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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 12:1-43.12.36: Three events which form the transition from the active ministry of Jesus to His passion;
3. Chap. John 12:37-43.12.50: A retrospective glance cast by the evangelist at the great fact of Jewish unbelief which has been described since chap. 5.
Ver. 1. “ Six days before the Passover, Jesus came therefore to Bethany where Lazarus was whom he had raised from the dead. ”
It would seem from the Synoptics that Jesus came directly to Jerusalem from Peraea, passing through Jericho. In order to bring them into agreement with John, it is enough to suppose that Jesus descended from Ephraim into the valley of the Jordan and rejoined before Jericho the great caravan of pilgrims who came from Galilee through Peraea. He thus took, in the reverse way, the same road which Epiphanius afterwards traversed who relates to us “that he went up from Jericho to the plateau with a man who accompanied him across the desert, from Bethel to Ephraim.” In truth, I do not understand why this so simple hypothesis should shock the impartiality of Meyer. He presents as an objection the statement in John 11:54; but the time of silence was now past for Jesus. We know from Luke that already before entering into Jericho Jesus was surrounded by a considerable multitude ( Joh 18:36 ), that he passed the night at the house of Zacchaeus (John 19:1 ff.), and that the expectation of all was excited in the highest degree (John 19:11; Matthew 20:20 ff.).
The distance from Jericho to Bethany might be passed over in five or six hours. The main part of the caravan continued its journey even to Jerusalem on the same day, while Jesus and His disciples stopped at Bethany. This halt is not mentioned by the Synoptics; there is no reason for calling it in question. Very often one or two of the Synoptics present before us similar vacancies, which can only be filled by the aid of the third. Twice, a case of this kind is presented in the narrative of the following days: Mar 11:11-15 informs us that one night elapsed between the entry on Palm-day and the expulsion of the traders; we should not suppose this interval when reading the accounts of Matthew and Luke. According to Mark 11:12; Mark 11:20, a day and a night passed between the cursing of the fig-tree and the conversation of Jesus with His disciples on the subject, while in reading Matthew one would suppose that this conversation followed the miracle immediately. These apparent contradictions arise from the fact that, in the traditional teaching, the moral and religious importance of the facts by far outweighs their chronological interest. If such is the relation of the Synoptical narratives to each other, in spite of their general parallelism, it is not surprising that this phenomenon reappears, on a still greater scale, in the relation between the Synoptics and the fourth Gospel, which is absolutely independent of the tradition.
The οὖν , therefore, is connected with John 11:55: “ The Passover of the Jews was near. ” The turn of expression πρὸ ἓξ ἡμ . τ . π . , six days before..., may be explained by a Latinism ( ante diem sextum calendas) in which the preposition is transposed (Baumlein); or perhaps the most natural explanation of this form of expression is the same as that of the construction John 11:18 (where it is applied to local distance). The determination of time (six days) is added, in the genitive, to the word which indicates the starting-point of the reckoning (the Passover); comp. Amos 1:1, LXX: πρὸ δύο ἐτῶν τοῦ σεισμοῦ , two years before the earthquake (Winer, § 61, 5). Jesus knew that He would have need of all this time to make a last and striking impression on the minds of the people of the capital. On what day, according to this expression, are we to place the arrival of Jesus at Bethany? The answers are very different in consequence of the uncertainty in which writers find themselves respecting the following points: 1. Are we, or not, to include either the day of the arrival at Bethany or the first day of the Passover in the six days mentioned? 2. Must the first day of the Passover be fixed, in the language of John, on the 15th, as the first great Sabbatic day of the Paschal week, or already on the 14th, as the day of preparation on which the lamb was sacrificed? Finally, 3. Must Friday (which is certainly the day of the week on which Jesus was put to death) be regarded as the 15th of Nisan of that year (according to the meaning ordinarily attributed to the Synoptics), or as the 14th, the day of the preparation (according to the meaning which most give rightly, as it appears to me to the narrative of John)? It is impossible to pursue in detail the manifold solutions to which these different possibilities give occasion. The summary result is the following: Some ( Tholuck, Lange, Wieseler, Hengstenberg, Luthardt, Lichtenstein, Keil) place the arrival of Jesus at Bethany on Friday, a week before the Friday on which Jesus died; others ( Meyer, Ewald, Weiss) on Saturday, the Sabbath which preceded the Passion; others ( de Wette, Hase, Andreae, etc.) on Sunday, the next day; finally, Hilgenfeld, Bauer, Scholten, Baumlein, on Monday.
Among these possible different suppositions, that which appears to me, at this time, the most probable, is that set forth by Andreae, in the excellent essay entitled: Der Todestag Jesu (in the Beweis des Glaubens, July and Sept., 1870). The sixth of the days mentioned in Joh 12:1 is Friday, the day of Jesus' death, that is, according to the very clear meaning of the chronology of John (see the detailed treatment of this whole question at the end of chap. 19), the 14th of Nisan, or the day of the preparation of the Passover of that year. It would follow from this that the day of the arrival at Bethany was Sunday, the 9th of Nisan, at evening. Jesus, after having passed Saturday (Sabbath) at Jericho at the house of Zacchaeus, went up on the next day, Sunday, with the caravan from Jericho to Bethany, where he stopped, leaving the others to continue their journey to Jerusalem, and it was on the evening of the same day that the banquet was offered to Him which is about to be related. The next day, Monday, the solemn entrance into Jerusalem took place.
In my first edition, I left out the 14th (Friday, the day of Jesus' death) from the six days, as already included in the Passover feast. In fact, this day plays the principal part in the story of the institution of the Passover in Exodus (chap. 12), and Josephus ( Antiq. xii., 15, 1) counts eight feast days, which shows that he includes the 14th. But, on the other hand, we must recognize that there is a difference between the feast of unleavened bread and the feast of the Passover properly so called: if the former necessarily included the 14th, on which the leaven was removed from the Israelitish houses, the latter did not properly begin until the 15th, to end on the 21st, these two days having the Sabbatical character and forming the beginning and ending of the Paschal week. Then another difficulty in this way of counting is, that in starting, in the count of six days, from Thursday the 13th, and in going back from that day, we come to Saturday as the day of the journey from Jericho to Bethany.
Now, it cannot be admitted that Jesus made so long a journey on the Sabbath. Meyer, to escape this consequence, holds that Jesus had passed the night in a place quite near to Bethany, in order that He might be able to reach there the next day without violating the Sabbath ordinance, according to which one could not make a journey on that day of more than twenty minutes. But why, in that case, did He not arrange so as to reach Bethany also on that evening? And, besides, there was no place where one could stop between Jericho and Bethany. I had proposed a somewhat different solution, which seems to me now to be that of Weiss: Jesus had made most of the journey from Jericho to Bethany on Friday, but He arrived only at the earliest hour on Saturday (from six to seven o'clock in the evening); and thus this Saturday was indeed the first of the six days before the feast. The feast was not offered Him until the next day at evening, towards the end of this Sabbath; the next day but one, Sunday, He made His entry into Jerusalem. This combination, however, is far less simple than that which has been proposed by Andreae; and how could the rest of the caravan which was going to Jerusalem have still made their journey from Bethany to Jerusalem without violating the Sabbatic prescription?
According to Hilgenfeld, Baur, etc., who take the 15th as the starting- point for the calculation, and include that day in the six, the arrival at Bethany took place on Monday, the 10th of Nisan. According to some of these interpreters, the evangelist sought by this date to establish a typical relation between the arrival of Jesus and the Jewish custom of setting apart the Paschal lamb on the 10th of Nisan. Such an intention would evidently compromise the historical character of our narrative. But this alleged relation between the arrival of Jesus and the setting apart of the lamb, is not in any way indicated in the narrative; and the idea of this comparison could not have entered the minds of the Greek Christians for whom the author designed his work.
I. The Supper at Bethany: John 12:1-43.12.11 .
In the presence of the great struggle of whose approach every one has a presentiment, the devotion of the friends of Jesus becomes loftier; by way of counter-stroke, the national hostility, which has its representative even among the Twelve, breaks out in this inmost circle; Jesus announces to the traitor with perfect gentleness the approaching result of his enmity towards Him.
ADDITIONAL NOTES BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR.
Vv. 1-11. 1. The question as to the day on which Jesus came to Bethany, and, in connection with this, the day of His entrance into Jerusalem, is a complicated and difficult one, because of the uncertainty respecting the day of the week on which the Jewish Passover took place in this year, and also the uncertainty as to whether the counting of days here is in accordance with the Jewish or the Roman method. According to the most natural impression derived from John's narrative, the Passover occurred on Friday, the day of Jesus' death. According to the Jewish method of reckoning, six days before this would be Sunday. But if Joh 13:1 refers to the first day before the Passover, and this was Thursday, the Roman method is adopted by the author, and the sixth day was Saturday. The latter supposition seems more probable. If this be the case, the arrival must have taken place very early in the morning, and from a place in the immediate neighborhood, because it was the Sabbath; and the supper in Simon's house was given in the evening, after the Sabbath hours had passed. The entrance into Jerusalem, accordingly, was made on Sunday. This is the more common view, and the traditional one of the Church, with respect to the time of the triumphal entry. Godet held this view in his first edition, but in his second and third editions he places the arrival on Sunday and the entrance on Monday.
2. Godet insists that the feast mentioned in Joh 12:2 was not in the house of the sisters and Lazarus, and Weiss says that the form of expression used respecting the latter shows that he was not the master of the house and giver of the feast. The story of Matthew and Mark represents the feast as having taken place in the house of Simon the leper, and there is nothing in John's narrative, certainly, which is inconsistent with this representation. But it can scarcely be affirmed, with correctness, that the expressions used by John prove that the supper was not given by the sisters and Lazarus. The context in the preceding chapter has presented them as the prominent persons; no one else is named here; the verb ἐποίησαν is used without an expressed subject, and the subject to be supplied is naturally suggested by the names of these persons. As all the persons are participants in the scene, it was certainly not unnatural (as it might have been, under other circumstances) to say, They made a feast for him, and one of them had one part connected with it, another another, etc.
3. The little detail ( Joh 12:3 ), and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment, is one of the incidental indications in this Gospel that the author knew the facts because he lived with Jesus. A later writer, evolving a speculative theory from his own musings, would not have thought of inserting such a statement.
4. The word ἐβάσταζεν is taken by R. V. text, Meyer, and many commentators in the sense of took away, purloined. This view is supported by the literal meaning of κλέπτης , and by the alleged tautology if the sense of bore or carried is given to the verb. The tautology, however, is not inconsistent with the simple measured style of the Gospels, and the word κλέπτης may easily have a certain loose or semi-figurative sense, as pointing to avariciousness displaying itself under such circumstances. That Judas was a thief, on the other hand, in the sense that he actually stole money from the small sum belonging to the company of disciples often or generally not exceeding about thirty or forty dollars, it would seem, comp. Joh 6:7 with Joh 12:5 of the present passage is a thing nowhere else intimated in the Gospel history, and very difficult to believe. How could he have been tolerated in the company if he was known to be a thief of this low and base order? R. V. marg., A. V., de Wette, Lucke, Ewald, Luthardt and others give the verb the meaning carried or bore.
5. If the reading ἵνα ... τηρήσῃ is adopted in John 12:7, the simplest explanation, perhaps, is connected with the supposition that Jesus views the use made of the ointment as, not literally indeed, but in a certain true and deep sense, a keeping it for the embalming of His body. From this twelfth chapter onward to the end of the seventeenth Jesus evidently anticipates His death as if already present, or even as having occurred.
6. The statements of Joh 12:9-11 show that the place of the story of Lazarus in the narrative is that which has been already indicated. It had a great influence in the way of producing faith, and, on the other hand, in urging forward the chief- priests and Pharisees in their murderous designs. This was all. The rulers did not form their plan in consequence of this event; they had formed it long before. They did not carry it out because of this event; they would have carried it out had there been no such miracle. The results of the miracle even in the turning away of many of their own party towards faith in Jesus alarmed them, and made them yield to the bold suggestions of men like Caiaphas.
7. In the development of the narrative as related to the matter of faith, it is interesting to notice that, at the end, the writer brings out so emphatically its presence, even among those who belonged to the bitterly hostile party. The story shows progress in its plan, everywhere and in every line.
Second Section: 12:1-36. The Last Days of the Ministry of Jesus.
This section includes three parts: 1. The supper of Jesus at Bethany: Joh 12:1 to John 11:2. His entry into Jerusalem: Joh 12:12 to John 19:3. The last scene of His ministry in the temple: John 12:20-43.12.36.
These three facts are selected by the evangelist as forming the transition from the public ministry of Jesus to His Passion. This appears, in the first part, from the discontent of Judas, the prelude of His treason, and from the response of Jesus announcing His approaching death; in the second, from John 12:19, which shows the necessity in which the rulers found themselves, after Palm-day, of rendering homage to Jesus or of ridding themselves of Him. Finally, in the third, from the entire discourse of Jesus in answer to the step taken by the Greeks, and from His final farewell to the Jewish nation, John 12:36. In the first two divisions, the evangelist at the same time sets forth the influence which the resurrection of Lazarus had upon the course of things as he describes it: John 12:2; John 12:9-43.12.11; John 12:17-43.12.19. Thus all things in this narrative, though apparently fragmentary, are in reality closely linked together. Luthardt rightly says: “This chapter is at once a closing and a preparation.”
SECOND PART: THE DEVELOPMENT OF UNBELIEF IN ISRAEL. 5:1- 12:50.
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 15:1-40.15.12; 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 12:37-43.12.50.
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.
Vv. 2, 3. “ Therefore they made him a feast there, and Martha served; but Lazarus was one of those who were at table with him. 3. Mary therefore, having taken a pound of ointment of pure nard, which was of great price, anointed the feet of Jesus with it and wiped his feet with her hair; and the whole house was filled with the odor of the ointment. ”
When did this supper take place? Of course, according to our hypothesis, on Sunday evening, the day of Jesus' arrival. The subject of ἐποίησαν , they made, is indefinite; this form answers in Greek to the French on. Hence it already follows that this subject cannot be, as is ordinarily represented: the members of the family of Lazarus. Moreover, this appears from the express mention of the presence of Lazarus and of the activity of service on Martha's part, all of them circumstances which would be self-evident if the supper had taken place in their own house. As the undetermined subject of the verb can only be the persons named afterwards, it follows that they are, much rather, the people of the place. A part of the inhabitants of Bethany feel the desire of testifying their thankfulness to Him who by a glorious miracle had honored their obscure village. It is this connection of ideas which seems to be expressed by the therefore at the beginning of John 12:2, and, immediately afterwards, by this detail: “ Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. ” That which, no doubt, very specially impelled them to render to Jesus, at this moment, this public homage, was the hatred to which they saw Him exposed on the part of the rulers. This feast was a courageous response to the edict of the Sanhedrim ( Joh 11:57 ); it was the proscribed one whom they honored.
