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Bible Commentaries
John 8

Godet's Commentary on Selected BooksGodet on Selected Books

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First Cycle: Chapt. 5-8.

This cycle contains three sections:

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

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

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

Verses 1-2

John 8:1-2. A striking analogy to the Synoptic narrative, both in the matter and the form; comp. Luke 21:38.

Verses 1-11

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 ), πάς ὁ λαός , 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.

Verses 1-59

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.

Verses 3-4

Vv. 3, 4. Γραμματεῖς , the scribes, is a ἅπαξ λεγόμενον in John; the Synoptic style. It is scarcely probable that already at that time these men, so proud of their knowledge, would have submitted to Him so grave a question and would have thus consented to concede to Him so great authority in the eyes of the whole people; comp. John 7:26.

Verse 5

Ver. 5. Stoning was ordained by Moses only for the case of an unfaithful betrothed virgin ( Deu 22:23-24 ); for the adulterous wife, the kind of death was not determined ( Lev 20:10 ). According to the Talmud, where the penalty is not specified, the law meant, not stoning, but strangling. And Meyer infers from this that this woman was an unfaithful betrothed virgin. This supposition is neither natural nor necessary. The declarations of the Talmud do not form a law for the time of Jesus. Tholuck, Ewald and Keil, as it seems to me, rightly hold, that where the law was silent, it was rather the punishment of stoning which was inflicted. This view is confirmed by John 8:2; Joh 8:27 of the chapter cited (Leviticus 20:0), where the penalty of death, not specified in John 8:10, is expressly designated as that by stoning. Comp. also Exodus 31:4; Exodus 35:2, where the penalty of death is ordained for violators of the Sabbath, with Num. 5:32-34, where this punishment is inflicted, without any new determination having been given, under the form of stoning.

Verse 6

Ver. 6. In what did the snare consist? Some, Augustine, Erasmus, Luther and Calvin think that they desired to lead Jesus to pronounce a sentence whose severity would place it in contradiction to His ordinary compassion. Others, Euthymius, Bengel, Tholuck, Hengstenberg, Weiss and Keil suppose that the adversaries expected a decision in the line of clemency, which would have put Jesus in contradiction to the Mosaic statute. But, in both of these cases, there would have been no snare properly so called, no danger existing for Jesus except in case of an affirmative answer in the first explanation and of a negative answer in the second. Hug and Meyer suppose the snare more skillfully laid, that is to say, threatening Jesus on both sides. If He replies negatively, He contradicts Moses; if He replies in conformity with Moses, He enters into conflict with the Roman law which did not punish adultery with death. This appears to me to approach the truth. Only the Roman law has nothing to do here; for the Romans did not impose on the provinces their own legislation, and the conflict resultant from a simple contradiction between the two codes would have had nothing striking enough in the eyes of the people to seriously injure Jesus.

The solution seems to me to be simple: If Jesus answered: Moses is right; stone her! they would have gone to Pilate and accused Jesus of infringing upon the rights of the Roman authority, which had reserved to itself the jus gladii here, as in all conquered countries. If He answered: Do not stone her! they would have decried Him before the people and would even have accused Him before the Sanhedrim as a false Messiah; for the Messiah must maintain or restore the sovereignty of the law. It is exactly the same combination as when the question was proposed to Him of paying tribute to Caesar (Luke 20:0 and parallels). Luthardt and Reuss also adopt this explanation. Weiss objects, it is true, that they could not reasonably expect from Jesus that He would give the order to stone her; and that, in any case, He could still reserve the confirmation of the penalty for the Roman authority. But in the case of a sentence of condemnation it would have been in vain for Jesus to place all the limitations upon this answer that were possible no account would have been taken of this before the Roman governor. He had been accused indeed of forbidding to pay tribute to Caesar, though He had answered in precisely the opposite way.

The act of Jesus in the face of the question which is proposed to Him is not simply, as it is frequently understood from certain examples derived either from the Greek authors or from the Rabbis, a way of isolating Himself and expressing His indifference with regard to the subject proposed. In the first place, it could not be an indifferent question for Jesus in such a situation. Then, notwithstanding all that Weiss says, it seems to me that Hengstenberg is in the true line of thought when he sees in this act, thus understood, a sort of trick imcompatible with the moral dignity of Jesus. If He gave Himself the appearance of doing a thing, it was because He was really doing it. He wrote, and that which He wrote must quite naturally, as it seems to me, be the words which He utters at this same moment ( Joh 8:7 ). He writes the first part of it while He is stooping down the first time ( Joh 8:6 ), and the second part when, after having raised Himself, He resumes the same attitude ( Joh 8:8 ). Thereby Jesus takes the position of a divine judge both of the woman who is brought to Him and of the very persons themselves who present her to Him. A sentence is not only pronounced: it is written. This act has a meaning analogous to that of the saying of Jeremiah ( Joh 17:13 ): “Those who turn aside from Me shall be written in the earth.”

Verses 7-8

Vv. 7, 8. The admirable, yet at the same time very simple, art of the answer of Jesus in Joh 8:7 consists in bringing back the question from the judicial domain, where His adversaries were placing it, to the moral ground, beyond which Jesus does not dream for a moment of extending His authority; comp. Luke 12:14. A judge in his official function may certainly pass judgment and condemn, though being himself a sinner. But such is not, at this moment, the position of Jesus, who is not invested with the official function of a judge. It is also quite as little the position of those who submit the question to Him. In order to have the right to make themselves of their own motion the representatives and executors of the justice of God, it would be necessary therefore, that at least they should themselves have been exempt from every sin which was fitted to provoke a like judgment against themselves. Undoubtedly it might be objected that in former times the entire people was called to condemn such criminals by stoning them. But the time when God committed to the people the function of judges in the case of similar crimes had long since passed. Jesus takes the theocracy, not as being in its ideal form, but such as He finds it, providentially deprived of its ancient constitution and subjected to the foreign yoke. The interpreters who, like Lucke, Meyer, and so many others, restrict the application of the term without sin to adultery or, in general, to impurity, misconstrue the thought of Jesus. In His eyes “he who has offended in the matter of one commandment, is guilty of all” ( Jam 2:10 ). The skill of this answer consists in disarming the improvised judges of this woman, without however infringing in the least upon the ordinance of Moses. On one side, the words: let him cast the stone, sustain the code, but on the other, the words: without sin, disarm any one who would desire to apply it.

Verse 9

Ver. 9. If the Pharisees had been sincere in their indignation against the accused, it was the time to lead her to the presence of the officially constituted judge. But it was not the evil that they were set against: it was Jesus. Recognizing the fact that their design has failed, they take the only course which remains for them, that of withdrawing, and they make thus the tacit avowal of the odious intention which had brought them. Πρεσβύτεροι is not here an official name; it is the oldest who, as the most venerable representatives of public morality, had taken their place at the head of the company: ἔσχατοι , the last, does not mean the youngest or the last in respect to social position, but simply, as Meyer says, the last who left. The word alone implies only the departure of the accusers.

Verses 10-11

Vv. 10, 11. By the οὐδὲ ἐγώ , neither do I, Jesus gives the woman to understand that there was nevertheless one there who, without acting in contradiction to the rule of justice laid down in John 8:7, might really have the right of taking up the stone, if He thought it fit to do so; but this one even renounced it through charitable feeling and in order to leave her the opportunity of returning to virtue: “ Go, and sin no more. ” We must not see in the words of Jesus: I do not condemn thee, a declaration of pardon similar to that which He addresses to the penitent sinful woman in Luke 7:48; Luke 7:50. Bengel rightly remarks that Jesus does not say: “Go in peace: thy sins are forgiven thee.” For the sinful woman who is in question here did not come to Jesus by reason of a movement of repentance and faith. By not condemning her, Jesus simply grants her the opportunity for repenting and believing. It is a promise of forbearance, not justification; comp. Romans 3:24-25 ( πάρεσις ). And by saying to her: Sin no more, He indicates to her the path on which alone she can really lay hold upon salvation.

Thus vanish all the moral difficulties and all the historical improbabilities which Hengstenberg and others claim that they find in this story. As Reuss says: “The authenticity of the fact seems to be sufficiently established.” This incident is in every point worthy of the wisdom, holiness and goodness of Him to whom it is attributed. Jesus clearly distinguished the judicial domain from the moral domain; He wakened in His adversaries the consciousness of their own sinfulness, and He made this woman understand how she must use the opportunity of grace which is accorded to her. Finally, in the words: Where are the accusers? we think we hear, as it were, the prelude of that triumphant exclamation of the Apostle Paul: “Who shall accuse? Who shall condemn?” (Romans 8:33-34.)

The internal characteristics of this inimitable incident of the life of Jesus locate it chronologically in the same period with the other analogous facts related by the Synoptics, that is to say, immediately after the entrance into Jerusalem on Palmday (Luke 20:0; Matthew 22:0, etc.). It is, moreover, at this moment only that so explicit a recognition of the authority of Jesus on the part of the members of the Sanhedrim can be understood.

Verses 12-20

2. Jesus, the light of the world: 8:12-20.

We find in this section: 1. A testimony ( Joh 8:12 ); 2. An objection ( Joh 8:13 ); 3. The answer of Jesus ( Joh 8:14-19 ); 4. An historical notice ( Joh 8:20 ). John 8:12. “ Jesus, taking up the discourse again, said to them: I am the light of the world; he who follows me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.

The πάλιν , again, can the less be a simple transition to a new discourse since it is placed at the beginning with a certain emphasis and is accompanied by οὖν , therefore, which would, in that case, be a useless repetition (in answer to Weiss). It announces therefore a new testimony, analogous to that of John 7:37 ff., as if John meant to say: “Jesus, after having thus applied to Himself a first symbol, takes up the discourse again for the purpose of applying to Himself a second.” Was this new discourse given on the same day as the preceding one? According to Weiss, Joh 8:20 proves the contrary, because it indicates a new situation. But was Jesus obliged to remain during the whole day as if fastened to one spot? The term ἐλάλησε , He spoke, indicates a less solemn attitude and tone than the expressions He opened His mouth and cried, in John 7:37. This is a continuation, a complement of the preceding discourse; this circumstance speaks in favor of the identity of the day. In any case, it must be said with Luthardt: “The historic thread which concerned the author was quite other than that of days and hours.”

For what reason does Jesus designate Himself as the light of the world? Hug and others have thought that He alluded to the brightness which was shed forth by the two candelabras which were lighted at evening during the feast, in the court of the women, and the light of which, according to the Rabbis, shone over the whole of Jerusalem. This ceremony was very noisy; a sacred dance, in which grave men participated, took place around the candelabras; and it may be that Jesus made allusion to this solemn march in the following words: “He that followeth me shall not walk...” The singing and the music of instruments filled the temple; the festivity was prolonged even until daylight. The celebrated Maimonides affirms that this ceremony occurred on every evening of the feast, which would accord with the explanation of Hug. But the Talmud speaks of it only on occasion of the first evening. For this reason Vitringa and other commentators have thought that they must connect this saying rather with some prophetic passage which may have been read in the temple during that day; Isaiah 42:6: “ I will cause thee to be the covenant of the people, and the light of the nations. ” Comp. also Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 49:9.

But it is not certain that there were regular readings from the Old Testament in the temple; even the existence of a synagogue in the sacred inclosure is doubtful (see Lucke). Jarchi speaks only of a synagogue “situated near the court, on the temple-mountain.” And, above all, the saying of Jesus does not contain any sufficiently precise allusion to these prophetic passages. The commentators who hold that there is an allusion to the candelabras of the temple seem to me to commit the same mistake as in the explanation of the previous symbol (John 7:37 ff.). Thinking only of the ceremony which was celebrated in the time of Jesus, they forget what is much more important, the miraculous and beneficent fact of which this ceremony was the memorial, and which was for Jesus certainly the essential point. The feast of Tabernacles, which at this time assembled the people together, was designed to recall to their minds the blessings of God during the sojourn in the wilderness. Hence, the tents of leafy branches under which they lived and which gave the name to the feast. Now among these blessings, the two greatest had been the water from the rock and the pillar of fire in the cloud. Jesus has just applied to Himself the first of these types. He now applies to Himself the other (hence the πάλιν , Joh 8:12 ).

It is thus that Jesus celebrates the feast of Tabernacles, translating it, in some sort, into His own person. Only Israel is henceforth the whole world, the κόσμος , as in chap. 6. Jesus was the manna, not for the people only, but for humanity, and in John 7:37, the living water for whosoever is athirst. We have already explained in Joh 1:4 and Joh 3:19 the term light; it is the perfect revelation of moral good, that is to say, of God, the living good. The expression: “ He that followeth me shall not walk...,” alludes, not to the torch-dance in the court, but to the pilgrimage of Israel in the desert. The people arose, advanced, stopped, encamped, at the signal which came from the luminous cloud; with such a guide, there was no more darkness for the travelers. Thus are the obscure things of existence, the night which the selfish will and passions spread over his life, dissipated for man from the moment when he receives Jesus into his heart. At every step, he begins by looking to Him, and he finds in Him the revelation of holiness, the only real truth. The light of life does not signify that which consists in life or which produces it, but that which springs from it ( Joh 1:4 ); a light which radiates from the life in communion with God and which directs the exercise of the understanding. The future περιπατήσει , in the Received Text, is probably a correction in accordance with the following ἕξει . The conjunctive aorist must be read οὐ μὴ περιπατήσῃ ; comp. John 10:5. The use of the form οὐ μή is founded upon the natural distrust of the heart: “It is not to be feared, whatever may be its own darkness, that it will be compelled still to walk in the night.” ῞Εξει : it will possess internally.

There is a profound connection between this testimony and that which precedes. In John 7:37, Jesus presented Himself as the life ( ὕδωρ ζῶν ); in John 8:12, He offers Himself as the light which emanates from the life. As to the response which man should make to these divine gifts, in the first passage it is the receptivity of faith ( shall drink); in the second, the activity of practical obedience ( shall walk).

Vv. 12-20.

1. If the passage containing the story of the woman taken in adultery is omitted, Joh 8:12 follows soon after John 7:37, and contains what we may believe to have been the second point of the discourse, which would have been developed in both of its parts more fully, had it not been for the interruptions from the multitude and the Pharisees. The question by which Jesus is interrupted in these verses turns the discourse into a new line, and leads Him to speak of the testimony on which He rests. As to the consistency of what He says in Joh 8:14 with what is said in John 8:31, see Note XXIX., Vol. I., p. 557. This fourteenth verse declares that, in the present case, although He testifies of Himself, His testimony is true, because He is the only man who has the knowledge on which reliable testimony can be founded. In connection with this statement. we must explain John 8:17-18.

