Bible Commentaries
John 21

Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical CommentaryAlford's Greek Testament Commentary

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Verse 1

1. μετὰ ταῦτα ] Compare ch. John 5:1 ; John 6:1 : at a subsequent time.

ἐφαν . ἑαυτ . ] This expression is no where else used by John of the Lord’s appearances, but only in Mark 16:12 ; Mark 16:14 . We have however φανέρωσον σεαυτόν , ch. John 7:4 ; and ἐφ . τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ , ch. John 2:11 ; and the passive of φανερόω is very usual with him. The use of the verb here indicates that the usual state of the Lord at this time was not manifestation, but invisibility to them.

ἐπὶ τῆς θ ., elsewhere, see reff., used by John with a dative in this sense.

The expression indicates the locality , not the manner , of the appearance; on , i.e. on the shore of the sea of Galilee: see note on Matthew 14:25 .

ἐφαν . δὲ οὕτως must not be too rashly cited as unlike John’s style. We must remember that, in adding an appendix, expressions of this kind would occur, which the narrative itself would not contain.

Verses 1-8

1 8 ] The significant draught of fishes . I reserve the remarks on this chapter to the end, thereby better to put the reader in possession of the evidence which I shall there gather up into one, but which will present itself as we go on. I will only state here, that whether written by John himself or not, it is evidently an appendix to the Gospel, which latter has already concluded by a formal review of its contents and object at ch. John 20:30-31 .

Verses 1-23


Verse 2

2. ] Nathanael is named by John only , see ch. John 1:46 ff.: Thomas also by John only , except in the catalogues of the Apostles.

The junction of ἀπό with a proper name is in John’s style: see ch. John 1:45 ; John 11:1 ; John 19:38 .

οἱ τοῦ Ζεβ . are no where else named by John; they may however be here mentioned as in reminiscence of the draught of fishes which occurred before: see Luke 5:1 ff.

ἐκ τ . μαθ . αὐτοῦ δύο ] The same words occur ch. John 1:35 , with reference to John the Baptist. Who these were does not appear. Probably (as Luthardt) some two not named in the Gospel, and therefore not specified in its appendix.

Verse 3

3. ] The disciples returned to their occupation of fishing, probably as a means of livelihood, during the time which the Lord had appointed them in Galilee between the feasts of the Passover and Pentecost. This seems to be the first proposal of so employing themselves.

καὶ ἡμεῖς ] See ch. John 11:16 .

ἐξῆλθον from the house where they were together.

ἐπίασαν οὐδέν as before, Luke 5:5 . The correspondence of this account with that is very remarkable as is also their entire distinctness in the midst of that correspondence. The disciples must have been powerfully reminded of that their former and probably last fishing together. And after the “ fishers of men ” of that other occasion, the whole could not but bear to them a spiritual meaning in reference to their apostolic commission: their powerlessness without Christ, their success when they let down the net at His word. Their present part was not to go fishing of themselves, but περιμένειν τ . ἐπαγγελίαν τοῦ πατρός , Acts 1:4 (Luthardt).

Verse 4

4. ἔστη εἰς ] See reff. A sudden appearance is indicated by the words.

The ἐστιν after ᾔδεισαν is quite in John’s manner: see reff.

Verse 5

5. ] λέγ . οὖν is in John’s manner.

παιδία ] See reff. In ch. Joh 13:33 we have τεκνία .

προσφάγιον is said by the grammarians to be the Hellenic form equivalent to the Attic ὄψον , signifying any thing eaten as an additament to bread, but especially fish . So that here the best rendering would be as in A.V.R., Have ye any fish?

Verse 6

6. ] See Luke 5:6 .

Verse 7

7. ] The οὖν here seems distinctly to allude to the former occasion the similarity of the incident having led the beloved Apostle to scrutinize more closely the person of Him who spoke to them. διορατικώτερος μὲν ὁ Ἰωάννης … θερμότερος δὲ ὁ Πέτρος . διὸ γνωρίζει μὲν αὐτὸν ὁ Ἰωάννης πρὸ τοῦ Πέτρου · ἔξεισι δὲ πρὸς αὐτὸν ὁ Πέτρος πρὸ τοῦ Ἰωάννου . Euthym [259]

[259] Euthymius Zigabenus, 1116

τὸν ἐπενδ . διεζ . ] He bound round him his fisher’s coat or shirt, to facilitate his swimming.