The text does not tell us in what house the supper took place. Lazarus being there as a guest, not as host ( Joh 12:2 ), it follows that the scene occurred in another house than his own. Thus is the harmony very naturally established with the narrative of Matthew and Mark, who state positively that the supper took place in the house of Simon the leper, a sick man, no doubt, whom Jesus had healed and who has claimed the privilege of receiving him in the name of all. It is inconceivable that this very simple reconciliation should appear to Meyer a mere process of false harmonistics. Weiss himself says: “The form of expression used excludes the idea that Lazarus was the one who gave the supper.” Every one could not receive Jesus: but every one had desired to contribute, according to his means, to the homage which was rendered to Him: the people of Bethany, by the banquet offered in their name; Martha, by giving her personal service, even in the house of another person; Lazarus, by his presence, which in itself alone glorified the Master more than all that the others could do; finally, Mary, by a royal prodigality, which was alone capable of expressing the sentiment which inspired her.
The general custom among the ancient nations was to anoint with perfume the heads of guests on feast-days. “ Thou preparedst the table before me; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup overflows,” says David to Jehovah, when describing under the figure of a feast which his God gives to him the delights of communion with Him ( Psa 23:5 ). The forgetting of this ceremony is noticed by Jesus ( Luk 7:46 ), as an offensive omission. At Bethany such a mistake was not committed; it was Mary who charged herself with this office, reserving to herself the accomplishment of it in her own way. Μύρον is the generic term which comprehends all the liquid perfumes, and νάρδος , nard, the name of the most precious kind. This word, of Sanskrit origin (in Persian nard, in Sanskrit nalada), denotes a plant which grows in India, and of which some less celebrated varieties are found in Syria. The juice was enclosed in flasks of alabaster ( nardi ampullae), and it was used not only to anoint the body, but also to perfume wine. (See Riehm, Handworterb .)
We have translated πιστικός by pure. This word, which is unknown in classic Greek, is not again found in the entire New Testament, except in the corresponding passage in Mark. Among the later Greeks, it serves to designate a person worthy of confidence; thus the one to whom the care of a vessel or a flock is committed. It signifies, therefore, nard on which one can rely, not adulterated. This meaning is the more suitable, since nard was subjected to all sorts of adulterations. Pliny enumerates nine plants by means of which it could be counterfeited, and Tibullus uses the expression nardus pura, which almost gives to our πιστικῆς , in Mark and John, the character of a technical epithet. The meaning drinkable (from πίνω , πιπίσκω ) is much less probable, not only because the natural form would be πιστός , or ποτιμός , but especially because the notion of potableness has no relation to the context. The attempt has also been made to derive this word from the name of a Persian city, Pisteira, a name which was sometimes abridged to Pista (comp. Meyer on Mar 14:2 ). This is a worthless expedient (comp. Hengstenberg and especially Lucke and Wichelhaus). The epithet, πολυτίμου , very costly, can only refer to the first of the two substantives (in opposition to Luthardt, Weiss, etc.); for it was not the plant which had been purchased ( νάρδου ), but the perfume ( μύρου ). Αίτρα , a pound, answers to the Latin libra, and denotes a weight of twelve ounces; it was an enormous quantity for a perfume of this price. But nothing must be wanting to the homage of Mary, neither the quality nor the quantity.
These flasks of nard hermetically sealed were probably received from the East; to use the contents of them, the neck must be broken; this is what Mary did, according to Mark ( Mar 14:3 ). This act having a somewhat striking character, she must have performed it in the sight of all the guests, consequently over the head of Jesus already seated at the table. His head thus received the first fruits of the perfume (comp. Matt. and Mark: “she poured it on his head ”). Only after this, as no ordinary guest was here in question, and as Mary wished to give to her guest not merely a testimony of love and respect, but a mark of adoration, she joined with the ordinary anointing of the head (which was self evident; comp. Psalms 23:5; Luk 7:46 ) an altogether exceptional homage. As if this precious liquid were only common water, she pours it over His feet, and in such abundance that it was as if she were bathing them with it; so she is obliged to wipe them. For this purpose she uses her own hair. This last fact carries the homage to a climax. It was among the Jews, according to Lightfoot (II., p. 633), “a disgrace for a woman to loosen the fillets which bound up her hair and to appear with disheveled hair.” Mary bears witness, therefore, by this means that, as no sacrifice is too costly for her purse, so no service is too mean for her person. All that she is belongs to Him, as well as all that she has. We may understand thus the ground of the repetition, certainly not accidental, of the words τοὺς ποδὰς αὐτοῦ , his feet. To this, the least noble part of His body it is, that she renders this extraordinary homage. Every detail in this narrative breathes adoration, the soul of the act. Perhaps the report of the homage rendered to Jesus by the sinful woman of Galilee had reached Mary. She was unwilling that the friends of Jesus should do less for Him than a stranger.
The identity of this event with that which is related in Matthew 26:6-40.26.13, and Mark 14:3-41.14.9, is indisputable. It is said, no doubt, in the latter passages, that the perfume was poured on the head, in John, on the feet; but, as we have just seen, this slight difference is easily explained. After the anointing in the ordinary form (that of the head), this bathing of the feet with perfume began, which here takes the place of the ordinary bathing of the feet ( Luk 7:44 ). John alone has preserved the recollection of this fact which gives to the scene its unique character. It cannot be supposed that Mary poured on the head of Jesus a whole pound of liquid. As to the place which this story occupies in the two narratives, it constitutes no more serious objection against the identity of the event. For in the Synoptics the place is evidently determined by the moral relation of this act to the fact related immediately afterwards, the treachery of Judas (Matthew vv14-16; Mark vv10, 11).
This association of ideas had determined the uniting of the two facts in the oral tradition, and from this it had passed into the written redaction. John has restored the fact to its own place. The relation of the anointing of Jesus at Bethany with the event related in Luke 7:0 is entirely different. We have already mentioned the points which do not allow us to identify the two narratives (p. 171). Keim declares that a homage of this kind cannot have occurred twice. But the anointing belonged necessarily, as well as the bathing of the feet, to every meal to which there was an invitation ( Luk 7:44 ). The details in which the two scenes resemble each other are purely accidental. Simon the leper of Bethany, of whom Matthew and Mark speak, has nothing in common with Simon the Pharisee, of whom Luke speaks, except the name. Now, among the small number of persons with whom we are acquainted in the Gospel history taken alone, we can count twelve or thirteen Simons; and can there not have been two men, bearing this so common name, in whose houses these two similar scenes may have taken place? The one lived in Judea, the other in Galilee; the one receives Jesus into his house in the course of His Galilean ministry; the other, a few days before the Passion. The discussion in Galilee has reference to the pardon of sins; in Judea, to the prodigality of Mary. And if the two women wiped the feet of Jesus with their hair, in the case of the one, it is the tears which she gathers up, in that of the other, it is a perfume with which she has embalmed her Master. This difference sufficiently marks the two women and the two scenes. Christian feeling, moreover, will always protest against the identification of Mary of Bethany with a woman of bad morals.
Vv. 4-6. “ Then one of his disciples, Judas, the son of Simon, the Iscariot, he who was soon to betray him, says: 5. Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred denarii and the price given to the poor? 6. Now this he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and kept the purse and took what was put therein. ”
This outbreak of indignation on the part of Judas is occasioned by the mean passion with which the evangelist charges him; but, like his treachery, it has a deeper source than avarice. For a long time ( Joh 6:70 ) there had been in this heart a gloomy discontent with respect to the course followed by Jesus (John 6:70-43.6.71; comp. with Joh 12:15 ), and this feeling only waited for a pretext to manifest itself. In the Synoptics, it is the disciples (Matthew), some (Mark), who protest. It seems that on this occasion, as on others, Judas played among his fellowdisciples the part of the leaven which leavens the whole mass. Westcott says: “He expressed what the others thought.”
There is no doubt more than this: he excited among them a movement of discontent which would not have been awakened without him. We find here again a relation between John and the Synoptics which we have already pointed out in other stories. In the latter, the outlines are effaced: the former alone reproduces the characteristic features, as we might expect from a witness. Judas knows the exact price of the commodity in question, as if he were a tradesman. For the value of the denarius, see on John 6:7. The sum indicated was nearly equivalent, in the time of the emperors, to two hundred and sixty francs. It is found as identically the same sum in Mark. We have already remarked several similar coincidences between the two evangelists (John 12:3; John 6:7; Joh 6:10 ). Even independently of the subsequent fact of the treachery of Judas, attested by the four evangelists, it would be very rash to ascribe the accusation here formulated by John against Judas to a feeling of personal hatred, as modern criticism has allowed itself to do. The word γλωσσόκομον (properly γλωσσοκομεῖον ) denotes literally the case in which musicians kept the mouth-pieces of flutes; whence: box. This purse was probably a small portable cash-box. The property of Jesus and His disciples was mingled with that of the poor ( Joh 13:29 ). This fund was supplied by voluntary gifts (John 12:5; Luk 8:1-3 ). We may see in Joh 20:15 how in the word βαστάζειν , the sense of bearing, the only one used, in general, in the New Testament, is easily changed into that of taking away, purloining (de Wette, Meyer).
The simple meaning to bear is not impossible, however, if, with the Alexandrian authorities, we read ἕχων , having, instead of καί ... εἶχε . , and he had...and....For by this means all tautology as between this clause and the following disappears. But it is absurd, in any case, to claim that the sense of taking away is excluded because of the article τά before βαλλόμενα , as if this article must signify that he took away everything which was placed in the box! It has been asked why Jesus, if He knew Judas, intrusted to him this office so perilous to his morality. We will not say, with Hengstenberg, that Jesus saw fit thus to call forth the manifestation of his sin, as the only means of accomplishing a cure. By such a course of action, Jesus would have put Himself, as it seems to us, in the place of God more completely than was accordant with the reality of His humanity. But is there clear proof that Jesus intervened directly in the choice of Judas as the treasurer of the company? Might not this have been an arrangement which the disciples had made among themselves and in which Jesus had not desired to mingle. Weiss thinks that Jesus had chosen Judas at first because he had a special gift in the financial sphere, and that afterwards He did not wish to interfere with a relation in which He recognized a divine dispensation.
Vv. 7, 8. “ Jesus therefore said to him: Let her alone; she has kept it for the day of my burial. 8. For the poor you have always with you; but me you have not always. ”
We translate according to the reading of the T. R. which alone seems to us admissible. The imperative ἄφες is absolute: “ Let her alone (in peace); cease to disturb her by thy observations.” The reason is given afterwards. With the Alexandrian variant, ἄφες has for its object the following clause, either in the sense given by the Vulgate, Meyer, Baumlein, etc. “Let her keep this ( αὐτό , the remainder of the ointment of which she had poured out only a part) to embalm me on the day of my death,” or in that given by Bengel, Lange, Luthardt, Weiss, Keil: “Allow her to have reserved this ointment for this day, which, by the act which she has done with respect to me, becomes, as it were, that of an anticipated burial.” This last sense is grammatically inadmissible. The expression ἀφιέναι ἵνα , to allow, necessarily refers to the future, not to the past. With that meaning, why not say quite simply: ἄφες αὐτὴν τετηρηκέναι ? How are we to understand that Weiss justifies so forced an explanation by asserting that there was no other way of expressing this idea? The meaning given by Meyer is still more impossible. By what right can we suppose that only a part of the ointment had been poured out; that there was a remainder, and that it is this remainder which is designated by αὐτό ?
Moreover, when thus understood, the words of Jesus no longer form an answer to the objection of Judas. The latter had not disputed Mary's right to keep the whole or a part of this ointment for the purpose of using it in the future on a more suitable occasion; quite the contrary; that which he charged against her was that she had wasted and not kept it. We must acknowledge therefore with Lucke and Hengstenberg, that, however this reading is interpreted, it offers no tolerable meaning. It is an unhappy correction from the hands of critics who thought that the embalming of a man did not take place before his death. The received reading, on the contrary, offers a simple and delicate sense. Jesus ascribes to the act of Mary precisely that which was wanting to the view of Judas, a purpose, a practical utility. “It is not for nothing, as thou chargest her, that she has poured out this ointment. She has to-day anticipated my embalming;” comp. Mark 14:8: “She has been beforehand in embalming my body for my burial;” in other terms: She has made this day the day of my funeral rites of which thou wilt soon give the signal. ᾿Ενταφιασμός : the embalming and, in general, the preparations for burial. The word τετήρηκεν , she has kept, is full of delicacy. It is as if there had been here on Mary's part a contrived plan and one in harmony with the utilitarianism on which the reproach of Judas rested.
Can John 12:8, which is wanting in D, have been introduced here by the copyists from the text of the two Synoptics, and can this manuscript alone be right as against all the other documents? It is more probable that it is one of those faulty omissions which are so frequent in D. The sense is: “If the poor are really the object of your solicitude, there will always be opportunity to exercise your liberality towards them; but my person will soon be taken away from the assiduous care of your love.” The first clause seems to contain an allusion to Deuteronomy 15:11. The present ἔχετε , you have, in the first clause, is owing to the πάντοτε , always, and the following present is introduced by the first.
Beyschlag correctly observes respecting this passage: “It is asserted that the fourth evangelist likes to depreciate the Twelve; but why then does he, and he alone, place all to the account of Judas?” It is further said: He has a special hatred to Judas. This is to affirm beyond question the authenticity of the Gospel; for what writer of the second century could have cherished a personal hatred against Judas? Let us also remark that the slight modifications which John introduces into the Synoptic narrative are perfectly insignificant from the standpoint of the idea of the Logos. They can only be explained by the more distinct knowledge which he has of the fact and by the more thoroughly historical character of the whole representation. We see, finally, how false is the idea of dependence with relation to the narrative of Mark, which Weizsacker attributes to the fourth evangelist, by reason of the three hundred denarii which are common to the two accounts and the coincidences in expressions ( Untersuch, p. 290). The superiority of the narrative of John shows its independence.