In one sense, it seems evident that Jesus does not comply here with the demand of the Mosaic law to which He appeals. There is but one witness besides Himself. But the case is one which allows no more. The only two who can bear testimony are the two who know and these two, by the necessity of the case, are the one sending and the one sent, for “no man has seen God at any time,” John 1:18. The only-begotten Son, therefore, having come in the flesh, must not only be the revealer of God, but He must also be the human witness of Himself. Indeed, the witness of God on His behalf must, in some measure, come through Him. While there is not, therefore, a fulfilment of the Mosaic requirement, in the letter of it, there is a full satisfaction of its spirit.

2. The expression, You judge according to the flesh, John 8:15, seems to be immediately connected with the words of John 8:14. As they are wholly unqualified for judging, through want of knowledge, they judge according to the fleshly standard. They look upon Him as a mere man like themselves. They judge apart from any connection with God. He, on the other hand, in case He passes judgment, does so in union with the Father, and hence His judgment answers to the true condition of things and the true idea. The peculiar form of the sentence: “I judge no one, and if I judge...I and the one who sent me,” favors the view that there is a reference to a final and decisive judgment which is not made independently of God. In view of this fact, Jesus does not make it His work here on earth to judge any one, and if, on any occasion and in any subordinate sense, He does so, He still does it in accordance with the Father's mind. It seems evident that the last clause of Joh 8:15 and Joh 8:16 are parenthetical in their character, and that the thought moves on from John 8:14-15 a, as above explained, to John 8:17 f.

3. The question of the Pharisees in Joh 8:19 is a challenge to produce the evidence of the Father, of whom He speaks. We can scarcely suppose that, after all which Jesus had said in Jerusalem, these Jewish leaders could have doubted whom He meant by His Father, or could have intended to imply a doubt. But they demanded the production of the evidence from the Father in some conspicuous way which might answer the demands of the law. They said, in substance, You cannot give us the proof from God. The second witness thus fails you. Where is your Father? This seems to be the force of the interrogative particle ποῦ . They did not say τίς , for this was not the question which was in their minds.

4. In His answer, Jesus presents before them the incapacity which they have, in their present moral state, to appreciate the testimony of God, which comes with its full force only to the soul which has susceptibility to the truth. To know God, they must know Him who reveals Him. Thus we have a new declaration and testimony to the truth for which the Gospel was written.

Verse 13

Ver. 13. “ The Pharisees therefore said to him, thou bearest witness of thyself; thy witness is not true.

Lucke and Weiss infer from the words the Pharisess, that the pilgrims had already departed from Jerusalem. But why could not the Pharisees have been among the multitude present at the feast? This last word: is not true, does not signify: “is false,” but: “is not sufficiently guaranteed, not worthy of credit.” There was a Rabbinical adage which said indeed: “No man bears witness of Himself.” The objectors raise only a question of form; they are undoubtedly somewhat intimidated by the Lord's tone of authority. They might have quoted to Him His own word of John 5:31: “If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.” Jesus treats first the question of substance ( Joh 8:14 ); then, that of form ( Joh 8:15-18 ).

Verse 14

Ver. 14. “ Jesus answered and said to them; Even if I bear witness of myself, my witness is true, because I know whence I came and whither I go; but you know not whence I come or whither I go.

Jesus had accepted in chap. 5 the position of an ordinary man; this is the reason why he had cited in His favor the double testimony of the Father, through the miracles and through the Scriptures. Here, He asserts Himself and claims His true position, which He had voluntarily abandoned. This difference arises from the fact that the rupture between Him and His hearers is now further advanced. He asserts Himself more categorically. The inner light which He possesses with regard to His person places Him absolutely beyond the illusions of pride.

And this is the reason why He is, at the same time, the light for others. The term οἶδα , I know, designates that unchangeably clear and transparent consciousness which Jesus has of Himself; it bears at once on the place of His origin and of that to which He would return, on the beginning and the end of His existence. He who distinctly knows these two limits of His life comprehends it altogether. Jesus is distinctly conscious of Himself as of a being coming from on high and returning on high, and as one for whom, consequently, the earthly life is only a passing period with a mission to fulfill, a transition from heaven to heaven. The whole of Christianity rests upon this consciousness which Jesus had of His person. It is the heroism of faith to give oneself up to the extraordinary testimony which this being has borne to Himself. The words: “ you know not,” are more than the announcement of a fact; they contain a reproach. They also could know, if only they had their minds open to perceive. In the heavenly and holy character of the appearance of Jesus, every upright heart can discern the divinity of His origin as well as that of His destination. The disjunctive particle ἤ , or, in the second clause (see the critical note) is more forcible than the simple καί , and, in the first: Jesus adds knowledge to knowledge; hence the and; but as for them, when they are inquired of with reference to one point or another, they show always the same ignorance; hence the or.

Verses 15-16

Vv. 15, 16. “ You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one; 16 and if I judge, my judgment is true, because I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.

The objection of the Pharisees, John 8:13, contained a judgment respecting Jesus. They treated Him as an ordinary man, as a sinner, like themselves. They accused Him of overrating Himself in the testimonies which He bore to Himself. It is to this that the charge refers: “ You judge according to the flesh. ” We must not confound κατὰ τὴν σάρκα , “according to the flesh,” with κατὰ σάρκα , in a fleshly way. The flesh here is not the veil extended before the eyes of the one who judges falsely (the carnal spirit or mind); it is rather, according to the article τήν , the appearance marked by weakness of the one who is the object of judgment, by reason of which, at first sight, he is not at all distinguished from other men. The first sense, however, is included in the second, for with a less carnal heart the Jews would have discerned in Jesus, under the covering of the flesh, a being of a higher nature and would have accorded to Him, in the midst of mankind, a place by Himself. This superficial estimate of which Jesus sees Himself to be the object on their part, awakens in Him the feeling of a contrast. While these blind persons allow themselves to make their estimate of Him, with a perfect confidence in their own light, He, the incarnate light, judges no one. Thus, those who are ignorant allow themselves to judge, while He who knows denies Himself this right. And yet, it cannot be denied, Jesus judges also; He Himself declares it in John 8:16.

Writers have put themselves to great pains to explain this contradiction. The word no one has been paraphrased in this way: “No one, according to the outward appearances” (the flesh); so Cyril. Or, what amounts to nearly the same thing: “No one... as you judge me ” (Lucke). Or again: “No one now, in contrast with the judgment to come” ( Augustine, Chrysostom). But according to these views, there is an addition of what is not said. Or, without an ellipsis and in the sense of John 3:17: “The principal aim of my coming, is to save; and if in exceptional cases I judge, it is only with reference to those who will not allow themselves to be saved” ( Calvin, Meyer, Astie, Luthardt, Weiss, Keil, Westcott, with different shades of explanation). But the idea of these exceptional judgments is definitely excluded by the οὐδένα , no one, of John 8:15. Reuss makes Joh 3:18 apply here: “No one, because those who are judged have judged themselves.” But how then are we to explain the words: And if I judge? To all these opinions I should prefer that of Storr, who translates ἐγώ , I, in the sense of I alone. Comp. John 8:26.

What Jesus charges upon the Jews is that they think themselves competent to judge Him by themselves and according to their own light ( ὑμεῖς , you). “As for me,” Jesus means to say, “in so far as I am left to myself, reduced to my own human individuality, I do not allow myself anything of the kind; as such I judge no one.” It is the same thought, in a negative form, as that of Joh 5:30 in an affirmative form: “ As I hear, I judge.” The emphasis would thus be upon the pronoun ἐγώ , I, which its position in the sentence, indeed, makes prominent. And Jesus could thus add, without contradicting Himself, John 8:16: “And yet if I judge.” For then, it is not really He who judges, since He does nothing but pronounce the sentences which He has heard from His Father. This is the sense which I formerly adopted. On weighing well the import of the word οὐδένα , no one, however, I ask myself whether Jesus did not mean that He judges no individual, in the sense that He pronounces on no one a final sentence; and if He judges the moral state of the people and the character of the acts of which He is a witness, these sentences which He pronounces are dictated to Him by His Father. Wecome back thus to the preceding sense, indeed, but by another path (the contrast of the individual with the people and with things). The received reading ἀληθής , worthy of faith, is more appropriate to this context then the variant of some Alexandrian and Greco-Latin authorities, ἀληθινή . Jesus does not intend to say that, in these cases, the sentence which He gives is a real sentence, but that it is a true sentence, to which one can trust. Thereby He returns to the idea from which He started, the truth of His testimony concerning Himself, and to the question of form which had been proposed to Him. He confirms the answer which He has just given by an article of the code:

Verses 17-18

Vv. 17, 18. “ And besides it is written in your law that the testimony of two men is worthy of belief. 18. I bear witness of myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness of me.

Jesus enters, at least in form, into the thought of His adversaries (as in John 7:16; Joh 7:28 ). The Mosaic law required two witnesses, for testimony to be valid (Deuteronomy 17:6; Deu 19:15 ). Jesus shows that in the judgments which He pronounces on the world ( Joh 8:16 ), as well as in the testimonies which He bears to Himself ( Joh 8:18 ), He satisfies this rule; for the Father joins His testimony to His own. Where the eye of the flesh can see only one witness, there are really two. This testimony of the Father is generally referred to the miracles, according to John 8:36. But the connection with Joh 8:16 leads us to a much more profound explanation. Jesus describes here a fact of His inner life, as in John 5:30. The knowledge which He has of Himself and of His mission ( Joh 8:12 ) differs essentially from the psychological phenomenon which is called in philosophy the fact of consciousness; it is in the light of God that He contemplates and knows Himself. Herein is the reason why His testimony bears, in the view of every one who has a sense for perceiving God, the stamp of this divine authority.

In the expression: your law, the adversaries of the authenticity have found a proof of the Gentile origin of the author ( Baur). Reuss formerly explained it by the spirit of our Gospel, which has as its end in view nothing less than “a lowering and almost a degradation of the old dispensation.” We have been able to judge from the close of chap. 5 as to what is the value of these assertions. Weiss, Keil, Reuss himself (now) see in this your an accommodation: “This law on which you rest at this moment for condemning me.” I think rather, notwithstanding what Weiss and Keil say, that Jesus, in expressing Himself thus, is inspired by the feeling of the exceptional position which He is claiming in all this section. As He nowhere says, our Father (not even in the address of the Lord's Prayer), but: your Father, Matthew 5:16; Matthew 5:45; Matthew 5:48; Matthew 6:8; Matthew 6:15; Matthew 6:32, etc.), or, when He wished to express the divine fatherhood at once with reference to Himself and to us: “ My Father and your Father” ( Joh 20:17 ), because God is not His Father in the sense in which He is ours, so no more can He say: our law, uniting under one and the same epithet His own relation and that of the Jews to the Mosaic institution.

Who does not feel that He could not, without derogation, have said in John 7:19: “Has not Moses given us the law?” Jesus was conscious of being infinitely elevated above the entire Jewish system. His submission to the law was undoubtedly complete, but it was free; for His moral life was not dependent on the relation to an external ordinance. The word men is not found in the Hebrew text; this term, whatever Weiss may say, must have been added intentionally; it was suggested by the contrast between the human witnesses whom the law demanded, and the divine witness whom Jesus here introduces ( the Father who sent me). In this judicial form Jesus expresses at the foundation the same thought as when He spoke in Joh 8:16 of the inner certainty of His own testimony. The idea of this entire passage is the following: “You demand a guaranty of that which I am saying of myself and of you; behold it: It is in God that I know myself and that I assert myself, as it is in Him that I know you and judge you.” And it is in virtue of this divine light which shines within Him and by means of which He also knows others, that He is present as the light of the world ( Joh 8:12 ). A fact so spiritual could hardly be understoood by every one; hence the following:

Verse 19

Ver. 19. “They said to him therefore, Where is thy father? Jesus answered, You know neither me nor my Father; if you knew me, you would know my Father also.”

Therefore: “In consequence of this declaration.” These discourses of Jesus are of so lofty import, that they sometimes produce upon us the effect of monologues, in which Jesus lays hold anew upon Himself and displays the treasures which He discovers in the centre of His being. The disciples themselves could only get glimpses of their meaning. John gathers them together as enigmas which the future would have to solve. But is not the same thing true at this hour, in the midst of the Christian Church, with reference to many of the words of the apostles? How many baptized persons comprehend what St. Paul said of the inner witness of the Spirit ( Rom 8:16 )? Thus the question of the hearers of Jesus has nothing inadmissible in it, as Reuss asserts. Jesus spoke of a second witness; but a witness must be seen and heard. Otherwise, what purpose does he serve? And how can we fail to suppose, in that case, that he who invokes such testimony is a dreamer or an impostor? Luthardt: “It is as if they wished to intimate that every liar can also appeal to God.” The meaning of the question seems to me to be this: “If it is of God that thou art speaking, let Him make Himself heard; if it is of some one else, let him show himself.” The answer of Jesus means that it is impossible for Him to satisfy their demand. The living presence of God in a human being is a fact which cannot be perceived by the senses; but if they possessed the spiritual organ necessary for understanding this Jesus who manifests Himself to them, they would soon discern in Him the God who is in intimate communion with Him; and they would not ask: “Where is He?” Comp. John 14:10.

Verse 20

Ver. 20. “ Jesus spoke these words as he was teaching near the treasury, in the temple;and no one laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.

The position which the words ταῦτα τὰ ῥήματα , these words, occupy at the beginning of the sentence, gives them, notwithstanding the denial of Weiss, an emphatic sense: words of such gravity. Even the recollection of the locality in which they had been uttered had remained deeply engraved in the memory of the evangelist. The term γαζοφυλάκιον , treasury, probably designates, by reason of the preposition ἐν , in, the whole place where were deposited the sums collected for the maintenance of the temple and for other pious uses. It appears from Mark 12:41, and Luke 21:1, that the trunks or chests of brass, thirteen in number, which were designed to receive the gifts of the faithful, were properly called by this name. They were in the court of the women, and bore, each of them, an inscription indicating the purpose to which the money which was deposited in it was consecrated. It was before the one which was designed for the poor that Jesus was sitting, when He saw the widow cast into it her mite. It is probable that the apartment called treasury was that in which were kept the sums coming from these trunks, and that it was near these trunks. This locality was almost contiguous to that in which was the famous hall called Gazith, where the Sanhedrim held its meetings, between the court of the women and the inner court ( Keil, Handb. der bibl. Archaol . I., p. 146, note 13). This last circumstance explains the importance which the evangelist attaches to the indication of this locality ( Joh 7:45-52 ). It was, in some sort under the eyes and in the hearing of the assembled Sanhedrim ( Joh 7:45-52 ), that Jesus was teaching when He uttered such words. The expression in the temple serves to make prominent the sacred character of the locality indicated: in the treasury, in the midst of the temple at Jerusalem! The and which follows evidently takes, in this connection, the sense of: and yet. If there was a place where Jesus found Himself under the hands and at the mercy of His enemies, it was here; but their arm was still paralyzed by their conscience and by the public favor which gathered around Jesus.

