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Bible Commentaries

Godet's Commentary on Selected Books

John 6


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.


1. IF the feast referred to in Joh 5:1 was the feast of Purim (see Godet's note on that verse, Vol. I., p. 452f., and note of Am. Ed., I., p. 552f.), the Passover alluded to in Joh 6:4 was the second one in the course of the public ministry of Jesus; comp. Joh 2:13 and John 13:1. The insertion of this reference to the feast is no doubt partly, if not wholly, for the purpose of marking the time. Although the chronological arrangement of the narrative is evidently not the primary object of the writer of this Gospel, there is a constant reference to the progress of time in the presentation of what Jesus says and does. If there be anything more here than the mere designation of the date, it may be questioned whether the explanation of Godet, or those of Luthardt, Keil, etc., which connect it with the thought and development of the following discourse, can be insisted upon. There seems, on the one hand, to be no sufficient reason for rejecting the view of Weiss, that the statement is added in connection with the gathering of the crowds; yet, on the other hand, the character of the discourse seems to bring it into a certain relation to the Passover. Godet's explanation has, perhaps, too much of refinement and elaboration.

2. The question why Jesus addressed Philip rather than some other member of the apostolic company is an idle one, and one which cannot be answered. The attempt of Luthardt to find here an indication that “deliberateness was the ruling feature of Philip's nature,” can hardly be considered successful. As Weiss remarks, the fact that the author speaks of Philip as the one questioned points to a personal recollection of the scene on his part. But this is all that we can say with confidence. A later writer, composing the history according to his own will and for a doctrinal purpose, would not have inserted such a detail as this, or that which follows respecting Andrew, in the story which he derived from the Synoptics.

3. The details of the story, so far as the multiplying of the loaves, the arrangement and number of the people, and the gathering up of the fragments are concerned, are the same with those in the earlier Gospels. The differences in minor points may be explained either on the supposition of the presence of this writer at the time and the absence of the others (Mark, Luke), or of an intention on their part to relate the matter with less particularity.

4. Joh 6:14 shows that John intended to present before his readers something more than the Synoptic writers had in mind. They give the facts of the story and add nothing further, but he records the miracle as a σημεῖον and the impression which, as such, it produced upon the minds of the people who saw it. The apostles were evidently present at this time. They saw the miracle, and we cannot doubt that it was also a σημεῖον to their minds. Indeed, the declaration of Peter on behalf of them all, which we find at the end of this chapter, is no doubt to be connected, in some special sense, with the impression received from this miracle and the one which immediately followed, John 6:16-21. The two miracles were, accordingly, a part of the progressive proof which confirmed and strengthened the faith of the disciples.

5. The character of the miracle of the loaves corresponds with that of changing the water into wine, in the fact that superabundant provision was made for all, and that creative power was exhibited in both here in multiplying the loaves, and there in making a new material. There was a difference, however, in the two cases: in the first place, the immense number whose wants were supplied gave a certain greatness to the work which increased the impression of it, and, secondly, the relation of it to those who were filled and who came again to Jesus on the following morning, suggested thoughts which belonged in the central region of the Christian truth. That this miracle, like the one in ch. 5, is recorded mainly for the purpose of the discourse which was connected with it, cannot be doubted. In this respect, it went beyond the one at Cana. That miracle had apparently brought to the minds of the disciples the knowledge of the power of Jesus, but had given them little, if indeed any, teaching as to His truth. At that time, indeed, they needed especially the evidence which His power, in itself alone, could give. But now they had been with Him for a year, and the miracles were wrought especially for the teaching.

As bearing upon the truth which He taught, however, and as thus related to the miracle of ch. 5, the story and discourse of this chapter are in the true order of progress. The discourse of ch. 5 set before them the relation of Jesus to the Father, and thus the divinity of His nature; that of ch. 6 brings to their minds the relation of this divine Son, who had come into the world as the messenger of the Father, to the life of their souls; the necessity to the eternal life of feeding upon Him. The thought of this sixth chapter is one which could not have been fully comprehended at the moment; but it was one which, once finding its way into their minds, must become a seed thought for all their future course, and one which would be, in its suggestions, an ever-growing testimony to the fact that Jesus was the Son of God. We see, therefore, that, so far from mere repetition, there is intentional and natural progress here, as there has been up to this point. The writer does not reach the end at the beginning, as has been claimed, but moves forward with a definite and progressive plan of proof, which bore its fruits in a growing life in the hearts of those who received into themselves its legitimate influence.

Verses 1-2

Vv. 1, 2. “ After these things, Jesus withdrew to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2. And a great multitude followed him, because they saw the miracles which he did on the sick.

If the facts related in chap. 5 really occurred at the feast of Purim, those which are reported in chap. 6 took place only a few weeks afterwards ( Joh 6:4 ), and the indefinite connecting words μετὰ ταῦτα , after these things, are very suitable to this inconsiderable interval. Meyer, pressing the meaning of μετὰ ταῦτα , understands: “immediately after this sojourn in Judea.” The ἀπῆλθεν , went away, would thus signify that He returned from Jerusalem to the country east of the Jordan; and the multitude mentioned in Joh 6:2 would be that which accompanied Jesus on His return from Judea. But, observes Luthardt, John could not have expressed himself in this way: Jerusalem was not in direct relation to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. And how could these multitudes have accompanied Jesus to a remote distance from Judea at the very time of the Passover which called them to go to Judea. It is obvious that Joh 6:2 is the description of a general situation, on the basis of which the following scene is separately sketched (precisely as Joh 2:23-25 in relation to John 3:1-21, or Joh 3:22-24 to John 3:25-36, or Joh 4:43-45 to Joh 4:46-54 ). This is John's manner of narrating. This character of general picturing appears in the imperfect ἠκολούθει , were following, ἑώρων , were seeing, ἐποίει , was doing, in contrast with the aorist ἀνῆλθε , went up ( Joh 6:3 ), which ushers in the account of the particular events which the author has in view. John omits therefore the express mention of the return to Galilee which is self-evident from John 6:43-45, and he means to say that Jesus began anew the Galilean work related by the Synoptics, which was marked by daily miracles, and in the course of which He was constantly accompanied by considerable multitudes. It was consequently from some point on the western side of the Sea of Galilee that He thought fit to retire to the opposite side πέραν (beyond). Reuss, placing himself at the opposite extreme to Meyer, says, “All this shows us that we do not here have a strictly chronological narrative, as has been very gratuitously supposed.” The truth is that John, describing the historical development of Jewish unbelief, puts this scene in its true place, but without describing all the details of the events which preceded and followed.

John says nothing of the motives which led Jesus to this step, but the word ἀπῆλθεν went away, seems to indicate a seeking for solitude. And, indeed, according to Mark 6:30, and Luke 9:10, the apostles had just rejoined their Master, after having accomplished their first mission, and Jesus desired to give them some rest and to pass a short time alone with them. Moreover, according to Matthew 14:13, He had just heard of the murder of John the Baptist, and, under the shock of this news, which gave Him a presentiment of the nearness of His own end, He needed to collect His thoughts and to prepare His disciples for that other catastrophe. Thus our four naratives easily harmonize. Luke names Bethsaida as the place near which the multiplication of the loaves occurred. It has been claimed that he understood thereby Bethsaida in the neighborhood of Capernaum, and, consequently, that this event occurred, according to him, on the west shore. But Luke would, thus, put himself in contradiction, not only with the other evangelists, but with himself; for he says that Jesus withdrew with His disciples into a desert place belonging to a city called Bethsaida. Now this purpose of Jesus does not allow us to think of the city of Bethsaida, on the western shore, where He was in the centre of His activity and was always surrounded by crowds. Josephus (Antiqq. 18:2.1 and 4.6) speaks of a city which had the name Bethsaida Julias, situated at the northeastern extremity of the sea of Tiberias; and the expression Bethsaida of Galilee, by which Joh 12:21 designates the native city of Peter, Andrew and Philip ( Joh 1:45 ), has no significance unless there really existed a Bethsaida outside of Galilee. It is this one of which Luke means to speak. Bethsaida Julias was in Gaulonitis, in the tetrarchy of Philip, on the left bank of the Jordan, a little way above the place where it falls into the lake of Gennesaret. It was there that Philip died and was magnificently interred. ( Furrer, Schenkel's Bibellex., I., p. 429.) If John had written in Galilee, and for Palestinian readers, he would have contented himself with the ordinary expression: sea of Galilee. But as he was writing outside of Palestine, and for Greeks, he adds the explanation: of Tiberias. The city of Tiberias, built by Herod Antipas, and thus named in honor of Tiberius, was well known in foreign countries. Thus the Greek geographer, Pausanias, calls the sea of Galilee.: λίμνη Τιβερίς . Josephus uses indiscriminately the two designations here united by John. The imperfect ἑώρων , they were seeing, depicts the joy which this ever-renewed spectacle afforded them. The reading of the T. R. ἑώρων is supported by the Sinaitic MS. and even by the barbarism, ἐθεώρων , of the Alexandrian. Weiss observes that if the mission of the Twelve took place during the journey of Jesus to the feast of Purim (chap. 5), as Gess has supposed, the narrative of John accords very well with that of Mark, who places the multiplication of the loaves immediately after the return of the Twelve.

Verses 1-7

Second Section: 6:1-7. The Great Messianic Testimony and the Crisis of Faith in Galilee.

THE war is now declared in Judea; the thread of the narrative is outwardly broken. John does not mention the return of Jesus to Galilee. But it is there that we find Him again at the beginning of chap. 6, and He remains there, after this, so long and with such persistency that He even astonishes His relatives; as we read in chap. 7. This sojourn in Galilee includes the whole interval between the feast of Purim, in March (chap. 5), and the feast of Tabernacles, in October (chap. 7), consequently seven consecutive months, in which it is natural to place the greater part of the events of the Galilean ministry described by the Synoptics.

This continued sojourn in Galilee and this long retirement in which Jesus keeps Himself away from Jerusalem, are the more striking since during this part of the year, two of the three great Israelitish feasts occurred at which the Jews were most anxious to be present, the Passover and Pentecost. The conduct of Jesus, therefore, needed explanation. This explanation appears from John 7:1: “ And Jesus sojourned in Galilee; for He would not sojourn in Judea, because the Jews sought to put Him to death. ” The sixth chapter is thus the continuation of the fifth, in the sense that the continued sojourn of Jesus in Galilee, the most striking event in which is related in chap. 6, was the result of the violent conflict which had brought about the removal of Jesus from Jerusalem after the miracle and the long discourse related in chap. 5. Morally speaking, therefore, the thread of the story is not broken.

But why, among the whole multitude of facts which filled the ministry of Jesus in Galilee, did John select this one which is related in chap. 6, and this one only? Reuss thinks that the narrative which John gives of this scene so well described by the Synoptics is incompatible with the idea that he proposed to himself to complete them. There is an exception here, it is true, but it is explained without difficulty. For this purpose it is enough to go back to the idea which governs this whole part that of the development of the national unbelief. The end of the sixth chapter will bring us to see that the point of time here described was that in which there was consummated in Galilee a crisis similar to that which occurred in Judea, with this difference, already indicated, that the unbelief in Judea is violent and aggressive, and can end only in murder, while in Galilee, where it proceeds from a simple feeling of being deceived after over-wrought expectation, it occasions only indifference: there is no killing, there is a going away and a going not to return ( Joh 6:66-67 ). As Weiss says: The Galilean half-way faith becomes unbelief. The revelation of Jesus' glory by means of the two miracles and of the discourses related in this chapter forms everywhere the basis of the narrative. But the special aim of this narrative is to describe the sad result in which such great favors issue in Galilee, as in Judea. In this very province, where faith for a moment seemed to have taken root ( Joh 4:45 ), the Messianic work, as such, failed; and here also, the saying had to find its fulfillment: “ He came to His own, and His own received Him not. ” In the midst of this great disaster, however, the work of Jesus continued its peaceful and humble growth in a few; it even gained at this critical moment the most glorious tribute ( Joh 6:68-69 ).

Beyschlag has set forth the way in which the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, by provoking the sudden explosion of the political hopes which were smouldering under the ashes among the Galilean people, brought to light the complete incompatibility which existed between the common Messianic idea and that of Jesus, and made evident the moral necessity of the rupture. John alone had apprehended the historic bearing of this decisive epoch in the ministry of Jesus; and this is the reason why he alone was able to present it in its true light. Here is what explains for us the exception which he has made in favor of this narrative, which he found already reproduced in the writings of those who preceded him, and the reason why he thought fit to concentrate in the representation of this event the summary of the entire Galilean ministry.

There are three parts in this chapter: 1. The two miracles: John 6:1-21; John 2:0. The conversations and discourses which are connected with them: John 6:22-65; John 3:0. The final crisis: John 6:66-71.

Verses 1-71


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verses 3-4

Vv. 3, 4. “ And Jesus went up into the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. 4. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.

The expression, the mountain, denotes not a particular mountain, which was in the region (for the locality has not been designated), but the mountainous country, in contrast to the level of the shore. Jesus had sought a solitary place there, and was conversing in it with his disciples. John's expression has some resemblance to that of Matthew 15:29, immediately after the second miracle of the loaves.

What is the purpose of the remark in Joh 6:4 ? Is it a chronological note? In that case, it would rather have been placed at the beginning of the narrative. It occurs here incidentally, after the manner of John, as an explanatory remark (comp. Joh 1:24 ). But with what purpose? According to Meyer, to explain the great gathering which is spoken of in John 6:5. But this explanation forces him to distinguish this multitude from that of John 6:2, which is evidently inadmissible. Weiss acknowledges this, and sees in John 6:2, and John 6:5, the crowd of pilgrims who are about to go to Jerusalem for the Passover. But what had the caravans going up to this feast to do in this out of the way place? And is it not very clear, from John 6:2, that these numerous arrivals are no others than the multitudes who habitually accompanied Jesus in Galilee? The mention of the feast near at hand, must, therefore, serve to explain, not the presence of the multitudes, but the conduct of Jesus towards them.

Not being able to go to Jerusalem for the feast ( Joh 7:1 ), Jesus, on seeing these multitudes hastening towards Him in the wilderness, recognizes in this unexpected circumstance a signal from the Father. He puts this concourse in comparison with the feast which is about to be celebrated in Jerusalem, and He says for Himself, for His disciples, for the multitude: “We also will have our Passover!” This is the thought which sets in its true light the following miracle, as the discourses which are connected with it prove. For Jesus represents Himself here as the one whose flesh and blood are designed to give life to believers, a point which undoubtedly calls to mind the sacrifice and eating of the Paschal lamb. By this fourth verse John gives us, therefore, the key of the whole narrative, as he had given us in John 3:1, by the words: of the Pharisees, that of the whole conversation with Nicodemus. The denials of Weiss and Keil seem to us to rest on no sufficient grounds. The term ἡ ἑορτή τ . ᾿Ιουδ . , the feast of the Jews, must, according to Keil, explain the word Passover, which was unknown to Greek readers, or, according to others, designate this feast as “the feast par excellence for the Jews;” but comp. John 2:13, and John 7:2. Perhaps John desires to make us understand the total separation which was more and more evident between Jesus and this people who were becoming foreign to Him. From the incident in Luke 6:1-5, and the parallel passages, we discover in the Synoptics also a spring season passed in Galilee during the course of the ministry accomplished in that province.

Verses 5-7

Vv. 5-7. “ Jesus therefore, lifting up His eyes and seeing a great multitude coming to Him, says to Philip: Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? 6. Now this he said to prove him; for, as for himself, he knew what he was going to do. 7. Philip answered him: Two hundred denarii-worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.

John does not say how long the confidential interview of Jesus with His disciples, which is mentioned in John 6:3, continued. The term ἐκάθητο , he sat there, John 6:3, which the Sinatic MS. wrongly changes into ἐκαθέζετο proves that He remained for a certain time alone with them while the companies were successively coming up. For it is impossible to imagine five or six thousand persons arriving all at once in the locality into which Jesus had withdrawn (this in answer to Weiss). While Jesus and His disciples came directly by water from Capernaum or the environs, these crowds of people, who had observed from the western shore the point towards which the bark directed its course, made on foot ( πεζῇ , Mark 6:33; Mat 14:13 ), the circuit of the northern shore of the lake, and thus arrived successively during the day at the scene of action. According to the Synoptics, Jesus went forth from the solitude (Matt. and Mark) and received them with kindness (Luke).

Thus a part of the day was devoted to teaching and healing. Then seeing the crowd which was so eager and was continually increasing (Mark 6:33: “ They ran thither afoot from all the cities ”), Jesus experiences that feeling of profound compassion which Matthew and Mark describe. But another feeling, of which John alone has caught the secret, is predominant in His heart: it is that of joy. No doubt, He had wished to be alone, and this arrival thwarted His purpose. But such earnestness, such perseverance are for Him an irresistible appeal. He enters with eagerness into the new situation which is opened to Him; for He discerns here a thought of the Father and He prepares Himself to give to this body of people the feast for which the opportunity is thus granted Him. Indeed, in John, it is Jesus who takes the initiative; He addresses Himself to Philip: “There are our guests; we must give them supper. Have you already thought of it?”

In the Synoptics, it is the disciples who are disturbed about the multitude, and urge Jesus to dismiss them. The need of food may have occupied the minds of Jesus and the disciples simultaneously as they saw the evening drawing on. But as for Jesus, He had already taken His resolution ( Joh 6:6 ). The thought of what He was going to do had formed itself in His mind during the work of that day. The narrative of the Synoptics is written from the disciples' point of view, which must very naturally have prevailed in the stories emanating from the Twelve, particularly in those of Peter and Matthew, while John, who had read the heart of the Master, brings out the other point of departure the inward impulse of the Lord. Thus, the disciples address themselves to Jesus and communicate their anxiety to Him. Jesus, having already formed His plan, says to them: “ Give ye them to eat,” and, in speaking thus, addresses Himself especially to Philip, as we have just seen. Why to him, rather than some other? Bengel thinks that he was charged with the care of the res alimentaria. But it seems more probable from John 13:29, that it was Judas who made the purchases. According to Luthardt, Jesus wished to bring an educating influence on Philip, who had a hesitating and over-careful character. This is possible. But the playful tone of Jesus' question: “ Whence shall we buy? ” may lead us to suppose that naivete8 was one of the traits of this disciple's character. This is the reason why Jesus addresses him this question, which was insoluble from the standpoint of natural resources; and he, on his side, answers it with a good-natured simplicity. This slight touch gives an idea of the amenity which prevailed in the relations of Jesus to His disciples; it appertained to the picture of the glory “ full of grace ” of the Word made flesh.

The expression: to prove him, does not have the solemn sense which this term ordinarily has. It signifies merely that Jesus desired to see whether, in this situation, he would know how to find the true answer of faith. Philip makes his calculation with prudence. It is good sense, not faith, which speaks through his mouth. The denarius was a Roman coin worth about fifteen cents; two hundred denarii were, therefore, equivalent to thirty dollars of our money; a large sum, which, however, was still far below the necessity of the case! Mark has also preserved this circumstance respecting the two hundred denarii; only, he puts this calculation in the mouth of the disciples in general. If the connection between the question of Jesus and Philip's answer were not so close in John, we might try to insert here between Joh 6:6-7 the brief conversation of Jesus with the disciples reported in Mark 6:37. But it is much more probable that the reflection which Mark attributes to the disciples in general is nothing else than the reproduction of Philip's words, which are preserved by John in their most exact historical form.