Vv. 9-11. “ A great multitude therefore of the Jews learned that he was there; and they came, not because of Jesus only, but that they might see Lazarus also whom he had raised from the dead. 10. But the chief priests took counsel that they might put Lazarus also to death, 11 because many of the Jews went away and believed on Jesus. ”
The pilgrims who came from Jericho with Jesus, on arriving at Jerusalem, had spread abroad the report of His approach. And all those inhabitants of the country region of Judea, of whom mention has been made in John 11:55-43.11.56, and who made Jesus, already many days before His arrival, the subject of their conversation, on learning that He is sojourning so near them, could not restrain their impatience to see Him, as well as Lazarus, the living monument of His power. The term Jews preserves here the sense which it has throughout the whole Gospel: the representatives of the old order of things. This was precisely the poignant thing for the rulers; the very people on whom they had always counted to make head against the people of Galilee, the inhabitants of Judea and even those of Jerusalem, began to fall away. ῾Υπάγειν , to go away, but without noise. In this new attitude and particularly in these visits to Bethany some precautions were taken. Thus is the way prepared for the solemn entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. The people are altogether disposed to an ovation. It only needs that Jesus should give a signal and give loose rein to the enthusiasm of the multitude, that the hour of the royal manifestation may strike, which had been so long desired by His mother ( Joh 2:4 ) and demanded by His brethren ( Joh 7:4 ), but had been until now refused by Him.
Vv. 12, 13. “ The next day, a great multitude of persons who had come to the feast, having heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem took branches of palm-trees 13 and went forth to meet him, and they cried, Hosanna! Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel! ”
This multitude is much more considerable than that of which mention was made in John 12:9-43.12.11; it included most of the pilgrims of all countries who had come to the feast. They had heard from those who had gone to Bethany on the preceding evening, that Jesus was really there and that He was Himself preparing to come to Jerusalem. They went forth, therefore, in large numbers to meet Him, and to form a body of attendants on His entrance into the city. Those who started earliest went even to Bethany; the rest must have successively met Him on the road. Thus, in proportion as He advanced, already surrounded by many disciples and friends, He found from place to place joyous groups on the way. Hence an easy explanation is given of the ovation of this day, which, in the Synoptic narrative, has a somewhat abrupt character and remains in a certain degree inexplicable. Not having mentioned the stay of Jesus at Bethany, the other gospels naturally represent Him as entering into the city with the caravan of pilgrims who come with Him from Jericho.
All at once an inspiration of celestial joy passes over this multitude. Their rejoicing and their hopes break forth in songs and significant symbols. Luke, in particular, admirably describes this moment: “ And as he drew near from the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God for all the miracles which they had seen ” ( Joh 19:37 ). John gives us to understand what was the one among all these miracles which played the greatest part in the enthusiasm of the multitude and which had produced this very general effect both on those who accompanied and on those who met the Lord: namely, the resurrection of Lazarus.
The palm, by reason of the permanent beauty of its magnificent crown of leaves, is the emblem not only of strength, beauty and joy, but also of salvation (see Keil). In 1Ma 13:51 , Simon returns to Jerusalem with songs and branches of palm-trees, to the sound of the harp and of cymbals, because the enemy was driven out of Israel. In Leviticus 23:40, in the institution of the feast of Tabernacles, it is said: “ Ye shall take...branches of palm-trees..., and ye shall rejoice seven days before the Lord. ” On each day during this last feast a procession, in which branches of palm-trees were carried, was made around the altar of burnt-offering; comp. Revelation 7:9. On this day all was done spontaneously. An allusion has been found in the articles τά and τῶν before βαΐα and φοινίκων ( the branches of the palm-trees) to the branches which were well-known by tradition and which gave the name to the day; it is more simple to understand by them: “The branches of the palm-trees which were found on the road,” as if John had said: Having stripped the palm-trees of their branches. The term βαΐον already in itself means branch of the palm-tree. But the complement τῶν φοινίκων is added by John for the readers who were not acquainted with the technical term.
The cries of the multitude, as well as the terms: son of David (Matt.), King of Israel (John), leave no doubt as to the meaning of this manifestation; it was certainly the Messiah whom the people intended to salute in the person of Jesus. The acclamations reported by John ( Joh 12:13 ), the equivalent of which is found in the Synoptics, are taken from the 118th Psalm, particularly from John 12:25-43.12.26. It was probably a chant composed for the inauguration of the second temple, and the quoted words refer to the procession received by the priests on its arrival at the temple. Numerous Rabbinical citations prove that this Psalm was regarded as Messianic. Every Israelite knew these words by heart: they were sung at the feast of Tabernacles, in the procession which was made around the altar, and at the Passover in the chant of the great Hallel (Psalms 113-118) during the Paschal supper. Hosanna (from עה ָנּאשִׁיָהוֹ , save, I pray thee) is a prayer addressed to God by the theocratic people on behalf of His Messiah-King; it is, if we may venture to use the expression, the Israelitish God save the King. It seems to us more natural to refer the words in the name of the Lord to the verb comes, than to the participle blessed. The expression: He that comes in the name of the Lord, designates in a general way, and still quite vaguely, the divine messenger par excellence, on whose person and work Israel implores the benedictions of heaven; then there comes after this the great word whose import every one understands, the by no means equivocal term King of Israel. Of course, all in this multitude did not cry out exactly in the same way; this explains the differences in the popular acclamations reported by the evangelists. As in John 6:5, Jesus had seen in the arrival of the multitudes in the desert the call of His Father to give a feast to His people, so in the impetuosity of the multitude who hasten towards Him with these triumphal acclamations, He recognizes a divine signal; He understands that, in accordance with the words of the very Psalm from which the people borrow their songs, this is “ the day which the Lord has made, and we must rejoice in it ” ( Psa 118:24 ); and he responds to the salutation of the people by a true Messianic sign.
II. The Entrance into Jerusalem: John 12:12-43.12.19 .
Jesus had striven on every occasion to repress the popular manifestations in His favor (John 6:15; Luke 14:25-42.14.33; Luke 19:11 ff., etc.). Now He allows free play to the feelings of the multitude and surrenders Himself to the public homage which is prepared for Him. What precautions had He still to take? Ought He not once at least in His life to be acknowledged and saluted in His character of King of Israel? In any case, the hour of His death was near; that of His royal advent had therefore sounded.
The tradition of the Christian Church fixes the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem on the Sunday which preceded the Passion. The most probable explanation of Joh 12:1 has not confirmed this view; it was probably Monday. Three of the evangelists do not speak of the time of day when this event occurred. Why then may we not connect our view with the one who positively indicates it? This one is Mark. He says, John 11:11: “ And Jesus entered into Jerusalem and into the temple; and, having looked round about upon all things, as it was already late, he went away to Bethany with the Twelve. ” These words imply that, after having entered into Jerusalem, Jesus did nothing further of importance on that day, because the hour was already too late. Hence it follows that the entrance took place during the second half of the day. How is it possible to call this a harmonistic conclusion, as Weiss does? Does John say anything contrary to this narrative of Mark?
ADDITIONAL NOTES BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR.
1. The story of the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem is given by John with a different purpose from that of the Synoptic writers. The latter relate the story simply as an occurrence in Jesus' life, having indeed the remarkable character which belongs to it, but yet only one among the incidents of the closing part of the history. In John's Gospel it stands, as Godet remarks, between the resurrection of Lazarus (its cause) and the condemnation of Jesus (its effect), as a kind of connecting link to unite the two. We may add: it is also introduced with reference to the matter of faith this being another instance where the author represents the limitation of the understanding of the disciples before the time when Jesus was glorified. That the account should, in some respects, differ in the insertion or omission of details from that which is given by the Synoptics, may afford no occasion for surprise when these considerations are borne in mind. The reference to the entrance as from Bethany is not strange, as the author's desire is to connect the matter with the miracle and the feast which had taken place. Matthew has no such special occasion for alluding to Bethany, but has occasion to speak of Jericho. We may easily believe, as Godet says, that “while the body of the caravan continued its journey to Jerusalem, Jesus and His disciples stopped at Bethany.”
2. The relation of the raising of Lazarus to the great movement of this day is, undoubtedly, set forth with much distinctness and emphasis in this passage; but, so far as the influence on the final catastrophe is concerned, the point made prominent is, again, the alarm occasioned in the minds of the Pharisees. The very careful and exact manner in which this story is told, as related to all its different bearings, is clearly indicative of an intelligent and deliberate plan on the author's part.
Vv. 14, 15. “ Jesus, having found a young ass, sat thereon, according as it is written, 15. Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, thy king cometh seated on an ass's colt. ”
The conduct of Jesus is ordered by the nature of things. Since He wishes to-day to accept this homage, He cannot remain mingled with the multitude. On the one hand, He must in some sort put Himself on the scene; but, on the other, He wishes to do it only in the most humble way and in the way most appropriate to the spiritual nature of His royalty. In the ancient times, the ass does not seem to have been in Israel a despised animal; comp. Judges 5:9-7.5.10; Judges 10:4; 2 Samuel 17:23. Later, the horse and the mule were preferred to it; comp. Sirach, xxxiii. (xxxvi.) 25 (24). The prophet Zechariah himself indicates the meaning which he here attaches to this symbol, when he says ( Joh 9:9 ): “ Behold thy king cometh unto thee just, having salvation and humble. ” The young ass represents for him the humility of the Messiah and consequently the peaceful nature of His kingdom: “ I will cut off the chariots of war...and the king shall speak peace unto the nations ” ( Zec 9:10 ).
The two ideas of humility and of peace are closely connected, as, on the other hand, are those of wealth and military power. The expression εὑρών , having found, seems at the first glance incompatible with the narrative of the Synoptics, according to which Jesus sends two of His disciples with the express order to bring Him the young ass. But εὑρών does not signify: having found without seeking; witness the εὕρηκα of Archimedes! This word may be translated by: having procured for Himself, as in the expressions εὑρίσκων δόξαν , κέρδος , βίον , to procure glory, gain, subsistence for oneself (see Passow). Nothing, therefore, can be inferred from this term as to the how of this finding, and it is natural to suppose that John, in this summary expression, sums up the narrative of the Synoptics, which was sufficiently well-known in the Church. He also abridges the quotation of Zechariah; for it concerns him only to establish the general relation between the prophecy and its accomplishment. The expression daughter of Zion designates the population of the city personified. John substitutes: Fear not, for the Rejoice of the prophecy; it is the same sentiment, but somewhat less strongly expressed: “Fear not; a king who comes thus cannot be a tyrant.” If Jesus had never entered into Jerusalem in this way, this prophecy would nevertheless have been realized. His entire ministry in Israel was the fulfillment of it. But, by realizing to the very letter the figure employed by the prophet, Jesus desired to render more sensible the spiritual and true accomplishment of the prophecy. Everything, however, occurred so simply, so naturally, that, at the moment, the disciples did not think of the prophecy and did not grasp its relation to that which had just taken place.
Ver. 16. “ Now the disciples did not understand these things at the moment; but when Jesus had been glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of him and that they had done these things to him. ”
It was only afterwards, when after the ascension, and when enlightened by the Holy Spirit, they retraced the earthly life of their Master, that they discerned the meaning of this event and recognized in it the fulfillment of a prophecy. In the light of the heavenly elevation of Jesus, they understood this fact which had prefigured it ( these things). There is, therefore, no reason to turn aside from the natural sense of ἐδοξάσθη , was glorified, and to refer this term, as Reuss does, to the death of Jesus, as the transition to His exaltation. What a charlatan the pseudo-John of Baur, who, by means of this want of understanding invented by him, would give himself the appearance of having himself been one of these disciples whom the ascension had enlightened! We are surprised at the expression “ that they had done these things to him ”; for, in the scene related by John, the apostles had done nothing to Jesus. So many take ἐποίησαν in the sense in which it is found in John 12:2: “ They (indefinite) had done to him,” and assign as subject to this verb the multitude ( Joh 12:12-13 ).
But the subject of they had done cannot be different from that of they understood and they remembered. John wished to set forth precisely the fact that the disciples understood afterwards what they had done themselves in the fulfillment of a prophecy of which no one of them dreamed. The co- operation of the disciples, indicated by John, is described in detail in Luk 19:29-36 and the paral lels. We find here a new proof of the abridged character of his narrative and his thoroughly conscious relation to the narrative of the Synoptics. We see from the words: they had done these things to him, how arbitrary is the idea of Keim, according to which John's narrative tends to make the disciples and Jesus passive in this scene, and this because the author wished to give utterance to his repugnance to the idea of the Jewish Messiah!
Vv. 17, 18. “ The multitude therefore who were with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead bore witness to him; 18 and it was for this cause also that the multitude went to meet him, because they had heard that he had done this miracle. ”
John does not have it as his aim to present the complete picture of the entrance of Jesus, but rather to show the double relation of this event to the resurrection of Lazarus (its cause), on the one hand, and to the condemnation of Jesus (its effect), on the other. It is this connection which he brings out in John 12:17-43.12.19. If ὅτι , that, is read in Joh 12:17 with five Mjj. and the most ancient translations, the meaning is: that by coming forward the multitude bore testimony that He had caused the resurrection of Lazarus. There is nothing in this case to prevent the multitude of Joh 12:18 from being the same as that of John 12:17. John would simply say that the miracle which they were celebrating by accompanying Jesus ( Joh 12:17 ) was the same one which had induced them to come to meet him ( Joh 12:18 ). But the reflection of Joh 12:18 is, with this meaning, an idle one. It is self-evident that the event which they celebrated is also that which made them hasten to Him. If ὅτε ( when) is read, with the most ancient Mjj., it is quite otherwise. John relates that the multitude which had been with Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus, and which had been present at his resurrection, by accompanying Jesus bore testimony to this great miracle of which they had themselves been witnesses. And here are the true authors of the ovation of Palm-day. They were there relating to the numerous pilgrims who were strangers what they had themselves heard and seen. We thus understand better this dramatic amplification, which in the former reading makes the effect quite prolix: When he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead. The mere mention of the fact. with the ὅτι , would have been sufficient. If ὅτε ( when) is read, the participle ὀ ὤν is an imperfect: “who was with him when...” John 11:42.
In the 18th verse, John speaks of the second multitude the one which came to meet Jesus on the road to Bethany. The διὰ τοῦτο , for this cause, refers to the following ὅτι , because. And it was for this that the multitude came to meet Him, to wit, because. Not only did this miracle form the principal subject of the conversations of those who came; but it was also ( καί ) this same miracle, which, having come to the knowledge of the whole multitude of pilgrims, impelled them to go and meet Him. The comparison of the words of Luke ( Luk 19:37 ) which we have already cited, shows that which we have so often established: how frequently the outlines of the Synoptic picture are vague and undecided as compared with the so distinctly marked features of the Johannean narrative.