ἦν γὰρ γυμ ., i.e. as above, he was stripped for his fisher’s work; [some say] without his upper garment. Some [more probably] take it literally, and understand that he girt round him his ἐπενδύτης as a subligaculum. Theophyl., ἐπενδ . λινοῦν τι ὀθόνιον , ὃν οἱ Φοίνικες κ . οἱ Σύροι ἁλιεῖς περιελίττουσιν ἑαυτοῖς .

Verse 8

8. ] 200 cubits = 100 yards. The lake was about five miles broad Jos. B. J. iii. 10. 7: according to Stanley (Sinai and Palestine, p. 369), six in the widest part: according to Dr. Thomson (The Land and the Book, p. 400) nine.

ὡς ἀπό ] See reff.: a mode of speech peculiar to John.

Verse 9

9. ] The rationalist and semi-rationalist interpreters have taken great offence at the idea of a miracle being here intended. But is it possible to understand the incident otherwise? As Stier says, let any child reading the chapter be the judge. And what difficulty is there in such a fire and fish being provided either by the Lord Himself, or by the ministry of angels at His bidding?

ὀψάριον ] See reff.: a word peculiar to John, and = ἰχθύδια , Matthew 15:34 ; Mark 8:7 . It is probably here not ‘ a fish ,’ but fish.

Verses 9-14

9 14. ] The significant meal: see below on John 21:14 .

Verse 11

11. ] ἀνέβη , into the boat, which apparently was now on the beach, in the shallow water.

ἑκατὸν πεντ . ] This enumeration is singular, and not to be accounted for by any mystical significance of the number, but as betokening the careful counting which took place after the event, and in which the narrator took a part.

οὐκ ἐσχίσθη τὸ δίκτ ., herein differing from what happened Luke 5:6 , when it was broken .

Verse 12

12. ἀριστ . ] Hereby is implied the morning meal: see John 21:3-4 .

οὐδεὶς ἐτ . ] I take these words to imply that they sat down to the meal in silence, wondering at, while at the same time they well knew, Him who was thus their Host. Chrys. says, οὐκέτι γὰρ τὴν αὐτὴν παῤῥησίαν εἶχον … ἀλλὰ μετὰ σιγῆς καὶ δεοῦς πολλοῦ καὶ αἰδοῦς ἐκαθέζοντο προσέχοντες πρὸς αὐτόν , … τὴν δὲ μορφὴν ἀλλοιοτέραν ὁρῶντες καὶ πολλῆς ἐκπλήξεως γέμουσαν , σφόδρα ἦσαν καταπεπληγμένοι , καὶ ἐβούλοντό τι περὶ αὐτῆς ἐρωτᾶν · ἀλλὰ τὸ δέος καὶ τὸ εἰδέναι αὐτοὺς ὅτι οὐχ ἕτερός τις ἦν ἀλλ ʼ αὐτός , ἐπεῖχον τὴν ἐρώτησιν . Hom. in Joann. lxxxvii. 2.

τολμᾶν and ἐξετάζειν are not elsewhere in John .

ἐξετάσαι , more than ‘ ask: to question or prove Him.

ἐστίν again, after ἐτόλμα , in John’s manner.

Verse 13

13. ] ἔρχεται , from the spot where they had seen Him standing, to the fire of coals.

λαμβ . κ . δίδωσιν bears evident trace of the λαβὼν ἐδίδου of another occasion, and reminds us of the similar occurrence at Emmaus, Luke 24:30 .

Verse 14

14. τοῦτο ἤδη τρίτον ] Compare τοῦτο [ δὲ ] πάλιν δεύτερον , ch. John 4:54 : and 2 Corinthians 13:1 . The number here is clearly not that of all appearances of Jesus up to this time, for that to Mary Magdalen is not reckoned; but only those to the disciples , i.e. any considerable number of them together. This one internal trait of consistency speaks much for the authenticity and genuineness of the addition.

