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Bible Commentaries

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

John 21

Verse 3

How comes it that Peter, after his conversion, should return to his fishing, when Jesus Christ had said, that he that sets his hand to the plough, and looks back, is not worthy of the kingdom of heaven? The employments they applied to before their conversion, without being guilty of sin, these they might, without fault, exercise, after their conversion: therefore Peter returned to his fishing; but St. Matthew never returned to his custom-house, because when once converted, we never can be allowed to give ourselves to these employments, which of themselves lead to sin. And there are many pursuits which can scarcely, or not at all, be followed without sin. (St. Gregory, hom. xxiv. in Evan.)

Verse 5

Have you any meat? [1] Have you any thing to eat? This is what is literally signified, both in the Latin and in the Greek text. (Witham)



Numquid pulmentarium habetis? Greek: me ti prosphagion.

Verse 7

It is the Lord. St. John Chrysostom says, we may here see the different characters of the two apostles, Peter and John; the former is more ardent, the latter more sublime; the first more vehement, the last more penetrating; for these reasons, John was the first to know Christ, Peter the first to hasten to him. (Hom. lxxxvi.)

Verse 8

The evangelist praises Peter, and excuses the other apostles: all come to Christ; the former leaving his boat, his companions, his nets and prey, arrives more expeditiously; the latter with the impediments of the boat and nets, &c. &c. arrive also, but not so readily; a just figure this of religious, who leave all to go directly to God, and of those who remain in the world, and have to navigate a treacherous element with imminent danger of shipwreck. (Maldonatus) --- The poet Sedulius writes thus on the nets: Pendula fluctivagam traxerunt retia pr'e6dam,

Per typicam noscenda viam; nam retia dignis

Lucida sunt pr'e6cepta Dei, quibus omnis in illa

Dextra parte manens concluditur, ac simul ulnis

Fertur apostolicis Domini ad vestigia Christi.

Verse 9

Hot coals lying, and a fish laid thereon, and bread. The fish caught in the net were not yet drawn to land. These things, then, were created out of nothing, or miraculously transported thither, by the divine power. (Witham)

Verse 11

Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land, full of great fishes, one hundred and fifty-three; a figure of the great number to be converted by the labours of the apostles. (Witham)

Verse 12

And none of them who were at meat, durst ask him, who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. It is likely he appeared to them with a countenance different, and brighter than before his death; yet they were presently so convinced it was Jesus, that they were ashamed to ask or doubt of it. (Witham)

Verse 14

This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to his disciples. He had appeared to them more than thrice, even the very day of his resurrection. (Matthew xxviii. 16.) Here it is called the third time either because it was the third different day; or because it was the third time that he had them appeared to a considerable number together. After this, he appeared to them frequently, and conversed with them for forty days, till his ascension. See Acts i. 3. and 1 Corinthians xv. 5. (Witham) --- This must be understood of the third day, or of the third time, that our Saviour appeared to his apostles assembled: the first day, being the day of his resurrection; the second, eight days after, when St. Thomas saw, and believed; and on this day of their fishing. (St. Augustine, tract. 122. in Joan.) --- The evangelists relates ten different manifestations of our Saviour, after his resurrection. First, he was seen by the women at the sepulchre; 2ndly, he was again seen by the same holy women, returning from the sepulchre; 3rdly, by St. Peter; 4thly, by the two going to Emmaus; 5thly, by many at Jerusalem, when Thomas was not with them; 6thly, at the time when St. Thomas saw him; 7thly, at the sea of Tiberias; 8thly, by the eleven, on a mountain of Galilee, according to St. Matthew; 9thly, according to St. Mark, by the disciples, at their refreshment, because he was going to sup with them no more; and 10thly, on the day of his ascension, raised from the earth into heaven. (St. Augustine, de Concord. Ev. lib. iii. chap. 25.)

