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Bible Commentaries

Godet's Commentary on Selected Books

John 7

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.

Verse 1

Ver. 1. “ And after this, Jesus continued to sojourn in Galilee: for he would not sojourn in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to put Him to death.

The situation described in this first verse is the continuation of that of which the picture has been drawn in John 6:1-2. Hence the καί , and, placed at the beginning; comp. John 6:1. If he does not any further mention the numerous body of attendants of which he had spoken at the beginning of chap. 6, it is perhaps owing to the general desertion which had temporarily followed the scene related in the sixth chapter. But he brings out more forcibly the persistence with which, during so long a period, Jesus limited His journeyings to Galilee. The term περιπατεῖν , to go and come, characterizes by a single word that ministry of itinerant evangelization which the Synoptics describe in detail. The imperfect tenses make prominent the continuance of this state of things. The sense of the words: He sojourned in Galilee, is rather negative than positive: “He did not go out of Galilee.” The last words of the verse recall the state in which the preceding visit of Jesus had left the minds of men in Jerusalem (chap. 5), and thus prepare the way for the following narrative. In one sense, everything is fragmentary, in another, everything is intimately connected in the Johannean narration.

Let us here cast a glance at the contents of the Synoptic narrative up to the moment which we have reached in the narrative of John.

To our sixth chapter corresponds precisely the period contained in Mat 14:13 to Matthew 16:28, and in Mar 6:30 to Mark 8:38, including the multiplication of the loaves, the conversation with the Pharisees on washings and the cleanness of meats, the journey to the northwest as far as Phoenicia, (the Canaanitish woman), the return through Decapolis with the second multiplication of loaves, the return on the western shore of the lake, a new excursion on the opposite shore, together with the arrival at Bethsaida; finally, an excursion to the north of Palestine, with the conversation at Caesarea Philippi. Thus we reach the moment parallel with the end of the sixth chapter and the beginning of the seventh chapter of John. It is October. Here are placed in the Synoptics the events which precede and accompany the return from Upper Galilee to Capernaum, the Transfiguration, the conversations on the approaching rejection of Jesus, the dispute among the disciples and the arrival at Capernaum ( Mat 17:1-18 end; Mark 9:0). Then Mark ( Mar 10:1 ) and Matthew ( Mat 20:1 ) relate the final departure from Galilee to Judea. This cannot be the journey to the feast of Tabernacles in John 7:0, as we shall show. This journey (in John) is omitted, like all the others, by the Synoptics; the final departure from Galilee indicated by them is certainly a fact posterior to the brief journey to Jerusalem described by John in chap. 7. Luke, as we have seen, connects the conversation at Caesarea ( Luk 9:17-18 ) directly with the first multiplication of loaves. Then he recounts nearly the same facts as the two other Synoptical writers, the Transfiguration, the healing of the lunatic child, the conversation respecting the approaching sufferings and the return to Capernaum ( Luk 9:18-41 ); finally he passes, like the other two, from this point to the final departure for Jerusalem (Luke 9:51.)

Verses 1-13


Vv. 1-13.

1. The history now moves forward over a period of six months to the Feast of Tabernacles in October. Nothing can be more manifest than the combination in this Gospel of the two elements, as we may call them, of biographical order and the selection of material for another than a biographical end. A full recognition of this fact is necessary in order to a candid and judicial examination of many of the difficulties in this Gospel, which are suggested by those who doubt its apostolic authorship or its truthfulness.

2. The true explanation of the demand of the brethren seems to be this: that they wished Him to go to Jerusalem, as the proper place for the assuming publicly of His Messianic office. If He was unwilling to do this, it must be that He was conscious of the weakness of His claims. By this demand they would test Him, and they thought He was failing to meet it. The attitude of the brethren does not seem to have been like that of the leading Jews, one of bitter hostility. The fact that they came to believe so soon after the resurrection of Jesus ( Act 1:14 ) seems to show that they were less “slow of heart to believe.” In Mar 3:21 they appear to be desirous of protecting Him from harm, as one carried away by enthusiasm under a delusion, rather than ready to deliver Him to the hands of His enemies. But they were not prepared to believe, even at this time, when His public ministry was within six months of its ending. Perhaps the very fact of His delay in making Himself known in the manifest and prominent way of which they had thought in their picturing of the Messiah's advent, was a main ground of their doubt and hesitation. They were impatient to have this doubt removed, if it could be. They were not ready to believe, until it was removed.

3. The word καιρός , John 7:6; John 7:8, may be regarded as kindred in its use to ὥρα , and thus as referring here, when used of Jesus, to the time of His great manifestation of Himself as the Messiah. This view, which is substantially that of Godet, gives the simplest explanation of these verses. What they desired was not merely that He should go to Jerusalem, as an ordinary Jew would go, for the celebration of the feast, but that He should go for the purpose of this public manifestation. That this is the correct view is shown ( a) by the ἵνα clause of John 7:3; ( b) by the expressions openly, as opposed to in secret, and manifest thyself to the world ( Joh 7:4 ), comp. not openly ( Joh 7:10 ); ( c) by the fact that the hatred of the world is given as the reason why the time must be delayed ( Joh 7:7 ); ( d) by the satisfactory explanation which it gives of the I go not up ( οὐκ ) of John 7:8 (which is more probably the correct text), as connected with the he went up of John 7:10; ( e) by the accordance of this passage, if thus explained, with the plan and character of John's Gospel. It thus becomes not a mere biographical item of little importance for any further purpose, but a part of the great progress towards the end which this writer carefully follows in his work.

4. Joh 7:12-13 present strikingly the position both of the people and the leaders at this time. It is evident from this Gospel that the Jewish rulers and leading enemies of Jesus moved solwly in the development of their plans against Him. As yet, they had not made public the course which they intended finally to take. Even their own partisans among the people were, apparently, uncertain whether they might not suddenly change to a more favorable attitude. The position of the rulers was, throughout the whole course of the history, a difficult one.

They could not, with safety, move too slowly, for the impression made by Jesus on the minds of the people was becoming more and more favorable, and might, at any moment, cause a dangerous excitement or uprising. They could not move too rapidly, for they must have some foundation for severe measures, which should be in some degree satisfactory to the public judgment. The result was, that, for a considerable period after their own feelings were settled in hostility, and probably after their plans were formed with somewhat of definiteness, they still kept the announcement of their purpose from the people. The life-like way in which the course of the rulers is described in this Gospel, from the beginning to the end, is one of the strong indications that the author was himself acquainted with the characters of those of whom he wrote.

As he looked back over the remembered experience, from the standpoint of his later life, when he had come to understand all the events from the side of the Divine plan, he felt, and accordingly he declares, that the rulers' failure to carry out their purpose was because Jesus' hour had not yet come. But it is evident that he knew equally well, and that he would have his readers know, that the reason of their delay was the feeling in their own minds that their hour had not yet arrived. They were waiting for that hour, and even at the end they moved forward to the final act, not because the time seemed fully ripe, but because it seemed impossible to delay any longer.

The verses now before us belong to the time of deliberation and waiting. They were seeking for grounds of decisive action. They were ready to seize upon every occasion for violent dispute. They were sometimes carried away by indignation, and almost prepared to lay hands upon Him (comp. e.g. Joh 7:30 ). But this was the sudden outbreak of passion; when reason resumed control, they restrained themselves and waited for a more favorable moment.

Verses 1-53

Third Section: 7:1-8:59. The Strife at its Highest Stage of Intensity at Jerusalem.

Seven months had elapsed without any appearance of Jesus at Jerusalem. The exasperation of the rulers, whose murderous character John had recognized from the beginning (John 7:16; Joh 7:18 ), had for a moment become calm; but the fire was ever smouldering under the ashes. At the first appearance of Jesus in the capital, the flame could not fail to burst forth anew, and with a redoubled violence.

We may divide this section into three parts:

1. Before the feast: John 7:1-13.

2. During the feast: John 7:14-36.

3. End and results of the feast: Joh 7:37 to John 8:59.

Verse 2

Ver. 2. “ But the feast of the Jews, called that of Tabernacles, was at hand.

This feast was celebrated in October: six full months, therefore, according to John himself, separate this story from the one preceding, without his mentioning a single one of the facts which we have just enumerated, and which filled this entire half-year. His intention, then, is certainly not to relate a complete history, and his silence with respect to any fact whatever cannot be interpreted as a proof of ignorance or as an implicit denial of it. The feast of Tabernacles, called in Maccabees and in Josephus, as here, σκηνοπηγία , was celebrated for eight days, reckoning from the fifteenth day of the seventh month (Tisri). During this time, the people dwelt in tents, made of leafy branches, on the roofs of the houses, in the streets and squares, and even on the sides of the roads around Jerusalem. The Jews thus renewed every year the remembrance of the forty years during which their fathers had lived in tents in the wilderness. The city and its environs resembled a camp of pilgrims. The principal ceremonies of the feast had reference to the miraculous blessings of which Israel had been the object during that long and painful pilgrimage of the desert.

A libation which was made every morning in the temple, recalled to mind the waters which Moses had caused to spring forth from the rock. Two candelabra, lighted at evening in the court, represented the luminous cloud which had given light to the Israelites during the nights. To the seven days of the feast, properly so called, the law added an eighth, with which was perhaps connected, according to the ingenious supposition of Lange, the remembrance of the entrance into the promised land. Josephus calls this feast the most sacred and greatest of the Israelitish festivals. But, as it was also designed to celebrate the end of all the harvestings of the year, the people gave themselves up to rejoicings which easily degenerated into license, and which caused it to be compared by Plutarch to the feasts of Bacchus. It was the last of the great legal feasts of the year; as Jesus had not gone, this year, either to the Passover-feast or to that of Pentecost, it might be presumed that He would go to this feast. For it was assumed that every one would celebrate at least one of these three principal feasts at Jerusalem. Hence the therefore of the following verse.

Verses 3-5

Vv. 3-5. “ His brethren therefore said to him: Depart hence and go into Judea, that thy disciples also may behold the works which thou doest; 4 for no man does any work in secret, while seeking after fame; if thou really doest such works, manifest thyself to the world. 5. For even his brethren did not believe on him.

We take the expression “ Jesus' brethren,” in the strict sense. Comp. on this question Vol. I., pp. 357-361. At the head of these brethren was undoubtedly James, who was afterwards the first director of the flock at Jerusalem (Acts 12:17; Acts 15:13; Acts 21:18; Galatians 1:19; Gal 2:9 ). The exhortation which they address to Jesus is inspired neither by a too impatient zeal for the glory of their brother ( Hengstenberg, Lange) nor by the malignant desire of seeing Him fall into the hands of His enemies ( Euthymius). They are, beyond doubt, neither so good nor so bad. They are perplexed with regard to the claims of Jesus; on the one hand, they cannot deny the extraordinary facts of which they are every day the witnesses; on the other, they cannot decide to regard as the Messiah this man whom they are accustomed to treat on terms of the most perfect familiarity. They desire, therefore, to see Him withdraw from the equivocal situation which He creates for Himself and in which He places them all by keeping Himself so persistently at a distance from Jerusalem. If He is truly the Messiah, why indeed should He fear to make His appearance before more competent judges than the ignorant Galileans. His place is at Jerusalem. Is not the capital the theatre on which the Messiah should play His part, and the place where the official recognition of His mission should be accomplished? The approaching feast, which seems to impose on Jesus an obligation to go to Jerusalem, appears to them the favorable moment for a decisive step. There is a certain analogy between this summons of the brethren and the request of Mary, chap. 2, as there will be also between the manner in which the Lord acts and His conduct at the wedding in Cana.

What do the brethren mean by the expression “ thy disciples ” ( Joh 7:3 )? It seems that they apply this name only to the adherents of Jesus in Judea. And this was indeed their thought, perhaps, in view of the fact that there only had Jesus properly founded a school similar to that of John the Baptist, by baptizing like him; comp. John 4:1: “ The Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John the Baptist. ” All this had been told and repeated in Galilee; a great stir had been made respecting these numerous adherents of Jesus in Judea and at Jerusalem, at whose head might even be found members of the Sanhedrim. His brethren remind Him of these earlier successes in Judea, and this with the more timeliness because, since the scene of chap. 6, the larger part of His disciples in Galilee had abandoned Him, and He was now surrounded only by a fluctuating multitude. They mean, therefore: “These Messianic works which thou dost lavish upon these crowds, without any result, go then, at length, and do them in the places where it is said that thou hast formed a school, and where thou wilt have witnesses more worthy of such a spectacle and more capable of drawing a serious conclusion from it.” It is not necessary, therefore, to supply, with Lucke and others, ἐκεῖ : “thy disciples there,” or to explain, as Hengstenberg and Meyer do: “thy disciples in the entire nation, who will come to the feast.” John must certainly have added a word in order to indicate either the one or the other of these meanings. The term μαθηταί , disciples, is taken here by the brethren in a sense which is slightly emphatic and ironical.