Verse 21

Vv. 21 admonishes the hearers of the importance of the present hour for the people and for each individual: Jesus, their only Saviour, is to be with them only for a little while longer. When once they have rejected Him, heaven, whither He is about to return, will be closed to them; there will remain for them nothing but perdition. This declaration is a more emphatic repetition of John 7:33-34. As Meyer says, the seeking of the Jews will not be that of faith; it will be only the longing for external deliverance. The words ἐν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ ὑμῶν , in your sin, indicate the state of inward depravity, and consequently of condemnation, in which death will overtake them; Jesus alone could have delivered them therefrom. Hengstenberg and others translate: by your sin. This sense of ἐν is possible; but the former sense is better suited to the singular substantive. Sin is here the wandering of the heart, the estrangement from God, in general; in John 8:24, it will be the particular manifestations of this disposition. In John 13:33, Jesus speaks to the apostles, in the same terms as here, of the impossibility of following Him; but for them the impossibility will be only temporary ( ἄρτι , at this hour), for Jesus will return to seek for them ( Joh 14:3 ). For the Jews, on the contrary, there will be no longer a bridge between earth and heaven; the separation is made complete by the rejection of Him “without whom no one comes to the Father” ( Joh 14:6 ). In their turn, and as if by a sort of retaliation, the Jews go beyond the answer which they had made to His preceding declaration, John 7:35. “Certainly,” they say, “if it is to Hades that thou meanest to descend, we have no intention of following Thee thither.” This ridicule may be explained without the necessity of having recourse to the idea that a special punishment awaited in Hades those who took their own lives (Josephus, Bell. Jud., 3.8. 5). The following words are intended to explain to them the: you cannot, which irritates them:

Verses 21-22

Vv. 21, 22. “ Jesus said therefore to them again, I go away and you shall seek me and you shall die in your sin; whither I go, you cannot come. 22. The Jews therefore said, will he kill himself? for he said, whither I go, you cannot come.

The therefore seems to allude to the liberty which Jesus continued to enjoy ( Joh 8:20 ), notwithstanding His preceding declarations. There is nothing to prevent our admitting that this new testimony also was given on the same day, the last and great day of the feast. It was the last time that Jesus found Himself in the midst of His whole people assembled together, before the feast at which he was to shed His blood for them. On the morrow, this multitude was about to disperse to all parts of the world. To this situation the grave and sorrowful tone of this discourse fully answers.

Verses 21-29

3. “It is I.” 8:21-29.

Jesus had just applied to Himself the two principal symbols which the feast presented to Him. The following testimony completes the two which precede; it is a more general affirmation respecting His mission.


Vv. 21-29.

1. Meyer holds that the words of John 8:21 f. were spoken on a different day from those of the preceding verses. Godet and others hold that it was the same day. Weiss (comp. Keil) regards the question as one which does not admit of a decisive answer. The position of Weiss is probably the correct one, but there seems to be no serious difficulty in supposing that all which is recorded in this chapter took place on one and the same day, the place only being changed at John 8:21.

2. In the words of Jesus contained in John 8:21 (comp. Joh 8:24 ) we find, in addition to what is said in the similar sentence in John 7:34, the words, You will die in your sin ( your sins, Joh 8:24 ). As remarked in Note 11., 4, above, this clause seems to show that the seeking referred to is a seeking for the Messiah as connected with the securing of the life and blessings of the Messianic kingdom. With respect to these words two points may be noticed:

( a) That the words are addressed by Jesus to those to whom He had already presented Himself as the Messiah, and in Joh 8:24 the result mentioned is connected with not believing that He is what He thus claims to be.

( b) That dying in sin is apparently presented as a finality a limit beyond which the hope of entrance into the kingdom is excluded. This passage must be regarded as one of the most impressive ones in the New Testament, as indicating the termination of the period of probation at the end of this life. With regard to the question whether it can be properly understood as indicating this only in the case of those who have the knowledge of Christ given them before death, it should be observed, in the first place, that everything which Jesus said was, of course, said to those who heard Him and thus knew of His claims; secondly, that His general manner of teaching was that of addressing personally those who heard Him, and declaring to them the blessing or evil which awaited them, and not of giving doctrinal statements as appertaining to a theological system. The particular declarations of such a teacher are, in general, to be extended more widely from the individual example to mankind, than in the case of one who teaches in the other way.

( c) Death is evidently referred to, in these words, as if it were the great deciding- point in human history as related to the matter of escape from the consequences of sin.

( d) Jesus does not intimate anywhere else that the other (Gentile) nations will, unlike the Jews, have an opportunity of entering the Messianic kingdom after death. The indications of any such view on the part of the apostolic writers are also, to say the most that can be said, very few and very uncertain.

( e) The knowledge of Jesus as the Messiah and of the Christian system which the Jewish hearers of Jesus, generally speaking, can be said to have had when the contradiction of all their preconceived notions is considered: His refusal to assume earthly power, His obscure origin, His new idea of righteousness, His view of the Messianic kingdom, almost incomprehensible to their earthly mindedness, educated as they were under the influence of the Pharisaic teachers was, in reality, so little developed, that it is difficult to say how far allowances may not properly have been made for their ignorance, after a similar manner with those which it is thought must be made for the heathen. It is an assumption, which requires proof, that, when Christ and the apostles carried the Christian message to the men whom they chanced to meet, they placed them in an entirely new position, so far as the limiting of the probation is concerned. The proof needed is, to say the least, neither abundant nor decisive.

3. The words of Joh 8:23 seem to give the real ground of their continuance in sin and dying in it at the end. It was because they are from the things below and from this world. This was the reason why, when Jesus was presented before them as the Messiah, and as the way, the truth and the life, they did not believe in Him. The antecedent thing lying back of their unbelief was the state of their hearts and will. The refusal to believe, when He came to them, was only the outcome of this. It would seem, therefore, that the true view of the declaration of Jesus here is to be reached by taking the verses together. The man who is in the state of heart and will in which these Jews were, whoever or wherever he may be, will, if he remains in it, die in his sins, and dying thus will not be able to go to the place where Jesus is that is to say, will not have the blessedness of the eternal life in heaven.

4. Weiss agrees with Godet in making ἐκ τῶν κάτω ἄνω refer to the opposition of nature i.e., origin, and ἐκ τοῦ κοσμου κ . τ . λ . to the contrast of disposition and moral activity; and this, though not necessarily, is yet not improbably the correct view.

5. The two explanations of the difficult phrase τὴν ἀρχὴν κ . τ . λ . ( Joh 8:25 ) which are found in the text of R. V. and in the margin of A. R. V. are the most satisfactory which have been offered: “ Even that which I have also spoken unto you from the beginning,” and “ Altogether that which I also speak unto you. ” The use of τὴν ἀρχήν in each of these two senses is justified by examples. In the former case, He declares that He is what He has been telling them even from the beginning of His public discoursing that is, the Messiah, the one sent from God, the one who has seen God and come forth from God to bring the full revelation of Him to the world. In the other case, the meaning may perhaps be the same, except that the idea of from the beginning is not contained in the words; or it may more probably be this: that the answer to the question will be found in the words of Jesus: “Fathom my speech and you will discern my nature ” (see Godet's note).

6. The connection of Joh 8:26 is rather with Joh 8:25 than John 8:24. The prominent thought of this verse is in the last part of it. The verb λαλῶ , which occurs in John 8:25-26; John 8:28, seems to show a close connection in thought throughout these verses, and to favor the idea that in the discoursings of Jesus was to be found the truth with regard to Himself. It will be noticed that the λαλῶ of John 8:26; Joh 8:28 refers to a speaking forth of what was given to Him by the Father to proclaim. This indicates that the λαλῶ of Joh 8:25 also has a similar reference at least, that it represents Jesus, in answer to their question, as the one sent from God as a messenger and revealer. The whole context, therefore, is rather favorable than otherwise to the view given in A. R. V. marg. that the meaning of Joh 8:25 is, Altogether that which I also speak unto you. The bearing of all this upon the meaning of ἐγώ εἰμι , of John 8:24, is towards the conclusion that the predicate of εἰμι is he i.e., the one sent or the one from above, the Messiah and that these words are not to be understood as meaning I am, in the sense of Deuteronomy 32:39.

7. In regard to John 8:27, the explanation given by Weiss, with whom Keil essentially agrees, or that given by Godet, may be adopted. That the hearers of Jesus must have generally, or oftentimes, connected the words which He spoke with God, cannot be questioned. But, considering the fact that His declarations and teachings were so widely removed from the preconceived ideas of the people, it is not surprising that at times they should have failed to understand His meaning, or that they should even have misunderstood, at one time, statements which were apparently no less clear than those which they partially comprehended at another. The representations of John as to these understandings and misunderstandings are seen to be life-like, so soon as we place ourselves in the real condition and circumstances of the time.

8. Joh 8:28 refers to the time which follows the crucifixion and ascension. The declaration of this verse, you will know, etc., doubtless has its explanation in connection with the outpouring of the Spirit and the wider proclamation and triumph of the Gospel; but the probability is that it indicates the beginning of what will be realized in its fulness only as time passes onward. But even now, in the present and intermediate period, before the realization of this future, the Father, He adds, is still with Him; and whatever His enemies may do in rejecting Him, He is strong and victorious in the truth which He proclaims.

9. There is an evident unity of thought in this whole passage, and the closing words of Joh 8:29 present the opposite character of His state of mind and life to theirs, which will finally result in the fact that the place where He is to be will be closed to them.

Verses 23-25

Vv. 23-25. “ And he said to them, you are from beneath, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. 24. Therefore I said to you, that you shall die in your sins; for, if you do not believe that I am he, you shall die in your sins. 25. They said therefore to him, Who art thou? Jesus said to them, Precisely that which I also declare to you.

Jesus lets their jesting go unnoticed. He continues the warning which was begun in John 8:21. An abyss separates them from Him; this is the reason why He cannot serve them as a Saviour and raise them with Himself to heaven, His own country. The parallelism between the expressions: “ from beneath ” and “ of this world ” ( Joh 8:23 ) does not permit us to include in the former the idea of Hades. We must rather see in the first antithesis: from beneath and from above, the opposition of nature, and in the second: of this world and not of this world, the contrast of disposition and moral activity. The world designates human life constituted independently of the divine will and consequently in opposition to it. One may be from beneath (by nature), without being of the world (by tendency), in case the soul attains to the desire of the higher good. The negative form: I am not of this world, expresses forcibly the repugnance inspired in Jesus by this whole course of human life, which is destitute of the divine inspiring breath.

Their perdition is consequently certain, if they refuse to attach themselves to Him, for He alone could have been for them the bridge between beneath and above. The brief clause by which Jesus formulates the contents of faith: “If you believe not that I am...” (literally), is remarkable because of the absence of a predicate. The whole attention is thus evidently directed to the subject, ἐγώ , I: “that it is I who am...and no other.” It seems to me difficult to suppose that, in using this expression, Jesus is not thinking of that by which Jehovah often expresses what He is for Israel (e.g., Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 43:10: ki ani hou, literally, for I am He). As has been said: in this word is summed up by God Himself the whole faith of the Old Testament: “I am your God, besides whom there is no other.” In the same way, Jesus sums up in this word the whole faith of the new covenant: “I am the Saviour besides whom there is no other.” It is remarkable that in the passage in Deuteronomy, the LXX. use, for the translation of these words, precisely the same Greek expression which we find here: ἴδετε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι ; which leads us to think that Jesus used the same Hebrew expression as the Old Testament. The understood predicate was certainly the Christ. But Jesus carefully avoided this term, because of the political coloring which it had assumed in Israel. The hearers could understand paraphrases such as these: He whom you are expecting: He who alone can answer the true aspirations of your soul; He who can save you from sin and lead you to God. But this word Christ which He carefully avoids is precisely the one which His hearers desired to wrest from Him; this is the aim of their question: who art thou then? In other words: “Have at last the courage to speak out plainly!” His enemies might indeed use to their advantage as against His life an express declaration on His part on this decisive point.

The reply of Jesus is one of the most controverted passages in the Gospel. There are two principal classes of interpretations, in accordance with the two chief meanings of ἀρχή : beginning (temporal) and origin (substantial or logical). In the first class must be reckoned that of Cyril, Fritzsche, Hengstenberg: “From eternity ( ἀρχή , Joh 1:1 ), I am that which I declare unto you.” But why not, instead of the unusual phrase τὴν ἀρχήν , simply say ἀπ᾿ ἀρχῆς , as in Joh 1:1 ? Then, in this sense, would not the perfect λελάληκα have been more suitable than the present λαλῶ ? Besides, the thought of Jesus would in any case have been altogether impenetrable for His hearers. The Latin Fathers, e.g.,, Augustine, translated as if it were the nominative: “who art thou? The beginning (the origin of things).” There would be but one way of justifying this sense grammatically; it would be to make the accusative τὴν ἀρχήν a case of attraction from the following ὅτι : “The beginning, that which I also say to you.” But the construction, as well as the idea, remains none the less forced. Tholuck, abandoning this transcendental sense of ἀρχή , applies this word to the beginning of Jesus' ministry: “I am what I have unceasingly said to you ever since I began to speak to you.” But why not simply say ἀπ᾿ ἀρχῆς , as in Joh 15:27 ?