ἐγερθείς ] The participle is not found elsewhere in John, but the participial construction is found in ch. John 4:54 .

Without agreeing with all the allegorical interpretations of the Fathers, I cannot but see much depth and richness of meaning in this whole narrative. The Lord appears to His disciples, busied about their occupation for their, daily bread; speaks and acts in a manner wonderfully similar to His words and actions on a former memorable occasion, when we know that by their toiling long and taking nothing, but at his word enclosing a multitude of fishes, was set forth what should befall them as fishers of men. Can we miss that application at this far more important epoch of their apostolic mission? Besides, He graciously provides for their present wants, and invites them to be His guests: why, but to shew them that in their work hereafter they should never want but He would provide? And as connected with the parable, Matthew 13:47 ff., has the net enclosing a great multitude and yet not broken , no meaning? Has the ‘taking the bread and giving to them, and the fish likewise’ no meaning, which so closely binds together the miraculous feeding, and the institution of the Lord’s Supper, with their future meetings in His Name and round His Table? Any one who recognizes the teaching character of the acts of the Lord, can hardly cast all such applications from him; and those who do not, have yet the first rudiments of the Gospels to learn.

Verse 15

15. ὅτε οὖν ἠρ . ] There appears to have been nothing said during the meal. Surely every word would have been recorded. One great object of this appearance, observes Stier, certainly was the confirmation, and encouragement of the “ fisher of men ,” in his apostolic office.

Σίμων Ἰωάννου ] A reminiscence probably of his own name and parentage, as distinguished from his apostolic name of honour, Cephas, or Peter, see ch. John 1:43 . Thus we have Σ . βαριωνᾶ , Matthew 16:17 , connected with the mention of his natural state of flesh and blood, which had not revealed to him the great truth just confessed and Luke 22:31 , “Simon, Simon,” when he is reminded of his natural weakness. See also Mark 14:37 , and Matthew 17:25 , where the significance is not so plain.

πλέον τούτων ] more than these thy fellow-disciples: compare Matthew 26:33 ; Mark 14:29 , “Though all should be offended, yet not I.” That John does not record this saying, makes no difficulty here; nor does it tell against the genuineness of this appendix to the Gospel. The narrator tells that which he heard the Lord say, and tells it faithfully and literally. That it coincides with what Peter is related to have said elsewhere, is a proof of the authenticity , not of the connexion , of the two accounts.

τούτων has been strangely enough understood (Whitby, Bolten) of the fish , or the “employment and furniture of a fisherman:” Olshausen sees a reference to the pre-eminence given to Peter, Matthew 16:19 , and regards the words as implying that on that account he really did love Jesus more than the rest; but surely this is most improbable, and the other explanation the only likely or true one. Perhaps there is also a slight reference to his present just-shewn zeal, in leaping from the ship first to meet the Lord. ‘Has thy past conduct to Me truly borne out thy former and present warmth of love to Me above these thy fellows?’ “Mira Christi sapientia, qui tam paucis vocibus efficit, ut Petrus et sibi satisfaceret, quem ter negaverat, et collegis quibus se prætulerat; exemplum dans disciplinæ ecclesiasticæ.” Grot.

Peter’s answer shews that he understood the question as above. He says nothing of the πλέον τούτων but dropping all comparison of himself with others, humbly refers to the Searcher of hearts the genuineness of his love, however the past may seem to have called it in question.

The distinction between ἀγαπᾶν and φιλεῖν must not here be lost sight of, nor must we superficially say with Grotius, “Promiscue hic usurpavit Johannes ἀγαπᾶν et φιλεῖν ut mox βόσκειν et ποιμαίνειν (see below). Neque hic quærendæ sunt subtilitates.” If so, why do the Lord’s two first questions contain ἀγαπᾷς while Peter’s answers have φιλῶ whereas the third time the question and answer both have φιλεῖν ? This does not look like accident.