Verse 15

Simon, son of John, lovest thou me more than these? That is, more than any one of these love me. Christ puts this question thrice to St. Peter, that this triple protestation of love, says St. Augustine, might correspond to his triple denial. St. Peter did not answer that he loved him more than the rest did, which he could not know, but modestly said: yea, Lord, thou knowest I love thee: and the third time, thou knowest all things, and the hearts of all men, thou knowest how much I love thee. At each protestation, Jesus answered, feed my lambs; and the third time, feed my sheep. To feed, in the style of the Scriptures, is to guide, rule, and govern. St. Ambrose and some others take notice, as if by the lambs, might be understood the people, and by the sheep, those placed over them, as bishops, priests, &c. but others make no such difference in this place, betwixt lambs and sheep, only as comprehending all the members of Christ's Church, of what condition soever, even the rest of the apostles. For here it was that Christ gave to St. Peter that power which he had promised him, (Matthew xvi. 18.) that is, He now made St. Peter head[1] of his whole Church, as he had insinuated at the first meeting, when St. Andrew brought him to our Saviour, when he changed his name from Simon to Peter: again, when he chose him, and made him the first of his twelve apostles; but particularly, when he said, thou art Peter, (a rock) and upon this rock will I build my Church, &c. Upon this account the Catholic Church, from the very first ages, hath always reverenced, and acknowledged the supreme power of the successors of St. Peter, in spirituals, over all Christian Churches. This appears also by the writings of Tertullian, of St. Iren'e6us, of St. Cyprian, of the greatest doctors and bishops, both of the west and east, of St. Jerome, St. Augustine, of St. John Chrysostom, in several places, of the first general Councils, particularly of the great Council of Chalcedon, &c. (Witham) --- Simon (son) of John. The father's name is here added, to discriminate him from Simon Thaddeus, that every one might know that the chief care of the universal Church was not given to any other apostle but Peter. This Simon of John is the same as Simon Bar-jona. See Matthew xvi. 17. (Menochius) --- St. Peter had three times renounced his master; and Jesus, to give him an opportunity of repairing his fault by a triple confession, three several times demanded of him, if he loved him more than these? That, as St. Augustine remarks, he who had thrice denied through fear might thrice confess through love. (Calmet)



He made St. Peter head of his whole Church. See Tertullian, lib. de pudicitia, p. 556. Ed. Rig. where he calls the successor of St. Peter, Pontificem maximum, & Episcopum Episcoporum; St. Iren'e6us, lib. iii. chap. 3; St. Cyprian, ep. 55. p. 84, Ed. Rig. Navigare audent & ad Petri Cathedram, atque ad Ecclesiam principalem. See St. Jerome, epist. lvii. and lviii. p. 175. nov. Ed. St. Augustine. --- St. John Chrysostom on this place, hom. lxxxviii. p. 525. nov. Ed. Cur. aliis pr'e6termissis (Petrum) alloquitur? he answers, Greek: ekkritos en ton Apostolon, kai stoma ton matheton, kai koruphe tou chorou, c'9ctus illius caput. ... fratrum pr'e6fecturam suscipe; Greek: egcheirizetai ten prostasian ton adelphon. And a little after, p. 527. putting the objection, why St. James, and not St. Peter, was made bishop of Jerusalem, he answers; because St. Peter was to be over the whole universe; Greek: tes oikoumenes echeirotonese, &c. The same St. John Chrysostom, lib. ii. de Sacerd. chap. 1. tom. 1. p. 372. nov. Ed. Ben. qua de causa ille sanguinem effudit suum? certe ut oves eas acquireret, quarum curam tum Petro, tum Petri Successoribus committebat. --- Conc. Chalced. Lab. tom. 4. p. 565. The Council thus writes to St. Leo; omnibus constitutus interpres, quibus tu quidem tanquam caput membris pr'e6eras, &c. Greek: pasin ermeneus kathestamenos, &c. And p. 368. Petrus per Leonem ita locutus est; Greek: Petros dia Leontos tauta exephonesen. See Annotation for Matthew xvi. ver. 18.

