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Bible Commentaries
John 5

Godet's Commentary on Selected BooksGodet on Selected Books

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First Cycle: Chapt. 5-8.

This cycle contains three sections:

1. Chap. 5. The beginning of the conflict in Judea;

2. Chap. 6. The crisis of faith in Galilee;

3. Chaps. 7, 8. The renewal and continuation of the conflict in Judea. From chap. 5 to chap. 8 we must reckon a period of seven or eight months. Indeed, if we are not in error, the event related in chap. 5 occurred at the feast of Purim, consequently in the month of March. The story of the multiplication of the loaves, chap. 6, transports us to the time of the Passover, thus to April; and ch. 7 to the feast of Tabernacles, thus to October. If to this quite considerable period we add some previous months, which had passed since the month of December of the preceding year, when Jesus had returned to Galilee ( Joh 4:35 ), we arrive at a continuous sojourn in that region of nearly ten months (December to October), which was interrupted only by the short journey to Jerusalem in chap. 5. It is strange that of this ten months' Galilean activity, John mentions only a single event: the multiplication of the loaves (chap. 6). Is it not natural to conclude from this silence, that, in this space of time left by John as a blank, the greater part of the facts of the Galilean ministry related by the Synoptics are to be placed. The multiplication of the loaves is, as it were, the connecting link between the two narratives.



The conclusion to which Godet comes with regard to the feast mentioned in the first verse that it was the feast of Purim is probably, though not certainly, correct. This feast will meet satisfactorily the fact of the absence of the article (which seems to be the original text), and the apparent demands of the narrative with respect to time. In a story which, notwithstanding the fact that it is evidently planned on the principle of selection, yet follows carefully the chronological sequence of events, it is scarcely possible that a whole year between this first verse (that is, what happened at the time of this feast) and John 6:4, would be altogether omitted. But this would be the fact, if this feast was a Passover. The same would be the case, substantially, if it was Pentecost. At the time of the other feasts of the year in which the first Passover occurred, Jesus had probably (according to the impression of the narrative) been absent from Jerusalem. The feast here referred to, must, therefore, have been either the Passover or Pentecost, if it was one of the more prominent feasts. The objections to the view that it was Purim do not appear to have special weight.

As for the allusion to such a minor feast, it is to be observed that the narrative is not given for the occasion, but for what occurred. The miracle and the discourse belonged to the testimony. They must be recorded, of course, whenever they happened to occur. As for the presence of Jesus at this feast and His absence a month later at the Passover ( Joh 6:4 ), His action, provided He was absent at the latter festival, may be accounted for in connection with the plan of His life and work. The appointed hour was not to be hastened. Keil is undoubtedly correct in saying that all which can be positively affirmed is, that the feast occurred between the Passover mentioned in Joh 2:13 and the one alluded to in John 6:4. But we may go beyond positive affirmations, and may look for probabilities. Looking at these, we find that the limits within which it may be placed are December and April ( Joh 4:35 and Joh 6:4 ), and this fact points towards the feast of Purim.

With respect to the miracle and the man on whom it was wrought, the following points may be noticed:

1. The peculiarity of the miracle, as distinguishing it from the one mentioned in John 4:46 ff., is found in the long continuance of the illness. This miracle does not seem, however, to be recorded for its own sake, so much as with reference to the discourse to which it gave occasion.

2. It is held by many writers, that the words which Jesus addressed to the man, when he met him again after the healing: “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon thee,” prove that the man's disease was occasioned by his sin. While this may be the fact, it is yet not certainly so. Jesus is evidently comparing the penalty of sin with the sickness. But it is not necessary, for this reason, to hold that the sin caused the sickness. Is He not rather urging him to become free from the spiritual malady in which he, like other men, is involved, as he had become free from his physical malady? The evidence that the bodily maladies referred to in the Gospel narratives were generally occasioned by special sins on the part of the individuals concerned, is very slight The opinion that such is the case is, substantially, founded wholly upon conjecture.

3. The fact mentioned in John 5:13, that the man was cured by Jesus without knowing who He was, is one which strikingly marks this story. It must have affected the minds of the disciples, as their thoughts, full of wonder, were turned more and more towards what Jesus was and what He was doing.

4. The opposition of the Jews is represented as excited by two things: first, by Jesus' violation of the Sabbath, and secondly, and in a still higher degree, by what His defense of Himself against their first charge seemed to them to involve. This last matter is evidently the starting-point for the discourse which follows, and thus it is in connection with this point that the whole substance of this chapter both in its earlier and its later portion is introduced. The idea which these Jews had of Jesus' claims is an important element in the chapter, as related to its thought.


There can be no reasonable doubt that what the Jews charged upon Jesus was, that He made Himself equal with God ἴσον τῷ θεῷ . To this charge it is, that He addresses Himself; and the question of the chapter is, whether He accepts their understanding and defends His claim, or whether He explains Himself as not affirming what they allege, and thus escapes their charge by placing Himself in a position, not of equality with God, but of inferiority to Him. In connection with this subject, there are some points of special interest which may be noticed.

1. Viewing the book in the light of its plan, we may observe that, in the gradual development of the proof that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Divine Logos, the matter of His equality with God is the highest point. We should expect it to be brought forward as the latest rather than the earliest thing, and to be set forth by progressive testimony, rather than all at once. This would be a thing especially to be expected in a book in which testimony and proof were intended to move, in any measure, along with experience. The phenomena of the book are in accordance with what we should thus expect. The testimony of various sorts to various ends, which have been already referred to in these notes, have all been presented before this one is first introduced. The development of the testimony with reference to this point, on the other hand, is progressive. We do not find it, and cannot expect to find it, in its full presentation, in the present chapter.

2. The portion of the proof which is given here is suggested, as it naturally must have been, by the circumstances of the case. The work performed was that of healing, accompanied by a turning of the thought of the one who was healed to the new spiritual life. Jesus calls the thoughts of the Jewish adversaries, therefore, to the work which He has to do with relation to men and to the great question of judgment and salvation. These things pertain to His Messianic office in respect to which He is the messenger of the Father to the world, His commissioned agent for the carrying out of His plan. He presents Himself necessarily, therefore, with a certain element of subordination. But, with this element of subordination essentially connected with His office, there is set forth equality. The Son does what the Father does; even the greatest of all works, in the sphere of thought which is opened, the gift of spiritual life and the final judgment are even wholly in the hands of the Son; the resurrection and the eternal destiny of all are in His power. And men are to honor the Son even as they honor the Father. What could have been the thoughts of His adversaries, as they heard these claims to equality in working and in honor, except that He actually assumed to Himself that equality which they had charged Him with assuming? They could not have believed that He was explaining away the offensiveness to their minds of His words in John 5:17. They certainly did not believe this, as we see by the later chapters in the narrative.

3. They did not claim that He made Himself the same with the Father, but equal with Him. It must be observed that the evidences for His claims are such as, when taken in connection with their charge, were calculated to impress them with the conviction that He was supporting His assumption of the equality of which they spoke, and not putting Himself on a lower position. The miraculous works even greater things than they had seen and the Old Testament Scriptures were His witnesses. He even declared that He did not look to human testimony. The appeal to such evidences after such a charge, the declaration even that the Old Testament had its meaning and end in Him, could not have sounded in the ears of those hearers as a withdrawal of any claim to that which they had accused Him of claiming.

4. What must have been the thought of the five or six earliest disciples, as they added these words which rested upon this miracle to all that they had heard or seen before. Certainly their thought must have moved forward to higher ideas of Jesus, and what He now said must have made them wait eagerly and wonderingly for further revelations.


The discourse of Jesus is made by Godet to consist of three parts. Perhaps, it may better be divided into four. From Joh 5:19 to John 5:30, Jesus evidently gives His answer to their charge and explains His powers and office. From Joh 5:31 to John 5:40, He gives the evidences on which He rests in His declarations respecting Himself. From Joh 5:41 to John 5:44, He sets before them the reason why they will not accept Him for what He is it is because they have not in their hearts the love of God. From Joh 5:45 to John 5:47, He points them to the final issue for themselves of their rejection of Him, and declares that it will be the author of the books containing their own law, who will be their accuser before God and whose writings will be their condemnation.

Verse 1

Ver. 1. “ After these things, there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

The connecting phrase μετὰ ταῦτα , after these things, does not-seem to us to indicate, notwithstanding the examples cited by Meyer, as immediate a succession as does μετὰ τοῦτο , after this. Whatever may be the feast to which we refer the event which is about to be related, it must have been separated by quite a long interval from the previous return. In fact, the feast which followed next after that return (in the course of December), that of the Dedication, at the end of this month, cannot be the one in question here. Jesus would not have returned to Judea so soon after He had left it for the reason indicated in John 4:1. After this came the feast of Purim in March, then that of the Passover in April.

If the article ἡ before ἑορτή , “ the feast,” is read, the meaning is not doubtful; the latter feast is the one in question; for it was the principal one among the Jewish festivals, and the one best known to Greek readers ( Joh 6:4 ). But why should such a large number of documents have omitted the article, if it was authentic? We can much more easily understand the reason for its addition; it was supposed that the question was precisely of the Passover. If the article is rejected, not only is there no further evidence in favor of this feast, but it is even positively excluded. More than this, it would be excluded even with the article. For why should not John, who elsewhere names it distinctly, do the same here? Comp. John 2:13; John 6:4; John 11:55, etc. Moreover, immediately afterwards, the narrative speaks to us, John 6:4, of a Passover during which Jesus remains in Galilee.

We should, therefore, be obliged to suppose that between chaps. 5 and 6 a whole year elapsed, of which John does not say a single word a very improbable supposition. Besides, in chap. 7 ( Joh 5:19-24 ), Jesus reverts to the healing of the impotent man which is related in chap. 5, for the purpose of justifying it; would He have proceeded thus with respect to it after an interval of more than a year? Chap. Joh 4:35 placed us in the month of December; chap. Joh 6:4 points to the month of April. Between these two dates, it is quite natural to think of the feast of Purim, which was celebrated in March. This feast had reference to the deliverance of the Jews by queen Esther. It was not, it is true, of Divine institution, like the three great feasts; but why should this fact have prevented Jesus from going to it, as He did to the feast of Dedication (chap. 10) which was in the same case?

And the expression: a feast, is exactly explained by this circumstance. As it was much less known than the others, outside of the Jewish people, and as by reason of its political character it had lost all importance for the Christian Church, it was needless to name it. Against this feast is alleged that it was not specially celebrated at Jerusalem. It consisted, in fact, in the reading of the book of Esther in every synagogue, and at banquets which took place throughout the country. But Jesus may have gone to Judea at that time with the intention of remaining there until the Passover feast, which was to be celebrated soon afterwards. The conflict that occurred on occasion of the healing of the impotent man was that which forced Him to return sooner to Galilee.

Although, therefore, de Wette pronounces his verdict by declaring, “that there is not a single good reason to allege in favor of the feast of Purim,” it appears to me that everything speaks in favor of this interpretation, which is that of Hug, Olshausen, Wieseler, Meyer, Lange, Gess, Weiss, etc. Irenaeus, Luther, Grotius, Lampe, Neander, Hengstenberg, etc., decide in favor of the Passover. Chrysostom, Calvin, Bengel, Hilgenfeld, etc., give the preference to Pentecost. The absence of the article and of a precise designation speak against the second supposition, as well as against the first. Besides, between John 5:1 (Pentecost) and John 6:4 (Passover of the following year), a period of more than ten months would have to be placed, respecting which John kept complete silence. Ebrard, Ewald, Lichtenstein, Riggenbach (doubtfully), pronounce for the feast of Tabernacles. This supposition is quite as improbable; for this feast is expressly named John 7:2: ἡ ἑορτὴ τῶν᾿Ιουδαίων , ἡ σκηνοπηγία . Why should it not be named here, as well as there? Westcott thinks of the feast of trumpets, on the first of the month Tisri, which opened the civil year of the Hebrews. It is on this day that the Rabbis fix the creation of the world and the last judgment. This day was solemnly announced by the sound of the sacerdotal trumpets. But can we suppose that a whole year elapsed between chap. 5 and chap. 7, where we find ourselves again in the month of October? Lucke, de Wette, Luthardt, regard any determination of the point as impossible.

This question has more importance than appears at the first glance. If we refer Joh 5:1 to the feast of Purim, as we believe we should, the framework of the history of Jesus is contracted: two years and a half are sufficient to include all its dates: Joh 2:13 Passover (1st year); John 4:35, December (same year); John 5:1, Purim, March (2d year); John 6:4, Passover (April); John 7:1, Tabernacles (October); John 10:22, Dedication (December); John 12:1, Passover, April (3d year). If, on the other hand, Joh 5:1 designates a Passover feast, or one of those which followed it in the Jewish year, we are necessarily led to extend the duration of Jesus' ministry to three years and a half. Gess places this journey of Jesus at the time of the mission of the Twelve in Galilee (Matthew 11:1; Mar 6:7 ); this circumstance would explain why Jesus repaired to Judea alone or almost alone. This combination has nothing impossible in it (see on Joh 5:13 ). Has not Beyschlag good grounds for alleging in favor of John's narrative the very naturally articulated course of the history of Jesus which appears in it: Judea, chap. 1; Galilee, chap. 2a; Judea, chap. 2b, 3; Samaria, chap. 4a; Galilee, chap. 4b; Judea, chap. 5; Galilee, chap. 6; Judea, chap. 10, etc., in opposition to the strongly-marked contrast, without transition, which the Synoptical narrative presents: Galilee, Judea?

Verses 1-47


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verse 2

Ver. 2. “ Now there is at Jerusalem, by the sheep-gate, a pool called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches.

The Sinaitic MS. rejects the words ἐπὶ τῇ , by the, and thus makes the adjective προβατικῇ , pertaining to sheep, the epithet of κολυμβήθρᾳ : the reservoir or the pool for sheep. This reading is too weakly supported to be adopted, even in the view of Tischendorf. We must, therefore, understand as the substantive belonging with the adjective προβατικῇ , pertaining to sheep, one of the substantives, πύλῃ , gate, or ἀγορᾷ , market. The passages in Nehemiah, Nehemiah 3:1-32; Nehemiah 12:39, where a sheep-gate is mentioned, favor the former of these two ellipses.

In Nehemiah 3:3, mention is made of a fish-gate as near the preceding; it is probable that these two gates derived their names from the adjacent markets. The sheep-gate must have been situated on the side of the valley of Jehoshaphat, on the east of the city. As Bovet says, “the small cattle which entered Jerusalem came there certainly by the east; for it is on this side that the immense pastures of the wilderness of Judea lie.” Riehm's Dictionary also says: “Even at the present day, it is through this gate that the Bedouins lead their flocks to Jerusalem for sale.” The sheep-gate, as Hengstenberg observes, according to Nehemiah 12:39-40, must have been quite near the Temple; for it is from this that, in the ceremony of the inauguration of the walls, the cortege of priests entered immediately into the sacred inclosure. The gate, called at the present day St. Stephen's, at the northeast angle of the Haram, answers to these data. M. de Saulcy ( Voyage autour de la mer Morte, t. II. pp. 367, 368) holds, according to some passages of St. Jerome and of authors of the Middle Ages, that there were in this place two neighboring pools, and supplying, in thought, κολυμβήθρᾳ , he explains: “Near the sheep-pool, there is the pool called Bethesda.” In spite of the triumphant tone with which this explanation is proposed, it is inadmissible. The expression of the evangelist, thus understood, would suppose this alleged sheep-pool, which is nowhere mentioned in the Old Testament, to be known to his Greek readers. Meyer, accepting the reading of the Sinaitic MS. τὸ λεγόμενον ἑβραιστὶ Βηθζάθα , explains: “There is near the sheep-pool the place called in Hebrew, Bethzatha.”