The distinction seems to be that ἀγαπᾶν is more used of that reverential love, grounded on high graces of character, which is borne towards God and man by the child of God; whereas φιλεῖν expresses more the personal love of human affection. Peter therefore uses a less exalted word, and one implying a consciousness of his own weakness, but a persuasion and deep feeling of personal love. (Hence it will be seen that in the sublimest relations, where, all perfections existing, love can only be personal , φιλεῖν only can be used, see ch. John 5:20 .) Then in the third question, the Lord adopts the word of Peter’s answer, the closer to press the meaning of it home to him.

The σὺ οἶδας , the two first times, seems to refer to the Lord’s personal knowledge of Peter’s heart in His having given him that name, ch. John 1:43 , in Matthew 16:17 ; Luke 22:31 , and the announcement of his denial of Him. The last time, he widens this assertion ‘Thou knowest me ,’ into ‘Thou knowest all things ,’ being grieved at the repetition of a question which brought this Omniscience so painfully to his mind.

βόσκε τὰ ἀρν . μου ] This and the following answers of the Lord can hardly be regarded as the reinstating of Peter in his apostolic office, for there is no record of his ever having lost it: but as a further and higher setting forth of it than that first one Matthew 4:18 ff., both as belonging to all of them on the present occasion, and as tending to comfort Peter’s own mind after his fall, and reassure him of his holding the same place among the Apostles as before, owing to the gracious forgiveness of his Lord.

We can hardly with any deep insight into the text hold βόσκειν and ποιμ . to be synonymous (Grot. above, Lücke, De Wette, Trench), or ἀρνία , πρόβατα , and προβάτια . The sayings of the Lord have not surely been so carelessly reported as this would assume. Every thing here speaks for a gradation of meaning. The variety of reading certainly makes it difficult to point out exactly the steps of that gradation, and unnecessary to follow the various interpreters in their assignment of them: but that there is such , may be seen from Isaiah 40:11 ; 1 John 2:12-13 . Perhaps the feeding of the lambs was the furnishing the apostolic testimony of the Resurrection and facts of the Lord’s life on earth to the first converts; the shepherding or ruling the sheep , the subsequent government of the Church as shewn forth in the early part of the Acts; the feeding of the προβάτια , the choicest, the loved of the flock, the furnishing the now maturer Church of Christ with the wholesome food of the doctrine contained in his Epistles. But those must strangely miss the whole sense, who dream of an exclusive primatial power here granted or confirmed to him. A sufficient refutation of this silly idea, if it needed any other than the ἐλυπήθη of this passage, is found in the συμπρεσβύτερος of 1 Peter 5:1 , to this very charge: see note on Matthew 16:17 ff. “Illud, ‘ plus his ’ ( πλέον τούτων ), indicio est, Petrum hic restitui in locum suum, quem amiserat per abnegationem (but see above) simulque quiddam ei prœ condiscipulis tribui, sed nihil a quo cæteri excludantur. Nam sane etiam hi amabant Jesum. Desinat tandem hoc ad se, et ad se unum rapere, qui nec amat nec pascit, sed depascit, per successionis Petrinæ simulationem. Non magis Roma, quam Hierosolyma aut Antiochia aut quivis alius locus ubi apostolum Petrus egit, Petrum sibi vindicare potest: imo Roma minime, caput gentium : nam Petrus erat in apostolis circumcisionis . Unum Romæ proprium est, quod apostolorum, etiam Petri sanguis in ea reperietur.” Bengel.

Verses 15-23

15 23. ] The calling, and its prospect .

Verse 16

16. πάλιν δεύτερον ] The words are found together in John 4:54 .

Verse 17

17. φιλεῖς ] See above on John 21:15 .

ἐλυπήθη not merely on account of the repetition of the question, but because of τὸ τρίτον , the number of his own denials of Christ.

πάντα οἶδας ] See above.

Verse 18

18. ] The end of his pastoral office is announced to him: a proof of the πάντα οἶδας which he had just confessed; a contrast to the denial of which he had just been reminded; a proof to be hereafter given of the here recognized genuineness of that love which he had been professing. There is no implied question , as Lücke thinks: the futures are prophetic.

ἀμὴν ἀμήν ] John’s manner again.