Ver. 19. “ Whereupon the Pharisees said among themselves, You see that you prevail nothing; behold, the world is gone after him. ”
Joh 12:17-18 bring out the influence of the resurrection of Lazarus on the scene of Palmday; Joh 12:19 indicates that of this scene on the final catastrophe. Πρὸς ἑαυτούς , instead of πρὸς ἀλλήλους , because, belonging to the same body, it is as if they were speaking to themselves. ῎Ιδε , behold, alludes to the unexpected spectacle of which they had just been witnesses. There is something of distress in the term ὁ κόσμος , the world, “all this people, native and foreign,” and in the aorist ἀπῆλθεν , is gone: “It is an accomplished thing; we are alone!” θεωρεῖτε may be explained as an imperative; but it is better to take it as an indicative present. These persons mutually summon each other, with a kind of bitterness, to notice the inefficacy of their half-measures. It is a way of encouraging each other to use without delay the extreme measures advised by Caiaphas. It is these last words especially which serve to place this whole passage in connection with the general design of this part of the Gospel.
The more closely the narrative of John is studied, the less is it possible to see in it the accidental product of tradition or of legend. Instead of the juxtaposition of anecdotes which forms the character of the Synoptics, we meet at every step the traces of a profound connection which governs the narrative even in its minutest details. The dilemma is therefore, as Baur has clearly seen, real history profoundly apprehended and reproduced, or a romance very skillfully conceived and executed.
Vv. 20-22. “ There were certain Greeks among those who went up to Jerusalem to worship at the feast, 21 who came to Philip, who was of Bethsaida in Galilee, and made this request of him: Sir, we desire to see Jesus. 22. Philip goes and finds Andrew and tells him; and Andrew and Philip tell it again to Jesus. ”
The Greeks belonged to the number of those heathen who, like the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:0), had in their own country embraced the Jewish religion and who had come to celebrate the great feasts in Jerusalem. They were not, as some have thought, Jews speaking Greek and dwelling among the heathen ( ἑλληνισταί ). The spacious court of the Gentiles was designed for these proselytes, according to the words of Solomon, 1 Kings 8:41-11.8.43. If these strangers had been witnesses of the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem and had been present at the driving out of the traders that act by which Jesus had restored to its true use the only portion of the sanctuary which was open to them, we may the more easily understand their desire to enter into a more intimate relation with such a man.
Certainly, they did not desire merely, like Zacchaeus ( Luk 19:3 ) to see Jesus with the bodily eye; which would limit the intervention of Philip to showing Him to them (Bruckner, Weiss). The request, thus understood, would not give a ground for such a step with relation to Philip, nor for Philip's action as related to Andrew, and that of the two as related to Jesus, nor for the solemn reflections of the latter. What these Greeks desired was certainly to have a private conversation with Him on religious subjects. Who can tell even, whether, as witnesses of the opposition which Jesus encountered from the rulers of His nation, they may not have desired to invite Him to turn to the heathen, who could better appreciate than these narrow Jews did, a sage and teacher like Him. Ecclesiastical history (Euseb., Joh 1:13 ) has preserved the memory of an embassy sent to Jesus by the King of Edessa, in Syria, to invite Him to come and fix His abode with him and to promise Him a royal welcome, which would compensate Him for the obstinacy of the Jews in rejecting Him. In the circumstance which occupies our attention we must recognize, with the disciples and with Jesus Himself (see what follows), one of the first manifestations of sympathy for the Gospel on the part of the heathen world, the first sign of the attractive power which His moral beauty was soon to exert upon the whole human race. Jesus, at the moment when this request was conveyed to Him, was undoubtedly in the court of the women, which was entered after having crossed that of the Gentiles. He often taught in this place (p. 96).
The article τῶν and the present participle ἀναβαινόντων indicate a permanent and well-known category of persons, the class of proselytes, not only among the Greeks (it is not necessary to supply ῾Ελλήνων ) but of every nation, who were ordinarily seen arriving at the time of the feasts. The προσῆλθον , they came to, has in it something grave and solemn. The word of address: Sir, shows what respect they feel for the disciple of such a master. The imperfect ἠρώτων , they asked, expresses an action already begun which waits its completion from the answer of Philip. By the term ἰδεῖν , to see, these strangers present their desire in the most modest form. The appositional phrase: from Bethsaida in Galilee, serves undoubtedly to explain the reason why these Greeks addressed themselves to Philip. They were perhaps from a region in the neighborhood of Galilee, from Decapolis, for example, on the other side of the sea of Galilee, where there were cities which were entirely Greek. It is remarkable that Philip and Andrew, the two disciples who served as intermediaries for these proselytes, are the only ones among the apostles who have a name of Greek origin. The Greek name went, no doubt, hand in hand with Greek culture ( Hengstenberg).
We discover here again the circumspect nature of Philip: he feels the gravity of the step which is asked of him. Jesus had always limited His activity to the Jewish people, according to the principle which He had laid down for Himself for the whole period of His earthly ministry ( Mat 15:24 ): “ I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. ” He does venture alone to take the initiative in a request which would lead Jesus to turn aside from His ordinary course of action, and he takes the matter into consideration with Andrew, the one of the four disciples, who are placed first in rank in the apostolic catalogues, who is always put nearest to Philip. We have already seen him twice mentioned with Philip, in chaps. 1 and 4; and we are reminded here also that these two apostles, so particularly named by John, seem, according to the tradition, not to have been altogether strangers to the composition of our Gospel. The two together decide to present the request of the Greeks to Jesus. Andrew, more active and decided than Philip, was probably the one who charged himself with making the request; for this reason it is that his name is placed first. Of the three readings, that of א is evidently a mingling together of the two others. That of A B L is the most concise and most probable one (see Meyer). The question is one of no consequence.
This request produces upon Jesus a very profound impression. Why is this? In the first place, it awakens in Him the feeling of His relation to the heathen world, which until now has been in the background in His thoughts. He sees Himself destined to extend His work also over this immense domain. But this spiritual royalty, as He is well aware, can only be realized so far as He shall Himself have been freed from His Jewish environment and raised to a new form of existence; and this transformation implies His death.
Thus the path to Calvary reveals itself to His view as the only one which can lead to the establishment of the new order of things. This is the reason why the request of these heathen agitates Him even to the depths of His soul ( Joh 12:27 ). The heathen knock at the gate...all the bearing of the present hour both on His work and His person, both on the world and on Israel itself, is in this fact. It is a decisive hour, it is the great revolution of the universe which makes itself known. So, rather than reply by a yes or no to the request which is addressed to Him, He becomes absorbed in the reflections which are called forth within Him by this step. Did He receive these heathen? Did He refuse to have an interview with them? The story does not tell us. The following is the inference which Reuss draws from this fact: “The author limits himself to introducing them, then he leaves them there without giving any further attention to them.
From this we may again judge of the degree of historical reality in these conversations which are contained in our Gospel.” A number of jests directed against the commentators who “flounder in the difficulties of a blindly literal interpretation, and who cannot understand that such discourses are addressed not to the interlocutors, not even to the disciples, but only to the readers of the book.” To this lofty mode of discussion we will oppose the words of Renan: “Here are verses which have an unquestionable historical stamp.” And without going as far as Westcott does, who thinks that “the Greeks were immediately admitted, and that it was in their presence that Jesus pronounced the following words,” we regard it as probable that in crossing the court of the Gentiles, on going out of the temple, Jesus would have given to these Greeks a testimony of sympathy which He never refused to any one of those who sought Him. John is silent respecting this point, as he is respecting the return of Nicodemus to his home, because the importance of these scenes is not, for him, in the facts of a material order. As Luthardt says, it is not the external, which concerns him in the history, but the moral substance of the facts. This substance is the impression produced on the soul of Jesus, and the discourse which reveals it.
III. The Last Scene in the Temple: John 12:20-43.12.36 .
Of all the events which occurred between Palm-day and Thursday evening, the evening before the Passion, John mentions but one, which is omitted by the Synoptics: the attempt of a few Greek proselytes to approach Jesus and the discourse in which He expressed the feelings to which this unexpected circumstance gave rise in Him.
If John so specially sets forth this event, it is not in order to relate an event omitted by his predecessors; it is because it has according to him a peculiar importance, and is in direct connection with the purpose of his whole narrative. He had beheld in it, beyond the closing of the public activity of Jesus, the prelude to the agonies of the Passion. It is therefore an essential landmark in his narrative. He does not say at what moment this event must be placed. According to the words of Mark ( Mar 11:11 ), it cannot have taken place on Palm-day. It issued, moreover, in the final rupture of Jesus with the people; and we know that, during the days which followed Palm-day, Jesus resided in the temple, as if in His palace, and exercised there a sort of Messianic sovereignty. The next day after His entrance into Jerusalem, Tuesday, Jesus purified the temple by the expulsion of the traders.
The following day, Wednesday, He coped with the official authorities, who demanded an explanation as to the origin of the power which He arrogated to Himself; then, successively, with the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Scribes, who approached him with captious questions; and in His turn He presented to them, from Psalms 110:0, the great question of the divinity of the Messiah, which was to be the subject of His judicial sentence; then, after having pronounced the malediction upon the rulers of the people, He withdrew, towards evening, to the mount of Olives, where He displayed before the eyes of four of His disciples (Mark) the picture of the judgment of Jerusalem, of the Church, and of mankind. The last words of our narrative ( Joh 12:36 ): “ Jesus said these things; then, departing he hid himself from them,” may therefore lead us to suppose that the scene related by John occurred on this same Wednesday evening, at the moment when Jesus was leaving the temple to go to Bethany (comp. the solemn farewell, Mat 23:37-39 ). In this case, it must be supposed that Jesus did not return to Jerusalem on Thursday morning, at the time when all the people were expecting Him in the temple, and that He passed the whole of Thursday in retirement at Bethany. This might very well be indicated by the expression: he hid himself from them. But perhaps in this way Wednesday will be too full. It is possible also that Jesus returned again to Jerusalem for a few moments on Thursday morning; it would then be at that time that the scene here related by John took place. Nevertheless, the expression: he hid himself from them, is more easily justified on the first supposition.
ADDITIONAL NOTES BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR.
1. The persons called ῞Ελληνες were undoubtedly Gentiles by birth, but yet Gentiles who had become proselyted Jews, because they went up to celebrate the feast. Whether their request to see Jesus was allowed or not, the narrative does not say. If we may judge from the ordinary readiness of Jesus to meet those who honestly desired to meet Him, we may believe that these representatives of the Gentiles were admitted to His presence. It would seem hardly probable that, after such expressions of His feeling and thought in view of their appearance, He would have refused to speak with them. But the author's plan moves away from this point. He is looking towards testimony and proof, not towards the history or experience of these few men. Hence he turns the reader to what Jesus said, and leaves him with the impression which comes from His words.
2. The glorification of the Son of man which is spoken of in Joh 12:23 is evidently that which comes through the extending of His kingdom over the world. This is indicated, ( a) by the fact that the expression is suggested by the approach of these representatives of the Gentile nations; ( b) by the words of the 24th verse; ( c) by the reference of Joh 12:31-32 to the overthrow of Satan and the drawing of all men to Himself. This coming glory is suggested to Him, as if in vision, by the approach of these Greeks, and the future appears as if already realized. The future centred itself in the hour of His death for the world, and this hour is so near that it seems to have already come.
3. The words of Joh 12:27-28 correspond somewhat closely with those which were uttered in the garden of Gethsemane. As to the sudden change of feeling indicated by these words as compared with those of John 12:23 ff., the following suggestions may be offered:
( a) The whole passage evidently shows that Jesus was thinking of His death as close at hand. With this in view, it was natural that two sets of feelings should have risen in His mind now, of the triumph of His work, which even as a prophet or reformer, far more as the Son of God, He must have had before His thought as He looked forward, in His confidence in the Divine truth, into the future; and again, of the trial and suffering which were just coming upon Him in the hour of His crucifixion. It would have been strange, indeed, if it had been otherwise.
( b) As the Divine messenger to the world, who was to suffer death for its sins, and, through this suffering, was to accomplish the work of redemption, the existence of these two feelings in His mind is yet more fully explained. And to such a Divine messenger they would come in quick succession and in almost immediate connection with each other, as the end drew near. A similar succession of feeling, though not in such nearness of time, is seen in the discourse on the last things, where the coming of the Son of man in power and great glory is declared, and in the scene in the garden.
4. The omission in this Gospel of the words spoken in Gethsemane, which resemble those recorded here, may be accounted for from the fact that the author's plan made it desirable to bring in this whole matter of Jesus' victorious and sorrowful feeling at the close of that portion of his book which related to His public ministry. Having once presented the matter here, he had no occasion to repeat it afterwards; and, so far as was related to his plan of proof, etc., the words in Gethsemane were only of the nature of a repetition of what was uttered at this time.
5. The question whether the words Save me from this hour are to be taken interrogatively or affirmatively, is one which cannot be decisively answered. If they are understood in the latter way, they correspond more nearly with the words in Gethsemane, If it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, etc. For this reason, they seem to the writer of this note to have this construction and meaning. Weiss and Keil take them interrogatively, and the latter writer says that the absence here of the if it is possible, and the change from nevertheless, etc., in Matthew, to but for this cause, etc., here, shows that this cannot be an actual prayer, but must be understood as a question. Milligan and Moulton and Alford give the affirmative sense, as also does Meyer.
6. The words of Meyer respecting the voice from heaven seem conclusive as showing that it was an objective occurrence: “John himself, who was an ear-witness, describes it as such; he repeats its express words; to take the first half of these words referring to the past as the product of a merely subjective perception is without any support in the prayer of Jesus; Jesus Himself in Joh 12:30 gives His confirmation to the occurrence of an actual voice; finally, the ἄλλοι also, John 12:29, must have heard a speech. ” Weiss, on the other hand, claims that a voice, the understanding of which depends on spiritual conditions, cannot be a voice of articulate sound. The comparison which Godet makes of the understanding of the human voice by animals and men may, perhaps, be helpful in the way of illustrating this matter; and the condition of mind in different hearers in many ordinary cases has some influence on what they gain from the voice heard it may even determine whether they think it to be a voice or a mere sound.
7. In Joh 12:30-31 Jesus rises again to the contemplation of the success and triumph of the future. The judgment of the world and the casting of its prince out of his power and dominion seem to His mind to be accomplished, since His death, now at hand, makes it certain that these things will come to pass; and He looks forward to the ingathering of all men into His kingdom. The reference here is probably to the last times, when the Gospel shall be triumphant everywhere, when Jews and Gentiles alike shall be saved ( Rom 11:25-26 ). Towards this consummation the movement would be constant from the day of Christ's death and resurrection and of the outpouring of the Spirit.
8. The writer explains the words be lifted up as referring to the manner of Jesus' death thus, to His crucifixion. It was the hour of His death which was ever before Jesus' mind at this time. But in the idea of His death we may believe that all was included which belonged with it as essential to His great work namely, His resurrection and ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit.