But a place so completely unknown as the sheep-pool could not be indicated as a determining-point to Greek readers. The feminine ἔχουσα which follows is, besides, hardly favorable to this reading, which is only an awkward correction, like so many others which are met with in this manuscript. Weiss makes κολυμβήθρᾳ , a dative, and thinks that the best subject to be supplied is οἰκίᾳ , the building Bethesda; this ellipsis seems to me very unnatural. Bengel and Lange have concluded from the present ἔστι , there is, that the Gospel was written before the destruction of Jerusalem. But this present may be inspired by the vividness of recollection. Besides, an establishment of this kind belongs to the nature of the place and may survive a catastrophe. Tobler (Denkblatter, pp. 53ff.), has proved that, in the fifth century, the porches here spoken of were still pointed out. Hengstenberg concludes from the ἐπί , upon, in the word ἐπιλεγομένη , “ sur named,” that the pool bore also another name.

But it is more simple to suppose that John regards the word pool as the name, and Bethesda as the sur name. The expression: in Hebrew, denotes the Aramaic dialect, which had become the popular language since the return from the captivity. The most natural etymology of the word Bethesda is certainly beth-cheseda, house of mercy, whether this name alludes to the munificence of some pious Jew who had had these porches constructed to shelter the sick, or whether it refers to the goodness of God, from which this healing spring proceeded. Delitzsch has supposed that the etymology may be beth-estaw ( אסטיו ) peristyle. Beth- Aschada ( אשׁדא ) place of outpouring (of the blood of victims), has also been thought of. The Alexandrian and Greco-Latin variants are only gross corruptions (see those of B and D). It might be supposed that these porches were five isolated buildings, arranged in a circle around the pool. But it is more simple to imagine a single edifice, forming a pentagonal peristyle, in the centre of which was the reservoir. There are still known at the present day, in the eastern part of the city of Jerusalem, some springs of mineral water; among others, on the west of the inclosure of the Temple, in the Mahometan quarter, the baths of Ain-es-Schefa ( Ritter, 16th part, p. 387). Tobler has proved that this spring is fed by the large chamber of water situated under the mosque which has replaced the temple. Another better known spring is found at the foot of the southeastern slope of Moriah; it is called the Virgin-spring. We have two principal accounts respecting this pond, those of Tobler and Robinson. The spring is very intermittent.

The basin is sometimes entirely dry; again, the water is seen springing up between the stones. On the 21st of January, 1845, Tobler saw the water rise four and a half inches, with a gentle undulation. On the 14th of March, it rose for more than twenty minutes to the height of six or seven inches, and in two minutes sank again to its previous level. Robinson saw the water rise a foot in five minutes. A woman assured him that this movement is repeated at certain times, two or three times a day, but that in summer it is often observed only once in two or three days. These phenomena present a certain analogy to what is related of the spring of Bethesda. Eusebius also speaks of springs existing in this locality whose water was reddish. This color, which evidently arises from mineral elements, was, according to him, due to the infiltration of the blood of victims. Tradition places the pool of Bethesda in a great square hollow, surrounded by walls and situated to the north of the Haram, southward of the street which leads from St. Stephen's gate. It is called Birket-Israil; it has a depth of about twenty-one meters, a breadth of about forty, and a length more than twice as great. The bottom is dry, filled with grass and shrubs. Robinson supposed that it was a fosse, formerly belonging to the fortifications of the citadel of Antonia. This supposition is rejected by several competent authorities. However this may be, Bethesda must have been nearly in this locality, for it is here that the sheep-gate (see above) was situated. As it is impossible to identify the pool of Bethesda with any one of the thermal springs of which we have just spoken, it must have been covered with debris, or have disappeared, as happens so frequently with intermittent fountains. The springs which are found at the present day merely prove how favorable the soil is to this kind of phenomena.

Verses 3-4

Vv. 3, 4. “ In these porches lay a great number of sick persons, blind, lame, withered, [ waiting for the movement of the water. 4. For an angel descended from time to time into the pool and troubled the water; whosoever then first entered in after the troubling of the water, was healed of whatever disease he had ].”

The spectacle which this portico surrounding the pool presented is reproduced in some sort de visu by Bovet, describing the baths of Ibrahim, near Tiberias: “The hall where the spring is found is surrounded by several porticos, in which we see a multitude of people crowded one upon another, laid upon pallets or rolled in blankets, with lamentable expressions of misery and suffering..... The pool is of white marble, of circular form and covered by a cupola supported by columns; the basin is surrounded on the interior by a bench on which persons may sit.” Ξηροί , impotent, properly denotes those who have some member affected with atrophy, or, according to the common expression, wasting away. The end of Joh 5:3 and the 4th verse are wanting in the larger part of the Alexandrian MSS., and are rejected by Tischendorf, Lucke, Tholuck, Olshausen, Meyer.

The large number of variants and the indications of doubt by which this passage is marked in several MSS., favor the rejection. The defenders of the authenticity of the passage, for example Reuss, explain the omission of it by the Alexandrian authorities by a dogmatic antipathy which, they hold, betrayed itself in the similar omission Luke 22:43-44 (the appearance of the angel at Gethsemane). This supposition would not, by any means, apply either to the Sinaitic MS., which has the passage in Luke entire, or to the Alexandrian which, in our passage, reads the fourth verse. The Vatican MS., alone presents the two omissions together; which evidently is not enough to justify the suspicion expressed above.

I held with Ewald, in my earlier editions, that the true reading is the one presented by the Cambridge MS., and by numerous MSS. of the Itala, which preserve the close of Joh 5:3 while omitting the whole of John 5:4. The words: waiting for the movement of the water, if they are authentic, may indeed easily have occasioned the gloss of John 5:4. And Joh 5:7 seems to demand, in what precedes, something like the last words of John 5:3. Still it seems to me difficult to understand what should have occasioned the omission of these words in so large a number of documents, if they had originally formed part of the text. I am inclined, therefore, to hold with Weiss, Keil, etc., that they, as well as John 5:4, were added. The whole was at first written on the margin by a copyist; then this marginal remark was introduced into the text, as is observed in so many cases. This interpolation must be very ancient, for it is found already in one of the Syriac Versions (Syr sch ), and Tertullian seems to allude to it ( de Bapt., c. 5). It was the expression of the popular opinion respecting the periodical movement of the water. According to the authentic text, there is nothing supernatural in the phenomenon of Bethesda. The whole is reduced to the intermittence which is so frequently observed in thermal waters. It is known that these waters have the greatest efficacy at the moment when they spring up, set in ebullition by the increased action of the gas, and it was at this moment that each sick person tried to be the first to feel its influence. Hengstenberg, who admits the intervention of the angel, extends the same explanation to all thermal waters. But it would be necessary, in this case, to hold a singular exaggeration in the terms of John 5:4. For after all no mineral water instantaneously heals the sick and all the kinds of maladies which are here mentioned.

Verses 5-7

Vv. 5-7. “ There was a man there, held by his sickness for thirty-eight years. 6. When Jesus saw him lying, and knew that he had been already sick for a long time, he said unto him: Dost thou wish to be healed? 7. The sick man answered him: Sir, I have no one, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool; and while I am coming, another goes down before me.

The long continuance of the malady is mentioned, either to set forth how inveterate and difficult to heal it was, or rather, according to John 5:6, to explain the profound compassion with which Jesus was moved on beholding this unhappy man. ῎Εχων might be taken in the intransitive sense ( ἀσθενῶς ἔχειν ); but the construction is so similar to that of John 5:6, where χρόνον is the object of ἔχει , that it is preferable to make ἔτη the object of ἔχων : “Having thirty-eight years in this condition of sickness.” One has what one suffers. It is not necessary to connect ἔχων closely with ἦν ἐκεῖ , as if John meant to say that the sick person had been there for thirty-eight years.

Jesus appears here suddenly, as it were coming forth from a sort of incognito. What a difference between this arrival without eclat and His entrance into the Temple at the first Passover, John 2:13 ff.! Here it is no longer the Messiah; it is a simple pilgrim. Meyer translates γνούς : having learned, as if Jesus had received information. Weiss thinks that he heard the fact from the lips of the sick man himself. This meaning is possible; γνούς may, however, indicate one of those instantaneous perceptions by which the truth revealed itself to Jesus in the degree which was demanded by His task at the moment. Comp. John 1:49; John 4:17. The 14th verse will show that the entire life of the sick man is present to the view of Jesus. The long time recalls the thirty-eight years of John 5:5: in this way is the identity of construction explained. The feast of Purim was celebrated among the Jews by works of beneficence and mutual gifts. It was the day of largesses. On Purim-day, said a Jew, nothing is refused to children. Jesus enters into the spirit of the feast, as He does also in chaps. 6 and 7, as regards the rites of the feasts of the Passover and of Tabernacles. His compassion, awakened by the sight of this man lying ill and abandoned ( lying on a couch), and by the inward contemplation of the life of suffering which had preceded this moment ( already), impels him to bestow largess also and spontaneously to accomplish for him a work of mercy. His question: “ Dost thou wish to be healed? ” is an implicit promise. Jesus endeavors thus, as Lange says, to draw the sick man from the dark discouragement in which this long and useless waiting had plunged him, and to reanimate hope within him. At the same time, Jesus by means of this question wishes to turn away His thought from the means of healing on which it was exclusively fixed, and to give him a perception of a new means, the living being who is to become for him the true Bethesda. Comp. the similar words of Peter to the impotent man, Acts 3:4: “ Look on us. ” Faith, awakened by his look fixed upon Him who is speaking to him, will be, as it were, the channel through which the force from above will penetrate within him. The answer of the sick man does not imply the authenticity of John 5:4, nor even necessarily that of the end of John 5:3. It is sufficiently explained by the fact, known or easy to understand, of the intermittent ebullition of the spring. We see by the words: I have no one, that he was solitary and poor.

Verses 8-9

Vv. 8, 9. “ Jesus saith unto him: Arise, take up thy bed, and walk. 9. And immediately the man was healed, and he took up his bed, and walked. Now that day was a Sabbath.

The word κράββατος comes from the Macedonian dialect ( Passow); it is written in different ways. The imperfect he walked dramatically paints the joy in the recovered power.

Verses 10-13

Vv. 10-13. “ The Jews therefore said unto him who had been healed: It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. 11. He answered them: He that healed me said unto me: Take up thy bed, and walk. 12. They asked him therefore: who is the man who said unto thee: Take up thy bed and walk? 13. But he that was healed knew not who it was; for Jesus had disappeared as there was a multitude in the place.

The act of carrying his bed seemed to the Jews a violation of the Sabbath rest. The Rabbis distinguished three sorts of works interdicted on the Sabbath, among them that of carrying a piece of furniture. The Rabbinical statute also prohibited treating a sick person medically, and perhaps the term τεθεραπευμένος ( cared for, treated), contains an allusion to this other no less heavy grievance. But the fault of the Jews was in identifying the rabbinical explanation of the fourth commandment with its real meaning.

The sick man very logically places his action under the protection of Him who miraculously has given him the power to perform it. The question of the Jews ( Joh 5:12 ) is very characteristic. It is reproduced with much accuracy and nicety. They do not ask: “Who healed thee?” The fact of the miracle, though surprising enough, affects them very slightly. But the contravention of their Sabbatic statute, this is what is worthy of attention. Here is, indeed, the spirit of the ᾿Ιουδαῖοι ( Joh 5:10 ). The aorist ἰαθείς ( healed), differing from τεθεραπευμένος ( cared for), sets forth prominently the moment when the sick man, having gained the consciousness of his cure, looked about for His benefactor without being able to find Him. The reading adopted by Tischendorf ( ὁ ἀσθενῶν ) has no intrinsic value, and is not sufficiently sustained. The design of Jesus in withdrawing so speedily was to avoid the noise and the flocking together of a multitude; He feared the carnal enthusiasm which His miracles were exciting. But it does not follow from this, that the last words: “ as there was a crowd in the place,” are intended to express this motive. They rather set forth, as Hengstenberg thinks, the possibility of escape. Jesus had easily disappeared in the midst of the crowd which was thronging the place. This is, undoubtedly, the meaning which the reading of the Sinaitic MS. is designed to express: ἐν μέσῳ ( in the midst of); it is inadmissible, as well as the other variant of the same MS. in this verse ( ἔνευσεν ). ᾿Εκνεύω , strictly: to make a motion of the head in order to avoid a blow, hence: to escape. The aorist has certainly here the sense of the pluperfect (against Meyer and Weiss). From this slight detail, Gess concludes that Jesus was not accompanied by His disciples in this visit to Jerusalem, and that they were at this time accomplishing their mission in Galilee.

Verses 14-15

Vv. 14, 15. “ Afterward, Jesus finds him in the temple and said to him: Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more, lest a worse thing befall thee. 15. The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.

The sick man had, undoubtedly, come into the temple to pray or offer a thank- offering. The warning which Jesus addresses to him certainly implies that his malady had been the effect of some particular sin; but we need not infer from this that every malady results from an individual and special sin; it may have as its cause, in many cases, the debasement of the collective life of humanity by means of sin (see on Joh 9:3 ). By something worse than thirty-eight years of suffering, Jesus can scarcely mean anything but damnation.

In the revelation which the impotent man gives to the Jews, we need not see either a communication dictated by thankfulness and the desire to bring the Jews to faith ( Chrysostom, Grotius, etc.), nor an ill-disposed denunciation ( Schleiermacher, Lange), nor an act of obedience to the Jewish authorities (Lucke, de Wette, Luthardt), nor, finally, the bold desire of making known to them a power superior to their own ( Meyer). It is quite simply the reply which he was not able to give, at John 5:13, and which he now gives to discharge his own responsibility; for he remained himself under the complaint so long as he could not refer it to the author of the act, and this violation of the Sabbath might draw upon him the penalty of death (John 5:16; Joh 5:18 ); comp. Numbers 15:35.

Verse 16

Ver. 16. “ For this cause did the Jews persecute Jesus, because he did these things on the Sabbath day.

Διὰ τοῦτο ( for this cause), resumes what precedes, and, at the same time, is explained by the phrase which closes the verse: because...The word διώκειν ( persecute), indicates the seeking of the means to injure. In favor of the authenticity of the following words in the T. R.: and they sought to kill him, the μᾶλλον ( yet more), of John 5:18, can be alleged. But it is still more probable that it is these words in Joh 5:18 which have occasioned this interpolation. The imperfect ἐποίει ( He did), malignantly expresses the idea that the violation of the Sabbath has henceforth passed with Him into a rule: He is accustomed to do it. This idea is entirely lost in the inaccurate translation of Ostervald and of Rilliet: “because He had done this. ” The plural ταῦτα ( these things), refers to the double violation of the Sabbath, the healing and the bearing of the burden.

Let us notice here two analogies between John and the Synoptics: 1. In the latter also, Jesus is often obliged to perform His miracles as it were by stealth, and even to impose silence on those whom He has healed. 2. It is on occasion of the Sabbatic healings wrought in Galilee, that, according to them also, the conflict breaks out ( Luk 6:1-11 ).

Verse 17

Ver. 17. “ Jesus answered them: My Father worketh until now, and I work.

The aorist middle ἀπεκρίνατο is found only here and in John 5:19; perhaps also John 12:23. Its use may be occasioned by the personal, apologetic character of the following discourse. This utterance, like that of John 2:19 (comp. Luk 2:49 ), is like a flash of light breaking forth from the inmost depths of the consciousness of Jesus, from the point of mysterious union where He inwardly receives the Father's impulse. These sudden and immeasurably profound outbreakings of thought distinguish the language of Jesus from all other language.