Lucke has perfectly rendered the construction of Joh 7:4 by a Latin phrase: Nemo enim clam sua agit idemque cupit celeber esse. There exists no man who works in secret and at the same time aspires to make for himself a name. Αὐτός refers to this hypothetical subject of the verb ποιεῖ , does, whose real existence the word no one afterwards denies. The copula καί , and, strongly sets forth the internal contradiction between such a claim and such conduct (comp. the καί of Joh 6:36 ). ᾿Εν παῤῥησίᾳ is used here, whatever Meyer may say, in the same sense as in Joh 11:54 and Colossians 2:15: in public. From the idea of speaking boldly we easily pass to that of acting openly ( Keil). The sense given by Meyer: “No one acts in secret and wishes at the same time to be a man of frankness,” is inadmissible. By saying εἰ , if, the brethren do not precisely call in question the reality of the miracles of Jesus. This εἰ is logical; it signifies if really. Only they ask for judges more competent than themselves to decide on the value of these works. And for this end it is necessary that he should advance or retreat. Certainly, speaking absolutely, they were right: the Messianic question could not be decided in Galilee. The choice of the time remained; this was the point which Jesus reserved for Himself. By κόσμος , the world, the brethren evidently mean the great theatre of human existence, such as they knew it, Jerusalem. The style of Joh 7:4 has a peculiarly Hebraic stamp: these are the words of the brethren of Jesus taken as if from their lips. Comp. the analogous construction in 1 Samuel 20:2.

Hengstenberg, Lange, Keil and Westcott endeavor to reconcile Joh 7:5 with the supposition that two or three of Jesus' brothers were apostles. Hengstenberg remarks first that these words may refer to Joses, the fourth brother of Jesus, and then to the husbands of His sisters. Perceiving indeed the improbability of this understanding of the matter, the others weaken as far as possible the force of the words: They did not believe. It is only a partial and momentary want of faith, or, according to Westcott, an effect of the insufficient influence exerted by their faith on their thought and their conduct. But this relative unbelief, as they call it, does not account for the absolute expression: They did not believe on him; especially when strengthened, as it is, by the word neither, by which John brings the brethren of Jesus into the category of all the other unbelieving Galileans. The reading of D L: They did not believe (aorist), is certainly a correction, intended to facilitate an interpretation of this sort. Moreover, what follows excludes this weakened meaning. How could Jesus address to His brothers, being apostles, those severe words: “ The world cannot hate you ” ( Joh 7:7 ), while in Joh 15:19 He says to the apostles: “ If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world..., therefore the world hates you. It certainly follows, therefore, from this remark, that even at this time, six months before the last Passover, Jesus' own brothers did not acknowledge Him as the Messiah. But, divided between the impression which His miracles produced upon them and the insuperable doubts of their carnal minds, they eagerly desired to reach at length a solution. This attitude is very natural; it accords with the role which is ascribed to them in the Synoptical narrative; comp. Mark 3:0. The perfect sincerity of John's story appears from the frankness with which he expresses himself respecting this fact which was so humbling to Jesus (see Tholuck). We may well remark also, with the same author, that these words of the brethren ( Joh 7:3-4 ) contain the complete indirect confirmation of the entire representation of the Galilean ministry which is traced by the Synoptics.

Verses 6-8

Vv. 6-8. “ Jesus therefore says to them: My time is not yet come; but your time is always ready. 7. The world cannot hate you; but it hates me, because I bear testimony concerning it that its works are evil. 8. Go ye up to the feast, I go not up to this feast, because my time is not yet fulfilled.

The meaning of the demand of the brethren of Jesus was that He should present Himself at last at Jerusalem as the Messiah, and obtain there the recognition of that dignity, which could not be refused Him, if He was really what He claimed to be. Jesus could not explain to His brethren the reasons which prevented Him from deferring to their wish. If He had wished to answer altogether openly, He would have said to them: “What you ask of me would be the signal of my death; but it is not yet time for me to leave the earth.” Of this explanation, into which Jesus does not wish to enter, He gives a hint. The words: The world hates me, sufficiently express the prudence which is required of Him. The term καιρός , favorable moment, must be understood in a manner sufficiently broad to make it possible to apply it both to Jesus (John 7:6 a) and to His brethren (John 7:6 b). It denotes therefore the moment of showing oneself publicly as one is: for the brethren, as faithful Jews, by going up to this feast; for Jesus, as Messiah, by manifesting Himself as such at one of the great feasts of His people, at Jerusalem.

The seventh verse explains this contrast between His position and theirs. There is a certain irony in the reason alleged by Jesus: “Your works and your words are not sufficiently out of harmony with those of the world to make it possible for you to provoke its hatred.” It is otherwise in His case, who by His words and His life does not cease to unveil its deep depravity concealed under the outward show of Pharisaic right-eousness (John 7:42; John 7:44; Joh 7:47 ).

Verse 8

Vv. 8 draws the practical consequence of this contrast. The meaning of the reply of Jesus is naturally in accord with that of the question, and especially of the words: “Manifest thyself to the world.” Jesus well knew that He must one day make the great Messianic demonstration which His brethren demanded, but He also knew that the time for it was not yet come. His earthly work was not accomplished. Moreover, it was not at the feast of Tabernacles, it was at that of the Passover that He must die. Hence, the special emphasis with which He says in the second clause, no longer as when speaking of His brethren: “Go up to the feast ” (comp. the reading of B D, etc.), but “to this feast,” or even “this particular feast.” If the reply of Jesus is thus placed in close connection with the request of His brethren, it is no longer necessary, in order to justify it, to read with so many of the MSS.: “I go not yet up,” instead of: “I go not up. ” The first reading is manifestly a correction by means of which an attempt was early made to remove the apparent contradiction between the reply of Jesus and His subsequent action ( Joh 7:10 ). The reading, not yet, is not only suspicious for this reason; the meaning of it is altogether false. The antithesis which engages the thought of Jesus when He says: “I go not up to this feast,” is not the contrast between this day and some days later; it is that between this feast and another subsequent feast. What proves this, is the reason which He alleges: For my time is not yet fulfilled ( Joh 7:8 ). The condition of things had not changed when Jesus went up to Jerusalem a few days afterwards. This very solemn expression, therefore, could only apply to the period of time which still remained before the future feast of the Passover, the destined limit of His earthly life.

The not yet which was well adapted to John 7:6, was wrongly introduced into our verse instead of not; comp. for this solemn sense of the word to be fulfilled Luke 9:31; Luke 9:51; Acts 2:1, etc. As Jesus rejected at Cana a solicitation of His mother aiming substantially at the same result as the present summons of His brethren, and yet soon gave her satisfaction of her desire in a much more moderate way, so Jesus begins here by refusing to go up to Jerusalem in the sense in which He was urged to do so (that of manifesting Himself to the world), in order to go up afterwards in a wholly diffent sense. The conversion of His brethren, a few months afterwards, proves that the subsequent events were for them the satisfactory commentary on this saying, and that there did not remain in their minds the slightest doubt respecting the veracity and moral character of their brother. The following are the other explanations which have been given of this saying of Jesus.

1. That of Chrysostom, adopted by Lucke, Olshausen, Tholuck, Stier: “I go not now,” deriving a νῦν ( now), to be supplied, from the present ἀναβαίνω ( I go). This ellipsis is not only needless, but false. Jesus, as we have seen, makes no allusion to a nearly approaching journey to Jerusalem, which perhaps was not yet even determined upon in His own mind.

2. Meyer holds that Jesus, in the interval between Joh 7:8 and John 7:10, formed a resolution which was altogether new; Gess, in like manner: God did not give Him the order until later ( Joh 7:19 ). Reuss, nearly the same: Jesus reserved to Himself the liberty of acting according to His own desire, without consulting any one. Weiss: In accordance with prudence, Jesus was obliged to say: I go not up; but as His father gave Him afterwards the order to go, a promise was given to protect Him; and this is what took place. All this is very well conceived. But if Jesus did not yet know the Divine will, should He have said so positively: I go not up. This was to declare Himself far too categorically. He should have answered more vaguely: “I know not yet whether I shall go up; do you go up; nothing prevents your doing so.”

3. Others finally, as Bengel and Luthardt, explain in this way: “I go not up with the caravan; or, as Cyril, Lange, etc., “I go not up to celebrate the feast ” ( οὐχ οὕτως ἑορτάζων ); which would not exclude the possibility that Jesus should go to Jerusalem during the feast. In fact, the full celebration of the feast, as the brethren of Jesus conceived of it, included certain indispensable rites, certain sacrifices of purification, which the pilgrims were obliged to offer before its beginning ( Joh 11:55 ). And if it is objected that in Joh 7:10 John must have said, not: “He went up to the feast,” but: “He went up to Jerusalem,” this objection falls before the Alexandrian reading, which refers the words to the feast, not to: “And Jesus went up,” but to the clause: “ When His brethren were gone up. ” This very ingenious interpretation is not wanting in probability; its only defect is its excess of ingenuity. That which I have given in the first place, and to which the context more directly leads, seems to me preferable. It removes from Jesus, not only the accusation of falsehood, but also that of inconsistency which the philosopher Porphyry in the fourth century brought against Him on this account. The meaning given by Westcott: “I cannot yet go up as Messiah; but this does not prevent my going up as a prophet,” has a certain agreement with our explanation. Only it attributes to Jesus a reticence which is very much like mental reservation.

Verses 9-10

Vv. 9, 10. “ Having said this to them he remained in Galilee. 10. But when his brethren had gone up to the feast, then he also went up himself, not openly, but as it were in secret.

The ninth verse signifies that He allowed His brethren to depart, and Joh 7:10 gives us to understand that, when He went up Himself afterwards, it was either entirely alone or with one or two only of His most intimate associates. Thus are the words: as it were in secret, most naturally explained. ῾Ως , which is certainly authentic, softens the expression ἐν κρυπτῷ : Jesus was not really a man who concealed Himself, although He for the moment acted as such. But why go up, if this act might so soon bring the end of His activity? The answer is simple. Jesus was not able, even to the end, to withdraw from the obligation of giving testimony before the assembled people in Jerusalem. But He avoided going thither in company with the numerous caravans which were at that time proceeding on their way towards the capital. A new movement of enthusiasm might manifest itself, like that in ch. 6, and without the possibility on His part of restraining it. The state of men's minds, as it is described in John 7:11-13, proves that the danger was a very real one. It could not be prevented except by a course of action such as He adopts here. Besides, He thereby prevented the hostile measures which might have been taken against Him in advance by the authorities. What a sad gradation or rather degradation, since the first Passover in ch. 2! There, He entered the temple as Messiah-King; in ch. 5, He had arrived as a simple pilgrim; here He can no more even come publicly to Jerusalem in this character: He is reduced to the necessity of going thither incognito.

An hypothesis of Wieseler has found favor with some interpreters. According to this scholar, this journey is identical with that which is spoken of in Luke 9:51 ff. This uniting of the two cannot be sustained. In Luke 9:0 Jesus gives to His departure from Galilee the character of the greatest publicity: He sends, two and two, His seventy disciples into all the cities and villages through which He is to pass ( Joh 10:1 ); He makes long stays (John 13:22; Joh 17:11 ); multitudes accompany Him ( Joh 14:25 ). And this, it is said, is to go to Jerusalem, as it were, in secret! It would be better to give up all harmony between John and the Synoptics, than to obtain it by thus violating the texts. Exegesis simply establishes the fact, as we have said above, that the journey of which John here speaks, as well as those of chaps. 2 and 5, is omitted by the Synoptics. And, as Gess observes, the omission of the last two journeys (chaps. 5 and 7) is the less surprising, since Jesus seems to have gone to Jerusalem both times alone or almost alone. Hengstenberg thinks that this journey (together with the sojourn in Perea Joh 10:40 ), corresponds to the departure mentioned in Matthew 19:1; Mark 10:1. But the exegesis of the passage in Matthew by means of which this scholar tries to reach this result, is unnatural. See on Joh 7:1 and Joh 10:22 for the relation between the journeys of John and those of the Synoptics, Luke 9:51; Matthew 19:1; Mark 10:1.

The following verses describe in an animated and dramatic way what occurred at Jerusalem before the arrival of Jesus, as soon as the fact of His absence was discovered.

Verses 11-13

Vv. 11-13. “ The Jews therefore sought him at the feast, and said, where is He? 12. And there was much murmuring concerning him among the multitudes.Some said, He is a good man. Others said, No, but he leads the multitude astray. However, no one spoke openly of him for fear of the Jews.