Verses 8-9

Vv. 8, 9. “ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, says to him: 9. There is a lad here, who has five barley loaves and two fishes: but what are these for so many?

John mentions, first, in an indefinite way, one disciple; then he makes a precise statement: “It was Andrew.” We can believe that we hear him telling the story. And how can we fail to remember here, that Andrew was precisely the one, who, according to the tradition in the Muratorian Fragment, was present at the time of the composition of the Gospel? His character as brother of Simon Peter had already been pointed out in John 1:41. Was not this sufficient? Certainly; but the person of Andrew cannot present itself to the mind of John, without his recalling to mind how nearly connected he was with Simon Peter, the principal one among the apostles. And yet it is claimed that one of the tendencies of the Johannean narrative is to disparage Peter! Andrew, thus, falls into the trap laid for his fellow-disciple, and it is, no doubt, with a sort of malicious humor that the evangelist is pleased to report in extenso their words, which form so strong a contrast to the magnificent display of power which is in preparation. The word ἕν , one only, which was restored by Tischendorf in 1859, is suppressed by him in his 8th ed., according to the Alexandrian authorities and Origen; but certainly wrongly. We can more easily understand how it may have been omitted than added. It brings out the scantiness of the resources which are at hand: “ One only who has anything, and he how little!” It was some petty trader whom Andrew had just noticed in the crowd. Barley-bread was that used by the poorer classes.

Verse 10

Ver. 10. “ But Jesus said: Make the people sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. The men sat down, therefore, in number about five thousand.

In these scanty provisions Jesus has found that which He needs, the material on which omnipotence can work. Now, in His view, the banquet is prepared, the table spread: “ Make the people sit down,” He says to His apostles. The mountain-plateaus which rise behind the site of Bethsaida Julias displayed, at that time, their spring-time verdure. Mark, as well as John, draws the picture of this grassy carpet on which the multitudes took their places ( ἐπὶ τῷ χλώρῳ χόρτῳ Joh 6:39 ). He describes, likewise, the cheerful spectacle which was presented by these regular ranks ( συμπόσια συμπόσια , πρασιαὶ πρασιαί ) of hundreds and fifties. ῞Ανδρες denotes the men in the restricted meaning of the word; if they alone are indicated, it is not, as Meyer alleges, because the women and children were not seated, but because they kept themselves apart and the men only were counted. Women and children, in the East, always keep themselves at a respectful distance from the head of the family and his guests.

Verse 11

Ver. 11. “ Then Jesus took the loaves, and having given thanks he distributed them to those who were seated; and likewise of the fishes, as much as they wished.

This was the solemn moment. Jesus takes in the midst of this multitude the position of the father of a family, as in an ordinary supper, and particularly that of the Passover. He gives thanks, as the father surrounded by his family did for the blessings of God in nature and in the covenant. This moment seems to have been especially impressive to the spectators. It is made almost equally prominent in the four accounts; the multitude and the disciples themselves seem to have had the impression that it was this act of thanksgiving which caused omnipotence to act and which produced the miracle. Comp. John 6:23. After giving thanks, Jesus distributes the food, as the father did at the Paschal-supper. We have rejected from the text the words: to the disciples and the disciples, which are omitted by the Alexandrian authorities. It is more probable that there is an interpolation here, borrowed from Matthew. The little detail: as much as they wished, forms a contrast to the words of Andrew: “But what are these for so many” ( Joh 6:9 ).

Verses 12-13

Vv. 12, 13. “ Then, when they were filled, he says to his disciples: Gather up the broken pieces which remain over, that nothing be lost. 13. So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with broken pieces from the five barley loaves which remained over to those who had eaten.

In the Synoptics, the order given to the disciples is not mentioned. This order is the triumphant answer to the timid calculations of Philip and Andrew. We can understand, moreover, the close relation which exists in the feeling of Jesus between this word: that nothing be lost, and the act of thanksgiving which had produced this abundance. A blessing thus obtained must not be undervalued. Criticism has asked where the twelve baskets came from. The number leads us to suppose that they were the traveling-baskets of the apostles; for they had not set out suddenly, as the crowds had done; or they borrowed them from those standing by. The epithet τῶν κριθίνων , of barley, is designed to establish the identity of these fragments with the original source, the five loaves of the lad.

Not only is this miracle of the multiplication of the loaves found in all the four Gospels, but several characteristic details are common to the four accounts: the crowds following Jesus into a desert place, the five loaves and the two fishes, the five thousand men, and the twelve baskets, and especially the solemn moment of the thanksgiving. Besides this, some features are common to three or two Gospels, particularly to Mark and John (the fresh grass, the two hundred denarii). We see that at the foundation of the four accounts there is a fact, the principal features of which were ineffaceably imprinted on the memory of all the witnesses, but whose details had not been equally well observed and retained by all. John's account contains altogether peculiar features which attest the narrative of an eyewitness; thus the part of Philip, of Andrew and of the lad, and the character of the bread ( of barley). But above all the narrative of John is the one which, as we have seen, makes us penetrate most deeply into the feeling of Jesus and the true spirit of this scene. Modern criticism claims that it was composed by means of materials furnished by the Synoptics, especially by Mark (so Baur, Hilgenfeld, and, in some degree, Weizsackerhimself, p. 290). But what! these so distinctly marked features, these most exact outlines of John's narrative are only charlatanism! Is it not clear that it is the narrative of the Synoptics which generalizes, in saying the disciples instead of Philip, Andrew, etc.,? and that we recognize here a narrative which traditional reproduction had robbed of its “sharp edges”?

According to Paulus, there is no need of seeing anything miraculous in this scene. Jesus and the disciples brought out their provisions, generously offering a share of them to their neighbors who followed their example, and, as each gave what he had, every one had enough. Renan seems to adopt this explanation of the fact, if not of the text: “Jesus withdrew into the desert. A large number of people followed Him. Thanks to an extreme frugality, the pious company had enough to eat; they believed, of course, that they saw in this a miracle.” What, with all this, Paulus and Renan do not explain is, that so simple a fact could have carried the crowd to such a pitch of excitement that, on that same evening, they attempted to get possession of Jesus in order to proclaim Him King ( Joh 6:14-15 )! Olshausen holds an acceleration of the natural process which multiplies the grain of wheat in the bosom of the earth; he thus furnishes matter for Strauss ' ridicule, who asks whether the law of natural reproduction applies also to broiled fish? Lange supposes that it is not the matter itself of the provisions, which was multiplied, but the nutritive power of the molecules! Either we place ourselves by faith in the region of the supernatural, which is created here on earth by the presence of Jesus, or we refuse to enter that higher sphere. In the latter case, the only part to take is to explain this story with Strauss as a mythical product. But what difficulties does not this hypothesis encounter in the perfectly simple, prosaic character of the four narratives, in the mass of small historical details in which they agree, in the authenticity of even one of the writings which contain the story, and finally in the fact that the narrative, before passing into our three Synoptics, had certainly formed a part of the apostolic tradition of which they are independent redactions (see the differences of detail). A fact which was necessarily accomplished with such notoriety could become the subject of a public narrative only on condition of having actually occurred.

Verses 14-15

Vv. 14, 15. “ The people therefore, having seen the miracle which He did, said: This is of a truth the prophet that should come into the world. 15. Jesus therefore, knowing that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him King, withdrew again into the mountain Himself alone.

Here is the beginning of the crisis of which we are to see the development even to the end of the chapter. A selection among the adherents of Jesus becomes necessary to purify His work from all political alloy. Jesus had received this multitude with open arms; He had made a feast for them. It was an emblem of that feast which He was procuring for them in a higher realm. By thus giving His bread, He had symbolized that gift of Himself which He had just made to mankind.

But instead of rising to the hope and desire of such a spiritual banquet, the Galileans occupy their thoughts only with the material miracle, and in their exalted state see in it already the inauguration of a Messianic Kingdom such as they picture to themselves. This is what is expressed by the connection of the participle having seen, seen with their eyes, with the verb ἔλεγον , they said. This exalted state, altogether carnal it is true, is the indisputable proof of what was absolutely extraordinary in that which had just now occurred. The prophet, whom the multitude thought they recognized in Jesus, had been presented in John 1:21; John 1:25, as a personage distinct from the Messiah. But it seems from our John 6:14-15, that many regarded Him as possibly being the Messiah Himself. They imagined probably that, after having been once proclaimed by the people, He would become the Messiah. The plot of which Joh 6:15 speaks implies the highest degree of enthusiasm on the part of the multitude. John does not tell us how Jesus became aware of it.

The word γνούς , knowing, is explained, according to Weiss, by the conversations with these people; according to Keim, by certain indications in their mode of action. Certainly all this is possible. But an immediate perception, like that in John 5:6, is not to be denied. The participle ὁ ἐρχόμενος , he who comes, is the present of idea; it is an allusion to the prophecy on which the expectation of such a personage rested, Deuteronomy 18:18. The term ἁρπάζειν , to seize, does not allow us to doubt that the plan was to get possession of Jesus, even in spite of Himself, that they might go to Jerusalem and crown Him. The task of Jesus at this moment was a difficult one. If He went away again immediately with His disciples, the commotion instead of being quieted, would be in danger of extending widely in Galilee. If He remained there with His disciples, they might be infected by the contagion of this carnal enthusiasm which would find only too much sympathy in their hearts. It might even be asked whether some one among them, Judas for example, did not secretly direct the plot ( Joh 6:70-71 ). It was necessary, therefore, to take measures speedily: First of all, Jesus bestirs Himself to send back His disciples to the other side of the sea, in order to break all immediate connection between them and the multitude. Thus is the singular expression of Matthew ( Mat 14:22 ) and Mark ( Mar 6:45 ) explained: “He straightway constrained His disciples to enter into the boat and to go before Him to the other side, till He should send the multitudes away.” This term constrain, which is not suggested by anything in the Synoptical narrative, is explained only by the fact which John has just related ( Joh 6:14-15 ). Perhaps most of the apostles were ignorant of the true reason of this step which was so suddenly taken by Jesus. After this, Jesus calms and dismisses the multitude, which scatters itself through the neighboring region. Matthew and Mark also say: “ And having sent the multitudes away, He withdrew to the mountain, apart, to pray.” This moment in their narrative evidently coincides with the end of our John 6:15. After this only a part of the multitude undoubtedly, the most excited part remained on the spot (comp. Joh 6:22 ).

The reading φεύγει , flees, of the Sinaitic MS., which is adopted by Tischendorf, is absurd, especially with πάλιν , again. This last word which is rejected by some Byzantine MSS. is to be retained. It contains an allusion to ἀνῆλθε , he went up ( Joh 6:3 ), which was not understood by certain copyists. We must conclude from this that Jesus had approached the shore for the repast, which is in conformity with the Synoptics: He went forth, He received them; and now He returns to the heights whither He had at first gone with His disciples. Αὐτὸς μόνος , Himself alone, is in exact contrast to the words of John 6:3: with His disciples. Weiss also places the πάλιν , again, in connection with John 6:3, but without holding that Jesus had descended for the multiplication of the loaves. The meaning would thus be: “He went up to a still higher point.” He supports his view by the: they descended ( Joh 6:16 ), which, according to him, proves that the whole preceding scene had taken place on the height. This reason is of no value (see Joh 6:16 ), and to go up again is not equivalent to go up higher.

Verses 16-18

Vv. 16-18. “ When the evening was come, his disciples went down to the seashore; 17 and having entered into the boat, they were crossing the sea towards Capernaum; and it was already dark and Jesus had not come to them. And the sea was agitated by a strong wind.

The word went down does not imply that they were still on the heights where they had spent the first part of the day with Jesus, but only (see the πάλιν of Joh 6:15 ) that the place where the miracle occurred was situated above the shore properly so called. What order had Jesus given His disciples before leaving them? According to the Synoptics, that they should embark for the other side of the sea. This is likewise implied by the narrative of John; for the supposition is inadmissible that they would have embarked, as is related in John 6:17, leaving Jesus alone on the eastern shore, if He had not made known to them His will in this regard. They even hesitate, as we see from John 6:16-17, to execute this command; they wait for this until the last light of the day. But how can we explain the end of Joh 6:17 ?

These last words seem to say that they were expecting Jesus, as if He had had the intention of rejoining them (a view which is rendered more probable by the reading οὔπω , not yet, of the Alexandrian authorities). But this would be in contradiction to the order to depart which He must have given them. It has been held that the words: He had not yet rejoined them, were written only from the standpoint of that which really happened later, when Jesus came to them miraculously on the water; but this sense seems quite unnatural. I think it is more simple to suppose that, inasmuch as the direction from Bethsaida Julias to Capernaum is nearly parallel with that of the northern shore of the lake, Jesus had appointed for them a meeting-place at some point on that side, at the mouth of the Jordan, for example, where he counted upon joining them again. If not, it only remains to hold with Weiss that the pluperfects ( the night had already come; Jesus had not rejoined them) refer, not to the moment when the disciples were already on the sea, but to that when they embarked. But it is difficult to reconcile the imperfect ἤρχοντο , literally they were coming, with this meaning. It would be necessary in that case to suppose that in Joh 6:17-18 John wished only to bring together the different grounds of anxiety which weighed upon the disciples; the night which prevented them from making their course on the water, the absence of Jesus and the violence of the tempest. Is not this rather an expedient than an explanation?

Verses 16-21


Vv. 16-21 contain the account of the second miracle mentioned in this chapter. This miracle is inserted between the first miracle and the discourse which followed on the next day. If the narrative is viewed simply in the light of biography, the reason why the event is placed here is obvious; it is placed where it belongs in the order of time. But if we look at the plan of the book as related to the purpose stated in John 20:30-31, it is worthy of notice that this chapter presents two developments of faith. The multitude, who were impressed by the miracle of the loaves, declared their conviction that Jesus was the Messiah. They accordingly believed; but the course which they pursued the next day, and the effect upon their minds of His presentation of the necessity of living in and upon Him (see John 6:60; Joh 6:66 ), prove that their faith was like that of those who are mentioned in John 2:23-25. The apostles, on the other hand, are not only described as having a faith of a higher order than that of these half-way disciples, but are represented as giving utterance to a more confident and established belief than they had expressed at any previous moment ( Joh 6:68-69 ). Is it not probable that the second miracle, following upon the first a miracle which was so peculiarly fitted to produce a deep impression, both in itself and in the circumstances attendant upon it was an essential element in this new development of the apostles' faith? May we not account for the upward movement of their belief, as contrasted with the downward movement in that of the many who went back, as connected partly with this second wonderful fact? Certainly the fact that it followed so immediately after the miracle of the loaves was calculated to make them ready and able to say, not only: We have believed, but: We have believed and know that Thou art the Holy One of God. The insertion of this miracle, therefore, as well as the other, falls most naturally within the line of the writer's great purpose. The reader who will place himself in thought in the circumstances in which the apostles were at the time, and will open his mind, as they did, to the reception of the evidences, cannot fail to see how their faith grew stronger, or to feel that his own faith is growing stronger under the same influence. The signs which were given in the presence of the disciples, says the author, are written in his book that the reader may, by following the record of them, be led forward in the same progress of faith.

In the account of this second miracle which is given by Matthew, Matthew 14:33, the apostles in the boat are represented as saying, as they witnessed it, “Of a truth Thou art the Son of God.” If this is the record of what they actually said at this moment, it may suggest, in connection with John John 6:14, the likeness and also the difference between the belief of the multitude and that of the Twelve. If, on the other hand, as may not improbably be the fact, Matthew, in his more brief narrative of the whole occasion, places at this point what, in the succession of the events, was really said by Peter in the name of the apostles at the time indicated by John in John 6:69, we have a suggestion in Matthew's narrative of that which is represented by John as the result of the miracles and the discourse taken together.

May not the words of Mark ( Mar 6:51-52 ), who says that the apostles were exceedingly amazed when Jesus entered the boat and the wind ceased, but that they did not understand concerning the loaves, suggest that the full conviction indicated in Mat 14:33 came only after the discourse, as indicated in John Joh 6:69 ?

The difficulty connected with the words ἤθελον and εὐθέως is to be recognized. In the story as given by Mark and Matthew, Jesus seems to be represented as entering the boat (in Matthew, with Peter, who had gone to meet Him on the sea), and the boat seems to have moved gradually towards the shore, only over calm waters. In John's account, on the other hand, the impression which the reader would naturally get from the verb ἤθελον is that Jesus did not enter the boat, and εὐθέως would imply that the boat reached the shore immediately. The explanation given by Godet is a possible one, but can hardly be considered altogether satisfactory. It is to be observed, however, that in brief stories such as we find in the Gospels, which are told by all the writers for a purpose which is beyond the mere details considered in themselves, differences of this sort are not unnatural differences which may not be altogether explicable at a distance of centuries from the date of writing, but with reference to which, even now, we may see possibilities capable of removing them. The New Testament narratives, in this regard, may fairly claim to be treated by opposing critics with as calm a consideration of all these possibilities as should be given in the case of other histories. The harmonists and the critics alike have sometimes been disposed to demand too much of the Gospel writers in this regard.

Verses 19-21

Vv. 19-21. “ When, therefore, they had gone about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing near to the boat, and they were afraid. 20. But he says to them: It is I, be not afraid. 21. And as they were willing to receive him into the boat, immediately the boat reached the point of the shore where they were going.

There was no other means by which Jesus could rejoin His disciples, before their arrival at Capernaum, but the one which He employs, John 6:19. They were now in the middle of the sea. In its broadest part, the lake of Genesareth was, as Josephus, ( Bell. Jud., iii., 10, 7) says, forty stadia, nearly two leagues in width. If the expression of Matthew: “in the midst of the sea,” is taken as an indication of distance (which appears to me doubtful), this detail accords with John's indication: twenty-five or thirty stadia. The present they see indicates the suddenness of the appearance of Jesus; the emotion of fear which the disciples experience, and which is more fully set forth in the Synoptics, does not allow the words ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης on the sea, to be explained here in the sense in which they are used in John 21:1: on the sea shore.

They think that they see a spectre approaching them. Jesus' words: It is I, be not afraid, must have made a very profound impression on the disciples, for it is reported in the same words identically in the four narratives. The imperfect ἤθελον (literally: they wished), John 6:21, appears to imply that Jesus did not enter into the boat: “They were willing to receive Him; but immediately they found themselves at the shore.” There would thus be a contradiction of Mark and Matthew, according to whom Jesus really entered the boat, in Matthew after the episode of St. Peter. Chrysostom thinks himself obliged to infer from this difference that John was here relating another event than that spoken of by Matthew and Mark. But the close relation between this miracle and the multiplication of the loaves in the three Gospels, as well as the general similarity of the three accounts, do not permit us to accept this solution. J. D. Michaelis supposed that, instead of ἥθελον , ἠλθον must be read, which would solve the difficulty: they came; they drew near Him with the boat to receive Him. And, a singular circumstance, the Sinaitic MS. presents precisely the reading which was conjectured by this scholar.

