment that, if any one knew where he was, he should declare it, in order that they might take him.

Ephraim is mentioned sometimes with Bethel (2 Chronicles 13:19; Joseph. Bell. Jude 1:4; Jude 1:4.9. 9). This city was therefore a few leagues northward of Jerusalem; according to Eusebius, eight miles, according to Jerome, twenty miles to the northeast of that capital. This locality, by reason of its retired situation and its proximity to the desert, was favorable to the design of Jesus. He might in the solitude prepare His disciples for His approaching end and, if He was pursued, He might retire into the desert. This desert is, as Lange says, the northern extremity of the barren strip of country by which the plateau of the mountains of Judah and Benjamin is separated throughout its whole length from the valley of the Jordan and the Dead Sea. From this place Jesus could, at will, on the approach of the Passover, either join the pilgrims from Galilee who went directly to Jerusalem through Samaria, or go down to Jericho, in the plain of the Jordan, to put Himself at the head of the caravan which came from Peraea. We know from the Synoptics that He took the latter course. Μετά ( Joh 11:54 ) is not synonymous with σύν ; the meaning is: “He confined Himself there to the society of His disciples;” and not only: He was there with them.

᾿Εκ τῆς χωρᾶς ( Joh 11:55 ) does not refer to the country of Ephraim in particular ( Grotius, Olshausen) but to the country region in general, in opposition to the capital ( Joh 11:54 ): “They went up from different parts of the country.” The law did not prescribe special purifications before the Passover; but, in several passages of the Old Testament, it was ordained that the people should purify themselves on the eve of any important occasion (Genesis 35:2; Exodus 19:10-11, etc.). This principle had naturally been applied to the Passover feast ( 2Ch 30:16-20 ).

Verse 56

Vv. 56 vividly depicts the restless curiosity of these country people who, assembled in groups in the temple, were discussing with reference to the approaching arrival of Jesus; comp. John 7:12. ῾Εστηκότες , standing, in the attitude of expectation. ῞Οτι does not depend on δοκεῖ ; it is more natural to separate the two clauses and to make two distinct questions. The aorist ἔλθῃ may perfectly well refer to an act which is to be accomplished in the immediate future.

To the other grounds which rendered the coming of Jesus improbable, Joh 11:57 adds a new one, which is more special. It would not have been very difficult for the authorities to discover the place of Jesus' retreat. The edict which is here spoken of was therefore rather a means of intimidating Him and His followers, and of accustoming the people to regard Him as a dangerous and criminal person. It is a new link in the series of hostile measures so well described by St. John from chap. 5 onward; comp. John 5:16; John 5:18; John 7:32; John 9:22; John 11:53; and this is indicated by the καί , also, in the T. R.; perhaps the word was omitted in the Alexandrian text, as not being understood. The chief priests were the authority from which the decree officially emanated; the evangelist adds the Pharisees, because this party was the real author of it. Comp. John 7:45. In the Babylonian Gemara (edited from ancient traditions about 550) the following passage is found: “Tradition reports that on the evening of the Passover Jesus was crucified (hanged), and that this took place after an officer had during forty days publicly proclaimed: This man who by his deception has seduced the people ought to be crucified. Whosoever can allege anything in his defense, let him come forward and speak. But no one found anything to say in his defense. He was hanged therefore on the evening of the Passover” (Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr. et. Talm., p. 490). This remarkable passage may be compared with this of John. In both, we discover, a few weeks before the Passover, a public proclamation on the part of the Sanhedrim, relative to the approaching condemnation of Jesus. On the other hand, the difference between the two accounts is so marked that one of them cannot have arisen from the other.

On the Resurrection of Lazarus.

“This narrative,” says Deutinger, “is distinguished among all the narrations of the fourth Gospel by its peculiar vivacity and its dramatic movement. The characters are drawn by a hand at once firm and delicate. Nowhere is the relation of Christ to His disciples set forth in so life-like a manner; we are initiated by this narrative into that intimate intercourse, that affectionate interchange of feelings and thoughts, which existed between the Master and His own followers; the disciples are described in the most attractive way; we see them in their simple frankness and noble devotion. The Jews themselves, of whom we know scarcely anything in our gospel except their obstinate resistance to the efforts of Jesus, show themselves here in a less unfavorable aspect, as friends of the two afflicted sisters; the man is discovered in the Jew. But above all, how distinct and delicate is the sketching of the character of the two women; with what nicety and what psychological depth is the difference in their conduct described!” In these characteristics of the narrative which are so well summed up by the German writer, we find the first proof of its intrinsic truthfulness: “invented stories are not of this sort.” And especially, it was not thus that invented stories were formed in the second century; we have the proof of this in the Apocryphal narratives.