This narrative justifies the circumspect action of Jesus. This popular agitation proves the immense sensation which had been produced by His appearance and the impression which His last sojourn in Jerusalem had left (chap. 5). We find again in this representation, John 7:11-13, the contrast which appears continually in our Gospel between those whom the light attracts and those whom it repels. The term γογγυσμός , murmuring, denotes the rumors in both senses, friendly and hostile. The ὄχλοι are the groups of pilgrims. ῎Αγαθός , good man, signifies here an upright man, in contrast with an impostor (“He leads the people astray”). Τὸν ὅχλον , the multitude ( Joh 7:12 ), designates the common people who allowed themselves to be easily deluded by every demagogue. The words: No one spoke openly, must not be referred to those only who, though well disposed, did not dare to manifest aloud their sympathy. The rest also, those who said: “He is an impostor,” did not speak freely, in the sense that through servility they went in their expressions beyond what they really thought. Weiss thinks, on the contrary, that they would have said yet more that was evil of Him, if they had not feared the change on the part of the leaders to a more favorable judgment. This explanation seems to me scarcely natural. However it may be, a pressure coming from above was exerted upon all, upon those who were well-disposed towards Jesus, as upon those who were ill-disposed.

Verses 14-15

Vv. 14, 15. “ Nevertheless, when the feast was already half finished, Jesus went up to the temple; and he taught there. 15. And the Jews were astonished, saying, How does this man know the Scriptures, not being a man who has studied?

The question of the Jews bears only upon the competency of Jesus (as Tholuck thinks, according to the Rabbinical customs of the later times); their astonishment, according to the text, arose from the boldness and skill with which He handled the Scriptural declarations. It is not necessary to understand an object with μεμαθηκώς , having studied, as our translators do (“not having studied them ”). [The English translators, both in A. V. and R. V., translate without the objective word.] This word is absolute: not having passed through the school of the masters; “not being a learned man” ( Reuss). Γράμματα , letters, denotes, undoubtedly, literature in general, and not only the sacred Scriptures ( γραφαί , ἱερὰ γράμματα ). Comp. Acts 26:24. But as the sacred writings were among the Jews the essential object of literary studies, γράμματα certainly refers first of all to the Scriptures. This saying of the adversaries of Jesus proves, as Meyer justly observes, that it was a fact generally known that Jesus had not received any Rabbinical teaching.

Verses 14-24


Vv. 14-24.

1. There is, apparently, an abrupt turn in the narrative at John 7:14, if we look only at the outward form of the story. But, when the following verses are closely studied, it seems almost certain that there is a connection with ch. 5 and the opposition excited by His work of healing on the Sabbath, which is there mentioned. May it not be, therefore, that the question of Joh 7:15 is, not merely one of wonder at the character of His teaching, but one expressing their sense of the impropriety of His setting Himself up to be a teacher, and in His teachings even to override the Mosaic law, as shown by His willingness to violate the Sabbatic ordinance? If this view is taken, the movement of the thought towards John 7:19 ff. is more easily explained.

2. In the answer of Jesus, John 7:16 ff., the following points are worthy of notice: ( a) The origin of His teaching, though not found in their schools, is such as may well give Him the knowledge which surprises them. He has learned directly from God. ( b) The evidence of this is found in the fact that the moral teacher who speaks from himself will manifest a self-seeking spirit. As He, on the other hand, is only seeking the glory of the one who sends Him forth as a teacher, it must be that He is not an impostor or merely self-moved. ( c) The question as to whether this one who sends Him is God, and whether the teaching is God's teaching, is one which any man can decide by placing himself in the right attitude towards God. The way to the light in the sphere of religion is through the will the willingness to do the will of God.

3. The words ἀληθής and ἀδικία , united by καί in John 7:18, suggest the connection between this passage concerning the teaching and the following verses, which carry back the thought to ch. 5. We may thus explain what seems to be a sudden change of subject at the beginning of John 7:19.

4. The central point of Joh 7:19-23 is apparently in John 7:21: ἓν ἔργον κ . τ . λ . This one work evidently means the miracle of ch. 5, and it is with reference to this that the allusion to the law of Moses is introduced.

5. John 7:20; John 7:20 (comp. John 8:48, Joh 10:20 ) brings before us the only kind of reference which John makes in his Gospel to demoniacal possession, if indeed this can be properly called such. The absence of instances of such cases of possession in this Gospel has been made an argument against their reality. But such an argument cannot be insisted upon, because John writes so manifestly on a plan of selection that his omissions or insertions may be owing to reasons which we cannot now fully understand, and also because his allusions to miracles are connected with the growth of faith in the disciples, and, especially, with the inner life of the soul.

6. If we could omit διὰ τοῦτο , with Tisch., 8th ed., on the authority of the Sinaitic MS., we should escape a difficulty. But the external evidence appears to be so strong in favor of the insertion of the words that they must be received. If regarded as belonging to the text, they are probably to be connected with θαυμάζετε of John 7:21. Westcott says the usage of John is decisive against this, but it must be noticed that there is no case in John's writings which is parallel with this one, and that there are weighty reasons on the other side, such as the strong and appropriate emphasis secured by this connection of the words and the difficulties which are involved in uniting them with John 7:22. The explanation of Godet, which is similar to that of Westcott, and of Milligan and Moulton, is perhaps the best which can be offered, if the latter connection is assumed.

But apart from any improbability that Moses would be represented as introducing the provision alluded to for the purpose of teaching them to judge rightly on the matter now in question if Jesus had intended to make such a representation, the sentence, it would seem, would have been arranged differently. As the verses stand, the argument proceeds simply and naturally from Joh 7:22 to John 7:23, if these words are unconnected with John 7:22. The argument is: Moses' law, through one of its provisions, involves a violation of the Sabbath ordinance; if this is so, why be angry with me for a similar violation? The union of διὰ τοῦτο with Joh 7:22 complicates and obscures the thought. Tregelles, R. V. marg. and A. R. V. connect these words with John 7:21; Westcott and Hort and R. V. text with John 7:22.

7. John 7:24, if διὰ τοῦτο belongs with Joh 7:22 and is explained as Godet proposes, brings out a thought which is already foreshadowed by those words. If, on the other hand, the phrase is attached to John 7:21, Joh 7:24 is an added exhortation, naturally suggested but not previously indicated. This verse will have no bearing on the question of the connection of διὰ τοῦτο , for it can be explained satisfactorily on either view respecting that question.

Verses 14-36

II. During the Feast: 7:14-36.

The first agitation had subsided; every one was quietly attending to the celebration of the feast, when all at once Jesus appears in the temple and sets Himself to the work of teaching. The authorities had not taken any measures against Him; and there was still time enough remaining for Him before the end of the feast to accomplish His work and to invite to faith the people who had come from all the regions of the world.

This passage includes three teachings of Jesus, interrupted and in part called forth by the remarks of His hearers. The first is an explanation respecting the origin of His doctrine and a justification of the miracle which was performed in chap. 5 and which was made a means of attack upon His divine mission ( Joh 7:14-24 ); the second is an energetic declaration of His divine origin called forth by an objection ( Joh 7:25-30 ); the third contains, on occasion of a step taken by the rulers, the announcement of His approaching end and calls the attention of the Jews to the consequences which this departure will have for them ( Joh 7:31-36 ). Following upon each of these discourses, John describes the different impressions which manifested themselves in the multitudes.

The difference of tone in these three testimonies is observable: in the first, defense, in the second, protestation, finally, in the third, warning.

Verses 16-17

Vv. 16, 17. “ Jesus answered them and said, My teaching is not mine, but his that sent me; 17 if any one wills to do his will, he shall know of the teaching whether it comes from God or whether I speak of myself.

Jesus enters for form's sake into the thought of His hearers: in order to teach, it is surely necessary to have been the disciple of some one. But He shows that He satisfies this demand also: “I have not passed through the teachings of your Rabbis; but I nevertheless come forth from a school, and from a good school. He who gave me my mission, at the same time instructed me as to my message, for I do not derive what I say from my own resources. I limit myself to laying hold of and giving forth with docility His thought.”

But how prove this assertion as to the origin of His teaching? Every man, even the most ignorant, is in a condition to do it. For the condition of this proof is a purely moral one. To aspire after doing what is good with earnestness is sufficient. The teaching of Jesus Christ, in its highest import, is in fact only a divine method of sanctification; whoever consequently seeks with earnestness to do the will of God, that is to say, to sanctify himself, will soon prove the efficaciousness of this method, and will infallibly render homage to the divine origin of the Gospel. Several interpreters, especially among the Fathers ( Augustine) and the reformers ( Luther), have understood by the will of God the commandment as to faith in Jesus Christ: “He who is willing to obey God by believing in me, will not be slow in convincing himself by his own experience that he is right in acting thus.”

The sense given by Lampe approaches this; he refers the will of God to the precepts of Christian morality: “He who is willing to practise what I command will soon convince himself of the divine character of what I teach.” Reuss, in like manner: “Jesus declares ( Joh 7:17 ) that, in order to comprehend His discourses, one must begin by putting them in practice.” The earnest practice of the Gospel law must lead in fact to faith in the Christian dogma. But, true as all these ideas may be in themselves, it is evident that Jesus can here use the words will of God only in a sense understood and admitted by His hearers, and that this term consequently in this context designates the contents of the divine revelation granted to the Israelites through the law and the prophets. The meaning of this saying amounts, therefore, to that of John 5:46: “ If you earnestly believed Moses, you would believe in me,” or to that of John 3:21: “ He who practices the truth, comes to the light. ” Powerless to realize the ideal which flees before it in proportion as it believes itself to be drawing near to it, the sincere soul feels itself forced to seek rest at first, and then strength, in the presence of the divine Saviour who offers Himself to it in the Gospel.

Faith is, therefore, not the result of a logical operation; it is formed in the soul as the conclusion of a moral experience: the man believes because his heart finds in Jesus the only effectual means of satisfying the most legitimate of all its wants, that of holiness. Θέλῃ , wills, indicates simply aspiration, effort; the realization itself remains impossible, and this it is precisely which impels the soul to faith. The intrinsic and communicative holiness of the Gospel answers exactly to the need of sanctification which impels the soul. See the normal experience of this fact in St. Paul: Romans 7:24; Romans 8:2. Suavis harmonia (between θέλειν and θέλημα ), says Bengel. There is a special feature in the teaching of Jesus which will not fail to strike him who is in the way of making the trial indicated in John 7:17. This feature will reveal to him in the most decisive way the divine origin of the teaching of Jesus:

Verse 18

Ver. 18. “ He that speaks from himself, seeks his own glory; but he that seeks the glory of him that sent him, this one is true, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

The messenger who seeks only the glory of the master who sends him, and does not betray any personal interest in his communications, gives, in this very fact, proof of the fidelity with which he delivers his message; as certainly as he does not say anything with a view to himself, so certainly also he does not say anything as self-moved. The application to Jesus which is to be made of this evident and general truth is left to the mind of the hearers. The teaching of Jesus presents a characteristic which is particularly fitted to strike the man who is eager for holiness: it is that it tends altogether to glorify God, and God alone. From the aim one can infer the origin; since everything in the Gospel is with a view to God, everything in it must also proceed from God. Here is one of the experiences by means of which the moral syllogism is formed, through which the soul eagerly desirous of good discerns God as the author of the teaching of Christ. There is, at the same time, in this saying, a reply to the accusation of those who said: He leads the people astray. He who abuses others, certainly acts thus for himself, not with a view to God. In order thoroughly to understand this reasoning, it is sufficient to apply it to the Bible in general: He who is glorified in this book, from the first page to the last, to the exclusion of every man, is God; man is constantly judged and humbled in it. This book, therefore, is of God. This argument is the one which most directly affects the conscience.

The last words of John 7:18: And there is no unrighteousness in him, contain the transition from the teaching of Jesus (His λαλεῖν , Joh 7:17-18 ) to His conduct (His ποιεῖν Joh 7:19-23 ), but this not in a general and commonplace way. If Jesus comes to speak here of His moral conduct, it is because there was thought to be discovered in it a certain subject of reproach which was alleged against the divinity of His teaching and His mission, and with reference to which He had it in mind, by this argument, to justify Himself.

Without the following verses, we might think that these last words: And there is no unrighteousness in him, apply only to the accusation stated in John 7:12: He is an impostor. But the argument contained in Joh 7:19-23 shows clearly, in spite of the denials of Meyer, Weiss and Keil, that Jesus is already thinking especially of the accusation which was still hanging over Him as violating the Sabbath, since His previous visit to Jerusalem (chap. 5). This was the the offense by which the summary judgment: He deceives the people, was justified in presence of the multitude. The term ἀδικία , unrighteousness, therefore, does not here signify, as some think: falsehood: but, as ordinarily: unrighteousness, moral disorder. Jesus passes to the accusation of which He was the object in chap. 5, because He is anxious to take away with reference to this point every pretext for unbelief.

Verses 19-23

Vv. 19-23. “ Has not Moses given you the law? And yet no one of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me? 20. The multitude answered and said: Thou art possessed by a demon; who is seeking to kill thee? 21. Jesus answered and said to them: I have done one work, and you are all in astonishment. 22. For this reason Moses has given you circumcision (not that it is of Moses, but it comes from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man. 23. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I have healed a man altogether on a Sabbath?