But it has too much the appearance of a correction to deserve confidence. Besides, Jesus moved so freely upon the waters that the boat had no need to come near to Him. Beza and many exegetes after him think that the verb were willing, here simply adds to the act of receiving, the notion of eagerness, comp. Luke 20:46; Colossians 2:18. And Tholuck has given greater probability to this meaning by contrasting the words were willing, as thus understood, with ἐφοβήθησαν , they were afraid: they were afraid at the first moment, but now they received him willingly. There is one thing opposed to this explanation: it is that John has written the imperfect, they were wishing, which denotes incomplete action, and not the aorist, they wished, which would indicate an action completed ( Joh 1:44 ). On the other hand, there is little probability that John could have meant to say, in contradiction to the Synoptics, that Jesus did not really enter the boat, as Meyer thinks. In that case, must he not have said, instead of καὶ εὐθέως , and immediately, ἀλλ᾿ εὐθέως , but immediately? The meaning of John's narrative would be indeed that the sudden arrival at the shore prevented the execution of the disciples' purpose. As to ourselves, the relation between the two clauses of John 6:21, standing thus in juxtaposition, seems to us to be similar to that which we have already observed elsewhere in John ( Joh 6:17 ). It is a logical relation, which we express by means of a conjunction: “ At the moment when they were eager to receive Him, the boat came to shore.” The moment of the entrance of Jesus into the boat was thus that of the arrival. The thing took place so rapidly that the disciples themselves did not understand precisely the way in which it occurred. Joh 6:33 of Matt. and Joh 6:51 of Mark must be placed at the moment of disembarking. One can scarcely imagine, indeed, that, after an act of power so magnificent and so kingly as Jesus' walking on the waters, He should have seated Himself in the boat, and the voyage should have been laboriously continued by the stroke of the oar? At the moment when Jesus set His foot on the boat, He communicated to it, as He had just done for Peter, the force victorious over gravity and space, which had just been so strikingly displayed in His own person. The words καὶ εὐθέως , and immediately, compared with the distance of ten or fifteen stadia (thirty to forty-five minutes) which yet separated them from the shore, allow no other explanation.

Such is the real sovereignty which Jesus opposes to the political royalty that fleshly-minded Israel designed to lay upon Him. He gives Himself to His own as the one who reigns over a vaster domain, over all the forces of nature, and who can, one day, free Himself and free them from the burden of this mortal body. If the multiplication of the loaves was the prelude of the offering which He would make of His flesh for the nourishment of the world, if, in this terrible night of darkness, tempest and separation, they have experienced as it were the foretaste of an approaching more sorrowful separation, in this unexpected and triumphant return across the heaving waves, Jesus, as it were, prefigured His resurrection by means of which He will be restored to them and that triumphant ascension in which He will one day give the Church itself a share, when, raising it with Himself, through the breath of His Spirit, He will bring it even to the heavenly places.

When we bear in mind that every voluntary movement which is effected by our body, every impulse which we communicate to a body which we throw into the air, is undoubtedly not an abolishing of the law of gravitation, but a victory which we gain momentarily over that law through the intervention of a force superior to it, namely, that of the will, we can understand that matter, being itself the work of the Divine will, remains always open to this essentially supernatural power. There is nothing therefore to prevent the Divine breath from being able, in a given condition, to free the human body for a time from the power of gravity. Reuss finds that this miracle “places Jesus outside of and above humanity,” and that, if it is real, it must no longer be said that the Lord divested Himself of His divine attributes. But to be raised above the law of gravity is less than to be wrested from death. Would the resurrection of Jesus, according to Reuss, prove that He was not a man? That of Lazarus, that he was not a man? The question of the κένωσις has absolutely nothing to do with this matter.

Verses 22-24

Vv. 22-24. “ On the morrow, the multitude who stood on the other side of the sea and who had seen that there was no other boat there but one, that into which the disciples had entered, and that Jesus entered not with his disciples into this boat, but that his disciples went away alone 23 but there came other boats from Tiberias near to the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks 24 when the multitude therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they themselves got into the boats, and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.

The carnal fanaticism of the multitude had constrained Jesus to separate His disciples from them and to separate Himself from the disciples very suddenly. He had now rejoined them, and the multitude set itself to seek after Him, still in the same spirit. The long and difficult sentence, John 6:22-24, has for its aim to bring out this idea: that the sole thought which occupied the minds of this company was that of Jesus (end of John 6:24: seeking Jesus). By examining attentively this complicated sentence, we can soon understand its true construction. Everything starts from the condition of the multitude on the following morning ( on the morrow the multitude who stood, Joh 6:22 ), and looks to the resolution taken by them to set out for Capernaum ( they got into the boats, Joh 6:24 ). The cause of this resolution is stated in the two determinative expressions: ἰδών , seeing, John 6:22, and ὅτε οὖν εἶδεν , when therefore they saw ( Joh 6:24 ); then, indirectly, in the parenthesis, John 6:23, designed to explain the possibility of this resolution taken by the multitude. In this Joh 6:23 we find a form analogous to that which we met in Joh 1:10 and John 2:9.

It seems that the circumlocutions which characterize this passage are a symbol of the perplexity experienced by the crowd until the moment when the arrival of the boats inspired them with a sudden resolution. The first word: on the morrow, has already a bearing upon the last verb of the sentence: they got into the boats ( Joh 6:24 ). The sense of the perfect participle ὁ ἑστηκώς , who stood there, is this: “who had remained since the previous evening and who were still on the shore at that moment.” It seems to me that the article ὁ before the participle must serve to limit the idea of the substantive: “the part of the crowd who...” They were the most persistent ones. It is very evident that the entire multitude of the preceding day, the five thousand, did not cross the sea in these few boats. The reading εἶδον or εἶδεν , adopted by Tischendorf (8th ed.), and by the latest commentators ( Weiss, Keil), has in its favor the most ancient MSS. The reading ἰδών , having seen, is supported by fifteen of the later Mjj. ( Γ Δ Λ etc.) and by the Curetonian Syriac; it is in my view the true reading. We must give to ἰδών the sense of the pluperfect which is rendered indispensable by the two ὅτι , that, which follow: “On the morrow, the multitude who had seen that there was only one boat there and that the disciples had gone away in this boat without Jesus.”

The limiting expression: who had seen, as well as the adverb of time: on the morrow, are in logical relation to the final act: they got into the boats ( Joh 6:24 ). The aorist εἶδεν or εἶδον cannot have the sense of the pluperfect because, as a finite verb, it is necessarily determined by τῇ ἐπαύριον , on the morrow; but the expression: “on the morrow the multitude saw (sing. or plur.)” affords no reasonable meaning; for it was not on the day after the miracle, but on the same evening, that the crowds saw that there was only one boat there and that the disciples had entered into it without Jesus. It would be necessary therefore to translate: had seen, which the limiting expression on the morrow renders impossible. This reading cannot therefore be sustained, unless we take ἦν , was, in the sense of had been, which is much more inadmissible than our sense of ἰδών . The Alexandrian reading saw (sing. or plur.) was quite easily introduced by the mistaken idea that the ὅτε οὖν εἶδεν , when [the multitude] saw, of Joh 6:24 was the resumption of that of John 6:22, after the parenthesis John 6:23 (an error which is even at the present time found in Keil).

This, then, is the meaning, The multitude who were standing there had on the preceding evening discovered two things:

1. That there was only one boat there;

2. That the disciples had departed in this boat, and that Jesus had not gone with His disciples (the two ὅτι of Joh 6:22 ).

These two facts duly discovered held them back; for it seemed to follow from them that Jesus, whom they were seeking, must still be on that side of the lake. Consequently ( οὖν , therefore, Joh 6:24 ) that is to say, by reason of the departure of Jesus during the night when, on the next morning, they saw neither Jesus nor His disciples (who might have come back to seek Him), they took the resolution of crossing the sea, availing themselves of the boats which had arrived in the interval, to endeavor to find Jesus again on the other side. The ὅτε οὖν εἶδεν , when therefore they saw, of John 6:24, is not, then, by any means a resumption of ἰδών , having seen, John 6:22. It serves to complete it, by indicating a new and even opposite sight. According to John 6:22, indeed, it seemed that Jesus must still be there; according to John 6:24, they discovered that He was no longer there. Hence the resolution to go into the boats. As to the parenthesis ( Joh 6:23 ), it explains how they were able to think of doing it. The arrival of these boats has occasioned difficulties. Did they come, perhaps, because it was known on the other side that this assemblage was formed in this desert place and needed boats for their return? Westcott makes a very probable supposition when he supposes that it was the tempest of the night which had forced them to take refuge under the eastern shore. The words, that whereinto His disciples had entered, may be a gloss; yet they have in their favor the Sinaitic MS., and are very suitable. The particular which is so expressly brought to notice: after that the Lord had given thanks, and which is not demanded by the context, recalls the vivid impression which that solemn moment had produced on the spectators and the decisive importance attached by them to that act.

The ἀλλά , John 6:24, does not signify others; it is the adversative particle but; at least provided the δέ of T. R. is not authentic, in which case this ἀλλά must rather be taken as an adjective ( others). The particle καί , also, before αὐτοί would mean: “they, as well as the disciples and Jesus Himself.” This word, however, is insufficiently supported by U Γ . The αὐτοί makes their persons prominent in contrast to those who had gone away before. They decided at last to do themselves what all the rest had done. The verb so long expected ἐνέβησαν , embarked, well brings out the final act which ended this long indecision. Thus there are described with an astonishing precision, in this long sentence, all the impressions, fluctuations, various observations of this multitude, up to the point of the decision which brings them to Capernaum, and gives occasion to the conversations of the next day. Let one imagine a Greek writer of Alexandria or of Rome, in the second century, narrating after this fashion! Nowhere, perhaps, does the defective and arbitrary character of the Sinaitic text betray itself as it does in this passage (comp. note 11, p. 14).

Although the idea which is predominant in the discourses, John 6:25-65, appears to be the same as that of chap. 5, namely, that of life, there is a difference between the teachings contained in these two chapters, which corresponds to that of the two miracles, the application of which they contain. In the healing of the impotent man, it is Jesus who acts; the sick man is receptive. In the repast in chap. 6, the food is simply offered by Jesus; if nutrition is to be accomplished, man must act in order to assimilate it. This is the reason why, while in the discourse of chap. 5 it is the person of Jesus that comes forward, in the conversations of chap. 6, it is rather the idea of faith which predominates. Without finding it necessary, as Baur does, to explain the composition of our Gospel by a systematic process, we may yet hold that John, in gathering up his recollections, was struck by the correlation between these two testimonies, which makes one the complement of the other, and that he designedly brought them together as presenting the complete description of the relation between divine and human agency in salvation.

Four phases can be distinguished in this conversation, determined in each instance by a manifestation of a portion of the hearers. The first (John 6:25 -

40) is brought on by a question of the Jews ( εἶπον αὐτῷ , they said to him). The second ( Joh 6:41-51 ) results from a serious dissatisfaction which manifests itself ( ἐγόγγυζον , they murmured). The third ( Joh 6:52-59 ) is marked by an altercation which arises among the hearers themselves ( ἐμάχοντο , they strove among themselves). The last ( Joh 6:60-65 ) is called forth by a declaration of the larger part of the earlier Galilean believers, who announce to Jesus their rupture with Him. Did all these conversations take place in the synagogue? This has little probability. Joh 6:25 would not lead us to suppose it. The remark of Joh 6:59 may be referred to the last phases only.


Vv. 22-24. The main idea of these verses is sufficiently clear, but there is an irregularity in the sentence which it is, perhaps, impossible to explain with entire success. The simplest construction seems to be that which Godet, R. V., etc., give, and which makes John 6:23 a parenthesis. But this construction does not fully clear away the difficulties, for, if the reading εἶδον or εἶδεν is adopted in John 6:22, that verse states a fact to which nothing is added by a regular construction which may answer to it and complete the statement; or if, on the other hand, ἰδών is taken as the text, it would seem that the sentence ought to read, When the multitude ( Joh 6:24 ), who had seen that there was only one boat there, etc. ( Joh 6:22 ), saw that Jesus was not there ( Joh 6:24 ), they got into the boats which had come from Tiberias since the preceding evening, and crossed over ( Joh 6:24 ). The reason for the peculiar arrangement of the sentence may, not improbably, be this that the writer desired to picture the state of mind of the multitude just as it changed, from the beginning of the scene to the end. They first noticed the facts which would naturally lead them to conclude that Jesus was still on the eastern side of the lake; then, that boats had come from the other side in the late evening or early morning; then they thought that, as the disciples had not returned and Jesus was nowhere to be seen, it might be that He had followed them to the western side; then, that, by availing themselves of the newly-arrived boats, they might find Him again and thus successfully accomplish what they desired. The broken sentence gives thus a picture, not other than life-like, of the succession of thoughts or suggestions under such circumstances. It is, at the most, a sacrifice of grammatical regularity for the higher end of vivid description. It is, also, that sort of vivid description which points to a living knowledge of the facts on the part of the writer.

Verses 22-65

II. The Discourses: John 6:22-65 .

This section contains, first an historical introduction ( Joh 6:22-24 ), then a series of conversations and discourses ( Joh 6:25-65 ).

Verses 25-26

Vv. 25, 26. “ And having found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him: rabbi, when camest thou hither? 26. Jesus answered them and said: Verily, verily, I say unto you, You seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you did eat of those loaves and were filled.

We have seen that the motive for the action of the multitude was the seeking for Jesus; this is recalled to mind by the first words of this passage: “ And having found him. ” The question: when (not: how) camest thou? arises from the fact that they think it impossible that Jesus had made the journey on foot over the road which separates Bethsaida Julias from Capernaum (two to three leagues). The presence of Jesus produces on them the effect of an apparition. He replies, as on every occasion when He is questioned in the way of curiosity, not to the question of the interlocutor, but to the feeling which dictates it.

Comp. John 2:4; John 3:3, etc. He unveils to these Jews what is false and fleshly in their way of seeking Him. As there is here a revelation of their inward feelings, of which they were themselves unconscious, He uses the emphatic affirmation, amen, amen. Jesus contrasts here with the false and vain seeking after His person, which aims only at the satisfaction of the earthly man ( Joh 6:26 ), that salutary seeking which tends to fill the wants of the spiritual man ( Joh 6:27 ). His miracles were the visible signs of the blessings of salvation which He brings to mankind. It will be necessary, therefore, not to rest in the material relief which they procure; it will be necessary to rise by their means to the desire of the superior gifts of which they are the pledge and the image; it will be necessary, before and above all, to believe on Him whom God points out to the world by giving to Him to do such works. We see how necessary it is to avoid translating the word σημεῖα , signs, here by miracles (Ostervald, Arnaud, Rilliet). It is precisely on the meaning signs that the whole force of this saying depends. The multitudes interpreted the multiplication of the loaves as the beginning of a series of wonders of the same nature, the inauguration of an era of miracles more and more brilliant and satisfying to the flesh. “Instead of seeing,” as Lange says, “in the bread the sign, they had seen in the sign only the bread.” This gross want of understanding is what gives to their search for Jesus a false, earthly, sensual, animal character.

This tendency it is which Jesus points out to them from the very first word of the conversation, and particularly by the expression which betrays a sort of disgust: and because you were filled. What a difference between these people, who come with their gross aspirations, their earthly appetites, and the spiritual Israel which the Old Testament was intended to prepare and which cries out: “My soul thirsts after thee, oh living God!” This Israel would say to Him who multiplied the loaves: Give us more still! Do to-day for our hearts what thou didst yesterday for our bodies! The plural, signs, refers either to the two miracles related in the former part of the chapter, or rather to the miracles in general, which had been no better understood by the multitudes than the one of multiplying the loaves. We have rendered the article τῶν before ἄρτων by the demonstrative pronoun: “ those loaves,” because the word the contains an evident allusion to the loaves of the preceding day.


Vv. 25-40.

1. The abruptness in the turn of thought from the question of the people to the answer of Jesus may indicate an omission of some intermediate words in the report of the conversation. These words, however, must have revealed to the mind of Jesus that their thoughts were moving in the sphere of earthly curiosity and earthly desire, and so, as everywhere in this Gospel (and to some extent the same thing is noticeable in the earlier gospels), He turns them away at once from the earthly to the spiritual things.

2. Joh 6:26 does not seem to intimate that they came to Jesus now for the purpose of having food provided for them again, as it had been on the day before, but that, in view of the fact that they had had such provision for temporal wants in one line, they hoped to find in Jesus one who would, as the great prophet, bring them the blessings which might belong to a temporal and earthly kingdom. They saw the miracle of the preceding day and were impressed by it. They said, Of a truth this is the prophet. But they did not see in it a true σημεῖον , in the sense in which Jesus intended it. They did not have the faith which took hold of the inner life. Hence they asked ( Joh 6:30 ) for a sign, when He called for this faith, as if no sign had been already given.

3. Faith is presented in this passage as an ἔργον , and as the one comprehensive ἔργον . But this seems to be rather incidental to the form of the sentence than indicative of a doctrine of faith as a work. As they called on Him to tell them what they must do in working for the meat which abides to eternal life, He tells them that the sum of what they have to do is gathered up into believing in Him. But this believing is set forth in the following discourse as involving the closest union with Jesus, the feeding upon him, and thus it is represented as a working and transforming power renewing the whole life of the soul.

4. In the demand which they make for a new sign it is probable that the miracle wrought on the preceding day may have led them to refer to the manna, rather than any other wonderful manifestation in the Old Testament history. Not a mere provision for a day, like that which He had just given, but something great and continuous, such as had come through Moses, might reasonably, as they thought, be asked for, before they should accept Him as one on whom eternal life for themselves should so wholly depend.

5. The progress of thought from Joh 6:32 to Joh 6:35 is as follows: Jesus first donies that the bread which answers to the true idea of bread which He now has in mind ( ἀληθινόν ) was given by Moses, and affirms that it is given by God ( Joh 6:32 ); secondly, He gives the proof of the affirmative statement it is God who gives the true bread, because the bread of God is that which descends and gives life to the world, and that which thus gives life can alone be the ἀληθινὸς ἄρτος ( Joh 6:33 ); thirdly, He declares that He is Himself this bread ( Joh 6:35 ). The construction of Joh 6:33 is in accordance with the order of the words, ἄρτος being the subject and ὁ καταβ . κ . τ . λ . the predicate. The fact that God's bread is that which gives life is the proof that not Moses, but God, gives the ideal bread. The emphasis of the last clause of Joh 6:33 is especially on the words ζωὴν διδοὺς τῷ κόσμῳ . The ideal bread must be the life-giving bread. The close connection between Joh 6:35 and Joh 6:33 seems to show that the gentitive ζωῆς is to be explained as equivalent to διδοὺς ζωήν .

6. The reference in the word εἶπον of Joh 6:36 is supposed by Weiss, Keil, Milligan and Moulton, among the most recent commentators, to be to the words of John 6:26. Westcott says: “The thought is contained in John 6:26, and the reference may be to those words; but more probably the reference is to other words like them, spoken at some earlier time.” The general character and plan of John's Gospel makes it probable that in such cases there is an allusion to something which he has himself recorded, and, if this be the fact in this case, the reference to Joh 6:26 is somewhat more probable than that to John 5:37 ff.

7. The emphasis in John 6:37 ff. is on the word πᾶν . It is, therefore, the universality of the blessing with reference to those who believe, rather than the question of Divine election as limiting it only to them, which is here in mind.

8. Joh 6:37-40 are closely connected in thought with John 6:35. As Christ is the life-giving bread, the one who comes to Him and believes on Him will never hunger or thirst ( Joh 6:35 ), because every such person is a gift to Christ according to the will of the Father, and this will is that the gift, when once made, should never be lost. Four points may be noticed here:

( a) The emphasis which is laid on the absolute security of the continuous and ever-enduring blessing.