These words are ordinarily explained in this sense: “My Father works continually (that is without allowing Himself to stop on the Sabbath), and, for myself, I work in the same way, without being bound by the legal statute;” either in that this declaration is applied to the work of God in the preservation of the universe, when once the creation is finished, ( Reuss), or in that it is referred to the work of the salvation of humanity, which admits of no interruption ( Meyer). In both cases, Jesus would affirm that He is no more subjected, as a man, to the obligation of the Sabbatic rest, than is God Himself. But if this were, indeed, His thought, He would not have said: until this very hour ( ἔως ἄρτι ), but always, continually ( ἀεί ). This objection is the more serious, because, according to the position of the words, this adverb of time, and not the verb, has the emphasis. Then, in the second member of the sentence, Jesus could not have refrained from either repeating the adverb or substituting for it the word ὁμοίως , in the same way; “And I also work continually, or likewise.”

Besides, it would have been very easy to answer to this argument that the position of a man with regard to the Sabbatic commandment is not the same with that of God. Finally the declaration of Jesus, thus understood, would contradict the attitude of submission to the law which He constantly observed during His life. Born a Jew, He lived as a faithful Jew. He emancipated Himself, undoubtedly, from the yoke of human commandments and Pharisaic traditions, but never from that of the law itself. It is impossible to prove in the life of Jesus a single contravention of a truly legal prescription. Death alone freed Him from this yoke. Such is the impression which He left, that St. Paul says of Him ( Gal 4:4 ): “ born under the law,” and characterizes His whole life by the expression ( Rom 15:8 ): “ minister of the circumcision. Luthardt has fully perceived the special sense which the adverb ἔως ἄρτι , until this hour, must have. He has had the idea of contrasting it, not with the Sabbatic institution, but with the final Sabbath yet to come: “Since up to this time the work of salvation has not been consummated, as it will be in the future Sabbath, and consequently my Father works still, I also work.” This sense is certainly much nearer to the thought of Jesus; only the antithesis between the present Sabbath and the Sabbath to come is not indicated by anything in the text.

To apprehend thoroughly the meaning of this utterance, let us for a moment set aside the words ἕως ἄρτι , until this hour. Jesus says: “My Father works, and I also work.” The relation between these two propositions is obvious. We easily understand that it is necessary to combine logically what is grammatically in juxtaposition, and that it is as if it were: “ Since my Father works, I also work.” The Son cannot remain idle when the Father is working. We find again here that paratactic construction which is conformed to the genius of the Hebrew language, and which expresses by the simple copula, and, one of the numerous logical relations which the genius of the Greek states with precision by means of some other conjunction; comp. John 1:10, John 2:9, etc. Nothing is changed in this relation by the addition of the adverb ἐως ἄρτι , until this hour. The meaning becomes the following: “Since my Father works up to this moment, I also work.” Passow, in his Dictionary, remarks that in Greek, especially in the later writers, ἄρτι following καί , as is the case here, serves to indicate the immediate and rapid succession of two states; thus in this sentence: ἄρτι ἀπείργαστο τὸ ἆσμα καὶ ἀπῆλθεν ( the song was no sooner finished than he departed).

This is precisely the relation of immediate succession which Jesus affirms here as the law of His activity, as the true relation between His Father's work and His own, from which He draws the justification of the miracle which had been made the subject of incrimination. Westcott, Weiss and Keil are unwilling to see here an idea of subordination; they claim that the work of the Son is much rather co-ordinated with that of the Father. But this alleged co-ordination would not justify Jesus; for, as we have already said, the position of a man cannot be compared to that of God. We must reach the point of dependence in order that the argument may avail. And this relation of dependence it is, indeed, which appears from the relation between the two propositions: “Since my Father works until this moment, I also work.” In order to grasp the meaning of this word, at once simple and profound, it is sufficient to imagine Jesus working with Joseph in the carpenter's shop at Nazareth. Can we not readily understand the reply which He would have addressed to the one who wished to turn Him aside from the work: “My Father works until now, and I also [consequently] cannot cease to work.” Jesus finds Himself now with His Heavenly Father in a vaster workshop; He sees God at work in the theocracy and in the whole world, occupied with working for the salvation of mankind, and He suits His own local and personal working to this immense work. This is what He has just done in healing the impotent man; this modest healing is a link in the great chain suspended from His Father's hand, a real factor in the work which God is accomplishing here on earth. The development of this thought will follow in John 5:19-20.

The meaning, therefore, is not: “I, as truly as God, have the right to work on the Sabbath;” but: “I have done nothing but obey the signal which God gave me at the moment...” Jesus sets forth, not the continuity of His working, but his filial and devoted adaptation to the work of the Father. And if objection is made that this amounts to the same thing, since God might direct Him to work even on the Sabbath, the answer is easy. God will not direct him to do anything which is contrary to the position of Jew, which He has imposed upon Him for the time of His earthly life. And He has done this none the more in this case, since neither the way in which Jesus healed the impotent man, nor the return of the latter to His dwelling, carrying his bed, really fell under the prohibition of the Mosaic law, as rightly understood. Hilgenfeld has gone even so far as to see in this saying of the Gospel an intentional contradiction of the idea of the rest of God in Genesis.

But the rest in Genesis refers to the work of God in the sphere of nature, while the question here is of the divine work for the salvation of the human race. Is there here, as is affirmed, pretentious metaphysics? No. It is the deepest foundation of the peculiar filial life of Jesus, which all at once appears in this marvelously concise saying. The life of Socrates presents a phenomenon which has some analogy to that of which we have just had a glimpse. His genius arrested him when he was on the point of acting contrary to the will of the gods. But what a distance between this purely negative action and the positive divine impulse to which Jesus attaches His whole work! And what an appropriateness in this saying, what an imposing apology! It was to say to His adversaries: In accusing me, it is the Father whom you accuse. It is the legislator Himself whom you reproach with the transgression of the law; for I only act on a signal received from Him. We can understand, however, how this saying, instead of pacifying the adversaries, was only like the drop of oil thrown upon the fire, and caused their rage to overflow.

Verses 17-47

II. The Discourse of Jesus: John 5:17-47 .

In this discourse which is designed to vindicate the act which He has just performed, the three following thoughts are developed:

1. Jesus justifies His work by the perfect subordination which exists between His activity and that of His Father: John 5:17-30.

2. The reality of this relation does not rest solely on the personal affirmation of Jesus; it has as its guarantee the testimony of God Himself: John 5:31-40.

3. Supported by this testimony of the Father, Jesus passes from defense to attack and unveils to the Jews the moral cause of their unbelief, the absence of the true spirit of the law: John 5:41-47.

Verse 18

Ver. 18. “ For this reason the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath, but called God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

The διὰ τοῦτο ( for this reason), is explained by the ὅτι ( because), which follows. We have seen, that according to the genuine text in John 5:16, the intention to kill Jesus had not yet been ascribed to His enemies; it was only implicitly contained in the word ἐδίωκον ( they persecuted). This suffices to explain the μᾶλλον ( yet more) of John 5:18. Let us notice here the singular exaggerations of Reuss: “Let one read,” he says, “the discourse, John 5:18 ff., many times interrupted by the phrase: They persecute him, they seek to kill him. According to the common and purely historical exegesis, we reach the picture of the Jews running after Jesus in the streets and pursuing Him with showers of stones” (t. ii., p. 416). The fact is, that the simple historical exegesis, which does not of set purpose go into error, does not find in these expressions: “ They persecuted Him ” ( Joh 5:16 ), “ they sought to kill Him ” ( Joh 5:18 ), anything else than the indication of some hostile secret meetings in which the rulers asked themselves, even then, how they could get rid of so dangerous a man. The Synoptics trace back also to this epoch the murderous projects of the adversaries of Jesus (Luke 6:7; Luke 6:11; Mark 3:6; Mat 12:14 ). The anxious look of John was able to discern the fruit in the germ. ῎Ελυε , not: He had violated (Ostervald); but (imperfect): He broke, strictly: dissolved. His example and His principles seemed to annihilate the Sabbath. Besides this first complaint, the declaration of Jesus in Joh 5:17 had just furnished them a second that of blaspheming. It was, first of all, the word μοῦ ( my Father), which shocked them because of the special and exclusive sense which this expression assumed in the mouth of Jesus. If He had said Our Father, the Jews would have accepted the saying without displeasure ( Joh 8:41 ). It was, in addition, the practical consequences which he seemed to draw from the term, making the working of God the standard of His own, and thus making Himself equal with God.

The 17th verse contains the primal idea of the whole following discourse: the relation of subordination between the activity of the Father and that of the Son. John 5:19-20, set forth this idea in a more detailed way; in John 5:19, the relation of the Son's action to that of the Father; in John 5:20, the relation of the Father's action to that of the Son. We might say: the Son who puts himself with fidelity at the service of the Father ( Joh 5:19 ), and the Father who condescends to direct the activity of the Son ( Joh 5:20 ).

Verse 19

Ver. 19. “ Jesus therefore answered and said unto them: Verily, verily, I say unto you: the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father doing. For the things which he doeth, these doeth the Son also in like manner.

The interpreters who find a speculative idea in John 5:17, such as that of continuous creation, see in John 5:19-20, the unfolding of the metaphysical relation between the Father and the Logos. But if one gives to John 5:17, as we have done, a sense appropriate to the context, Joh 5:19-20 do not have this more or less abstract theological character; they, as well as John 5:17, have a practical application to the given case.

Jesus means to say, not: I am this or that for my Father; I sustain to Him such or such a relation; but: “Whatever work you see me do, though it should give offence to you, like that for which I am now accused, be well assured that, as a submissive Son, I have done it only because I saw may Father acting in this way at the same time.” There is no theology here; it is the explanation of His work which had been charged as criminal and of all His working in general, starting from the deepest law of His moral life, from His filial dependence with relation to His Father. This answer resembles the “I cannot do otherwise” of Luther, at Worms. Jesus puts His work under the guarantee of His Father's, as the impotent man had just put his own under the guarantee of the work of Jesus ( Joh 5:11 ).

The first proposition of Joh 5:19 presents this defense in a negative form: Nothing by myself; the second, in an affirmative form: Everything under the impulse of the Father. The expression: can do nothing, does not denote a metaphysical impossibility or one of essence, but a moral, that is absolutely free, powerlessness. This appears from Joh 5:26 and from the very term Son, which Jesus intentionally substitutes for the pronoun I of John 5:17. For it is in virtue of His filial that is to say, His perfectly submissive and devoted character, that Jesus is inwardly prevented from acting of Himself, at any moment whatever. He would indeed have the power of acting otherwise, if He wished; and here is the idea which gives to the expression ἀφ᾿ ἑαυτοῦ , of Himself, a real and serious meaning.

In all the phases of His existence, the Son has a treasure of force belonging to Himself which He might use freely and independently of the Father. According to John 5:26, He could, as Logos, bring forth worlds out of nothing and make Himself their God. But He is wholly with God, here on earth as in heaven, ( Joh 1:1 ); and rather than be the God of a world for Himself, He prefers to remain in His position as Son and not to use His creative power except in communion with His Father. This law of the Son in His divine life is also His law in His human existence. He possesses as man all the faculties of man, and besides, after the baptism, all the Messianic forces. Therewith He could create, of His own impulse, in the sense in which every man of talent creates create by and for Himself, and could found here below a kingdom which should be His own, like men of genius and conquerors. Was it not to this very real power that the various suggestions of Satan appealed in the wilderness? But He voluntarily refused to make any such use of His human and Messianic powers, and, invariably connecting His work with that of His Father, He thus freely remains faithful to His character as Son. The clause ἐὰν μή τι ... unless He sees...doing it, or rather: if He does not see the Father doing it, does not restrict the idea to: do of Himself. It is rather an epexegetical explanation of ἀφ᾿ ἑαυτοῦ , of Himself: “Of Himself, that is to say, if He does not see...” The present participle ποιοῦντα , doing, answers to ἄρτι , now, of John 5:17: The Son sees the Father acting, and associates Himself, at the same instant, with His action. The figurative term βλέπειν , see, denotes the look of the mind constantly fixed upon the Father to watch for His will and to discern the point where His working actually is, in order to adapt His own to it. In fact, this cannot, of which Jesus has just spoken, is only the negative side of His filial devotion. But love, while preventing His acting by Himself, causes Him to co-operate actively in the work of the Father. Contemplating it as already accomplished in the thought of God, He immediately executes it on the earth. He can only act on this condition.

This is the idea contained in the second part of John 5:19. It is united by for to the preceding. In fact, if every work of His own is impossible for the Son, it is because He devotes Himself entirely to the work of the Father. The sum of His activity being absorbed in this voluntary dependence, there remains for Him neither time nor force for acting by Himself. ῝Α γὰρ ἄν , the things, whatever they may be. This word includes eventualities without number, and, as a consequence, many other infractions of their Pharisaic statutes besides the one which they have just seen and which gives them so much offense. But He has no change to make for this reason; for every work of the Father, whatever it may be, must reproduce itself in His work. The word in like manner, ὁμοίως , does not denote a mere imitation, for the Father's work is still to be done, since the Son sets Himself to the execution of it; it is rather, as Reuss says, “an application of the Son's work to the Father's.” The Father's work becomes that of the Son, in so far as the latter is capable of containing the former. The Son connects Himself at each moment with the work of the Father, in order to continue it in the measure in which His intelligence can embrace it and His power realize it. In this saying, we know not which is the more astonishing, the simplicity of the form or the sublimity of the idea. Jesus speaks of this intimate relation with the Being of beings, as if the question were of the simplest thing in the world. It is the saying of the child of twelve years: “ Must I not be in that which belongs to my Father? ” raised to its highest power. But this perfect subordination of the Son's work to the Father's cannot exist except on one condition: that the Father consents to initiate the Son incessantly into the course of His working. This is also what He deigns to do.

Verses 19-29



Vv. 19-29.

1. The reference in John 5:19 ff., to the union between the Son and the Father is to the complete union in working, which is founded upon love, and upon the immediate seeing of what the Father does which is connected with this love, and to that subordination in love, with respect to His earthly work, which necessarily appertains to Him as fulfilling the commission of the Father. No subordination beyond this is necessarily indicated by the words.

2. The answer which Jesus makes to the Jews is, therefore, not a denial of His equality with God, but an affirmation that, in His work alluded to, what He claims for Himself is only in harmony with God's plan and is in the union and subordination of love to Him.

3. The thought is especially turned to the great work of the Son in reference to man. There seems to be no ground for doubting that the word ζωοποιεῖ , as used at the end of John 5:21, refers to spiritual life, and that it is this subject which is spoken of in John 5:24-27. The thought is thus connected with that in John 3:17 f., though the development of it is not the same, but is determined by the circumstances of the case. The words “and now is” of John 5:25, and the addition of the words “in the tombs,” “come forth,” and “resurrection of life,” etc., in John 5:28-29, which are not found in the earlier verses, can hardly be explained except as we hold that there is a turn of thought towards the future judgment at John 5:28, which has not been referred to until that point.

4. The use of the word judgment in this passage John 5:24-27, as also John 5:28-29, is kindred to that in John 3:17 ff. The same reasons, substantially, may be urged for giving the sense of condemnatory judgment to the word, as were presented in the note on the former passage. The manifest reference to the final judgment in John 5:28-29, taken in connection with the general representation of the judgment in the New Testament, makes this distinction between favorable and unfavorable judgment altogether probable here.