9. In His answer to the people in John 12:35 f. Jesus once more calls their minds to Himself as the light, and seems to say that, by putting themselves in connection with the light while it still lingers with them in His personal presence, and thus becoming sons of light, they will discover for themselves, after His removal, how He can be lifted up, and yet can be the Christ who abides forever.
Ver. 23. “ Jesus answered them, The hour is come when the Son of man is to be glorified. ” The Alexandrian authorities read the present: answers. The T. R., with 13 Mjj. and the ancient Vss., reads the aorist middle ἀπεκρίνατο , answered. These two forms are very rare in our Gospel (two or three times, each of them). The aorist middle is more suitable than the aorist passive (the common form). It indicates a meditation to which Jesus gives himself, rather than a direct response.
The words: The hour is come, contain in the germ the whole following discourse, which is intended to reveal the importance of the present hour. And this, first, for Jesus Himself ( Joh 12:29-30 ); then, for the world ( Joh 12:31-33 ); finally, for Israel in particular ( Joh 12:34-36 ).
For Jesus it is the hour of His elevation and His personal transformation by the painful passage of death. That which has just happened has made Him feel the imminence of the crisis. The term δοξασθῆναι , to be glorified, applies here first of all, as in Joh 12:16 and John 7:39, to the heavenly exaltation of His person. His recognition as Messiah and the extension of His kingdom among the heathen (Lucke, Reuss) do not explain this term; these facts will be only the consequences of the change accomplished in His person (John 17:1-43.17.2; Joh 17:5 ). The term Son of man is here suggested to Jesus by the feeling of His indissoluble connection with humanity, of which He will soon be the glorified representative. It is at that time that He will be able to do what is denied Him at this moment, to communicate without restraint with the Greeks and the whole world. In the 24th verse, Jesus expresses by means of a figure and in Joh 12:25 in plain terms, the painful condition which is imposed with reference to this glorification:
Ver. 24. “ Verily, verily, I say to you, Unless the grain of wheat dies after having fallen into the ground, it abides alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. ”
Before He can answer to the need of salvation for the heathen world, the first symptom of which has just reached Him, something of serious moment must happen in Himself. So long as the grain of wheat remains in the granary, it is preserved, but without acquiring the power of reproducing itself; it is necessary that it should be cast into the earth, that its covering should be decomposed, that it should perish as a seed, in order that it may live again with a new existence, and may have a new birth in a multitude of beings like itself. We know the considerable part which is played by the grain of wheat in the Greek mysteries. The emphatic affirmation, amen, amen, refers to the contrast which Jesus knows to exist between this painful necessity of His death and His disciples' dreams of glory.
Ver. 25. Application of the figure: “ He who loves his life, loses it; and he who hates his life in this world, shall preserve it unto life eternal. ”
The relation between this sentence and the two preceding verses does not allow us to doubt that Jesus here applies it to Himself. To this fundamental law of human life, which He has so often declared with reference to His disciples (Matthew 10:39; Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; Luk 17:33 ), He here declares that He is Himself subjected, like themselves. By the expression, his life, ψυχή , Jesus designates the breath of the natural life, with all the faculties with which this life is endowed in the case of man.
This physical and psychical life is good, as the starting-point of the human existence; Jesus also possesses it. But the destiny of the natural life is not to sustain and perpetuate itself as such; it must be transformed, by a superior force, into a spiritual, eternal life; but, in order to do this, it must be voluntarily surrendered, sacrificed, immolated in the form of self-renunciation. Otherwise, after having flourished for a time, and more or less satisfied itself, it decays and withers for ever. This law applies even to a pure being and to his lawful tastes. One may be called to sacrifice an honorable desire in order to respond to a higher duty; to refuse this call is to keep one's life, but in order to lose it.
Everything which is not surrendered to God by a free act of sacrifice, contains a germ of death. Jesus, seeking his own safety, His personal life, might now, if He wished, escape from death, become the Socrates of the Greeks, the Caesar of the Romans, the Solomon of the Jews; but this way of preserving His life would be to lose it. Not having surrendered it to God, He could not receive it from Him transformed and glorified ( Joh 12:23 ); and, thus preserved, it would remain devoted to unfruitfulness and to earthly frailty. In order to become a Christ, He must renounce being a sage; He must not wish to ascend the throne of a Solomon, if He desires to take His place on that of God. Lange has profoundly remarked that this saying contains in particular the judgment of Hellenism. What was Greek civilization? The effort to realize an ideal of human life consisting in enjoyment and escaping the law of sacrifice. It is probable that the true reading is the present loses ( ἀπολλύει ) which was replaced by the future shall lose ( ἀπολέσει ), under the influence of the verb of the following clause. The idea of losing goes beyond that of abiding alone ( Joh 12:14 ). The term μισεῖν , to hate, expresses the feeling of a generous contempt, arising from the view of what one would lose by devoting himself to the keeping of this natural life. The expression: unto life eternal, placed in opposition, as it is here, to in this world, refers not only to the more elevated nature of this life ( Reuss), but also to the future epoch in which it will break forth in its perfection. This saying, which means that man gives himself to find himself again, is that which Jesus has most frequently uttered (see above); it expresses the most profound law of human life. How should not this moral axiom, which governed the life of the Master, be applicable also to that of the disciples? It is evidently with a view to these latter also, that Jesus expresses it for a last time in this so solemn moment.
Ver. 26. “ If any one serves me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be; if any one serves me, him will my Father honor. ”
To follow, here: on the pathway of sacrifice, which alone leads to the glorious metamorphosis. The Greek term: where I am, is a present of anticipation; it refers to the state of the celestial glory of Jesus, as the promise: shall be there also, refers to the participation of the faithful disciple in that state ( Joh 17:24 ). Τιμήσει , shall honor, recalls the shall be glorified, δοξασθῇ , of John 12:23. The Father will honor the faithful servant who has consented to bear the shame of His Son in renouncing all glory of his own; he will make him participate in the glorification of this Son. Herein is for both the keeping of the life which they have given up. Perhaps Andrew and Philip had seen with a somewhat carnal satisfaction the conduct of these strangers desirous to render homage to their Master. Jesus, accustomed to silence continually within Himself even the most lawful aspirations of the natural life, in view of His divine mission, suppresses by a word these ambitious thoughts on the part of His disciples. Then, immediately after having thus declared the law which obliges Him to die, He feels in His whole being the reaction of this formidable thought.
Vv. 27, 28 a. “ Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? But for this cause came I unto this hour. 28a. Father, glorify thy name.”
The soul, ψυχή , is the seat of the natural emotions, as the spirit, πνεῦμα , is that of the religious emotions. Weiss disputes this distinction by appealing to the altogether similar emotion described in John 11:33. But it is precisely this expression, especially when compared with John 13:21, which confirms it. In these two passages the question is of a shuddering of a religious and moral nature at the evil which is approaching Him in the most hateful form. Here, on the contrary, it is the prospect of personal griefs and of death which so violently agitates Him.
The term ψυχή , soul, is therefore perfectly in its place. I do not understand the import of the explanation of Weiss, which is intended to identify ψυχή and πνεῦμα : “The spirit becomes the soul in man” (see Keil). The perfect τετάρακται , is troubled, indicates a state in which the Lord feels Himself entirely overwhelmed. And this extraordinary trouble reveals itself especially to His consciousness by the hesitation which He feels, at the moment when He is seeking to pour out His emotion in prayer. Ordinarily, He has a distinct view of that which He should ask of His Father; now, this clearness fails Him. Like the believer in the state which St. Paul describes in Romans 8:26, He knows not how He should pray. He is obliged to lay before Himself for a moment the question: What shall I say? This question He does not address, properly speaking, to God, nor to man, but to Himself. The sacrifice of His own life is in itself a free act; He could still, if He saw fit, ask of God to release Him from it. And the Father would hear him, as always, even should it be necessary to send Him twelve legions of angels. But would not this prayer, while delivering Him, destroy mankind? Jesus does not feel Himself free to pray thus. He is already too far advanced on the path on which He is to realize the salvation of the world, to stop so near the end. The word now, which begins the sentence, characterizes this distress as an anticipation of that which awaits Him in the presence of the cross: already now, although the terrible hour has not yet struck. After the question: What shall I say? how are we to understand the words: Father, save me from this hour? Is this the real prayer wherein this moment of uncertainty through which He has just passed, terminates?
This is what is supposed by Lucke, Meyer, Hengstenberg, Ebrard, Luthardt, Westcott. What would be its meaning? “Release me from the necessity of dying,” as when He offers the prayer in Gethsemane: “ Let this cup pass from me ”? This is held by the first three. But there he adds: if it is possible, and by the πλήν which follows, He commits it immediately to the Father's will ( Mat 26:39 ). And how can we explain the sudden change of impression in the following clause? After having uttered seriously and without restriction the petition: “Save me from this hour!” could He add, as it were in a single breath: “But for this hour am I come”? Luthardt, Ebrard, and Westcott perceive this clearly. So they propose to understand the σῶσόν με , save me, not in the sense: “Deliver me from death,” but in the sense: “Bring me victoriously out of this present inward struggle,” either by shortening it or by giving it a happy issue. But how are we to explain the following adversative particle ἀλλά , but? Here Westcott proposes an absolute tour de force. “But to what purpose say this?
The favorable issue is not doubtful.” This sense of but is altogether forced; and there is no more opposition between: to come forth from the struggle, and: to have come for it. However we may turn this phrase, we are always brought back to see in it a hypothetical prayer. It is the voice of nature which at first makes itself heard in answer to the question: What shall I say? Then, in the following words Jesus represses this voice. To address this petition to God would be to deny all that He has done and endured until now. And finally, giving vent to the voice of the spirit, He definitely stays Himself in the prayer which alone remains, when once this moment of trouble is past: Glorify thy name! that is to say: “Derive from me Thy glory, by doing with me what Thou wilt. Nothing for me, everything for Thee!” What more instructive than this conflict between these two factors which solicit the will of Jesus? It allows us to penetrate into the inmost recess of His heart. What do we there discover? Precisely the opposite of that impassive Jesus whom our critics assert the Christ of John to be.
The expressions: for this cause, and: for this hour, seem to constitute a pleonasm. We might make this clause a question: “Is it then for this that I am come to this hour?” that is, to try to put it off indefinitely? Or we may make the words for this hour an explanatory apposition to for this: “It is for this that I am come, that is, for this hour.” These two meanings are forced, the first, because of the two questions which already precede; the second, because the εἰς is not the natural resuming of the διά , but rather the direct objective word to ἦλθον and the antithesis of σῶσον ἐκ . Hengstenberg explains: “It is that my soul may be troubled that I am come...,” which is still more forced.Lucke and Meyer make the words for this bear upon the idea of the following prayer ( Joh 12:28 ): Father, glorify thy name. This is to do violence to the sentence beyond measure. Is it not quite simple to see in the neuter this the expression, in a slight degree mysterious, of that something which has just brought trouble upon His soul, and which He is tempted to seek to remove by His prayer, the dark and unutterable contents of the hour which is approaching? “It is because of this death which I am to undergo, that I have persevered in this path until this hour.” All that he has done and suffered in view of the cross does not permit Him to give way at the moment when the hour of this terrible punishment is about to strike. Comp. Joh 3:14
The pronoun thy ( Joh 12:28 ), by reason of the place which it occupies, is emphasized. It is opposed, as Weiss says, to the personal character of the preceding prayer which Jesus has set aside.
Colani, in his criticism of the Vie de Jesus by Renan, by a strange inadvertence makes Jesus say: “Father, glorify my name,” an expression which, he says, “has no meaning except from the standpoint of the Logos- doctrine.” The more involuntary this alteration is, the better is it fitted to make us see the difference between the profoundly human Jesus of John and the fantastic Christ whom criticism ascribes to the evangelist. That, after this, Colani sees in this scene only “an emblematic, almost simulated, agony” is easy to understand; to whom does the fault belong? Reuss, who claims that the silence of John respecting the scene of Gethsemane arises from the fact that “even a passing weakness would have been a feature incompatible with the portrait of the Johannean Christ,” finds himself greatly embarrassed by the narrative which occupies us. The following is the way in which he escapes from the difficulty. “The emotion of Jesus is not that of a momentary and touching weakness..., it is that of a great soul, of a divine heroism...whose resolution is rather strengthened than shaken in the presence of the supreme catastrophe.” We leave the reader to judge whether this exegesis reproduces or contradicts the true tone of the text to be explained, particularly of these words: “Now is my soul troubled.” What we admire in this passage, is the perfectly human character of the struggle which, at the thought of His approaching death, takes place in the heart of Jesus between nature and spirit. And then it is the sincerity, the candor, shall we say, with which He expresses His inmost feelings, His weakness ( Heb 5:2 ), before all this company of people, not hesitating to make them acquainted with the perplexity into which the prospect of His approaching sufferings plunges Him.
This scene is, as has always been acknowledged, the prelude to the one in Gethsemane. Only in the latter, Jesus, at the highest point of His distress, really utters the cry: Save me from this hour! while at the moment which we have now reached, He only asks whether He shall pray thus. This delicate shade is suited to the difference of the two situations and proves the strictly historical character of each of them. The opinion that John suppressed the scene of Gethsemane as incompatible with the divine character of the Logos, falls of itself before this passage. Finally, let us establish the remarkable gradation in the three analogous scenes, Luke 12:49-42.12.50, Joh 12:27 and the one in Gethsemane. This comparison makes us understand the increasing emotion with which Jesus was slowly approaching the cross. These three features borrowed from the four narratives easily unite in one single picture. How can Reville express himself as follows, in the Revue de theologie, 1865, III., p. 316, “The fourth Gospel makes Jesus an exalted being, as to His moral life, above temptation and internal conflict, and it removes from its narrative all the traditional statements which might suggest a contrary idea.” Renan, on the contrary, observes with reference to this passage: “Here are verses which have an indubitable historical stamp. They are the obscure and isolated episode of the Greeks who address themselves to Philip.”
Vv. 28b, 29. “ Whereupon there came a voice from heaven, I have both glorified it and I will glorify it again. 29. The multitude therefore that stood by and heard it, said that it thundered; others said, An angel has spoken to him. ”
Each time that the Son performs a great act of self-humiliation and personal consecration, the Father answers by a sensible manifestation of approval. What had happened at the baptism and the transfiguration is now renewed. At this hour which is the closing of Jesus' ministry, and in which He devoted Himself to death, is the time or never for the Father publicly to set the seal of His satisfaction upon His person and His work.
