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Vv. 1: “ And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. ”
A distance of somewhat more than twenty leagues, in a straight line, separates the place where John was baptizing, from Nazareth, to which Jesus was probably directing His course. This journey requires three days' walking. Weiss, Keil, and others, think that the first of these three days was the day after that on which Jesus had taken the resolution to depart ( Joh 1:44 ). But the resolution indicated by ἠθέλησεν has certainly been mentioned in Joh 1:44 only because it was executed at that very moment. The first day, according to the natural interpretation of the text, is, therefore, that which is indicated in Joh 1:44 as the day of departure. The second is understood; it was, perhaps, the one on which the meeting with Nathanael took place. On the third, the travelers could arrive at a quite early hour in the region of Cana and Nazareth. It was the sixth day since the one on which John had given his first testimony before the Sanhedrim ( Joh 1:19 ).
It is affirmed that there are at the present time in Galilee, two places of the name of Cana. One is said to be called Kana-el-Djelil ( Cana of Galilee), and to be situated about two hours and a half to the north of Nazareth; the other is called Kefr- Kenna ( village Cana); it is situated a league and a half eastward of Nazareth. It is there, that, ever since the eighth century, tradition places the event which is the subject of our narrative. Since Robinson brought the first into vogue, the choice has been ordinarily in its favor ( Ritter, Meyer); this is the view of Renan ( Vie de Jesus, p. 75). Hengstenberg almost alone, has decided for the second, for the reason that the first, as he says, is nothing but a ruin, and has no stable population, capable of preserving a sure tradition respecting the name of the place.
What if the name were itself only a fable. In any case, the situation of Kefr-Kenna answers better to our narrative. The date: “ the third day,” covers in fact, the whole of the following passage, as far as John 2:11; consequently, the miracle must have taken place on the very day of the arrival. Now even if he did not arrive at Nazareth until towards evening of the third day, Jesus might still have repaired before night to the very near village of Kefr-Kenna this would have been impossible in the case of the Cana of Robinson or even, what is more probable, He reached Kefr-Kenna directly from the south, without having passed through Nazareth. If Nathanael was coming from Cana ( Joh 21:2 ) at the time when Philip met him, he might inform Jesus of the celebration of the wedding, and of the presence of His family in that place a circumstance which induced Jesus to betake Himself thither directly. Let us add that the defining object of Galilee, which recurs in Joh 4:46 and John 21:2, must have been a standing designation, intended to distinguish this Cana from another place of the same name, situated outside of Galilee (comp. Joshua 19:28, the place of this name situated on the borders of Phoenicia). This designation would have meaning only as there was but one place of this name in Galilee.
The name of the mother of Jesus is not indicated, yet not precisely because John supposes the name to be known to the readers by tradition. It might have been added, even in that case, but because it is in her character of mother of Jesus that Mary is to play the principal part in the following narrative. There is no well-founded reason to suppose, with Ewald, Weiss, and Renan, that Mary had already for a long time been settled with her sons at Cana. How, in that case, should not Nathanael, who was of Cana, and Jesus, have been acquainted with each other before their recent meeting? How should the sisters of Jesus have been still dwelling in Nazareth ( Mar 6:3 )? The fact that it is not said that Mary and her sons had repaired from Nazareth to Cana because of the wedding evidently cannot prove anything. The expressions of John 2:1, much more naturally imply that Mary was at Cana only because of the wedding; (comp. besides, Philip's word to Nathanael, John 1:46: “ of Nazareth ”).
First Cycle: 1:19-2:11.
This cycle comprises three sections: 1. The testimonies borne by John the Baptist to Jesus, John 1:19-37; John 2:0. The first personal manifestations of Jesus and the faith of His first disciples, John 1:38-51; John 3:0. His first miraculous sign, John 2:1-11. The facts related in these three sections fill a week which forms, as Bengel has remarked, the counterpart of the final Passion-week. The one might be called the week of the betrothal of the Messiah to His people; the other the time of the absolute rupture long since announced by Jesus: “ When the bridegroom shall be taken away, then shall the friends of the bridegroom fast. ”
Third Section: 2:1-11. The First Miracle. Strengthening of Faith.
Jesus, after having been declared by John to be the Messiah, manifested Himself as such to His first disciples; an utterance of miraculous knowledge, in particular, had revealed the intimate relation which united Him with God. He now displays His glory before their eyes in a first act of omnipotence; and their faith, embracing this fact of an entirely new order, begins to raise itself to the height of its new object. Such is (according to Joh 2:11 ), the meaning of this passage. His first miracle takes place in the family circle. It is, as it were, the point of connection between the obscurity of the private life, to which Jesus has confined Himself until now, and the public activity which He is about to begin. All the sweet and amiable qualities by which He has, until now, adorned the domestic hearth, display themselves once more, but with a new brightness. It is the divine impress which His last footstep leaves in this inner domain; it is His royal farewell to His relation as son, as brother, as kinsman.
ADDITIONAL NOTES BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR.
X. CHAPTER II.
1. The first eleven verses of ch. 2 are evidently connected with the first chapter, because of the continuance of the designation of the days, because of the fact that in Joh 2:11 the miracle is connected with the faith of the disciples mentioned, and because the story of the public life of Jesus and His first Messianic appearance evidently begins with John 2:13. The historical introduction, accordingly, closes with John 2:12.
The explanation of the design of the miracle recorded in these verses is thus easily seen to be that which the writer indicates in John 2:11; it was to manifest the glory of Jesus before these disciples, to the end of confirming their belief in Him. Any other purpose, such as that of turning the minds of the disciples away from the severities of the old system to the free, joyful service of the new, must have been altogether subordinate and secondary. The book is written for testimony and its results, and the miracle was needed now for testimony. It was of the highest importance that these five or six men, who were to be apostles, should be established in their faith at this time. The character of the miracle was determined, as all the miracles of Jesus' life seem to have been, by the circumstances which presented themselves. So, in this case, it was a miracle at a wedding and a miracle of turning water into wine. That it taught or might teach other lessons was incidental; that it taught faith was the reason for performing it. It was a σημεῖον .
As to particular points in these verses, it may be remarked:
1. In the presentation of the story we may see that the writer is guided by the end which he has in view. The circumstances mentioned set forth the striking character of the miracle and its reality, and the narrative also makes prominent the words addressed by Jesus to His mother. The first two of these points have a direct bearing, evidently, on the manifestation of His glory ( Joh 2:11 ). There can be little doubt that the same is true of the third. The words that are found in Joh 2:3-5 look towards a miraculous work as a possibility.
2. The answer of Jesus in Joh 2:4 can hardly be explained, if the request of Mary was only that He would, in some ordinary way, help the family out of their present embarrassment. This was so reasonable a suggestion on her part, it would seem, that He could not have replied to it either with such an element of severity in His words or with such a form of expression. Her meaning, therefore, must apparently have involved something beyond this. The instance most nearly resembling this, in which we find in this Gospel the words “ my (or, the) hour (or time) is not yet come,” is that in John 7:6, where the brethren of Jesus urge Him to make Himself known more publicly at Jerusalem. We may believe that, on the present occasion also, there was somewhat of the same thought in His mother's mind. She must have been looking for the time when He would come forward publicly; she must have expected it with increasing interest, and with even impatient desire perchance, as He moved forward in His manhood; she must have thought it near when He left her for John's baptism; she may even have known from Himself that it was near. He had now returned from the baptism with disciples why should not this be the time? Whether we are to understand, therefore, that she was asking for an exhibition of miraculous power in the particular emergency of the hour or not, it seems impossible to doubt that there was in her mind some call for a display on His part of His Messianic character and dignity which should go, in its publicity and effect, beyond the company then present, and become in itself the assumption as if before the world, of His office. The time for this had not yet come. The path which opened to His mind and that which opened to hers were different. He must go forward by slow steps, and begin by simply confirming the faith of the few disciples who were the foundations of His Church.
Ver. 2. “ Now Jesus also was bidden to the marriage, as well as His disciples. ”
There is a contrast between the imperfect, was there, which is used in speaking of Mary, and the aorist was bidden, applied to Jesus and His disciples. Jesus was bidden only on His arrival, while Mary, at that time, was already there. It appears from all these points that the family in question was quite closely related to that of the Lord; this is likewise proved by the authoritative attitude which Mary assumes in the following scene.
The singular, was bidden, is owing to the fact that the disciples were not bidden except in honor, and, as it were, in the person, of their Master. Rilliet, with some commentators, translates: had been bidden. But when? Before going to His baptism ( Schleiermacher), or later, through a messenger? Two very improbable suppositions. Moreover, the added words: as well as His disciples, are incompatible with this meaning. For they could not have been invited before it was known that Jesus had disciples.
Ver. 3. “ And when the wine failed, the mother of Jesus saith to Him: They have no wine. ”
The marriage feasts sometimes continued several days, even a whole week (Genesis 29:27; Judges 14:15; Tob. 9:12; 10:1). The failure of the wine is commonly explained by this circumstance. However this may be, it is scarcely possible to doubt that this failure was connected with the unexpected arrival of six or seven guests, Jesus and His disciples. The reading of the Sinaitic MS.: “And they had no more wine, for the wine of the wedding-feast was entirely consumed,” is evidently a diluted paraphrase of the primitive text?
What does Mary mean by saying to Jesus: “ They have no wine? ” Bengel and Paulus have thought that Mary wished to induce Jesus to withdraw and thus to give the rest of the company the signal to depart. The reply of Jesus would signify: “What right hast thou to prescribe to me? The hour for leaving has not yet come for me.” Such an explanation has no need to be refuted. The expression “ my hour,” always used, in our Gospel, in a grave and solemn sense, would be enough to make us feel the impossibility of it. The same thing is true of Calvin's explanation, according to which Mary wished “to admonish Jesus to offer some religious exhortation, for fear that the company might be wearied, and also courteously to cover the shame of the bridegroom.”
This expression, “ They have no wine,” has a certain analogy to the message of the sisters of Lazarus: “ He whom thou lovest is sick. ” It is certainly a tacit request for assistance. But how does it occur to Mary to resort to Jesus in order to ask His aid in a case of this kind? Does she dream of a miracle? Meyer, Weiss and Reuss think not; for, according to John 2:11, Jesus had not yet performed any. Mary, thus, would only think of natural aid, and the reply of Jesus, far from rejecting this request as an inconsiderate claim, would mean: “Leave me to act! I have in my possession means of which thou knowest not, and whose effect thou shalt see as soon as the hour appointed by my Father shall have struck.” After this, the order of Mary to the servants, “ Do whatsoever He shall say to you,” presents no further difficulty. But this explanation, which supposes that Mary asks less than what Jesus is disposed to do, is contradictory to the natural meaning of the words “ What is there between me and thee? ” which lead rather to the supposition of an encroachment by Mary on a domain which Jesus reserves exclusively to Himself, an inadmissible interference in His office as Messiah. Besides, by what means other than a miracle could Jesus have extricated the bridegroom from his embarrassment? Meyer gives no explanation of this point. Weiss thinks of friends (like Nathanael) who had relations at Cana, and by means of whom Jesus could provide a remedy for the condition of things. But even in this sense we cannot understand the answer of Jesus, by which He certainly wishes to cause Mary to go back within her own bounds, beyond which she had, consequently, just passed. What she wished to ask for, is therefore a striking, miraculous aid worthy of the Messiah.