( b) The foundation of this security in the fact that Christ's mission to earth is to do the Father's will there can be no selfish or arbitrary action on His part, therefore, with reference to those who come to Him by the Father's gift.

( c) The gift of the Father is immediately united with the existence of faith in the one who comes to Christ (comp. Joh 6:39-40 in their parallelism, and the relation of the latter to the former through the particle γάρ ); the Father draws ( Joh 6:44 ), and the susceptible soul comes with faith by reason of the drawing influence.

( d) The experience of those who thus come is set forth from the beginning to the end first, they are none of them rejected when they come; secondly, they are none of them lost afterwards, but are all kept safely; thirdly, they have eternal life from the moment of believing, and it is in this life that they are kept; fourthly, the consummation at the end is the resurrection. The whole is a development of life, in the carrying out of the Divine will by Christ, which naturally and necessarily moves forward to its completeness.

9. The connection of ἔχη ζωὴν αἰώνιον ( Joh 6:40 ) with μὴ ἀπολέσω ( Joh 6:39 ) points to the idea of duration in αἰώνιον (the quantitative idea); the contrast of the ἔχη and ἀναστήσω , on the other hand, points to the present possession of the life, and thus to the qualitative idea. The two elements are united in the Johannean thought.

Verses 25-40

1. Vv. 25-40.

This first phase is made up of four brief dialogues, each including a question of the Jews and an answer of Jesus. The last of these answers is more fully developed; Jesus expresses in it, with restrained emotion, the impressions with which the condition of His hearers filled His soul.

1. Joh 6:25-27 . The contrast between the food which perishes and that which abides.

Verse 27

Ver. 27. “ Work to obtain, not the food which perishes, but the food which endures to eternal life, that which the Son of man shall give unto you; for him hath the Father, God, sealed.

Behold now the true way in which Jesus would be sought. It follows, indeed, from the contrast between ἐργάζεσθε , work, and ζητεῖτε , you seek me ( Joh 6:26 ), that the work to which He exhorts His hearers is none other than the seeking for His person with a spiritual aim. The repast of the preceding evening had sustained them for that day. But, when the morning came, were they not obliged to eat again? That bread, miraculous as it was, had, thus, been only a temporary nourishment. What purpose would the renewal of a similar gift on this day have served? To this transient food Jesus opposes that which abides inherent in the human person as a permanent principle of life and action. The term ἐργάζεσθαι , to work, signifies here: to obtain by one's labor (see the examples drawn from classical Greek, in Meyer). The words: unto eternal life, designate either the effect immediately produced ( Reuss) or the final limit ( even to); see at John 4:14.

The future, shall give. is certainly the true reading; it is designed to raise the minds of the hearers to the nourishment of a higher nature which Jesus brings to the world, and of which the multiplied loaves were only the type and promise. This notion of giving seems at the first glance in contradiction to the order to work ( ἐργάζεσθε ). But the work by which man procures for himself this truly life-giving food does not consist in creating it, but in making himself fit to receive it, by believing on the divine messenger who brings it to him. The human work would remain useless, without the divine gift, as also the divine gift remains inefficacious without the internal work by means of which the man appropriates it to himself. The name Son of man is also in connection with the thought developed afterwards, that Jesus is Himself this celestial food; for if it is placed within the reach of faith, it is by virtue of the incarnation (John 6:33; John 6:38; John 6:50; Joh 6:58 ). The for relates to the word will give. Jesus is sealed, that is, personally pointed out to the world by His miracles in general, and more particularly by that of the preceding day, as the one who brings this life-giving bread to the earth and who gives it. This is the explanation, given by Jesus Himself, of the term signs. His miracles are the authentic signs of the salvation with which He is intrusted, in its different aspects. The word ὁ θεός , God, is placed at the end of the sentence to set forth distinctly the person of Him who, as possessor of supreme authority, has alone the power and the right to give such certifications.

The first dialogue has contrasted and characterized in an altogether general way the two kinds of good which may be sought from Jesus.

Verses 28-29

Vv. 28, 29. The brief dialogue which follows bears upon the true means of obtaining this really desirable good, the food which abides; it is the true mode of ἐργάζεσθαι ( working).

Vv. 28, 29. “ They said therefore to Him: What must we do, to do the works of God? 29. Jesus answered and said to them: This is the work of God, that you believe on Him whom He has sent.

As Jesus had said: “Labor (literally, work),” the hearers, believing that they entered into His thought, ask Him: How work? In what do these works to be done for obtaining the food which Thou offerest consist? They call them the works of God, as being demanded by God as the condition of this gift. They start herein from the legal point of view, and see in these works to be done a work for which the miraculous food is the payment. It is impossible for me to see that there can be anything “grotesque” or improbable in this answer of the Jews ( Reuss). It corresponds with many questions of the same kind in the Synoptics. (Matthew 19:16; Luke 10:25, etc.) Jesus, in His turn, enters into this idea of works to be done; only He reduces them all to a single one: the work, in contrast to the works ( Joh 6:28 ).

This work is faith in Him; in other terms: the gift of God is to be, not deserved, but simply accepted. Faith in Him whom God sends to communicate it is the sole condition for receiving it. It is evident that, in this context, the genitive τοῦ θεοῦ , of God, designates, not the author of the work ( Augustine), but the one with reference to whom it is done: the question is of the work which God requires. What is called Paulinism is implied in this answer, which may be called the point of union between Paul and James. Faith is really a work, the highest work, for by it man gives himself, and a free being cannot do anything greater than to give himself. It is in this sense that James opposes work to a faith which is only a dead intellectual belief; as it is in an analogous sense, that St. Paul opposes faith to works of mere observance. The living faith of Paul is, at the foundation, the living work of James, according to that sovereign formula of Jesus: “ This is the work of God, that ye believe. ” With the discussion of the true human work which leads to the possession of the heavenly gift is connected a new one on the way to the attaining of faith. The Jews think that in order to this end, there is need for them of new miracles. Jesus declares to them that the true sign is present; it is Himself.

Verses 30-31

3. Vv. 30-33. The way to reach faith.

Vv. 30, 31. “ Then they said to Him: What sign doest thou then, that we may see, and believe in thee? What work dost thou do? 31. Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, according as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.

It is difficult to imagine these words on the lips of people who had been present the day before at the multiplying of the loaves. B. Bauer saw herein a proof of the non-authenticity of the narrative. Schweizer concluded from it that the whole preceding passage was interpolated. Grotius and others think that these interlocutors who speak thus had not been present at the scene of the preceding day. De Wette and Weiss suppose that this part of the conversation is located here out of its true place. Lucke, Luthardt, Meyer find here the proof of the psychological truth that the natural man is insatiable in respect to wonders. Riggenbach, and up to a certain point Weiss, recall the scarcely apparent way in which the multiplying of the loaves had been accomplished. The creative operation had not been seen. Others think that Jesus' hearers contrast this quite ordinary bread which Jesus had given them with the manna, manifestly falling every morning from heaven, which Moses gave to their fathers, and that they find the first of these miracles far inferior to the second. But, however true these remarks may be, it must be confessed that they do not yet explain such questions as these: “What sign doest Thou? What workest Thou?” addressed to a man who had just done such a miracle and presented by people who had, the day before, wished to proclaim Him King.

It is necessary, I think, to take account of a circumstance strongly brought out by Weiss and Keil: the dissatisfaction felt by this multitude in consequence of the absolute refusal of Jesus to consent to the great Messianic demonstration which they had planned. And, strange fact! while refusing to be proclaimed King and Messiah, He yet claimed to be recognized as the supreme messenger of God, as the object of faith, of a faith which dispensed with all the works prescribed by the law and even with every work; as the one who brought from heaven to men an imperishable life. Was the miracle wrought on the level with such pretensions? No, it did not even raise Jesus to the height of Moses, above whom He seemed nevertheless to place Himself by arrogating such a part to Himself! It is not therefore altogether without reason that they bring out the contrast between the scarcely apparent miracle of the day before and the magnificent display of power of which Moses had been the instrument before the people during forty years. Redemptor prior descendere fecit pro iis manna; sic et Redemptor posterior descendere faciet manna, said the Rabbis (see Lightfoot and Wetstein). This, at least, is what would have been expected of Him to justify pretensions such as His! The words quoted by the Jews are found in Psalms 78:24-25. Comp. Exodus 16:4; Exodus 16:15. The verb has given has for its subject God. The expression “ from heaven ” denotes, in their mouth, only the miraculous origin of the divine gift, while Jesus, in His answer, thinks above all of its essence.

Verses 32-33

Vv. 32, 33. “ Jesus therefore said to them: Verily, verily, I say unto you: Moses did not give you the bread from heaven; but my Father gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread; 33 for the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.

Until this point, the thought of the auditors seemed to move in accord with that of Jesus, but this was due to an ambiguity: Jesus made announcement of a bread of a higher nature, and the Jews accepted the offer willingly, but on the condition that this food should be not only miraculous in its origin, but also of a material nature, like the manna, an ambrosia falling from heaven. Jesus now gives an explanation which brings to light the opposition between His thought and theirs.

The formula amen, amen foreshadows this contrast in the two points of view. The perfect δέδωκεν must be preferred to the aorist, which seems to have been introduced from John 6:31. The sense of the perfect is this: “The gift of the heavenly bread is not a thing which Moses accomplished for your fathers and yourselves.” The predominant contrast is not that of the two objects ( Keil), but that of the two subjects. If they are in possession of the true bread from heaven, it is not by the act of Moses, it is by the gift of the Father who sends it to them at this very moment. This is what is indicated by the present δίδωσι , gives, which already affords a suggestion of what Jesus is about to say, namely, that it is God who makes this gift in His person. The word τὸν ἀληθινόν , the true, is added at the end of the sentence in order to place the spiritual, divine essence of this bread in contrast with such a gift as that of the manna, which, although miraculous in its origin, was material in its nature. The limiting words from heaven belong here and in the following verse, not to the verb has given (in opposition to Meyer) but as in Psalms 78:24, to the substantive bread. The position of this limiting word in the Greek indicates this, and it is on the idea of bread from heaven that the discussion turns.

Verse 33

Vv. 33 applies this idea of true bread from heaven, to Jesus, but for the moment in obscure words. The difficulty of this verse is that the words descending from heaven, which are the paraphrase of the term bread from heaven, should be logically joined to the subject which is to be defined, and not to the attribute which contains the definition. It seems that it should be: “For the true bread from heaven is that which descends from God, from God Himself.” I formerly tried to resolve this difficulty by applying the participle ὁ καταβαίνων , the descending, not to the bread, but to Jesus himself: “He who descends.” Meyer and Weiss object that in that case ὁ καταβάς , “He who descended,” would be necessary. Joh 6:50 answers this objection.

Nevertheless, I acknowledge that the ellipsis of ὁ ἄρτος ( the bread) is more natural, although the idea of descending applies more easily to a person than to a thing (comp. Joh 6:38 ). Weiss himself has recourse to a very far-fetched explanation: it is to make ὁ ἄρτος τοῦ θεοῦ , the bread of God, the predicate of the two following participles: “The bread which descends from heaven and gives life to the world, is that which is the true bread of God.” What seems more simple is to understand with Keil: “For the bread which God Himself gives ( Joh 6:32 ) is the only bread which truly descends from heaven and can give life.” Jesus thus opposes the true heaven, that is, the glorious life of God, to the local heaven from which, according to the opinion of His hearers, the manna descended. The expression τῷ κόσμῳ , to the world, is opposed to the theocratic particularism which boasted itself especially in the great national miracle that of the manna. The greatness of the heavenly gift, as Jesus presents it here, no longer allows a national and particular destination. In proportion as Jesus sees the people refusing to follow Him in the spiritual sphere into which He wished to elevate them, He is led to turn his eyes towards mankind for whom He has come. The fourth part of the conversation ( Joh 6:34-40 ) reveals completely the rupture which has just taken place between the thought of the people and that of Jesus.

Verses 34-35

4. Vv. 34-40. The two classes of hearers, the unbelievers and the believers.

Vv. 34, 35. “ They said therefore to him: Lord, evermore give us this bread. 35. But Jesus said to them: I am the bread of life; he that comes to me shall never hunger, and he that believes on me shall never thirst.

The Jews, still regarding the heavenly bread as a wonderful, but material food, declare themselves ready to follow Jesus always, if He will procure for them this food; and that daily. The evermore undoubtedly alludes to the gift of the manna which was renewed every morning. This bread: this food far higher than the manna itself. Here is the highest point of their carnal exaltation. But it is also the moment when Jesus breaks with them decidedly. Up to this moment, the questions and answers were directly connected with each other, and the particle οὖν , therefore, had indicated continuous progress. But the particle δέ of John 6:35, which seems to me to be the true reading, marks a sudden change in the course of the conversation; the ἀλλά , but, of Joh 6:36 will mark the complete rupture.

The words: “ I am...,” are the categorical answer to the: Give us, of the Jews: “What you ask is accomplished: this bread is Myself. It only remains to feed on it; and the means for this end is simply to come to me with a soul which hungers and thirsts for salvation.” Jesus finally explains His expression in John 6:27. The food which endures of which He there speaks is Himself; the work to be done in order to obtain it is faith in Him. The expression bread of life can signify: the bread which communicates life, but perhaps the relation between these two notions of bread and life is still closer. The true life, which is in God Himself, “ the eternal life which was in the beginning with the Father ” ( 1Jn 1:2 ), was incarnated in this visible being; it became in Him capable of being laid hold of, touched, tasted. But in order that this food may give us life, there must be action on our part: coming and believing. These two terms are not exactly synonymous: the first denotes the act of approaching Christ with the seriousness of a heart with a sense of sin; the second, the confiding eagerness with which this famished heart takes possession of the heavenly food in Him. The force of the negative οὐ μή can be rendered by: It is not to be feared that ever...The οὐ πώποτε , never, is the answer to the τάντοτε , evermore, of John 6:34. The parallelism of the two clauses betrays a certain exaltation of feeling produced by the greatness of the fact declared. The figure of drinking does not properly suit the context: it is added to that of eating, perhaps because Jesus is thinking of the Passover supper. In the sequel of the discourse, we shall see that these two figurative expressions take each of them a meaning continually more distinct ( Joh 6:53-57 ). And even here they are not absolutely identical. Hunger represents rather the feeling of weakness, of moral powerlessness; thirst, that of the sufferings of the conscience and the heart. Taken together, they express the deep uneasiness which drives the sinner to Jesus Christ. The appeasing of the thirst therefore refers rather to the peace; that of the hunger, to the new strength which the believer receives.

Coming, believing: these, then, are the conditions. But, adds Jesus with grief, it is precisely these conditions which are wanting in you.

Verse 36

Ver. 36. “ But I said unto you: you have seen me, and yet you do not believe.

They had asked to see in order to believe ( Joh 6:30 ). But this condition was long since fulfilled: they have seen Him in all His greatness and goodness, as much as was necessary to believe, and yet the effect is not produced: you do not believe. Jesus has the right to draw this conclusion even from their request. No doubt they had faith enough to ask Him for the miraculous bread, but not to recognize Himself as the heavenly bread. This proves that they are still strangers to the spiritual needs which might lead them to Him, and to the work which He came to accomplish here on earth. This is what is signified to an ear as sensitive as that of Jesus by the prayer: “ Give us,” while they already possess Him Himself. In this way they end by revealing their moral stupidity. Comp. two equally rapid and decisive judgments, the one at Jerusalem ( Joh 2:19 ), the other at Nazareth ( Luk 4:23 ).

To what earlier saying does Jesus allude in the expression: “ I said unto you? ” The words in Joh 4:48 may be thought of, in which the relation between the two ideas of seeing and believing is altogether different. The declaration of John 5:37, of which de Wette, Lucke, and Reuss, think, has also a very different meaning, and besides it was uttered in Judea. There is nothing here which troubles Reuss. On the contrary, in his view this only proves more evidently this fact: “That in the mind of the redactor all these discourses are addressed to one and the same public, the readers of the book.” In order that this conclusion should be well founded, it would be necessary that no other more exact reference should present itself. Others suppose that Jesus cites a saying which John has not mentioned; but, in that case, to what purpose recall it expressly by the formula of quotation: I said to you? Meyer proposes to translate εἶπον ὑμῖν by: dictum velim, “regard it as said.” This sense is unexampled in the New Testament.Bruckner thinks that Jesus is calling to mind His whole teaching in general. But this expression indicates a positive citation.

Jesus quotes Himself here, as He often quotes the Old Testament, according to the spirit rather than according to the letter. On the arrival of the multitude, He had said to them: “ You have seen signs, and yet you seek Me only for the renewal of material satisfaction and not because of Myself.” It is this charge of Joh 6:26 which He repeats here in a little different form. “ You have seen Me,” corresponds with: “ you have seen signs; ” and “ you do not believe,” with “ you seek Me only for the sake of the flesh and not that your soul may be satisfied.” To say to Him: “ Give us,” when one has Him as present was not this to refuse to believe in Him as the true gift of God? The reading of the Sinaitic and Alexandrian MSS.: you have seen (without με , me), undoubtedly sets forth better the contrast between seeing and believing. The Alexandrian MS. itself, however, replaces the pronoun after πιστεύετε ( μοι ), and in the entire context it is the person of Jesus which plays the chief part. The two καί ... καί ( and...and), are untranslatable: they forcibly bring out the moral contrast between the two facts which they so closely bring together.

Between this word of condemnation and the calm and solemn declaration of the following verses ( Joh 6:37-40 ), there is a significant asyndeton. This omission of any connecting particle indicates a moment of silence and profound meditation. Jesus had received a signal from His Father; in the joy of His heart, He had given a feast to all this people; He had made for them a miraculous Passover. And these dull hearts have not understood it at all. They ask again for bread, the earth still and nothing but the earth, while He had desired, by means of this figurative repast, to offer them life, to open to them heaven! In the presence of this failure, which for Him is the prelude of the grand national catastrophe, the rejection of the Messiah, Jesus communes with Himself; then He continues: “It is in vain that you do not believe! My work remains, nevertheless, the Father's work; it will be accomplished without you, since it must be; and in the fact of your exclusion nothing can be laid to my charge; for I limit myself to fulfilling in a docile way, at each moment, the instructions of my Father!” Thus the painful check which He has just experienced does not shake His faith, He rises to the contemplation of the assured success of His work in the hearts which His Father will give Him; and by protesting His perfect submissiveness to the plan of the Father, He lays upon the unbelievers themselves the blame of their rejection, and thus addresses to their consciences the last appeal.

Verses 37-38

Vv. 37, 38. “ All that which the Father gives me shall come unto me; and him who comes to me I will in no wise cast out; 38 for I am come down from heaven to do, not my own will, but the will of him who sent me.

By the words: All that which the Father gives me, Jesus strongly contrasts the believers of all times with these men to whom He had just said: You do not believe! The neuter πᾶν ὅ , all that which, indicates a definite whole in which human unbelief will be unable to make any breach, a whole which will appear complete at the end of the work. The extent of this πᾶν , all, depends on an act of the Father designated here by the term give, and later by teach and draw ( Joh 6:44-45 ).