Lucke, de Wette, Hengstenberg, Weiss, regard this voice from heaven as a simple thunder-clap. By reason of the coincidence of this external phenomenon with His prayer, Jesus, in their view, interpreted it freely in the sense indicated by the evangelist. Is not thunder often called in the Old Testament, the voice of the Lord? The Rabbis gave a name to these prophetic voices, these mysterious inspirations which a word accidentally heard calls up in the hearts of believers, namely, Bath-Kol (daughter of the voice). But the text does not favor this interpretation of the phenomenon here related. According to John, it is not a clap of thunder taken to be a voice from heaven; it is, on the contrary, a voice from heaven which a part of the multitude regard as a clap of thunder; comp. Meyer.
How could Jesus say: this voice ( Joh 12:30 )? How could this voice be translated by Him or by John into a definite expression in words? Whence would arise in these words the contrast between the past ( I have glorified) and the future ( I will glorify), a contrast which has no connection with anything in the prayer of Jesus? How, finally, could one part of the multitude itself discern in this sound an articulate language which they attribute to an angel? The text permits us to think only of a divine phenomenon. As to the Rabbinical superstition called Bath-Kol, it cannot be cited here, since one would infer from such signs only a human voice. The past I have glorified refers to the ministry of the Lord in Israel, which is close upon its end; the future I will glorify, to the approaching action of Jesus on the whole world, when from the midst of His glory He will enlighten the heathen. Between these two great works which the Father accomplishes through the Son, is placed precisely the hour of suffering and death which is the necessary transition from the one to the other. There is no ground therefore to draw back before this hour. It is, moreover, well surrounded. Before, the name of God glorified in Israel; after, the name of God glorified in the whole world. Here indeed is the most consoling response for the filial heart of Jesus (John 17:1-43.17.2; Joh 17:4-5 ). The two καί , and, and, bring out the close connection between the work done and the work to be done: “I who have accomplished the one, will also accomplish the other.”
The whole multitude hear a sound; but the meaning of the voice is perceived by each one only in proportion to his spiritual intelligence. Thus, in human speech the wild beast perceives only a sound, the trained animal discovers in it a meaning, a command, for example, which it immediately obeys; man only discerns in it a thought. ῎Οχλος : the greater number; ἄλλοι : others in smaller numbers; comp. Act 9:7 with Acts 22:9; Acts 26:13-44.26.14, where an analogous phenomenon occurs at the time of the appearance of Jesus to Paul. In order to understand a vision, there must be an internal organ and this organ may be more or less favorably disposed. At Pentecost, where some see only the effects of drunkenness, others discern a revelation of the glorious things of God ( Act 2:11-13 ). The perfect λελάληκεν , instead of the aorist, signifies that to their view Jesus is for the future a person in possession of this heavenly sign.
Vv. 30-32. “ Jesus answered and said: Not for my sake has this voice made itself heard, but for your sakes. 31. Now is the judgment of this world;now shall the prince of this world be cast out. 32. And I, when I shall have been lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. ”
In declaring that this voice does not make itself heard for His sake, Jesus does not mean to say that He has no need to be strengthened; but only that He had not needed to be strengthened in this way, that is, by a sensible manifestation. What the procedure of the Greeks has been for Him, in awakening vividly within Him the feeling of the gravity of the present hour, this heavenly phenomenon should be for them, by revealing to them the decisive importance of the crisis which is accomplished in this moment. And first, as to the world, this hour is that of the most radical revolution ( Joh 12:31-32 ). It is that of its judgment (John 12:31 a), of the expulsion of its former master (John 12:31 b), and of the advent of its new monarch ( Joh 12:32 ). The word νῦν , now, at the beginning of the first two clauses, sets forth expressly this decisive character of the present moment for humanity.
To judge is to declare the moral state, not only as evil but also as good. I cannot accept, therefore, the meaning which Weiss gives here to the word κρίσις , judgment, in applying it only to the condemnation of the world as the consequence of the rejection and the death of Christ. No doubt, the cross is the basis of the condemnation of the world, as it reveals completely the moral state of natural humanity. This throne, erected for Jesus by man, shows the depth of hostility to God which is in his heart. But this is not the only side of the judgment of the world by the work of Christ; comp. Joh 3:21 following John 3:18-43.3.20. Passing before the cross, one part of mankind find in it their salvation through faith, while the other part through unbelief complete their condemnation. Here is the judgment of the world which is the consequence of Holy Friday. It will begin inwardly on this very day. Its first great outward manifestation will be Pentecost; the second will be the fall of Jerusalem. The final universal judgment will be the solemn ratification of it ( Joh 12:48 ).
But, at the same time that the cross will manifest the moral state of the world, it will exhaust the measure of toleration accorded to its prince. The crucifixion of the Son of God is the most odious, the most unpardonable crime of Satan: this crime puts an end to the long-suffering of God towards him, and, consequently, to his dominion over mankind. The Rabbis habitually designate Satan as the prince of the worl (Sar haholam). But they place the Jews outside of his empire, which includes only the Gentiles. Jesus, on the contrary, counts this rebellious people as belonging to it (chap. 8), which He even especially calls the world ( Joh 15:18 ). Out signifies not only; out of his office and power, but above all: out of his former domain, the world, mankind in the natural state. This meaning appears from the relation of these words to those which precede. “With the consummation of the redemptive work,” says Weiss, “the expulsion of the devil begins.” One soul after another is taken away from him, and the progress goes on advancing even to the final day. Thus this saying does not contradict those which still ascribe to Satan an activity in the world.
To the deposition of the former ruler answers the advent of the new sovereign. Jesus expressly designates Himself as the one who is called to fill this office: κἀγώ , and I. But, a strange fact, as He substitutes Himself for Satan, it is not on the earth, from which Satan is driven out, that He establishes His kingdom. The Jews imagined that the Messiah would become here on earth the successor of His adversary, that He would be another prince of this world. But no, He will leave the world, as does also His rival; He will be obliged to leave it that He may be elevated above it, and it is from this higher sphere that He will draw His subjects to Him, and will realize His kingdom. However little familiar we may be with the language of Jesus, we may understand that the expression be lifted up must be taken here in the same amphibological sense as in Joh 3:14 and John 8:28. His suspension on the cross is identified with the elevation to the throne to which it is for Him the way. Meyer objects against this double sense of the word be lifted up the limiting phrase ἐκ τῆς γῆς , out of the earth, which proves, according to him, that Jesus is thinking not of His death, but of the ascension. It is no doubt very evident that the expression out of the earth does not refer only to the small distance of two or three cubits between the ground and the feet of the crucified one. But it is this very expression: out of the earth, which forces us to see in the word be lifted up, an allusion to the punishment of the cross. If Jesus had thought only of the ascension, the natural limiting phrase would have been into heaven or to the Father. By saying from the earth, He indicates the violent manner in which He will be expelled from this domain over which He is to reign. There will be made for a time an abyss between the earth and Himself. This will render necessary for a time the heavenly and invisible form of His kingdom. Now it is to the cross that this temporary separation between the earth and Him will be due; comp. Galatians 6:14.
The cross and the ascension taken together therefore freed Jesus from all earthly bonds and especially from all His national obligations towards Israel. They thus put Him in a position to extend His activity over the whole world, to become the Lord of all ( Rom 10:12 ). This is what enables Him to say “ I will draw them all unto me; ” all, not only the Jews, but all men, and consequently the Greeks. From this word all and from this future I will draw, His response to the request which had called forth this discourse clearly appears. The hour of the call of the Greeks draws near; but, before it strikes, another hour is to strike! Some limit the all to the elect; others give it this sense: men of every nation; Meyer seems to find in it the idea of final universal salvation. But ἑλκύειν , to draw, does not necessarily denote an effectual drawing. This word may refer only to the preaching of the cross throughout the whole world and the action of the Holy Spirit which accompanies it. This heavenly drawing is not irresistible. The last word: to me, literally, to myself, makes prominent the personal position of Jesus as the supra-terrestrial centre of the kingdom of God. Once exalted to heaven, He becomes at the same time the author and the end of the divine drawing, and gathers around Himself His new people, heavenly like Himself.
These two verses sum up the whole history of the Church; both from a negative and polemical point of view: the gradual destruction of the kingdom of Satan, and from a positive point of view: the progressive establishment of the kingdom of God.
Ver. 33. “ Now this he said, signifying by what death he should die. ”
This explanation of John is declared to be false by some modern interpreters ( Meyer, Reuss, etc.), Jesus having spoken, according to them, of the Ascension, not of the cross. But we have seen that the idea of the cross was necessarily implied in the preceding words, and it must, indeed, be remarked that the apostle does not say δηλῶν , declaring, plainly, but only σημαίνων , indicating, giving to understand. John means simply to say that in giving this form to His thought, Jesus gives an anticipatory hint of the kind of death which He must undergo. Reuss would indeed draw from this false explanation of the Evangelist a proof in favor of the authenticity of the words of John 12:32. We think we have better reasons for holding the authenticity. This striking passage in which Jesus, after having shuddered in view of the cross, strengthened Himself by tracing in broad outlines the picture of the immense revolution which it will effect, may be compared with that of St. Paul, Colossians 2:14-51.2.15, where that apostle represents Jesus as making a spectacle of the infernal powers, despoiling them of their power and triumphing over them on the cross. Comp. also the passage, 2 Corinthians 5:14-47.5.17, according to which the death of Christ is virtually a principle of death for the whole human race, but thereby the means of universal renewal. According to the Jewish programme, the Messianic kingdom was to be the glorification of the earth, and the Messiah the visible sovereign of this new Eden; how could the Messianic character of Jesus, therefore, accord with the idea of leaving the earth? Hence the following question of the Jews, John 12:34.
Ver. 34. “ The multitude answered him, We have heard from the law that the Christ abides for ever; how sayest thou then, The Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man? ”
John 12:34. “How sayest thou, thou? ” This thou is opposed to we, ἡμεῖς : we who are acquainted with the law and those among us who explain it. The passages to which the Jews allude are those in which the Messiah is represented as founding on the ruins of the heathen empires an eternal kingdom: Isaiah 9:6; Psalms 110:2-19.110.4; Daniel 7:14, etc. On the term the law, see p. 165. In order to resolve the difficulty, the objectors themselves make a supposition respecting which they ask to be enlightened. Jesus has the habit of designating Himself as the Son of man; might this name perhaps designate in His mouth a personage different from the Christ? This question is not without analogy to that which John the Baptist addressed to Jesus from the centre of his prison: “Art thou he that should come or are we to look for another?” (Vol. I., p. 323f.). The Jews certainly do not mean: Is this Son of man thyself or some other? He has just applied to Himself this title, John 12:23. As Jesus has always refused to take openly before them the title of Christ, they ask themselves rather if the term Son of man does not designate a different personage from the Messiah, one of the numerous forerunners who were looked for. Meyer and Weiss explain differently: “What a strange Messiah is he who wishes to go away, instead of transforming everything!” But the terms of the question do not express this idea. The expression must have been: What sort of Christ is this! and not: Who is this Son of man? These words of the people appear to me to prove that the title Son of man was not generally used in Israel to designate the Messiah; and, as we have already seen, it was precisely for this reason that Jesus had chosen it to designate Himself habitually (vol. I., p. 338f.). We find ourselves in accord on this point with Colani. The question proposed by His hearers leads Jesus to explain to them the vital importance of the present hour for Israel in particular.
Vv. 35, 36. “ Jesus therefore said to them, The light is with you only a little while longer; walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you; and he that walks in the darkness knows not whither he goes. 36. While you have the light, believe on the light, that you may become children of light. Jesus said this to them; then, departing, he hid himself from them. ”
Jesus does not reply to them directly. It was no longer the time to teach and discuss. He addresses to their hearts a last warning, a final appeal, by making them feel the decisive importance of the present hour for themselves and for their whole people. This is the reason why John says εἶπεν he said, declared, not ἀπεκρίθη , he answered. The day of salvation is at its end; the sun which still enlightens Israel is going to disappear in a few moments. When the sun sets, those who have a journey to make must hasten before the night comes on. By this journey, Jesus means the act of believing, for all those who are still far removed from Him. When once the heavenly revealer shall be no longer present, the unbelieving people will be like a traveler lost in the night, who wanders at a venture without seeing either pathway or end. If Joh 12:31-32 sum up the whole history of the Church, it may be well said that Joh 12:35 contains that of Israel from the day on which Jesus was speaking to the present hour.
The apostolic preaching was no doubt still granted to this people, but how, when once launched on the declivity of unbelief, could Israel, as a people, have changed its course. And when the preaching of the apostles, that last gift of grace, had rescued a certain number of individuals from the ruin, it was soon withdrawn from the nation. Since then, Israel wanders in the wilderness of this world, as a caravan without a goal and without a guide. The two readings: with you and among you differ only in the figure. It is not altogether so with the readings ἕως , while (T. R.) and ὡς , as or according as. Meyer, Weiss, Luthardt, Keil, adopting the second, give to ὡς its ordinary logical sense: as, conformably to the fact that: “Walk according as you have the light,” that is to say: “Because of the fact that you still have the light, come to it, believe!” It is with reason, as it seems to me, that Baumlein declares this explanation of ὡς impossible. The words: yet a little time, force us to give it the temporal sense. We must, therefore, either understand it in the sense of when which the French comme so often has (comp. for this use of ὡς in the New Testament, Luke 12:58: “ As thou goest,” for: “ While thou goest),” or read ἕως , while, notwithstanding the Alexandrian authorities. The initial ε of this word was undoubtedly confounded with the final ε of the preceding word περιπατεῖτε . I should not be surprised, however, if it were otherwise in John 12:36, and if the true reading here were ὡς .
The idea of because of the fact that is much more admissible in this sentence, “ Because of the fact that you have the light, believe in the light;” comp. Galatians 6:10, where the ὡς may be explained in the same way. This is precisely the reading of the Sinatic MS. It is the more easily explained, in this case, how in Joh 12:35 the ὡς may have been substituted for ἕως . In two sentences so near together and so similar, the copyists may have made either the first conform to the second, or the reverse. An equal solemnity reigns in these two appeals of John 12:35-43.12.36; only in the former the tone of pity prevails; in the latter, that of tenderness. The last word of the Saviour to His people was to be an invitation, not a menace: “Since you still possess in me the living revelation of God ( φῶς , the light), acknowledge it, believe on it, to the end that you may become ( γένησθε ) children of light. ” Through faith in Christ man is so penetrated by light that he himself becomes luminous.