Whence can such an idea have come to her mind? Hase and Tholuck have supposed that Jesus had already wrought miracles within the limits of His family. Joh 2:11 excludes this hypothesis. Lucke amends it, by saying that He had simply manifested, in the perplexities of domestic life, peculiar gifts and skill: one of those convenient middle-course suggestions which are frequently met with in this commentator and which have procured for him such vigorous censure on the part of Baur. It affirms, in fact, too much or too little. It seems to me that the state of extraordinary exaltation is forgotten in which, at this moment, that whole company, and especially Mary, must have been. Can it be imagined for an instant, that the disciples had not related everything which had just occurred in Judea, the solemn declarations of John the Baptist, the miraculous scene of the baptism proclaimed by John, the proof of supernatural knowledge which Jesus had given on meeting Nathanael, finally that magnificent promise of greater things impending, of an open heaven, of angels ascending and descending, which their eyes were going henceforth to behold? How should not the expectation of the marvelous that seeking after miracles, which St. Paul indicates as the characteristic feature of Jewish piety have existed, at that moment, in all those who were present, in the highest degree?
The single fact that Jesus arrived surrounded by disciples, must have been sufficient to make them understand that a new phase was opening at that hour, that the time of obscurity and retirement had come to its end, and that the period of Messianic manifestations was about to begin. Let us add, finally, with reference to Mary herself, the mighty waking up of recollections, so long held closely in her maternal heart, the return of her thoughts to the marvelous circumstances which accompanied the birth of her son. The hour so long and so impatiently waited for had, then, at last struck! Is it not to her, Mary, that it belongs to give the decisive signal of this hour? She is accustomed to obedience from her Son; she does not doubt that He will act at her suggestion. If the words of Mary are carried back to this general situation, we easily understand that what she wishes is not merely aid given to the embarrassed bridegroom, but, on this occasion, a brilliant act fitted to inaugurate the Messianic royalty.
On the occasion of this failure of the wine, she sees the heaven opening, the angel descending, a marvelous manifestation exhibiting itself and opening the series of wonders. Any other difficulty in life would have served her as a pretext for seeking to obtain the same result: “Thou art the Messiah: it is time to show thyself!” As to Jesus, the temptation in the wilderness is here seen reproducing itself in its third form ( Luk 4:9 ). He is invited to make an exhibition of His miraculous power by passing beyond the measure strictly indicated by the providential call. It is what He can no more do at the prayer of His mother than at the suggestion of Satan or at the demand of the Pharisees. Hence the tone of Jesus' reply, the firmness of which goes even to the point of severity.
Ver. 4. “ Jesus saith to her: What is there between me and thee, woman? My hour is not yet come. ”
Jesus makes Mary sensible of her incompetency in the region into which she intrudes. The career on which He has just entered, is that in which He depends only on His Father; His motto henceforth is: My Father and I. Mary must learn to know in her son the servant of Jehovah, of Jehovah only. The expression “ What is there between me and thee? ” is a frequent one in the Old Testament. Comp. Jdg 11:12 ; 2 Samuel 16:10; 1 Kings 17:18; 2 Kings 3:13. We even meet it, sometimes, in profane Greek; thus the reply of a Stoic to a jester is quoted, who asked him, at the moment when their vessel was about to sink, whether shipwreck was an evil or not: “What is there between us and thee, O man? We perish, and thou permittest thyself to jest!” This formula signifies, that the community of feeling to which one of the interlocutors appeals is rejected by the other, at least in the particular point which is in question. Mary had, no doubt, well understood that a great change was being wrought in the life of her son; but, as often happens with our religious knowledge, she had not drawn from this grave fact the practical consequence which concerned her personally. And thus, as Baumlein says, Jesus finds Himself in a position to reject the influence which she presumes still to exercise over Him. The address γύναι , woman, is thereby explained. In the language in which Jesus spoke, as well as in the Greek language, this term involves nothing contrary to respect and affection. In Dio Cassius, a queen is accosted by Augustus with this expression. Jesus Himself uses it in addressing His mother at a moment of inexpressible tenderness, when, from His elevation on the cross, He speaks to her for the last time, John 19:26. Here this expression, entirely respectful though it may be, gives Mary to understand, that, in the sphere on which Jesus has just entered, her title of mother has no longer any part to play.
“Here for Mary,” as Luthardt well observes, “is the beginning of a painful education.” The middle point of this education will be marked by the question of Jesus, “ Who is my mother, and who are my brethren? ” (Luke 8:19 f.) The end will be that second address: Woman ( Joh 19:26 ), which will definitely break the earthly relation between the mother and the son. Mary feels at this moment, for the first time, the point of the sword which, at the foot of the cross, shall pierce through her heart. After having made her sensible of her incompetency, Jesus gives the ground of His refusal.
The words: “ My hour is not yet come ” have been understood by Euthymius, Meyer, Hengstenberg, Lange and Riggenbach ( Leben des Herru Jesu, p. 374), in a very restricted sense: “the hour for performing the desired miracle.” The following words of Mary to the servants, according to this view, would imply two things: the first, that Jesus received a little later from His Father an inward sign which permitted Him to comply with His mother's wish; and the second, that by a gesture or a word, He made known to her this new circumstance. This is to add much to the text. Besides, how could Jesus, before having received any indication of His Father's will, have said: “not yet,” a word which would necessarily mean that the permission will be granted Him later. Finally, this weakened sense which is here given to the expression “ my hour ” does not correspond with the solemn meaning which is attached to this term throughout our whole Gospel. If it were desired to hold to this weakened meaning, it would be still better to give to this clause, with Gregory of Nazianzum, an interrogative turn: “Is not the hour (of my emancipation, of my autonomy) come? ”
Let us remark that the expression “ my hour ” is here connected with the verb is come, as in all the passages in John where it is taken in its weightiest sense: “ His hour was not yet come ” (John 7:30; John 8:20, comp. Joh 13:1 ); “ The hour is come ” (John 12:23; Joh 17:1 ). His hour, in all these passages, is that of His Messianic manifestation, especially through His death and through the glorification which should follow it. The analogous expression my time, John 7:6, is also applied to His Messianic manifestation, but through the royal entry into Jerusalem. This is the meaning which seems to me to prevail here. Jesus makes known to Mary, impatient to see Him mount the steps of His throne, that the hour of the inauguration of His Messianic royalty has not yet struck. It is in His capital, Jerusalem, in His palace, the Temple, and not in the centre of His family, that His solemn manifestation as Messiah must take place (Malachi 3:1: “ And then He shall enter into His temple ”).
This sense of the expression “ my hour ” could not be strange to the mind of Mary. How many times, in her conversations with Jesus, she had doubtless herself used this expression when asking Him: Will thine hour come at last? That hour was the one towards which all her desire as an Israelite and a mother moved forward. Jesus rejects Mary's request, but only so far as it has something of ambition. How often in His conversations, He replies less to the question which is addressed to Him than to the spirit in which it is put (comp. John 2:19; John 3:3; Joh 6:26 ). He thus lays hold of the person of His interlocutor even in his inmost self. Mary desires a brilliant miracle, as a public sign of His coming. Jesus penetrates this ambitious thought and traces a boundary for Mary's desires which she should no more attempt to cross. But this does not prevent His understanding that along with this, there is something to be done in view of the present difficulty.
Ver. 5. “ His mother says to the servants, Whatsoever he says to you, “ do it. ” Something in the tone and expression of Jesus gives Mary to understand that this refusal leaves a place for a more moderate granting of the desire. Perhaps in this narrative, which is so summary, there is here the omission of a circumstance which the reader may supply for himself from what follows (precisely like that which occurs in Joh 11:28 ), a circumstance which gives occasion to the charge of Mary to the servants: “ Do whatsoever He shall tell you. ”
How, at this moment of heavenly joy, when Jesus was receiving His Spouse from the hands of His Father, could He have altogether refused the prayer of her who, during thirty years, had been taking the most tender care of Him, and from whom He was about to separate Himself forever? Jesus, without having need of any other sign of His Father's will, grants to the faith of His mother a hearing analogous to that which, at a later time, He did not refuse to a stranger, a Gentile ( Mat 15:25 ). If criticism has found in the obscurities of this dialogue an evidence against the truth of the account, it is an ill-drawn conclusion. This unique conciseness is, on the contrary, the seal of its authenticity. By the expression: Whatsoever He says to you, Mary reserves full liberty of action to her Son, and thus enters again within her own bounds, which she had tried to overstep.
Ver. 6. “ Now there were there six water-pots of stone, according to the usual manner of purifying among the Jews, containing two or three measures apiece. ”
᾿Εκεῖ , there, denotes, according to Meyer, the banqueting room itself. Is it not more natural to imagine these urns placed in the court or in the vestibule at the entrance of the hall? The ninth verse proves that all this occurred out of the bridegroom's sight, who was himself in the room. These vases were designed for the purification either of persons or utensils, such as was usual among pious Jews, especially before or after meals (Matthew 15:2; Luke 11:38; particularly, Mark 7:1-4.) Κατά , not with a view to, but according to its natural sense, in conformity with. This preposition has reference to the complement τῶν᾿Ιουδαίων : conformably to the mode of purification customary among the Jews. John expresses himself thus because he is writing among Gentiles and as no longer belonging to the Jewish community. ᾿Ανά has evidently, considering the very precise number six, the distributive sense ( singulae), not the approximative meaning ( about). The measure which is spoken of was of considerable size; its capacity was 27 litres ( Rilliet) or even 38 ( Keil) or 39 ( Arnaud). The entire contents might, therefore, reach even to about 500 litres. [The litre is a measure nearly corresponding with the English quart.]
This quantity has seemed too considerable, it has even scandalized certain critics ( Strauss, Schweizer), who have found here an indication of the falsity of the account.Lucke replies that all the water was not necessarily changed into wine. This supposition is contrary to the natural meaning of the text; the exact indication of the capacity of the vessels certainly implies the contrary.
Let us rather say that when once Jesus yields to the desire of His mother, he yields with all His heart, as a son, a friend, a man, with an inward joy. It is His first miraculous sign; it must give high testimony of His wealth, of His munificence, of the happiness which He has in relieving, even in giving gladness; it must become the type of the fullness of grace, of joy and of strength which the only-begotten Son brings to the earth. There is, moreover, nothing in the text to lead us to suppose that all the wine must have been consumed at this feast. It was the rich wedding gift by which the Lord honored this house where He with his attendants had just been hospitably received.