5. The judgment alluded to in the earlier verses is, as it were, anticipatory of that mentioned in the later ones. This use of the word belongs in connection with the general idea presented in this Gospel, and brought out in this passage, that the eternal life begins in the soul when the man believes, and is not only a future possession to be hoped for, but a present one already realized. The judgment, in this sense, is a thing already accomplished, both on the favorable and unfavorable side. When the spiritually dead hear the voice of the Son of God, they pass out of death into life; when the physically dead hear His voice, they also pass into life, but the latter passing into life is only the consummation of what is designated by the former. The decision is really made in the act of believing. The life moves forward from the moment of that act, and the last step in the process is only like all the others a step in a progressive development. The same is true, on the other side, of the one who does not believe.

6. The words υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου , being without the article, are best taken as indicative of quality, rather than as equivalent to the same words with the article. At the same time, they do not exclude the Messianic idea. To the Son is given the authority to execute judgment because, as the Son of man, He is a son of man. This relationship which He has in nature to those who are to be judged is the ground on which, in the great plan of salvation, He is made the judge, and the question of life and death is made dependent on belief in Him. The qualitative character of the expression υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρ ., including at the same time a certain reference to the title-character which belongs to the words when the article is added this is, not improbably, the combined idea which is to be found in the two other cases in the New Testament, which are similar to this; comp. Revelation 1:13; Revelation 14:14. But in those passages, the influence of the words in Dan 7:13 may be more direct and manifest, and accordingly the explanation given here is less strongly indicated.

7. Weiss holds, with respect to the last words of John 5:29, that the resurrection of those who have done evil is only for the purpose of the condemnatory judgment, and that thus, both here and elsewhere in the New Testament, no resurrection of the evil-doers, in the proper sense of the term, is spoken of that the term as applied to them is to be understood only, as it were, κατ᾿ ἀντίφρασιν . The doctrine of the resurrection of the unbelieving and evil portion of mankind is set forth, indeed, only in a few passages in the New Testament, and in these only in a general way. It seems, however, to be stated distinctly in Acts 24:15, apparently also in this place, and possibly in 1 Corinthians 15:22. Passages such as Philippians 3:11, Luk 20:35 may be explained without involving an opposite doctrine. That the resurrection should be mainly referred to as connected with the righteous, is not strange, for it was for them the consummation of the blessedness of that life to which the New Testament writers would turn the thoughts and hopes of men.

Verse 20

Ver. 20. The relation of the Father to the Son: For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth him all things that he himself doeth, and he will show him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.

The co-operation of the Son in the divine work rests ( for) upon the infinite love of the Father, which conceals nothing from the Son. The term φιλεῖν expresses tenderness ( to cherish), and suits perfectly the intimacy of the relation here described. It was otherwise in John 3:35, where the word ἀγαπᾶν , which indicates the love of approbation and, in some sort, of admiration ( ἄγαμαι ), was found; because the question there was of the communication of omnipotence. The showing of the Father corresponds to the seeing of the Son ( Joh 5:19 ), and is, at once, its condition and consequence; the condition: for the Father unveils His work to the Son, to the end that He may be able to know it and co-operate in it; the consequence: for it is this constant and faithful co-operation of the Son which causes this revelation incessantly to renew itself.

But the initiation and co-operation of the Son in the Father's work are subjected to a law of progress, as is suitable to the truly human state of this latter. This is what the end of the verse expresses: And he will show him greater works than these. The expression: whatsoever things, in John 5:19, gave a hint already of that gradual extension of the domain of the works which the Father entrusts to the Son. Reuss thinks that the question is of two different kinds of works, those of the Father appertaining to the outward domain, and those of the Son to the spiritual domain, and that the term greater refers to the superiority of the second to the first. But the bodily resurrection is also the work of the Son ( Joh 5:28-29 ), and Jesus could not, in any case, say that the Son's works are greater than the Father's. The word ὁμοίως , in like manner, would suffice to refute this explanation. Τούτων , than these, evidently refers to the healing of the impotent man and to the miracles of the same sort which Jesus had performed and of which the Jews were then witnesses. This is only the beginning. In proportion as the work of Jesus grows in extent and force, the Father's work will pass more completely into it; and thus will the saying of Isaiah be realized: “ The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. ” The word will show declares that the Father will give Him at once the signal and the power to accomplish these greater and still greater works. Comp. Revelation 1:1: “the revelation which the Father gave to Him.”

The words which close the verse: to the end that ye may marvel, are carefully weighed. Jesus refrains from saying: to the end that ye may believe. He knows too well to whom He is speaking at this moment. The question here, as Weiss says, is of a surprise of confusion. We might paraphrase thus: “And then there will truly be something at which you may be astonished.” The Jews opened their eyes widely as they saw an impotent man healed: How will it be when they shall one day, at the word of this same Jesus, see mankind recovering spiritual, and even corporeal life! One cure astonishes them: What will they say of a Pentecost and a resurrection of the dead! This somewhat disdainful manner of speaking of miracles would be strange enough on the part of an evangelist who was in the whole course of his narrative playing the part of an inventor of miracles. ῞Ινα , in order that, expresses not only a result ( ὥστε ), but a purpose. This astonishment is willed by God; for it is from it that the conversion of Israel will issue at the end of time. In view of the wonders produced by the Gospel among mankind, Israel will finally render to the Son that homage, equal to what it renders to the Father, of which Joh 5:23 speaks.

These two verses are one of the most remarkable passages of the New Testament in the Christological point of view. De Wette finds in the expression, of Himself ( Joh 5:19 ), an exclusive and scarcely clear reference to the human side of the person of Jesus; for, after all, if Jesus is the Logos, His will is as divine as that of the Father, and there can be no contrast between the one and the other, as the expression, of Himself, would imply. This defect in logic is found, according to his view, again in the words of John 16:13, where this same expression, of Himself, is hypothetically applied to the Holy Spirit. According to Lucke, it is only a popular way of presenting the human appearance of Jesus, excluding the divine element. Reuss (t. II., pp. 438ff.) brings out in this passage heresy upon heresy, if the Logos theory, as it has been presented in the Prologue, is taken as the norm of the Johannean thought. According to him, indeed, God is conceived, in the Prologue, as a purely abstract being, who does not act in space and time except through the intermediation of the Logos, who is perfectly equal to the Father, “the essence of God reproduced, so to speak, a second time and by itself.” According to our passage, on the contrary, the Father does a work for Himself ( ἃ αὐτὸς ποιεῖ ), which He reveals to the Son, and in which He gives Him a share, which is entirely contradictory. According to this latter view indeed, the Father acts directly in the world without making use of the Logos, and the Son is relatively to the Father in a condition of subordination, which is incompatible with “the equality of the two divine persons” taught in the Prologue.

The judgment of Lucke and de Wette undoubtedly strikes against the conception of the person of Jesus which is called orthodox, but not that of the New Testament and of John in particular. John does not know this Jesus, now divine, now human, to which the traditional exegesis has recourse. He knows a Logos who, once deprived of the divine state, entered fully into the human state, and, after having been revealed to Himself at the baptism as a divine subject, continued His human development, and only through the ascension recovered the divine state. By His human existence and His earthly activity, He realized in the form of becoming, the same filial relation which He realized in His divine existence in the form of being. This is the reason why all the terms employed by Jesus the showing of the Father, the seeing of the Son, the expressions “ cannot ” and “ of Himself ” apply to the different phases of His divine and human existence, to each one according to its nature and its measure. To understand the “ of Himself,” in our passage and John 16:13, it is only necessary to take in earnest, as the Scripture does, the distinction of persons in the divine being; if each one of them has His own life, from which He may draw at will, there is no inconsequence between the passages cited.

As to the judgment of Reuss, the idea, which he finds in the Prologue, of an abstract divinity, purely transcendental and without any possible relation to the world, is not that of John; it is only that of Philo. On the contrary, God is, in the Prologue, a Father full of love both for His Son ( Joh 5:18 ) and for the children whom He Himself begets by communicating to them His own life ( ἐκ θεοῦ ἐγεννηθησαν , were begotten of God, Joh 5:13 ). He can thus act directly in the world and, consequently, associate His Son, made man, in His work on the earth. Joh 5:19-20 are in contradiction to the theory of Philo, but not to the conception of the evangelist. It is exactly the same with regard to the subordination of the Son. The true thought of the Prologue is exactly that of our two verses, 19, 20; the dependence, and free dependence, of the Son ( ἧν πρὸς τὸν θεόν , Joh 5:1 ). This conception of the Logos undoubtedly, also, contradicts that of Philo, a fact which only proves one thing: that it is an error to make the evangelist the disciple of that strange philosopher, while he is simply the disciple of Jesus Christ. (Introd., pp. 127ff.)

If we wish to form a lively idea of the relation of the work of Jesus to that of the Father, as it is presented here, the best way is to enter ourselves into a similar relation to the Lord Jesus Christ. We shall then have this experience: that the more the faithful servant heartily participates in the work of his Master, the more also does the latter give him understanding in respect to the totality and the details, and the more does He make him capable of realizing it. The agent grows with the work, as the work grows with the agent. The following are well-known examples of each of the two things: Oberlin, his eyes fixed upon Christ as Christ had His eyes fixed upon the Father, discerning the point which the divine work has reached among the inhabitants of Ban-de-la-Roche and what the continuation of this work demands; John Bost, contemplating so many sufferings unrelieved on the soil of France; Felix Neff, shocked at the sight of the deserted Churches of the High Alps; Wilberforce, feeling the chains of his enslaved brethren weigh upon his heart; Antoine Court, weeping over the ruins of the Reformed Church of France; Zinzendorf, finding himself suddenly in the presence of the persecuted Moravian emigrants who arrive in troops in his own lands...; in all these cases, the faithful workman applies his ear to the heart of his Master, discerns its beating, and then, rising up, acts. Christ's work, that work which He wishes to do, passes then, in a certain portion of it, into the hands of His servant. Thus it is, no doubt, that Christ gradually entered into possession of the divine work, even till it became His own in its totality ( Joh 3:35 ). And having come to this point He gradually gives His own a part in it, who become the free sharers in His working, and He makes real to them that promise which is not without analogy to the saying which we are explaining: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that he who believeth in me, he also shall do the works which I do; he shall do even greater works than these ( μείζονα τούτων ), because I go to my Father” ( Joh 14:12 ).

Jesus has just spoken of works, greater than His present miracles, which He will one day accomplish at the signal of His Father. He now explains what these works are; they are the resurrection and the judgment of mankind, John 5:21-29. This difficult passage has been very differently understood. I. Several Fathers, Tertullian, Chrysostom, later Erasmus, Grotius, Bengel, finally in recent times Schott, Kuinoel, Hengstenberg, etc., have applied the whole of the passage (except Joh 5:24 ) to the resurrection of the dead, in the strict sense, and to the last judgment. II. A diametrically opposite interpretation was held already by the Gnostics, then, among the moderns, by Ammon, Schweizer, B. Crusius, it is that which refers the whole passage, even John 5:28-29, to the spiritual resurrection and the moral judgment which the Gospel effects; (see also Reuss, in some sort). III. Finally, a third group of interpreters unite these two views in this sense, that they refer Joh 5:21-27 to the moral action of the Gospel, and Joh 5:28-29 to the resurrection of the dead in the proper sense. These are, Calvin, Lampe, and most of the moderns, Lucke, Tholuck, Meyer, de Wette, etc. IV. By taking account, with greatest care, of the shades of expression, we arrive at the opinion that the true progress of ideas is the following: In a first cycle, the thought of Joh 5:17 has been quite summarily developed ( Joh 5:19-20 ). Then, the works of the Father which the Son is to accomplish are precisely stated in a second cycle ( Joh 5:21-23 ); those of making alive and judging. Finally, in a third cycle ( Joh 5:24-29 ) the thought makes a final advance, which brings it to its end, in the sense that Joh 5:24-27 apply to the resurrection and the spiritual judgment, and Joh 5:27-29 to the final judgment and the resurrection of the dead. This last view is, as it seems to me, nearly that of several modern commentators, such as Luthardt, Weiss and Keil.

Verse 21

Ver. 21. “ For, as the Father raiseth the dead and giveth them life, so doth the Son also make alive whom He will.

To raise the dead is a greater work than to heal an impotent man; hence the for. This work, as well as the particular miracles, is the reproduction of the Father's work. The great difficulty here is to determine whether, as the greater part of the interpreters seem to think (for many do not explain themselves sufficiently on this point), the work of resurrection ascribed to the Father is to be identified with that which the Son accomplishes, or whether it is specifically different, or, finally, whether they combine with one another by a process, the formula of which must be sought after.

According to the first explanation, the ζωοποιεῖν , give life, ascribed to the Father, would remain in a purely ideal state until the Son, yielding to the divine initiative, caused the design of the Father to pass into the earthly reality. Thus Luthardt says: “The work belongs to God, in so far as it proceeds from Him; to the Son, in so far as it is accomplished by Him in the world” (p. 444). Gess: “It is not that the resurrection of the dead was until now the work of the Father, to become now the work of the Son; the resurrection of the dead is not yet an accomplished fact. No more is it that one part of the dead are raised by the Father, another by the Son....But the Son is regarded as the organ by which the Father raises from the dead.” Baumlein : “The Son is the bearer and mediator of the Father's activity.” This sense is very good in itself; but does it really suit the expression: like as? Was this indeed the proper term to designate a single divine impulse, an initiative of a purely moral nature? Jesus, in expressing Himself thus, seems to be thinking, rather, of a real work which the Father accomplishes and to which His own corresponds.

According to the second sense, adopted by Reuss, we must ascribe the bodily resurrection to the Father and the resurrection in the spiritual sense, salvation, to the Son. Reuss finds the proof of this distinction in the οὓς θέλει , whom he wills, which indicates a selection and refers consequently to the moral domain only. This solution is untenable. How could John 5:28-29, which describe the consummation of the Son's work, be applied to the spiritual resurrection? Comp. likewise John 6:40; John 6:44, etc., where Jesus expressly ascribes to Himself, by an ἐγώ , I, several times repeated, the resurrection of the body a fact which entirely destroys the line of demarcation proposed by Reuss. Jesus seems to me rather to speak here of the divine action, at once creative, preservative and restorative, which is exercised from the beginning of things in the sphere of nature, and which has broken forth with a new power in the theocratic domain. Comp. Deuteronomy 32:39: “I kill and make alive, I wound and heal.1 Samuel 2:6: “It is the Lord who killeth and maketh alive, who bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up from it.” To this work of moral and physical restoration, till now accomplished by God, Jesus now unites His own; He becomes the agent of it in the particular sphere in which He finds Himself at each moment; this sphere will extend itself ever more widely; His capacity, in Himself, for performing it will increase in the same measure, until this domain is the universe and the power of the Son is omnipotence (comp. Mat 28:18 ).