Verses 16-17

The lambs and the sheep of our Saviour here mean the faithful, who compose his Church, without any distinction of Jew or Gentile. St. Peter, by these words, is appointed to take charge of the whole flock, as being the chief and prince of the apostles. He is, in some manner, the pastor, not of the sheep only, but of the pastors themselves. They have each their own flock to look after; but to him is committed the care of all; he alone is the pastor of all. (Calmet) --- Feed my sheep. Our Lord had promised the spiritual supremacy to St. Peter; (St. Matthew xvi. 19.) and here he fulfils that promise, by charging him with the superintendency of all his sheep, without exception; and consequently of his whole flock, that is, of his whole Church. (Challoner)

Verse 18

Thou shalt stretch forth thy hands ... signifying by what death he should glorify God; that is, that a cross should be the instrument of his death and martyrdom. --- Whither thou wouldst not: which is no more than to say, that a violent death is against the natural inclination of any man, even though he be ever so willing, and disposed to undergo it. (Witham) --- By this is meant the martyrdom of St. Peter, which took place thirty-four years after this. He was first cast into prison, and then led out to punishment as Christ had foretold him. He stretched out his arms to be chained, and again he stretched them out, when he was crucified; for he died on the cross, as the ancients assure us. (Calmet)

Verse 21

Lord, what shall this man do? St. John Chrysostom thinks, it was the love and friendship, that St. Peter had for St. John, that moved him to ask this question. (Witham)

Verse 22

Jesus saith: so I will have him remain, [3] &c. That is, in case I will have him remain; or, as it is in the Greek, if I will have him remain, what is that to thee? It is thy duty, and thy concern, to follow me. (Witham) --- When Christ told St. Peter to follow him, he meant, that he should go like himself to the death of the cross; but when he says of St. John, So I will have him to remain till I come, he insinuates that his beloved disciple should not undergo a violent death; but remain in the world, till he should visit him by death, and conduct him to glory. It may likewise be understood of the Revelation, in which our Saviour manifested himself in his glory to this his beloved disciple. In the Greek, it is, if I will have him to remain; and this is the true reading, according to Estius, and Jansenius, bishop of Ghent, authorized by many Latin copies. Others refer these words of Christ to his coming to destroy Jerusalem: an epoch which St. John survived.



Sic eum volo manere, Greek: ean auton thelo menein.

Verse 23

This saying, therefore: [4] that is, a report went about among the disciples, the John was not to die. But St. John himself, as St. Augustine and St. John Chrysostom observe, took care to tell us, that Christ said not so. Nor do we find any sufficient grounds to think that St. John is not dead. (Witham)



St. Augustine, tract. 124. p. 819. D. Hanc opinionem Joannes ipse abstulit, non hoc dixisse Dominum, aperta contradictione declarans: cur emin subjungeret, non dixit Jesus, non moritur, nisi ne hominum cordibus quod falsum fuerat inh'e6reret? &c. So St. John Chrysostom says, he spoke this to prevent or correct this mistake. p. 528. Greek: diorthoutai.

Verse 24

This is that disciple, &c. Some conjecture, that these words wer added by the Church of Ephesus. But the ancient Fathers, St. John Chrysostom, St. Cyril, St. Augustine, expound them as they do the rest, without any such remark. Nor is it unusual for a person to write in this manner of himself, as of a third person. It is what St. John hath done of himself, chap. xix. ver. 35. (Witham) --- Some conjecture, that these words were added by the Church of Ephesus, to point out St. John to be the real author of this history, and to record their own assent to this his testimony. But the ancient Fathers give no such comment. Nor is it unusual for a person to write of himself, as of a third person. It is what St. John hath done before.

Verse 25

The world [5] itself, I think, &c. It is an hyperbolical way of speaking, says St. Cyril, common enough, even in the holy Scriptures; and only signifies, that a very great number of things, which Christ did and said, have not been recorded. (Witham) --- This is a figure of speech, called hyperbole, and only means that it would require many, many books, to contain all the various actions and sayings of our divine Lord.



Nec ipsum arbitror mundum, &c. St. Cyril on this expression, p. 1123, Greek: uperbolikos. See St. Augustine at the end of his 124. tract. where he says, such hyperboles are found elsewhere in the holy Scripture.


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Bibliographical Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on John 21". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.