Perhaps the number six was expressly called to mind, because it corresponded precisely with the number of persons who accompanied Jesus. This gift was thus, as it were, a testimony of the gratitude on the part of the disciples themselves to their host; it was, at all events, the enduring monument of the Master's benediction upon the youthful household formed under His auspices. How can criticism put itself in collision with everything that is most truly human in the Gospel? Moreover, what a feeling of lively pleasure is expressed in the following words! Jesus foresees the joyous surprise of His host:
Vv. 7, 8. “ Jesus says to them, Fill the water-pots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. 8. And he says to them, Draw out now and bear unto the ruler of the feast. And they bore it. ”
We should not understand γεμίσατε , fill, in the sense of filling up, nor allege in support of this meaning the words ἕως ἄνω , up to the brim; the matter thus understood has something repugnant in it. Either the urns were empty in consequence of the ablutions which had taken place before the repast, or they were beginning by emptying them, in order to fill them afterwards anew. The: up to the brim serves to make the ardor with which the work was done apparent. The moment of the miracle must be placed between John 2:7-8; since the transformation is presupposed as accomplished by the word now of John 2:8. This now, as well as the words: bear it, breathes a spirit of overflowing joy and even gaiety. The person here called ruler of the feast was not one of the guests; he was the chief of the servants: it belonged to his office to taste the meats and drinks before they were placed upon the table. He ordinarily bears in Greek the name τραπεζοποιός .
Vv. 9, 10. “ When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water which was made wine and he knew not whence it came, but the servants who had drawn the water knew the ruler of the feast calls the bridegroom, 10, and says to him, Every one serves first the good wine, and when men have become drunken, then that which is worse; thou hast kept the good wine until now. ”
The words ὕδωρ οἶνον γεγεννημένον , the water become wine, admit of no other sense than that of a miraculous transformation. The natural process by which the watery sap is transformed every year in the vine-stock ( Augustine), or that by which mineral waters are formed ( Neander), offers, indeed, a remote analogy, but not at all a means of explanation. The parenthesis which includes the words καὶ οὐκ ... ὕδωρ presents a construction perfectly analogous to that of Joh 1:10 and John 6:21-23.
This parenthesis is designed to make the reality of the miracle apparent, by reminding the reader, on the one hand, that the servants did not know that it was wine which they were bearing, and on the other, that the ruler of the feast had not been present when the event occurred. Weiss makes the clause καὶ οὐκ ἤδει πόθεν ἐστίν also depend on ὡς , and commences the parenthesis only with οἱ δέ ...This is undoubtedly possible, but less natural as it seems to me. He calls the bridegroom; the latter was in the banqueting hall. Some have desired by all means to give a religious import to the pleasantry of the ruler of the feast, by attributing to it a symbolic meaning; on one side, the world, which begins by offering to man the best which it has, to abandon him afterwards to despair; on the other, God, always surpassing Himself in His gifts, and, after the austere law, offering the delicious wine of the Gospel.
There was by no means anything of this sort in the consciousness of the speaker, and no indication appears that the evangelist attached such a sense to the words. This saying is simply related in order to show with what entire unreservedness Jesus gave Himself up to the common joy, by giving not only abundantly but excellently. There is here, also, one of the rays of His δόξα ( glory). For the rest, it is not at all necessary to weaken the sense of μεθυσθῶσι , to be drunken, in order to remove from the guests at the wedding all suspicion of intemperance. This saying has a proverbial sense, and does not refer to the company at Cana.
Ver. 11. “ This first of his miracles Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and he manifested his glory, and his disciples believed on him. ”
John characterizes under four important relations the miracle which he has just related. 1. This was the first, not only of the miracles performed at Cana, but of all the miracles of Jesus. As here was a decisive moment in the revelation of the Lord and in the faith of the disciples, John brings out this fact with emphasis. The Alexandrian authorities have rejected the article τήν before ἀρχήν , without doubt as being superfluous on account of ταύτην .
But, as is frequently the case with them, when desiring to correct, they spoil. Without the article, the attention is rather drawn to the nature of the miracle: “It was by this prodigy that Jesus began to work miracles.” By the article the notion itself of a beginning is more strongly emphasized: “ That fact...was the true beginning...” The second of these ideas is as thoroughly an essential element in the context, as we shall see, as the first is foreign to it. 2. John recalls a second time, in closing, the place where the event occurred. The design of this repetition cannot be purely geographical. We shall see, in Joh 3:24 and John 4:54, how anxious John was to distinguish between the two returns of Jesus to Galilee ( Joh 1:44 and Joh 4:1-3 ), which had been united in one by tradition, and this is the reason why he expressly points out how the one and the other of these two returns was signalized by a miracle accomplished at Cana. According to Hengstenberg, the defining words of Galilee recall the prophecy of Isa 8:22 to Isaiah 9:1, according to which the glory of the Messiah was to be manifested in Galilee. This aim would be admissible in Matthew; it seems foreign to the narrative of John 3:0. John indicates the purpose of the miracle. He uses here, for the first time, the term sign ( σημεῖον ) which is in harmony with the following expression: “ He manifested His glory. ” The miracles of Jesus are not mere wonders ( τέρατα ), designed to strike the imagination.
A close relation exists between these marvelous acts and the person of Him who performs them. They are visible emblems of what He is and of what He comes to do, and, as Reuss says, “radiant images of the permanent miracle of the manifestation of Christ.” The glory of Christ is, above all, His dignity as Son and the eternal love which His Father has for Him. Now this glory is, in its very nature, concealed from the eyes of the inhabitants of the earth; but the miracles are the brilliant signs of it. They manifest the unlimited freedom with which the Son disposes of all things, and thus demonstrate the perfect love of the Father towards Him: “ The Father loveth the Son and hath given all things into His hands ” ( Joh 3:35 ). The expression “ His glory” makes a profound distinction between Jesus and all the divine messengers who had accomplished like wonders before Him. In the miracles of the other divine messengers the glory of Jehovah is seen ( Exo 16:7 ); those of Jesus reveal His own, by bearing witness in concert with His words, to His filial position. The expression His glory contains, moreover, all of His own that Jesus puts into the act which He has just performed, the love full of tenderness with which He makes use of divine omnipotence in the service of His own. 4. John, finally, sets forth the result of this miracle. Evoked at first by testimony, faith was strengthened by personal contact with Jesus, its object. Now in the course of this personal relation, it makes such experience of the power and goodness of Him to whom it is attached, that it finds itself thereby immovably confirmed. Doubtless it will grow every day in proportion as such experiences shall multiply; but from this moment it has passed through the three essential phases of its formation: testimony, personal contact and experience. This is what John expresses by the words: “ And his disciples believed on him. ” These glorious irradiations from the person of Jesus, which are called miracles, are, therefore, designed not only, as apologetics often assume, to strike the eyes of the still unbelieving multitude and to stimulate the delaying, but, especially, to illuminate the hearts of believers, by revealing to them, in this world of suffering, all the riches of the living object of their faith.
What took place in the minds of the other witnesses of this scene? John's silence leads us to suppose that the impression produced was neither profound nor enduring. This is because the miracle, in order to act efficaciously, must be understood as a sign ( Joh 6:26 ), and because to this end certain moral predispositions are necessary. The impression of astonishment which the guests experienced, not connecting itself with any spiritual need, with any struggle of conscience, was soon effaced by the distractions of life.
On the Miracle of Cana.
Objections of two sorts are raised against the reality of this event: the one class bear on miracles in general; the other, on this one in particular. We do not concern ourselves with the first. We think there is nothing more opposed to the sound method the method called experimental than to begin by declaring, as a principle, the impossibility of a miracle. To say that there has never been a miracle until now, be it so. This is a point for examination. But to say that there cannot be one, is to make metaphysics, not history; it is to throw oneself into the a: priori, which is repudiated.
The objections which relate especially to the miracle of Cana are:
1. Its magical character ( Schweizer). The difference between the magical and the miraculous is, that, in the former, the supernatural power works in vacuo, dispensing with already existing nature, while in the second, the divine force respects the first creation and always connects its working with material furnished by it. Now, in this case, Jesus does not use His power to create, as Mary undoubtedly was expecting; He contents Himself with transforming that which is. He remains, thus, within the limits of the Biblical supernatural.
2. The uselessness of the miracle is made an objection. It is “a miracle of luxury,” according to Strauss. Let us rather say with Tholuck, “a miracle of love.” We think we have shown this. It might even be regarded as the payment of a double debt: to the bridegroom, for whom the Lord's arrival had caused this embarrassment, and to Mary, to whom Jesus, before leaving her, was paying His debt of gratitude. The miracle of Cana is the miracle of filial piety, as the resurrection of Lazarus is that of fraternal affection. The symbolic interpretations, by means of which it has been desired to explain the purpose of this miracle, seem to us artificial: to set the Gospel joy in opposition to the ascetic rigor of John the Baptist ( Olshausen); to represent the miraculous transformation of the legal into spiritual life ( Luthardt). Would not such intentions betray themselves in some word of the text?
3. This miracle is even charged with immorality. Jesus, it is said, countenanced the intemperance of the guests. “With the same right one might demand,” answers Hengstenberg, “that God should not grant good vintages because of drunkards.” The presence of Jesus and, afterwards, the thankful remembrance of his hosts would guarantee the holy use of this gift.
4. The omission of this story in the Synoptics seems to the adversaries the strongest argument against the reality of the event. But this miracle belongs still to the family life of Jesus; it does not form a part of the acts of His public ministry. Moreover, as we have seen, it has its place in an epoch of the ministry of Jesus, which, by reason of the confusion of the first two returns to Galilee, had disappeared from the tradition. The aim of John in restoring this event to light was precisely to re-establish the distinction between these two returns and, at the same time, to recall one of the first and principal landmaks of the development of the apostolic faith (comp. Joh 2:11 ).
Do not a multitude of proofs demonstrate the fragmentary character of the oral tradition which is recorded in the Synoptics? How can we explain the omission in our four Gospels of the appearance of the risen Jesus to the five hundred? And yet this fact is one of the most solidly attested ( 1Co 15:6 ).
If we reject the reality of the miracle as it is so simply related by the evangelist, what remains for us? Three suppositions:
1. The natural explanation of Paulus or of Gfrorer : Jesus had agreed with a tradesman to have wine brought secretly, during the feast, which He caused to be served to the guests mixed with water. By His reply to Mary, John 2:4, He wishes to induce her simply not to injure the success of the entertainment which He has prepared, and the hour for which has not yet come, through an indiscretion. “The glory of Jesus ( Joh 2:11 ), is the exquisite humanity which characterizes His amiable proceeding ( Paulus). Or it is to Mary herself that the honor of this attention is ascribed. She has had the wine prepared, in order to offer it as a wedding present; and at the propitious moment she makes a sign to Jesus to cause it to be served (Gfrorer). Renan seems not far from adopting the one or the other of these explanations. He says in vague terms: “Jesus went willingly to marriage entertainments. One of His miracles was performed, it is said, to enliven a village wedding” (p. 195). Weiss adopts a form of the natural explanation which is less incompatible with the seriousness of Jesus' character (see above on Joh 2:3 ): nevertheless, he acknowledges that John believed that he was relating a miracle and meant to do so. But could this apostle, then, be so completely deceived respecting the nature of a fact which he himself related as an eye-witness? Jesus must, in that case, have intentionally allowed an obscurity to hover over the event, which was fitted to deceive His nearest friends. The seriousness of the Gospel history protests against these parodies which end in making Jesus a village charlatan.