The first of these three terms does not, any more than the other two, refer to the eternal decree of election; there would rather be, in that case, the perfect has given. Jesus speaks of a divine action exerted in the heart of the believers at the moment when they give themselves to Him. This action is opposed not to human freedom, but to a purely carnal attraction, to the gross Messianic aspirations, which had, on this very morning, drawn these crowds to Jesus ( Joh 6:26 ). It is that hunger and thirst after righteousness ( Mat 5:6 ) which the preparatory action of the Father produces in sincere souls. Every time that Jesus sees such a soul coming to Him, He receives it as as a gift of God, and His success with it is certain. I do not think that it is necessary to translate ἥξει ( shall reach), as if it were ἐλεύσεται ( shall come, advance towards); for ἥκω signifies: “I am come and am here;” comp. Joh 8:42 and Revelation 3:3; Revelation 15:4, where the substitution of ἔρχεσθαι ( to come) for ἥκειν would certainly weaken the thought. Jesus means to say, not only that all those whom the Father gives Him will advance towards Him, will believe, but will reach the end. It will not happen to them, as to the present hearers of Jesus, to be shipwrecked on the way. The second part of the verse is parallel with the first. Commonly, an advance on the first is found here, by making the first words: He that cometh to me, the resumption of the last words of the preceding clause: shall come to me. (See Meyer, Weiss, etc.)

But two things seem to me to exclude this interpretation:

1. The substitution in this second sentence of ἔρχεσθαι for ἥκειν , which would be a weakening, since the former says less than the latter;

2. The parallelism of the two present tenses ( δίδωσι , gives, and τὸν ἐρχόμενον him that comes), and that of the two futures ( ἥξει , will reach, and ἐκβάλω , will cast out).

He that comes to me answers therefore to: All that which the Father gives me; they are the two sides, divine and human, of the inward preparation for salvation. Then: shall come to me answers to: I will not cast out; it is the accomplishment of the salvation itself in the positive and negative relation. Jesus seems to allude by this last term, to cast out, to the stern manner in which He had received this multitude which were so eager to come to Him, and had repelled them with a sort of harshness (John 6:26; Joh 6:36 ). He received them thus only because He did not recognize in them gifts of the Father; for never will any heart burdened with spiritual wants and coming to Him under this divine impulse be rejected by Him. These words recall those of the Synoptics: “ Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest ” ( Mat 11:28 ).

The second clause has, therefore, fundamentally the same sense as the first; but it completes it, first by individualizing the πᾶν , all, of the first clause ( he that), then by substituting the negative form, which excludes every exception ( I will not cast out) to the simple affirmation ( shall come). The certainty of this welcome full of love promised to believers is justified in Joh 6:38 by the complete dependence in which Jesus placed Himself with relation to the Father, when coming here on earth. Having renounced every work of His own, He can only receive whoever draws near marked with the seal of the Father. The term καταβέβηκα , I am come down, contains the affirmation of His pre- existence. On the expression “ my own will,” see at John 6:30. If Jesus had wished to accomplish here below a work for Himself, distinct from that of the Father, His reception or His refusals would have been determined, at least in part, by personal sympathies or repugnances, and would not have altogether coincided with the preparation due to the work of God in the souls. But, as there is nothing of this, and as He has no will except to make that of His Father at each moment His own, it follows that whoever comes to Him as one commended by the Father, is sure to be welcomed by Him; comp. the same idea of voluntary dependence in the discourse of chap. 5.

Verse 39

Ver. 39. “ Now this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that which he has given me, but that I should raise it up at the last day.

The δέ is progressive: now. The will of the Father is not only that Jesus should receive, but also that He should keep those whom He gives to Him. And He has clothed Him, indeed, with the necessary powers to save His own, even to the end. He is charged of God with leading them to the glorious end of salvation and even with delivering them from death. Πᾶν , all, nominative absolute: put afterwards in its regular case in the pronoun αὐτοῦ . Was Jesus thinking perchance of the bread, also a gift of God, of which no fragment should be lost ( Joh 6:12 ), and in comparison with which the gift of God of which He here speaks is infinitely more precious?

The object of the verb is a τι understood. The perfect has given transports us to a more advanced time than John 6:37 ( gives). The gift is now realized by the faith of the man, on the one side, and the welcome of Jesus on the other. But the end is not yet attained by this. It is necessary first to prevent the believer from falling back into the state of sin which would destroy him again, then to free him at the last day from physical death to the end of presenting him glorious before the face of the Father. We find here again the two-fold action which Jesus described in John 5:21-29: the communication of the new spiritual life and thereby the gift of the resurrection of the body, which alone exhausts the meaning of the expression: bread of life. Reuss wished to apply the term the last day to the time of the death of each believer. But the passage Joh 5:29 proves that Jesus is thinking, not of a particular phase of each individual existence, but of the solemn hour when all the dead, laid in the tombs, shall hear His voice and shall have a bodily resurrection. Reuss objects that “mystical theology has nothing to do with this notion.” This only proves one thing: that “the mystical theology” which Reuss attributes to John is very different from that of the apostle. If this notion had so little importance to the author's mind, how is it that it reappears even four times in this passage and forms, as it were, its refrain (John 6:39-40; John 6:44; Joh 6:54 )? It is beyond all dispute that the bodily resurrection is presented in this passage, as well as in the discourse of chap. 5, as the necessary crowning of the spiritual work accomplished by Christ in humanity. On this point, John is in accord with the Synoptics and with Paul (1 Corinthians 15:0). Bengel observes on these last words: Hic finis est ultra quem periculum nullum. On the inadmissibility of grace, see on John 10:28-30. In closing this first part of the conversation, Jesus again insists on the human condition of faith which must correspond with His own work, for it was this which was wanting to His interlocutors.

Verse 40

Ver. 40. “ For this is the will of my Father, that whosoever beholds the Son and believes on him has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

This verse reproduces, either by confirming it ( for, according to the Alexandrian authorities and the ancient versions), or by completing it ( now, according to the Byzantine authorities), the thought of John 6:39. The principal difference is that in Joh 6:40 Jesus sets forth by the side of the gift which the Father makes in the person of the Son, the subjective act of the man who beholds and believes. In this expression is the decisive point. The two present participles, θεωρῶν καὶ πιστεύων , who beholds and believes, indicate the rapid succession of the two acts: “He who gives himself up to the contemplation and in whom it is immediately changed into faith.” This is the intentional antithesis of John 6:36: “ You have seen me, and you do not believe.

The commission which the Father has given to Jesus is not to save all men indiscriminately. His work is to offer Himself to the sight of all, and, where the sight becomes contemplation and contemplation becomes faith, there to save. The Alexandrian reading: of my Father, is more in harmony with the term Son. On the other hand, the received reading: of him that sent me, accords better with the words: he that beholds: “He has sent me that I might offer myself for contemplation:” The term θεωρεῖν , to behold, indicates a more reflective act than the simple ὁρᾶν , to see, of John 6:36. He only beholds who has been sufficiently struck by the mere sight to pause before the object with emotion. Jesus substitutes here the masculine πᾶς for the neuter πᾶν ( Joh 6:39 ), of which He had made use, because faith is an individual act. The history of Jesus' ministry in the Synoptics is the commentary on this verse. Is it not by this sign, faith, that He recognizes those whom He can receive and save?

Luke 5:20: “ Seeing their faith, he said, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. ” He does not Himself know either the individuals or the number of persons of whom the whole gift ( τὸ πᾶν ) which the Father bestows upon Him will be composed; God, in sending Him, has given to Him only this watchword: Whosoever believeth. The two ἀναστήσω , in John 6:39-40, may be made subjunctive aorists depending on ἵνα : “and that I may raise it up.” It is certainly so, in my view, with that of John 6:39; but perhaps we must detach that of Joh 6:40 from the preceding and see in it a future indicative. “And this done, I charge myself with raising him at the last day, without any possibility that anything should be able to prevent the accomplishment of this last work.” The pronoun με , me, especially placed as it is, seems to me to be better explained in this way.

In the presence of Jewish unbelief, Jesus has strengthened Himself anew by the assurance of the success of His work. He has explained the severity of His conduct towards the Jews: God has said: “He who sees and believes; and as for them, they have seen and have not believed.” There was here a serious charge against his hearers. Far from accepting it, they endeavor to throw it back upon Him.

Verses 41-42

Vv. 41, 42. “ The Jews therefore murmured concerning him, because he said: I am the bread which came down from heaven. 42. And they said: Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we ourselves know? How then does he say:I came down from heaven?

The term: murmured, must denote an unfavorable whispering which made itself heard in the circle of hearers. The objective words περὶ αὐτοῦ , concerning Him, are explained by the following words: The term ᾿Ιουδαῖοι , the Jews, might refer to the emissaries of the Sanhedrim, who, according to the Synoptics, had come from Judea to watch the words and actions of Jesus in Galilee. But the following words: we know, are more easily explained in the mouths of the Galileans themselves. John applies to them here this title, which is customary in his Gospel (Introd., vol. I., p. 128), because of the community in unbelief which, from this time, unites them with the mass of the Jewish nation which persists in remaining Jewish and refuses to become believing. It is impossible for them to recognize a heavenly being, who has become incarnate, in Him with whose human filiation they are perfectly acquainted.

The pronoun ἡμεῖς , we, does not necessarily indicate a personal acquaintance, from which it might be inferred that Joseph was still living. This expression may signify: “We know the name of his parents.” Νῦν , now, may be read with some Alexandrian documents, instead of οὖν , therefore: it means: in this state of things. Criticism has asked how the people could be ignorant of the miraculous birth of Jesus, if this were a real fact, and why Jesus did not notice this point in His reply. But Jesus' birth had taken place in Judea; thirty years separated it from the period in which we now find ourselves. During the long obscurity which had enveloped the childhood and youth of Jesus, all had passed into oblivion, and that, probably, even in the places where the facts had occurred; how much more in Galilee, where the mass of the people had always been ignorant of them. Assuredly, neither the parents of Jesus, nor Jesus Himself could make allusion to them in public; this would have been to expose the most sacred mystery of family history to a profane, and, in addition to this, useless discussion. For the miraculous origin of Jesus is not a means of producing faith; it can be accepted only by the heart already believing. As Weiss says: “It is not really these scruples which are the cause of their unbelief. And this is the reason why Jesus does not stop to refute them.” Instead, therefore, of descending to this ground, Jesus remains in the moral sphere, and discovers to the Galileans, as He had done to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, chap. 5, the true cause of their unbelief.

Verses 41-51

2. Vv. 41-51.

A murmur which rises in the assembly ( Joh 6:41-42 ) forces Jesus to declare to the Jews distinctly their incompetency in this matter ( Joh 6:43-46 ); after which, with an increasing solemnity, He again affirms Himself to be the bread of life ( Joh 6:47-51 ); and this while adding in the last words (John 6:51 b) a striking, defining phrase, which becomes the occasion of a new phase of the conversation.


Vv. 41-51a.

1. The Jews mentioned in Joh 6:41 were probably persons who were present during the conversation with the ὄχλος , and in this sense a part of it; but we may infer from the technical use of this expression that they formed only a part of the company, and were of a similar character to that of the leading adversaries of Jesus in Jerusalem, who are ordinarily designated by this title in the Fourth Gospel.

2. The opinion of Meyer seems to be correct, that Joh 6:42 conveys, rather than otherwise, the impression that Joseph, as well as Mary, were still alive at this time. As the design of the sentence, however, is found, not in itself, but in the words which follow in the closing part of the verse, no conclusion can be confidently drawn from it.

3. The general thought of this passage is similar to that of the verses which immediately precede the non-receptivity of the unsusceptible soul, and the life which the susceptible soul receives through Christ. The following points, however, may be especially noticed:

( a) The giving of the Father is here explained as a drawing it is a Divine influence working upon the soul.

( b) The soul, in connection with this drawing influence, hears the Father's voice and learns from Him.

( c) As thus learning, the soul is ready to find in Christ the full revelation of the Father and of the life (the light-life in which there is no darkness), and thus to believe on Him.

( d) Believing on Him and finding eternal life in Him, the soul recognizes in Him the bread which gives life and the bread which has life in itself ( ὁ ἄρτος τῆς ζωῆςἄρτοςζῶν , John 6:48; Joh 6:51 ), and, feeding upon this bread, it will find its life not ending in death, as was the case with those who ate the manna, but continuing forever.

4. The whole development of thought in this discourse, which bears upon the inner life of the soul, seems to show clearly that, in such verses as John 6:44; John 6:37, the question is not of God's electing purpose, but of the inward susceptibility to Divine influence. And the same is true of other similar passages in this Gospel.

Verses 43-44

Vv. 43, 44. “ Jesus therefore answered and said to them: Murmur not among yourselves: 44. No one can come to me except the Father who sent me draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

In other words: “A truce to these murmurs; it is not my word that is absurd; it is you who are incapable of comprehending it, and all your “ hows ” will serve no purpose, so long as you remain in this moral condition.” Jesus goes back again to the source of their discontent; the spiritual drawing which results from the inward teaching of God is wanting to them. This is what Joh 6:37-40 already made known to us. The word οὐδείς , no one, is the antithesis of πᾶν , all, John 6:37. There, Jesus said: all that which is given shall certainly come: here, nothing which is not drawn shall succeed in understanding and believing. This second declaration has a direct application to the hearers.

The drawing of the Father designates the same fact as the gift ( Joh 6:37 ), but this term serves to explain the mode of it; the gift is effected by means of an inward drawing which makes itself felt in the soul. We shall see at Joh 6:45 that this drawing is not a blind instinct, like the natural inclinations, but that it is luminous in its nature, like God Himself from whom it proceeds; it is a teaching. This teaching should have been accomplished by means of the writings of Moses taken seriously ( Joh 6:46-47 ), by the Word of God inwardly received ( Joh 6:38 ). The law by making the Jew feel the insufficiency of his obedience and the opposition between his feelings and the Divine will, and prophecy, by exciting the expectation of Him who should remedy the evil, make Jesus a being known and desired, towards whom a profound attraction cannot fail to make itself felt as soon as He appears. Weiss sees in the drawing and teaching of the Father the divine testimony by means of miracles, John 5:36, rendered efficacious in the heart by the Holy Spirit. This seems to me too external; and why then exclude the principal divine witness, that of the Word mentioned also in chap. 5?

We must observe the correlation between the subject he that sent me and the verb draw; the God who sends Jesus for souls, on the other hand, draws souls to Jesus. The two divine works, external and internal, answer to and complete each other. The happy moment in which they meet in the heart, and in which the will is thus gained, is that of the gift on God's part, of faith on man's part. Jesus adds that, as the initiative in salvation belongs to the Father, the completion of it is the task of the Son. The Father draws and gives; the Son receives and keeps, and this even to the glorious crowning of the work, the final resurrection. Between these two extremes is included the entire development of salvation. The sense of the last words is: And I will bring the whole to its end.

Verses 45-46

Vv. 45, 46. “ It is written in the prophets: And they shall be all taught of God. Every one, who has heard the Father, and has learned from Him, comes to me: 46 not that any one has seen the Father, except he who is from God, he has seen the Father.

This passage presents a remarkable example of the manner in which Jesus cites the Old Testament. It is not from this book that He derived the thought which He here developes; it arose in Him spontaneously, as is shown by the perfectly original form in which it has been previously expressed: the gift, the drawing of the Father. But, afterwards, He thinks fit to cite the Old Testament as the authority recognized by the people. If He was already in the synagogue ( Joh 6:59 ), He might have in His hands the roll which contained the prophecies of Isaiah, and, as He said these words: “ It is written,”

He might read this very passage. Comp. Luke 4:17 ff. This would explain the retaining of the copula, and, at the beginning of the quotation. These words are found in Isaiah 54:13. Isaiah here declares that the whole Messianic community will be composed of persons taught of God, whence it follows that it is only men who are in the inward school of God who can truly give themselves to the Messiah. According to Meyer, the general expression, in the prophets, signifies: in the sacred volume containing the prophets. This meaning follows, indeed, from the terms in and is written. It is nevertheless true that Jesus is not thinking only of the passage of Isaiah, which He quotes textually, but that He sees all the prophets rising in chorus to testify to this same truth; otherwise, why not name Isaiah, as is done elsewhere? Comp. Jeremiah 31:33-34; Joel 2:28 ff.

The second part of the 45th verse is commonly understood in this sense: “Every man who, after having heard the teaching ( ἀκούσας ), consents to receive it internally ( καὶ μαθών ), comes to me.” With this sense, the teaching would be given to all men, as objects of the pre- eminent grace of God, but it would be expressly distinguished from the free acceptance of this teaching, which is true of only a certain number of them. The πᾶς , whoever, would have, therefore, a much more restricted sense than the πάντες , all, of the first clause. But, convenient as this explanation would be to dispose of the doctrine of predestination, we believe that it is contrary to the true sense of the word all in the passage of Isaiah and in the mouth of Jesus. This word in the former designates only the members of the Messianic community, altogether like the word πᾶς in the mouth of the latter.

The meaning is rather this: As Isaiah has declared, all my believers must be taught of the Father; but of these not one shall fail. The whoever merely individualizes the idea of all. Jesus does not place in opposition here the teaching given and the teaching received; for the question is of an inward teaching, working from the first in the heart. Hence it follows that if the Jews do not believe, it is because this divine teaching has not been effected in them. Hence their inability to believe ( Joh 6:44 ); but this inability is wholly chargeable to them. Perhaps Weiss is right in insisting on the rejection of the word οὖν , therefore, which connects the two clauses of this verse. The second may be regarded as a reaffirmation of, as well as a conclusion from the first. We may hesitate between the readings ἀκούσας and ἀκούων , who has heard or who hears. On the one hand, the aorist may have been substituted for the present, because it was supposed that the first participle must be accommodated to the second. But, on the other hand, the present, which expresses the continuance of the hearing, is less suitable than the past, which indicates an act accomplished for the future at the moment when faith is produced. It is therefore through their previous want of docility with regard to the means prepared by God, that these hearers have brought themselves into an incapacity for believing. This saying implies in Jesus the infinitely exalted feeling of what His person and His work are. In order to come to Him, there is need of nothing less than a drawing of a divine order. “He feels Himself above everything which the natural man can love and understand” ( Gess). The true sense of this passage does not imply the notion of predestination (in so far as it is exclusive of liberty), but, on the contrary, sets it aside. The inability of the Jews to believe arises from the fact that they come to Him, not as persons taught of God, but as slaves of the flesh. They possessed the means of doing better; hence their culpability.

Verse 46

Ver. 46. The phrase οὐχ ὅτι , not that, marks a restriction. This restriction can only refer to the term teaching ( Joh 6:45 ). The notion of teaching seems to imply a direct contact between the disciple and the Master. Now no other but Jesus has possessed and possesses the privilege of immediate contact with God through sight. All can certainly hear, it is true, but He alone has seen. And this is the reason why the divine teaching of which He has just spoken is only preparatory; it is designed not to take the place of His own, but to lead to Him, the only one who has seen and consequently can reveal God perfectly, John 17:3; comp. Matthew 11:27. This saying is, certainly, one of those from which John has drawn the fundamental ideas of his Prologue (comp. John 1:1; John 1:14; Joh 1:18 ). If the preposition παρά , from, were not connected with the words ὁ ὤν , who is, it might be applied solely to the mission of Jesus. But that participle obliges us to think of origin and essence; comp. John 7:29. This παρά is the counterpart of the πρός of John 1:1; united, they sum up the entire relation of the Son to the Father. Everything in the Son is from ( παρά ) the Father and tends to ( πρός ) the Father.