And it must be admitted that the inversion of τὴν ἀρχήν cannot well be explained, any more than can the καί , also, before λαλῶ . There remains, in the temporal sense of ἀρχή , the explanation of Meyer. He holds that there is at once an interrogation and an ellipsis: “What I say to you concerning Myself from the beginning (is this what you ask me)?” The ellipsis is as forced as the thought is idle. And how can we explain the καί , the choice of the unusual term τὴν ἀρχήν , and the use of the present λαλῶ , instead of the perfect λελάληκα which would certainly be better suited to this meaning? The interpreters who give to ἀρχή a logical sense and make τὴν ἀρχήν an adverbial phrase: before all, in general, absolutely, are able to cite numerous examples drawn from the classic Greek. Thus Luthardt and Reuss: At first, I am what I say to you” which means: “This is the first and only answer that I have to give to you. If you wish to know who I am, you have only to weigh, in the first place, my testimonies respecting My own person.” The sense is good; but to what subsequent way of explaining Himself would this in the first place allude (see, however, below)? And why not, in this sense, simply say πρῶτον ( Rom 3:2 )? Chrysostom, Lucke, Weiss, Westcott explain thus: “ In general, why do I still speak with you?” Understand: “I do not myself know” (Lucke), or: “This is what you should ask me.” I confess that I do not understand how it is possible to put into the mouth of Jesus anything so insignificant. Then, if we could overlook these ellipses, which are, however, quite unnatural, what are we to do with the ὅ τι ? Are we to take it in the sense of τί or διατί , why, or because of what? Weiss acknowledges that the examples from the New Testament which are cited for one of these senses (e.g.,, Mar 9:11 ), are not to be thus explained. The only analogous use of this word seems to me to be found in the LXX., 1 Chronicles 17:6; comp. with 2 Samuel 7:7. Is this sufficient to legitimate this use in our passage? Moreover, the very rare phrase τὴν ἀρχήν is not sufficiently justified on this interpretation.

The only logical sense of this expression which seems to me probable is that which Winer has defended in his Grammar of the New Testament (§ 54, 1) and to which de Wette, Bruckner, Keil, etc., have given their adhesion, and in the main Reuss also: “ Absolutely what I also declare unto you,” that is to say: “neither more nor less than what my word contains.” Jesus appeals thus to His testimonies respecting His person as the adequate expression of His nature. “Fathom my speech and you will discern my nature. ” This sense fully accounts for the minutest details of the text: 1. The striking position of the word τὴν ἀρχήν , absolutely; 2. The choice of the pronoun ὅ τι all that which: “whatever it may be that I may have said to you;” they have only to sum up His affirmations respecting Himself, the light of the world, the rock from which flows the living water, the bread which came down from heaven..., etc., and they will know what He is; 3. The particle καί , also, which brings out distinctly the identity between His nature and His speech; 4. The use of the verb λαλεῖν , to declare, instead of λέγειν , to say, to teach. As Keil well says in reply to Weiss: “His λαλεῖν does not designate what He has said of Himself on this or that occasion; it is His discourse in general, presented as an adequate expression of His nature;” finally, 5. The present tense of the verb, which gives us to understand that His testimonies are not yet at their end. It is objected, it is true, that τὴν ἀρχήν does not have this sense of absolutely except in negative propositions. But, in the first place, the sense of the proposition is essentially negative: “Absolutely nothing else than what I declare.”

And can we demand of the New Testament all the strictness of the classical forms? Besides, Baumlein cites the following example from Herodotus: ἀρχὴν γὰρ ἐγὼ μηχανήσομαι (John 1:9; Joh 1:1 ), an example whose value seems to be but little diminished by the fact that the phrase is followed by a negative proposition. This explanation seems to me indisputably preferable to all the others. I still ask myself, however, whether we cannot revert to the temporal sense of ἀρχή , beginning, and in that case explain: “ To begin, that is to say, for the moment,” and find the afterwards or at the end, which should correspond to the beginning, in John 8:28: “When you shall have lifted up the Son of man, then you shall know...” At present, Jesus reveals Himself only by His speech; but when the great facts of salvation shall have been accomplished, then they will receive a new revelation still more luminous. If this relation between Joh 8:25 and Joh 8:28 seems forced, we must, as I think, abide by the preceding explanation. We omit a multitude of explanations which are only varieties of the preceding meanings, or which are too entirely erroneous to make it possible to consider them.

The application of this answer of Jesus was that the thorough examination of the testimony which He bore continually to Himself was enough to lead to the discovery therein of His nature and of His mission as related to Israel and to the world. On this path, one will learn to know Him successively as the true temple (chap. 2), as the living water (chap. 4), as the true Son (chap. 5), as the bread from heaven (chap. 6), etc. And in this way it is that His name Christ will be in a manner spelled out, letter after letter, in the heart of the believer, and will formulate itself there as a spontaneous discovery, which will be worth infinitely more than if he had learned it in the form of a lesson from an outward teaching. To be salutary indeed, this profession: “Thou art the Christ,” must be, as in the case of Peter ( Joh 6:66-69 ), the fruit of the experiences of faith. Comp. Matthew 16:17: “Flesh and blood have not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven.” Such was the way in which the homage of Palm-day arose. Jesus never either sought or accepted an adhesion arising from any other origin than that of moral conviction. This reply is one of the most marvelous touches of Jesus' wisdom. It perfectly explains why, in the Synoptics, He forbade the Twelve to say that He was the Christ.

Verses 26-27

Vv. 26, 27. “ I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you; but he who sent me is worthy of belief, and what I have heard from him, that do I speak to the world. 27. They understood not that he spoke to them of the Father.

Some interpreters, ancient and modern, have tried to connect this verse grammatically with the preceding, by making the last words of that verse: ὅτι καὶ λαλῶ ὑμῖν , a parenthetical clause, and the first words of John 8:26, πολλὰ ἔχω , the continuation of the clause which was begun with τὴν ἀρχήν (so Bengel, Hofmann, Baumlein): “For the moment since it is still the time when I am speaking with you I have many things to say to you” ( Hofmann); or: “Certainly I have a thing which I am also doing many things to say to you” (Baumlein). But this sense of τὴν ἀρχήν is absolutely idle; and no less so that of the parenthetical clause. The attempt has also been made to connect Joh 8:26 logically with John 8:25.

Thus Luthardt and Reuss introduce this antithesis: “It is of yourselves (not of myself) that I have to speak to you, and this will be for you a much more important thought to occupy your minds.” But what was there of more serious importance for them than to know who Jesus was? Weiss finds a contrast between the idea: that it was not worth while to speak to them any longer ( Joh 8:25 ), and the idea of the multitude of things which He had to say to them ( Joh 8:26 ). This explanation falls together with the sense which Weiss gives to John 8:25. In my view, Joh 8:26 does not continue the thought of John 8:25. It is united with John 8:24. After having answered the question of the hearers in John 8:25, Jesus takes up again the course of His charges in John 8:21-24. In these verses he had uttered stern truths with reference to the moral state of the people; He simply continues in John 8:26: “Of these declarations and these judgments I have still many ( πολλά , at the beginning of the clause) to pronounce with regard to you.” What is to follow in this same chapter, John 8:34; John 8:37; John 8:40-41; John 8:43-44; John 8:49; John 8:55, gives us an idea of these many judgments which Jesus had in mind. “ But,” He adds, “painful as this mission may be for me, I cannot abstain from speaking to you as I do, for I only obey herein Him who dictates to me my message; now He is the truth itself, and my office here below can only be that of making the world hear what He reveals to me.” From Chrysostom to Meyer, some explain the opposition expressed in the word but by this idea: “I have much to say to you; but I refrain, and this because you are unwilling to receive the truth.”

But with this sense, to what purpose make appeal to the divine truth which forces him to speak and to say to the world what He hears from above. And in what follows, does Jesus keep silence? Does He not, on the contrary, make the greatest number of charges and the most severe ones against His hearers that He has ever addressed to them? With reference to ἤκουσα , I heard, comp. John 5:30. This past tense cannot, either in accordance with this parallel or with the context, refer to the pre-existent state. Jesus certainly cannot mean that He heard in heaven, before coming here below, the charges which He now addresses to the Jews.

Verse 27

Ver. 27. Criticism declares the want of understanding of the Jews which is mentioned in Joh 8:27 impossible. Can those of whom John speaks, then, be, as Meyer thinks, new hearers who had not been present at the previous discourses? Or must we understand with Lucke : They were not willing to acknowledge that it was the Father who really made Him speak in this way; or with Weiss: They did not understand that He had the mission to reveal the Father by declaring what He inwardly heard from Him. These are manifest tortures inflicted on the text. The ἔλεγεν cannot be taken here in the same sense as in John 6:71: to speak of. It must be observed that in this whole discourse from John 8:21, Jesus had spoken of Him who sent Him, without once pronouncing the name either of God or of the Father. Now among the multitude there might be found hearers who were unable to imagine so close a relation between a human creature and the infinite God as that of which Jesus was bearing witness, and who consequently asked themselves whether He did not mean to speak of some one of the persons who were to precede the Messiah and with whom Jesus sustained a secret relation, as the Messiah was to do with Elijah. Think of the strange misunderstandings attributed by the Synoptics to the apostles themselves! After eighteen centuries of Christianity, many things in the discourses of Jesus appear evident to us, which, through their novelty and the opposition which they encountered from inveterate prejudices, must have appeared strange in the extreme to the greater part of His hearers. No doubt, if the heart had been better disposed, the mind would have been more open.

To this want of intelligence in His present hearers, Jesus opposes the announcement of the day when the full light will come among them respecting His mission, after the great national crime which they are on the point of committing.

Verses 28-29

Vv. 28, 29. “ Jesus therefore said to them, when you have lifted up the Son of man, then shall you know that I am he and that I do nothing of myself, but that I speak these things to you according to the teachings of my Father, 29 and that he that sent me is with me; the Father has not left me alone, because I do always that which is pleasing to him.

The lifting up of the Son of man refers especially to the death on the cross; this appears from the second person: you have lifted up. But Jesus could not hope that the cross would by itself cause the scales to fall from the eyes of the Jews and extort from them the confession: It is He! It could not produce this effect except by becoming for Him the stepping-stone to the throne and the passage to glory. The word to lift up, therefore, contains here the same amphibology as in John 3:14, and the second person of the plural assumes thus a marked tinge of irony: “When by killing me you shall have put me on the throne....” The term Son of man designates that lowly appearance which is now the ground of His rejection. The recognition of Jesus here predicted took place in the conscience of all the Jews without exception when, after the sending of the Holy Spirit, the holy and divine nature of His person, of His work and of His teaching was manifested in Israel by the apostolic preaching, by the appearance of the Church, and then, finally, by the judgment which struck Jerusalem and all the people. At the sight of this, the want of understanding came to its end whether they would or not, and was transformed into faith in some, in others into voluntary hardening. This recognition never ceases to be effected in Israel by reason of the spectacle of the development of the Church; it will end in the final conversion of the nation, when they will cry out with one voice, as if on a new Palm-day: “ Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord ” ( Luk 13:35 ). What calm dignity, what serene majesty, in these words: Then you shall know...! They recall, as Hengstenberg remarks, those grave and menacing declarations of Jehovah: “Mine eye shall not pity thee... and ye shall know that I am the Lord,” Ezekiel 7:4. Comp. the same form of expression, Ezekiel 11:10; Ezekiel 12:20; Exodus 10:2, etc. Weiss compares with this saying the word of Jesus respecting the sign of Jonah (Matthew 12:39 ff.). A still more striking parallel in the Synoptics seems to me to be the word addressed to the Sanhedrim, Matthew 26:64: “ You shall see the Son of man seated at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven. ” Some interpreters claim that John should have written οὕτως , thus, instead of ταῦτα , these things. But the thought is this: “and that I declare to you these things ( ταῦτα ) which you hear, according to ( καθώς ) the teaching which I have received from the Father.” The expression is therefore correct. The whole of the end of the verse depends on γνώσεσθε , you shall know. Jesus here sums up all His preceding affirmations, while presenting them by anticipation as the contents of that future recognition which He announces: “ that I am he; ” comp. John 8:24: “ that I do and teach nothing of myself; ” comp. John 7:16-17. This verse therefore means: “You yourselves will then say amen to all these declarations which you so lightly reject at this hour.”

It appears to me natural to make the first clause of Joh 8:29 also depend on the verb, You shall know; it sums up the declarations of John 8:16-18. The following clause then reproduces very forcibly (by asyndeton) this last affirmation: is with me. In contrast with the present which escapes Him, Jesus with assured confidence lays hold of the future: “You may reject me if you will, yet the Father remains in inner communion with me, as I have said to you, and He will protect my work.” One might be tempted to understand the words οὐκ ἀφῆκε in this sense. “In sending me, He has not suffered me to come alone here below; He has willed to accompany me Himself.” This indeed would be the most simple sense of the aorist. But in this case, how are we to understand what follows: “ Because I do always that which is pleasing to Him? Hengstenberg, who explains thus, has recourse to the divine foreknowledge: “He has not suffered me to come alone, since He well knows that I am faithful to Him in all things.” This sense is evidently forced. We must therefore understand the aorist ἀφῆκε in the sense in which we find it in the passage, Acts 14:17: “ God has not left Himself without witness. ” “God has, in no moment of my career, left me to walk alone, because at every moment He sees me doing that which pleases Him.” An instant therefore, a single one, in which Jesus had acted or spoken of His own impulse would have brought a rupture between Him and God; God would have immediately withdrawn from Jesus Himself, and that in the measure in which this will of His own was fixed within Him.

The voluntary and complete dependence of Christ was the constant condition of the co-operation of the Father; comp. the words of Joh 10:17 and John 15:10, which express in the main the same thought. Certainly, if the evangelist had written his Gospel to set forth the theory of the Logos, he would never have put this saying into the mouth of Jesus. For it seems directly to contradict it. The communion of the Son and the Father is regarded here as resting upon a purely moral condition. But we see by this how real was the feeling which Jesus had of His truly human existence, and how John himself has taken for granted the humanity of his Master. Τὰ ἀρεστά , that which is pleasing to Him, designates the will of the Father, not from the point of view of the articles of a code, but in that which is most spiritual and inward in it. Indeed, this term does not express the contents only of the doing of Jesus, but its motive. He did not only what was pleasing to the Father, but He did it because it was pleasing to Him. It is proved by this saying that Jesus had the consciousness, not only of not having committed the least positive sin, but also of not having neglected the least good, and that in His feelings as well as in His outward conduct.

Here is one of the passages where we can make palpable the fact that the discourses of Jesus in the fourth Gospel are not compositions of the writer, but real discourses of Christ. 1. The communion with God which Jesus affirms can only be a real historical fact. It cannot have been invented by the author. If it were not in the experience, it would not be in the thought. 2. The allusion to the Jewish law ( Joh 8:17-18 ), in order to justify a fact of so inward a nature, contains a surprising accommodation, which necessarily implies the historical surroundings in which Jesus taught. 3. The locality indicated with so much precision in Joh 8:20 testifies of a perfectly accurate historical recollection; otherwise, there would be here a piece of charlatanism, which it would be impossible to reconcile with the seriousness of the whole narrative.