2. The mythical explanation of Strauss: Legend invented this miracle after the analogy of certain facts related in the Old Testament, e.g., Exodus 15:23 ff., where Moses purifies bitter waters by means of a certain sort of wood; 2 Kings 2:19, where Elisha does something similar. But there is not the least real analogy between these facts and those before us here. Moreover, the perfect simplicity of the narrative, and even its obscurities, are incompatible with such an origin. “The whole tenor of the narrative,” says Baur himself (recalling the judgment of de Wette), “by no means authorizes us to assume the mythical character of the account.”
3. The ideal explanation of Baur, Keim, etc. According to the first, the pseudo-John made up this narrative as a pure invention, to represent the relation between the two baptisms, that of John (the water) and that of Jesus (the wine). According to the second, the evangelist invented this miracle on the basis of that saying of Jesus: “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them....They put new wine into new bottles” (Matthew 9:15; Mat 9:17 ). The water in the vessels represents, thus, the insufficient purifications offered by Judaism and the baptism of John. The worse wine, with which ordinarily the beginning is made, is also Judaism, which was destined to give place to the better wine of the Gospel. The delay of Jesus represents the fact that His coming followed that of John the Baptist. His hour is that of His death, which substitutes for the previous imperfect purifications the true purification through the blood of Christ, in consequence of which is given the joyous wine of the Holy Spirit, etc....In truth, if our desire were to demonstrate the reality of the event as it is simply related by John, we could not do it in a more convincing way than by explanations like these, which seem to be the parody of criticism. What! shall this refined idealism, which was the foundation and source even of the narrative, betray itself nowhere in the smallest word of the story! Shall it envelop itself in the most simple, prosaic, sober narrative which carries conciseness even to obscurity! To our view, the apostolic narrative, by its character of simplicity and truth, will always be the most eloquent defender of the reality of the fact.
Before leaving this first cycle of narratives, we must further take notice of a judgment of Renan respecting this beginning of our Gospel (p. 109): “The first pages of the fourth Gospel are incongruous notes carelessly put together. The strict chronological order which they exhibit arises from the author's taste for apparent precision.” But exegesis has shown, on the contrary, that if there is a passage in our Gospels where all things are linked together and are strictly consecutive, not only as to time, but also as to substance and idea, it is this one. The days are enumerated, the hours even mentioned: it is the description of a continuous week, answering to that of the final week. More than this: the intrinsic connection of the facts is so close that Baur could persuade himself that he had to deal with an ideal and systematic conception, presented under an historic form. The farther the Gospel narrative advances, the more does Renan himself render homage to its chronological exactness. He ends by taking it almost exclusively as a guide for his narration. And the beginning of such a story, whose homogeneity is evident, is nothing but an accidental collection of “notes carelessly put together!” This, at all events, has little probability.
Ver. 12. “ After this, he went down to Capernaum, he and his mother and his brethren and his disciples, and they abode there not many days. ”
From Cana Jesus undoubtedly returned to Nazareth. For it was the latter place which He had in view when returning from Judea, rather than Cana to which He was only accidentally called. Weiss finds this hypothesis arbitrary. He prefers to hold that the family of Mary had already before this left Nazareth to settle in Cana. It seems to me that this is the supposition which merits precisely the name of an arbitrary one (see on Joh 2:1 ). From Nazareth Jesus and His family removed at that time to Capernaum, as is related also by Matthew, Matthew 4:13: “ Having left Nazareth, He came and dwelt at Capernaum. ” It is only necessary to recognize the fact that Matthew unites in one the first two returns to Galilee (John 1:44; Joh 4:1-3 ), which John so accurately distinguishes. From his point of view, Weiss is obliged to see in our twelfth verse only the account of a mere visit, which was made by Jesus' family from Cana to friends at Capernaum. But what purpose does it serve to mention a detail so insignificant and one which would not have had any importance? Jesus' mother and brethren accompanied Him. No doubt, under the impression produced by the miracle of Cana, and by the accounts of the disciples, His family were unwilling to abandon Him at this moment.
They all desired to see how the drama which had just opened would unfold. This detail of John's narrative is confirmed by Mark 6:3, from which it appears that the sisters of Jesus, probably already married, had alone remained at Nazareth, and by Mark 3:21-31, which is most naturally explained if the brothers of Jesus were settled with Mary at Capernaum. As for Jesus, He had not, for the time, the intention of making a prolonged stay in that city. It was only later, when He was obliged to abandon Judea, that He fixed His ordinary residence at Capernaum, and that that place became His own city ( Mat 9:1 ). We may discover in the words of Luk 4:23 an indication of this brief visit, previous to His settlement in that city. Thus a considerable difficulty in the narrative of Luke would be resolved and the accuracy of his sources would be verified in respect to one of the points most assailed in his narrative. Capernaum was a city of considerable commerce. It was located on the route of the caravans which passed from Damascus and from the interior of Asia to the Mediterranean. There was a custom-house there (Luke 5:27 f.). It was, in some sort, the Jewish capital of Galilee, as Tiberias was its Gentile or Roman capital. Jesus would have less narrow prejudices to meet there than at Nazareth, and many more opportunities to propagate the Gospel. The word κατέβη , went down, is due to the fact that Cana and Nazareth were situated on the plateau, and Capernaum on the shore of the lake. The silence preserved respecting Joseph leads to the supposition that he had died before this period. Before calling His disciples to follow Him definitely, Jesus, no doubt, granted them the satisfaction of finding themselves once more, like Himself, in the family circle. It was from that circle that he called them again. (See p. 361.)
What is the true meaning of the expression: the brethren of Jesus? This question, as is well known, is one of the most complicated ones of the Gospel history. Must we understand by it brothers, in the proper sense of the word, the issue of Joseph and Mary and younger than Jesus? Or sons of Joseph, the issue of a marriage previous to his union with Mary? Or, finally, are we to hold that they are not sons either of Joseph or of Mary, and that the word brother must be taken in the broad sense of cousins? From the exegetical point of view, two reasons appear to us to support the first of these three opinions: 1. The two passages, Matthew 1:25: “He knew her not until she brought forth her first-born son” (or, according to the Alexandrian reading “ her son ”), and Luke 2:7: “she brought forth her first-born son.” 2. The proper sense of the word brothers is the only natural one in the phrase: his mother and his brethren. The following appendix will give a general exposition of the question.
The Brethren of Jesus.
The oldest traditions, if we mistake not, unanimously assign brothers to Jesus, and not merely cousins. They differ only in this point, that these brothers are, according to some, sons of Joseph and Mary, younger brothers of Jesus; according to others, children of Joseph, the issue of a first marriage. The idea of making the brothers of Jesus in the New Testament cousins, seems to go no further back than Jerome and Augustine, although Keim (I., p. 423) claims to find it already in Hegesippus and Clement of Alexandria. (Comp. on this question, the excellent dissertation of Philip Schaff: Das Verhaltniss des Jacobus, Bruders des Herrn, zu Jacobus Alphaei, 1843.) Let us begin by studying the principal testimonies: Hegesippus, whom Eusebius ( Joh 2:23 ) places “in the first rank in the apostolical succession,” writes about 160: “James, the Lord's brother, called the Just from the times of Christ even to our days, then takes in hand the administration of the Church with the apostles ( μετὰ τῶν άποστ .).” It clearly follows from these words: with the apostles, that Hegesippus does not rank James, the Lord's brother, among the apostles, and consequently distinguishes him from the two apostles of this name, the son of Zebedee, and the little ( less), son of Alphaeus. Now, if Alphaeus is the Greek form of the Aramaean name Clopas ( חלפי = Κλωπᾶς ), a name which, according to Hegesippus, was that of the brother of Joseph, it follows from this, that, this last James being the cousin of the Lord, the first could be only His brother, in the proper sense.
The distinction which Hegesippus established between the three Jameses is confirmed by an expression quoted from him in the same chapter of Eusebius: “For there were several persons called James ( πολλοὶ ᾿Ιάκωβοι ).” The word πολλοί ( several), implies that he supposed there were more than two Jameses.
Eusebius relates ( Joh 3:11 ), that after the martyrdom of James the Just, the first bishop of Jerusalem, “Simeon, the son of Clopas, who was the Lord's cousin ( ἀνεψιός ), was chosen as his successor.” For, Eusebius adds: “Hegesippus relates that Clopas was the brother of Joseph.” By this expression: the son of Clopas, Simeon's relationship to Jesus is evidently distinguished from that of James; otherwise, Eusebius would have said: who was also the son of Clopas, or at least: who was the brother of James. Hegesippus did not, therefore, consider James as the son of Clopas, nor, consequently, as the Lord's cousin; he regarded him, therefore, as His brother in the proper sense of the word.
Eusebius ( Joh 3:32 ), quotes, also, the following words of Hegesippus: “Some of these heretics denounced Simeon, the son of Clopas...In the time of Trajan, the latter, son of the Lord's uncle ( ὁ ἐκ τοῦ θείου τοῦ κυρίου ...), was condemned to the cross.” Why designate Simeon by the expression: son of the Lord's uncle, while James was always called, simply, the Lord's brother, if they were brothers, one of the other, and related to the Lord in the same degree? The principal passage of Hegesippus is cited by Eusebius ( Joh 4:22 ): “After James had suffered martyrdom, like the Lord, Simeon, born of His uncle ( θείου αὐτοῦ ), son of Clopas, was appointed bishop, having been chosen by all as a second cousin of the Lord ( ὄντα ἀνεψιὸν τοῦ κυρίου δεύτερον ).” If we refer the pronoun αὐτοῦ ( His uncle), to James, the question is settled: Simeon was the son of James' uncle, consequently, James' cousin, and not his brother; and James was, therefore, not the cousin, but the brother of Jesus. If we refer the αὐτοῦ to the Lord Himself, it follows, as we already know, that Simeon was the son of Jesus' uncle, that is to say, His cousin.
The last words of Hegesippus carry us still further. Simeon is called the second cousin of Jesus; who was the first? It could not be James the Just, as Keim thinks. Everything that precedes prevents our supposing this. As constantly as Simeon is called cousin of Jesus, so constantly is James the Just designated as His brother. How would this be possible, if they were brothers to each other? It appears to me that the first cousin of Jesus (the eldest son of Clopas), could have been only the apostle James (the little) the son of Alphaeus. He, as an apostle, could not be head of a particular flock, or consequently, bishop of Jerusalem. This was, then, the second cousin of Jesus, to whom they turned after the death of James the Just. Thus, everything is harmonious in the account of Hegesippus, and the identification of the name Alphaeus and Clopas, which is at the present day called in question, is confirmed by this ancient testimony. This result is also confirmed by the words of Hegesippus respecting Jude, the brother of James ( Jud 1:1 ): “There existed, also, at that time, grandsons of Jude, called His brother (brother of the Lord) according to the flesh ” (Euseb. Joh 3:20 ). This expression: brother of the Lord according to the flesh, applied to Jude, clearly distinguishes his position from that of Simeon.