Does the sight of the Father here ascribed to Jesus proceed from His divine state before the incarnation, as most interpreters and even Weiss think? This does not seem to me possible. It is the contents of the human consciousness which He has of God, which He sets forth to His brethren in human words. Comp. John 3:34-35, where His knowledge of God is inferred from the communication of the Spirit without measure, which has been made to Him as man; the same in John 14:10, where it is explained by the communion in which He lives here on earth with the Father. The perfect ἑώρακε , has seen, proves absolutely nothing for the contrary view; comp. John 8:38, and the analogous expressions, John 5:19-20, which evidently refer to His earthly existence. Only it must not be forgotten that the unique intimacy of this paternal and filial relation rests on the eternal relation of Jesus to the Father; comp. John 17:24: “Thou didst love me before the foundation of the world.” It is because this son of man is the eternal well-beloved of the Father, that God completely communicates Himself to Him. The readings of א : “who comes from the Father,” instead of “ from God,” and of א D: “has seen God,” instead of “ the Father,” arose undoubtedly from the desire to make our text more literally conformed to the parallel expressions of the Prologue; comp. for the first John 1:14: παρὰ τοῦ πατρός , and for the second John 1:18: Θεὸν ἑώρακε . By this saying Jesus gives it to be understood that after the divine teaching has led to the Son, it is He, the Son, who, in His turn, leads to the Father: “ I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me ” ( Joh 14:6 ). Through this idea Jesus comes back to the principal idea which had excited the murmuring of the Jews and He reaffirms it with still more of solemnity than before, in the words of John 6:47-51:

Verses 47-51

Vv. 47-51. “ Verily, verily, I say unto you: He who believes on me has eternal life. 48. I am the bread of life. 49. Your fathers did eat the manna in the wilderness, and they are dead. John 6:50. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die. 51. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever; and this bread which I will give is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world.

The words verily, verily, are uttered with the sense of authority which Jesus derives from the unique position which He holds according to John 6:46, and in opposition to the objections of the Jews ( Joh 6:41-42 ). “It is thus, whatever you may say of it.” Jesus' tone becomes gradually more elevated, and assumes more of energy and solemnity. The words εἰς ἐμέ , on me, omitted by four Alexandrian documents, are perfectly suited to the context, in which the principal idea is the person of Jesus.

Verse 48

Ver. 48. The affirmations follow each other in the way of asyndeton, like oracles. That of Joh 6:48 justifies that of John 6:47. By that of Joh 6:49 He gives back to His hearers their own word of John 6:31. The manna which their fathers ate was so far from the bread of life that it did not prevent them from dying. This word undoubtedly denotes physical death; but as being the effect of a divine condemnation.

Verse 50

Ver. 50. “Here is the bread which will truly accomplish the result that you desire.”

The ἵνα , in order that, might depend on ὁ καταβαίνων , which comes down, but it is better to make it depend on the principal idea: “It is here... in order that one may eat of it and not die,” for: “in order that if one...he may not die.” It is still the Hebrew paratactic construction. To perform the first of these acts is ipso facto to realize the second. Several commentators take the word die, in John 6:50, in the moral sense of perdition. But the preceding antithesis, the death of the Jews in the wilderness, does not allow this explanation. Jesus here and elsewhere, denies even physical death for the believer (comp. Joh 8:51 ); which He of course does not mean in the absolute sense in which it would become an absurdity (see Keil who makes the idea of the resurrection, John 6:40, an objection against me), but in the sense that what properly constitutes death in what we call by that name the total failing of the physical and moral being, does not take place at the time when his brethren see him die. Morally and physically, Jesus remains his life, even at that moment, and, by His personal communion with him, takes away the death of death.

Verse 51

The affirmation of John 6:51 a is the summing up of all that precedes, with the design of passing to a new idea (51b). The epithet ὁ ζῶν , the living bread, declares even more clearly than the expression bread of life ( Joh 6:48 ), that Jesus is not only the bread which gives life, but that He is Himself the divine life realized in a human person; and it is for this end that He gives life to him who receives it within himself.

Vv. 51b. The second part of the verse is connected with the first by the two particles καί and δέ , which indicate an idea at once co-ordinated ( καί , and) and progressive ( δέ , now) with reference to all that precedes: “ And moreover; ” or: “And, finally, to tell you all.” Jesus is now resolved to make them hear the paradox even to the end; for it is here indeed that, as Weiss says, the hard saying begins ( Joh 6:60 ). At first Jesus had spoken in general of a higher food of which the miraculous bread of the day before was the image and pledge.

Then He had declared that this bread was Himself, His entire person. And now He gives them to understand that He will be able to become the bread of life for the world only on condition of dying, of giving Himself to it as sacrificed. This is the reason why, instead of saying me, He from this time onward uses the expression, my flesh. How can His flesh be given as food to the world? Jesus explains this by this new determining phase: ἣν ἐγὼ δώσω , “(my flesh) which I will give. ” These words are rejected, it is true, by the Alexandrian authorities, but no doubt because of the apparent tautology which they present with the words which precede: ὃν ἐγὼ δώσω , “(the bread) which I will give.

They should be retained in the text, as Meyer has acknowledged, notwithstanding his ordinary prepossession in favor of the Alexandrian readings, and whatever Weiss, Keil, Westcott, etc., may say. The limiting words for the life of the world cannot be directly connected with the words my flesh; what would the expression: “my flesh for the life of the world” mean? A participle like given or broken would be necessary. 1Co 11:24 is cited: “This is my body [broken] for you.” But there, there is at least the article τό which serves as a basis for the limiting word. Weiss so clearly perceives the difference that he proposes to make the limiting phrase: for the life of the world, depend, not on the words my flesh, but on the verb ἐστίν , is, and to make my flesh an appositional phrase to the bread: “The bread which I will give, that is to say, my flesh, is for the life of the world.” But even if it were possible to allow such an apposition and so harsh a use of the verb ἐστίν (the passage Joh 11:4 is too different to prove anything), would not the future δώσω , I will give, require that the verb to be should also be placed in the future: “The bread which I will give, my flesh, shall be for the life of the world?” His flesh will not be able to serve for the life of the world except after it shall have been given. The reading of the Sinaitic MS. is an unhappy attempt to restore the text after the omission of the words ἥν ἐγὼ δώσω had made it intolerable.

The first which I will give, applied to the bread, is to be paraphrased thus: “which I will give to be eaten; ” it sums up the preceding conversation. The second, applied to my flesh, signifies: “which I will give to be sacrificed; ” it forms the transition to the following passage ( my flesh and my blood). It is in view of this double relation and this double sense that the words: which I will give, had to be repeated. In fact, the flesh of Jesus cannot be eaten as food by each believer, until after it shall have been offered for the world as a victim. This expression: my flesh, especially in connection, as it is here, with the future I will give, which points to a fact yet to occur, can only refer to the sacrifice of the cross. The interpreters who, like Clement and Origen, de Wette, Reuss, Keil, etc., apply the term give to the voluntary consecration which Jesus makes of His person during His earthly life, take no account of the καὶ δέ , and moreover, which indicates a different idea from that which precedes, and of the future I will give, which permits us to think only of a gift yet to come. In this verse is betrayed more and more distinctly the preoccupation with the Paschal feast which filled the soul of Jesus from the beginning of this scene, which was one of the grandest in His life. The expression: “the life of the world ” shows that the new Passover, of which Jesus is thinking, will have an altogether different extent from the old one: it is the entire human race which will be invited to it as soon as the victim shall have been offered and the feast of sacrifice can be celebrated.

Verses 51-58

Appendix on John 6:51-58; John 6:51-58 .

What does Jesus mean by the expressions: to eat His flesh, to drink His blood?

1. Many interpreters see here only a metaphor, designating the act by which faith morally unites itself with its object. According to some ( de Wette, Reuss), this object is the historical person of Jesus Christ as it appeared before the eyes of His hearers. The expression My flesh and My blood is to be taken in the same sense as flesh and blood, that is, “the human person.” According to others, the object of faith is not only the living Christ ( the flesh), but also the sacrificed Christ (the blood); and Jesus describes here at once the appropriation of His holy life and faith in His expiatory death. This interpretation, in one or the other of the two forms which we have just indicated, is easily connected with the beginning of the discourse; for spiritual assimilation by means of faith is certainly the idea from which the Lord starts:

I am the bread of life, he that cometh to Me shall not hunger, and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst ” ( Joh 6:35 ). Only we cannot understand, from this point of view, with what aim Jesus gives to this altogether spiritual conception an expression which is more and more paradoxical, material, and, consequently, unintelligible to His interlocutors. If this is all that He means to say, even in the last words of the interview, does He not seem to be playing with words and to lay Himself out needlessly to cause offense to the Jews?

2. This very real difficulty has impelled many commentators to apply these expressions to the scene of the Holy Supper, which Jesus had already had in mind at this time, and which was later to solve for His disciples the mystery of His words. But this explanation gives rise to a still greater difficulty than the preceding one. To what purpose this incomprehensible allusion to an institution which no one could foresee? Then, Jesus cannot have made the possession of eternal life depend on the accomplishment of an external act, like that of the Lord's Supper? In all His teaching, the sole condition of salvation is faith. The Tubingen School, which has attached itself to this interpretation, has derived from it an argument against the authenticity of the Gospel; and not without reason, if the explanation were well founded. But the pseudo-John, who should have wished, in the second century, to put an allusion to the Lord's Supper into the mouth of Jesus, would not have failed to employ the word σῶμα , body, used in the text of the institution of the Supper and in the Liturgical formulas, rather than σάρξ , flesh. A proof of this is found in the unauthentic addition which we read in the Cambridge MS. the Amiatinus, etc., at the end of John 6:56: “If a man receives the body of the Son of man as the bread of life, he will have life in Him.” On the passages from Justin (Apol. I., 66) and Ignatius ( ad Smyrn., 7), see Weiss. These Fathers may have founded their expression on our passage itself.

To discern the true thought of our Lord, we must, as it appears to me, distinguish carefully, in the mysterious eating and drinking here described, the act of man and the divine gift, as Jesus does Himself in John 6:27. The human act is faith, faith alone; and inasmuch as the eating and drinking designate the believer's part in his union with Jesus Christ, these terms do not go beyond the meaning which the exclusively spiritual interpretation gives to them. To eat the flesh, is to contemplate with faith the Lord's holy life and to receive that life into oneself through the Holy Spirit to the end of reproducing it in one's own life; to drink the blood, is to contemplate with faith His violent death, to make it one's own ransom, to appropriate to oneself its atoning efficacy. But if the part of man in this mystical union is limited to faith, this does not yet determine anything as to the nature of the divine gift here assured to the believer.

To taste pardon, to live again by the Spirit the life of Christ is this all? We cannot think so. We have seen with what emphasis Jesus returns, at different times in the foregoing discourse, to the idea of the bodily resurrection; He does so again at John 6:54, and in the most significant way. The life which He communicates to the believer is not, therefore, only His moral nature; it is His complete life, physical as well as spiritual, His entire personality. As the grains which the ear contains are only the reappearing of the grain of seed mysteriously multiplied, so believers, sanctified and raised from the dead, are to be only the reproduction, in thousands of living examples, of the glorified Jesus. The principle of this reproduction is undoubtedly spiritual: it is the Spirit which causes Christ to live in us (ch. 14-16); but the end of this work is physical: it is the glorious body of the believer, proceeding from His own ( 1Co 15:49 ). Jesus knew, Jesus profoundly felt that He belonged, body and soul, to humanity. It was with this feeling, and not that He might wantonly give offense to His hearers, that He used the terms which are surprising to us in this discourse.

The expressions: to eat and drink, are figurative; but the corporeal side of communion with Him is real: “ We are of His body,” says the apostle who is least to be suspected of religious materialism ( Eph 5:30 ); and to show us clearly that there is no question here of a metaphor intelligible to the first chance scholar, he adds: “ This mystery is great, I speak in respect to Christ and the Church ” ( Joh 6:32 ). This mystery of our complete union with His person, which in this discourse is expressed in words, is precisely that which Jesus desired to express by an act, when He instituted the rite of the Lord's Supper. We need not say, therefore, that this discourse alludes to the Lord's Supper, but we must say that the Lord's Supper and this discourse refer to one and the same divine fact, expressed here by a metaphor, there by an emblem. From this point of view, we understand why Jesus makes use here of the word flesh and in the institution of the Lord's Supper, of the word body. When He instituted the ceremony, He held a loaf in His hand and broke it; now, that which corresponds with this broken bread, was His body as an organism ( σῶμα ) broken. In the discourse at Capernaum where the question is only of nourishment, according to the analogy of the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus was obliged rather to present His body as substance ( σάρξ ) than as an organism. This perfect propriety of the terms shows the originality and authenticity of the two forms.

There is one question remaining which, from the point of view where we have just taken our position, has only a secondary importance as related to exegesis; namely, whether already at this period, Jesus thought of instituting the ceremony of the Lord's Supper. He was aware of His approaching death; the news of the murder of John the Baptist had just reawakened in Him the presentiment of it ( Mat 14:13 ), He connected it in His thought with the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb, He knew that this death would be for the life of the whole world what the sacrifice of the lamb had been for the existence of the people of Israel.

From these premises He might naturally enough be led to the thought of instituting Himself a feast commemorative of His death and of the new covenant, in order thus to replace the feast of the Paschal lamb, the sacrifice of which was the figure of His own. This thought might certainly have arisen on the day when, being deprived of the joy of celebrating the Passover at Jerusalem, and seeing the multitudes flocking towards Him from all sides, He improvised for them a Passover, instead of that which was about to be celebrated in the holy city. It was this feast, offered to His disciples as a momentary compensation, which Jesus afterwards transformed, in the Lord's Supper, into a permanent institution And is not this precisely the point of view at which St. John desired to place us, when he said at the beginning, John 6:4: “Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near.” This near approach was not altogether foreign to the thought of the other evangelists; it explains the expression, so similar to that of the institution of the Lord's Supper, with which they all begin the narrative of the multiplication of the loaves: “ He took the bread, and gave thanks.


Vv. 51b-59. 1. In John 6:51 b a new thought is presented that the bread of which the discourse is speaking is the flesh of Christ. That the reference in these words is to the participation by faith in Christ as dying for the world's salvation, and not to the Lord's Supper, is proved, first, by the fact that union with Christ by faith is the main thought of the whole discourse; secondly, by the fact that the life of the believer through Christ is placed in correspondence with that of Christ through the Father; thirdly, by the entire subordination of the idea of the blood to that of the bread the former comes in, apparently, only in an incidental way, and the thought returns to the bread alone in John 6:58.

The blood has, therefore, no such relation to the bread here as the cup has to the bread in the Supper; fourthly, because no similar representation of the participation in the Supper as related to the life of the soul is given elsewhere; fifthly, because no allusion to the Supper is made in the Gospels, in any other place, until it was instituted, and its institution seems to have had such reference to the closing hours of Christ's life and to the future of the disciples after His death as to make an allusion to it beforehand improbable, and especially at this time and in the presence of an audience of this character. So far as we can judge, the apostles had no such understanding of its meaning and import, when it was instituted, as must have been the case, it would seem, if, as they heard this discourse or thought of it afterwards, they supposed it to refer to a physical eating or to any special rite.

The purpose of the Lord's Supper is given by Paul in connection with the words of the institution of it, in 1 Corinthians 11:25, “This do in remembrance of me;” it would be strange, indeed, if such a more complete unfolding of the idea should have been presented to a company of murmuring and unbelieving Galilean Jews. Weiss ed. Mey. says: “It cannot even be said that at least the same idea out of which the Lord's Supper sprang is here expressed (Olshausen, Kling, Tholuck, etc.; comp. Kahnis, Keim, Hengstenberg, Ewald, Godet), or that the appropriation of Christ's life, brought about by faith in His death, which is here demanded as absolutely necessary, forms also the sacred fundamental idea of the institution of the Supper and the condition of its blessedness, from which the application of the passage to the Lord's Supper (but also at the same time to baptism and the efficacy of the word) necessarily arises (Meyer, with a reference to Harless, p. 130ff.), but, at the most, that a like symbolism to that which is here used lies at the basis of the institution of the Supper.” This statement is to be regarded as containing (as Weiss remarks) the most that can properly be said.

The difficulty which is suggested by Godet on page 40, that Jesus, instead of explaining His spiritual conception (if the view above given is adopted), only adds “an expression which is more and more paradoxical, material, and, consequently, unintelligible to His interlocutors,” seems to the writer of this note to have no real foundation. It was not the design of Jesus, in these spiritual discourses with His adversaries, to make explanations on the low level of their thought, but rather by repeating His ideas in their boldest and loftiest form to challenge their minds to wrestle with them. He wished to force them to see how far removed they were from the life of which He was speaking, by the very difficulty they found in comprehending the terms in which it was described. He would compel disciples and enemies alike to think, and would give them words and truths which might become seeds for future growth, for the very reason that they were, at the beginning, hard to be understood.

Verse 52

Ver. 52. “ The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying: How can he give us his flesh to eat?

The term ἐμάχοντο , strove, goes beyond the ἐγόγγυζον , murmured, of John 6:41; it is now a violent debate following after a whispered murmuring. The words among themselves seem to contradict the appositional word saying, which apparently indicates that the saying was unanimous. But the same question might really be found on all lips, while yet there was no agreement among those who presented it. Some arrived at the conclusion: It is absurd. Others, under the impression of the miracle of the day before and of the sacred and mysterious character of Jesus' words, maintained, in spite of everything, that He was, indeed, the Messiah. At the sight of this altercation, Jesus not only persists in His affirmation, but strengthens it by using expressions which were more and more concrete. Not only does He speak of eating His flesh and drinking His blood, but He also makes of this mysterious act the condition of life ( Joh 6:53-56 ); He speaks of eating Himself ( Joh 6:57 ); and finally, sums up the whole conversation in the final declaration of John 6:58. The evangelist closes by indicating the place of the scene ( Joh 6:59 ). The true text says: “ the flesh,” not: His flesh, although it is indeed the flesh of Jesus that is in question. That which is revolting to them is, that this is the flesh which must nourish them in eternal life.

Verses 53-55

Vv. 53-55. “ Jesus therefore said to them: Verily, verily, I say to you, that unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you will not have life in yourselves. 54. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. 55. For my flesh is truly food and my blood is truly drink.

Verily: “It is so, whatever you may think of it!” The Lord attests this first in the negative form ( Joh 6:53 ), then positively ( Joh 6:54 ). The term Son of man, recalls the notion of the incarnation, by means of which the eternal life, realized in Him in a human life, is placed within reach of the faith of man. Reuss and Keil think that the terms flesh and blood may be understood here as in the passages where the expression flesh and blood denotes a living human person, for example, Galatians 1:16.