Verses 30-32

Vv. 30-32. “ As Jesus spoke thus, many believed on him. 31. Jesus therefore said to those Jews who had become believers on him: If you abide in my word, you shall be really my disciples, 32 and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

The term “ believed ” designates here undoubtedly the disposition, openly expressed, to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. In this quite considerable number of believers, there were perhaps some members of the Sanhedrim; John 12:42: “ Many of the rulers believed on him. ” They perceived indeed that, in the words which Jesus had just uttered, there was something else than a vain boast. But Jesus is no more dazzled by this apparent success than he had been by the confession of Nicodemus ( Joh 3:1-2 ), and by the enthusiasm of the Galilean multitude ( Joh 6:14-15 ). Instead of treating these new believers as converts, He puts them immediately to the test by addressing to them a promise which, notwithstanding its greatness, presents a profoundly humiliating side. It is thus that Jesus often acts. At once, the one whose faith is only superficial stumbles at the holiness of the new word and falls; the one whose conscience has been laid hold of perseveres and penetrates farther into the essence of things. The particle therefore in John 8:31, sums up in a word the connection of ideas which we have just developed.

This new scene can scarcely have taken place on the same day with the preceding. Joh 8:31 is explained in the most natural way by holding that those of the stranger pilgrims who had believed had departed on the day after the feast, and that, at this moment, Jesus was surrounded only by believing hearers who had until then belonged to the Jewish party. We are surprised, at the first glance, to meet in this gospel a connection of words such as Jews who had become believers. But this contradictio in adjecto is intentional on the part of the author; it is even the key of the following passage. These believers, at the foundation, belonged to the party of the adversaries; they were indeed still really Jews; they continued to share in the Messianic aspirations of the nation; only they were disposed to recognize in Jesus the man who had the mission to satisfy these aspirations. Theirs was nearly the condition of mind of the Galilean multitude, at the beginning of chap. 6. Undoubtedly, these Jewish believers were not all of the πολλοί , many, of the preceding verse, but only a group among them, as Weiss and Westcott think. In the view of the latter, the difference between the two limiting words, αὐτῷ , him, and εἱς αὐτόν , on him, John 8:30, is explained even by this fact. But the meaning seems to me rather: They believed on him (as the Messiah) because they for a moment put confidence in His word ( him).

The nature of the promise made in John 8:31-32, is admirably fitted to the end which Jesus proposes to Himself. He knows that emancipation from the Roman yoke is the great work which is expected of the Messiah; He therefore spiritualizes this hope, and presents it under this more elevated form to the heart of the believers. The pronoun ὑμεῖς , you, has as its aim to contrast these new disciples with the unbelieving multitude. According to Weiss, this word serves rather to place them in opposition to the true believers among the πολλοί ; but this distinction was not sufficiently marked. We might also see here a contrast with the early disciples. The first sense is the most natural. The expression to abide in contains the idea of persevering docility. There will be for this rising faith obstacles to be overcome. The Word will find in their hearts inveterate prejudices; a relapse into unbelief is therefore for them, though believers, a serious danger. By this figure: to abide in, the revelation contained in the word of Jesus is compared to a fertile soil in which true faith must be rooted ever more deeply in order to thrive and bear fruit.

Verses 30-50


Vv. 30-50.

1. Whether the words of Jesus contained in these verses were spoken on the same day as those which precede (Meyer) or on the following day (Godet) Weiss says correctly that this point cannot be determined there is apparently a close connection between the two passages. Many believed in consequence of what He had just said. Of these some were of the leading Jewish party, the ᾿Ιουδαῖοι , but these latter were believers only in a sense corresponding with that indicated in John 2:23 ff. Jesus, therefore, takes up the thought of the preceding verses, and tells them that, in order to their being His disciples in the real sense of the word and their having a real knowledge of the truth, they must abide in His word i.e., they must believe that He is the one sent from above, and must inwardly live in the sphere of those teachings which, having heard from God, He speaks to the world.

2. The peculiar additional idea, beyond the preceding, which characterizes these verses, is that of freedom. This idea becomes the starting-point of the conversation and discourse which follow. Whether it was designedly introduced as a test of the reality of their faith, or was incidental to the development of His thought respecting the truth which He revealed, cannot be determined. Possibly it was intended to connect His thought with the idea of freedom from the Roman dominion, which so greatly occupied the minds of the Jews at the time; but all that can be confidently affirmed is, that the Jews here referred to understood it at first in the political sense.

3. The connection of the verses points strongly towards the Jews who believed Him as the subject of the verb answered in John 8:33. If this is the correct understanding of the writer's meaning, it must be inferred that their belief was of the most superficial character, and this case shows that the author uses the verb πιστεύειν even of the lowest degree of belief in Jesus. The different stages of development indicated by this word, in this Gospel, are very noticeable, and, when carefully observed, they throw light upon the author's plan.

4. The explanation of the words We have never been in bondage to any one, which is given by Godet, is favored by Weiss, and is perhaps the best one which can be given.

5. In Joh 8:37 Jesus addresses these persons as if they were seeking to kill Him. There is a difficulty in supposing that the believing Jews were now desiring to kill Him, but the Jewish party to which they belonged were undoubtedly forming their plans with this end in view. It is possible that He classes them with their party, not because He saw a feeling of this kind in their hearts at the moment, but because this was the feeling of those with whom they had acted, and He saw that they would return to a union with them when their superficial and temporary faith failed.

6. The contrast between the readiness to receive and abide in the truth and the state of mind in which the Jews are is continued throughout this entire passage. They would not believe that He was the one sent from above to speak the words of God ( Joh 8:24 ). They would not abide in the word which, as such a Divine messenger, He spoke ( Joh 8:31 ). They were even seeking to kill Him because He thus spoke the truth ( Joh 8:40 ). They showed thus that they were slaves of sin and children of the devil, and, as they were resolved to continue as they now were, they would die in their sins ( Joh 8:21 ). There is, thus, a manifest unity in the discourse, and the allusions to bondage and fatherhood are only for the purpose of more clearly and emphatically bringing out the ideas suggested in John 8:21 ff. This unity favors, but does not absolutely prove, that Joh 8:30-50 are to be placed on the same day with John 8:21-29.

7. There is evidently a turn of thought in John 8:41 ff., both on the part of the Jews and of Jesus from their relation to Abraham to their relation to God. The transition is through the words ἡμεῖς ἐκ πορνείας οὐ γεγεννήμεθα . These words, it will be observed, are contrasted with ἕνα πατέρα ἔχομεν τὸν θεόν , and are also evidently connected with the denial on Jesus' part that Abraham was their father. The true understanding of the passage therefore must, as it would seem, be found in connection with this twofold reference. As He denies their sonship to Abraham, they think that He may refer to sonship in another than the natural sense. But they did not conceive of their sonship in this other sense, except through their descent from Abraham. Hence they say, We are not other than real and legitimate children of Abraham, and therefore we are in the true and most direct sense children of God.

8. The words ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐξῆλθον indicate pre-existence, and, like the other expressions which Jesus uses of Himself in this discourse, as coming from and revealing the Father, they carry us back in thought to John 1:18. These expressions move forward, as we may say, towards John 8:58, where the pre-existence is most distinctly declared.

9. The tendency of opinion among the most recent commentators is very strongly towards referring the phrase “ He was a murderer from the beginning ” to the introduction of death into the world through sin ( Rom 5:12 ). The argument for this view is derived from ἀπ᾿ ἀρχῆς ; from the fact that the discourse in general has reference to the truth and the moral sphere and relationships; from the fact that the ψευστής of Joh 8:44 points most naturally to Satan's deception of our first parents; and from the somewhat similar passage, 1 John 3:18. The reference to the murder of Abel by Cain (de Wette, Lucke, and others) is favored by 1 John 3:12; by the fact that this reference of the words makes what is said of Satan exactly correspond with what is charged upon the Jews opposition to the truth and the desire of actual murder; and by the fact that the murder of Abel was the first one in history.

10. The last clause of Joh 8:44 is most simply explained by making αὐτοῦ refer to ψεῦδος . Westcott proposes, as a more probable translation, “Whenever a man speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own, for his father also is a liar” “that is, a man by lying reveals his parentage, and acts conformably with it.” This, however, involves an altogether improbable, not to say violent, change of subject from that of the immediately preceding sentence. 11. In closing this part of His discourse, Jesus appeals again to His own truthfulness and freedom from sin and self-seeking, as proving His claim that He is from God ( Joh 8:45-49 ).

Verses 30-59

4. “I and you”: 8:30-59.

Jesus, in His second discourse ( Joh 8:12-20 ) attributed to Himself two modes of teaching: testimony, by which He reveals His origin, His mission, His work, and judgment, by which He unveils the moral state of His hearers. In this sense He had also said, John 8:26: “ I have yet many things to say and to judge concerning you. ” These more severe judgments which Jesus bore in His mind respecting the moral state of His people, we find expressed in the first section of the following discourse; it is judgment reaching its culminating point ( Joh 8:30-50 ): you are not free; you are not children of Abraham; you are not children of God, but of the devil. Such are the severe judgments which are gradually introduced in the conversation between Jesus and even the least ill- disposed of His hearers. The second part is that of testimony. Jesus rises to His greatest height: He is the destroyer of death; He is before Abraham ( Joh 8:51-59 ).

Verse 32

Ver. 32. Καί : and on this condition. They will really possess the quality of disciples; and on this path they will reach the complete illumination from which will result within them complete emancipation. The truth is the contents of the word of Jesus; it is the full revelation of the real essence of things, that is to say, of the moral character of God, of man, and of their relation. This new light will serve to break the yoke, not of the Roman power, but, what is more decisive for salvation, of the empire of sin. On what, indeed, does the power of sin in the human heart rest? On a fascination. Let the truth come to light, and the charm is broken. The will is disgusted with that which seduced it, and, according to the expression of the Psalmist, “the bird is escaped from the snare of the fowler.” This is the true Messianic deliverance. If there is to be another more external one, it will be only the complement of this.

Verses 33-34

Vv. 33, 34. “ They answered him, We are Abraham's seed, and have never been slaves of any one; how sayest thou: you shall become free? 34. Jesus answered them, Verily, verily I say to you that whosoever commits sin is a slave [ of sin ].”

According to some modern interpreters, those who thus answer Jesus cannot be the believing Jews of John 8:30, the more since Jesus charges them in Joh 8:37 with seeking to put Him to death, and, subsequently, calls them children of the devil. Lucke therefore regards Joh 8:30-32 as a parenthesis, and connects Joh 8:33 with the preceding conversation ( Joh 8:29 ). Luthardt thinks that in the midst of the group of well-disposed persons who surrounded Jesus, there were also adversaries, and that it was these latter who at this moment began to speak. Others give to the verb an indefinite subject: “They answered Him.” But, on all these views, the narrative of John would be singularly incorrect. In reading John 8:33, we can only think of the believers of John 8:30-32. We shall see that the last words of John 8:37, also, do not allow any other application. It was not for no purpose that the evangelist had formed so marvelous a union of words in our Gospel as that of believing Jews. In these persons there were two men: the nascent believer it was to him that Jesus addressed the promise Joh 8:31-32 and the old Jew still living: it is the latter who feels himself offended, and who answers with pride ( Joh 8:33 ).

There was in fact a humiliating side in this word: will make you free. It was to say to them: you are not so. Making this step backward, they fell back into solidarity with their nation from which they had only superficially and temporarily separated themselves. The key of this entire passage is found already in these words, John 2:23-24: “And many in Jerusalem believed on His name...; but Jesus did not intrust Himself to them. ” Under their faith He discerned the old Jewish foundation not yet shattered and transformed. In order that the promise of Joh 8:31-32 should have been able to make a chord vibrate in their heart, they must have known experiences like those which St. Paul describes in Romans 7:0: the distress of an earnest, but impotent, struggle with sin. Jesus discerned this clearly, and for this reason He spoke to them, in John 8:31, of abiding, that is to say, of persevering in submission to His word. There is no confusion in John's narrative; we must rather admire its sacred delicacy.

The slavery which the hearers of Jesus deny cannot be of a political nature. Had not their fathers been slaves in the land of Egypt, in bondage, in the times of the Judges, to all kinds of nations, then subjected to the dominion of the Chaldeans and Persians? Were they not themselves under the yoke of the Romans? It is impossible to suppose them so far blinded by national pride as to forget facts which were so patent, as de Wette, Meyer, Reuss, etc., suppose; the last writer says: “They place themselves at the point of view, not of material facts, but of theory...There was submission to the Roman dominion...., but under protest.” But the words: we were never, do not allow this explanation. Hengstenberg, Luthardt, Keil, give to this expression a purely spiritual import; they apply it to the religious preponderance which the Jews claimed for themselves in comparison with all other nations. This is still more forced. The hearers of Jesus cannot express themselves in this way except from the view-point of the civil individual liberty, which they enjoyed as Jews. Hence the connection between the two assertions: “ We are Abraham's seed; we were never in bondage. ” With a single exception, which was specially foreseen, the law forbade the condition of bondage for all the members of the Israelitish community (Leviticus 25:0). The dignity of a free man shone on the brow of every one who bore the name of child of Abraham, a fact which assuredly did not prevent the possibil ity that Jewish prisoners should be sold into slavery among the Gentiles (in answer to Keil). The question here is of inhabitants of Palestine such as those who were in conversation with Jesus. These Jews, when hearing that it was the truth taught by Jesus which should put an end to their bondage, could not have supposed that this declaration applied to emancipation from the Roman power. Now as, along with this national dependence, they knew no other servitude than civil or personal slavery, they protested, alleging that, while promising them liberty, Jesus made them slaves. They changed the most magnificent promise into an insult; “and,” as Stier says, “thus they are already at the end of their faith.” We can see whether Jesus was wrong in not trusting to this faith.

Verse 34

Ver. 34. The genitive τῆς ἁμαρτίας of sin, is omitted by the Cambridge MS., and an important document of the Itala; without this complement, the sense is: “ He is a slave, truly a slave, while believing himself a free man;” a sense which is perfectly suitable. If, however, with all the other documents, the complement: of sin is sustained, it must be understood: “He is a slave, I mean a slave of sin.” The sin to which the man at first freely surrenders himself becomes a master, then a tyrant. It ends by entirely confiscating his will. The passage Rom 6:16-18 presents an idea analogous to that of these words. The present participle ὁ ποιῶν , who commits (sin) unites the two notions of act and condition; the act proceeds from the condition, then it establishes it. It is a slavery for which the individual is responsible, because he has himself cooperated in creating it. The genitive of sin brings out the degrading character of this dependence; the following clause shows the terrible consequence of it:

Verses 35-36

Vv. 35, 36. “ The slave does not abide in the house for ever; the son abides for ever. 36. If therefore the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

If in Joh 8:34 the words τῆς ἁμαρτίας , of sin, are read, it is necessary to admit a change of meaning in the idea of slavery between Joh 8:34 and John 8:35. In John 8:34, the master is sin; in John 8:35-36, the master is God, the owner of the house. This modification in the notion of moral slavery is undoubtedly to be explained by a thought which is also that of some passages in the Epistles of St. Paul: that the slave of sin, when he is a member of the theocracy, of the house of God, is made thereby a slave with respect to God Himself. In this moral condition, indeed, his position is servile; he renders to the master of the house only a forced obedience, because his will is governed by another master, sin. It cannot be denied, however, that the connection would be much more simple, if the words of sin were omitted in John 8:34. “He who commits sin is not a child, but a slave (with respect to God), John 8:34. Now, in such a moral state, the man possesses no permanent abode in the house of God ( Joh 8:35 ). Separated spiritually from the Father of the family, he is not a real member of the family.”