The steps of this growth are the following: He begins to perform isolated miracles of corporeal and spiritual resurrection, samples of His great future work. From the time of His elevation to glory, He realizes, through the communication of the Holy Spirit, the moral resurrection of mankind. Finally, on His return, by the victory which He gains over the last enemy, death ( 1Co 15:26 ), He effects, in the physical domain, the resurrection of believers, and afterwards also the universal resurrection. At that moment only will the work of the Father have passed entirely into His hands. The work of the Son is not, therefore, different from that which the Father acccomplishes. Only the Son, made man, becomes the agent of it only by degrees. The present, makes alive, in the second member, is a present of competency. Comp. indeed John 5:25; John 5:28 (“the hour cometh that...”), which show that the reality is yet to come. Nevertheless, even now, the word of Christ possesses a life- giving force ( the hour even now is, Joh 5:25 ). We may connect the object the dead with the first verb only ( raiseth), and give to the second verb ( ζωοποιεἴ , gives life), an absolute sense. But perhaps it is more natural to make the words, the dead, the object of both of the verbs (see Weiss). ᾿Εγείρειν , strictly to awake, refers to the passage from death to life; ζωοποιεῖν , to give life, to the full restoration of life, whether spiritual or bodily. Nothing forces us, with Reuss, to restrict the application of the word make alive, in the second member, to spiritual life The restriction: to whom he wills, undoubtedly indicates a selection. But will there not be a selection, also, in the bodily resurrection? In John 5:29, Jesus distinguishes, in fact, two bodily resurrections, one of life, the other of judgment. The first alone truly merits the name of making alive.

By saying: those whom he wills, Jesus does not contrast His will as Son with that of the Father. This meaning would require οὓς αὐτὸς θέλει . He contrasts those whom He feels Himself constrained to make alive (believers) with those on behalf of whom it is morally impossible for Him to accomplish this miracle. These words, therefore, are the transition to John 5:22, where it is said that the judgment, that is to say, the selection, is committed to Him. In effecting the selection which decides the eternal death and life of individuals, Jesus does not cease for an instant to have His eyes fixed upon the Father, and to conform Himself to His purpose. According to John 6:38; John 6:40, He discerns those who fulfill the divinely appointed condition: he that believeth; and immediately He applies to them the lifegiving power which the Father has given to Him, and which has now become His own. Might there not be in this οὓς θέλει , those whom he wills, an allusion to the spontaneity with which Jesus had offered healing to the impotent man, without being in any way solicited by him, choosing him freely among all the sick persons who surrounded the pool? Reuss finds, in these words: those whom he wills, a contradiction to the idea of the dependence of the Son's work as related to that of the Father. But the inward feeling which makes Jesus will in such or such a way, while forming itself in Him spontaneously, is none the less in accord with that of God. Jesus wills of His own will, as He loves of His own love. But this love and this will have the same objects and the same end as the love and will of the Father. Comp. the formula, in the Apostolic Epistles: “Grace and peace from God, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Liberty is no more arbitrariness in Jesus, than in God. In the same sense it is ascribed to the Spirit ( Joh 3:8 and 1Co 12:11 ), and to the God of nature ( 1Co 15:38 ). What Jesus meant to express here is not, therefore, as Calvin and formerly Reuss have supposed, the idea of predestination, it is the glorious competency which it pleases God to bestow upon Jesus for the accomplishment of the common work. He is a source of life like the Father, morally at first, and then, one day, corporeally. While affirming His voluntary dependence, Jesus allows a glimpse to be gained of the magnificence of His filial prerogative.

Verses 22-23

Vv. 22, 23. “ For also the Father judgeth no man; but he hath committed all power of judging unto the Son, 23, to the end that all may honor the Son as they honor the Father. He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father who sent him.

Two particles connect Joh 5:22 with the preceding: γάρ , for, and οὐδέ (translated by also), which literally signifies: and no more. The meaning is, therefore: “For the Father no more judges any one (no more than He raises from the dead, when once He has committed to the Son the charge and power of raising from the dead,” Joh 5:21 ). The for presents the second fact (the passing over of judgment to the Son) as the explanation of the first (the passing over of the power to raise from the dead). Indeed, to make alive is to absolve, to refuse to make alive is to condemn.

The power of making alive those whom one wills implies, therefore, the dignity of a judge. Meyer understands judge here, as in chap. 3, in the sense of condemn. But in John 5:21, the question is expressly of making alive, saving, and not of the opposite; and the expression τὴν κρίσιν πᾶσαν , judgment in all its forms ( Joh 5:22 ), shows that the term judge should be taken in the most general sense. H. Meyer ( Discourses of the Fourth Gospel, p. 36) is shocked because this term is taken in Joh 5:22 in the spiritual sense (present moral judgment), in Joh 5:29 in the external sense (the final judgment), and finally in Joh 5:30 in a sense purely subjective (the individual judgment of Jesus), and hence he concludes that the tenor of the discourse has not been, in this case, exactly reproduced. But in Joh 5:22 the question is of judgment in the most general sense, without definite application ( all judgment). It is only in the following cycle, John 5:24-29, that the meaning of this term is precisely stated, and that it is taken, first, in the spiritual sense, then, in the external sense. Everything is, therefore, correct in the progress of the thought.

Verse 23

Ver. 23. And what is the Father's will in transferring to Jesus the two highest attributes of divinity, making alive, judging? He wills that the homage of adoration which humanity renders to Him should be extended to the Son Himself. “The Father loveth the Son” ( Joh 3:35 ); this is the reason why He wishes to see the world at the feet of the Son, even as at His own. “The equality of honor,” says Weiss, “must correspond with the equality of action.” The word τιμᾷν , to honor, does not directly express the act of adoration, as Reuss remarks. But in the context ( καθώς as), it certainly denotes the religious respect of which the act of adoration is the expression. And in claiming for His person this sentiment, in the same sense in which it is due to the Father, Jesus authorizes, as related to Himself, worship properly so called, comp. John 20:28; Philippians 2:10 “that every knee should bow at the name of Jesus;” and the Apocalypse throughout.

The Father is not jealous of such homage. For it is He whom the creature honors in honoring the Son because of His divine character; as also it is to God that honor is refused, when it is refused to the Son. There is a terrible warning for the accusers of Jesus in these last words of the verse. Jesus throws back upon them the charge of blasphemy; they must learn these zealous defenders of the glory of God that when they accuse Him, Jesus, as they are doing, because of the miracle which He has performed in the midst of them, it is God to whom the outrage which they inflict upon Him is addressed, and that the treatment to which they subject this weak and poor man touches the Father Himself, who places Himself in closest union with Him. This menacing close of Joh 5:23 is an anticipation of the severe application which is to terminate the discourse ( Joh 5:41-47 ).

The second cycle Joh 5:21-23 was a still very general development of the abridged cycle John 5:19-20. In the third cycle, John 5:24-29, Jesus now shows the progressive historical realization of these two works of making alive and judging, which the Father has conferred upon Him. Until this point ( Joh 5:21-23 ) He has attributed them to Himself only under the abstract form of mere competency. Now we behold this twofold power of saving and judging really in exercise, first in the spiritual sphere, John 5:24-27; then, in the outward domain, John 5:28-29.

Verse 24

Ver. 24. “ Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life; and he cometh not into judgment, but is passed from death into life.

Divine things are present to the mind of Jesus; He speaks that which He sees ( Joh 3:11 ); hence this energetic affirmation: “ Verily, verily, I say unto you ” ( Joh 5:24-25 ). These words set forth, at the same time, the greatness of the fact announced. It is really unheard of: For him who receives with confidence His word, the two decisive acts of the eschatological drama, the resurrection and the judgment, are completed things. The simple word of Jesus received with faith has accomplished everything.

This fact is indeed the proof of the qualities of life-giver and judge which Jesus ascribed to Himself ( Joh 5:21-22 ). ᾿Ακούειν , to hear, denotes not, as Weiss thinks, the outward hearing only, in contrast to the inward reception, which would come afterwards ( and believeth...); it is the spiritual bearing, at the same time with the physical, in the sense of Matthew 13:43. For the verb believe has a new object ( Keil); it is the Father as the one who has sent the Son. To surrender oneself to the word of Jesus in faith in the divine character of His being and word, is to render homage not only to the Son. but also to the Father. The meaning of ἔχει ζωήν , has life, can be fully rendered here only by saying “has life already. ” It is the proof of John 5:21: “The Son makes alive.” Is it not, indeed, His word which works this miracle? Καί , and, signifies: and in consequence. The exemption from judgment follows naturally from the entrance into life. The place of judgment is at the threshold of life and death. ῎Ερχεται , comes, is the present of idea.

The word judgment is by no means equivalent to condemnation, κατάκρισις , as Meyer will have it and as Ostervald translates. A judgment deciding on eternal destiny, says Weiss, is no longer possible with regard to the man who has in fact already obtained salvation. By the word of Jesus, received into the inner man, the believer undergoes this moral judgment here on earth to which unbelievers will be subjected at the last day. The revelation of the hidden things ( 1Co 4:5 ) is made in the inner forum of his conscience, where everything is condemned in succession which will be condemned for the rest before the tribunal at the last judgment. The judgment, is thus for him, an accomplished thing. If therefore the word received with faith frees the believer from the judgment, it is because it anticipates it; comp. John 12:48, where it is said that the judge, at the last day, will be no other than this same word. What a feeling of the absolute holiness and of the perfection of His word do not such expressions imply in the consciousness of Jesus! The reconciliation of this passage with Rom 14:10 and 2Co 5:10 has been given at John 3:18. The last words: But he hath passed from death unto life, contrast ( but) the condition of him who has entered into life with the fate of the one who will have to pass through the judgment. The terms death and life are taken in the spiritual sense. Westcott thinks that, in this verse, the idea of the physical resurrection is still united with that of the spiritual resurrection. The combination of these two ideas seems to me impossible. The question is of the effects of the word of Jesus in the sense of His word of teaching. It is altogether arbitrary to explain the μεταβέβηκεν , with Baumlein, in the sense of “ has the pledge of being able to pass from death to life.”

Verses 24-27

Vv. 24-27. First phase: the spiritual resurrection and moral judgment of humanity by the Son.

Verse 25

Ver. 25. “ Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is,when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.

A new affirmation, which Christ draws from the depths of His consciousness. An immense perspective opens before Him. The great act of the spiritual resurrection of humanity dead in its sins, dead to God, is to begin at this hour, and it is through Him that it will be wholly accomplished! The identity of the formula which begins these two verses, John 5:24-25, “ verily, verily, I say unto you ” as well as the asyndeton, which makes the second the energetic reaffirmation of the first, would suffice to prove that Joh 5:25 cannot refer to a fact essentially different from the preceding, and how wrong it is for Keil to find included here at once the physical and the spiritual resurrection. Jesus has passed, at John 5:24, from the general idea of resurrection to that of the spiritual resurrection in particular; He does not return backward.

Only in order to make a picture, He borrows from the physical resurrection the images by which He wished to depict the spiritual work which is to prepare the way for it. He seems to allude to the magnificent vision of Ezekiel,in which the prophet, standing in the midst of a plain covered with dry bones, calls them to life, first, by his word, and then, by the breath of Jehovah. Thus Jesus abides here below the only living one in the midst of humanity plunged in the death of sin, and the hour is approaching in which He is going to accomplish with reference to it a work like that which God entrusted to the prophet with regard to Israel in captivity. There is here a feeling analogous to that which leads Him to say in the Synoptics: “ Let the dead bury their dead. ” The expression: The hour cometh, and is now come, is intended (comp. Joh 4:23 ) to open the eyes of all to the grandeur of this epoch which is passing and of that which is in preparation. Jesus says: the hour cometh; what He means is the sending of the Holy Spirit ( Joh 7:37-39 ). But he adds: and is now come; for His word, which is spirit and life ( Joh 6:63 ), is already preparing the hearts to receive the Spirit. Comp. John 14:17. For the expression: my word, Jesus substitutes: the voice of the Son of God. The teaching of Christ is thus presented as the personal voice of Him who calls sinners to life. The article οἱ before ἀκούσαντες ( those who have heard), distinctly separates the spiritually dead into two classes: those who hear the voice without understanding it (comp. Joh 12:40 ), and those who, when hearing it, have ears to hear, hear it inwardly. Only these last are made alive by it. It is the function of judging which is accomplished under this form.

Those who apply this verse to the resurrection of the dead in the strict sense, are obliged to refer the words: and now is, to a few miraculous resurrections wrought by Jesus in the course of His ministry, and to explain the words οἱ ἀκούσαντες in this sense: and after having heard...But all Hengstenberg's efforts have not succeeded in justifying this grammatically impossible interpretation of οἱ ἀκούσαντεις . According to Olshausen, Joh 5:24 refers to the spiritual resurrection, and Joh 5:25 to the first bodily resurrection that of believers at the Parousia ( 1Co 15:23 ). John 5:28-29, finally, designate the final, universal resurrection. The words: and now is, must, in that case, refer to the resurrection of the few believers who appeared after the resurrection of Christ ( Mat 27:52-53 ). Undoubtedly, Jesus admits a distinction between the first resurrection and the universal resurrection (Luke 14:14: to the resurrection of the just; comp. Rev 20:6 ); but the explanation which Olshausen gives of the words: and now is, is not open to discussion. Nothing in the text authorizes us to see here the indication of a resurrection different from that of John 5:24. The following verse explains the secret of the power which the voice of Christ will display in the hour which is about to strike for the earth.

Verse 26

Ver. 26. “ For, as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he also given to the Son to have life in himself.

The emphasis is on the twice-repeated words ἐν ἐαυτῷ ( in himself), which terminate the two clauses. The Son not only has a part in life, like the creature: He possesses it in Himself, and He is thereby the source of it, like the Father Himself hence His voice can give or restore life (John 5:25; comp. Joh 1:3-4 ). But, on the other hand, this divine prerogative the Son does not possess except as a gift of the Father. Here is the boldest paradox which it is possible to declare. Life in Himself, what in theology is called aseity, self-existence, given to the Son! We could not get an insight into the solution of this contradiction, unless we saw an analogous contradiction resolved in ourselves.

We possess, as a thing given, the faculty of determining for ourselves, that is, of ourselves morally creating ourselves. We draw at each instant from this faculty moral decisions which appertain peculiarly to ourselves, for which we are seriously responsible before God, and which are transmuted into our permanent character. It is through making us a gift of this mysterious privilege of free action, that God has placed us in the rank of beings made in His image. What freedom is for man, this the divine faculty of living in Himself is for the Son. It is by this means, also, that the subordination of the Son to the Father becomes an act of divine freedom, and consequently, of divine love. By the gift of divine independence to the Son, the Father has given Him everything; by His perfect and voluntary subordination, the Son gives back everything to the Father. To give everything, to give back everything, is not this perfect love. God is love. Thus, not only does God love divinely, but He is also divinely loved. The act expressed by the word, ἔδωκεν ( gave), is regarded by Tholuck, Luthardt, Weiss, etc., as a fact falling within the earthly life of Jesus: Jesus possesses, here on earth, spiritual life abiding in Him, and can communicate it to men. But if this were the full meaning of this word, how would it harmonize with John 6:57, where Jesus declares that in His earthly condition “ He lives only by the Father,” just as we, believers, live only by Him. It must, therefore, be acknowledged, that He is speaking of an eternal gift, of a unique prerogative appertaining to His divine state and entering into His essential Sonship. The spiritual resurrection of mankind through Him, this is the work which He wishes to explain in this passage; this work is yet to come; it implies the re- instatement of Christ in His divine state (John 17:1-2; Joh 17:5 ). This expression must, consequently, be applied to Him in so far as raised, as man, to the supreme position which He enjoyed, as Logos, before the incarnation. It is from the midst of this glory that He will accomplish the resurrection described in John 5:24-25 ( the hour cometh); for it is then only that He can pour out the Spirit (John 7:39; Joh 17:2 ). With the spiritual resurrection and judgment is closely connected, as a second divine act, the judgment together with the external resurrection, which is the condition of it.

Verse 27

Ver. 27. “ And he hath given him power also to execute judgment, because he is son of man.