ὅτε ἦς νεώτερος [may be merely] in contrast to ὅταν δὲ γηρ . [Or] it perhaps includes his life up to the time prophesied of.

ἐζώνν . σ ., as in John 21:7 , he had girt his fisher’s coat to him: but not confined in its reference to that girding alone ‘thou girdedst thyself up for My work, and wentest hither and thither but hereafter there shall be a service for thee “paullo constrictior” ἐκτενεῖς τὰς χ . σου , but not as just now, in swimming; in a more painful manner, on the transverse beam of the cross; and another the executioner shall gird thee, with the cords binding to the cross’ (“tunc Petrus ab altero vincitur, cum cruci adstringitur,” Tertull. Scorp. 15, vol. ii. p. 151). Such is the traditionary account of the death of Peter, Euseb. ii. 25; iii. 1, where see notes in Heinichen’s edn. Cf. also Prolegg. to 1 Pet. § ii. 9 ff.

οἴσει , viz. in the lifting up after the fastening to the cross or perhaps, by a ὕστερον πρότερον , in making thee go the way to death, bearing thy cross.

ὅπου οὐ θέλ . ] “Quis enim vult mori? Prorsus nemo: et ita nemo ut B. Petro diceretur, Alter te cinget, et feret quo tu non vis.” Aug [260] Serm. clxxiii. 2.

[260] Augustine, Bp. of Hippo , 395 430

Prof. Bleek (Beiträge zur Evangelien-kritik, p. 235, note) suggests an interpretation of this prophecy which is surely contrary to John 21:19 : that the former part, ὅτε ἦς ν .… applies to the life of Peter before his calling, the latter ἐκτενεῖς … to his life in the service of the Lord, who is the ἄλλος who was to strengthen him for his work ( ζώσει ), that he was to stretch out his hands in the sense of his own weakness, not merely in the feebleness of old age (in prayer?), and finally this ἄλλος , the Lord whom he served, would carry him whither he would not, i.e. to a death of martyrdom. But this says nothing of ποίῳ θανάτῳ , on which the stress evidently is, and which Bleek, while he recognizes, endeavours to get rid of by strangely supposing the idea to have arisen after the death of Peter.

Verse 19

19. ] This remark is entirely in John’s manner, see ch. John 2:21 ; John 6:6 ; John 7:39 ; John 12:33 ; as may be also the δοξάζειν τ . θ . used of such a death, see ch. John 13:31 f.; John 17:1 .

ἀκολούθει μοι ] Not to be understood I think of any present gesture of the Lord calling Peter aside; but, from the next verse, followed perhaps by a motion of Peter towards Him, in which John joined. The words seem to be a plain reference to ch. John 13:36 ; and the following , a following through the Cross to glory: see Matthew 16:24 ; Mark 10:21 . Now, however, ἄρας τὸν σταυρόν is omitted. He had made this so plain, that it needed not expressing. There was also a forcible reminding Peter of the first time when he had heard this command on the same shore, Matthew 4:19 .

Verse 20

20. ] The details necessary to complete the narrative are obscure, and only hinted at in the background. It seems that Peter either was at the time of the foregoing conversation walking with Jesus, and turned round and saw John following, or that he moved towards Him on the termination of it (but certainly not from a misunderstanding of the words ἀκολ . μοι , see Joh 21:21 ). I can hardly conceive Him moving away on uttering these words, and summoning Peter away in private. It seems in the highest degree unnatural.

The description of the disciple whom Jesus loved is evidently inserted to justify his following, and is a strong token of John’s hand having written this chapter: see ch. John 13:23 .