The reality of the event here related appears also from its connection with the whole course of the previous and subsequent history of Jesus. The evangelist is fully conscious of the consequences of the event which he describes; he distinctly marks them in the course of his narrative: John 11:47 ( therefore) and John 11:53 ( from that day forth). Comp. John 12:9-11; John 12:17-19. Renan calls the resurrection of Lazarus “a necessary link in the story of the final catastrophe.” The former, therefore, is not a fictitious event, if the latter is not. Finally, this narrative contains with exactness a mass of details which would be in manifest contradiction to the aim of the narrative, provided the latter were composed artificially with the purpose of teaching and illustrating the speculation of the Logos; thus the tears of Jesus, the moral and even physical agitation which is attributed to Him, His prayer for the securing of the miracle, and His thanksgiving for the hearing of the prayer. Nothing can be more truly human than all these features of the story, which are altogether the opposite of the metaphysics of Philo.

Objection is made, 1. That such a miracle is absolutely inconceivable, especially if we explain the words: by this time he stinketh, in the sense of dissolution already begun. Herein perhaps lies what has led some interpreters, who are defenders of the reality of the miracle ( Weiss, Keil) to find in these words only a logical supposition on Martha's part. “The bond between the soul and the body,” says Weiss, “was not yet finally broken so as to allow the beginning of dissolution.” Reuss does not admit this method of cheapening the miracle. “The odor of the decaying body” seems to him to be an essential feature of the narrative which was designed to illustrate the declaration: “I am the resurrection and the life.” And he is the one who is right. When we shall know thoroughly what life is and what death is, we shall be able to decide what is suited to this domain and what is not. While waiting for this, we must say: He who has created the organic cell within the inorganic matter is not incapable of re-establishing life within the inanimate substance.

Objectors allege, 2. The omission of this miracle in the Synoptics. But in the Synoptics themselves are there not many differences of the same kind? Has not each one of them preserved elements of the highest interest which are omitted in the others? They are collections of particular anecdotes, of isolated or orally transmitted events. The formation of these collections was affected by accidental circumstances of which we are ignorant. Thus Luke alone has preserved for us the account of the resurrection of the young man of Nain. It is to be observed, moreover, that the three Synoptical narratives are divided into two great cycles: the events of the prophetic ministry of Jesus in Galilee, and those of the week of the Passion in Jerusalem; they only glance at the intermediate sojourn in Peraea. Now the resurrection of Lazarus belongs to this epoch of transition and for this reason it may easily have lost its place in the general tradition. Luke himself, says Hase, “has only his fragmentary story respecting the two sisters (John 10:38 ff.), the prelude of this one, while ignorant of what belongs to their persons and their abode” (p. 512).

Finally, the fact which can more particularly explain the omission of this incident in the Apostolic tradition, from which, for the most part, our Synoptic narratives came, is the hesitation which might have been felt either to open to the view of the public an interior life so sacred as that of the family beloved by Jesus, or of exposing the members of that family themselves to the vengeance of the rulers, who at the time of the first preaching of the Gospel were still the masters of the country. Comp. John 12:10, where they deliberate as to putting Lazarus to death at the same time with Jesus. The case stood thus until the destruction of Jerusalem and the fall of the Sanhedrim. This is the reason why John, when these events were once consummated, could feel free to draw forth this scene from the silence into which it had fallen since the day of Pentecost. Meyer, Weiss and others object that the Synoptical authors, writing probably at a time when the members of the Bethany family were already dead, would not have allowed themselves to be stopped by this consideration. But they forget that the omission was occasioned in the oral tradition from the earliest times of the Church, and that it had passed quite naturally into the written redaction of the primitive proclamation of the Gospel story, that is to say, into our Synoptic Gospels.

Moreover, the explanations which have been attempted in order to eliminate this miracle from the circle of the authentic facts of the life of Jesus, present, none of them, any degree of probability whatever.