The opinion of Clement of Alexandria may appear doubtful. This Father seems (Euseb. Joh 2:1 ) to know only two Jameses: 1. The son of Zebedee, the brother of the Apostle John 2:0. The Lord's brother, James the Just, who was at the same time the son of Alphaeus, and the cousin of Jesus. “For there were two Jameses,” he says, “one, the Just, who was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple..., the other, who was beheaded ( Act 12:2 ).” Nevertheless, Clement may very well have passed in silence James, the son of Alphaeus, of whom mention is only once made in the Acts, and who played no part in the history of the Church with which this Father here occupies himself. Clement, moreover, seems to derive his information respecting James from Hegesippus himself (Schaff, p. 69). Now we have just ascertained the opinion of the latter. Tradition recognizes, therefore, the existence of brothers of Jesus, and particularly of these two: James and Jude. But are they children of Joseph, the issue of an earlier marriage, or sons of Joseph and Mary?
The former opinion is that of the author of an apocrypal writing, belonging to the first part of the second century, the Protevangelium Jacobi. In chap. 9 Joseph says to the priest who confides Mary to him: “I have sons, and am old.” At chap. 17: “I have come to Bethlehem to have my sons registered,” etc. Origen accepted this view. In his Homily on Luke 7:0, translated by Jerome, he says: “For these sons, called sons of Joseph, were not born of Mary.” (See the other passages in Schaff, p. 81f.) It follows, however, from his own explanations that this opinion rested, not on an historical tradition, but on a double dogmatic prejudice: that of the moral superiority of celibacy to marriage, and that of the exceptional holiness of the mother of Jesus (comp. especially the passage ad Mat 13:55 ). Several apocryphal Gospels those of Peter, Thomas, etc., as well as several Fathers, Gregory of Nyssa, Epiphanius, etc., spread abroad this opinion. But Jerome charges it with being deliramentum apocryphorum.
The other view is found in the following authorities: Tertullian evidently admits brothers of Jesus in the strict and complete sense of the word. For he says, de Monog. c. 8: “The virgin was not married until after having given birth to the Christ.” According to Jerome ( adv. Helvid.), some very ancient writers spoke of sons of Joseph and Mary, and they had already been combated by Justin; a fact, which proves to what a high antiquity this opinion goes back.
Whatever preference should be given to the one or the other of these two relationships, the difference between the brothers and cousins of Jesus remains established from the historical point of view.
This now is the difficulty which it raises: The names of Jesus' brothers, mentioned in Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3, are James, Joses (according to the various readings, Joseph or John), Simon and Judas. Now, according to John 19:25, comp. with Mat 27:56 and Mark 15:40, Mary, the wife of Clopas, aunt of Jesus, had two sons, one named James (in Mark, James the little), the other Joses, who were, consequently, two cousins of Jesus. Moreover, Hegesippus makes Simeon, the second bishop of Jerusalem, a son of Clopas; he was, therefore, also a cousin of Jesus. Finally, Luk 6:14-16 speaks of an apostle Judas (son or brother) of James who is mentioned as son of Alphaeus (or Clopas). He would, thus, be a fourth cousin of Jesus, and the two lists would coincide throughout! Four brothers and four cousins with the same names! Is this admissible? But
1. As to the Apostle Judas, the natural ellipsis in Luke's passage is not brother, but son of James consequently of some James unknown to us. This designation is designed merely to distinguish this apostle from the other Judas, Iscariot, whose name follows. Jesus had then, indeed, a brother named Judas, but not a cousin of this name.
2. The statements of Hegesippus certainly force us to admit a cousin of Jesus by the name of Simon.
3. If, for the second brother of Jesus, we adopt the reading Joseph, the identity of name with that of the third cousin falls to the ground of itself.
4. As to the name James, it is undoubtedly found in the two lists. The actual result, therefore, is this: In these two lists, that of the brothers, and that of the cousins of Jesus, there are two names in common: those of James and Simon. Is this sufficient to prove the identity of these two categories of persons? Even in our day, does it not happen, especially in country places, that we find families related to one another, in which, among several children, one or two bear certain very familiar names in common?
Notice, on the other hand, two positive exegetical reasons in favor of the distinction between the brothers and the cousins of Jesus: 1. Without doubt, assuming the premature death of Clopas, we could understand how his widow and her sons might have been received by Joseph and Mary, and the latter brought up with Jesus, and in this way their designation as brothers of Jesus could be explained. But is it conceivable that, in presence of the fact that the mother of these young persons was still living ( Mat 27:56 and parall.), the expression would have been used in speaking of Mary and her nephews, “ His mother and His brethren,” as it is used in our Gospels (Matthew 12:46; Mark 3:31; Luk 8:19 )? 2. The surname, the little, given to James, the cousin of Jesus ( Mar 15:40 ), must have served to distinguish him from some other member of his family, bearing the same name. Is it not probable that this other James was precisely James, his cousin, the brother of Jesus?
We conclude, therefore, that Jesus had four brothers strictly so called: James, surnamed the Just, Joseph, Simon and Judas, and three cousins: James, the little, Simon and Joses.
No one of His brothers was an apostle; a fact which accords with John 7:5: “ Not even did his brethren believe on him. ” Being converted later, after His resurrection ( 1Co 15:5 ), they became, one of them (James), the first bishop of Jerusalem (Galatians 1:19; Galatians 2:9; Acts 15:0; Acts 21:18 ff.); the others, zealous missionaries ( 1Co 9:5 ). James and Judas are undoubtedly the authors of our two canonical Epistles. As for the cousins of Jesus, one only was an apostle, James (the little); the second, Simon, was the second bishop of Jerusalem. Of Joses, the third, we know nothing.
It is perhaps not impossible to place in this first visit at Capernaum some of the facts appertaining, according to the Synoptical narratives, to the first period of the Galilean ministry. The calling of the disciples, following upon the miraculous draught of fishes, takes its place naturally here. At the time of His setting out for Jerusalem, Jesus called them to follow Him for ever. He was going to inaugurate His work, and He must have desired to be surrounded from that time by those whom He had the design of associating in it. This twelfth verse is not, therefore, the close of the preceding narrative, as Weiss thinks. It is, at the same time, the indication of the moment when Jesus passed from private life to His public ministry. Like His disciples, He separates Himself from His family in order to begin the Messianic work. Moreover, this narrative is so summary, that if the whole of Jesus' life were not presupposed as known to the readers, it would resemble an enigma.
We have to consider in the following event: 1. The act of the Lord: John 2:13-16; John 2:0. The effect produced: John 2:17-22.
First Section: 2:12-3:36. Jesus in Judea.
Here again, as in the preceding story, the course of the narrative is steadily continuous and its historical development accurately graduated. Jesus first appears in the temple ( Joh 2:12-22 ); later He teaches in the capital ( Joh 2:23 to Joh 3:21 ), finally, He exercises His ministry in the country of Judea ( Joh 3:22-36 ).
Ver. 13. “ And the Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. ”
John says: of the Jews, with reference to his Gentile readers, with whom he identifies himself in the feeling of Christian communion.
It was at Jerusalem and in the temple, that the Messiah's ministry must open. “The Lord whom ye seek,” Malachi had said ( Joh 3:1-3 ), “shall enter into his temple.... he shall purify the sons of Levi...” That prophecy said to Israel that her King would announce Himself, not by a miracle of power, but by an act of holiness.
The moment of this inauguration was naturally indicated. The feast of the Passover, more than any other, assembled the whole people in the holy city and in the courts of the temple. This was the hour of Jesus ( Joh 2:4 ). If the people had entered into the reformatory movement which He sought, at that time, to impress upon them, this entrance of Jesus into His temple would have become the signal of His Messianic coming.
The temple had three particularly holy courts: that of the priests, which enclosed the edifice of the temple properly so-called ( ναός ); more to the eastward, that of the men, and finally, to the east of the latter, that of the women. Around these courts a vast open space had been arranged, which was enclosed on four sides by colonnades, and which was called the court of the Gentiles, because it was the only part of the sacred place ( ἱερόν ) into which proselytes were permitted to enter. In this outermost court there were established, with the tacit consent of the temple authorities, a market and an exchange. Here were sold the different kinds of animals intended for the sacrifices; here Greek or Roman money, brought from foreign regions, was exchanged for the sacred money with which the capitation-tax determined by
Exo 30:13 for the support of the temple (the half-shekel or double-drachma = about 31 cents) was paid.
Until this day, Jesus had not risen up against this abuse. Present in the temple as a simple Jew, He did not have to judge the conduct of the authorities, still less to put himself in their place. Now, it is as the Son of Him to whom this house is consecrated, that He enters into the sanctuary. He brings to it, not merely new rites, but new duties. To keep silence in the presence of the profanation of which religion is the pretext, and at which His conscience as a Jew and His heart as the Son revolt, would be to belie, at the outset, His position as Messiah. The word of Malachi, which we have just quoted, traces His course for Him. It is to misconceive gravely the meaning of the act which is about to be related, to see in it, with Weiss, only a simple attempt at reform, such as any prophet might have allowed himself. The single expression: “ My Father's house” ( Joh 2:16 ), shows that Jesus was here acting in the full consciousness of His Messianic dignity; comp. also John 2:19. John 2:19-21, make us appreciate the true bearing of this act; it is an appeal to the conscience of Israel, a demand addressed to its chiefs. If this appeal is heard, this act of purification will inaugurate the general reform of the theocracy, the condition of the Messianic kingdom. If the people remain indifferent, the consequences of this conduct are clear to the view of Jesus; all is over with the theocracy. The rejection of the Messiah, His death even; this is the fatal end of such conduct. Comp. an analogous ordeal at Nazareth, Luke 4:23-27. The power in virtue of which Jesus acted, was by no means, therefore, the alleged right of the zealots of which the act of Phineas (Numbers 25:0; Psa 106:30 ) is thought to have been the type, but which never really existed in Israel.
ADDITIONAL NOTES BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR.
Beginning with John 2:13, the account of the first visit of Jesus to Jerusalem is given. There can be little doubt that the five or six disciples were with Him in this visit. Joh 2:12 states that they went with Him from Cana to Capernaum, and that they (not He alone) remained there not many days. It is then said ( Joh 2:13 ) that He went up to Jerusalem; and at the close of each story of what He did there (John 2:17; Joh 2:22 ), the relation of His words or actions to the thoughts of the disciples is referred to. When we add to this the evident design of the writer to set forth the growing faith of the disciples in their association with Jesus, the probability in the case rises almost to certainty.
There are four points of special interest connected with these verses ( Joh 2:13-25 ):
1. As the miracle at Cana had by reason of the supernatural power exhibited in it confirmed their faith, two means of a different order are now employed for the same end. The driving out of the dealers is an exhibition of His prophetic zeal. It was the power of the prophet that awed and overcame those who had desecrated the sacred place. The impression made on the disciples was immediate and profound ( Joh 2:17 ). The testimony comes to them in a new line. As related to the scene at Cana, however, it comes in the right order of proof. The miracle is the first σημεῖον , the prophet's work is the second. The matter recorded in John 2:18 ff. is of another character. As we see by John 2:22, it was not fully understood at the time. The scene at Cana and the one with the dealers taught their lesson at once; the disciples believed ( Joh 2:11 ), and they remembered and applied what was written ( Joh 2:17 ). But this scene suggested a question which they could not answer. It was a question, however, to which their minds might naturally often turn, and it was one which would lead them to the thought of the wonderful element in His person and character. It worked as a proof by reason of the strangeness belonging to it. What could be the significance of those remarkable words? What a wonderful man must He be who could utter them of Himself! The different character of the signs, as the author brings them before us, may well arrest attention.