Verse 21

21. ] Peter’s question shews that he had rightly understood the Lord’s prophecy respecting him. He now wishes to know what should befall his friend and colleague, ἀποδιδοὺς αὐτῷ τὴν ἀμοιβὴν (for his similar service in ch. Joh 13:23 just referred to) καὶ νομίσας αὐτὸν βούλεσθαι ἐρωτᾶν τὰ καθ ʼ αὑτόν , εἶτα μὴ θαῤῥεῖν , αὐτὸς ἀνεδέξατο τὴν ἐρώτησιν . Chrysost. (Stier vii. 198, edn. 2.) This was not mere idle curiosity, but that longing which we all feel for our friends; of which Bengel says, “Facilius nos ipsos voluntati divinæ impendimus, quam curiositatem circa alios, æquales præsertim aut suppares, deponimus.” οὐκ ἀκολουθήσει σοι ; οὐ τὴν αὐτὴν ἡμῖν ὁδὸν τοῦ θανάτου βαδιεῖται ; Euthym [261]

[261] Euthymius Zigabenus, 1116

Verse 22

22. ] The words τί πρὸς σέ ; imply a rebuke; not perhaps however so sharp a one as has been sometimes seen in them. They remind Peter of the distinctness of each man’s position and duty before the Lord; and the σύ μοι ἀκ ., which follows, directs his view along that course of duty and suffering, which was appointed for him by his Divine Master. Notice the emphatic expression of σύ , and the emphatic position of μοι : q. d. ‘ His appointed lot is no element in thy onward course: it is ME that thou must follow.’

On the ἐὰν θέλω …, three opinions have been held (for that which refers the words to John’s remaining where he then was, on the shore, till the Lord returned from His colloquy with Peter, is not worth more than cursory mention): (1) that of Aug [262] , Maldon., Grot., Lampe, Olsh., &c. (it being allowed on all hands, that μένειν means to remain in this life: see reff. and ch. Joh 12:34 ), “If I will that he remain till I fetch him,” i.e. by a natural death . But this is frigid, and besides inapplicable here. Peter’s death, although by the hands of an ἄλλος , was just as much the Lord’s ‘ coming for him ,’ as John’s, and there would thus be no contrast. (2) That that ‘coming of the Lord’ is meant which is so often in the three Gospels alluded to (see especially notes on Matthew 24:0 .), viz. the establishment in full of the dispensation of the Kingdom by the destruction of the nation and temple of the Jews. This is the view of some mentioned by Theophyl., of Bengel (see below), Stier, Dräseke, Jacobi, &c. and is upheld by the similar place, Matthew 16:28 . (3) That the Lord here only puts a case, “Even should I will that he remain upon earth till My last coming what would that be to thee?” This view is upheld by Trench, Miracles, p. 466, edn. 2; but I think must be rejected on maturer consideration of the character of the words of our Lord, in whose mouth such a mere hypothetical saying would be strangely incongruous, especially in these last solemn days of his presence on earth.

[262] Augustine, Bp. of Hippo , 395 430

The second view seems then to remain, and I adopt it with some qualification.

At the destruction of Jerusalem began that mighty series of events of which the Apocalypse is the prophetic record, and which is in the complex known as the ‘COMING OF THE LORD,’ ending, as it shall, with His glorious and personal Advent. This the beloved Apostle alone lived to see, according to ancient and undoubted tradition (Euseb. H. E. iii. 23). When De Wette (whom Lücke in the main follows: see also Mr. Elliott, Apocal. Alf. p. 160) calls this interpretation ganz nichtig , and would interpret this answer by the current idea in apostolic times, that His coming was very near, he is assuming (1) that this was the idea of the Apostles themselves (see 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3 ; 2 Peter 3:3-4 ; 2Pe 3:8-9 ); (2) that this answer is not that of our Lord, but apocryphal. If all that he says about the early expectations of the Church were granted, it would not follow that the view above taken is erroneous. And as to the chapter having been written after the death of John and the destruction of Jerusalem, see below.

Verse 23

23. ] τοὺς ἀδελφούς is an expression of later date than any usually occurring in the Gospels. It is however frequent in the Acts. see reff.

ἐξῆλθ . εἰς (see reff.) is more in the manner of the other Gospels.

καὶ οὐκ εἶπ .… ] This καί is much in John’s manner, see ch. John 16:32 ; not meaning but , rather, and yet.

The following words are to me a proof that this chapter was written during John’s lifetime. If written by another person after John’s death, we should certainly, in the refutation of this error, have read, ἀπέθανεν γάρ , καὶ ἐτάφη , as in Acts 2:29 .