The meaning is thus perfectly simple. Οὐ μένει : “He will remain in the house only as long as the master shall desire to make use of him” ( Luthardt); he may be sold at any moment. What a threatening for those to whom Jesus was addressing Himself! In contrast to this term slave, the term son must designate the quality of son; not the person of the Son. He who is truly a son through the community of spirit with the Master cannot be at all detached from that of which he has become an organic member. He can no more be separated from the kingdom of God than a child can be sold into slavery. But from Joh 8:36 the term Son is evidently applied to Jesus only. This is because in this house the filial dignity and the individual Son are mingled in one. There is here properly only one son, he who bears in himself the whole gens; all the rest become sons only by the act of manumissio, of liberation, on his part ( Joh 8:32 ). Just as the passage Gal 4:21-31 seems to be only a development of John 8:35, so Romans 8:2: “ The law of the Spirit of life in Jesus Christ made me free ( ἠλευθέρωσέ με ) from the law of sin and death ” is the commentary on John 8:36. It is to the Son as the representative and heir of the paternal fortune that the right is committed by the Father of freeing the slaves. ῎Οντως ἐλεύθεροι , really, that is to say, spiritually free in God, and consequently true members of His house and for ever.

Jesus has set aside the haughty assertion of John 8:33: We were never in bondage. He goes back now to the claim which was the point of support for that assertion: We are Abraham's seed, and He disposes of this also.

Verses 37-38

Vv. 37, 38. “ I know indeed that you are Abraham's seed; but you seek to kill me, because my word makes no progress in you. 38. As for me, I speak that which I have seen with the Father;and you do the things which you have heard from your father.

Jesus does not deny the genuineness of the civil registers in virtue of which His hearers affirm their character as children of Abraham. But He alleges a moral fact which destroys the value of this physical filiation in the spiritual and divine domain; it is their conduct towards Him and His word. Jesus here employs a method like that of John the Baptist, Matthew 3:0, and that of Paul, Romans 9:0.

By reason of the resistance which they oppose to His teaching, He addresses them as persons who have already returned to the solidarity of that Israelitish community which is desiring to make way with Him. Hence the charge which has been regarded as so strange (comp. Joh 8:31-32 ): “ You seek to kill me. ” But what more proper than the announcement of such a crime to make them feel the necessity of breaking finally the bond which still united them to a people so disposed. What justifies this severe assertion of Jesus is that He has just discovered, at this very moment, the impression of irritation produced in them by His word ( Joh 8:33 ). The word χωρεῖν has two principal meanings: one, transitive, to contain ( Joh 2:6 ) this meaning is inapplicable here, the other, intransitive: to change place, to advance. This verb is applied in this sense to water flowing, to a dart piercing, to a plant growing, to one body penetrating another, to invested money paying interest. Starting from this second meaning, some have explained: “has no place in you for developing itself,” or: “has no entrance, access to you” ( Ostervald, Rilliet). The former translation is not suitable for the word χωρεῖν ; comp. 2 Corinthians 6:12; οὐ χωρεῖτε τὸν λόγον would have been necessary. With the second, these words would apply only to persons who have already manifested a beginning of faith. We must therefore explain, with Meyer, Weiss, Keil: makes no progress in you.

The word of Christ struck in them, from the first uttered words, against national prejudices which they still shared with their fellow-countrymen, against the Jewish heart which they had not laid aside; like the seed which fell on the rocky ground, it had been blighted as soon as it had begun to germinate. This is the reason why Jesus had said at the beginning, “If you abide. ” Yet once more, there is no inaccuracy in the narrative. For him who goes to the foundation of things and who judges of the facts by placing himself at the point of view of Jesus and of John himself, everything is perfectly connected and well-founded.

In John 8:38, Jesus explains the resistance which His word encounters in them by a moral dependence in which they are and which is of a nature contrary to that in which He Himself lives. In speaking as He does, He obeys the principle which governs Him; they, in acting as they do, are the instruments of a wholly opposite power. In order to decide between the numerous various readings which are presented by the text of this verse, it is natural to start from this principle: that the copyists have sought to conform the two parallel clauses to one another, rather than to introduce differences between them. If we apply this rule, we shall arrive at the text which seems to us also to present the best sense intrinsically. It is that of the MS. K (with the exception, perhaps, of the pronoun μου which is read by this MS. in the first clause, and which may be rejected according to the principle suggested). This text of K is that which we have rendered in the translation.

The expression: that which I have seen with my Father, does not refer, as Meyer, Weiss and others think, to the state of the Lord's divine pre-existence; the parallel clause: that which you have heard from your father, excludes this explanation. For the two facts compared must be of a homogeneous nature. Weiss alleges the difference introduced intentionally by the change of the verbs ( see, hear). But Joh 8:40 and Joh 5:30 prove that no intention of this sort occasions this difference of expression. The question here is of a fact of incalculable importance in all human life. Behind the particular acts which are at the surface in the life of each man, there is concealed a permanent basis and, if I may venture to speak thus, a mysterious anteriority. All personal and free life has communication in its depths with an infinity of good or of evil, of light or darkness, which penetrates into our inner being and which, when once received, displays itself in our works (words or acts). This is what Jesus here represents under the figure of the paternal house whence we come forth and whence, as a son with his father, we derive our principles, our conduct, our habits: “From my speaking and from your doing, one may clearly see from what house we come forth, you and I.” This is not all: at the foundation of each of these two infinites, good or evil, with which we are in ceaseless relation and of which we are the agents, Jesus discerns a personal being, a directing will, the father of a family who reigns over the whole house ( my Father, your father). It is from him that the initiative on each side starts, that the impulses emanate. And as the moving power is personal, the dependence in which we are placed as related to it is also free, not inevitable. Jesus by His fidelity cultivates His communion with the Father; so He finds in this relation the initiative of all good (“that which I have seen”) the perfect: “ that which I am having seen with the Father.” The Jews, through their spirit of pride and hypocrisy, maintain in themselves this relation to the opposite principle, to the other father; so they continually receive from him the impulsions to every species of perverse works (“that which you have heard”).

The therefore which unites the two parallel clauses has certainly a tinge of irony, as Meyer acknowledges: “You are consistent with the principle with which you are in communication, in doing evil, just as I am with mine in speaking what is good.” The rejection of the pronoun μου after πατρί characterizes God as the sole Father in the true sense of the word. The singular pronoun ὅ , that which, in the first clause, answers to the thorough unity and the consistent direction of the will towards good. There is in it no vacillation, no contradiction. The plural pronoun ἅ , the things which, characterizes, on the contrary, the capricious inconsistency of the diabolical volitions.

This contrast is connected with that of the perfect ἑώρακα and the aorist ἠκούσατε : the former designating a man who is what he is through the fact of having beheld; the latter, a variety of particular and momentary inspirations. The choice of the two terms see (Jesus) and hear (the Jews), to designate the two opposite kinds of moral dependence, is no less significant. Sight is the symbol of a clear intuition, such is only possible in the domain of the divine light and revelation. “In thy light we see light” ( Psa 36:10 ). The term: to hear from applies, on the contrary, to the secret suggestions which the perfidious mouth of an impostor whispers in the ear of his agents. Evil is the night in which one hears, but does not see. There is nothing even to the contrast of the two prepositions παρά (with the dative) with, and παρά (with the genitive), from, which does not contribute to the general effect of this inexhaustible saying: with is related to the idea of sight, as from is to that of hearing. If Jesus mentions on His own part speaking ( λαλεῖν ) and on the part of the Jews doing, ( ποιεῖν ), it is because His activity consisted essentially, at this moment, in His testimonies and His judgments, while the Jews answered Him by hostile measures and projects of murder ( Joh 8:37 ). If it were desired, with Hengstenberg, to give to ποιεῖτε , you do, the sense of the imperative do, it would not be necessary to see here a summons of the character of that in chap. John 13:27; it would rather be necessary to refer the word your father to God, and to see in the word a serious exhortation. But all this is opposed to the connection with what follows.

Verses 39-41

Vv. 39-41a. “ They answered and said to him, Our father is Abraham. Jesus said to them, If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham. 40. But now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth which I have heard from God; Abraham did not do this. 41 a. You do the works of your father.

The Jews feel themselves insulted by the insinuation of John 8:38; they affirm more energetically, and with a feeling of wounded dignity, their descent from Abraham. Jesus takes up again His answer in Joh 8:37 and develops it. In this domain, He says, there is no real paternal relationship where there is opposition in conduct.

The Alexandrian reading: If you are...you would do, can be defended only by supposing a decided grammatical anomaly. John would at first lay down the fact as real ( you are), to deny it afterwards in the second clause ( you would do). In any case this explanation is preferable to that of Origen and Augustine, to which Weiss inclines, accepting the reading of B, “If you are... do then!” But Jesus is not exhorting, He is proving. This Alexandrian reading seems to be the result of an arbitrary correction. The verb of the principal clause ἐποιεῖτε ἄν , you would do, was first changed into the imperative ποιεῖτε , do, and after this it was necessary to transform the ἦτε ( if you were) into ἐστε ( if you are). Abraham was distinguished for an absolute docility to the divine truth (Genesis 12, 22), and by a respectful love for those who were the organs of it in his presence (Genesis 16, 18); what a contrast to the conduct of his descendants according to the flesh! Observe the gradation ( Joh 8:40 ): 1. To kill a Man 1:2 . A man who is an organ of the truth; 3. Of the truth which comes from God. Their moral descent from Abraham being thus set aside, the result is this: “You have therefore another father, the one whose will you do and whose works you practice, as I do those of my Father.”

Verses 41-43

Vv. 41b-43. “ They said therefore to him: We are not children born in fornication; we have only one father, God. 42. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, you would love me; for I came forth and am come from God; for neither am I come of myself, but he sent me. 43. Why do you not recognize my speech? Because you cannot understand my word. ” The Jews now accept the moral sense in which Jesus takes the notion of sonship and use it in their own behalf: “Let us not speak any more of Abraham, if thou wilt have it so; whatever it may be, in the spiritual domain, of which it seems that thou art thinking, it is God alone who is our Father. And we have been able to receive in His house only good examples and good principles.” We, ἡμεῖς , at the beginning of the clause; persons such as we are! From the time of the return from the captivity (comp. the books of Nehemiah and Malachi), the union with a Gentile woman was regarded as impure, and the child born of such a marriage as illegitimate, as belonging through one of its parents to the family of Satan, the God of the heathen. It is probably in this sense that the Jews say: “We have only one Father, God.” They were born in the most normal theocratic conditions; they have not a drop of idolatrous blood in their veins; they are Hebrews, born of Hebrews ( Php 3:5 ). Thus, even when rising with Jesus to the moral point of view, they cannot rid themselves altogether of their idea of physical sonship. Meyer, Ewald and Weiss think that they mean that their common mother, Sarah, was not a woman guilty of adultery. But how could a supposition like this come to their thought! Lucke and de Wette suppose rather that they assert the fact that their worship is free from any idolatrous element. But the question here is of origin, not of worship. It would be possible, according to the sense which we have given, that they were alluding to the Samaritans born of a mingling of Jewish and heathen populations.

But Jesus does not hesitate to deprive them even of this higher prerogative, which they think they can ascribe to themselves with so much of assurance. And He does this by the same method which He has just employed, in John 8:40, to deny their patriarchal filiation: He lays down a moral fact against which their claim is shattered. By virtue of His origin, of which He is distinctly conscious ( Joh 8:14 ), Jesus knows that His appearing carries with it a divine seal. Every true child of God will be disposed to love Him. Their ill-will towards Him is, consequently, enough to annihilate their claim to the title of children of God. The true translation of the words: ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐξῆλθον καὶ ἥκω , is: “It is from God that I came forth and am here,” ( ἥκω , present formed from a perfect). Jesus presents Himself to the world with the consciousness that nothing in Him weakens the impression which the heavenly abode that He has just left must make upon accessible souls. ᾿Εξῆλθον , I came forth, refers to the divine fact of the incarnation; ἥκω , I am here, to the divine character of His appearing. And along with His origin and His presence, there is also His mission which He has from God: “For neither am I come of myself.

This second point is fitted to confirm the impression produced by the first ones. He does not accomplish here below a work of His own choice; He continues in the service of that work which God gives to Him at each moment ( for...neither). If they loved God, they would without difficulty recognize this character of His coming, His person and His work.

Verse 43

Ver. 43. Why then does all this escape them? How does it happen, in particular, that they do not distinguish the tone, and, so to speak, the heavenly timbre of his speech? Λαλία , speech, differs from λόγος , word, as the form differs from the contents, the discourse from the doctrine. “You do not know my speech; you do not distinguish it from an ordinary human word. Why? Because you are unable to lay hold of and receive my doctrine. ” There was wanting to them that internal organ by means of which the teaching of Christ would become in them a light perceived. ᾿Ακούειν , to hear, signifies here to understand; to listen with that calmness, that seriousness, that good will which enables one to apprehend. This inability was not a fact of creation; it results from their previous moral life; compare John 5:44-47. Jesus now develops in full the idea of the first cause of their moral incapacity. This cause He had already declared in John 8:38. It is the dependence in which they are inwardly on an enemy of the truth, who fills their hearts with tumultuous and hateful passions, and thus renders them deaf to the voice of God which speaks to them through Jesus.

Verse 44

Ver. 44. “ You are born of the father, the devil, and you wish to fulfil the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and he is not in the truth, because there is no truth in him; when he speaks falsehood, he speaks of his own, for he is a liar and the father of the liar.