2. In respect to the last point (John 2:18 ff.), it is said that the disciples did not come to the right apprehension of the meaning of Jesus' words until after He rose from the dead. In the following verses, persons are spoken of who were led by the signs to believe, but not to believe in such a way that Jesus could trust Himself to them. These statements show clearly that the author is marking in the progress of his narrative the development of faith. These indications, also, are of such a nature that they point us to an author contemporary with the facts as the one who gives them. They are of the simple, artless sort, which men removed from the actual scenes do not think of.
3. The signs referred to in Joh 2:23 are not described or related in the chapter. The inference which must be drawn is, that the writer purposely selects those things only which affected the disciples, and those even which moved them in a different way from the miracle, properly so-called, which they had witnessed at Cana.
4. We may add that, at this point, ch. 3 opens with a testimony which lies wholly within the sphere of words.
As to the questions arising in connection with these verses, which relate to the difference between this Gospel and the Synoptics, it may be said, in the first place, that both of the two things mentioned seem better suited to the beginning of the public life of Jesus than to its end. The demand for a sign, with the particular answer here given, is more easily accounted for as made on His first appearance, than at the period when, after three years of ministry, He comes to Jerusalem for the last time and enters it with a sort of triumphal procession. It will be noticed, indeed, that in the Synoptical account these words about the temple are only mentioned as what the false witnesses reported that they had heard, and that Mark says, apparently with reference to this matter (comp. Mar 14:59 with 58), that they did not agree with one another in their statements. This may most readily be explained, if the words of Jesus had been uttered two years before. As for the driving out of the traders, on the other hand, the act on the part of Jesus which is here related would seem to be just that which, in the first impulse of His mission, He would be not unlikely to do. It belongs in its character, as we might say, to first impulses, and not to the feelings of that later time when the deadly conflict with the Jewish authorities was at hand. It is, moreover, just such an act as awakening astonishment by reason of its boldness and the prophetic impulse which characterized it might naturally induce the leading Jews to ask the newly-appearing prophet what sign He had to show. The difficulty with respect to these points lies, therefore, not in the fact that this Gospel places the occurrences at the beginning of the history, but in the fact that the Synoptics (Matt. and Mk.) place them (or, rather, one of them) at the end. We may not be able to explain this difficulty, but the limitation of the Synoptic narratives may, in some way, have occasioned the representation which they give. Such questions belong, in large measure, with the comprehensive one, as to why the earliest writers confined themselves almost exclusively to the Galilean story.
Ver. 14. “ And he found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money-changers sitting. ”
The article the before the terms designating the sellers and money-changers, which Ostervald omits with other translators, sets forth this office as a known one; they are the habitual, and in a sense licensed sellers and money-changers. The three sorts of animals mentioned were the ones most habitually used for the sacrifices. Κερματιστής , money-changer, from κέρμα , piece of money.
Ver. 15. “ And having made a small scourge of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, both the sheep and the oxen; and he poured out the changers' money and overthrew their tables. ”
This scourge was not an instrument, but an emblem. It was the sign of authority and of judgment. If it had been a matter of performing a physical act, the means would have been disproportionate to the end, and the effect would be even more so to the cause. The material use of the scourge had no place. The simple gesture was enough. Πάντας , all, includes, according to many (comp. Baumlein, Weiss, Keil), only the two following objects connected by τε καί , “all, both sheep and oxen. ” But it is more natural to refer πάντας to τοὺς πωλοῦντας , the sellers, which precedes, and to make of the following words a simple apposition: “He drove them all out, both sheep and oxen. ” The design of the τε καί , as well as, is certainly not to indicate by a lifeless disjoining of parts the contents of the word all, but to express the sort of bustle with which men and animals hastened off at His command and at the gesture which accompanied it. He overturned, with His own hand. Κολλυβιστής , money-changer, from κόλλυβος , nummus minutus. τὸ κέρμα , singular taken in the collective sense.
Ver. 16. “ And he said to those that sold the doves: take these things hence; make not my Father's house a house of merchandise. ”
With regard to the sellers of doves Jesus limits Himself to speaking. He cannot drive out the doves, as one drives oxen or sheep; and He does not wish to overturn the cages, as He has overturned the tables of the money-changers. He is perfectly master of Himself. If He had really struck the dealers in oxen and sheep, we cannot see why He should have spared the sellers of pigeons. The command “ take away ” is addressed only to these last; the following words, “ make not,...” to all the traffickers. The defining phrase, “ of my Father ” contains the explanation of Jesus' act. He is a son who avenges the honor of the paternal house. When He was in the temple at the age of twelve, it was already the same filial feeling which animated Him; but on this day He is sustained by the distinct consciousness of His duty as Messiah, involved henceforth for Him in His position as Son. It is very remarkable that in the Synoptics (the scene of the baptism), no less than in John, the feeling of His filial relation to God takes the lead in Jesus of that of His office as Messiah. He does not feel Himself to be Son because He is Christ; He knows Himself to be Christ because He is Son (comp. my Comment. on Luke I., p. 235). Here is an indication which is incompatible with the opinion of Renan, who represents Jesus as exalting Himself by degrees and raising Himself by degrees from His Messianic consciousness to the consciousness of His divinity.
The outward success of this judicial act is explained by the majesty of Jesus' appearance, by the irresistible ascendency which was given to Him by the consciousness of the supernatural force which He could exert at need, by the feeling of His sovereignty in that place, as it betrays itself in the expression “ my Father,” and, finally, by the bad conscience of those who were the objects of such a judgment.
Ver. 17. “ His disciples remembered that it was written: The zeal of thy house shall eat me up. ”
This recollection took place immediately; comp. John 2:22, where the opposite fact is expressly pointed out. Psalms 69:0, the ninth verse of which presents itself at this moment to the remembrance of the disciples, is only indirectly Messianic that is to say, the subject contemplated by the Psalmist is not the person of the Messiah (comp. John 2:6: “ Thou knowest my foolishness, and my sins are not hid from thee ”), but the theocratic righteous person, suffering for the cause of God. The highest realization of this ideal is the Messiah. Weiss claims that this quotation finds an explanation only so far as this Psalm was, at that time, exclusively, and through an error, referred to the Messiah. But in order to this, the reading of Joh 2:6 must have been forgotten. The unanimity of the Mjj. decides in favor of the reading καταφάγεται . This verb is a future; the evangelist substitutes it for the past κατέφαγε , hath eaten up, of the LXX. which is in conformity with the Hebrew text. The disciples are thinking, not of Jesus' last sufferings, which were at that time beyond the thoughts which occupied their minds, but on the consuming force of His zeal, on that living holocaust, the first act of which they beheld at this moment. This also is the meaning of the word hath eaten up, in the Psalm.
While the disciples compare the Scriptures, and this remembrance strengthens their faith, the Jews reason and object, just as the inhabitants of Nazareth do, Luke 4:22. Instead of letting the act of Jesus speak, as every manifestation of holiness should, to their conscience, they demand the external sign which should legitimate this act, as if it did not contain in itself its own legitimation!
The effect is described in John 2:17-22. We meet here a fact, which will repeat itself at every manifestation of the Lord's glory; a twofold impression is produced, according to the moral predisposition of the witnesses; some find in the act of Jesus nourishment for their faith; for others the same act becomes a subject of offense. It is the pre-existing moral sympathy or antipathy that determines the impression.
Ver. 18. “ The Jews, therefore, answered and said unto him: What sign showest thou unto us, that thou doest these things? ”
The particle, therefore, connects again with John 2:16, after the interruption in John 2:17. The expression “ the Jews ” designates here especially the authorities charged with the care of the temple, with the shade of hostility which attaches to this term in our Gospel (see Joh 1:19 ). Riggenbach (“ Leben des Herrn Jesu,” p. 382) observes that “it is, indeed, the method of Pharisaism to demand a σημεῖον , an external sign, to legitimate an act which commends itself to the conscience by itself alone, because, once on this path, one can cavil about the nature and value of the sign, can move on indefinitely from demand to demand, and can ask finally, after a multiplication of loaves: What sign doest thou then? ᾿Αποκρίνεσθαι does not signify here, any more than elsewhere, to take up the discourse ( Ostervald, Rilliet, Arnaud). This word always contains the idea of reply; only the reply is sometimes addressed to the conduct or the feeling of the interlocutor. Here the Jews' question is an answer to the act of Jesus; Jesus had just addressed an appeal to the religious sentiment of the people. The attitude of the people, thus called upon to declare themselves, in some sort decided fatally their future. The reply was significant. The nineteenth verse will show us that Jesus immediately penetrated its whole meaning. ῞Οτι : “What sign showest thou (to explain) that thou art doing...” Meyer: εἰς ἐκεῖνο ὅτι .
Ver. 19. “ Jesus answered and said unto them: Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. ” This answer of Jesus is sudden, like a flash of lightning. It springs from an immeasurable depth; it illuminates regions then completely unexplored by any other consciousness than His own. The words: Destroy this temple, characterize the present and future conduct of the Jews in its innermost significance, and the words: In three days I will raise it up, display all the grandeur of the person and of the future work of Jesus. This mysterious saying involves the following difficulty: on the one hand, the connection with what precedes prompts us to refer the words, this temple, to the temple properly so called, which Jesus had just purified; on the other, the evangelist's interpretation ( Joh 2:21 ) obliges us to apply them to the body of Jesus. Some, as Lucke and Reuss, cut the Gordian knot by declaring that there is a conflict which cannot be settled between scientific exegesis and the apostle's explanation, and by determining that there is an advance of the first beyond the second. Baur administers a severe lecture to Lucke for irreverence towards the apostolic exegesis, of which this view gives evidence. In fact, according to Baur, this saying being partly the creation of the evangelist himself, he must know better than any one, better than Lucke, what is its true meaning!
The historical truth of this saying of Jesus is guaranteed: 1. By the declaration of the false witnesses (Matthew 26:61; Mar 14:57-58 ), which proves that, although the recollection of the circumstances in which it was pronounced may have been effaced, the expression itself had remained deeply engraved on the memory, not only of the disciples, but of the Jews. 2. By Acts 6:14, where Stephen's accusers said: “ We have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place and shall change the customs which Moses gave to us. ” Stephen could not have spoken thus except on the foundation of a positive declaration of Jesus. 3. By the originality, the conciseness, and even the obscurity of the saying.