This passage is an example of the skill with which Jesus handled the law. But, to understand this argument, we must guard ourselves against generalizing, as most of the interpreters do, the idea of John 7:19: No one of you fulfills the law. Thus some, as Meyer, think that Jesus means: “How will you have the right to condemn me, you who yourselves sin?” Weiss, nearly the same: “You who do not measure your conduct according to the rule of the law, how do you condemn me according to it?” But if Jesus had really violated the law, wherein would their violations justify His? Could He claim that there was no imposture in Him? Others ( Hengstenberg, Waitz, Stud. u. Krit. 1881, p. 148) seek the explanation of this charge in the following question: Why do you seek to kill me? Their murderous hatred in this is the transgression of the law with which He charges them. But the expression: not to fulfill, would be too feeble to designate a desire to murder.

And with all this, no explanation is given of the meaning of the first question: Has not Moses given you the law? which appears to be absolutely idle. So we can scarcely be surprised that Bertling ( Stud. u. Krit. 1880) has proposed, in spite of the authority of all the documents, to transpose the passage Joh 7:19-24 and place it before Joh 5:17 ! All these difficulties vanish as soon as Joh 7:19 is referred to its true object, which clearly appears from John 7:22-23. Jesus declares in the first place, in a purely abstract way, the fact at which He is aiming. “You yourselves, with all your respect for Moses your lawgiver, know well that occasionally you place yourselves above his law! And yet you desire to put me to death because I have thought that I could do as you do, and with much more right even than you.” These words contain the fundamental thought of the following reasoning. And it is so true that Jesus, in speaking thus, is already thinking of the act of chap. 5, that the expression: wish to kill me, reproduces the very terms of John 5:16. This question is addressed to the multitude who surround Jesus only so far as He regards it as representing the entire nation with its spiritual directors.

Verses 20-21

Vv. 20, 21. Jesus was going to explain Himself, when the portion of this multitude which was not acquainted with the designs of the rulers, interrupts Him and charges Him with giving Himself up to gloomy ideas and suspicions without foundation. Despondency, melancholy, sombre thoughts were attributed to a diabolical possession (the κακοδαιμονᾷν of the Greeks). Jesus, without noticing this supposition, which must fall of itself, simply takes up again and continues His argument which had been already begun. He acknowledges having done one work, not a miracle in general, but an act in which one can see a work contrary to the Sabbatic ordinance: “And thereupon,” He adds, “behold you are all crying out with offense and wishing for my death because of this work!” The word θαυμάζειν expresses here the horror which one feels at a monstrous act. ῝Εν ἔργον , one single work, in contrast to all theirs of the same kind, which they, every one of them, do in the case which He is about to cite to them.

The first words of John 7:22: Moses has given you circumcision, reproduce the analogous words of John 7:19: Has not Moses given you the law? and complete them. The point in hand is to render this fact palpable to them: that Moses indeed, their own lawgiver, places himself on His side in the act which He is about to call to their minds. Indeed, this Moses who gave them the law of Sinai and established the Sabbath ( Joh 7:19 ), is he who also prescribed to them circumcision ( Joh 7:22 ). Now, by giving you this second ordinance, he has himself made all the Israelitish fathers of families transgressors of the first. For, as each one of them is bound to circumcise his child on the eighth day, it follows that every time that the eighth day falls upon a Sabbath, they themselves sacrifice the Sabbatic rest to the ordinance of circumcision. In the single word of Moses relative to circumcision ( Lev 12:3 ), the inevitable collision of this rite with the Sabbatic ordinance was neither provided for nor regulated. It was the Israelite conscience which had spontaneously resolved the collision in favor of circumcision, rightly placing the well-being of the man above the Sabbatic obligation. In our first edition, we referred the διὰ τοῦτο , for this cause, with most modern interpreters ( Weiss, Keil, etc.; Waitz does not decide), to the verb: you are in astonishment, of John 7:21.

This reference is justified by the difficulty of making the for this bear upon the following idea: Moses has given. How, indeed, can we make Jesus say that Moses has given to the Jews the command to circumcise with a view to the conflict which would result from it with the Sabbatic command? We do not discuss the opinion of Meyer and Luthardt, who make the διὰ τοῦτο , for this cause, of John 7:22, refer to the clause οὐχ ὅτι , not that..., an interpretation which evidently does violence to the text. But is it not possible to justify the grammatical reference of the words: for this, to the totality of Joh 7:22 ? The following, in that case, is the sense: “It is precisely for this, that is to say, with the design of teaching you not to judge as you are doing when you are scandalized ( θαυμάζετε ) at my Sabbath work that Moses did not hesitate to impose the rite of circumcision upon you, while introducing into his law this conflict with the law of the Sabbath. Thereby, he has justified me in advance, by making all of you commit the transgression for which you are seeking to kill me.” Thus understood, this for this cause contains the most piquant irony: “Moses has in advance pleaded my cause before you, by making you all jointly responsible for the crime with which you charge me, and by himself proving to you in this way that, when the good of man demands it, the rest of the Sabbath must be subordinated to a higher interest.” If we accept this sense, we must make the for this cause refer also to the last clause of John 7:22: “ For this cause indeed has Moses given you...and consequently you perform the rite of circumcision even on the Sabbath.”

It is not easy to understand the purpose of the limitation: Not that circumcision is of Moses, but of the fathers. If it were intended, as a large number of interpreters will have it, to exalt the rite of circumcision by recalling to mind its high antiquity, it would weaken rather than strengthen the argument; for the more venerable the rite of circumcision is, the more natural is it that it should take precedence of the Sabbath, a point which diminishes the force of the argument. Besides, might it not have been answered: The Sabbath also is anterior to Moses, it is anterior even to Abraham, for it dates from the creation? Hengstenberg and many others think that, in inserting this remark, Jesus means to defend His Scriptural erudition, which was praised in John 7:15, from the charge of inaccuracy which the preceding declaration might bring upon Him. This explanation is puerile; if it were well founded, nothing would remain, as Lucke says, but to impute this parenthesis to the narrator.

The true explanation is, perhaps, the following: “Although circumcision does not form a part of the totality of the Mosaic code, given by means of the angels and placed in the hands of the mediator (Galatians 3:19; Heb 2:2 ), and although it was only the result of a patriarchal tradition, nevertheless Moses did not hesitate to assign to it, in the Israelitish life, a dignity before which he made the Sabbath itself give way; an evident proof that everything which is of importance to the salvation of man takes precedence of the Sabbath.” This remark would serve to confirm the entire argument of the Lord. Or it might be necessary to explain the matter in this way: In general, the more recent regulation abolishes ipso facto the earlier one. It would seem, then, that the ordinance of circumcision must yield precedence to that of the Sabbath, which was more positive and more recent. And yet here there is nothing of the kind; it is the Sabbath that must give way. This circumstance would also rise in evidence against the absolute, exaggerated importance which was attributed by the Jews to the Sabbatic rest. Renan cites this passage as one of those which “bear the marks of erasures or corrections” (p. xxxii.). When properly understood, the passage becomes, on the contrary, from one end to the other, an example of the most concise logical argumentation.

The words of John 7:23: that the law of Moses may not be broken, have a special force: the Jews transgress the Sabbath (by circumcising on that day) precisely to the end that they may not disobey Moses! In order thoroughly to understand the a fortiori of John 7:23, we must remember that there are in these two facts which are placed in a parallelism, circumcision and the cure wrought by Jesus, at once a physical and a moral side. In circumcision, the physical side consists in a local purification; and the moral side in the incorporation into the typical covenant of the circumcised child. In the miracle of Jesus, the physical fact was a complete restoration of the health of the impotent man, and the moral end, his salvation (John 7:14 Thou hast been healed, sin no more ”). In these two respects, the superiority of the second of these acts to the first was beyond question; and consequently the infraction of the Sabbath was justified, in the point of view of its utility for the human being, in the second case still more than in the first. We must avoid the explanation of Bengel and Stier, who think that by the expression: a whole man, Jesus here means to designate the physical and moral man, in contrast to the purely physical man, the end in view in circumcision. Circumcision was not, in the eyes of the Jews, a merely medical affair.

What is remarkable in this defense is, in the first place, the fact that Jesus does not set forth the miraculous nature of the act which was made the subject of accusation; one work, He modestly says: it is nevertheless clear that the marvelous character of this work forms the imposing rear guard of the argument. In the next place, there is the difference between this mode of justification and that of chap. 5: Jesus here speaks to the multitudes; His demonstration is not dogmatic; He borrows it from a fact of practical life, of which every Jew was constantly a witness, if even he was not a participator in it: “What I have done, you all do, and for much less!” What could be more popular and more striking? We find again, at the foundation of this argument, the axiom which is formulated by Jesus in the Synoptics: “Man is not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath is made for man” ( Mar 2:27 ).

Verse 24

Ver. 24. “ Judge not according to the appearance; but pronounce the judgment which is in accordance with righteousness.

Οψις , sight, hence appearance, designates here the external and purely formal side of things. It was only from this defective point of view that the healing of the impotent man could be made the subject of accusation. There is no question here of the humble appearance of Jesus which had perverted the judgment of the Jews ( Waitz). Righteous judgment is that which estimates the acts according to the spirit of the law. The article before the word κρίσιν , judgment, may denote either the judgment in this definite case, or, in general, the judgment in each case where there is occasion to pass judgment. In the first clause, which is negative, the present κρίνετε is very appropriate: for the question is of the judgment pronounced in this case on the act of Jesus. But in the second, the present is probably a correction in accordance with the first. The aorist, κρίνατε , is perfectly suitable: Judge righteously in every case (without reference to time).

Verses 25-27

Vv. 25-27. “ Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said therefore, Is not this man here the one whom they seek to kill? 26. And behold, he speaks openly, and they say nothing to him. Can the rulers indeed have recognized the fact that he is the Christ? 27. But as for this man, we know whence he is, while as for the Christ, when he shall come, no one will know whence he is.

So great freedom and eclat in the preaching of Jesus struck some of the dwellers in Jerusalem with surprise ( οὖν , therefore). Knowing the intentions of the priestly authorities better than the multitude who had come from outside ( ὁ ὄχλος , of Joh 7:20 ), they were on the point of drawing from this fact conclusions favorable to Jesus; but they feel themselves arrested by an opinion which was generally spread abroad at that time, and which seemed to them irreconcilable with the supposition of His Messianic dignity: that the origin of the Messiah was to be entirely unknown. We find an opinion which is nearly related to this expressed by Justin. About the middle of the second century, this Father puts into the mouth of the Jew Trypho these words: “The Christ, even after His birth, is to remain unknown and not to know Himself and to be without power, until Elijah comes and anoints Him and reveals Him to all.” “Three things,” say the Rabbis, “come unexpectedly: the Messiah, the God- send and the scorpion” ( Sanhedr. 97a, see Westcott).

This idea probably arose from the prophecies which announced the profound humiliation to which the family of David would be reduced at the time of the advent of the Christ (Isaiah 11:1; Isa 53:2 ). It was true that it was not unknown, that the Messiah would be born at Bethlehem; but the words: whence He is, refer not to the locality, but to the parents and family of the Messiah. Those who speak thus imagine of course that they are acquainted with the origin of Jesus, in this second relation also. Comp. John 6:42. Thus they sacrifice the moral impression produced upon them by the person and word of the Lord to a mere critical objection: a bad method of reaching the truth!

Verses 25-36


Vv. 25-36.

1. The ῾Ιεροσολυμεῖται are evidently a different class from the ὄχλος , and are more fully acquainted with the desires of the rulers; but even they are left in some doubt and perplexity. That the supposed designs are not carried out is a matter of surprise to them, so that they even ask doubtingly whether it can be that the rulers, after all, recognize that Jesus is the Christ. This accurate description of the state of mind of all parties is what a later writer, of the introvertive character of this author, would have been little disposed to think of or to give. It comes into the narrative, from time to time, incidentally, and testifies of the eye and ear witness.

2. In Joh 7:28 Jesus acknowledges what they claim as to their knowledge of His origin, but affirms that He has a different origin which they do not understand. He thus, in reality, meets the difficulty in their minds, and shows that He can be the Christ whose origin is unknown, notwithstanding the fact that they know whence He is. This explanation, notwithstanding what Godet says in opposition to it, seems to be the most simple one and meets the demands of the passage.

3. The words I am from Him, of John 7:29, may, not improbably, imply a community of essence between Jesus and God, as Godet holds; but whether it can be positively affirmed that it must have this meaning, and cannot be in a parallelism of meaning with He has sent me, may be questioned. Meyer holds, with Godet, that the clause He has sent me is not dependent on ὅτι . Weiss ed. Mey. holds the same view. There seems to be no difficulty in adopting either construction, but, if the latter clause is independent, the argument for Godet's view of the meaning of the former clause becomes stronger.