1. The so-called natural explanation of Paulus, Gabler and A. Schweizer. In consequence of the message of John 11:3, Jesus judged the malady to be by no means dangerous; then, after having received notice again ( Paulus reckons as many as four messages), He comes to see that the matter is a mere lethargy. Having reached the sepulchre, He observed in the supposed deceased person some signs of life; whereupon He gave thanks ( Joh 11:41-42 ) and called Lazarus forth. The latter revived by the coolness of the sepulchre, by the odor of the perfumes, and at the moment of the opening of the tomb, by the warmth of the external air, rose up in full life. Thus Paulus and Gabler. According to A. Schweizer, the confidence of Jesus in the cure of His friend was founded only on His faith in the divine aid promised in a general way to His cause; and the pretended miracle was only the happy coincidence of this religious confidence with the circumstance that Lazarus was not really dead. This explanation has not been judged more severely by any one than by Strauss and Baur. The former has shown, in opposition to Paulus and Gabler, that the expressions by which Jesus announces the resurrection of Lazarus are too positive to be only conjectures founded upon uncertain symptoms, and that the meaning of the entire narrative, in the thought of the narrator, is and can be only that which every reader finds in it: the resurrection of Lazarus, who was dead, by the miraculous power of Jesus. As to the manner in which Schweizer treats our Gospel in general and this passage in particular, the following is Baur's judgment: “Destitute of all feeling for the unity of the whole, he tears our Gospel to shreds, that he may eliminate as superstitious interpolations all things of which he does not succeed in giving a shallow rationalistic explanation, and may leave all which he allows to remain to the marvellous action of chance.” These last words are especially applicable to the opinion of Schweizer respecting this miracle.

But what explanations do these two critics oppose to this of their predecessors?

2. The mythical explanation of Strauss. The Old Testament related resurrections of dead persons effected by mere prophets; the Christian legend could do no less than ascribe to the Messiah miracles of the same kind. But is it really to be admitted that the legend succeeded in producing a narrative so admirably shaded and in creating personages so finely drawn? “One cannot understand,” says Renan justly, “how a popular creation should have come to take its place in a framework of recollections which are so personal as those which are connected with the relations of Jesus to the family of Bethany.” Moreover, legend idealizes; how could it ever have invented a Christ moved even to the inmost depths of His being and shedding tears before the tomb of the friend whom He was going to raise to life? Then is not Baur right as against Strauss, when he says: “If a mythical tradition of this sort had really been spread abroad in the Church, it would not have failed to enter, with so many other similar ones, into the Synoptic narrative. It is contrary to all probability that so important a miracle, to which was attributed a decisive influence on the final catastrophe, should have remained a local legend restricted to a very limited circle.” Notwithstanding these difficulties, Reville “feels no embarrassment” in explaining the history of Lazarus by the mythical process. The legend meant to represent by Lazarus the Jewish proletariat (comp. Luk 16:20 ), which Jesus rescues from its spiritual death by loving it and weeping over it. “He bent over this tomb (Israelitish pauperism!) crying out to Lazarus; Come forth, and come to me! and Lazarus came forth pale...tottering.” We may not discuss such fancies. Renan judges them no less severely than ourselves: “Expedients of theologians at their wits' end,” he says, “saving themselves by allegory, myth, symbol” (p. 508). There is, above all, one circumstance which ought to prevent any serious critic from attributing to this narrative a legendary origin. Myths of this sort are fictions isolated from one another; but we have seen how the story of the resurrection of Lazarus belongs thoroughly within the organism of the fourth Gospel. The work of John is evidently of one cast. With regard to such an evangelist, criticism is irresistibly driven to this dilemma: historian or artist? It is the merit of Baur to have understood this situation, and, since by reason of his dogmatic premises he could not admit the first alternative, to have frankly declared himself in favor of the second.

3. The speculative explanation of Baur, according to which our narrative is a fictitious representation designed to give a body to the metaphysical thesis formulated in John 11:25: “ I am the resurrection and the life. ” This explanation suits the idea which Baur forms of our Gospel, which, according to him, is altogether only a composition of an ideal character. But is it compatible with the simplicity, the candor, the prosaic character, and if we may be allowed the expression, the common-place of the whole narrative? From the one end to the other, the situations are described for their own sake and without the least tendency to idealize (comp. for example, the end of the chapter: the sojourn at Ephraim, the proclamation of the Sanhedrim, the conversations of the pilgrims to Jerusalem). Still more, the narrative offers features which are completely anti-rational and anti-speculative. We have shown this: this Jesus who groans and weeps is the opposite of a metaphysical creation. The very offense which these features of the narrative cause to Baur's mind, prove this. The products of the intellect are transparent to the intellect. The more mysterious and unexpected these features are, the more is it manifest that they were drawn from reality. The feeling is impressed on every reader that the author himself seriously believes in the reality of the fact which he relates, and that he does not think of inventing. When Plato comes to clothe his elevated doctrines with the brilliant veil of myths, we feel that he himself hovers above his creation, that his mind has freely chosen this form of teaching and plays with it. Here, on the contrary, the author is himself under the sway of the fact related; his heart is penetrated by it, his entire personality is laid hold of. If he created, he must be regarded as the first dupe of his own fiction.