The first clause cannot contain an invitation to the Jews directly to destroy the temple, not even in the hypothetical sense of de Wette: “If you should destroy.” This supposition would be absurd; no Israelite would have thought of laying his hand on the sacred edifice. The word destroy should, therefore, be taken in the indirect sense: to bring about, by continuing in the course which you are following, the destruction of the theocracy and that of the temple. But what is the offense by which Israel can provoke this final chastisement? Modern interpretation, “scientific exegesis,” as Lucke says, answers: By continually increasing moral profanations, such as that against which Jesus had just protested. This answer is insufficient. Simple sins of this kind could prepare, but not decide, this catastrophe. The Old Testament assigns a more positive cause for the final ruin of Israel; it is the rejection and murder of the Messiah. Zechariah announces this crime, when describing ( Zec 12:10 ) the mourning of the Israel of the last days, lamenting the murderous sin against Jehovah whom they have pierced. Daniel, Daniel 9:0, says: “ The Messiah shall be cut off....and the people of a prince who shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; ” a passage which Matthew ( Mat 24:15-16 ) applies to the circumstances of his time. The means for Israel of destroying its temple, are, to the view of Jesus, to put the Messiah to death. The appearance of the Messiah is the purpose of the theocratic institution. The Messiah being once cut off, it is all over with Israel and consequently with the temple. The people and the priesthood may indeed still exist for a while after this; but all this is nothing more than the carcase over which the eagles of the divine judgment gather themselves ( Mat 24:28 ). Why, at the moment when Jesus expires, is the veil of the temple rent? It is because, in reality, there is no longer a Most Holy place, no longer a Holy place, no longer courts, sacrifice, priesthood; the temple, as Jehovah's temple, has ceased to exist.
When He says “ Destroy this temple,” therefore, it is, indeed, of the temple properly so called, that Jesus speaks; but He knows that it will be in His own person, that this destruction, so far as it depends on the Jews, will be consummated. It is on His body that they will cause the blow to fall, which will destroy their sanctuary. The imperative λύσατε is not, then, merely concessive: “If it happens that you destroy.” It is of the same kind with that other imperative, “ What thou hast to do, do quickly ” ( Joh 13:27 ). When the fruit of perversity, collective or individual, is ripe, it must fall. Comp. also the πληρώσατε , Matthew 23:32.
The meaning of the second clause follows from that of the first. If the death of Jesus is the real destruction of the temple, the restoration of the latter can consist only in the resurrection of Jesus Himself. Jesus once said: “ Here is more than the temple ” ( Mat 12:6 ). His body was the living and truly holy dwelling of Jehovah; the visible sanctuary was the anticipatory emblem of this real temple. It is, therefore, really, in Him, in His body, that this supreme crisis will be effected. The Messiah perishes; the temple falls. The Messiah lives again; the true temple rises again; in a new form, beyond doubt. For in the Kingdom of God, there is never a simple restoration of the past. He who speaks of rising anew speaks of progress, reappearance in a higher form. The word ἐγείρειν , to waken up, to raise up, is perfectly suitable here. For it may be applied at once to a resurrection and a construction (see Meyer). The expression: in three days, the authenticity of which is guaranteed in a very special way by the statement of the false witnesses ( διὰ τριῶν ἡμερῶν , Matthew 26:61; Mar 14:58 ), receives in our explanation its natural meaning; for, in an historical situation so solemn as this, it is impossible to see only a poetic or proverbial form for saying: “in a very short time,” as Hosea 6:2, or Luke 13:31. A demonstrative miracle has been demanded of Jesus, as a sign of His competency. We know from the Synoptics that Jesus always rejected such demands, which renewed for Him the third temptation in the wilderness.
But there was a miracle, one only, which He could promise, without condemning Himself to the role of a wonder-worker, because this miracle entered as a necessary element into the very work of salvation: it was His resurrection. Thus it is to this sign that He in like manner appeals, in similar cases, in the Synoptics (Matthew 12:38-40; Mat 16:4 ). We come also here upon one of those profound analogies which, beneath the difference of the forms, blend into one whole the representation of the Synoptics and that of John. It is by the reparative power which He will display, when the Kingdom of God shall have sunk down, in a sense, even to nothing, that Jesus will prove the competency for reformation which He has just arrogated to Himself at this hour. This explanation answers thus to the natural meaning of the expressions of the text, to the demands of the context, and finally to the evangelist's interpretation.
The following is the meaning at which modern exegesis has arrived, by following, as Lucke says, “the laws of philological art.” It is best set forth, as it seems to us, by Ewald ( Gesch. Christi, p. 230): “All your religion, resting upon this temple, is corrupted and perverted; but He is already present, who, when it shall have perished as it deserves, shall easily restore it in a more glorious form, and shall thus work, not one of those common miracles which you ask for, but the grandest of miracles.” In this explanation, the temple destroyed is Judaism; the temple raised up is Christianity; the act of raising it up is Pentecost, not the resurrection. We shall not say that this sense is absolutely false; it is so only so far as it is given as the exact expression of the thought of Jesus at this moment. What condemns it is: 1. That the transformation of the economy of the letter into that of the Spirit is not a sign, but the work itself. It is necessary that the event indicated by Jesus should have an external character, in order to be adapted to the demand which was addressed to Him; 2. It is impossible, from this point of view, to interpret naturally the words: in three days. The passages ( Hos 6:2 and Luk 13:31 ) do not sufficiently justify the figurative sense which must, in that case, be given to them here; 3. The temple raised up would be entirely different from the temple destroyed; but the pronoun αὐτόν ( it), demands that there should, at least, be a relation between the one and the other (the body of Jesus destroyed and raised again). Objection is made to the meaning which we have proposed, that the Jews could not have understood so mysterious a reply. Assuredly, they did not see in the temple, of which Jesus spoke, anything but the material edifice, and they represented to themselves the sign promised by Him as the magical appearance of a new and supernatural temple ( Mar 14:58 ). But we shall see that, in dealing with evil-disposed persons, the method of Jesus is to throw out enigmas and to reveal the truth only while veiling it; comp. the explanation of Jesus respecting the use of parables ( Mat 12:11-16 ). Here is a secret of the profoundest pedagogics.
Objection is also made, that Jesus could not, so long beforehand, know of His death and resurrection. But in the Synoptics, also, He very early announces the tragical end of His Messianic ministry. It is during the first days of His activity in Galilee, that He speaks of the time “when the bridegroom will be taken away, and when the disciples will fast” ( Mar 2:19-20 ). Had Jesus, then, never read Isaiah 53:0, Daniel 9:0, Zechariah 12:0, etc.? Now, if He foresaw His death, He must have been assured also of His resurrection. He could not suppose that the bridegroom would be taken away, not to be restored.
Finally, it is objected, that, according to the Scriptures, it is not Jesus who raised Himself. But the receptivity of Jesus, in the act of His resurrection, was not that of passivity. He says Himself ( Joh 10:17-18 ): “ I give up my life, that I may take it again...I have the power to give it up, and I have the power to take it again. ” He lays hold, as in all His miracles, of the divine omnipotence, and this becomes thereby active in Him.
Renan has seen in this utterance, so original and so profound, only a whim: “One day,” he says, “His ill-humor against the temple drew from Him an imprudent word.” He adds: “We do not know, indeed, what sense Jesus attached to this word, in which His disciples sought forced allegories” ( Vie de Jesus, p. 367). Where Renan sees a proof of the ill-humor of Jesus against the temple, the immediate witnesses found one of the zeal for the house of God, which devoured their Master. Which has better understood Jesus? As for the explanation given by John ( Joh 2:21 ), we shall hope that every serious reader will find in it something else than a “forced allegory.”
Weiss does not think it is possible to defend the complete authenticity of the expression of Jesus, as it has been preserved for us by John. If Jesus expressed Himself thus, he must, at the same time, have pointed to His body with His finger, and this gesture would have been sufficient to render the misapprehension of the Jews ( Joh 2:20 ) impossible. Besides, the interpretation which Mark gives of the saying of Jesus ( Mar 14:58 ), leads one to suppose that its real meaning was a little different from that which we find in John. To the demand of the Jews relative to His competency to purify the temple ( Joh 2:18 ), Jesus is said to have answered, that for the outward temple He would substitute the habitation of God in the spirit. It was John, according to Weiss, who introduced afterwards into the quite simple answer of Jesus, the two ideas of His death and His resurrection. This hypothesis could be taken into consideration only if the difficulty presented by the saying of Jesus, as we have it, were insurmountable. But we believe that we have shown that it is not so. At the foundation, the true ground of this supposition is, that according to this author, Jesus must not have predicted beforehand His death and resurrection.
How did Jesus discover in this question, apparently so innocent: “ What sign showest thou? ” the prelude of the catastrophe which was to put an end to His own life, and, by that means, to the theocracy itself? We know from John 2:3-4, with what penetration Jesus seized upon the moral bearing of the words which were addressed to Him. We have also cited Luke 4:22, where it was enough for Jesus to hear the critical reflection on the part of the inhabitants of Nazareth: “ Is not this the son of Joseph? ” in order to His announcing to them His near rejection, not only on their part ( Joh 2:23 ), but on the part of the whole people ( Joh 2:24-25 ). In the most fugitive impression of His interlocutors, the perspicacious eye of Jesus discerned the principle of the great final decision. By this characteristic feature, also, we verify in the Jesus of the Synoptics and of John, one and the same Jesus.
Ver. 20. “ The Jews said, therefore: Forty-six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou raise it up in three days? ”
The restoration of the temple by Herod had begun in the eighteenth year of his reign, according to Josephus ( Antiqq. 15.11, 1). In the Jewish War, the same historian, by an error, mentions the fifteenth. The first year of the reign of this prince was that from the first of Nisan 717 U. C. to the first of Nisan 718; the eighteenth would consequently be the year included between the first of Nisan 734 and the first of Nisan 735: it was about the autumn of that year that the work began (Jos. Ant. 15.11, 1).
The time indicated, forty-six full years ( ᾠκοδομήθη ), brings us, therefore, as far as to the autumn of the year 780. The present Passover, consequently, must be that of the year 781, and as it was divided from the year in which Jesus died by the one alluded to in John 6:4, it follows therefrom, that Jesus died in 783. Now for many other reasons, that year seems really to have been the year of His death. Weiss objects that the expression: was built, does not necessarily imply that it was still in the course of building at that moment. But the work continued still for many years, until in 64 it was finished under Agrippa II. What reason could there be to suppose an interruption at the time in which our narrative places us?
Ver. 21. “ But he spoke of the temple of his body. ”
By ἐκεῖνος , ille vero, he opposed to every other, John strongly contrasts the thought of Jesus with the interpretation of the Jews and the want of understanding of the apostles. Only He comprehends perfectly the true sense of His own saying.
Ver. 22. “ When, therefore, he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said. ”
Into docile hearts the light came, although slowly. The event explained the word, as in its turn the word contributed to disclose the deep meaning of the event. It is surprising to meet here the limiting words τῇ γραφῇ , the Scripture; for the Scripture had not been quoted by Jesus, unless we think, with Weiss, of John 2:17, which is unnatural in view of the formal opposition established by Joh 2:22 between the time of the one and that of the other reminiscence. The evangelist undoubtedly wishes to intimate that the first point on which the light fell, in the hearts of the apostles, after the resurrection, was the prophecies of the Old Testament which announced that event (Psalms 16:0; Isaiah 53:0; Hosea 6:0; the prophet Jonah), and that it was by the intermediate agency of the interpreted prophecies that the present word of Jesus came back to their remembrance and was also made clear to them.