This notion of John’s not having died, was prevalent in the early Church, so that Augustine himself seems almost to credit the story of the earth of John’s tomb heaving with his breath. Tract. cxxiv. 2. “The English sect of the ‘seekers’ under Cromwell expected the reappearance of the Apostle as the forerunner of the coming of Christ,” Tholuck. See Trench on the Miracles, edn. 2, p. 467 note. The simple recapitulation of the words of the Lord shews that their sense remained dark to the writer, who ventured on no explanation of them; merely setting his own side of the apostolic duty over against that of Peter, who probably had already by following his Master through the Cross, glorified God, whereas the beloved disciple was, whatever that meant, to tarry till He came.

Verse 24

24. ] περὶ τούτων and ταῦτα certainly refer to the whole Gospel, not merely to the Appendix and are quite in John’s style: see ch. John 12:41 ; John 20:31 .

οἴδαμεν is in John’s style see reff.: also 1 John 4:14 ; 1Jn 4:16 alli [263] . fr. On ὅτι ἀλ . ἐστ .… see 3 John 1:12 , and ch. John 5:32 .

[263] alli = some cursive mss.

Verses 24-25


Verse 25

25. ] The purpose of this verse seems to be to assert and vindicate the fragmentary character of the Gospel, considered merely as a historical narrative: for that the doings of the Lord were so many, His life so rich in matter of record, that, in a popular hyperbole, we can hardly imagine the world containing them all, if singly written down; thus setting forth the superfluity and cumbrousness of any thing like a perfect detail, in the strongest terms, and in terms which certainly looked as if fault had been found with this Gospel for want of completeness, by some objectors.

The reader will have perceived on the foregoing comment on the chapter a manifest leaning to the belief that it was written by John himself. Of this I am fully convinced . In every part of it, his hand is plain and unmistakeable: in every part of it, his character and spirit is manifested in a way which none but the most biassed can fail to recognize. I believe it to have been added some years probably after the completion of the Gospel; partly perhaps to record the important miracle of the second draught of fishes, so full of spiritual instruction, and the interesting account of the sayings of the Lord to Peter; but principally to meet the error which was becoming prevalent concerning himself. In order to do this, he gives a complete account, with all minute details, even to the number of the fish caught, of the circumstances preceding the conversation, and the very words of the Lord Himself; not pretending to put a meaning on those words, but merely asserting that they announced no such thing as that he should not die. Surely nothing can be more natural than this. External evidence completely tallies with this view. The chapter is contained in all the principal MSS.: and there is no greater variety of reading than usual. In these respects it differs remarkably from Joh 7:53 to John 8:11 , and indeed from even Mark 16:9-20 . Internal evidence of style and diction is nearly balanced. It certainly contains several words and constructions not met with elsewhere in John; but, on the other hand, the whole cast of it is his; the copulæ are his; the train of thought, and manner of narration. And all allowance should be made for the double alteration of style of writing which would be likely to be brought about, by lapse of time, and by the very nature of an appendix, a fragment, not forming part of a whole written continuously, but standing by itself. The last two verses, from their contents, we might expect to have more of the epistolary form; and accordingly we find them singularly in style resembling the Epistles of John.

On the whole, I am persuaded that in this chapter we have a fragment, both authentic and genuine , added, for reasons apparent on the face of it, by the Apostle himself , bearing evidence of his hand, but in a ‘second manner,’ a later style; probably (as I think is shewn, inter alia, in the simplicity of the οἶμαι in Joh 21:25 ) in the decline of life. I cannot, with Luthardt, regard the last two verses as an addition by the Ephesian Church. If, as he thinks, the οἴδαμεν favours this view, does not the οἶμαι as much disfavour it? Nor does the ingenious reasoning of Bp. Wordsworth at all convince me that this chapter originally formed a part of the Gospel, or that the view here advocated arises from a “non-apprehension of the connexion between the 20th and 21st chapters.” His à priori reason, that had it been an appendix afterwards added, we should have had two distinct editions of the Gospel, whereas now all the MSS. contain it, is not reliable, in the uncertainty which rests on the origin of our present MSS., and also on the length or shortness of the interval during which it may have been wanting to the Gospel.

Bibliographical Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on John 21". Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.