Such was the farewell of Jesus to Israel. The words: He said these things, signify that He gave them no other response. Thereupon He withdraws; and on the following day He does not reappear. The people waited for Him in the temple as usual ( Luk 21:38 ); but in vain. It was at this time no longer a mere cloud which veiled the sun; the sun had set, the night was come.
Vv. 37, 38. “ Now, although he had done so many miracles in their presence, they did not believe on him, 38 that the word which Isaiah the prophet had spoken might be fulfilled: Lord, who has believed our preaching and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? ”
However irrational is the fact with which John is about to occupy himself, it must be accomplished, for it was foreseen and foretold. How many motives to believe were there for the Jews in the appearance of Jesus, particularly in His miracles which were the testimony of God, the seal with which He marked His Son, signs the meaning of which it was easy to apprehend, especially for Jews ( 1Co 1:22 )! The word τοσαῦτα , so many, in our gospels, refers always to number, not to greatness; comp. John 6:9, John 21:11; it is also sometimes its meaning in the classics; comp. the expression τοσαῦτα τε καὶ τοιαῦτα . These words imply that Jesus had done a much larger number of miracles than the six related in this book; comp. John 7:3, John 20:30. John did not wish therefore to relate everything that he knew. The term σημεῖα , signs, calls to mind the divine purpose in these works, and the words ἔμπροσθεν αὐτῶν , in their presence, their complete publicity. The imperfect, they did not believe, sets forth the continuance, the obstinate persistency of the Israelitish unbelief, notwithstanding the signs which were renewed every day before their eyes.
Scarcely any one seeks any longer to weaken the sense of ἵνα , in order that, by making it a ὥστε , so that. The passage quoted is Isaiah 53:1. The prophet, at the moment of describing the humiliation, the death and the exaltation of the Messiah, asks himself whether there will be any one in Israel who is disposed to welcome with faith a message such as this, so contrary to the carnal aspirations of the people. Now the Messiah to whom the prophecy refers cannot hope for a better welcome than the message itself. These two things, the message and the Messiah who is its subject, are so completely one and the same thing to the view of the prophet that in the second clause, parallel to the first, there is no more any question except of the Messiah ( the arm of the Lord recognized). The reply to the question Who has believed? is, in the thought of the prophet, either no one, or a small number of persons; they can be counted. According to some, the expression ἀκοὴ ἡμῶν , our hearing, signifies: that which we hear from the mouth of Jehovah, either we prophets ( Hengstenberg), or we Jews who have attained to faith, the prophet being included ( Hofmann, Delitzsch, Keil). But it is much more natural to explain: “ That which we cause to be heard (we prophets).” It is certainly not the people hearing; it is the prophets preaching who can raise such a question. The first expression: that which we preach, refers to the suffering Messiah described in the following picture; the second: the arm of the Lord, to the acts of divine power of which He will be the agent, especially at His resurrection and at His exaltation, which are the crowning points of this picture ( Isa 53:10-12 ). The prophecy had thus declared that a Messiah, such as God should send, would not find faith in Israel; His humiliation would to such a degree shock this people, who would not even have eyes to discern the manifestations of the divine power in His appearance. But the fact might be foretold without being desired by God. Well, it was at once desired and announced, so far that God Himself cooperated in its execution. Such is the advance from Joh 12:38 to John 12:39. Yes, in this blindness there is something supernatural!
I. The Causes of Jewish Unbelief: John 12:37-43.12.43 .
If the Jews are the chosen people, prepared of God to the end of receiving the Messiah and of carrying salvation to other nations, ought they not to have been the first to open their arms to Jesus? Or, if they did not, must it not be inferred from this fact that Jesus was not really the Messiah? Chaps. 9-11 of the Epistle to the Romans are designed to examine into this great paradox of the religious history of mankind; it was the great apologetic question of the time of the apostles. Thus it is that the following passage in John contains many of the thoughts which likewise form the basis of St. Paul's dissertation.
This passage forms the close of the second part of the Gospel ( Joh 12:1-36 ). The evangelist interrupts his narrative that he may give himself up to a meditation on the fact which he has just set forth. What is this fact? Is it, as some interpreters suppose ( Reuss, Westcott, for example) the public ministry of Jesus? The entire part chaps. 5-12 is the representation of the public activity of the Lord, while chaps. 13-17 describe His private activity. This view appears to us very superficial. Between these two parts, there exists a much more profound contrast than that of a more or less limited circle of activity; it is that of unbelief and faith, of unbelief in the people and of faith in the disciples. Is it not obvious that the real subject of the following epilogue, that which preoccupies the mind of John and becomes for a moment the subject of his meditation, is not the public ministry of Jesus, but the unbelief of the Jewish people. The question to which John replies is this: How explain the failure of the work of the Messiah in Israel? It is indeed one of the most obscure problems of history. It rose in all its greatness, after the preceding part of the Gospel, before the eyes of the historian and his readers. In the first passage, John 12:37-43.12.43, Jesus explains the causes of this mysterious fact; in the second, John 12:44-43.12.50, he shows the gravity of it by summing up its tragical consequences.
ADDITIONAL NOTES BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR.
1. The writer closes this first great division of his work with a declaration of the failure and success of the miracles of Jesus, so far as the matter of faith in the case of the hostile party was concerned as, at the end of the book, he sets forth his purpose and hope with reference to the recording of them for all his readers. The σημεῖα had been abundant, but this party would not believe.
2. This unbelief is connected in two ways with the prophetic words uttered by Isaiah first, as a fulfilment of what he said, and, secondly, as finding its foundation or cause in another statement of his. The two prophetic statements are those declared to have been made in view of the time of Christ. The first and third of these points ( Joh 12:38 and Joh 12:41 ) may be explained in connection with the general view which the New Testament writers had of the Old Testament. They found its whole meaning in Christ, and they thus carried Him, as it were, into every part or sentence of it which corresponded with His experience or work. Their view, in the truest and deepest sense, perchance, was the right one. But the special difficulty here lies in connection with the second point ( Joh 12:39-40 ). The explanation of this point must, apparently, involve two things first, the responsibility of the individual, which limits the inability to what is moral, and, secondly, the Divine activity, which must be of the nature of a judicial hardening. The literal interpretation of the words, when pressed to its utmost extreme, is contradicted by the general representations of the New Testament respecting the sinfulness of men.
3. The exception mentioned in Joh 12:42 is apparently presented as showing the success which Jesus had gained, notwithstanding the failure just described, and in connection with all that has been said in these later chapters respecting the rulers. The persons here alluded to do not seem to be such as Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea, nor such as Gamaliel. The two former were, probably, not actuated by the motive indicated in John 12:43. The last, as Meyer remarks, “did not get as far as faith.” The word δόξα of Joh 12:43 means the glory which comes from men or from God.
4. As to the passage John 12:44-43.12.50, it is generally held by the recent commentators to be a sort of summary of the teachings of Jesus as given in the foregoing chapters, just as the preceding verses have presented a kind of summation of the results of His work. This is quite probably, though not indeed certainly, the correct view. The verses are introduced as if they might be a new discourse, and yet no occasion or mark of time is given. The thoughts and expressions are, to say the least, more strikingly similar to what has been said before than is the case with any other discourse, and no new idea is presented. The position of the verses also following the summing up of results favors the view that they are a resume of the teachings, rather than a new discourse; and, on the whole, this view of them is to be adopted.
5. The thoughts of this passage follow each other in the natural order: Faith in Jesus brings the soul into union with God; the object of the coming of Jesus into the world is to bring the light of God, that the soul of the believer may dwell in the light-life which has no darkness, the life like God's life; as Jesus thus comes to save the world, and not to judge it, He gives forth His teachings, which have been committed to Him by the Father, and they determine the judgment; these teachings which are given to Him as His Divine commission are eternal life, in that, being received by faith, they become the source of eternal life to the soul; in the proclamation of these teachings Jesus speaks in exact accordance with the Father's communication of His will and of His truth. The thoughts contained in these verses, in the completeness of their setting forth of His message, as well as in the fact that the passage gathers into itself only what has been said in different places before, seem to be the summary of what He gave to the world in this earlier portion of this Gospel.
6. It is worthy of notice that at this point the σημεῖα , so far as they are found in the sphere of miraculous works, cease to be recorded. What remains of the book contains only the σημεῖα which pertain to the region of the words of Jesus. The works are the primary and lower proofs, to the view of this writer; the words are of the higher order. The former are designed to arrest the attention of the world and to bear upon the earlier development of faith. The latter are adapted to the thoughtful and growing disciples, whose minds open more and more widely to the truth. Just in accordance with this character and purpose of the two kinds of evidence, we find that, when the conflict with the world and the public ministry of Jesus come to their end, and the disciples have been growing in the fulness of their belief even to the last days, the outward miracles are no longer mentioned, and the discourses of intimate friendship and love, as between Christ and His Father and the followers of Christ, begin. How can it be fitly said that this Gospel has no progress, or that it ends at its beginning?
Vv. 39, 40. “ And indeed they could not believe, because Isaiah said again, 40 He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, that they should not see with their eyes and understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. ”
The omnipotence of God itself worked to the end of realizing that which His omniscience had foretold, and to make Israel do the impossible thing. Not only they did not believe ( Joh 12:37 ); but they could not believe ( Joh 12:39 ). The word πάλιν ( again) reminds us that there is here a second idea, serving to explain the fact by completing the first. This logical relation answers to the meaning of the two expressions of Isaiah quoted by John. The διὰ τοῦτο , for this cause, refers, as ordinarily in John (John 12:18, John 10:17, etc.), to the following ὅτι , because: “And this is the reason why they could not believe: it is because Isaiah in another passage ( πάλιν ) said.” It is in vain that Weiss tries to make the διὰ τοῦτο , for this cause, also refer to the preceding idea, namely, that of the fact; it refers to the following ὅτι and consequently to the cause of the fact (see Keil). These words are taken from Isaiah 6:9-23.6.10.
The word of address, Lord, added by the LXX., passed thence to John. The quotation differs both from the Hebrew text and from that of the LXX., in that according to the former, it is Isaiah who is said to blind and harden the people by his ministry: “ Make the heart of this people fat; ” according to the latter, this hardening is a simple fact laid to the charge of Israel: “ The heart of this people is hardened; ” in John, on the contrary, the understood subject of the two verbs ( he has blinded, he has hardened) can only be God. This third form is evidently a deliberate correction of the latter, in order to go back to the meaning of the former. For this fact accomplished by Isaiah, being the execution of the command of God, is rightly attributed by John to God Himself. This passage proves that the evangelist, while attaching himself to the Greek translation, was not dependent on it and was acquainted with the Hebrew text (vol. I., p. 197f.). Τυφλοῦν , to make blind, designates the depriving of intellectual light, of the sense of the true and even of the useful, of simple good sense; πωροῦν , to harden the skin, the depriving of moral sensibility, the sense of the good. From the paralysis of these two organs unbelief must necessarily result; the people may see miracle after miracle, may hear testimony after testimony, yet they will not discern in the one whom God thus points out, and who gives all these testimonies to Himself, their Messiah. The subject of the two verbs is undoubtedly God ( Meyer, Reuss), but God in the person of that Adonai who (according to Isa 6:1 ) gives the command to the prophet. The reading of nearly all the Mjj. is ἰάσομαι , and I shall heal them. This future might signify: “And I shall end by bringing them to myself through the means of their very hardening.” The two καί and...and, however, are too closely related to each other for such a contrast between the last verb and those which precede it to be admissible. The force of the formidable ἵνα μή , in order that I..., evidently extends as far as the end of the sentence. The construction of the indicative with this conjunction has nothing unusual in it ( 1Co 13:3 ; 1 Peter 3:1; Rev 22:14 ); it is frequent also in the classic Greek with ὅπως . We might undoubtedly explain in this way: “lest they should be converted, in which case I will heal them” (for: I would heal them). But the other sense remains the more natural one: God does not desire to heal them; it is not in accordance with His actual intentions towards them. This is precisely the reason why He does not desire that they should believe a thing which would force Him to pardon and heal them.
If such is the meaning of the words of the prophet and of those of the evangelist, how can it be justified? These declarations would be inexplicable and revolting if, at the moment when God addresses them to Israel and treats Israel in this way, this people were in the normal state, and God regarded them still as His people.
But it was by no means so; when sending Isaiah, God said to him: “ Go and tell THIS people ” ( Isa 6:9 ). And we know what a father means, when speaking of his son, he says: this child, instead of my child: the paternal and filial relation is momentarily broken. An abnormal state has begun, which obliges God to use means of an extraordinary character. This divine dispensation towards Israel enters therefore into the category of chastisements. The creature who has long abused the divine favors falls under the most terrible of punishments; from an end it becomes for the time a means. In fact man can, by virtue of his liberty, refuse to glorify God by his obedience and salvation; but even in this case he cannot prevent God from glorifying Himself in him by a chastisement capable of making the odious character of his sin shine forth conspicuously. “God,” says Hengstenberg, “has so constituted man, that, when he does not resist the first beginnings of sin, he loses the right of disposing of himself and forcibly obeys even to the end the power to which he has surrendered himself.” God does not merely permit this development of evil; He wills it and concurs in it. But how, it will be said, will the holiness of God, as thus understood, be reconciled with His love? This is that which St. Paul explains to the Jews by the example of their ancient oppressor, Pharaoh, Romans 9:17: In the first place, this king refuses to hearken to God and to be saved; he has the prerogative to do so. But after this he is passively used for the salvation of others.
God paralyses in him both the sense of the true and the sense of the good; he becomes deaf to the appeals of conscience and even to the calculations of self-interest properly understood; he is given up to the inspirations of his own foolish pride, in order that, through the conspicuous example of the ruin into which he precipitates himself, the world may learn what it costs wickedly to resist the first appeals of God. Thereby he at least serves the salvation of the world. The history of Pharaoh is reproduced in that of the Jews in the time of Jesus Christ. Already at the epoch of Isaiah the mass of the people were so carnal that their future unbelief in the Messiah, the man of sorrows, appears to the prophet an inevitable moral fact (Isaiah 53:0). We must even go further and say, with Paul and John, that, things being thus, this unbelief must have been willed of God. What would have become of the kingdom of God, indeed, if an Israel like this had outwardly and without a change of heart received Jesus as its Messiah and had become with such dispositions the nucleus of the Church?