4. The reference in John 7:34, You shall seek me and not find me, etc., must, it would seem, be to a seeking for the Messiah as connected with the securing of the life and blessedness of the Messianic kingdom. This verse can hardly be unconnected in thought with John 8:21, where dying in their sins takes the place of the words not find me, of this verse. The thought is apparently, therefore, that, after rejecting Him and after His death, they would, in their continual seeking after the Messiah which He truly was continually fail, and so they would die in their sins and be separated from Him and His kingdom. The reference to the Divine judgments in the destruction of Jerusalem, which Meyer gives, is not suggested by the passage, and is too limited for the general character of the expression. Weiss is correct, also, in denying the position taken by Meyer, that the explanation given above is inconsistent with the distinct personal reference, and “empties the words of their tragic nerve and force.” The force, says Weiss, properly, “lies in the fact that in their seeking after a Messiah they will, without being themselves conscious of it, be seeking after Him who is the only true Messiah, but is then forever separated from them.”

Verses 28-29

Vv. 28, 29. “ Jesus cried therefore, teaching in the temple and saying: You both know me and you know whence I am: and yet I am not come of myself; but he who sent me is competent, whom you know not. 29. As for me, I know him; for I come from him and he sent me.

Jesus taking this objection as a starting-point ( therefore), pronounces a new discourse which relates, no longer to the origin of His doctrine, but to that of His mission and of His person itself. The term ἔκραξεν , he cried, expresses a high elevation of the voice, which is in harmony with the solemnity of the following declaration. The words: in the temple, call to mind the fact that it was under the eyes and even in the hearing of the rulers that Jesus spoke in this way (comp. Joh 7:32 ). Jesus enters here, as in John 7:16, into the thought of His adversaries; He accepts the objection in order to turn it into a proof in His favor. In the first place, He repeats their assertion. The repetition of their own words, as well as the two καί which introduce the first two clauses, give to this affirmation an interrogative and slightly ironical turn: “You both know me, and you know...?” This form of expression reveals an intention of setting forth a false claim on their part, for the purpose of afterwards confuting it. The third καί , and, forms an antithesis to the first two and begins the reply of Jesus.

This is, with shades of difference, the sense given by most of the interpreters. Meyer and Weiss think that it is better to see in the first two clauses a concession: “Yes, no doubt you do know my person and my origin up to a certain point; but this is only one side of the truth; there is a higher side of it which you do not know and which is this.” But it would have been difficult for His hearers to get this idea: “You know me; but you do not know me.” Jesus rejects the very premises of their argument; and to the fact alleged by them He opposes a directly contrary one: “You think you know me, but you do not know me, either as to my mission or as to my origin ( Joh 7:29 ).” And as they seem to suppose that He has given Himself His commission, He adds: “I have one sending me, and this one is the veritable sender, that is to say, He who alone has the power to give ‘divine’ missions.”

The adjective ἀληθινός has not here, any more than elsewhere, the sense of ἀληθής , true, as a large number of interpreters from Chrysostom to Baumlein have thought. Jesus does not mean to say that the Being who sends Him is morally true; no more does He mean that He is real (see my 2d ed.), that is, that He is not imaginary, and consequently that His mission is not fictitious and a matter purely of the imagination; this is not what ἀληθινός signifies. But the sense is: “The one sending me is the true sender.” The last words: whom you know not, are very severe. How can Jesus charge Jews with not knowing Him of whom they make it their boast to be the only worshipers? But this strange ignorance is nevertheless the true reason why they cannot discern the divine origin of His mission. At the same time He shows them thereby, with much acuteness, that the very criterion by which they intend to deny Him, as Messiah, is precisely that which marks Him as such. In fact the postulate which is laid down by the Jews themselves, in John 7:27, is found thereby to be only too fully realized! It is an argument ad hominem, which Jesus allows Himself because He finds thus the means of presenting to this company of people the notion of the Messiah in its most exalted light, as He does in the following verses.

Verse 29

Ver. 29. To the ignorance of God with which He charges the Jews, Jesus opposes the intimate consciousness which He Himself has of God and of His true relation to Him. This relation is, first of all, a relation of essence ( εἰμί , I am, I proceed from Him). In fact, this first clause cannot refer to the mission of Jesus which is expressly mentioned in the following one. Jesus affirms that He knows God, first by virtue of a community of essence which unites Him to Him. The second clause does not depend on the word because. It is an affirmation, which serves also to justify His claim to know God. The one sent has intimate communion with Him who sends Him, and consequently must know Him. Hence it follows that Jesus is the Messiah, and that in a sense much more exalted than that which the Jews attributed to this office.

Verse 30

Ver. 30. “ They sought therefore to take him; and yet no one laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.

The result of this strong protestation ( therefore) was to confirm His declared enemies in the design of arresting Him. It is clear that the ζητεῖν ( to seek) was an affair of the rulers, as in John 5:16; John 5:18. They were strengthened in their resolution of accomplishing it and in the search for the means of arriving at the result. But the appointed hour had not yet struck. The expression: his hour, does not designate that of His arrest ( Joh 18:12 ), as Hengstenberg thinks, but that of His death as the result of His arrest (comp. Joh 7:8 ).

The divine decree, to which the evangelist alludes thereby, does not exclude second causes; on the contrary, it implies them. Among these, the interpreters make especially prominent the veneration with which the multitudes at this time regarded Jesus. Yes, assuredly; comp. Luke 20:19. But we may also think, with Hengstenberg, of the resistance which the conscience of His enemies was still opposing to the extreme measures to which their hatred was impelling them. When the hardening of their hearts was consummated and the Spirit of God ceased to restrain their hands, then the hour of Jesus struck. There is, therefore, no reason to assert, with Reuss, that “the historical interpretation of this verse creates a contradiction.” The sequel is about to show us a first attempt in the sense indicated, but one which fails precisely because the moral ground was not yet sufficiently prepared. This verse is thus the transition to the following narrative, which relates the first judicial measure taken against Jesus.

Verses 31-32

Vv. 31, 32. “ But of the multitude many believed on him, and they said, When the Christ shall come, will he do more miracles than those which this man has done? 32. The Pharisees heard this talk which was circulating among the multitude concerning him, and the chief priests and the Pharisees sent officers to take him.

While the adversaries of Jesus were becoming fixed in their hostile designs, a great part of the multitude were strengthened in faith. Joh 7:31 marks a decided advance on John 7:12. The partisans of Jesus are more numerous, and their profession of faith is more explicit, notwithstanding the position of dependence in which they still were in relation to the rulers. If timidity had not arrested them, they would have gone forward to the point of proclaiming Jesus the Messiah. The reading ἐποίησεν , has done, is wrongly replaced in the Sinaitic MS. by ποιεῖ , he does. The question is of His earlier miracles in Galilee and in Judea itself: John 2:23; chap. 5; John 6:2.

This impression made on the multitude exasperates the rulers, especially those of the Pharisaic party. The place of the meetings of the Sanhedrim could not have been far from that where these scenes were passing (see on Joh 8:20 ). It is therefore possible that, in going thither, some of the rulers may have heard with their own ears this talk favorable to Jesus; or also spies may have brought it to them during their meeting; the term heard allows both meanings. This is the moment when the Sanhedrim suffers itself to be impelled to a step which may be regarded as the beginning of the judicial measures of which the crucifixion of Jesus was the end. It was certainly under the influence of the Pharisaic party, whose name appears twice in this verse. The second time, however, their name is preceded, according to the true reading, by that of the chief priests; the latter are mentioned separately, because they belonged at this epoch rather to the Sadducee party, and they are placed first because, if the impulse had been given by the Pharisees, the measures in the way of execution must have started from the chief priests, who, as members of the priestly families, formed the ruling part of the Sanhedrim. The officers who were sent undoubtedly did not have orders to seize Him immediately; otherwise they could not have failed to execute this commission. They were to mingle in the crowds and, taking advantage of a favorable moment when Jesus should give them some handle against Him, and when the wind of popular opinion should happen to turn, to get possession of Him and bring Him before the Sanhedrim. There are in this story shadings and an exactness of details which show an eye-witness.

Verses 33-34

Vv. 33, 34. “ Jesus said therefore: I am with you yet a little while, and then I go to him that sent me. 34. You shall seek me and shall not find me;and where I am you cannot come.

Jesus was not ignorant of this hostile measure; and this is what awakened in Him the presentiment of His approaching death which is so solemnly expressed in the following words ( therefore). In this discourse, He invites the Jews to take advantage of the time, soon to pass away, during which He is still to continue with them. There is a correspondence between the expressions: I go away, and: He who sent me. The idea of a sending involves that of a merely temporary sojourn here below. The practical conclusion of John 7:33, which is understood, “Hasten to believe!” is made more pressing by John 7:34.

Of the two clauses of this verse, the first refers to their national future; the second, to their individual fate. In the first, Jesus describes, in a striking way, the state of abandonment in which this people will soon find itself, provided it persists in rejecting Him who alone can lead it to the Father; a continual and ever disappointed expectation; the impotent attempt to find God, after having suffered the visitation of Him to pass by who alone could have united them to God. This sense is that in which Jesus cites this word in John 13:33 (comp. Joh 14:6 ). It is also that in which He will repeat it, soon afterwards, in a more emphatic form, John 8:21-22.

There cannot be any difficulty in applying the notion of the pronoun με , me, to the idea of the Messiah in general. To expect the Messiah is, indeed, on the part of the Jewish people, and without their being aware of it, to seek Jesus, the only Messiah who can be given to them. But there is something more terrible than this future of the nation it is that of individuals. The expression: where I am, denotes symbolically the communion with the Father and the state of salvation which one enjoys in that communion. This is the blessed goal which they cannot reach after having rejected Him; for it is He alone who could have led them thither ( Joh 14:3 ). If then they allow this time to pass by, in which they can yet attach themselves to Him, all will be over for them. The present: where I am, signifies: “where I shall be at that moment;” it can only be rendered in French by the future. This second part of the verse does not allow us to explain the term : you shall seek me, in the first part, either of a seeking inspired by hatred ( Origen) comp. Joh 13:33 or of a sigh of repentance; such a feeling would not have failed to lead them to salvation.

Verses 35-36

Vv. 35, 36. “ Then the Jews said among themselves, Whither will he go then, that we shall not find him? Does he mean to go to those who are scattered among the Greeks and to teach the Greeks? 36. What means this word which he has said: You shall seek me and shall not find me;and where I am you cannot come.

These words are, of course, ironical. Rejected by the only Jews who are truly worthy of the name, those who live in the Holy Land and speak the language of the fathers, will Jesus go and try to play His part as Christ among the Jews who are dispersed in the Greek world, and, through their agency, exercise His function as Messiah among the heathen? A fine Messiah, indeed, He who, rejected by the Jews, should become the teacher of the Gentiles! The expression διασπορὰ τῶνΕλλήνων , literally: dispersion of the Greeks, designates that portion of the Jewish people who lived outside of Palestine, dispersed through Greek countries. ΤοὺςΕλληνας , the Greeks, refers to the Gentiles properly so called. The dispersed Jews will be for this Messiah the means of passing from the Jews to the Gentile peoples! They themselves, however, do not seriously regard this supposition as well founded; and they mechanically repeat the word of Jesus, as if not discovering any meaning in it. Meyer has asserted that this course of action would be impossible, if in Joh 7:33 Jesus really expressed Himself as the evangelist makes Him speak: “ I go to Him who sent me.

These last words would have explained everything. They would have understood that a return to God was the thing in question. According to Reuss also, Joh 7:35 contains a too flagrant misapprehension to be conceivable. But either these words: to Him who sent me had left in their minds only a vague idea, or more probably, regarding Jesus as an impostor, they see in them only a vain boast designed to cover a plan of exile, as at John 8:22, a plan of suicide. We cannot form a sufficiently accurate idea of the gross materialism of the contemporaries of Jesus, so as to fix the limits of possibility in their misapprehensions. After having passed years with Jesus, the apostles still interpreted a bidding to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees as a reproof for having neglected to provide themselves with bread it is they themselves who relate this misunderstanding in the Synoptical Gospels; how then should the Jews, to whom the idea of the departure of the Messiah was as strange as would be to us, at the present hour, that of His visible reign (comp. Joh 12:34 ), have immediately understood that, in the preceding words, Jesus was speaking to them of entering into the perfect communion with His Father?

The evangelist takes a kind of pleasure in reproducing in extenso this derisive supposition. Why? Because, like the saying of Caiaphas in chap. 12, it seemed at the time and in the regions in which John was writing and in which it was read, like an involuntary prophecy. Indeed, had not Jesus really become the Messiah of the Greeks? Was not John composing this Gospel in the country, and even in the language, of the Gentiles at the same time that the prophecy of Jesus contained in the preceding verses, and turned into ridicule by the Jews, was finding its accomplishment with respect to them in a striking and awful manner before the eyes of the whole world?

Verses 37-38

Vv. 37, 38. “ On the last and great day of the feast, Jesus stood, and, speaking with a loud voice, said: If any thirsts, let him come to me and drink;

38. he that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. ” Almost all the interpreters at the present day acknowledge that the last day of the feast is not the seventh, which was distinguished in no respect from the others, but the eighth, which was marked by certain special ceremonies. No doubt, only seven feast days are mentioned in Deuteronomy 16:13. The same is the case in Numbers 29:12; but in this passage there is found, in John 7:35, this supplementary indication: “ And on the eighth day ye shall have a solemn assembly, and ye shall do no work; ” which agrees with Leviticus 23:36, and Nehemiah 8:18: “ So they celebrated the solemn feast seven days, and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, as it was ordained,” as well as with Josephus ( Antiq. 3.10, 4, “ Celebrating the feast during eight days ”), 2Ma 10:7 and the statements of the Rabbis. The two modes of counting are easily explained: the life in tents continued seven days, and on the eighth day the people returned to their dwellings. Probably, in this return there was seen, according to the ingenious supposition of Lange, the symbol of the entrance and establishment of the people in the land of Canaan. Philo sees in this eighth day the solemn close of all the feasts of the year. Josephus also calls it: “the sacred closing of the year” ( συμπέρασμα τοῦ ἐνιαυτοῦ ἁγιώτερον ). This day was sanctified by a solemn assembly and the Sabbatic rest; the whole people, abandoning their tents of leafy branches, went in a procession to the temple, and from thence every one returned to his house. The treatise Succa calls this day “the last and good day.”

The δέ indicates an advance: the narrative passes to something greater. The terms εἱστήκει (pluperfect, in the sense of the imperfect) and ἔκραξε , cried, designate a more solemn attitude and a more elevated tone of voice than ordinary. For the most part, Jesus taught sitting; this time, apparently, He stood up. He was about to apply to Himself one of the most striking Messianic symbols among all those which the national history contained. It is difficult to hold, with Reuss, that the figure of which He makes use at this solemn moment was not suggested to Him by some circumstance connected with the feast. Thus almost all the commentators think that He alludes to the libation which was made every morning during the sacred week. Led by a priest, the whole people, after the sacrifice, went down from the temple to the fountain of Siloam; the priest filled at this fountain, already celebrated by the prophets, a golden pitcher, and carried it through the streets amid joyful shouts of the multitude, and with the sound of cymbals and trumpets.

The rejoicing was so great that the Rabbis were accustomed to say that he who had not been present at this ceremony and the other similar ones which distinguished this feast, did not know what joy is. On the return to the temple, the priest went up to the altar of burnt-offering; the people cried out to him: “Lift up thy hand!” and he made the libation, turning the golden pitcher to the West, and to the East a cup filled with wine from two silver vases pierced with holes. During the libation, the people sang, always to the sound of cymbals and trumpets, the words of Isaiah 12:3: “ Ye shall draw water with joy out of the well of salvation,” words to which the Rabbinical tradition quite specially attributed a Messianic significance. It may seem probable, therefore, that Jesus alludes to this rite. No doubt, objection is made that according to Rabbi Judah, this libation was not made on the eighth day. But even if it were so, Lange judiciously observes that it was precisely the void occasioned by the omission of this ceremony on this day that must have called forth this testimony which was designed to fill it. This method of acting was much better than that of creating a sort of competition with the sacred rite, at the very moment when it was being performed as on the preceding days in the midst of tumultuous joy. Nevertheless we have a more serious reason to allege against this reference of the word of Jesus to the ritual libation.

Would it be worthy of Jesus to take for His starting-point in a testimony so important as that which He is about to give, a ceremony which is altogether human? What was this rite? An emblem contrived by the priests for recalling to mind one of the great theocratic miracles wrought in the desert, the pouring forth of the water from the rock. Now, why should not Jesus, instead of thinking of the humanly instituted emblem, have gone back even to the divine blessing itself, which this rite served to recall? The word which He utters stands in a much more direct relation to the miracle than to the ceremony. In the latter it was not the question of drinking, but only of drawing and pouring out the water, while, in the miracle in the wilderness, the people quenched their thirst from the stream of water coming forth from the rock. It is, then, not to this golden pitcher carried in the procession, but to the rock itself from which God had caused the living water to flow, that Jesus compares Himself. In chap. 2. He had presented Himself as the true temple, in chap. 3, as the true brazen serpent, in chap. 6, as the bread from heaven, the true manna; in chap. 7, He is the true rock; in chap. 8, He will be the true luminous cloud, and soon, until chap. 19 where He will finally realize the type of the Paschal lamb. Thus Jesus takes advantage of the particular circumstances of each feast, to show the Old Covenant realized in His person, so fully does He feel and know Himself as the essence of all the theocratic symbols. In view of all this we may estimate aright the opinion of those who make the fourth Gospel a writing foreign or even opposed to the Old Covenant ( Reuss, Hilgenfeld, etc.)!

The solemn testimony of Joh 7:37-38 therefore places us again face to face with the scene in the wilderness, which had been so vividly recalled, during the course of the feast, by the joyous ceremony of the libation. The first words: “ If any man thirsts,” bring before our eyes the whole people consumed by thirst in the wilderness. To all those who resemble these thirsting Israelites, the invitation, which is about to follow, addresses itself. Thirst is the emblem of spiritual needs. Comp. Matthew 5:6: “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness.” These are the hearts which the Father has taught and drawn by means of a docile listening to Moses. The expression ἐάν τις , if it happens that any one, reminds us how sporadic these cases are; for the spiritual wants can be easily stifled. For every thirsty heart, Jesus will be what the rock from which the living water sprang forth was for the Israelites: “ Let him come unto me and drink. ” These two imperatives, thus united, signify: There is nothing else to do but to come; when once he has come, let him drink, as formerly the people did. Reuss, Weiss and Keil object to this interpretation of John 7:37, that in Joh 7:38 it is the believer who is represented as the refreshing stream. But Joh 7:38 can in no case serve to explain the idea of John 7:37.

For there is between the two, not a relation of explanatory repetition, but a relation of distinctly marked advance. The believer, after having his own thirst quenched ( Joh 7:37 ), becomes himself capable of quenching the thirst of other souls ( Joh 7:38 ); this is the striking proof of the fullness with which his own spiritual wants have been satisfied. Now, if the idea changes from Joh 7:37 to John 7:38, the figure may also change. In John 7:37, the believer drinks of the water of the Rock; in John 7:38, he becomes himself a rock for others. How magnificently is the promise of John 7:37: Let him drink, confirmed by this experience! He will be so filled, that he will himself overflow in streams of living water. One of the greatest difficulties of this passage has always been to know what expression of the Old Testament Jesus alludes to, when He says in John 7:38: as the Scripture has said; for nowhere does the Old Testament promise to believers the privilege of becoming themselves fountains of living water. Meyer, Weiss, Keil, Reuss, etc., cite passages such as Isaiah 44:3: “I will pour water upon him that is thirsty...and my Spirit upon his seed”; 55.1: “ All ye who are thirsty, come to the waters; ” 58:: “ Thou shalt be like a watered garden and as a fountain whose waters fail not. ” Comp. also Joel 3:18; Zechariah 14:8; Ezekiel 47:1 ff. etc. But, 1. In none of these passages is the idea expressed which forms the special feature of the promise of Jesus in Joh 7:38 that of the power communicated to the believer of quenching the thirst of other souls. 2. Nothing in these passages can serve to explain the strange expression κοιλία , his heart (literally, his belly). Hengstenberg, always preoccupied with the desire to discover the Song of songs in the New Testament, cites Song of Solomon 4:12: “ My sister, my spouse, thou art a barred garden, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed,” and John 7:15: “ Oh fountain of gardens, oh well of living waters, flowing streams from Lebanon! ” And as these citations strike against the same objection as the preceding, he tries to explain the figure of κοιλία by an allusion to Song of Solomon 7:2, where the navel of Sulamith is compared to a round goblet. What puerilities!

According to Bengel, Jesus was thinking of the golden pitcher which served for the libation during the feast; according to Gieseler, of the subterranean cavern situated in the hill of the temple, from which escaped the waters which came forth by the fountain of Siloam. But these two explanations of the term κοιλία give no account of the formula of citation which refers us to the Old Testament itself ( ἡ γραφή , the Scripture). By a desperate expedient, Stier and Gess desire to connect the words: he that believeth on me, with John 7:37, and to make them the subject of the imperative πινέτω : “Let him that believeth on me drink.” One comes thus to the point of referring the pronoun αὐτοῦ , “of his heart,” no longer to the believer, but to Christ. But where has the Scripture ever spoken of the κοιλία of the Messiah? And the construction is evidently forced. The pronoun αὐτοῦ cannot refer to the object ἐμέ me, but only to the subject of the sentence: “ he that cometh. Chrysostom makes the Scriptural quotation bear upon the notion of believing: “He who believes on me conformably to the Scriptures.

But nothing in the idea of faith calls for a special appeal here to the Old Testament. Semler, Bleek, Weizsacker think they see in this passage an allusion to an unknown apocryphal writing; Ewald to a lost passage of Proverbs. These would be singular exceptions in the teaching of Jesus. The true explanation seems to me to come from the event itself, of which we believe that Jesus was thinking in John 7:37. It is said in Exodus 17:6: “Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb, and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come from within it ( mimmennou) waters and the people shall drink;” and Numbers 20:11: “ And abundant waters came forth,” comp. also Deuteronomy 8:15; Psalms 114:8. It seems to me probable that these passages had been read on the occasion of the feast, and, that, being present to all minds, they furnished the occasion for this citation: as the Scripture hath said. The expression of Jesus ποταμοὶ ὕδατος , rivers of water, reproduces that in the Mosaic narrative מיִם רְִַבּים ַ ( abundant waters). The expression κοιλία αὐτοῦ , his belly, is derived from the word mimmennou, from within him. This figure, borrowed from the interior cavity of the rock, from which the waters must have sprung forth, is applied first to Christ Himself, then to the man whose thirst Christ has quenched, and whom He fills with His presence and grace. The future ῥεύσουσιν , shall flow, recalls the similar form of the Old Testament: “ waters shall come forth. ” The word ὁ πιστεύων , he that believeth, is a nominative placed at the beginning as a nominative absolute, and one which finds its grammatical construction in the αὐτοῦ which follows: comp. John 6:39; John 17:2, etc. If the change of idea and of figure from Joh 7:37 to Joh 7:38 appears abrupt, it must not be forgotten that, according to John 7:40, and from the nature of things, we have only a very brief summary of the discourse of Jesus.

Verses 37-52

1. The True Source: 7:37-52.

John reports the discourse of Jesus and gives the explanation of it ( Joh 7:37-39 ); he describes the different impressions of the multitude ( Joh 7:40-44 ); he gives an account of the meeting of the Sanhedrim, after the return of the officers ( Joh 7:45-52 ).


Vv. 37-52.

1. The explanation given by Godet of the reference to the living water in Joh 7:37 and the light in Joh 8:12 as connected with the two great Divine gifts to the Israelites in their life in the wilderness, which was commemorated in this feast, seems to the writer of this note to be the best one which has been offered. At the end of the feast, and when all minds were naturally turned toward the experiences in the desert, it was natural that Jesus should represent Himself and the new life under these figures, as He had done under the figure of the water of the well, at Sychar, and of the bread, in the sixth chapter.

2. The remark of the evangelist in John 7:39, though not having precisely the same form as those in John 2:21-22, etc., may not improbably be regarded as, like them, indicating an understanding of the meaning of Jesus' words which was obtained only after His ascension. The last clause of the verse declares simply what was the fact with regard to the coming of the Spirit. It does not affirm any absolute necessity in the case. If the Divine plan, however, was to reveal the truth at first by the incarnation of the Logos in the person of a man, with the necessary limitations of a single human life, we can easily understand how the wider and greater spiritual influence should have been introduced only after the glorification of Jesus.

3. The interruption on the part of the people breaks off this discourse, and hence we are unable to determine as confidently as might otherwise be the case what the precise meaning of Joh 7:38 is. But there is evidently an advance here beyond the thought of John 4:14. In that passage, it is the internal life of the believer which is referred to, but here the outgoing of this internal life in its blessing influence for others is set forth. This working of the interior life outward was, of course, dependent for its fulness on the greater outpouring of the Spirit which began with the Day of Pentecost. It was to be one means by which that glorification of Jesus on earth was to be accomplished, which is alluded to in Joh 12:23 and John 17:1, and which was to be connected with and follow upon His glorification in heaven.

4. With reference to Joh 7:41-42 two points may be noticed: ( a) that the supposition on the part of the people here spoken of, that Jesus came from Galilec, may easily be explained in connection with the fact that His life had been passed there almost from its very beginning, and ( b) that John does not state his own view, but theirs. The conclusion that he did not know of the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem is simply an inference drawn from the fact that he does not insert here a correction of this error. But his object in the narrative is clearly to give the accurate statement of the condition and progress of opinion in the minds of the people and their rulers, and not to show how far that opinion was correct or incorrect. The critics everywhere demand that the evangelist should follow a plan in accordance with their own preconceived ideas, but he was writing from a different standpoint and with a different purpose.

5. The conduct of Nicodemus here is certainly far from that moral cowardice which has been so generally charged upon him because he came to Jesus at first by night. It is worthy of remark that the oldest and best authorities mostly omit the word νυκτός here. The author makes no reference in this passage, therefore, to his coming by night. But, whether he alludes to this fact or not, he does not give any indication of any disapproval of his course.

6. The last clause of Joh 7:52 may be best explained by supposing that the persons opposing Nicodemus were not speaking of ordinary prophets, but of a great prophet, like ὁ προφήτης of John 7:40, or the Christ. Galilee was not the region, they thought, from which such a prophet could be expected to come. If this was their meaning, the difficulty supposed to arise from the case of Jonah is removed.

Verses 37-53

III. On and after the great day of the Feast: 7:37-8:59.

The last and great day of the feast has arrived; Jesus lays aside the apologetic form which until now He has given to His teachings. His word assumes a solemnity proportioned to that of this holy day; He declares Himself to be the reality of all the great historic symbols which the feast recalls to mind. Such declarations only aggravate the unbelief of a part of those who surround Him, while they draw more closely the bond already formed between the believers and Himself.

Four Divisions: 1. The true source: John 7:37-52; John 2:0. The true light: John 8:12-20; John 3:0. The true Messiah: John 8:21-29; John 4:0. The incurable nature of Jewish unbelief: John 8:30-59. The passage Joh 7:53 to John 8:11, which contains the story of the woman taken in adultery, does not appear to us to belong to the genuine text of the Gospel.

Verse 39

Ver. 39. “ Now he said this of the Spirit whom they that believed on him were to receive; indeed, the Spirit was not yet, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Lucke and others criticise this explanation which John gives of the saying of Jesus. The future ῥεύσουσιν , shall flow, they say, is purely logical; it expresses the consequence which must result from the act of faith. Moreover, the living water is the eternal life which the believer draws from the words of Jesus, and by no means the Holy Spirit. Reuss finds here a proof of the way in which the evangelist misapprehends the meaning and import of certain sayings of the Lord.

Scholten thinks he can reject this passage as an interpolation. Certainly, if Joh 7:38 only reproduced the idea of John 7:37, the promise of Jesus might refer to a fact which had already occurred at the time of His speaking: comp. John 5:24-25, John 6:68-69 (the profession of Peter). But we have seen that the promise of Joh 7:38 passes far beyond that of John 7:37, and must refer to a more advanced and more remote state of believers. The facts prove that if, until the day of Pentecost, the apostles were themselves able to quench their thirst in the presence of Jesus, they could not before that event quench that of any one besides. The rivers of living water, those streams of new life which flowed forth from the heart of believers by means of the spiritual gifts (the different χαρίσματα , the gift of tongues, prophecy, teaching), all these signs of the dwelling of Christ in the Church by His Holy Spirit, appeared only after that day. Jesus distinctly marks this advance from the first state to the second in the passage John 14:17-18; and no one could understand better than John the difference between these two states. Let us remember St. Peter, the Twelve, the one hundred and twenty, proclaiming the wonderful things of God at Jerusalem, and bringing on that day three thousand persons to the faith! Nothing like this had taken place before. John also does not, as Lucke supposes, confound the Divine Spirit with the spiritual life which He communicates. The figure of living water, of which Jesus makes use, unites these two ideas in one conception: the Spirit, as the principle, and life, as the effect. The term “ he said this of...,” is broad enough to include this double reference.

The strange expression οὔπω ἦν , was not yet, occasioned the gloss δεδομένον , given, of the Vatican MS. and of some MSS. of the Itala, and ἐπ᾿ αὐτοῖς , upon them, of the Cambridge MS. This expression is explained by the words of Jesus: “ If I go not away, the Paraclete will not come to you ” ( Joh 16:7 ), and by all the words of chaps. 14 and 16 which show that the coming of the Spirit is the spiritual presence of Jesus Himself in the heart; comp. especially John 14:17-18. Until the day of Pentecost, the Spirit had acted on men both in the Old Covenant and in the circle of the disciples; but He was not yet in them as a possession and personal life. This is the reason why John employs this very forcible expression: “ The Spirit was not,” that is, as already having in men a permanent abode. Weiss supposes that the participle δεδομένον , given, might well be genuine, and that it may have been omitted because, according to 2 Corinthians 3:17, Jesus was made the subject of ἦν , was, in this sense: “Because Jesus was not yet spirit (pure spirit), since He was not yet glorified.” But, in that case, why expressly repeat the subject Jesus in the following clause. And how unnatural is this comparison with the passage in Corinthians!

The relation which John establishes between the exaltation of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit is explained in different ways. According to Hengstenberg and others, the ἐδοξάσθη designates the fact of the death of Jesus as the condition of the sending of the Spirit, because this gift implies the pardon of sins. The idea is a true one; but the term to be glorified is nowhere applied to the death of Jesus as such. In this sense, ὑψωθῆναι , to be lifted up (John 3:15; John 12:32; Joh 12:34 ) would be necessary. According to de Wette and Vinet, in a fine passage from the latter which Astiequotes, the connection between the glorification of Jesus and Pentecost consists in the fact, that, if Jesus had remained visibly on the earth, the Church could not have walked by faith and consequently could not have lived by the Spirit. But in the word ἐδοξάσθη the emphasis is by no means on the putting aside of the flesh, but on the being clothed with glory.

This remark seems to me also to set aside the explanation of Lucke and Reuss: “It was necessary that the veil of the flesh should fall, in order that the liberated spirit might freely manifest itself in the Church” (Lucke). It is neither the expiatory death nor the bodily disappearance which are laid down as the condition of Pentecost; it is the positive glorification of Jesus, His reinstatement, as man, in His glory as Logos. It is this supreme position which renders Him capable of disposing of the Spirit and of sending Him to His own. The truth expressed by John may also be presented in this other aspect. The work of the Spirit consists in making Christ Himself live in the heart of the believer. But it is evident that it is not a Christ who is not perfected, whom the Spirit is to glorify and to cause to live in humanity, but the God-man having reached His perfect stature. The epithet ἅγιον , holy, was probably added (see the variants) with the purpose of distinguishing the specifically Christian Spirit from the breath of God as it was already acting in the Old Covenant. By reading simply πνεῦμα one might take this word in the special sense in which it is so frequently used in the Epistles of St. Paul: the spiritual life as the fruit of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church, the spirit born of the Spirit ( Joh 3:6 ); this would facilitate the explanation of was not yet. Nevertheless, we do not think it possible to defend this meaning.

Verses 40-44

Vv. 40-44. “ Some among the multitude, who had heard these words said, This man is of a truth the prophet. Others said, This is the Christ. 41. But others said, Does the Christ then come out of Galilee? 42. Has not the Scripture declared that the Christ comes of the seed of David and from the village of Bethlehem, where David was? 43. So there arose a division in the multitude because of him, 44 and some of them would have taken him; but no one laid hands on him.

These brief descriptions of the impressions of the people, which follow each of the discourses of Jesus serve to mark the two- fold development which is effected and thus prepare the way for the understanding of the final crisis. These pictures are history taken in the act; how could they proceed from the pen of a later narrator? John has given us only the resume of the discourses delivered by Jesus on this occasion. This is what he gives us to understand by the plural τῶν λόγων , these discourses, which, according to the documents, is to be regarded as the true reading. We know already who this prophet was of whom a portion of the hearers are thinking. Comp. John 1:12; John 6:14. The transition from this supposition to the following one: This is the Messiah, is easily understood from the second of these passages.

As there were two shades of opinion among the well-disposed hearers, so there were also two in the hostile party: some limited themselves to making objections ( Joh 7:41-42 ); this feature suffices to isolate them morally from those previously mentioned. Others ( Joh 7:44 ) already wished to proceed to violent measures. De Wette, Weiss, Keim ask why John does not refute the objection advanced in John 7:42, which it would have been easy for him to do, if he had known or admitted the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem. From this silence they infer that he was ignorant of or denied the whole legend of the Davidic descent of Jesus and His birth at Bethlehem. But the evangelist relates his story objectively ( Weiss), and it is precisely in the case of his believing the objection to be well founded that he would be obliged to try to resolve it. John often takes pleasure in reporting objections which, for his readers who are acquainted with the Gospel history, turn immediately into proofs. At the same time he shows thereby how the critical spirit, to which the adversaries of Jesus had surrendered themselves had been a less sure guide than the moral instinct through which the disciples had attached themselves to Him. The γάρ , for ( Joh 7:41 ), refers to an understood negative: “By no means, for...” The present ἔρχεται , comes, is that of the idea, the expression of what must be, according to the prophecy. ῝Οπου ἦν where he was (his home);” comp. 1 Sam. 16:44. The some, according to Weiss, formed a part of the officers sent to take Him. But, in that case, why not designate them, as in Joh 7:45 ? They were rather some violent persons in the crowd who were urging the officers to execute their commission. To take Him, in the sense of causing Him to be taken.

Verses 45-49

Vv. 45-49. “ The officers therefore returned to the chief-priests and Pharisees. And they said to them, Why have you not brought him? 46. The officers answered, Never man spake like this man. 47. The Pharisees answered them, Are you also led astray? 48. Has any one of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? 49. But this multitude, who know not the law, are accursed!

Although this was a holy day, the Sanhedrim or at least a part of this body held a meeting, no doubt awaiting the result of the mission of the officers ( Joh 7:42 ). The union of the two substantives under the force of one and the same article indicates strongly community of action (comp. Joh 7:32 ). The pronoun ἐκεῖνοι , properly those there, is surprising, since it refers to the nearest persons.

Weiss and Westcott try to explain it by saying that the priests and Pharisees were morally farther removed from the author than were the officers, as if the moral distance could take the place of grammatical remoteness. We find here again, more evidently than elsewhere, the pregnant sense of this pronoun in John; not: those there (in contrast to these here), but: those and not others; those, always the same, the eternal enemies of Jesus. By their frank reply ( Joh 7:46 ) the officers, unintentionally, pay a strange compliment to these doctors whom they were accustomed every day to hear. Tischendorf has rightly restored, in his later editions, the last words of John 7:46; the omission of these words in the Alexandrian authorities arises from the confounding of the two ἄνθρωπος .

By the you also ( Joh 7:47 ), the rulers appeal to the vanity of their servants. John takes pleasure, in John 7:48, in again maliciously recalling one of these sayings of the adversaries of Jesus on which the contradiction made by facts impressed the stamp of ridicule (comp. the conduct of Nicodemus in Joh 7:50 ). The commentators recall, on the suggestion of John 7:49, the contemptuous expressions contained in the Rabbinical writings with reference to those who are uneducated. “The ignorant man is not pious; the learned only will be raised from the dead.” We must also recall the expressions: “people of the earth,” “vermin,” etc., applied by the learned Jews to the common people. By the words: who know not the law, the rulers insinuate that for themselves they have unanswerable reasons derived from the law for rejecting Jesus. Sacerdotal wrath willingly assumes an esoteric mien. The reading ἐπάρατοι belongs to the classical style; the LXX. and the New Testament ( Gal 3:10-13 ) use the form ἐπικατάρατος .

But there is one present who calls them to order in the name of that very law which they claim alone to know:

Verses 50-52

Vv. 50-52. “ Nicodemus, who came to him before by night and who was one of them, says to them, 51. Does our law then condemn a man before hearing from him and taking knowledge of what he does? 52. They answered and said to him, Art thou, then, thyself also, a Galilean? Search and see that out of Galilee arises no prophet.

The part which Nicodemus plays on this occasion is the proof of the advance which has been made in him since his visit to Jesus. This is noticeably indicated by the apposition, “who came to Jesus before. ” The omission of these words in the Sinaitic MS. is probably owing to a confounding of αὐτούς and αὐτόν . Νυκτός , by night, is omitted by the Alexandrian authorities; but we may hold that it has for its aim to bring out the contrast between his present boldness and his former caution. The πρῶτου or πρότερον , before, which the Alexandrian authorities read in place of νυκτός , likewise establishes the contrast between his present conduct and his previous course. The second apposition: who was one of them, ironically recalls their own question, John 7:48: “Has any one of the rulers...”?

The term ὁ νόμος , the law, John 7:51, is at the beginning of the sentence; it contains a cutting allusion to the claim of the rulers that they alone have knowledge of the law ( Joh 7:49 ). The subject of the verbs ἀκούσῃ and γνῷ is the law personified in the judge.