Jesus had said in John 5:22, in an indefinite way, that all judgment is committed to Him. This word all judgment included, of course, both the present moral, internal judgment and the final, external judgment. It is under these two aspects, taken together, that this idea is reproduced in John 5:27, which thus forms the transition from the work of the spiritual resurrection and judgment ( Joh 5:24-26 ), to that of the outward resurrection and judgment ( Joh 5:28-29 ). Jesus adds to the idea of John 5:22 a new limitation: that the function of judge is committed to Him inasmuch as He is Son of man. The second καί also, although omitted by B, is perhaps authentic. It emphasizes the relation between the character of judge and that of Son of man. What is this relation? It has been understood in a great variety of ways. According to Lucke the meaning is: Because He is the Messiah and judging is (according to Daniel 7:0) a Messianic function. But in that case the article before the words Son of man could not be wanting. Without the article, this expression signifies simply: a son of man. Keil denies this and thinks that the absence of the article may be explained by the fact that the words are here the predicate, designating a quality, rather than a person. He explains therefore: Because He is mediator between God and man, author of salvation and consequently judge; for judgment forms a part of the salvation. But the absence of the article is not justified by this, and the idea of salvation is arbitrarily introduced here. Beyschlag understands: Because He is the perfect man, the ideal man, fitted to serve as the standard for the moral worth of all others. But the article could not, any more than in the other case, be wanting with this meaning. The term, Son of man, without the article sets forth simply the quality of man which He shares with all other men. Lange: Because, as a son of man, He can have compassion on our weakness. But this would be to deny to God the feeling of compassion, while the Scriptures say expressly: “Like as a Father pitieth...., so the Lord pitieth.... for he knoweth our frame ” ( Psa 102:13 ).

Heb 2:18 cannot be cited as parallel, since the question there is of intercession, not of judgment. De Wette: Because the Father, as being the hidden God, cannot judge. Reuss, nearly the same: “In the system. God, in Himself, does not place Himself in contact with the world which He is to judge; He makes Himself man for this.” This reason would apply to the God of Philo not to the God of Jesus Christ and of St. John; the latter is a Father, who is in direct relations with the world and humanity; He begets children for life ( Joh 1:13 ); He loves the world ( Joh 3:16 ); He even testifies by outward miracles in favor of the Son; He draws souls to Christ, etc. Such a God might also, if He wished, judge the world. Besides, as Luthardt observes, the opposite of the hidden God would not be the Son of man, but the revealed God, the Word, the Son of God, or, speaking absolutely, the Son. Meyer and Weiss: Because Jesus is, as man, the executor and proclaimer of salvation, on which depends the decision of each man's destiny. There is the same reason against this explanation, as against that of Keil. The quality of man is made prominent here for the purpose of explaining, not the dignity of Saviour, but that of judge. Holtzmann: Because He can make the revelation of the divine holiness shine forth before the eyes of men through the fact of His human appearance. But God is able directly to manifest His holiness to the human conscience, as is many times seen in the Old Testament. Hengstenberg: to recompense Him for becoming man. Strange reward! In this embarrassment, the Peschito (Syr sch ), some Mjj. (E. M Δ .), and Chrysostom have recourse to a desperate expedient; they connect these words: “because he is son...” with the following verse: “Because He is a Son of man, marvel not.” But what is there in the context leading us to suppose an astonishment respecting this point? Is it then so difficult to grasp the thought of Jesus? The judgment of humanity is a homage rendered to the holiness of God; but this homage, in order really to make reparation for the outrage committed, must proceed from the race itself which has committed the offense. Judgment, in this view, is exactly on the same line with expiation, of which it serves as the complement. Expiation is the reparation freely offered by believing humanity; judgment is the satisfaction which God takes from humanity which has refused Him this reparation. In the one, as in the other, of these acts, a man must preside.

Verses 28-29

Vv. 28, 29. “ Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs shall hear his voice and shall come forth, 29, those who have done good, unto a resurrection of life, those who have done evil, unto a resurrection of judgment.

The Lord reaches here the more outward domain, both as to the resurrection ( Joh 5:28 ), and as to the judgment ( Joh 5:29 ). It is impossible, indeed, not to refer Joh 5:28 to the resurrection of the dead, in the proper sense.

1. The question is of a wholly future event; for Jesus purposely omits here the words: καὶ νῦν ἐστί , and now is, of John 5:25.

2. He does not merely say, the dead (as in Joh 5:25 ); He uses the expression: those who are in the tombs, an expression which must, of course, be taken in the strict sense.

3. No more does He say: those who shall hear ( Joh 5:25 ), an expression which implies a selection between two classes, but: All those who are in the graves shall hear; that is to say, the whole number of the dead.

4. Finally, He does not speak, as previously, of a single result: life; but of two opposite results which that resurrection will have ( Joh 5:29 ). Jesus rises, therefore, from the highest act of authority ( ἐξουσία ), the judgment, to the highest act of power ( δύναμις ), the resurrection of the body; and this is the way in which He reasons: “ Marvel not because I attribute to myself the right of judging ( Joh 5:27 ), for behold the display of divine power which it shall one day be given me to make: to bring all mankind out of the grave.”

Lucke gives quite another turn to the thought of Jesus: “You will cease to be astonished that judgment is given to me, if you call to mind that as Son of man (as Messiah), it is I who accomplish the resurrection.” Jesus according to his view, makes His starting point, as from a thing well known and acknowledged, from an article of Jewish theology, according to which the Messiah is the one who is to raise mankind from the dead. But it is still doubtful whether, at the time of Jesus, the work of the resurrection was ascribed to the Messiah. Even the later Jewish theology shows itself very much divided on this point. Some ascribe this act to the omnipotent God, others to the Messiah (Eisenmenger, Entdeckt, Judenth. Th. II. pp. 897-899). This mechanical appeal to a Jewish doctrine is, moreover, little in accord with the ever original character of the testimony of Jesus. Finally, the meaning given by Lucke implies a false interpretation of the term son of man, John 5:27.

There is great force in the words: shall hear His voice. “This voice which sounds in your ears at this moment, will be the one that shall awake you from the sleep of death and cause you to come forth from the tomb. Marvel not, therefore, that I claim to possess both the authority to judge and the power to raise from the dead spiritually.” Thus the last convulsion of the physical world, the universal resurrection, will be the work of that same human will which shall have renewed the moral world that of the Son of Man. “ Since death came by man,” says St. Paul with precisely the same meaning, “ the resurrection of the dead comes also by man ” ( 1Co 15:21 ). No doubt, it might be said to Jesus: All these are only assertions on thy part. But we must not forget that behind these affirmations there was a fact namely, “ Arise and walk,” immediately followed by a result, which was at once the text of this discourse and its point of support. The twenty-ninth verse concludes this whole development by the idea of the final judgment, of which the resurrection of the body is the condition. To be judged, the dead must be revived in the fullness of their consciousness and of their personality, which implies their restoration to bodily existence. We must not translate: “Those who shall have done good, evil works,” but: “ the good, the evil works.” In these two expressions is declared, as Keil says, the total result of the life in good or evil. In the former of these expressions are included the moral sincerity which leads to faith ( Joh 3:21 ), the act of faith itself, when the hour of calling for it has come, finally, all the fruits of sanctification which result from faith. The latter comprehends the natural inward depravity which alienates from faith, unbelief which voluntarily takes sides with sin against the light ( Joh 3:19-20 ), finally, all the inevitable, immoral consequences of such a choice. On the use of the word ποιεῖν with ἀγαθά and πράσσειν with φαῦλα , see on John 3:20. The expression resurrection of life is explained by the opposite term: resurrection of judgment. The latter can only signify: resurrection leading to judgment; the former, only; resurrection introducing to the fullness of life, and that without any further necessity of a judgment in order to decide this favorable result. Luthardt and Weiss take the genitive ζωῆς , of life, as a limiting word of cause or quality: a resurrection which results from life (spiritual) already possessed ( Joh 5:24-25 ), or which is appropriate to that life. But there are degrees in the development of life, and if this resurrection, on the one hand, presupposes life, it may also, on the other hand, have life as its result. Here also we must avoid translating κρίσις , with Osterwald, Arnaud, etc., by condemnation.

Reuss maintains that the spiritual resurrection is in this passage declared to be “greater and more important than the physical resurrection” (see on Joh 5:20 ); and in his attempt to make this idea accord with the: “ Marvel not,” of John 5:28, which implies the opposite, the following is the meaning which he gives to these words: “Marvel not that I speak to you, as I have just been doing, of a moral resurrection which must precede the physical resurrection. For you hold yourselves that the Messiah is to accomplish the latter; and this is in your eyes the more astonishing.” But these words in your eyes are an importation of the commentator, intended to justify his system, according to which he has been able to write respecting the fourth Gospel that line, in manifest contradiction to the reality ( Joh 5:28-29 ): “The idea of a future and universal judgment is repudiated as something superfluous” (II., p. 559). Scholten, feeling the powerlessness of every exegetical expedient to reach the end which is pursued, that of causing every trace of the ordinary eschatology to disappear from our Gospel, declares Joh 5:28-29 to be unauthentic, which verses, nevertheless, are not wanting in any document. He reasons thus: the activity of Jesus extending, according to pseudo-John, only to men who are in this life..., John 5:28-29, must be interpolated.” Convenient method! When they do not find the Gospel such as they wish, they make it such! Hilgenfeld ( Einl., p. 729), does not hesitate to affirm that our passage excludes all the Judaeo-Christian eschatology, the outward coming of Jesus, a first resurrection, etc. But even though our passage does not contain all the elements of the picture, it does not absolutely exclude any one of them. Much more, the glorious coming of the Messiah is implied in John 5:28, and the entire eschatological drama, which the Parousia is to inaugurate, is summed up in John 5:29, so far as relates to the final result, which alone is of importance here, the resurrection and the judgment as works of Jesus.

After this passage ( Joh 5:19-29 ), the development of the idea of John 5:17: “My Father worketh until now and I also work,” is completely unfolded and Jesus returns to the starting-point.

Verse 30

Ver. 30. “ I can do nothing of myself; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not mine own will, but the will of him who sent me.

Can Joh 5:30 be connected with what immediately precedes, by the idea of judgment which is common to this verse and Joh 5:29 ? But the present tense: I judge ( Joh 5:30 ) does not suit the idea of the future judgment ( Joh 5:29 ); and the first clause: I can do nothing of myself, impresses at once on the thought of John 5:30 a much more general bearing. We are evidently brought back to the idea of John 5:19, which served as the starting-point of the preceding development: the infallibility of the Son's work finding its guarantee in its complete dependence on that of the Father. As Reuss well says: “The last verse reproduces the substance of the first; and the discourse thus is rounded out even externally.” After having ascribed to Himself the most wonderful operations, Jesus seems to feel the need of sinking again, as related to the Father, into a sort of nothingness. He who successively accomplishes the greatest works, is powerless to accomplish by Himself the humblest act.

The pronoun ἐγώ ( I), positively applies to that visible and definite personality which they have before their eyes the unheard of things which He has just affirmed, in a more abstract way, of the Son. This is the first difference between Joh 5:30 and John 5:19; the following is the second: In order to describe the total subordination of His work to that of the Father, Jesus made use of figures borrowed from the sense of sight: the Father shows, the Son sees. Here He borrows His figures from the sense of hearing: the Son hears, evidently from His Father's lips, the sentences which He is to pronounce, and it is only thus that He judges. Moreover, of the two divine works which He accomplishes, raising from the dead and judging, it was especially the first which Jesus had in view in John 5:19, in relation to the miracle wrought on the impotent man; He here makes the second prominent, in connection with the supreme act indicated in John 5:29. The sentences of which He speaks are the acts of absolution or of condemnation, which He accomplishes here on earth, by saying to one: “ Thy sins are forgiven thee,” to the other: “ Thy works are evil. ” Before declaring Himself thus, Jesus meditates in Himself; He listens to the Father's voice, and only opens His mouth after He has heard. It is upon this perfect docility that He rests the infallibility of His judgments, and not upon an omniscience incompatible with His humanity: “ And that is, and thus my judgment is just. ” But there is a condition necessary for listening and hearing in this way; it is to have no will of one's own; hence the ὅτι ( because), which follows. No doubt, Jesus, Himself also, has a natural will distinct from that of God; His prayer in Gethsemane clearly proves it: “ Not my will, but thine be done.

But, in a being entirely consecrated to God, as Jesus was, this natural will ( my will), exists only to be unceasingly submitted or sacrificed to the Father's will: “ I seek not mine own will, but the will of Him that hath sent me.” From the ontological point of view, the Monothelites, therefore, well deserved to be condemned; for in denying to Jesus a will distinct from that of God, they suppressed the human nature in Him. And yet morally speaking, they were right. For all self-will in Jesus was a will continually and freely sacrificed. It is on this unceasing submission that the absolute holiness of His life rests, and from this holiness it is that the infallibility of His knowledge and His words results. He declares this here Himself. The τοῦ πέμψαντός με of Him who sent me, is not a mere paraphrase of the name of God. It is argumentative: the one sent does the work of the sender.

What an existence is that of which this passage, John 5:19-30, traces for us the type! Such a relationship with God must have been lived, in order to be thus described: to act only after having seen, to speak only after having heard, what a picture of filial consciousness, of filial teaching, of filial activity! And all this attaching itself to a mere healing, accomplished on the initiative of the Father! Do we not see clearly that the essential idea of Joh 5:17 is that of the relation of dependence of the Son's work towards the Father's, and by no means that of the Sabbath, of which not the least mention is made in all this development? At the same time, this passage gives us, so to speak, access even to the inner laboratory of our Lord's thought and allows us to study the manner in which His word was produced. The miracle performed and the accusations which He excites awaken His reflection. He collects Himself, and the profound relation of His work to that of His Father formulates itself in His consciousness in the form of that simple, summary, oracle-like thesis of John 5:17. This is the theme which He develops afterwards. At the first moment ( Joh 5:19-20 ), He remains in the highest generalities of the paternal and filial relation. Then there are precisely formulated in His thought the two essential works which result from this relation: making alive, judging ( Joh 5:21-23 ); finally, those two works themselves are presented to His mind in a more and more concrete form, in their progressive historical realization; first in the moral domain ( Joh 5:24-27 ), then in that of external realities ( Joh 5:28-29 ). Where in this incomparable passage is what is called religious metaphysics? From the first word to the last, everything breathes that sentiment of filial abnegation which is the heart of Jesus' heart.

Verses 31-32

Vv. 31, 32. “ If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. 32. There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true.

Perhaps Joh 5:31 is the answer to an objection which was actually made to Jesus, in consequence of the preceding words. Similar interruptions abound in the much more circumstantial narratives of the following chapters. No doubt, the testimony which a person bears on his own behalf may be perfectly true. But in the sphere of sinful men, such a testimony is always suspected of partiality or falsehood. Jesus speaks here from the point of view of His hearers, who regard Him as an ordinary man. In the saying of John 8:14, on the contrary, He resumes His normal position and will claim distinctly the exceptional authority which His perfect holiness confers upon Him.

The ἐγώ , I, might signify here: “I alone (apart from every other witness).” It is better to understand it: “I myself, bearing witness of my own person.” Everything which follows proves that this other, whose testimony Jesus is about to allege, is God, and not John the Baptist, as de Wette thought. Joh 5:33-35 are intended precisely to set aside the application of this saying to the forerunner. In the second clause of John 5:32, this word: I know: signifies: “I bear in myself the inward consciousness of that filial relation of which my Father bears witness.” He means to say that for Himself He has no need of any testimony. The reading οἴδατε , you know, probably arises from the false application of these words to the testimony of John the Baptist. The expressions περὶ ἐμοῦ , περὶ ἐμαυτοῦ , concerning me, concerning myself, repeated three times ( Joh 5:31-32 ) do not mean: in my favor, for me ( Rilliet), but quite simply: respecting me. Before saying who this other is, whose testimony serves to support His own, Jesus removes the supposition that it is to the testimony of the forerunner that He means to appeal.