But in these cases the blood is regarded as contained in the flesh which lives by means of it, while in our passage the two elements are considered as separated. The blood is shed since it is drunk; and the flesh is broken since the blood is shed. These expressions imply that Jesus has present to His thought the type of the Paschal lamb. It was the blood of this victim which, sprinkled on the lintels of the doors, had in Egypt secured the people from the stroke of the angel of death and which, in the ceremony of the sacrifice of the lamb in the temple, was poured out on the horns of the altar, taking the place in this case of the doors of the Israelite houses; its flesh it was which formed the principal food of the Paschal supper. The shed blood represents expiation; and to drink this blood is to appropriate to oneself by faith the expiation and find in it reconciliation with God, the basis of salvation. The flesh broken represents the holy life of Christ; and to eat it, is to appropriate to oneself that life of obedience and love; it is to receive it through the action of the Spirit who makes it our life. In these two inward facts salvation is summed up. If then Jesus does not directly answer the How? of the Jews, He nevertheless does give indirectly, as He had done with Nicodemus, the desired explanation. As in chap. 3. He had substituted for the expression “ born anew ” the more explicit words “ born of water and Spirit,” so He here completes the expression “ to eat His flesh ” by the expression “ to drink His blood,” which was suited to recall the type of the lamb and to give these Jews, who celebrated the Paschal feast every year, a glimpse of the truth declared in this paradoxical form. The ἐν ἑαυτοῖς , in yourselves, recalls the word addressed to the Samaritan woman John 4:14. Here again is the idea of the possession in Christ of a fountain of life springing up continually within the believer.

Verses 54-55

Ver. 54. After having given this explanation in a negative form (without this eating and this drinking, impossibility of living), Jesus completes the expression of His thought by adding: By this eating and this drinking, assured possession of life. Then He raises the eye of the believer even to the glorious limit of this impartation of life the resurrection of the body. The relation between these last words: “ And I will raise him up...,” and the preceding ones is so close that it is difficult to avoid seeing an organic connection between the possession of the spiritual life and the final resurrection; comp. Romans 8:10-11. However this may be, the bodily resurrection is by no means a useless superfetation relatively to the spiritual life, according to the thought which Reuss ascribes to John. Here is the fourth time that Jesus promises it in this discourse as the consummation of the salvation which He brings to mankind; comp. John 6:39-40; John 6:44. Nature restored and glorified is the end of the victory gained by the divine grace over sin.

The Joh 6:55 justifies the preceding negation and affirmation. If to eat this flesh and to drink this blood are the condition of life, it is because this flesh and this blood are, in all reality, food and drink. A part of the critical authorities present the reading ἀληθῶς , “is truly; ” the rest read ἀληθής : is true food... true drink. The former reading is more in conformity with the style of John. As Lucke observes, John ordinarily makes ἀληθής refer to moral veracity, in contrast to ψεῦδος (falsehood), but he also connects the adverb ἀληθῶς with a substantive (John 1:48: ἀληθῶς᾿Ισραηλίτης ; perhaps John 8:31: ἀληθῶς μαθηταί ). Moreover, the sense of the two readings is not sensibly different. The adverb or the adjective expresses the full reality of the vital communication effected by these elements, which are truly for the soul what food is for the body. Joh 6:56-57 explain how this communication of life is effected. By this food of the soul Christ dwells in us and we in Him ( Joh 6:56 ), and this is to live ( Joh 6:57 ).

Verses 56-57

Vv. 56, 57. “ He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57. As the living Father sent me, and I live by the Father, so he who eats me, he also shall live by me.

By drinking through faith at the fountain of the expiation obtained by the blood of Christ and by nourishing oneself through the Spirit on the life realized in His flesh, we contract a union with Him through which His person dwells in us and we in it. This dwelling of the believer in Jesus is for his moral being, as it were, a transplanting from the soil of his own life into the new soil which the perfect righteousness and the holy strength of Christ offer him: renunciation of all merit, all force, all wisdom derived from what belongs to himself, and absolute confidence in Christ, as in Him who possesses all that is needed in order to fill the void. The abiding of Christ, which corresponds to this abiding of the believer in Him, expresses the real effective communication which Christ makes of His own personality (“he who eats me ” Joh 6:57 ). This mutual relation being formed, the believer lives: why? This is what Joh 6:57 explains.

Verse 57

Ver. 57. To be in communion with Jesus is to live, because Jesus has access Himself to the highest source of life, namely, God. “Life passes from the Son to the believer, as it passes from the Father to the Son,” ( Weiss). This second transmission is at once the model ( καθώς , as) and the principle ( καί , also) of the first. The principal clause does not begin, as Chrysostom thought, with the words κἀγὼ ζῶ , I also live, but with καὶτρώγων , also he who eats me.

There are two parallel declarations: the first, bearing on the relation between God and Jesus, the second, on the relation between Jesus and the believer; each one containing two clauses: the one relating to Him who gives; the other to him who receives. Jesus is a messenger of God, fulfilling a mission here on earth; He who has given it to Him is the living Father, ὁ ζῶν πατήρ , the author, the primordial and absolute source of life; it is in communion with this Father that Jesus, His Son and messenger, derives unceasingly, during His earthly existence, the life, light and strength which are necessary to fulfill His mission. “I live by the Father.” The word ζῶ , I live, does not indicate merely the fact of existence; it is at once the physical and moral life, with all their different manifestations. Every time that He acts or speaks, Jesus seeks in God what is necessary for Him for this end and receives it. It is not exact to render διὰ (with the accusative) as we have been obliged to do, by the preposition by ( per patrem).

Jesus did not express Himself in this way ( διά with the genitive) because He did not wish to say merely that God was the force by means of which He worked. But, on the other hand, it would be still more inexact to translate: because of the Father ( propter patrem; Lange, Westcott), in the sense of: with a view to the service or the glory of the Father. For the preposition διά with the accusative signifies, not with a view to (the purpose), but because of (the cause). Jesus means to say that, as sent by the Father, He unceasingly has from God the moral cause of His activity.

It is in the Father that He finds the source and norm of each one of His movements, from Him that He gets the vital principle of His being. The Father, in sending the Son, has secured to Him this unique relation, and the Son continues sedulously faithful to it ( Joh 6:17 ). Thus it happens that the life of the Father is perfectly reproduced on earth: Jesus is God lived in a human life. From this results the fact described in the second part of the verse. Grammatically speaking, this second part forms but one proposition. But, logically, the first member indicating the subject: “ He who eats me,” corresponds with the first proposition of the preceding declaration: “ As the Father sent me; ” and in the same way the predicate: “ He also shall live by me,” corresponds with the second member of the first proposition: “ And as I live by the Father. ” The relation which Jesus sustains to the Father has its reflection, as it were, in that which the believer sustains to Jesus, and is for the believer the secret of life. The first καί , also, corresponds with the καθώς , as, of the beginning of the verse: it is the sign of the principal proposition. It takes the place of a οὕτως , so, which was avoided because the analogy between the two relations was still not complete. For the first relation is more than the model: it is the principle, the moral reason of the second.

The latter, while being analogous to the first, exists only in virtue of the other. The second καί before the pronoun makes the subject prominent: ἐκεῖνος , he also. The believer, by feeding on Jesus, finds in Him the same source and guaranty of life as that which Jesus Himself finds in His relation to the Father. Δἰ ἐμέ , not strictly by me or for me, but because of me, the norm and source of his life. In each act which he performs, the believer seeks in Christ his model and his strength, as Christ does with relation to the Father; and it is thus that the life of Christ and consequently that of the Father Himself become his. A thought of unfathomable depth is contained in this saying: Jesus only has direct access to the Father, the supreme source. The life which He derives from Him, humanly elaborated and reproduced in His person, becomes thus accessible to men. As the infinite life of nature becomes capable of appropriation by man only so far as it is concentrated in a fruit or a piece of bread, so the divine life is only brought within our reach so far as it is incarnated in the Son of man.

It is thus that He is for us the bread of life. Only, as we must take the piece of bread and assimilate it to ourselves in order to obtain physical life by its means, we must, also, in order to have the higher life, incorporate into ourselves the person of the Son of man by the inward act of faith, which is the mode of spiritual manducation. By eating Him, who lives by God, we possess the life of God. The living Father lives in One, but in this One He gives Himself to all. This is not metaphysics; it is the most practical morals, as every believer well knows. Jesus therefore reveals here at once the secret of His own life and of that of His followers. Here is the mystery of salvation, which St. Paul describes as “ the summing up of all things in one ” ( Eph 1:10 ). The Lord sought thus to make clear to the Jews what appeared to them incredible: that one man could be for all others the source of life. The formula here given by Christ is of course that of His earthly life; that of His divine life was given in John 6:26. It follows from these words that no other even miraculous food can give life.

Verse 58

Ver. 58. “ This is the bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat the manna and are dead; he who eats this bread shall live forever.

The pronoun οὖτος does not mean: “ Such is the bread” ( Reuss, Keil); but “ This bread ( Joh 6:57 ) is that which came down,” that which the manna was not in reality; hence the two opposite consequences pointed out in what follows. Here is the final appeal: to reject it, will be to die; to accept it, will be to live.

Verse 59

Ver. 59. “ These things said Jesus, as he taught in the synagogue, at Capernaum.

There was a regular meeting in the synagogue on the second, fifth and seventh days of the week (Monday, Thursday and Saturday). The day of the Passover must have fallen in the year 29, on Monday, April 18th (see Chavannes, Revue de theol ., third series, Vol. I., p. 209ff.). If the multiplying of the loaves occurred on the evening before the Passover ( Joh 6:4 ), the following day, the day on which Jesus pronounced this discourse, must consequently have been Monday, which was a day of meeting. But with what purpose does the evangelist insert this notice here? Does he mean merely to give an historical detail? It is difficult to believe this. Tholuck thinks that his design is to account for the numerous audience which the following narrative ( therefore, Joh 6:60 ), implies. Is not this somewhat far-fetched? It seems to us, rather, that after having given the account of so solemn a discourse, the evangelist felt the need of fixing forever the locality of this memorable scene (comp. Joh 8:20 ).

In order to be sensible of this intention we must, first, observe the absence of an article before συναγωγῇ , not: in the synagogue, but: in full synagogal assembly; then, we must connect the objective words in an assembly with teaching, and in Capernaum with He said, and paraphrase as follows: “He spoke thus, teaching in full synagogue, at Capernaum.” The term διδάσκων , teaching, which denotes a teaching properly so called, recalls the manner in which Jesus had explained and discussed the Scriptural texts, John 6:31; John 6:35; it is in accord with the solemnity of this scene.

The hearers had questioned, murmured, debated; now it is the betterdisposed among them, and even some of the permanent disciples of Jesus, who make themselves the organs of the general discontent.

Verse 60

Ver. 60. “ After having heard him speak thus, many of his disciples said. This saying is a hard one; who can listen to it?

According to de Wette and Meyer, this exclamation relates to the idea of the bloody death of the Messiah, the great cause of stumbling to the Jews, which had been implied in the preceding declarations; according to Weiss, to the overthrow of all their Messianic hopes which resulted from all these discourses; according to Tholuck and Hengstenberg, to the apparent pride with which Jesus connected the salvation of the world with His own person, according to several of the older writers, Lampe and others, to the claim of Jesus to be a personage who had come down from heaven.

Undoubtedly all these ideas are expressed in what precedes; but the most striking idea was evidently the obligation to eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to have life, and there was here indeed, also, the most paradoxical and most offensive idea. Grossly understood, it might indeed be revolting even to the disciples, and might force from them the cry: This is going too far; He talks irrationally! The term μαθηταί , disciples, here denotes persons who attached themselves to Jesus, who followed Him habitually, and who had even broken off from their ordinary occupations in order to accompany Him ( Joh 6:66 ); it was from among them that Jesus had, a short time before, chosen the Twelve. Some of them were afterwards found undoubtedly among the five hundred of whom Paul speaks ( 1Co 15:6 ). Σκληρός (properly, hard, tough), does not here signify obscure ( Chrysostom, Grotius, Olshausen), but difficult to receive. They think they understand it, but they cannot admit it. Τίς δύναται , “ who has power to...?” ᾿Ακούειν , “to listen calmly, without stopping the ears.”

Verses 60-65


Vv. 60-65. The very difficulty in the way of understanding, which has just been referred to, caused the division between the temporary and permanent disciples the true and the false ones which needed to be made. The temporary and false ones went back because of the hard saying. The principal question connected with these verses is that of John 6:62. With reference to this question the following points may be noticed: ( a) If λόγος of Joh 6:60 refers, as the connection would seem to show that it does, to what had been said about eating His flesh, etc., the point now in mind must be the same: If you are offended by this which I have said, how will it be if, etc. ( b) The words “ascending where I was before” are most naturally contrasted with His present condition, and thus refer to the time of and after His ascension.

( c) The 63d verse shows that the purpose of Jesus was to bring the minds of these professed disciples to interpret His words spiritually, and to see that His teaching and the life of which He spoke were wholly in the spiritual sphere. ( d) Joh 6:64-65 present again the absence of faith and of the divine drawing as the foundation of their whole difficulty. In view of these considerations two conclusions may be drawn: ( x) that the thought of Joh 6:62 is of a greater difficulty in the matter of comprehension, when He should have passed away from earth to heaven, rather than a less one; and ( y) that the cause of this greater difficulty would be the entire removal of the earthly and physical element. Like the discourse which precedes, therefore, these verses are intended to be a demand upon these hearers to rise into a higher sphere of thought, and place themselves face to face with the Divine truth.

Verses 61-63

Vv. 61-63. “ But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at this, said unto them: Does this word offend you? 62. And if you shall see the Son of man ascending where he was before? 63. It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words which I speak unto you are spirit and life.

As Lange remarks, the words “ in himself ” do not exclude the perception of any external signs, but they signify that Jesus had no need of questioning any one of them in order to understand these symptoms. The word offend, is to be taken here in the gravest sense, as in Luke 7:23: to cause to stumble with respect to faith.

The words ἐὰν οὖν ( Joh 6:62 ), which we have translated by and if, do not depend upon any principal proposition. One must, therefore, be supplied. We may understand, “What will you then say?” But this question itself may and must be resolved into one of the two following ones: “Will not your offense cease then?” or, on the contrary: “Will you not then be still more offended?” This last question is the one which is understood by de Wette, Meyer andLucke . According to Weiss, this second view is absolutely required by the οὖν , therefore; the first would have required but: But will not your present offense cease?” True; nevertheless, this second form of the question, if one holds to it, cannot be any more satisfactory.

What purpose indeed would it serve to refer them to a coming fact which would offend them still more? We must come to a third supposition which unites the two questions, by passing from the second so as to end with the first. “If therefore, one day, after you have heard this saying which is so intolerable to you, an event occurs which renders it altogether absurd, will you not then understand that you were mistaken as to its true meaning?” The apostle calls this event an ἀναβαίνειν , ascending. A whole class of interpreters find here the indication of the death of Jesus as the means of His exaltation to the Father (Lucke, de Wette, Meyer, Reuss, Weiss). “It is then indeed, Jesus would say, that your Messianic hopes will be reduced to nothing!” But are the ideas of suffering and disappearing identical, then, with that of ascending? When the idea of death on the cross is united with that of the heavenly exaltation of Jesus (John 3:15; Joh 12:34 ), the apostle uses the passive term, ὑψωθῆναι , to be lifted up. When he desires to present this death from the point of view of the disappearance which will follow it, he says ὑπάγειν , to go away (to the Father) but not ἀναβαίνειν .

When John applies this last term to the exaltation of Jesus John 20:17, he does not mean to speak of His death; for it is after His resurrection. How could the term ascend designate the moment of His deepest humiliation? and that in speaking to Jews! Still more, according to all these interpreters, it is the death of Jesus with its consequences which is the hard saying at which the disciples are offended; and yet the new offense, a still greater one, which should form the consummation of the first, is again the death! Weiss perceives this contradiction so clearly that, in order to escape it, he supposes that the mention of the death contained in Joh 6:53 was imported by the evangelist into the discourse of Jesus; the allusion to the great separation of death could have occurred only in this passage. This is to make over the discourse, not to explain it. The only natural and even possible interpretation is that which applies the term ascend to the ascension. It is objected that the fact of the ascension is not related by John and that the words: if you shall see, do not apply to this fact, since the apostles alone were witnesses of it.

But the omission of the ascension in John is explained, like that of the baptism; his narrative ends before the first of these facts, as it begins after the second. Nevertheless John alludes to the one and the other ( Joh 1:32 and Joh 20:17 ). And as to the word see, it is not always applied to the sight of the eyes, but also to that of the understanding; comp. John 1:51 “you shall see the angels ascending and descending;” John 4:19: “I see that Thou art a prophet;” but especially Matthew 26:63: “Henceforth you shall see the Son of man seated at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds.” This last passage is altogether analogous to ours. In the visible facts of Pentecost and the fall of Jerusalem, the Jews beheld, whether they would or no, the invisible ones, the sitting of Christ on the right hand of God and His return in judgment. As to believers, they have seen and still see through the eyes of the apostles. Jesus Himself, if He foretold these facts, must have clearly foreseen the ascension which is the condition of them. Various details confirm this meaning. In the first place, the present participle ascending, which forms a picture (see Baumlein); then, the opposition between this term and the term descending from heaven which, throughout this whole chapter, has designated the incarnation, as well as the words: where he was before, on which, as Keil observes, lies precisely the emphasis of the sentence; finally, the parallel in John 20:17. It is evident that this meaning is perfectly suited to the context: “You are offended at the necessity of eating and drinking the blood of a man who is here before you. This thought will seem to you much more unacceptable, when you shall see this same man ascend again into heaven from which He descended before, and His flesh and blood disappear from before your eyes. But at that time you also will be obliged to understand that the eating and drinking were of an altogether different nature from what you at first supposed.” The following verse fully confirms this explanation.

Verse 63

Ver. 63. The first proposition is a general principle, from which they should have started and which would quite naturally exclude the mistake which they commit. Chrysostom, Luther, Reuss give to the word flesh here the sense of grossly literal interpretation and to the word spirit that of figurative interpretation. But the opposite of the spirit in this sense would be the letter, rather than the flesh; and the word flesh cannot be taken here all at once in a different sense from that which it has had throughout the whole preceding discourse. “The Spirit alone gives life,” Jesus means to say; “as to the material substance, whether that of the manna, or that of my own body, it is powerless to communicate it.” Does this saying exclude the substantial communication of the Lord's body, in the Lord's Supper? No, undoubtedly, since the Lord, as He communicates Himself to believers, through faith, in the sacrament, is life-giving Spirit, and the flesh and blood no longer belong to the substance of His glorified body ( 1Co 15:50 ).

From this general principle Jesus infers the true sense of His words. If He said simply: My words are spirit, one might understand these words with Augustine in the sense: My words are to be understood spiritually. But the second predicate: and life, does not allow this explanation. The meaning is therefore: “My words are the incarnation and communication of the Spirit; it is the Spirit who dwells in them and acts through them; and for this reason they communicate life” (according to the first clause of the verse). From this spiritual and life-giving nature of His words results the manner in which they are to be interpreted.

The Alexandrian reading: “the words which I have spoken,” is adopted as unquestionable by Tischendorf, Westcott, Weiss, Keil, etc., on the evidence of the most ancient Mjj. And one seems to be setting oneself obstinately against the evidence in preferring to it the received reading: “the words which I speak (in general),” which has in its favor only the St. Gall MS. and nine others of nearly the same time (9th century). My conviction is, nevertheless, that this is indeed the true reading. The first reading would restrict the application of these words to the sayings which Jesus has just uttered on this same day, while the pronoun ἐγώ , I, by making the nature of the sayings depend on the character of Him who utters them, gives to this affirmation a permanent application: “The words which a being such as I am, spiritual and living, utters, are necessarily spirit and life.” Weiss does not appear to me to have succeeded in accounting for this pronoun ἐγώ , when he adopts the Alexandrian reading.