We see in Joh 7:52 how passion regards and judges impartiality. It discovers in it the indication of a secret sympathy, and in this it is not always mistaken. The Sanhedrim maliciously assume in their reply that one cannot be an adherent of Jesus without being, like Him, a Galilean: “It must be that thou art His fellow-countryman to give up thyself thus to His imposture.” The last words which the narrative places in the mouth of Jesus' adversaries seem to contain an assertion which is contrary to the facts of the case; for, it is claimed, several prophets, Elijah, Nahum, Hosea, Jonah, were of Galilean origin. Hence the conclusion has been drawn ( Bretschneider, Baur) that the members of the Sanhedrim, who must have known their own sacred history, could not have uttered these words, and that it is the evangelist who has wrongly attributed to them this error. If the perfect ἐγήγερται , has arisen, is read, we might with some writers understand the thought thus: “And see that a prophet has not (really) arisen in Galilee (in the person of this man).” There would thus be an allusion to the title prophet of Galilee, which was frequently given to Jesus. But this does not obviate the difficulty.

For there still remains the phrase ἐρεύνησον καὶ ἴδε , search and see that..., which implies that the fact has not yet occurred. The more probable reading, the present ἐγείρεται , does not arise, also does not set aside the difficulty; for the proverb: “no prophet arises in Galilee” can only be an axiom resulting, according to them, from Scriptural experience (“search and thou shalt see”). The attempt at a complete justification of this appeal to history must be given up. Undoubtedly, the Galilean origin of three of the four prophets cited (Elijah, Nahum, Hosea) is either false or uncertain; see Hengstenberg. Elijah was of Gilead; Hosea, of Samaria, which cannot be identified with Galilee; Nahum, of El-Kosh, a place whose situation is uncertain. But Jonah remains. His case is an exception which passion might have caused the rulers to forget in a moment of rage and which, if it had been mentioned in the way of objection to the rulers, would have been set aside by them as an exception confirming the rule. Notwithstanding this isolated fact, Galilee was and still continued to be an outcast land in the theocracy. Westcott: “Galilee is not the land of prophets, still less of the Messiah.” The gravest thing which they forget, is not Jonah, it is the prophecy Isa 8:22 to Isaiah 9:1, where the preaching of the Messiah in Galilee is foretold.

Verse 53

The story of the woman taken in adultery: 7:53-8:11.

Three questions arise with regard to this section: Does it really belong to the text of our Gospel? If not, how was it introduced into it? What is to be thought of the truth of the fact itself?

The most ancient testimony for the presence of this passage in the New Testament, is the use made of it in the Apostolical Constitutions (John 1:2; Joh 1:24 ) to justify the employment of gentle means in ecclesiastical discipline with reference to penitents. This apocryphal work seems to have received its definitive form about the end of the third century. If then this passage is not authentic in John, its interpolation must go back as far as the third or the second century. The Fathers of the fourth century, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, admit its authenticity and think that it was rejected in a part of the documents by men who were weak in faith and who were afraid that “their wives might draw from it immoral inferences” (Augustine). Certain MSS. of the Itala ( Veronensis, Colbertinus, etc.), from the fourth century to the eleventh, the Vulgate, the Jerusalem Syriac translation of the fifth century, the MSS. D F G K H U Γ , from the sixth century to the ninth, and more than three hundred Mnn. (Tischendorf), read this passage, and do not mark it with any sign of doubtfulness. On the other hand, it is wanting in the Peschito and in two of the best MSS. of the Itala, the Vercellensis, of the fourth, and the Brixianus, of the sixth century. Tertullian, Cyprian, Origen, Chrysostom do not speak of it. א A B C L T X Δ , from the fourth century to the ninth, and fifty Mnn., omit it entirely (L and Δ leaving a vacant space); E M S Λ Π and forty-five Mnn. mark it with signs of doubtfulness. Finally, in some documents it is found transposed to another place: one Mn. (225) places it after John 7:36; ten others, at the end of the Gospel; finally, four (13, 69, etc.), in the Gospel of Luke, after chap. 21 Euthymius regards it as a useful addition; Theophylact rejects it altogether. From the point of view of external criticism, three facts prove interpolation:

1. It is impossible to regard the omission of this passage, in the numerous documents which we have just looked at, as purely accidental. If it were authentic, it must necessarily have been omitted of design, and with the motive which is supposed by some of the Fathers. But, at this rate, how many other omissions must have been made in the New Testament? And would such a liberty have been allowed with respect to a text decidedly recognized as apostolic?

2. Besides, there is an extraordinary variation in the text in the documents which present this passage; sixty variants are counted in these twelve verses. Griesbach has distinguished three altogether different texts: the ordinary text, that of D, and a third which results from a certain number of MSS. A true apostolic text could never have undergone such alterations.

3. How does it happen that this entire passage is found so differently located in the documents: after John 7:36, at the end of our Gospel, at the end of Luke 21:0 finally between chaps. 7 and 8 of our Gospel, as in the T. R.? Such hesitation is likewise without example with respect to a genuine apostolic text.

From the point of view of internal criticism, three reasons confirm this

1. The style does not have the Johannean stamp; it has much more the characteristics of the Synoptical tradition. The οὖν , the most common form of transition in John, is altogether wanting; it is replaced by δέ (11 times). The expressions ὄρθρου (John says πρωΐ ), πάςλαός , καθίσας ἐδίδασκεν , οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ φαρισαῖοι , are without analogy in John, and remind us of the Synoptic forms of expression. Whence could this difference arise, if the passage were genuine?

2. The preamble Joh 7:53 presents no precise meaning, as we shall see. It is of a suspicious amphibological character.

3. Finally, there is a complete want of harmony between the spirit of this story and that of the entire Johannean narrative. The latter presents us in this part the testimony which Jesus bears to Himself and the position of faith and unbelief which His hearers assume on this occasion. From this point of view, the story of the woman taken in adultery can only be regarded as a digression. As Reuss very well says: “Anecdotes of this kind tending to a teaching essentially moral are foreign to the fourth Gospel.” As soon as this passage is rejected, the connection between the testimony which precedes and that which follows, is obvious. It is expressly marked by the πάλιν , again, result: John 8:12, which joins the new declaration, John 8:12-20, to that of the great day of the feast, John 7:37 ff.

The authenticity of this passage is also no longer admitted, except by a small number of Protestant exegetes ( Lange, Ebrard, Wieseler), by the Catholic interpreters ( Hug, Scholz, Maier), and by some adversaries of the authenticity of the Gospel, who make a weapon of the internal improbabilities of the story ( Bretschneider, Strauss, B. Bauer, Hilgenfeld). At the time of the Reformation it was judged to be unauthentic by Erasmus, Calvin and Beza; later, it was likewise expunged by Grotius, Wetstein, Semler, Lucke, Tholuck, Olshausen, de Wette, Baur, Reuss, Luthardt, Ewald, Hengstenberg, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Meyer, Weiss, Keil. According to Hilgenfeld (Einleit. ins. N. T.), this passage has in its favor preponderating testimonies; it places us in the very midst of the days which followed the great day of the feast; finally, it is required by the words of John 8:15. These arguments have no need to be refuted.

How was this passage introduced into our Gospel? Hengstenberg attributes the composition of it to a believer who was an enemy of Judaism and who wished to represent, under the figure of this degraded woman, whom Jesus had yet restored, the Gentile world pardoned by grace. In order to give more credit to this fiction, the author inserted it in the text of our Gospel with a preamble, and it found its way into a certain number of copies. But the allegorical intention which is thus supposed does not appear from any of the details of the story; besides, it is not exactly true that the woman was pardoned by Jesus. We shall give attention to the objections raised by Hengstenberg against the internal truthfulness of the story.

It is more simple to find in this passage the redaction of some ancient tradition. Eusebius relates ( H. E., 3.40) that the work of Papias contained “the history of a woman accused before the Lord of numerous sins, a history which was contained also in the Gospel of the Hebrews.” Meyer, Weiss and Keil call in question the existence of any relation between this story of Papias and that with which we are occupied. But they have nothing to object against the identity of the two except the expression: of numerous sins, used by this Father, as if this very vague term could not be applied to the woman of whom our narrative speaks. The exhortation of Jesus: “ Go, and sin no more,” undoubtedly does not refer to a single act of sin. For ourselves, it seems to us very difficult not to recognize in this story preserved by Papias that which is related in our pericope. A reader of Papias or of the Gospel of the Hebrews undoubtedly placed it as a note, either at the end of his collection of the Gospels, consequently at the end of John (hence its place in 10 Mnn.), or in a place which seemed to be suitable for it in the Gospel narrative, for example here, as an instance of the machinations of the rulers (John 7:45 ff.), or as an explanation of the words which are to follow John 8:15 (“ I judge no man ”), or indeed after Luke 21:38 (where it is found in 4 Mnn.), a passage which presents a striking analogy to our narrative (comp. especially Joh 8:1-2 of John with this verse of Luke). It was made the close of that series of tests to which the Sanhedrim, and then the Pharisees and Sadducees had subjected Jesus on that memorable day of the last week of His life. If it was so, we may rank this story in the number of the truly historical, but extra-Scriptural narratives, which the oral tradition of the earliest times has preserved.

Hitzig and Holtzmann have supposed that this passage originally formed a part of the writing which, according to them, was the source of our three Synoptics (the alleged primitive Mark), and that it was found there between the 17th and 18th verses of chap. 12 of our canonical Mark. Our three Synoptics omitted it, because of the indulgence with which adultery seemed to be treated in it. On the other hand, it found entrance into the Gospel of the Hebrews and by this door entered into our Gospels, in different places. But no explanation is given as to how in so short a time the sentiment of the Church could have completely changed, so that to a unanimous rejection there shortly succeeded so general a restoration. Our explanation appears to us at once more natural and less hypothetical. Moreover, Holtzmann himself now gives up the hypothesis of the Proto-Mark.

The question as to whether this story is the tradition of an actual fact or a valueless legend can only be solved by the detailed study of the passage. We will give the translation according to the T. R., indicating only the principal variations.


7:53-8:11. In addition to the remarks of Godet in his full and able discussion of this passage, the writer of these notes would say only a few words. The recent English commentator, J. B. McClellan (The New Testament, a new translation, etc., etc., Vol. I. The Gospels, London, 1875), takes very strong ground in favor of the genuineness of the passage, and, as one of the latest presentations of that side of the question, the reader may be referred to his work.

The external argument here will depend largely for its force on the weight which is given to the oldest manuscripts. The comparatively small school among critics to which McClellan and Dean Burgon belong depreciate the value of א and B, and, in this case, the former dismisses them with the remark: “We are entitled nay, we are bound entirely to throw out א B, as already discredited and worthless witnesses in a matter of this kind, in consequence of their ignorant or criminal omission of Mark 16:9-20.” If these and the other oldest MSS. are to be allowed a place worthy of respect in the matter of testimony, there can be but little doubt that the external evidence is decidedly against the genuineness of the passage as a part of John's Gospel. As for the internal argument, the following remarks, it is believed, are justified:

( a) The progress of thought from Joh 7:37 to Joh 8:12 is so natural, especially if Godet's explanation of the rivers of living water and the light is correct, that the connection of the two verses in the same discourse is antecedently probable. The passage in question seems to break the unity.

( b) It can scarcely be questioned that there is a Synoptical, rather than a Johannean, character in this story, its language and style. No similar phenomenon of so remarkable a character is found in this Gospel.

( c) The peculiarities of expression, and particularly the use of δέ instead of οὖν , are points not easily reconciled with the Johannean authorship. McClellan says, indeed, with regard to δέ , that John uses it nearly as often as οὖν (the former about 204 times and the latter 206 times). He also calls attention to the fact that in chs. 1, John 3:1-24, chap. 14, etc. the particle οὖν is not used at all. The question in such cases is not to be determined by mere numbers, but by careful examination of the several instances which are alleged. The absence of the particle in chs. 1, 14, etc., is connected with the paratactic construction which is so characteristic of John in passages like these, and hence such passages have no bearing on the question now under consideration.

As to the other point, the exclusive use of δέ in this passage, as contrasted with that of οὖν , or οὖν and δέ together, in the preceding and following context, is a matter which cannot fail to be noticed by the careful student. Nowhere else in the Gospel is such a use of δέ in a long passage to be found. If δέ is found at all, it is found in connection with οὖν , as in John 7:37-52.

When the great number of variants is considered. in connection with these peculiarities of expression, the internal evidence must be regarded, like the external, as pointing somewhat strongly towards the view that the verses are an interpolation. It must be added, that the story does not seem to fall, as naturally as do the other narratives of this Gospel in general, into the line of testimony and of the development of belief in the minds of the disciples. This point, however, which is also hinted at by Godet, cannot be insisted upon as by any means decisive. R. V. places this passage in brackets and separates it from the preceding and following verses, with an indication in the margin as to the facts in the case so far as the external evidence is concerned.

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Bibliographical Information
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on John 7". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books".