Verses 31-40

II. The testimony of the Father, in support of that which the Son renders to Himself: John 5:31-40 .

Jesus had just ascribed to Himself marvelous works. Such declarations might provoke an objection among His hearers: “All that which thou affirmest of thyself has no other guaranty than thine own word.” Jesus acknowledges that His testimony has need of a divine sanction ( Joh 5:31-35 ); and He presents it to His adversaries in a double testimony of the Father: 1. That of His miracles ( Joh 5:36 ); 2. And that which is found from old time in the Scriptures ( Joh 5:37-40 ).



Vv. 31-40.

1. The presentation of the testimony on which He rests His claims is opened by Jesus with the words of John 5:31. These words must be interpreted in connection with John 8:14, and must therefore be understood as conveying the idea, that, if the only witness which He has to offer is His own, He is content to be judged by the ordinary rule. Such, however, is not the fact. He is supported by the testimony of another, and that other even God Himself. Being thus able to appeal to this highest of all testimony, He is also able to say ( Joh 8:14 ) that, though in a given case He actually bears witness of Himself, the witness is nevertheless true.

2. That the ἄλλος of Joh 5:32 is God, and not John the Baptist, is indicated by the reference to THE testimony in John 5:36, which clearly points back to this verse, and by the evident parenthetical and subordinate character of the reference to John. This reference to John, however, is quite significant, especially in connection with the prominence given to John's testimony in all the earlier part of this Gospel. The witness of John would have led these Jews to the truth, if they had suffered themselves to be influenced by it. It was a divinely-appointed testimony preparatory and at the foundation. But it was not that on which Jesus rests and that which proves the truth. This latter is the testimony which comes from God only.

3. The testimony which comes from the Father is manifestly declared, in the first place, to be that of the miraculous works. Whether there are two other forms of testimony referred to, or only one, it is somewhat difficult to determine. That which is given in the Old Testament Scriptures is distinctly set forth; and this may, not improbably, be all that is intended by the words of John 5:37-40. It may be, however, that in Joh 5:37 there is a reference to something else which, as it would seem, can be only the voice of God in the soul. The latter is favored by the fact that the direct mention of the Scriptures does not occur until John 5:39, and even an indirect allusion to them is not apparent until John 5:38. The words, “Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his form,” may be regarded as pointing in the same direction. On the other hand, had this reference to the Divine voice in the human soul been intended, it would seem natural that it should have been brought out with greater fullness and clearness. On the whole, the reference to the testimony in the Scriptures may be regarded as covering all that is said in John 5:37 ff., and the words of John 5:37 b may be taken in a semi-figurative sense, as implying that they had not really recognized God in His true teaching and the pointing of His revelation towards the Messiah and the Messianic kingdom, when they read and searched the Old Testament writings.

4. The verb ἐρευνᾶτε is, in all probability, an indicative. The development of the thought does not suggest a demand or exhortation, but a statement of their failure, through unwillingness, to appreciate the testimony of the book which they themselves were always looking into and the study of which they demanded.

5. The two testimonies which are here set forth the works and the Scriptures bear witness, the first as, in the strict sense, a σημεῖον which made known the power of God as possessed by Jesus; the second, as showing that the indications of the Old Testament all looked towards such a person and teaching and work as they now saw before them. To announce the coming of this Messianic era and the Messiah Himself, John the Baptist had appeared and given his witness to them. He had aroused their attention and interested their minds for the time. He had thus, as it were, opened the door for them to appreciate the new testimony presented in the works, and to understand fully the old testimony contained in the Scriptures. That they did not yield to the force of the testimony, either old or new, was indisputable proof that they had not the word of God abiding in them that they had really never seen or known Him in His revelations that their will was not to receive the witness which was given.

Verses 33-35

Vv. 33-35. “ Ye have sent unto John, and he hath borne witness unto the truth. 34. But the witness which I receive, is not from man; and what I say unto you here, is to the end that ye may be saved. 35. He was the lamp that burneth and shineth; and ye were willing to rejoice for a season in his light.

The testimony of John the Baptist had made so much noise that Jesus might suppose that, at the moment when He was saying: “I have another witness,” every one would think of that personage. Jesus rejects this supposition, but does so while calling attention to the fact that, from His hearers' standpoint, the testimony of John should certainly be regarded as valid; for it was they themselves who had called it forth (an allusion to the deputation, John 1:19 ff.). The word you, ὑμεῖς , at the beginning of the verse, places the hearers in contrast to Jesus, who does not ask for human testimonies and contents himself with being able to allege that of the Father. The perfect μεμαρτύρηκε , hath borne witness, declares that the testimony of John preserves its value notwithstanding the disappearance of the witness (John 5:35: he was, etc.). On this truth to which John bore witness, comp. John 1:20; John 1:27; John 1:29. The ἐγὼ δέ , but I, of Joh 5:34 forms an antithesis to the you of John 5:33.

This human testimony which they demanded, is not that by which Jesus supports the truth of His own, even though it was favorable to Him. But does Jesus regard the testimony of John the Baptist as purely human? Some interpreters escape the difficulty by translating οὐ λαμβάνω in the sense: “I do not seek” or “I am not ambitious of.” This is to strain the meaning of the expression, which merely means: I do not make use of it. It is enough if we take account of the article τήν before the word testimony; the testimony,” means here: “that of which I have need, the only one which I would allege as confirmation of my own.” John's testimony was designed to direct their eyes to the light; but, when once the light had appeared, it gave place to the direct testimony of God Himself. That testimony was, indeed, the fruit of a revelation; but, as Keil says, this inspiration, passing through human lips, might be called in question. Nevertheless, Jesus recalls, in passing, this testimony of John. It is the care which He has for their souls, which does not permit Him to pass it over in silence: “If I recall it, it is to the end that you ( ὑμεῖς ) may profit by it unto salvation. It is, then, for you, not for me.”

The 35th verse expresses the transitory character of the appearance of John the Baptist. John was not the light, the sun ( Joh 1:8 ); but he was the torch, lighted by God for giving light before the day came. The article the before the word torch has been explained in many ways. Bengel finds here an allusion to Sir 48:1 : “ the word (of Elijah) shone as a torch. Luthardt believes that John is compared to the well-known torch-bearer, who ordinarily preceded the bridegroom in the marriage feasts. Meyer, Weiss, Keil, understand: the true torch which is designed to show the path. Perhaps there is an allusion to that single light which was lighted at night to illumine the house ( Mar 4:21 ). We might see in the two epithets: which burneth and shineth, only this one idea: which is consumed in shining. But it is more simple to find here the two conditions of the usefulness of the light: to be lighted and not to be covered (Weiss). The imperfect ἦν , was, proves that, at the moment when Jesus was speaking, the light was already covered. For there is evidently an allusion in this past tense to the imprisonment of John the Baptist. The second part of the verse: Ye were willing...., continues the figure. Jesus compares the Jews to children who, instead of making use of the precious moments during which the light shines, do nothing but frolic in its brightness. To rejoice is contrasted with to be saved, John 5:34. It wasimpossible better to characterize the vain and puerile curiosity, with which the people were infatuated by an appearance so extraordinary. Comp. Luke 7:24: “ What went ye out into the wilderness to see? Weiss thinks that Jesus meant to indicate the hopes which had at first been excited in the rulers by this appearance. Can this be in accordance with Luk 7:30 ? ᾿Ηθελήσατε : you pleased yourselves with...

Verse 36

Ver. 36. “ But I have the witness which is greater than [that of] John: for the works which the Father hath given me to accomplish, these very works that I do bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.

The passage relating to John the Baptist was only a remark thrown in in a passing way, an argument ad hominem; Jesus now develops the fact announced at first, John 5:32: the testimony of the Father. The ἐγώ , I, is like that of John 5:34, the antithesis of you, John 5:33; it completes the preceding by adding the affirmation to the negation. For the article the, see on John 5:34: the absolute witness, the only one to which I wish to appeal here.

The absence of the article before μείζω is explained thus: “ the true testimony, which is a testimony greater than.” In the genitive τοῦ᾿Ιωάννου , of John, is ordinarily found the abbreviated form of comparison: “greater than that of John.” May it not be explained more literally: “greater than John,” that is to say, than John testifying in my favor: John identified with his testimony. Meyer, Weiss, Keil, Reuss, etc., understand by the ἔργα , the works of which Jesus speaks, His whole activity in general, and not only His miracles. Weiss alleges for this meaning the whole passage Joh 5:20-27 on the spiritual resurrection of humanity. But the spiritual works of Jesus do not come under the perception of the senses; in order to believe them, they must have been experienced; they are not, therefore, a testimony for the unbeliever. Moreover, at the moment when Jesus was speaking, they were still to come.

Finally, we must not forget the starting-point of this whole discourse, which is a miracle properly so called. Jesus certainly alludes to the healing of the impotent man and to all the similar works which He is accomplishing every day. Meyer concedes this explanation in the passages John 7:3; Joh 7:21 and elsewhere; but the context demands it here as well as there. The miracles are designated, on the one side, as gifts of the Father to Jesus; on the other, as works of Jesus Himself. And it is, in fact, by this double right, that they are a testimony of God. If the Son did them by His own force, they would not be a declaration of God on His behalf; and if God performed them directly, without passing through the Son as an organ, the latter could not derive from them a personal legitimation. We may hesitate between the readings ἔδωκε and δέδωκε , both of which are compatible with the following ἵνα τελειώσω . The object of this verb hath given is: the works; God makes a gift to Jesus of His miracles. Then this object is developed by these words: (literally) that I may accomplish them. For these miracles are not given to Him in the form of works done, but of works to be done. This is brought out forcibly by the repetition of the subject in the words: these very works which I ( ἐγώ ) do. The expression give in order that includes both permission and power. As it is from this double character of the miracle, as a gift of God and a work of Jesus, that the testimony results, it is necessary to keep in the text the word ἐγώ , I, before ποιῶ , which is rejected by some Alexandrian authorities, and which well sets forth the second of these two characteristics. But this testimony of the miracles is still indirect, as compared with another which is altogether personal ( Joh 5:37 ):

Verse 37

Ver. 37. “ And the Father who sent me, himself hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his form.

It is clear, whatever Olshausen, Baur and others may say, that Jesus here speaks of a new testimony of the Father: otherwise, why should He substitute for the present beareth witness ( Joh 5:36 ), which applies to the miracles which Jesus at present performs, the perfect hath borne witness, which can only denote a testimony given and completed. The pronoun αὐτός , Himself, emphasized as it is, strongly sets forth the personal character of this new testimony: God has spoken Himself. This is the reason why the reading αὐτός seems to me preferable to the ἐκεῖνος , he, of the Alexandrian authorities. What is this personal testimony? De Wette and Tholuck, understand by it the inner voice by which God testifies in the heart of man in favor of the Gospel, “ the drawing of the Father to the Son.” But it is impossible from this point of view to explain the perfect hath borne witness, and very difficult to account for the following expressions, His voice, His form, which so evidently refer to a personal manifestation. Chrysostom, Grotius, Bengel (I myself, in the former editions), refer this expression to the testimony of God at the baptism of Jesus, which very well answers to this condition.

But objection is rightly made because of the οὐ ... πώποτε , never, in the following words: and it would be to return to the testimony of John the Baptist, which Jesus had set aside, since the voice of God had not been heard except by the forerunner and everything rested, therefore, upon his testimony. We must, accordingly, take our position rather with the explanation of Cyril, Calvin, Lucke, Meyer, Luthardt, Weiss, Keil, who refer Joh 5:37 to the testimony of God in the Old Testament, the book in which He manifests Himself and Himself speaks. Joh 5:38-39 confirm this view. But how, from this point of view, can we explain the following clause? A reproach has been found here ( Meyer, Luthardt, Keil); “You are miserably deaf and blind, that is, incapable of apprehending this testimony; you have never inwardly received the divine word.” This sense suits the context. But the expression: “ You have not seen his face ” would be a strange one to designate moral insensibility to the Holy Scriptures. Others see rather in these words a concession made to the hearers: for example, Tholuck: “You have, no doubt, neither heard...nor seen..., for that is impossible; it is not this with which I reproach you ( Joh 5:37 ); but you should at least have received the testimony which God gives in the Scriptures” ( Joh 5:38 ).

If this were the thought, however, an adversative particle could not be wanting at the beginning of John 5:38. But the expression: and you have not in you, on the contrary, continues the movement of the preceding clause. The expressions to hear the voice, see the form of God, denote an immediate personal knowledge of God ( Joh 1:18 ). Jesus uses the former in John 6:46, to characterize the knowledge of God which He has Himself, in contrast with all purely human knowledge: “ Not that any one hath seen the Father, save He that is of the Father; he hath seen the Father. ” This declaration ought to serve as a standard for the explanation of the one before us. We shall say with Weiss: There is not here either a reproach or a concession; it is the simple authentication of a fact, namely, the natural powerlessness of man to rise to the intuitive knowledge of God. The thought of Jesus is, therefore: “This personal testimony of God (John 5:37 a) has not reached you, first because no divine revelation or appearance has been personally given to you, as to the prophets and men of God in the Old Testament (John 5:37 b); and then because the word to which those men of God consigned their immediate communications with God, has not become living and abiding in you ( Joh 5:38 ).” Consequently the personal testimony of God, that which Jesus here means, does not exist for them. God has never spoken to them directly, and the only book, in which they could have heard His testimony, has remained for them, through their own fault, a closed book. We can well understand why in Joh 5:37 Jesus employs the term φωνή , the personal voice, the symbol of immediate revelation, while in Joh 5:38 He makes use of the word λόγος , word, the term in use to denote the revelation handed down to the people. The direct connection of Joh 5:37 with Joh 5:38 by καί , and, presents no more difficulty from this point of view.

Verses 38-40

Vv. 38-40. “ And his word ye have not abiding in you, for ye believe not him whom he hath sent. 39. Ye search the Scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life; and these are they which bear witness of me. 40. And ye will not come to me that ye may have life.

The written word might have supplied the place of the personal revelation; they have had it in their hands and on their lips, but not in the heart. They have studied the letter, but have not appropriated to themselves the contents, the thought, the spirit. Thus it has not become a light lighted within them to guide them, a power to bear sway over them. Jesus gives a proof of this inward fact it is their unbelief towards Him, the divine messenger. Undoubtedly, there is no argument here; for the reality of His divine mission was precisely the point in question. It is a judgment which Jesus pronounces, and which has its point of support, like the entire discourse, in the miracle which He had wrought.

The 39th verse may be regarded as a concession: No doubt, you study the Scriptures with care. But we must rather see herein the indication of a fact which Jesus is about to contrast with another. “You search the Scriptures with so much care; you scrutinize the externals of them with the most scrupulous exactness, hoping to make eternal life spring forth from this minute study; and at the same time you obstinately reject the one to whom they bear testimony!” We take the verb ἐρευνᾶτε , therefore, as an indicative: you search; as do Cyril, Erasmus, Bengel, Lucke, Westcott, and now also Luthardt. A large number of commentators and translators ( Chrysostom, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Stier, Hofmann, Keil, Ostervald,) make this verb an imperative: Search. Jesus would exhort them to a profound study of the Scriptures. But, in that case, He should not have said, “because you believe you have in them...,” but “because you will have in them;” or at least “because you yourselves think you have in them.” And then He should have continued, in order to give a ground for the exhortation, by saying: “ For these are they. ” The verb ἐρευνᾶν , search, is very suitable as characterizing the Rabbinical study of the Scriptures, the dissection of the letter. ᾿Εκεῖναι , they, still with the emphatic and exclusive meaning which this pronoun has in John: and it is precisely they.