Verses 64-65

Vv. 64, 65. “ But there are among you some that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who it was that should betray him; 65 and he said: For this cause have I said unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it be given him by my Father.

To the exclamation: This saying is a hard one, Jesus had replied: “It is hard only so far as you wrongly understand it.” And now He unveils the cause of this want of understanding. Even among them, His disciples, apparently believers, there is a large number who are not true believers.

The expression τινές does not so far limit the number of these false believers as the French [or English] word some; comp. Romans 3:3; Romans 11:17, and Hebrews 3:16, where this pronoun is applied to the whole mass of the disobedient and unbelieving Jewish nation. The word τινές designates any part whatever, whether great or small, of the whole. The evangelist by means of a fact gives the reason, in the second part of the verse, for the declaration pronounced in the first; this fact is that Jesus knows them even to the foundation, and this from the beginning. The word ἀπ᾿ ἀρχῆς , from the beginning, applies undoubtedly, as Lucke, Meyer, Westcott think, to the earliest times of Jesus' ministry, when He set Himself to the work of grouping around Himself a circle of permanent disciples (John 15:27, John 16:4; Act 1:21-22 ), or, what amounts nearly to the same thing, to the beginning of the relation of Jesus to each one of them ( Tholuck, Westcott, Keil); He discerned immediately the nature of the aspirations which brought them to Him ( Joh 2:22-23 ). Lange and Weiss think that the term beginning designates the first appearance of the unbelief itself. Chrysostom and Bengel apply it to the moment when the hearers had begun to murmur on this very day. These last explanations are quite unnatural. Καί , and: and even, or: and in particular. The expression: who it was who should, is written, not from the standpoint of a fatalistic predestination, but simply from that of the accomplished fact ( Joh 6:71 ).

It follows undoubtedly from this word of John that Jesus did not choose Judas without understanding that, if there was to be a traitor among His disciples, it would be he; but not that He had chosen him in order that he should betray Him. He might hope to gain the victory over the egoistic and earthly aspirations which brought this man, like so many others, to Him. The privileged place which He accorded to him might be a means of gaining him, as also it might end in a deeper fall, if he trampled this grace under foot. As Keil says, “God constantly puts men in positions where their sin, if it is not overcome, must necessarily reach maturity. And God uses it then to serve the accomplishment of His plan.” Still more, shall we not go so far as to say that the very fall in which this relation was to end might become the terrible means of finally breaking down the pride of this Titanic nature? The moment when Judas, receiving the fatal morsel from the hand of Jesus, must have felt all the greatness of his crime, might have become for him the moment of repentance and of salvation. “If,” says Riggenbach ( Leben des Herrn Jesu, p. 366), “in that night of prayer when the choice of the Twelve was prepared for ( Luk 6:12 ), the thoughts of the Lord Jesus were again and again brought back to this man, and if, while very clearly discerning his want of uprightness, He was obliged to recognize in this the signal from the Father, what shall we have to say? Literally the narrator says: “For He knew... who they are who do not believe and who is he who shall betray Him;” so far does he carry himself back with vividness to the moment when all this occurred.

The καὶ ἔλεγεν , and he said, leads us to suppose a moment of silence here, filled with the sorrowful reflection which the evangelist afterwards communicates to us. The διὰ τοῦτο , for this cause, refers to the expression: some who do not believe. “It is precisely to this that I wished to turn your attention when I said to you.” A man may declare and believe himself His disciple without truly believing, because he joins himself to Him under the sway of motives which do not proceed from the teaching of the Father ( Joh 6:45 ).

Without this divine and inward preparation, even in the most favorable position faith remains impossible. The quotation is not literal, any more than in the other cases where Jesus quotes Himself ( Joh 6:36 ). In John 6:37, it was the coming believer who was given to Jesus; here it is given to him to come. Westcott observes correctly that the two elements, divine and human, appear here, the first in the word is given, the second in the word come. This saying of Jesus was a farewell; those to whom it was addressed understood it. Even after the day when the popular enthusiasm had reached its culminating point, the Galilean work of Jesus seemed as if destroyed; it presented the aspect of a rich harvest on which a hail-storm has beaten.

Verse 66

Ver. 66. “ From that moment many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

In the picture which the Synoptics have drawn for us of the Galilean ministry, particularly in that of St. Luke, Jesus shows Himself often preoccupied with the necessity of making a selection among those crowds who followed Him without comprehending the serious character of the step. Comp. Luke 8:9 ff; Luke 9:23 ff; Luke 14:25 ff. Jesus preferred by far a little nucleus of men established in faith and resolved to accept the self-denials which it imposed, to those multitudes whose bond of union with His person was only an apparent one. But there was more than this: all His work would have been in danger if the spirit which was manifested on the preceding day had gained the ascendant among His adherents already so numerous. It was necessary to remove everything which, in this mass, was not decided to go with Him on the pathway of the crucifixion and towards a wholly spiritual kingdom. We can, from this point of view, explain the method pursued by Him in the foregoing scene. The words by which He had characterized the nature and privileges of faith were adapted to attach the true believers to Him more closely, but also to repel all those whom the instincts of a carnal Messianic hope brought to Him. The danger which His work had just incurred had revealed to Him the necessity of purifying His infant Church. Joh 6:66 shows us this end attained, so far as concerned the group of disciples who most nearly surrounded the apostolic company. ᾿Εκ τούτου may be taken in a temporal sense: from this moment ( de Wette), or in the logical sense: for this reason ( Meyer, Weiss, etc.).

For this second sense classical examples may be cited. The passage Joh 19:12 determines nothing. I would understand: since this fact, which includes both the time (from this day) and its contents (that which had just occurred). The words ἀπῆλθον εἰς τὰ ὀπίσω , went back, include more than simple defection; they denote the return of these people to their ordinary occupations, which they had abandoned in order continuously to follow the Lord. The imperfect περιεπάτουν indicates a fact of a certain continuance; they no longer took part in His wandering kind of life ( Joh 7:1 ). It was in consequence of this prolonged rupture that the following conversation took place. Jesus, far from being discouraged by this result, sees in it a salutary sifting process which He wished even to introduce into the midst of the circle of the Twelve; for here also He discerns the presence of impure elements.

Verses 66-71


Vv. 66-71.

1. The design of the discourse of this sixth chapter, so far as the apostles were concerned, was undoubtedly to strengthen their faith by calling their thoughts to the mystery of the union of the soul with Christ. We have in this chapter the two kinds of evidence, that of the works and that of the words. The dependence of the latter on the former, and the higher character of the latter, are strikingly exhibited here. In this regard the chapter is a central one of this Gospel.

2. The evangelist gives in John 6:68-69 a new declaration of the apostles' faith. Peter and his associates did not fully understand the words of Jesus, but, in connection with the growth of their love and faith in the progress of their life with Him until now, they found in them no “hard saying,” as the others did, but only a new utterance of truth which was to be received and studied in the time to come. They believed that He was the Holy One of God, and that He had the words of eternal life, and so, in the presence of these profound thoughts and sayings, they were ready to listen and wait for greater light. It cannot be supposed that, at the time of the first miracle at Cana, their minds could have opened at all to such sayings. There had been a steady and continuous development since then.

3. As related to the evidence for the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God ( Joh 20:31 ), this chapter carries the reader's thought into the region of His life-giving power the inward union of His life with that of the believer as essential to the eternal life of the soul more fully than the chapters which precede. There is no mere repetition of what goes before, but a suggestion of a new thought, and of a thought which belongs here in the natural order of the growth of the apostles' own inner life and of the proof of the truth for other minds. The Holy One of God as the source of eternal life the words of Peter's confession contain the thought of the discourse and the belief of the Twelve as it was now moving forward.

4. The explanation of the difficulties connected with the choice of Judas is to be found in the fact that Jesus acted in accordance with the providential plan of the world's life. We carry back the difficulty thus to the region of the Divine counsels, and there it is only to be placed with the mysteries of other human lives. The case of Judas was a remarkable one, because of the conspicuous position which his betrayal of Jesus gave him. But the wonder of all living, as related to moral discipline, losses and victories, is beyond the limit of our earthly vision.

Verses 67-69

Vv. 67-69. “ Jesus said therefore unto the Twelve: And you, you will not also go away? 68. Simon Peter answered him: Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast words of eternal life; 69 and as for us, we have believed and have known that thou art the Holy One of God.

At the sight of this increasing desertion ( οὖν ), Jesus addresses Himself to the Twelve themselves. But who are these Twelve of whom John speaks as personages perfectly well known to the readers?

He has, up to this point, only spoken of the calling of five disciples, in chap. 1; he has mentioned, besides, the existence of an indefinite and considerably numerous circle of adherents. In this example we lay our finger on the mistake of those who claim that John is ignorant of, or tacitly denies, all the facts which he does not himself relate. This expression: the Twelve, which is repeated in John 6:70-71, implies and confirms the story of Luke 6:12 ff.; Mark 3:13 ff., which John has omitted as known; comp. the ἐξελεξάμην ( Joh 6:70 ) with the ἐκλεξάμενος of Luke. Jesus' question expects a negative answer ( μή ). So de Wette, Meyer, Weiss, give to it this melancholy sense: “You would not also leave me?” Here, as it seems to me, and whatever Weiss and Dusterdieck may say, is an example of the errors into which grammatical pedantry may lead.

Far from having the plaintive tone, this question breathes the most manly energy. Jesus has just seen the larger part of his earlier disciples leaving Him; it seems, therefore, that He must hold so much the more firmly to the Twelve, the last human supports of His work; and yet He Himself opens the door for them. Only, as he certainly does not wish to induce them to leave Him, and it is only a permission that He intends to give them, He cannot use the expression οὐχ ὑμεῖς θέλετε , will you not, which would be a positive invitation to depart. He limits Himself, therefore, to saying: you surely will not...? a form which implies this idea: “But if you wish to go, you are free.” It must not be forgotten, that, in the use of the particles, there are shades of feeling which prevent our subjecting their meaning to such strict rules as those which philology sometimes claims to establish. The καί before ὑμεῖς , you also, emphatically distinguishes the apostles from all the other disciples.

At which one of them did Jesus aim, as He discharged this arrow? The close of the conversation will give us the answer. Peter hastens to take up the discourse, and, without troubling himself, perchance, enough to find out whether his feeling is shared by all his colleagues, he makes himself their mouthpiece; it is exactly the Peter of the Synoptics and the Acts, the bold confessor. His answer ( Joh 6:68 ) expresses these two facts: the deep void which all other teaching has left in his soul, and the life-giving richness which he has found in that of Jesus. This confession of Peter is, as it were, an echo of the declaration of Jesus, John 6:63: “ My words are spirit and life; ” but it is not a mechanical imitation of it; it is the result of a personal experience already gained ( Joh 6:69 ). By substituting “ the words” for “ words ” our translations have transformed the ejaculation of immediate feeling into a dogmatic formula.

Verse 69

Ver. 69. The pronoun ἡμεῖς , we, sets the apostles in marked contrast with the disciples who had just deserted Jesus. The verbs in the perfect tense have believed, known, indicate things gained for the future and which are not necessary to be reconsidered. Jesus may declare in their presence the most surprising things; it matters not; the faith which they have in Him and the knowledge which they have of Him cause them in advance to accept all. There is a certain knowledge which precedes faith ( 1Jn 4:16 ); but there is also a knowledge which follows it and which has a more inward and profound character ( Php 3:10 ); it is of this latter that Peter here speaks. Under the power of an immediate impression they John, Andrew and himself had proclaimed Jesus as the Christ (John 1:42; Joh 1:50 ), and from that time they had, through a daily experience, recognized and established the truth of that first impression.

The substance of Peter's profession is formulated somewhat differently in the Alexandrian and Byzantine readings. The expression: Son of the living God, in the second, is connected with the whole contents of the chapter; comp. John 6:57: “ The living Father. ” But what renders it suspicious is its resemblance to Peter's confession in Matthew 16:16. At the first glance, the designation: the Holy One of God, of the Alexandrian authorities is less easily justified in this context. But it is nevertheless connected with the idea expressed in John 6:27: He whom the Father, God, has sealed. The unexceptionable divine seal, by which the apostles had recognized Jesus as the Messiah was not especially His acts of power; it was His holiness. The term: Holy One of God, “set apart from the rest of men by His consecration,” is not a Messianic designation either in the Old Testament or in the New Testament. It is the demons who used it the first time ( Mar 1:24 and Luk 4:34 ). They were led to it by the feeling of the contrast between Christ and themselves, impure spirits; Peter and the apostles, by that of sympathy. Comp. Luke 1:35; Acts 4:27; Revelation 3:7.

Verses 70-71

Vv. 70, 71. “ Jesus answered them: Is it not I who have chosen you the Twelve?And one of you is a devil! Now he spoke of Judas, the son of Simon, Iscariot, for he it was that should betray him, he, one of the Twelve.

Peter had spoken in the name of all; Jesus tears off the veil which this profession, apparently unanimous, threw over the secret unbelief of one of their number. Not only does He wish thereby to make Judas understand that He is not his dupe and prevent the offense which the thought that their Master had been wanting in discernment might cause to the other apostles.

But He desires, especially, to awaken Judas' conscience and to induce him to break with the false position in which he seems to persist in continuing. Jesus addresses in His answer, not Peter alone, but all ( αὐτοῖς , them). He brings strikingly together ( καί ) these two facts so shockingly contradictory: the mark of love which He has given to them all by their election and the ungrateful perfidy of one of them. The words ἐξ ὑμῶν have the emphasis: “From among you, chosen by myself.” The word διάβολος , does not mean merely diabolical, or child of the devil ( Joh 8:44 ); it denotes a second Satan, an incarnation of the spirit of Satan. The word of address: Satan, addressed to Peter in the scene at Caesarea Philippi, makes him also an organ of Satan. But as for him, he was so only momentarily and through an ill-directed love. This Judas, to whom Jesus had just opened the door, nevertheless remains, covering himself with the mask of a hypocritical fidelity and accepting as his own Peter's profession. The term which Jesus had employed expressed already the deep indignation which was occasioned in Him by this persistency of Judas and the foreseeing of the hateful end to which this course of action must infallibly lead him.

Verse 71

Ver. 71. At the moment, no one of the disciples, unless perhaps John and Judas himself, understood to whom these words applied. The almost certain etymology of the word ᾿Ισκαριώτης is Ish-Kerioth, man of Kerioth; this was the name of a town in the tribe of Judah ( Jos 15:25 ). According to all appearance, the apostle was the only one who was a native of Judea, that country hostile to Jesus. Hengstenberg prefers the etymology אִישׁ שְׁקָרִים , man of falsehoods. John would thus anticipate the use of a name which could have been given him only after his crime; a supposition which is unnatural. The Alexandrian reading makes this surname an epithet of the father of Judas; the same is the case in John 13:26. In John 14:22, this word is without any variant and applies to Judas himself. It might be applied to the father and the son. The verb ἤμελλεν simply means, starting from the point of view of the accomplished fact: “He it was to whom it should happen...” The last words bring out the monstrous contrast between his position and his conduct.

From the beginning, a gnawing worm had been fastened to the root of the Galilean faith. John had characterized this evil by the words: πάντα ἑωρακότες ...“ having seen all that he did ” ( Joh 4:45 ). And Jesus, with the same feeling, had said ( Joh 4:48 ): “ Unless ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. ” The sixth chapter brings before our eyes the premature falling of the fruit of this tree, which had for a time presented such fair appearances. If one wishes to understand this crisis, it is enough for him to cast a glance at the Christianity of to-day. It declares and thinks itself Christian, but material instincts have, more and more, the preponderance over religious and moral needs. Soon the Gospel will not answer any longer to the aspirations of the masses. The words: “ You have seen me and believe not,” will have their application to them on a still vaster scale; and the time will come when the great defection of Christendom will, for a time, reproduce the Galilean catastrophe. Our epoch is the true commentary on the sixth chapter of the Gospel of St. John.

Objections have been made to the authenticity of these discourses. Critics have alleged their unintelligibility for the hearers ( Strauss, Leben Jesu, vol. I., 2d part, pp. 680, 681) and the similarity of the dialogue to the one in chap. 4 ( Ibid. p. 680). Comp. especially, Joh 6:34 with John 4:15; Joh 6:27 with John 4:13-14. With reference to this second point we answer. 1. That the ever-renewed collision between the heavenly thought of Jesus and the carnal minds which it was trying to elevate even to itself must, at each time, introduce analogous phases; and 2. That it is not difficult to point out characteristic differences between chap. 4 and chap. 6. The chief one is this: While the Samaritan woman suffers herself to be transported to the celestial sphere whither Jesus would attract her, the Galileans, elevated for a moment, soon fall again to the earth, and break decisively with Him who declares that He has nothing to offer them for the satisfaction of their gross religious materialism.

As to the first point, we think that we have here an excellent opportunity to convince ourselves of the authenticity of the discourses of the fourth Gospel. If there is any one of them which can be accused of presenting the mystical character to which the name Johannean is often given, it is certainly this one. And yet, how without this discourse can we explain the great historical fact of the Galilean crisis which is connected with it in our narrative.

This decisive event in the history of Jesus' ministry is not called in question by any one, and yet it is inseparable from the discourse which caused it! This discourse, moreover, is naturally connected with its starting point and has a clearly graduated progress. Jesus here declares to the Jews: 1. That they must seek after a higher food than the bread of the day before; 2. That this food is Himself; and 3. That, in order to appropriate it to oneself, one must go so far as to eat His flesh and drink His blood. This gradation is natural: it presents itself as historically necessary, the fact being given which served as its point of departure. Even the incomprehensibility of the last part for the mass of the hearers becomes one of the factors of the double result which Jesus desired to attain; the purification of the circle of His disciples and even of that of His apostles, and the radical rupture with the Messianic illusions on which the multitudes gathered around Him were still feeding.

As to the relation of the profession of the apostles, ch. 6, to that of Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13 ff.; Mark 8:27 ff.; Luke 9:18 ff.), it seems to me that it is difficult to imagine two questionings of Jesus, as well as two responses of the disciples, so similar to one another nearly at the same time. There is nothing to prevent our placing between the scene at Capernaum and the confession of Peter in our chapter an interval of some weeks. The ἐκ τούτου , from this time ( Joh 6:66 ), easily allows it. and we have thus the necessary time for locating the matter contained (in Matt. and Mark) between the multiplication of the loaves and this solemn conversation of Jesus with His disciples ( Mat 14:34 to Matthew 16:12; Mar 6:53 to Mar 8:26 ). As for Luke, he is still more easily put in accord with John, since omitting all the intermediate passages, he directly connects the conversation of Jesus and Peter's profession with the multiplication of the loaves ( Luk 9:17-18 ). No doubt, the answer of Peter is somewhat differently expressed in Matthew (“ Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God ”) and in John (“ Thou art the Holy One of God ”); and Westcott finds in this difference a sufficient reason for distinguishing the two scenes. But in the Synoptics also the answer differs (Mark: “ Thou art the Christ; ” Luke: “ Thou art the Christ of God ”), a proof that we should not fasten our attention here on the terms, but on the sense: the Messianic dignity of Jesus (in opposition to the function of a simple prophet or a forerunner; comp. Matthew 16:14 ff.). For myself, I cannot comprehend how Jesus, after having obtained from the mouth of Peter either the profession reported by Matthew, or that of which John speaks, should almost at the same time have also asked a new one.

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Bibliographical Information
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on John 6". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books".