The light does not succeed in penetrating into this Jewish medium, because it is subjected to a principle of darkness. ῾Υμεῖς , you, is strongly emphasized: “You who boast of having God as your Father.” Grotius made τοῦ διαβόλου , of the devil, the object of πατρός , taking the former word in a collective sense: the father of the demons. Hilgenfeld, starting from the same grammatical construction, surprises the evangelist here in the very act of Gnosticism. This father of the devil, according to this critic, is the Demiurge of the Gnostics; in other words, the creator of this material world, the God of the Jews, who is designated here as the father of Satan, in accordance with the doctrine of the Ophites in Irenaeus. Jesus would thus say to the Jews, not: “You are the sons of the devil,” but: “You are the sons of the father of the devil;” that is to say, the brothers of the latter. But where can we find in the Scriptures a word respecting the person of the devil's father? And how, on the supposition that this father of the devil was the God of the Jews, could Jesus have called this God of the Jews His own Father (“the house of my Father ” Joh 2:16 )? Finally, it is sufficient to compare 1 John 3:10, in order to understand that He calls the Jews not the brothers, but the sons of the devil. The literal meaning is the following: You are sons of the father who is the devil, and not, as you think, of that other father who is God.”

The lawless passions ( ἐπιθυμίαι ) by which this father is animated and which he communicates to them, are unfolded in the second part of the verse: they are, first, hatred of man, and then, abhorrence of truth; precisely the tendencies with which Jesus had just reproached the Jews, John 8:40. The verb θέλετε , you desire, you are eager for ( Joh 8:35 ), is contrary to the fatalistic principle which Hilgenfeld attributes to John; it expresses the voluntary assent, the abounding sympathy with which they set themselves to the work of realizing the aspirations of their father. The first of these diabolical appetites is the thirst for human blood. Some interpreters ancient and modern ( Cyril, Nitzsch, Lucke, de Wette, Reuss) explain the word ἀνθρωποκτόνος , murderer, by an allusion to the murder of Abel. Comp. 1Jn 3:12 ; 1 John 3:15: “ Not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother....Whosoever hates his brother is a murderer. ” But the Scriptures do not ascribe to the demon a part in this crime, and the relation which Jesus establishes here between the murderous hatred of Satan and his character as a liar, leads us rather to refer the word murderer to the seduction in Paradise by which Satan caused man to fall under the yoke of sin and thereby of death. By thus separating him from God, through falsehood, he has devoted him to spiritual and physical ruin. The expression from the beginning may, on this view, be much more strictly explained. The sense of ἀρχή , beginning, does not differ from that of this word in John 1:1, except that here the question is of the beginning of the human race, there of the beginning of creation. As to the quotation taken from 1 John, it proves nothing in favor of the allusion to the act of Cain; for that act is there cited as the first example of the hatred of a man to his brother.

When Jesus said in John 8:40: “You seek to kill me, a man,” He already had in His mind the idea of that murderous hatred which is expressed by the word ἀνθρωποκτόνος . Whence did this hatred of Satan against man arise? Undoubtedly, from the fact that he had discerned in him the future organ of divine truth and the destroyer of his own lies. Thus the two features of his character are united: hatred of man and enmity to the truth. And we may understand how this double hatred must be concentrated in the highest degree upon Jesus, in whom at length was perfectly realized the idea of man and of man as the organ of divine truth. Some interpreters, ancient and modern, have applied the expression ἐν ἀληθείᾳ οὐχ ἕστηκεν to the fall of the devil. Vulgate: in veritate non stetit; Arnaud: he did not abide in the truth; Ostervald: he did not persist in...But the perfect ἕστηκα does not mean: did not abide in; its sense, in the sacred as in the classic Greek, is: “I have placed myself in a position and I am there. ” Jesus therefore does not mean to say that the devil has abandoned the domain of truth, in which he was originally placed by God, but rather that he does not find himself there, or, more exactly, that he has not taken his place there, and consequently is not there. The domain of truth is that of the real essence of things, clearly recognized and affirmed, holiness. And why does he not live in this domain? Because, Jesus adds, there is no truth in him. He is wanting in inward truth, truth in the subjective sense, that uprightness of will which aspires after divine reality. We must observe, in this last clause, the absence of the article before the word ἀληθεία , truth: Satan is cut off from the truth, because he is destitute of truth. One can abide in the truth (objectively speaking) in that which God reveals, only when one sincerely desires it. The ὅτι , because, is the counterpart of that in John 8:43. Like father, like son: each of the two lives and works in what is false, because he is false.

What Jesus has just set forth in a negative form, He reproduces in a positive form in the second part of the verse. Not desiring to derive anything from divine truth, Satan is compelled to draw everything that he says from his own resources, that is from the nothingness of his own subjectivity; for the creature, separated from God, is incapable of possessing and creating anything real. Lying is, in this condition, his natural language, as much as speaking the truth is the natural language of Jesus ( Joh 8:38 ) in the communion with God in which He lives. ᾿Εκ τῶν ἰδίων , from his own resources, admirably characterizes the creative faculty of a being separated from God, who is capable no doubt of producing something, even sometimes great works, and of uttering great words, but whose creations, in proportion as he creates apart from God, are always only a vain phantasmagoria. The word ψεύστης , a liar, reproduces the idea: He has no truth in him. In the expression: “He is a liar and also his father,” we must not make the word his father a second subject to is, as if the question were here also of the father of the devil ( Hilgenfeld). The word: and his father is the predicate: “he is a liar and father of...” Otherwise ὅτι αὐτὸς ψεύστης ἐστὶ καὶ ὁ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ would have been necessary.

Only it may be asked to what substantive it is necessary to refer the pronoun αὐτοῦ ( his); to the word ψεύστης , liar, or the word ψευδοῦς , falsehood, in the preceding clause? I think, with Lucke, Meyer and others, that the context is decisive in favor of the first alternative. For the question here is, not of the origin of falsehood in general, but specially of the moral sonship of the individual liars whom Jesus has before Him (John 8:40; Joh 8:44 ). Weiss objects that in the expression: “he is a liar,” the word liar is used in the generic sense. It is true; but we may certainly derive from it the notion of a concrete substantive. In both senses, there is a slight grammatical difficulty to be overcome. The theory of accommodation, by means of which it is often sought to weaken the force of the declarations of Jesus respecting the personal existence of Satan, may have some probability when it is applied to His conversations with the demoniacs. But here Jesus gives altogether spontaneously this teaching with respect to the person, the character and the part of this mysterious being. After this Jesus comes back from the father to the children: they are enemies of the truth, just as the evil being is to whom they are subject:

Verses 45-47

Vv. 45-47. “ And because I say the truth to you, you believe me not. 46. Which of you can convict me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do you not believe me? 47. He that is of God hears the words of God; for this cause you hear them not, because you are not of God.

What, ordinarily, causes a man to be believed is the fact that he speaks the truth. Jesus has with the Jews the opposite experience. They are so swayed by falsehood, by which their father has blinded their hearts, that precisely because he speaks the truth, he does not find credence with them. ᾿Εγώ , at the beginning: I, the organ of the truth, in opposition to Satan, the organ of falsehood.

Verse 46

Ver. 46. To justify their distrust with respect to His words, it would be necessary that they should at least be able to accuse Him of some fault in His actions; for holiness and truth are sisters. Can they do this? Let them do it. This defiance which Jesus hurls at His adversaries shows that He feels Himself fully cleared, by His defense in chap. 7, of the crime of which He had been accused in chap. 5 We must be careful, indeed, not to take ἁμαρτία , sin, in the sense of error ( Calvin, Melanchthon) or of falsehood ( Fritzsche). The thought is the same here as in John 7:18: Jesus affirms that there absolutely does not arise from His moral conduct any ground of suspicion against the truth of His teaching. We must imagine this question as followed by a pause sufficient to give opportunity to whoever should wish to accuse Him to be heard....No one opens his mouth. The admission involved in this silence serves as a premise for the following argument: “Well, then, if ( εἰ δέ , now if, or simply εἰ ), as your silence proves, I teach the truth, why do you not believe?”

Here again a pause; He had invited them to judge Him; in the face of His innocence which has just been established, He leaves them a moment now to pass judgment on their conduct towards Him. After this silence, He pronounces the sentence: “You are not of God: herein is the true reason of your unbelief towards me.” The expression to be of God designates the state of a soul which has placed itself, and which now is, under the influence of divine action. It is the opposite of the οὐχ ἑστηκεν affirmed with regard to Satan. This state does not exclude, but implies, the free determination of the man. Otherwise, the tone of reproach which prevails in our verse would be unjust and even absurd. ᾿Ακούειν , properly, to hear, takes here, as often the French term does, the sense of intelligent hearing (hence the limiting word in the accusative). Comp. the manner in which the declaration of Jesus respecting the truth which gives freedom ( Joh 8:32 ) had been received. The διὰ τοῦτο , for this cause, refers at once to the general principle laid down in the first part of the verse, and the following ὅτι : “It is for this cause..., that is to say, because...”

The perfect holiness of Christ is proved in this passage, not by the silence of the Jews, who might very well have ignored the sins of their interlocutor, but by the assurance with which Jesus lays this question before them. Without the immediate consciousness which Christ had of the perfect purity of His life, and on the supposition that He was only a more holy man than other men, a moral sense so delicate as that which such a state would imply, would not have suffered the least stain to pass unnoticed, either in His life, or in His heart; and what hypocrisy would there not have been in this case in addressing to others a question with the aim of causing them to give it a different answer from that which, in His inmost heart, He gave Himself! In other terms: to give a false proof whose want of soundness He hopes that no one will be able to prove.

Verses 48-50

Vv. 48-50. “ The Jews therefore answered and said to him, Say we not rightly that thou art a Samaritan and art possessed by a demon? 49. Jesus answered: I am not possessed by a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. John 8:50. But I seek not my own glory; there is one who seeks it and who judges.

Some, as Hengstenberg and Astie, think that by calling Jesus a Samaritan, they wish to charge Him with heresy, as making Himself equal with God. But the term Samaritan can scarcely be regarded as a synonym of blasphemer. The Samaritans passed for national enemies of the Jews; now Jesus seemed to commit an act of hostility against His people by accusing all the Jews of being children of the devil. The madness of insanity, as it seemed to them, could alone give an explanation of such language; and this is what they express by the words: Thou art possessed of a demon, which are, as it were, the counterpart of the charge of Jesus. The meaning of this assault comes to this: Thou art as wicked as thou art foolish.

Who when he was reviled,” says St. Peter, “ reviled not again, but committed himself to him who judges righteously ” ( 1Pe 2:23 ). These words seem to have been suggested to the apostle by the recollection of the following reply in our John 8:49-50. To the insult, Jesus opposes a simple denial. ᾿Εγώ , I, placed first, is pronounced with the profound feeling of the contrast between the character of His person and the manner in which He is treated. To the false explanation which the Jews give of His preceding discourse, jesus substitutes the true one: “I do not speak of you as I do, under the impulse of hatred; but I speak thus to honor my Father The testimony which I bear against you is a homage which I must pay to the divine holiness. But, instead of bowing the head to the voice of Him who tells you the truth from God, you insult Him Him who glorifies the one whom you claim to be your Father.” The conclusion is this: You cannot be children of God, since you insult me who speak to you only to honor God!

Nevertheless ( Joh 8:50 ), Jesus declares that the affronts with which they loaded Him were to Him of little importance. It is God who looks to this; He commits to God the care of His glory; for He knows His solicitude for Him. He wishes to be honored only in the measure in which His Father Himself gives Him glory in the hearts of men. The two participles: seeking and judging give a presentiment of the divine acts by which the Father will glorify the Son and will chastise His calumniators: on one side, the sending of the Holy Spirit and the founding of the new Israel; on the other, the fall of Jerusalem and the final judgment. It is thus that “he commits himself to him who judges righteously.” Besides, all do not dishonor Him; there are some who already honor Him by their faith.

Verses 51-53

Vv. 51-53. “ Verily, verily, I say unto you, If any one keep my word, he shall never see death. 52. The Jews therefore said to him, Now we know that thou art possessed of a demon; Abraham is dead and the prophets also, and thou sayest, If any one keep my word, he shall never taste of death. 53. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets also are dead. Whom dost thou pretend to be?

The various relations of ideas which it has been sought to establish between Joh 8:50 and Joh 8:51 seem to me hardly natural. With the last word of John 8:50: and who judges, Jesus has come to an end with His present interlocutors. But He knows that among these numerous hearers who had believed in Him ( Joh 8:30 ) and of whom many had immediately succumbed to the test ( Joh 8:32 ), there are a certain number who have fulfilled the condition imposed by Him ( Joh 8:31 ): If you abide in my word; it is to these, as it seems to me, as well as to His disciples in general, that He addresses the glorious promise of John 8:51. So Calvin, de Wette, etc., think. Weiss holds that the discourse simply continues: Jesus shows that His word will be the means through which God will glorify Him, by giving life to some and judging others by means of it, which will show to all that He is the Messiah. The expression: keep my word, as well as the tone of the promise, carries us back to the exhortation of John 8:31: Abide in my word; and the promise of never seeing death is the opposite of the threatening of John 8:35: The slave does not abide in the house for ever. The term death is not taken in the exclusively spiritual sense, as if Jesus meant: shall not be condemned. Would there not be some charlatanism on Jesus' part in giving Himself the appearance of saying more than He really meant? It is indeed death, death itself, in the full sense of the word, which He denies for the believer. See at Joh 6:50 and John 14:3. What an encouragement presented to those who persevered in His word: no longer to have to experience death in death!

The Jews do not altogether misapprehend therefore, as is claimed, when they conclude from these words that Jesus promises to believers a privilege which was enjoyed neither by Abraham nor by the prophets, and that He makes Himself greater than these; for it is manifest that He must Himself possess the prerogative which He promises to His own. The expression: taste of death, rests upon the comparison of death with a bitter cup which a man is condemned to drink. The word εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα , for ever, in John 8:51-52, should not be explained in the sense: “He will die indeed, but not for ever. ” The sense is: “He shall never perform the act of dying.” Comp. John 13:8. The pronoun ὅστις , instead of the simple ὅς , signifies: “who, Abraham though he was.” This objection forces Jesus to rise to the highest affirmation which He has uttered with reference to Himself, that of His divine pre-existence.

If Jesus is the conqueror of death for His own, it is because He Himself belongs to the eternal order. He comes from a sphere in which there is no transition from nothingness to existence, and consequently no more falling from existence into death, except in the case in which He Himself consented to give Himself up to its power.

Verses 51-59


Vv. 51-59.

1. In Joh 8:51 Jesus turns the discourse to the more positive side, and brings out one of the great thoughts presented in this Gospel, namely, that the eternal life, which begins in the soul at the moment of believing, has no experience of death forever. Physical death is a mere incidental event in the continuous progress of that life; death as the contrast to the life of the Messianic Kingdom (that is, in the spiritual sense), and thus the death of the future, is altogether excluded.