The copula καί , and, in John 5:40, sets forth, as so often in John, the moral contradiction between the two things which unbelief succeeds in causing to move on together: to study the Scriptures which testify of Christ, and, at the same time, not to come to Christ! They seek life, and they reject Him who brings it! The words: ye will not, mark the voluntary side of unbelief, the moral antipathy which is the real cause of it. We find again in this passage the sorrowful tone of that saying preserved in the Synoptics: “ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I.... But ye would not! ” This passage clearly shows how Jesus recognized Himself in the Old Testament. He beheld there so fully His own figure, that it seemed to Him impossible to have sincerely studied that book and not come to Him immediately.

But whence arises, then, the not willing pointed out in John 5:40, and what will be its result? These are the two questions which Jesus answers in the words which close the discourse, and which are, as it were, the practical application of it.

Verses 41-44

Vv. 41-44. “ I receive not my glory from men. 42. But I know you, [and I know] that ye have not the love of God in yourselves. 43. I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. 44. How can ye believe, ye who receive your glory from one another, and seek not the glory which cometh from God only.

On one side, a Messiah who has no care for the good opinion of men and the homage of the multitude, and on the other, men who place their supreme good in public consideration, in an unblemished reputation for orthodoxy, in a high renown for Scriptural erudition and for fidelity to legal observances (comp. the description of the Pharisees, Matthew 6:1-18; Mat 23:1-12 ): how could this opposition in tendency fail to put an obstacle in the way of the birth of faith in these latter? Weiss thinks that, if this were the sense of John 5:41, an ἐγώ , I, would be necessary, in contrast with you ( Joh 5:42 ). In the same manner with Westcott, he understands in this way: Do not think that I am speaking thus “in order to glorify myself in your eyes” ( Weiss); or: “as the result of spite which my disappointed hopes cause me” ( Westcott). But the ἐγώ would be necessary only if the case of Jesus were placed second. If Jesus had meant to reply to such a supposition on the part of His adversaries, He would, no doubt, have said: μὴ δοκεῖτε , “ think not that I seek.....” The perfect ἔγνωκα means: “I have studied you, and I know you.” Jesus had penetrated the depth of vanity which these fine exteriors so much admired among the rulers covered. The love of God denotes the inward aspiration towards God which may be found in the Jew and even in the sincere Gentile. Romans 2:7: “Those who seek for honor, glory and immortality.” (Comp. John 5:44.) This divine aspiration it is, which leads to faith, as the absence of it to unbelief. Jesus states precisely here the thought which is expressed in an indefinite way in John 3:19-21. In yourselves: not only on the lips, but in the heart.



Vv. 41-44. The reason of their failure to accept the evidence presented to them is set forth, in these verses, in two forms. The first and fundamental reason is the absence of the true love of God in their hearts. The second reason, into which the first developed itself in its special manifestation, is the unwillingness to accept a Messiah who did not come in the line of earthly glory. The views of a temporal kingdom, as they held them, were connected with the selfish desire of exaltation. They were ready to receive one who came to them with no testimony but his own, and in his own name, if he only met these earthly views. But to the Divine testimony, whether in the sacred writings, or in the wonderful works, or in the words of the forerunner, they were unwilling to listen, because the one to whom all this witness was borne appeared among them simply as the messenger of God to tell the Divine truth, and by making known the true eternal life, to bring all who heard Him to personal righteousness and the possession of the kingdom of heaven within themselves through believing on the Son of God.

Verses 41-47

III. The condemnation of Jewish Unbelief: John 5:41-47 .

In John 5:41-44, Jesus unfolds the cause of the moral antipathy which keeps them away from Him; in John 5:45-47, the terrible consequences of this refusal to believe.

Verse 43

Ver. 43. The result of this contrast between His moral tendency and theirs. While they reject Him, the Messiah, whose whole appearance bears the seal of dependence on God, they will receive with eagerness every false Messiah who will act from his own wisdom and his own force, glorifying man in his person. All glorious with the glory of this world will be the one welcomed by these lovers of human glory. In the name of God: coming by His authority and as His delegate. In his own name: representing only himself, his own genius and power. ῎Ελθῃ , comes, in its relation to ἐλήλυθα , I have come, can only denote a pseudo-Messianic appearance. According to the Synoptics also, Jesus expected false Christs (Matthew 24:5; Mat 24:24 and the parallels). History has confirmed this prophecy; it speaks of sixty-four false Messiahs, who all succeeded in forming a party among the Jewish people in this way. See Schudt, Judische Merkwurdigkeiten (cited by Meyer). You will receive him; comp. 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11. The application of this expression; another to the false Messiah Bacochebas (about 132), which some critics have desired to make for the purpose of proving that the composition of our Gospel belongs to the second century ( Hilgenfeld, Thoma), is an absolutely gratuitous supposition, which has no authorization in the text.

This vicious tendency with which Jesus reproaches His adversaries went so far as even to destroy in them the faculty, the possibility of believing: John 5:44. The pronoun, ὑμεῖς , you, signifies: men such as you are ( Joh 5:42-43 ). In the last words, the adjective μόνου , only, may be connected with the idea of θεοῦ : God who is the only God. Jesus would, in this case, characterize God as having, as only God, the right to bestow the true glory. This is the meaning ordinarily given to this expression. I think that it is more in the spirit of the context to understand, with Grotius and de Wette: the glory which is received from God alone, from God only, and not from men. The idea of these verses is that nothing renders men more unfit for faith than the seeking for human glory. But as necessarily as the current of Pharisaic vainglory bears the rulers of the people far away from faith, so infallibly would the spirit of love for God which inspires the books of Moses have directed them to Jesus and led them to faith.

Verses 45-47

Vv. 45-47. “ Think not that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, Moses, on whom ye have set your hope. 46. For if ye believed Moses, ye would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words.

After having unveiled to them the moral cause of their unbelief, Jesus shows to His hearers the danger to which it exposes them, that of being condemned in the name of that very law, on the observance of which they have founded their hopes of salvation. It is not He, the Messiah rejected by them, it is Moses himself, in whose name they condemn Him, who will demand their condemnation. Jesus pursues them here on their own ground. His word assumes an aggressive and dramatic form.

He causes to rise before them that grand figure of the ancient deliverer, to whom their hopes were attached ( εἰς ὅν ), and transforms this alleged advocate into an accuser. The words: that I will accuse you, show that, already at that time, a sentiment of hostility to His own people was imputed to Jesus. It was His severe discourses which gave rise to this accusation. ῎Εστι , is very solemn: “ He is there, he who...” The words: on whom you hope, allude to the zeal for the law, which the adversaries of Jesus had manifested on this very day; this zeal was their title, in their eyes an assured title, to the Messianic glory. “It will be found that this Moses, whom you invoke against me will testify for me against you.” What an overturning of all their ideas! Meyer and Weiss claim that the words: who will accuse you cannot refer to the last judgment, since Jesus will then fill the office, not of accuser, but of judge. But Jesus does not enter into this question, which would have had no meaning with people who did not recognize Him as the Messiah. To the Father: who will judge by means of Christ.

The two verses, John 5:46-47, prove the thesis of John 5:45, by showing, the first, the connection between faith in Moses and faith in Christ; the second, the no less necessary connection between the two unbeliefs in the one and in the other. In other words: Every true disciple of Moses is on the way to becoming a Christian; every bad Jew is on that towards rejecting the Gospel. These two propositions are founded on the principle that the two covenants are the development of one and the same fundamental thought and have the same moral substance. To accept or reject the revelation of salvation at its first stage, is implicitly to accept or reject it in its complete form. This is exactly the thesis which St. Paul develops in Romans 2:6-10; Romans 2:26-29.

The words: wrote of me, allude to the Proto-gospel, to the patriarchal promises, to the types such as that of the brazen serpent, to the Levitical ceremonies which were the shadow of things to come ( Col 2:17 ), more especially to the promise Deuteronomy 18:18: “ I will raise up unto them a prophet like unto thee; ” this last promise, while including the sending of all the prophets who followed Moses, finds its consummation in Jesus Christ. Ye would believe on me: in me as the one whom Moses thus announced. In truth, many of the prophecies had not yet found in Jesus their fulfillment. But we must think especially of the spirit of holiness in the law of Moses and the theocratic institutions, which found in Jesus its full realization. Moses tended to awaken the sense of sin and the thirst for righteousness, which Jesus came to satisfy. “To give access to this spirit, was to open one's heart in advance to the great life-giver” ( Gess).



Vv. 45-47.

1. Meyer and Weiss hold that the last judgment is not referred to in these verses, because Christ is represented as the judge on that day, and therefore cannot be spoken of as an accuser in connection with it. Keil affirms the opposite, saying that, as the Jews did not acknowledge Jesus to be the Messiah or the judge, this consideration can have no weight in the decision of the question. The true view of this matter is, not improbably, to be found as we observe the peculiarity of the thought of this chapter and of other parts of this Gospel which are kindred to it. This writer does not leave out of view the final judgment, but his mind moves in the sphere of the present and permanent inward life, and the end is only the consummation. In a certain sense, therefore, judgment is present, though it is also in a certain sense future. The mind of the hearer or reader is left to pass from the one to the other, and thus to include both.

2. Moses is here spoken of as the foundation of the Jewish legal system and thus as, in a sense, the foundation or centre of the Old Testament. It may be that, according to this view of the matter, he and his writings are referred to as if including the whole idea of the Old Testament Scriptures; see John 5:39. If the reference is to the Pentateuch only, the allusion is doubtless to Deuteronomy 18:15, and the other points which Godet mentions in his note.

That this first formal discourse of Jesus, which is recorded in this Gospel, is intended by the evangelist to serve as testimony to his readers cannot be questioned. That it is, in this respect, an advance upon what has preceded, is also clear. The relation of Jesus to the Father is here set forth not indeed as fully as it is in later chapters, but in a part of the unfolding of its true idea, and as it is not in the conversation with Nicodemus. The occasion on which this discourse was given, it must be remembered, was a year, or nearly a year later than that conversation, and much must have been done and said by Jesus in the interval. That Jesus in the opening of the second year of His ministry should have advanced in His teaching as far as this discourse might indicate, cannot justly be regarded as improbable. It was, moreover, with the leading Jews that He carried on this discussion, not with the common people. If the deeper truths respecting His person and His relations to the Father were to be set forth in His earthly ministry at all and how strange it would have been, if no such declaration had been made, it would seem that, at this time, the beginnings of the full teachings might appear. The discourse of this chapter stands no less truly in its legitimate and natural historical position, as related to the teachings of the chapters which precede and follow, than it does in its proper place in the progress of the testimony, which the author brings before his readers in proof of the great doctrine of his book.

Verse 47

Ver. 47. On the other hand, unbelief towards Moses carries naturally in its train the rejection of Jesus. The essential antithesis is not that of the substantives, writings and words, but that of the pronouns, his and my. The former is only accidental; it arises only from the fact that the Jews knew Moses by his writings and Jesus by His words. This charge of not believing Moses, addressed to people whom the alleged violation of one of the Mosaic commandments threw into a rage, recalls that other saying of Jesus, so sorrowful and so bitter ( Mat 23:29-32 ): “ Ye build the tombs of the prophets, and ye bear witness thus that ye are children of those who killed them. ” The rejection of a sacred principle shelters itself sometimes under the appearances of the most particular regard and most ardent zeal for the principle itself. From this coincidence, there result, in the religious history of humanity, those tragic situations, among which the catastrophe of Israel here announced certainly holds the foremost place.

As regards the historical reality of this discourse, the following appear to us to be the results of the exegesis:

1. The fundamental thought is perfectly suited to the given situation. Accused of having done an anti-Sabbatical work, and even of ascribing to Himself equality with God, Jesus justifies Himself in a way at once the most lofty and the most humble, by averring, on the testimony of His consciousness, the absolute dependence of His work, relatively to that of the Father.

2. The three principal parts of the discourse are naturally linked together, as they start from the central idea which we have just indicated: 1. Jesus affirms the constant adapting of His activity to that of the Father, and declares that from this relation of dependence between Him and God will proceed yet far more considerable works. 2. He proves this internal relation, which it is impossible for men to test, by a double testimony of the Father: His miracles, a specimen of which is at this very moment before their eyes, and the Scriptures.

3. He closes by showing them, in their secret antipathy to the moral tendency of His work, the reason which prevents them from trusting the divine testimony, and by declaring to them their future condemnation in the name of that Moses whom they accuse Him of despising.

Instead of the abstruse metaphysics which has been charged upon the discourses in John, there remains for us only the simple expression of the filial consciousness of Jesus. This latter displays itself gradually in a series of views of imposing grandeur, and of an unique elevation. What renders this feature more striking, is the naive and almost child-like simplicity of the figures employed to describe this communion of the Son with the Father. Such a relation must have been lived, in order to be expressed, and expressed in this way.

Strauss has acknowledged, up to a certain point, these results of exegesis. “There is not,” he says, “in the tenor of the rest of the discourse, anything which causes difficulty, anything which Jesus could not Himself have said, since the evangelist relates, in the best connection, things...which, according to the Synoptics also, Jesus ascribes to Himself.” The objections of Strauss bear only on the analogies of style between this discourse, that of John the Baptist (chap. 3), and certain passages of the first Epistle of St. John (Introd., pp. 106, 107). Strauss concludes by saying: “If, then, the form of this discourse should be ascribed to the evangelist, it might be that the substance of it belonged to Jesus.” We believe that we may conclude by saying: Jesus must have really spoken in this way. The principal theme bears the character of most perfect appropriateness. The secondary ideas are logically subordinated to this theme. No detail turns aside from the idea of the whole, or goes beyond it; finally, the application is of a thrilling solemnity, as it should be in such a situation, and closes by impressing on the whole discourse the seal of reality.

Renan considers that the author of this narrative must have derived the substance of his account from tradition, which is, he says, extremely weighty, because it proves that a part of the Christian community really attributed to Jesus miracles performed at Jerusalem. As to the discourse in particular, see his summary judgment respecting the discourses of the fourth Gospel (p. lxxviii.): “The theme cannot be without a certain degree of authenticity; but in the execution, the fancy of the artist gives itself full play. We feel the factitious action, the rhetoric, the studied diction.” But factitious action betrays itself by commonplaces without appropriateness; have we met with them? Rhetoric, by emphasis and inflation; have we found a redundant word, a word which does not express an original thought? Studied diction, by the ingenious antithesis or the striving after piquancy; has the discourse which we have just studied offered us anything like this? The substance and the force equally exclude the idea of an artificial work, of a composition in cold blood.

Finally, let us notice an assertion of Reville, trenchant and bold like those which so often come from the pen of this critic: “This book,” he says, in speaking of the fourth Gospel, “in which Judaism, the Jewish law, the Jewish temples, are things as foreign, as indifferent, as they could be to a Hellenistic Christian of the second century...” And one ventures to write words like these in the face of the last verses of this chapter, in which Jesus so identifies His teaching with that of Moses, that to believe the one is implicitly to believe the other, and to reject the second, is virtually to reject the first, because Jesus is in reality nothing but Moses completed. The agreement of the law and the Gospel does not appear more clearly from the Sermon on the Mount, than from the passage which we have just studied. But we know that the Sermon on the Mount is universally regarded as that which has most authenticity in the Synoptic tradition.

Bibliographical Information
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on John 5". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gsc/john-5.html.
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