4. The more recent crities turn in general towards another mode of explanation. Weisse had already expressed the idea that our narrative might be merely a parable related by Jesus and that tradition had transformed it into a real fact. The idea reappears at the present day in Keim, Schenkel, Holtzmann, etc. It is the parable of the beggar Lazarus (Luke 16:0), which has given occasion to our narrative; the author of our Gospel drew from it the theme of his representation. Renan imagines a similar comparison. He explained originally the resurrection of Lazarus by a pious fraud, to which Jesus Himself was not a stranger. “The friends of Jesus desired a great miracle which should make a strong impression upon the unbelief of Jerusalem....Lazarus, yet pale from his sickness, had himself wrapped with bandages like a dead person and shut up in his family tomb...Jesus desired once more to see him whom He had loved...” The rest is easily understood. Renan excuses Jesus: “In that impure city of Jerusalem, He was no longer Himself....In despair, driven to extremity...He yielded to the torrent. He submitted to the miracles which public opinion demanded of Him, rather than performed them.” “No enemy of the Son of man,” says Hase rightly, “has ever declared anything worse against Jesus, than that which this romantic well- wisher has here said.” At present, Renan, yielding the general feeling of reprobation which this explanation aroused, thinks that in a conversation of Mary and Martha with Jesus, they told Him how the resurrection of a dead person would be necessary to bring the triumph of His cause and that Jesus answered them: “If Lazarus himself were to come back to life, they would not believe it.”

This saying became afterwards the subject of singular mistakes....The supposition in fact was changed...; tradition attributed to Mary and Martha a sick brother whom Jesus had caused to go forth from the tomb. In a word, the misapprehension from which our narrative springs resembles one of those cock-and-bull stories which are so frequent in the little towns of the East (13th ed., pp. 372-374). For a complete refutation, we will only call attention to the point that the narrative is of a fact which is just the opposite of the idea expressed by the saying which is said to have furnished the text for it. The idea of Weisse is wrecked against difficulties which are no less serious. There is nothing in common between the parable of Luke 16:0 and our narrative except the name of Lazarus, “very common among the Jews” ( Hase). The entire parable has as its starting-point the poverty and complete destitution of Lazarus. In the story of John, on the contrary, the brother of Martha and Mary is surrounded by friends, cared for, in the enjoyment of consideration and competence. There, Abraham refuses to allow Lazarus to leave Hades and reappear here on earth. Here, Lazarus returns to the earth and is restored to his sisters and friends. The result of this return to life is that many Jews, until now unbelieving, “believe on Jesus,” a point which is directly contradictory to the last words of Jesus in the parable. So Reuss concludes the discussion by saying: “It must be acknowledged that all the attempts to set aside the miracle are arbitrary. No explanation of all those which have been proposed bears in itself a character of probability and simplicity such that one is tempted to substitute it for the traditional form of the narrative.”

We add further one general observation: In its first phase, the apostolic preaching confined itself to proclaiming this great fact: Jesus is risen. This was the foundation on which the apostles built up the Church. The detailed scenes of Jesus' ministry might indeed play a part in the particular conversations, but the great official proclamation did not place anything beside the death and resurrection of the Messiah, the facts on which rested the salvation of the world. Any particular miracle was a fact too accidental and secondary compared with these, to have the importance attached to it which we, from our historical and critical point of view, are tempted to give to the mention or the omission of it. We have one of the most striking examples of this in the silence of the three Synoptics and of John himself respecting one of the most important and most undeniable facts of the evangelical history: that of the appearance of Jesus to the five hundred brethren, mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:6.

After this let one argue, if he will, from the silence of one, two, or even three evangelical writings against the reality of a fact of the evangelical history! Spinoza, according to the testimony of Bayle, is said to have declared to his friends, “that if he could have persuaded himself of the resurrection of Lazarus, he would have dashed in pieces his own system and embraced without repugnance the common faith of Christians.” Let the reader take up anew the narrative of John and read it again without any preconceived opinion...the conviction to which the pantheistic philosopher could not come will form itself spontaneously within him; and on the testimony of this narrative, every feature of which bears the stamp of truth, he will simply accept a fact which criticism endeavors in vain to do away by means of a series of attempts of which every one is the denial of the one that preceded it.

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Bibliographical Information
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on John 11". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books".