2. It is the misunderstanding and opposition of the Jews which leads Jesus away from the direct development of the thought of John 8:51, and brings Him again to set forth and defend His claims, and to carry forward His expressions to greater distinctness. The two special points of consideration in the verses which follow are those in Joh 8:56 and John 8:58.

3. The statement of Joh 8:56 is to be explained in view of the contrast between ἠγαλλ . ἵνα ἴδη and εἶδεν . No satisfactory account can be given of this contrast, except on the supposition of a vision given to Abraham during his earthly life, and the realization of the vision as he saw the fact from his heavenly abode. This verse is Jesus' answer to the question of the Jews in John 8:53, “ Art thou greater than our father Abraham?

4. Joh 8:58 may be said to be, in a certain sense, His answer to their question, “ Whom makest thou thyself? ” That Joh 8:58 declares His pre-existence is placed beyond doubt, ( a) by the contrast between εἰμί and γενέσθαι ; ( b) by the fact that, as distinguished from the other places in this Gospel where the phrase ἐγώ εἰμι is found, no predicate is here suggested by the context, and that thus εἰμί must have the meaning to exist; ( c) by the reference to time in the words of the Jews in John 8:57; ( d) by the fact that the whole thought of the context is that of His superiority to Abraham, as connected with having seen him and with freedom from death.

5. If we take into consideration the various points in this chapter: The uniting of Himself with the Father as the only two witnesses who can bear witness as to the one sent from heaven; the declaration that, if they knew Him, they would know God, and that their true relation to God was dependent on their true relation to Him; the claim that His words are the truth of God, and that He derives what He says from what He has seen with His Father; the making death in sins and exclusion from the Messianic Kingdom, on the one hand, and freedom from all real sight and experience of death, on the other, to rest upon the acceptance or rejection of Him; the affirmation of pre-existence, of a coming out from God, of a being from Him, of being all that is contained in His discoursing with respect to Himself from first to last; if we take all this into consideration, we may clearly perceive how closely related this chapter is to ch. 5, and how, here, as there, He “makes Himself equal with God” only there He calls the thoughts of His hearers to His life-giving power and the final judgment and resurrection as the proofs of this equality, while here He refers them to His pre-existence and His intimate knowledge of God and union with Him. In the natural order of presentation, as well as of impressiveness in the way of proof for the minds of the disciples, the thoughts of the fifth chapter belong before those of the eighth. Ch. 5 sets forth the fact of His life-giving power for the soul; ch. 6 explains this power as like that of food in the physical life; ch. John 7:37, John 8:14, present it as the quickening and enlivening spiritual force and the light of the soul; ch. 8 exhibits it as the Divine truth known by Jesus from His intimate union with the Father and revealed to the world by Him as sent from the Father.

6. The action of the Jews in Joh 8:59 is similar to that in Joh 8:18 they were moved by the claims which they understood Him to make, to attempt to kill Him. When the progress and connection of the thought in the chapters are observed, this action on their part may be regarded as indicating that they still thought Him, in the eighth chapter, to be claiming for Himself equality with God. In this connection it is also noticeable that, while Jesus had in ch. 5 presented God only as the witness for His claims, in this chapter He places Himself with God, and demands recognition in view of the testimony of the two as fulfilling the requirement of the Mosaic law.

7. The discourses of chs. 5, 7, 8 were given to the Jews of Jerusalem, that of ch. 6 to a company of people in Galilee; but the condition of heart and will was alike in both. Though addressed to different audiences, the thoughts fall into a natural order, and they are presented by the author, according to his principle of selection, in the succession both of time and proof.

Verses 54-56

Vv. 54-56. “ Jesus answered, If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; he who glorifies me is my Father, he of whom you say that he is your God; 55 and yet you do not know him, but I know him; and if I say that I do not know him, I shall be like to you a liar; but I know him and I keep his word. 56. Abraham, your father, rejoiced in the hope of seeing my day; and he saw it, and was glad.

In one sense, Jesus glorifies Himself, indeed, whenever He gives testimony to Himself; but the emphasis is on ἐγώ , I, “I alone, without the Father, seeking and attributing to myself a position which has not been given to me.” The word δοξάσω may be either the future indicative or the aorist subjunctive. Here is the answer to the question: Whom dost thou claim to be? “Nothing except that which the Father has willed that I should be.” And this will of the Father with regard to Him is continually manifested by striking signs which the Jews would easily discern, if God were to them really what they claim that He is: their God. But they do not know Him; and therefore they do not understand the signs by which He whom they declare to be their God accredits Him before their eyes.

This ignorance of God which Jesus encounters in the Jews awakens in Him, by the law of contrast, the feeling of the real knowledge which He has of the Father, in whose name and honor He speaks: He affirms this prerogative with a triumphant energy, in John 8:55. It is, as it were, the paroxysm of faith which Jesus has in Himself, a faith founded on the certainty of that immediate consciousness which He has of God. If He did not assert Himself thus as knowing God, He would be also a liar like them, when they claim to know Him. And the proof that He does not lie is His obedience, which stands in contrast with their disobedience. Thus are the unheard of affirmations prepared for, which are to follow in John 8:56; John 8:58. Οἷδα , I know him, designates direct, intuitive knowledge, in opposition to ἐγνώκατε (literally, you have learned to know), which relates to an acquired knowledge.

After having thus answered the reproach: Thou glorifiest thyself, Jesus comes to the question raised by them: Art thou greater than our father Abraham? and He does not hesitate to answer plainly: “Yes! I am, for after having been the object of his hope when he was on earth, my coming was that of his joy in Paradise where he now is!” There is a keen irony in this apposition: “Abraham, your father. ” Their spiritual patron rejoicing in the expectation of an appearance which excites only their spite! The word rejoiced designates the joy of hope, as is indicated by the ἵνα ἴδῃ , to the end of seeing. To see Him this was the aim and object of the exultant joy of the patriarch. The question is evidently of what took place in Abraham's heart, when he received from the mouth of God the Messianic promises, such as Genesis 12:3; Genesis 22:18: “ In thy seed shall all the nations be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice. ” The expression my day can only designate the present time, that of Christ's appearance on earth ( Luk 17:22 ). The explanations of Chrysostom (the day of the Passion) and Bengel (the day of the Parousia) are not at all justified here. Hofmann and Luthardt understand by it the promised birth of Isaac, a promise in which Abraham saw the pledge of that of the Messiah. But the expression: my day, can only refer to a fact concerning the person of Christ Himself.

The relation between the ἵνα ἲδῃ , to see, and the past εἶδε , and he saw, proves that this last term expresses the realization of the desire which had caused the patriarch to rejoice, the appearance of Jesus here below. The second aorist passive, ἐχάρη , well expresses the calm joy of the sight, in contrast with the exultant joy of the expectation ( ἠγαλλιάσατο ). Jesus therefore reveals here, as most of the interpreters acknowledge, a fact of the invisible world, of which He alone could have knowledge. As at the transfiguration we see Moses and Elijah acquainted with the circumstances of the earthly life of Jesus, so Jesus declares that Abraham, the father of believers, is not a stranger, in his abode of glory, to the fulfillment of the promises which had been made to Him, that he beheld the coming of the Messiah on the earth. No doubt we know not in what form the events of this world can be rendered sensible to those who live in the bosom of God. Jesus simply affirms the fact. This interpretation is the only one which leaves to the words their natural meaning.

The Fathers apply the εἷδε , we saw, to certain typical events in the course of the life of Abraham, such as the birth or the sacrifice of Isaac, in which the patriarch, by anticipation, beheld the fulfillment of the promises. These explanations are excluded by the marked opposition which the text establishes between the joy of the expectation and that of the actual sight. The same is true of that of Hengstenberg and Keil, who apply the last words of the verse to the visit of the angel of the Lord as Logos-Jesus (Genesis 18:0). The expression my day can receive, in all these applications, only a forced meaning. The Socinian explanation: “Abraham would have exulted, if he had seen my day,” is no longer cited except as calling it to mind. What can be made of the second clause with this interpretation?

By bringing out this two-fold joy of Abraham, that of the promise and that of the fulfillment, Jesus puts the Jews to the blush at the contrast between their feelings and those of their alleged father.

Verses 57-58

Vv. 57, 58. “ Whereupon the Jews said to him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and thou hast seen Abraham! 58. Jesus said to them, Verily, verily I say unto you, Before Abraham came into being, I am.

From the fact that Abraham had seen Jesus, it seemed to follow that Jesus must have seen Abraham. The question of the Jews is the expression of indignant surprise. The number fifty is a round number; fifty years designates the close of the age of manhood. The meaning is: “Thou art not yet an old man.” No inference is to be drawn from this as to the real age of Jesus, since ten or twenty years more, in this case, would be of no consequence. “I am not only his contemporary,” Jesus replies, “but I existed even before him.” The formula, amen, amen, announces the greatness of this revelation respecting His person. By the terms γενέσθαι , became, and εἰμί , I am, Jesus, as Weiss says, contrasts His eternal existence with the historical beginning of the existence of Abraham. To become is to pass from nothingness to existence; I am designates a mode of existence which is not due to such a transition. Jesus goes still further; He says, not I was, but I am, Thereby He attributes to Himself, not a simple priority as related to Abraham, which would still be compatible with the Arian view of the Person of Christ, but existence in the absolute, eternal, Divine order. This expression recalls that of Psalms 90:2:

Before the mountains were brought forth and thou hadst founded the earth, from eternity to eternity, THOU ART, O God! ” No doubt, eternity must not be considered as strictly anterior to time. This term πρίν , before, is a symbolic form, derived from the human consciousness of Jesus, to express the relation of dependence of time on eternity in the only way in which the mind of man can conceive of it, that is, under the form of succession. There is no longer any thought, at the present day, of having recourse to the forced explanations which were formerly proposed by different commentators: that of Socinus and Paulus: “I am, as the Messiah promised, anterior to Abraham,” or that of the Socinian catechism: Before Abraham could justify His name of Abraham ( father of a multitude, by reason of the multitude of heathen who shall one day be converted) I am your Messiah, for you Jews. Scholten himself acknowledges (p. 97f.) the insufficiency of these exegetical attempts. According to him, we must supply a predicate of εἰμί ; this would be ὁ χριστός , the Messiah. But the antithesis of εἶναι and γίνεσθαι ( be and become) does not allow us to give to the first of these terms another sense than that of existing. Besides, the point in hand is a reply to the question: “Hast thou then seen Abraham?” The reply, if understood as Scholten would have it, would be unsuitable to this question. The Socinian Crell and de Wette understand: “I exist in the divine intelligence or plan.”

Beyschlag goes a little farther still. According to him, Jesus means that there is realized in Himself here below an eternal, divine, but impersonal principle, the image of God. But as this impersonal image of God cannot exist except in the divine intelligence, this comes back in reality to the explanation of de Wette. This explanation of an impersonal ideal is opposed by three considerations: 1. The ἐγώ , I, which proves that this eternal being is personal; 2, the parallel with Abraham. An impersonal principle cannot be placed in parallelism with a person, especially when the question is of a relation of priority. Finally, 3. How could a Jesus conceived of as an impersonal principle have answered the objection of the Jews: Thou hast then seen Abraham? And yet if this word did not satisfy the demand of the Jews, it would be nothing more than a ridiculous boast. This declaration has the character of the most elevated solemnity. It is certainly one of those from which John derived the fundamental idea of the first verses of the Prologue. It bears in itself the guaranty of its authenticity, first by its striking conciseness, and then by its very meaning. What historian would gratuitously ascribe to his hero a saying which was fitted to bring upon him the charge of being mad? It will be asked, no doubt, how Jesus can derive from His human consciousness an expression which so absolutely transcends it. This conception was derived by Him from the revelation of His Father, when He said to Him: “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” There is a fact here which is analogous to that which is accomplished in the conscience of the believer when he through the Spirit receives the testimony that he is a child of God ( Rom 8:16 ).

Verse 59

Ver. 59. “ Thereupon, they took up stones to stone him; but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

In the face of this reply, there was indeed nothing left to the Jews except to worship or to stone him. The word ᾖραν , strictly: they lifted up, indicates a volition, a menace, still more, perhaps than a well-settled purpose. Comp. the stronger expression in John 10:31. These stones were probably lying in the court, for the building of the temple, which was not yet finished. The word ἐκρύβη , hid himself, does not include, but rather excludes the idea of a miracle. Jesus was surrounded by a circle of disciples and friends who facilitated His escape. Whatever may be the authority of the documents and Versions which support the T. R. here (see the note), it is evident that the last words are a marginal gloss formed by means of the first words of the following chapter and of Luke 4:30. Baur defends their authenticity, and tries to draw from them a proof of the Docetism of the author. But the normal expression, from the Docetic point of view, would have been, not ἐκρύβη ( he hid himself), but ἄφαντος or ἀφανὴς ἐγένετο ( he vanished).

Here is the end of the most violent conflict which Jesus had had to sustain in Judea. Chaps. 7 and 8 correspond in this regard with chap. 6. The general victory of unbelief is here decided for Judea, as it had been in chap. 6 for Galilee. So from this time Jesus gradually abandons the field of battle to His adversaries, until that other final ἐκρύβη , John 12:36, which will close His public ministry in Israel.

We have seen all the improbabilities, which criticism has found in such large numbers in this chapter and the preceding one, vanish before a calm and conscientious exegesis. The answers and objections of the Jews, which Reuss charges with being grotesque and absurd, have appeared to us, when placing ourselves at the point of view of those who make them, natural and logical. The argument of Jesus which, according to Renan, “is very weak when judged by the rules of Aristotelian logic,” appears so only because it is forgotten that the question is of things which Jesus, counting on the moral consciousness of His adversaries, thought He might lay down as axioms. There is certainly, in the narrative of these two chapters, chap. 7 and 8, not a single improbability which approaches that which there would be in supposing such conversations invented afterwards outside of the historical situation to which they so perfectly adapt themselves. There is no verbiage, no incongruity, no break of continuity. This reproduction of the conversations of Jesus is made with such delicacy, that one almost gives his assent to the hypothesis of a rationalist of the past century, Bertholdt, who supposed that the evangelist had taken notes of the discourses of Jesus at the very time when he heard them. Two features strike us especially in these two chapters:

1. The dialogue form, so full of reality, which could have engraved itself on the mind of a witness more easily than a consecutive discourse;

2. The summary character of the testimonies of Jesus. There is always, at the beginning, a simple and grand affirmation without development, John 7:37-38; John 8:12; John 8:31-32; then, in proportion as it becomes the subject of a discussion between Jesus and His hearers, the developments are given. These two features would be sufficient to prove the historical character of the narrative.

Bibliographical Information
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on John 8". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gsc/john-8.html.
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