This little point which belongs to the inner biography of the apostles, stamps the narrative with the seal of historical reality. Let the reader picture to himself, with Baur, a pseudo-John, in the second century, inventing this momentary want of intelligence in the disciples with regard to a saying which he had himself ascribed to Jesus! The moral impossibility of such a strange charlatanism as this is obvious. This remark applies to the similar points, John 4:32-33; John 7:39; John 11:12; John 12:16; John 12:33; John 13:28, etc.
The Synoptics relate an act of Jesus similar to this; which they place at the beginning of the week of the Passion, either on Palm-day (Matthew 21:0; Luke 19:0), or more exactly on the next day after that (Mark 11:0). We might naturally enough suppose that these three evangelists, having omitted all the first year of Jesus' ministry, were led thereby to locate this event in the only visit to Jerusalem of which they relate the story. This is the opinion of Lucke, de Wette, Ewald, Weiss, etc. Keim goes much further; he claims that it would have been the grossest want of tact on Jesus' part thus at the start to advertise His Messiahship, and to break with the old Judaism as He does in John. But what gives to the corporeal act its meaning and its character is the words with which Jesus accompanies it. Now these words, which constitute the soul of the narrative, are very different in the Synoptics and in John, to such a degree that it would be impossible to unite them in one consecutive discourse. In the Synoptics, Jesus claims, on the ground of Isaiah 56:7 (“ My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples ”), the right of the Gentiles to the place which, from the beginning, had been conceded to them in the temple ( 1Ki 8:41-43 ). In John, there is no trace of this intention; Jesus has in view Israel itself and only Israel.
This difference, as well as the characteristic reply, John 2:19, argues two distinct events. If, as we may not doubt, the abuse which is in question really existed at the moment when Jesus presented Himself for the first time as Messiah, and as Son of God, it was impossible that He should tolerate it. It would have been to declare Himself Messiah and abdicate the Messianic office by one act. Thus John's narrative is self-justified. But it is, also, wholly true that if, after having been reduced during more than two years to the simple activity of a prophet, Jesus wished to reassume on Palm-Sunday His office as Messiah-King, and thus to take up again a connection with His beginnings, He could not do so better than by repeating that act by which He had entered upon His career, and by repressing again that abuse which had not been slow in reproducing itself. By the first expulsion He had invited the people to the reformation which could save them; by the second, He protested against the profane spirit which was about to destroy them. Thus the narrative of John and the Synoptic narrative equally justify themselves.
This contrast between the two situations agrees with the difference between the words uttered. In John, seeing His appeal repelled, Jesus thinks of His death, the fatal limit of that first rejection; in the Synoptics, seeing the fall of Israel consummated, He proclaims the right of the Gentiles, who are soon going to be substituted for the Jews. As for Keim's objection, this author forgets that, by acting in this way, Jesus made an appeal precisely to that which was deepest in the consciousness of every true member of the theocracy, respect for the temple. Beyschlag has justly called this proceeding on the part of Jesus, “the most profoundly conservative Jewish act.” It was precisely the wonderful character of this act, that it inaugurated the revolution which was preparing, by connecting it with that which was most vital in the Israelitish past.
Ver. 23. “ As he was in Jerusalem, at the Passover, at the feast, many believed on his name, seeing the miracles which he did. ”
The first clause of the verse contains three designations. One is that of place: in Jerusalem, at the centre of the theocracy, the normal theatre of His work. The second is that of time: at the Passover, in those days when the whole people were assembled in the capital, in greater numbers than on any other occasion in the year. The third designation is that of the mode: at the feast, in the midst of the solemn impressions which the daily ceremonies of that Paschal week awakened. The pronoun πολλοί , many, denotes nothing more than individuals; they form a contrast with the nation which should have collectively believed. Comp. the contrast between οἱ ἴδιοι , His own, and ὅσοι , all those who, John 1:11-12. But a still more sorrowful contrast is pointed out by the evangelist; it is that which existed between the faith of these believers and true faith. Their faith, to the view of Jesus, was not faith. No doubt, it had for its object His revelation as Christ and Son of God ( His name); but it rested only upon the external fact of His miracles. The logical relation between this aorist believed and the present participle seeing, is expressed by the conjunction because. This faith had nothing inward and moral; it resulted solely from the impression of astonishment produced upon them by these wonders. Signs may, indeed, strengthen and develop true faith, where it is already formed, by displaying to it fully the riches of its object ( Joh 2:11 ). They may even, sometimes, excite attention; but not produce real faith. Faith is a moral act which attaches itself to the moral being in Jesus. The last words: which He did, depict, indeed, the nature of this faith; it was the material operation which impressed these persons. These miracles were, undoubtedly, numerous; allusion is made to them in John 4:45. John relates, however, only one of them; so far different is His aim from that of the Synoptics. He wishes only to describe here a spiritual situation.
II. Jesus at Jerusalem: 2:23-3:21.
Jesus, not having been welcomed in the temple, does not force matters forward. The use of violence, even though by divine means, would have led Him to the career, not of a Christ, but of a Mahomet. In presence of the cold reserve which He meets, He retreats; and this retrograde movement characterizes, for a time, the course of His work. The palace has just shut its doors to Him; the capital remains open. Here He acts, yet no longer in the fullness of that Messianic sovereignty with which He had presented Himself in the temple. He confines Himself to teaching and miracles, the two prophetic agencies. Such is the admirable elasticity of the divine work in the midst of the world; it advances only as far as faith permits; in the face of resistance it yields; it retires even to its last entrenchment. Then, having reached this, it all at once resumes the offensive, and, engaging in the last struggle, succumbs externally, to conquer morally.
Vv. 24, 25. “ But Jesus did not trust himself to them, because he knew all men, 25, and because he had no need that any one should testify of man; for he knew of himself what was in man. ”
Jesus is no more dazzled by this apparent success, than He had been discouraged by the reverse which He had undergone in the temple. He discerns the insufficient nature of this faith. There is a sort of play upon words in the relation between οὐκ ἐπίστευεν , He did not believe, did not trust Himself, and ἐπίστευσαν , they believed, John 2:23. While they considering only the external facts, the miracles, believed, He ( αὐτὸς δέ ) not stopping with appearances, did not believe; He did not have faith in their faith. It is because He did not recognize in it the work of God. Consequently, He did not any more treat them as believers. How was this attitude of distrust manifested? It is difficult to state precisely. Probably the point in John's thought was rather a certain reserve of a moral nature, than positive external acts, such as reticence respecting His doctrine or the solitude in which He shut Himself up. Luthardt, “As they did not give themselves morally to Him, He did not give Himself morally to them.” It is a profound observer initiated into the impressions of Jesus' mind, this man who has laid hold of and set forth this delicate feature of His conduct. If he was himself one of the disciples whose call is related in chap. 1, he must indeed have felt the difference between the conduct of Jesus towards these persons, and the manner in which He had deported Himself towards himself and his fellow-disciples. Let one picture to himself such a feature invented in the second century! Nothing in the text obliges us to identify this superior knowledge of Jesus with divine omniscience. The evangelist undoubtedly knew for himself that clear and penetrating look ( ἐμβλέπειν ) which read in the depth of the heart as in an open book. This superior knowledge of Jesus is the highest degree of the gift of the discerning of spirits ( 1Co 12:10 ; 1Jn 4:1 ). The clause: and because.... etc., generalizes the statement of John 2:24.
It signifies that, in any case, Jesus did not need to have recourse to information, in order to know what He had to think of such or such a man. This faculty of discernment was inherent in His person ( He Himself) and, consequently, permanent (imperfect, knew). ῞Ινα , in order that, is here no more than elsewhere the simple periphrasis for the infinitive (in opposition to Weiss). The idea of purpose, which remains always attached to this word, is explained by the tendency, which is inherent in the need of knowledge, to satisfy itself. The article τοῦ before ἀνθρώπου , “ the man,” may be explained either in the generic sense: man in general, or, what is perhaps more correct, in an altogether individual sense: the man with whom He had to do in each given case ( Meyer). But even in this last explanation, the generic sense can be applied to ἐν τῳ ἀνθρώπῳ , in the man, in the following clause. The for would mean that He knew thus each representative of the type, because He knew thoroughly the type itself. However, it is more simple to give to this expression: in the man, the same individual sense as in the preceding clause, and to explain the for by the word: Himself. He had no need of information; for of Himself He knew...
On the foundation of this general situation, there is brought out separately, as a particular picture, the scene of the conversation with Nicodemus. Is this incident quoted as an example of that Jewish faith which is nothing but a form of unbelief John 2:23 (comp. Joh 2:2 ), as Baur thinks, or, on the contrary, as an exception to the attitude full of reserve which was assumed by Jesus and described John 2:24-25 ( Ewald)? The opinion of Baur strikes against the fact that Nicodemus later became a believer (chaps. 7 and 19), so that the example would have been very badly chosen. On the other hand, the text gives no more indication that the following occurrence is related as a deviation from the line of conduct traced in John 2:24; and Joh 2:2 even makes Nicodemus belong in the class of persons described in Joh 2:23-25 .Lucke sees in this narrative only an example of the supernatural knowledge of Jesus, but this idea does not correspond sufficiently with the very grave contents of the conversation. In Reuss' view, Nicodemus is a type, created by the evangelist, of that “literary and learned Judaism whose knowledge is nothing, and which has everything to learn from Jesus.” But Nicodemus reappears twice afterwards, playing a part in the history of Jesus (chs. 7 and 19); he was not, therefore, created only in order to give Jesus here the opportunity to convince him of ignorance. If the author inserted this incident in his narrative, it is because he saw in it the most memorable example of the revelation which Jesus had given, in the first period of His ministry, of His person and His work; comp. Weiss and Keil.
The part of this conversation in our Gospel may be compared with that of the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew: these two passages have an inauguratory character. As for Nicodemus, he is at once an example and an exception: an example, since miracles were the occasion of his faith; an exception, since the manner in which Jesus treats him proves that He hopes for the happy development of this faith. The faith characterized John 2:23-25, as Luthardt observes, is not real faith; but none the more is it unbelief. From this point there may be falling back or advance.
How did the evangelist get the knowledge of this conversation? May Jesus or Nicodemus have related it to him? The first alternative ( Meyer) has somewhat of improbability. In the second, it is asked whether Nicodemus understood well enough to retain it so thoroughly. Why could not John himself have been present at the interview, even though it took place at night? Comp. John 2:11.
But this question is subordinate to another. Is not this conversation itself, as we have it before us, a free composition of the author in which he has united different elements of the ordinary teaching of his master, or even, as Keim says, put into His mouth a highly spiritual summary of his own semi- Gnostic dogmatics? Finally, without going so far, can it not be supposed, at least, that the subjectivity of the author has, without his having a suspicion of it himself, influenced this account more or less, especially towards the end of the conversation? This is what we shall have to examine. For this purpose, what shall be our touch-stone? If the direct, natural application of the words of Jesus to Nicodemus the Pharisee is sustained even to the end, we shall recognize by this sign the authenticity of the account. If, on the contrary, the discourse loses itself, as it advances, in vague generalities, without appropriateness and without direct relation to the given situation, we shall find in this fact the indication of a more or less artificial composition.
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Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on John 2". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
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