This purely intellectual adherence of Israel, instead of advancing the divine work in the heathen world, would have served only to hinder it. We have the proof of this in the injurious part which was played in the Apostolic Church by the Pharisaic minority who accepted the faith. Suppose that the Jewish people en masse had acted thus and had governed the Church, the work of St. Paul would not have been possible; the Jewish monopoly would have taken possession of the gospel; there would have been an end of the universalism which is the essential characteristic of the new covenant. The rejection of the Jews thus disposed was therefore a measure necessary to the salvation of the world. It is in this sense that St. Paul says in Romans 11:12: “that the fall of Israel has become the riches of the world,” and John 12:15: “that its rejection has been the reconciliation of the world.” How, indeed, could the Gentiles have welcomed a salvation connected with circumcision and the Mosaic observances? God was therefore obliged to make Israel blind, that the miracles of Jesus might be as nothing in their eyes and as not having taken place, and to harden them, that His preachings might remain for them as empty sounds (Isaiah 6:0). Thus Israel proud, legal, carnal, rejected and could be rejected freely. This decided position did not in reality make Israel's lot worse; but it had for the salvation of the Gentiles the excellent results which St. Paul develops in Romans 11:0. Far more than this, by this very chastisement, Israel became what it had refused to be by its salvation, the apostle of the world; and, like Judas its type, it fulfilled, willingly or unwillingly, its irrevocable commission; comp. Romans 11:7-45.11.10. Moreover, it is clear that, in the midst of this national judgment, every individual remained free to turn to God by repentance and to escape the general hardening. Joh 12:13 of Isaiah and Joh 12:42 of John are the proof of this.
As to the relation of the Jewish unbelief to the divine prevision ( Joh 12:37-38 ), John does not indicate the metaphysical theory by means of which he succeeds in reconciling the foreknowledge of God with the responsibility of man; he simply accepts these two data, the one of the religious sentiment, the other of the moral consciousness. But if we reflect that God is above time, that, properly speaking, He does not foresee an event which is for us yet to come, but that He sees it, absolutely as we behold a present event; that, consequently, when He declares it at any moment whatsoever, He does not foretell it, but describes it as a spectator and witness, the apparent contradiction between these two seemingly contradictory elements vanishes. Once foretold, the event undoubtedly cannot fail to happen, because the eye of God cannot have presented to Him as existing that which will not be. But the event does not exist because God has seen it; God, on the contrary, has seen it because it will be, or rather because to His view it already is. Thus the real cause of Jewish unbelief, foretold by God, is not the divine foreseeing. This cause is, in the last analysis, the moral state of the people themselves. This state it is which, when once established by the earlier unfaithfulnesses of Israel, necessarily implies the punishment of unbelief which must strike the people at the decisive moment, the judgment of hardening.
Ver. 41. “ This did Isaiah say, when he saw his glory and spoke of him. ”
John justifies in this verse the application which he has just made to Jesus Christ of the vision of Isaiah 6:0. The Adonai whom Isaiah beheld at that moment was the divine being who is incarnated in Jesus. Herein also John and Paul meet together; comp. 1 Corinthians 10:4, where Paul calls the one who guided Israel from the midst of the cloud Christ. Some interpreters have tried to refer the pronoun αὐτοῦ , of him, not to Christ, but to God. But the last words: and spoke of him, would be useless in this sense and this remark would be aimless in the context. The Alexandrian reading, “ because he saw,” instead of “ when he saw,” is adopted by Tischendorf, Weiss, Keil, etc. But it does not appear to me acceptable. Its only reasonable sense would be: “because he really saw his glory and spoke of Him so long beforehand (a thing which seems impossible).” But this reflection would be very coldly apologetic and quite useless for readers who were accustomed to hear the prophecies quoted. It is much more easy to understand how the conjunction ὅτε , which is quite rarely used, may have been replaced by ὅτι , which appears in every line, than how the reverse could have taken place. The ancient Latin and Syriac versions are agreed in supporting the received text. The sense of the latter is simple and perfectly suitable. “It was of Christ, who manifested Himself to him as Adonai, that Isaiah spoke when he uttered such words.” John proves that he has the right to apply this passage here.
It might be inferred from Joh 12:37-41 that no Jew had either believed or been able to believe; John 12:42-43.12.43, while completing this historical resume, remove this misapprehension, but, at the same time, explain the want of significance of these few exceptions with reference to the general course of the history.
Vv. 42, 43. “ It is true, nevertheless, that, even among the rulers, many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess their faith, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory which comes from men more than the glory which comes from God. ”
This exception confirms the rule, since it proves that, even where faith had been awakened, the fear of men suppressed the profession and development of it. We see from this remarkable expression how heavy was the yoke which Pharisaism made to rest as a burden upon Israel (see the parables of chap. 10). The moral cause of the hardening and blinding of the people ( Joh 12:40 ) was precisely this power of Pharisaic fanaticism, which was incompatible with the spirit of the Gospel. Respecting ὅμως , nevertheless, comp. Gal 3:15 ; 1 Corinthians 14:7. The words: lest they should be put out of the synagogue, confirm what was said in John 9:22. The word δόξα , in John 12:43, is taken nearly in its etymological sense: opinion, whence: approbation. The difference of reading ( ὐπέρ and ἤπερ ) is probably due to itacism (the pronouncing of η and υ as ι ). If ὑπέρ is read, there are two forms of comparison combined here, as if for the purpose of better setting forth the odiousness of such a preference. Those who are commonly ranked in the class of these cowardly persons, are men like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. I cannot adopt this application ( Joh 19:38-42 ). Those rather are in question who remained outwardly attached to the Jewish system, such as Gamaliel and many others, the Erasmuses of that time. On the necessity of profession for salvation, comp. Romans 10:10.
Vv. 44-46. “ Now Jesus cried, saying, He that believes on me, believes not on me, but on him that sent me; 45 and he that beholds me, beholds him that sent me; 46 I am come as a light into the world, that whosoever believes on me, may not abide in the darkness. ”
How many times had not Jesus borne witness to His full communion with the Father, that relation in which nothing obscured the manifestation in His person of this invisible Father of whom He was the organ! To believe on Him, is therefore to penetrate by the act of faith through the human person of Jesus even to the infinite source of every good which appears in Him (John 12:19-43.12.20; John 6:57; John 8:16; John 8:29; John 8:38; John 10:30; Joh 10:38 ).
The negation: He believes not on me, has its complete truth in this sense that the believer does not believe on the man Jesus as if He were come or had acted in His own name ( Joh 12:43 ); in Jesus, it is really God, and God only, who is the object of faith, since God alone appears in Him. It is not, therefore, necessary, to give to not the sense of not only. The sight, which is in question in John 12:45, is that which is developed along with faith itself, the intuition of the inmost being of the person who is beheld. As to the correlation of the two acts so intimately connected, believing and beholding, see John 6:40; John 6:69. Jesus, the living revelation of God, becomes, by means of this spiritual sight, the light of the soul (John 3:19; John 8:12; John 9:5; Joh 9:39 ). Thus he who believes in Jesus possesses God and by his faith attests the truth of God to the view of others ( Joh 3:33 ). What importance there is for a human being in the acceptance of such a manifestation! To the importance of faith corresponds that of the refusal to believe.
II. The Consequences of Faith and Unbelief: John 12:44-43.12.50 .
Israel was not only blinded with reference to the signs; it was deaf as regarded the testimonies which accompanied them, and this is what finally renders its unbelief unpardonable. Such is the meaning and spirit of this passage; it is not a summary of the teaching of Jesus in general. It is a resume made from the special standpoint of Jewish unbelief. The first part sets forth the privilege connected with faith ( Joh 12:44-46 ); the second, the condemnation which will strike unbelief ( Joh 12:47-48 ); the third, the reason of the gravity of these two moral facts which was so decisive ( Joh 12:49-50 ). Criticism rightly disputes the view that Jesus ever delivered the following discourse; it alleges, with good grounds, the absence of all indication relative to the occasion and locality in connection with which this discourse was given, as well as the want of any new idea (see Keim, for example). But it falls into error in concluding from this that there is an artificial composition here which the evangelist places in the mouth of Jesus ( de Wette), and in extending this conclusion to the discourses of Jesus, in general, in the fourth Gospel, discourses which are only the expression of the author's own thoughts ( Baur, Reuss, Hilgenfeld).
Is it admissible that the evangelist himself would have ever dreamed, at this point of his narrative, of presenting to us a discourse of Jesus as really uttered by him? This is, indeed, what those suppose who make Him speak thus on going out from the temple ( Lampe, Bengel), or at the time when he re- entered it again after the departure mentioned in John 12:36 ( Chrysostom, Hengstenberg), or in a private conversation in presence of His disciples ( Besser, Luthardt, 1st ed.). Of these three suppositions, the first two clash with John 12:36, which evidently indicates the closing of the public ministry of Jesus. The third, withdrawn by Luthardt himself (2d ed.), has against it the term ἔκραξε ( he cried aloud.) What, in addition, excludes the idea of a discourse really delivered by Jesus at this time, is that the passage contains only a series of reminiscences of all the previous teachings, and that it is the only one which is destitute of any indication of occasion, time and place. The evangelist has with Joh 12:36 ended his part as narrator as to this portion of the history. In Joh 12:37 he contemplates the mysterious fact which he has just described and meditates on its causes and consequences. There is then here a discourse composed by John, indeed; but he does not attribute it as such to Jesus; he gives it as the summary of all the testimonies of Jesus which the Jews ought to have believed, but which they rejected. Here precisely is the reason why this passage contains no new idea, and bears no indication of time or place. The aorists ( ἔκραξε , εἶπεν ), recall all the particular cases in which Jesus had pronounced such affirmations respecting Himself; they must be rendered thus: “And yet He had sufficiently said..., He had sufficiently cried aloud...” Or as Baumlein expresses it: “Jesus hatte aber laut erklart .” This interpretation forces itself more and more upon modern exegesis. Hence it follows that each one of the following declarations will rest upon a certain number of passages included in the preceding discourses. To the rejection of the miracles of Jesus which were the testimony of God, ( Joh 12:37-43 ), Jewish unbelief has added the rejection of the testimony of Jesus respecting Himself.
Vv. 47, 48. “ And if any one hear my sayings and keep them not, I judge him not; for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. 48. He that rejects me and receives not my sayings has already his judge; the word which I have spoken, this it is which will judge him at the last day. ”
Woe to him who does not believe on Jesus and His word in which He manifests Himself and bears testimony of Himself! As His presence is the pure manifestation of God, His word is the perfect revelation of the thought of God. This will be the one touchstone of the judgment. The declaration of Joh 12:47 does not exclude the personal role of Jesus in this great act. It merely says that the sentence which He will pronounce at that time will be simply that which will follow from the position which the man has taken with regard to His word; it is the idea of John 3:18 ( ἤδη κέκριται ), John 5:24; John 8:15. The reading φυλάξῃ , keep, is to be preferred to the received reading πιστεύσῃ (and believe not); for the former term is less common than the latter; it applies not to the keeping in the conduct with this meaning, Jesus employs the word τηρεῖν but to inward appropriation and possession. The last words of Joh 12:47 reproduce the idea of iii 17; comp. John 9:39; John 9:41.
In John 12:48, where the rejection of Jesus is identified with that of His words, the express mention of the last day is very remarkable. As Gess observes, “the moral judgment of humanity through the word is incessantly effected even now, according to the entire Gospel. And yet the notion of the last judgment is so indispensable in the thought of the evangelist, that he expresses it here as the limit without which the purely moral judgment would fail of its consummation” (II. p. 452). How is it that Reuss, Scholten, Hilgenfeld affirm that the final judgment is denied in our Gospel! And what is striking is that the evangelist mentions, in speaking thus, a fact which is not indicated in the saying of Jesus on which this is founded ( Joh 3:17 ). The last two verses explain the reason why the position taken by man with regard to Jesus and His word has so decisive an importance. It is because He has nothing of His own mingled in His teaching, and that He has transmitted it, as to substance and form, exactly as He received it from the Father.
Vv. 49, 50. “ For I have not spoken from myself; but the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what I should say and how I should say it; 50 and I know that his commandment is life eternal; what I say therefore I say even as my Father has said to me. ”
If the word of Jesus is the standard of judgment, it is because it is that of God Himself, both as to substance ( τί εἴπω ) and as to form ( τί λαλήσω ). The ἐντολή , the commandment, of which Jesus here speaks is not a mandate received once for all before leaving heaven. This idea is incompatible with Joh 3:34 , John 5:19-43.5.20; John 5:30, John 8:16 (see Gess, pp. 542, 543). Jesus receives for each case the commission which He has to fulfill; He hears before speaking, and He hears because He listens. This constant docility arises in Him ( Joh 12:50 ) from the certainty which he has of the vivifying and regenerating force of that word which the Father intrusts to Him. Whatever may be the objections which it excites, or the doubts which are set in opposition to it, He is conscious of its virtue by means of which it produces in souls eternal life. For this reason ( even as, John 12:50 b), He gives it to men just as He receives it, without allowing Himself to make any change in it. Comp. John 5:30; John 7:16-43.7.17; John 8:28; then John 6:63; John 6:68.
John formulates very exactly in these few propositions the absolute value which Jesus had constantly attributed to His person and His word. This summary cannot be that of a discourse which the evangelist had the consciousness of having himself composed. It is not possible that he would have drawn up this formidable charge against the unbelief of Israel in the name of discourses which Jesus had never given; still more impossible that he could have founded his indictment, in John 12:37, on miracles which were only inventions of his own. To attribute to him such a mode of proceeding would be to make him a shameless impostor or a madman.
And what is to be thought of the writer who should put into the mouth of Jesus these words: “ I have said nothing from myself; my Father has commanded me what I should say, and how I should say it,” and who should make Him say this, while having the consciousness of having himself made Him speak all along and of making Him still do so at this time? Are there not enough impossibilities here? Let us remark also how this retrospective glance, interrupting the narrative, fails of appropriateness if we suppose it to have been composed in the second century, at a time when the question of the rejection by the Jews was no longer an actuality; on the contrary, how natural it is on the part of a man who was himself an eye-witness of this abnormal and unexpected fact of Jewish unbelief.
Before leaving this second part of the gospel story, let us cast a glance backward over the course of the narrative. We have seen in process of accomplishment before our eyes, through all the vicissitudes so dramatically described, the development of the national unbelief and the progressive separation between a people almost wholly fanaticized by its rulers and a feeble minority of believers. Well! Let us for an instant, by a thought, suppress this entire picture, all these journeys of Jesus to Jerusalem, all these conflicts in the very centre of the theocracy as must be done as soon as we reject the credibility of our Gospel behold, we are in presence of the final catastrophe attested by the Synoptics no less than by St. John: How are we to explain this sudden and tragic denouement? Only by the collisions which took place in a retired province of the Holy Land on occasion of a few Sabbath cures? No: the serious historian, even when accounting for the entrance on Palm-day, can never dispense with this whole series of conflicts in Jerusalem at which we have just been present.
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Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on John 12". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent