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Bible Commentaries
John 3

Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New TestamentMeyer's Commentary

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John 3:2 . Instead of αὐτόν , the Elzevir has τὸν Ἰησοῦν , in the face of decisive testimonies. The beginning of a new section and of a church lesson.

John 3:2 . The position of δύναται immediately after γάρ (Lachm. Tisch.) is supported by preponderating testimony.

John 3:5 . For τ . θεοῦ Tisch. reads τῶν οὐρανῶν , upon ancient but yet inadequate testimony ( א * Inst. Hippol. etc.).

John 3:13 . ὁ ὢν ἐν τ . οὐρ .] wanting in B. L. T b . א . 33. Eus. Naz. Origen; deleted by Tisch. But these mysterious words may easily have been regarded as objectionable or superfluous, because not understood or misunderstood; and there was nothing to suggest the addition of them.

John 3:15 . μὴ ἀπόληται , ἀλλʼ ] is deleted by Tisch. after B. L. T b . א . Min. Verss. Fathers. Rightly so; it is an addition borrowed from John 3:16 .

The readings ἐπʼ αὐτόν (Lachm.), ἐπʼ αὐτῷ and ἐν αὐτῷ (Tisch.), have indeed less support than the received εἰς αὐτόν , but this latter forced itself in as the most current form of expression, and ἐν αὐτῷ is, following B. T b . Codd. It., to be preferred.

John 3:19 . The order αὐτῶν πονηρά has preponderating evidence in its favour.

John 3:25 . The Elzevir has Ἰουδαίων instead of Ἰουδαίου , in the face of decisive testimony. The plural evidently was inserted mechanically.

John 3:31 f. The second ἐπάνω πάντων ἐστι has against it very weak testimony, viz. D. א . Min. and some Verss. and Fathers. But the following καί (bracketed by Lachm., deleted by Tisch.) is omitted not only by the same testimonies, but also by B. L. Min. Copt. Pers., and must be regarded as an interpolation, the absence of which originally led more easily to the omission of ἐπάνω π . ἐ .

John 3:34 . ὁ θεός after δίδωσιν is wanting in B. C.* L. T b . א . Min. 3 :Brix. Cyr.; bracketed by Lachm., deleted by Tisch. A supplying of the subject, which seemed uncertain.

Verses 1-2

John 3:1-2 . Prominence is now given to a specially important narrative, connected by the δέ which continues the discourse, a narrative belonging to that first sojourn in Jerusalem, viz. the conversation with Nicodemus , wherein Jesus more fully explains His person and work. No intimation is given of any inner connection with what precedes (Lücke: “now comes an instance of that higher knowledge possessed by Jesus;” De Wette, Lange, Hengstenberg: “an illustration of the entire statement in John 2:23-25 ;” Tholuck: “an instance of the beginnings of faith just named;” Luthardt: “from the people collectively, to whom Jesus had addressed Himself, a transition is now made to His dealing with an individual;” Ewald: “Nicodemus appears desirous to make an exception to the general standing aloof of men of weight in Jerusalem”).

ἄνθρωπος ] in its most ordinary use, simply equivalent to τὶς ; not “un exemplaire de ce type humain que Jésus connaissait si bien” (Godet). It is quite independent of John 2:25 , introducing a new narrative.

Νικόδημος , a frequent name as well among the Greeks (Demosth. 549. 23, and later writers) as among the Jews ( נַקְדָם or נַקְדִימוֹן , see Lightfoot and Wetstein). We know nothing certain of this man beyond the statements concerning him in St. John (comp. John 7:50 , John 19:39 ). [148] The Nicodemus of the Talmud was also called Bunai , must have survived the destruction of Jerusalem, and was known under this latter name as a disciple of Jesus. See Delitzsch in the Zeitschr. f. Luther. Theol . 1854, p. 643. The identity of the two is possible, but uncertain. The so-called Evangelium Nicodemi embraces, though in a doubtful form, two different treatises, viz. the Acta Pilati and the Descensus Christi ad inferos . See Tischendorf, Evang. Apocr . p. 203 ff.

ἄρχων ] He was a member of the Sanhedrim, John 7:50 ; Luke 23:13 ; Luke 24:20 .

He came to Jesus by night , [149] being still undecided, in order to avoid the suspicion and hostility of his colleagues. He was not a hypocrite (as Koppe in Pott, Sylloge , IV. p. 31 ff., holds), who pretended to be simple in order to elicit from Jesus some ground of accusation; a circumstance which, if true, John would not have failed to state, especially considering what he says of him in John 7:50 and John 19:39 : he was, on the contrary, though of a somewhat slow temperament, a man of honourable character, who, together with others ( οἴδαμεν , comp. ὑμᾶς , John 3:7 ), was in a general way convinced by the miracles of Jesus that He must be a divinely commissioned and divinely supported Teacher, and he therefore sought, by a confidential interview, to determine more exactly his to that extent half-believing judgment, and especially to find out whether Jesus perhaps was the very Messiah. His position as a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrim shows how strongly and honestly he must have felt this need. Comp. John 12:42 .

For the entire section see Knapp, Scripta var. arg . I. 183; Fabricius, Commentat. Gott . 1825; Scholl in Klaiber’s Studien , V. 1, p. 71; Jacobi in the Stud. u. Krit . 1835, 1; Hengstenberg in the Evang. K. Z . 1860, 49; Steinfass in the Meklenb. Zeitschr . 1864, p. 913.

That the disciples, and John in particular, were with Jesus during the interview, has nothing against it (as De Wette and most others think), for Nicodemus came to Jesus by night only through fear of the Jews; and the vivid and peculiar features, with the harmonious characteristics of the narrative, even if touched up by the pen of John, confirm the supposition that he was a witness. If not, he must have received what he relates from the Lord Himself, as it impressed itself deeply and indelibly upon his recollection. As to the result of the interview, nothing historically to be relied upon has come down to us, simply because there was no immediate effect apparent in Nicodemus. But see John 7:50 , John 19:39 .

ὅτι ἀπὸ θεοῦ ἐλήλ . διδάσκαλος ] that thou art come from God as teacher . The expression implies the thought of one divinely sent , but not the idea of the Logos (as Bretschneider holds).

ταῦτα τὰ σημεῖα ] emphatic, haecce tanta signa .

ἐὰν μὴ ᾖ ὁ θεὸς μετʼ αὐτοῦ ] ὅτι οὐκ ἐξ οἰκείας δυνάμεως ταῦτα ποιεῖ , ἀλλʼ ἐκ τῆς τοῦ θεοῦ , Euthymius Zigabenus. From the miracles (John 2:23 ) Nicodemus thus infers the assistance of God, and from this again that the worker of them is one sent from God.

[148] According to Baur, p. 173, he is a typical person, representing the believing and yet really unbelieving Judaism, just as the Samaritan woman (chap. 4) represents believing heathendom; thus leaving it uncertain how far the narrative is to be taken as fact. According to Strauss, the whole owes its origin to the reproach that Christianity made way only among the common people (notwithstanding 1 Corinthians 1:26-27 ). weisse rejects at least the truth of the account , which De Wette designates “a poetical, free, and highly spiritualized reproduction.” See on the other hand Brückner. According to Hilgenfeld, the whole conversation cannot be understood “unless we view it from the evangelist’s standing-point;” according to which, we see that the design is simply and solely to explain how Christianity essentially distinguished itself from Judaism. According to Scholten, we have here set forth the power of Christianity triumphing over the slowness of heart and prejudices of the learned, this merely, without any historical basis of fact in the story.

[149] A symbolical reference to “ the still benighted mind ” must not be attributed to this simple historical statement (against Hengstenberg).

Verse 3

John 3:3 . In John 3:2 Nicodemus had only uttered the preface to what he had it in his mind to ask; the question itself was to have followed. But Jesus interrupts him, and gives him the answer by anticipation. This question, which was not (as Lange thinks, in contradiction of the procedure of Nicodemus on other occasions) kept back with remarkable prudence and caution, is to be inferred solely from the answer of Jesus; and it was accordingly no other than the general inquiry, “ What must a man do in order to enter the Messiah’s kingdom? ” not the special one, “Is the baptism of John sufficient for this?” (Baeumlein), for there is no mention of John the Baptist in what follows; comp. rather Matthew 19:16 . The first is the question which the Lord reads in the heart of Nicodemus, and to which He gives an answer ,- an answer in which He at once lays hold of the anxiety of the questioner in its deepest foundation, and overturns all Pharisaic, Judaistic, and merely human patchwork and pretence. To suppose that part of the conversation is here omitted (Maldonatus, Kuinoel, and others), is as arbitrary as to refer the answer of Jesus to the words of Nicodemus. Such a reference must be rejected, because Jesus had not given him time to tell the purpose of his coming. We must not therefore assume, either that Jesus wished to lead him on from faith in His miracles to that faith which effects a moral transformation (Augustine, De Wette, comp. also Luthardt and Ebrard); or that “He wished to convince Nicodemus, who imagined he had made a great confession in his first words, that he had not yet so much as made his way into the porticoes of true knowledge” (Chrysostom); or that “He wished to intimate that He had not come merely as a Teacher , but in order to the moral renewal of the world” (Baumgarten Crusius, comp. already Cyril, and Theophylact); or, “Videris tibi, O Nicodeme, videre aliquod signum apparentis jam regni coelorum in hisce miraculis, quae ego edo; amen dico tibi: nemo potest videre regnum Dei, sicut oportet , si non, etc.” (Lightfoot, approved by Lücke, and substantially by Godet also).

ἐὰν μὴ τις γενν . ἄνωθεν ] except a man be born from above, i.e . except a man be transformed by God into a new moral life. See on John 1:13 . What is here required answers to the μετανοεῖτε , etc., with, which Jesus usually began His preaching, Mark 1:15 . ἄνωθεν , the opposite of κάτωθεν , may be taken with reference to place (here equivalent to ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ; comp. Xen. Mem . iv. 3. 14; Symp . vi. 7; Thuc. iv. 75. 3; Soph. El . 1047; Eur. Cycl . 322; Bar 6:63 ; James 1:17 ; James 3:15 ), or with reference to time (equivalent to ἐξ ἀρχῆς ); Chrysostom gives both renderings. The latter is the ordinary interpretation

Syriac, Augustine, Vulgate, Nonnus, Luther, Castalio, Calvin, Beza, Maldonatus, etc. (so likewise Tholuck, Olshausen, Neander, and substantially Luthardt, Hengstenberg, Godet) because Nicodemus himself (John 3:4 ) thus understood it. Accordingly, ἄνωθεν would be equivalent to iterum, again, anew , as Grimm (on Wis 19:6 ) also thinks. But this is already unjustifiable upon linguistic grounds, because ἄνωθεν when used of time does not signify iterum or denuo , but throughout, from the beginning onwards [150] (and so Ewald and Weiss interpret it), Luke 1:3 ; Acts 26:5 ; Galatians 4:9 ; Wis 19:6 ; Dem. 539, 22. 1082, 7. 13; Plat. Phil . 44 D; and, conformably with Johannean usage, the only right rendering is the local , not only linguistically (John 3:31 ; John 19:11 ; John 19:23 ), but, considering the manner of representation, because John apprehends regeneration, not according to the element of repetition , a being born again , but as a divine birth, a being born of God; see John 1:13 ; 1 John 2:29 ; 1Jn 3:9 ; 1 John 4:7 ; 1 John 5:1 . The representation of it as a repeated, a renewed birth is Pauline (Titus 3:5 , comp. Romans 12:2 ; Galatians 6:15 ; Ephesians 4:23-24 ; Colossians 3:9 ) and Petrine (1 Peter 3:22 ). Ἄνωθεν , therefore, is rightly taken as equivalent to ἐκ θεοῦ by Origen, Gothic Vers. ( ïupathrô ), Cyril, Theophylact, Arethas, Bengel, etc.; also Lücke, B. Crusius, Maier, De Wette, Baur, Lange, Hilgenfeld, Baeumlein, Weizsäcker (who, however, adopts a double sense), Steinfass.

ἰδεῖν ] i.e . as a partaker thereof. Comp. εἰσελθεῖν , John 3:5 , and see John 3:36 , also ἰδεῖν θάνατον (Luke 2:26 ; Hebrews 11:5 ), διαφθοράν (Acts 2:27 ), ἡμέρας ἀγαθάς (1 Peter 3:10 ), πένθος (Revelation 18:7 ). From the classics, see Jacobs ad Del. epigr . p. 387 ff.; Ellendt, Lex. Soph . II. 343. Not therefore: “simply to see , to say nothing of entering,” Lange; comp. Ewald on John 3:5 . It is to be observed that the expression βασ . τοῦ θεοῦ does not occur in John, save here and in John 3:5 ; [151] and this is a proof of the accuracy with which he has recorded this weighty utterance of the Lord in its original shape. In John 18:36 Christ, on an extraordinary occasion, speaks of His kingdom. The conception of “the kingdom” in John does not differ from its meaning elsewhere in the N. T. (see on Matthew 3:2 ). Moreover, the necessary correlative thereto, the Parousia, is not wanting in John (see on John 14:3 ).

[150] This, and not “again from the beginning,” as Hofmann ( Schriftbeweis , II. 11) arbitrarily renders it, is the meaning of ἄνωθεν . It is self-evident that the conception from the beginning does not harmonize with that of being born . Nor, indeed, would “again from the beginning,” but simply “again,” be appropriate. Again from the beginning would be πάλιν ἄνωθεν , as in Wis 19:6 ; Galatians 4:9 . The passage, moreover, from Josephus, Antt . i. 18. 3, which Hofmann and Godet (following Krebs and others) quote as sanctioning their rendering, is inconclusive. For there we read φιλίαν ἄνωθεν ποιεῖται : “he makes friendship from the beginning onwards ,” not implying the continuance of a friendship before unused, nor an entering again upon it. Artemidorus also, Oneirocr . i. 14, p. 18 (cited by Tholuck after Wetstein), where mention is made of a dream of a corporeal birth, uses ἄνωθεν in the sense not of again , but as equivalent to coelitus with the idea of a divine agency in the dream (Herm. Gottesd. Alterth . § 37. 7. 19).

[151] ‘The expression, moreover, βασ . τῶν οὐρανῶν (comp. the Critical Notes) is not found in John.

Verse 4

John 3:4 . The question does not mean: “If the repetition of a corporeal birth is so utterly impossible, how am I to understand thy word, ἄνωθεν γεννηθῆναι ?” (Lücke); nor: “How can this ἄνωθεν γενν . take place, save by a second corporeal birth?” as if Nicodemus could not conceive of the beginning of a new personal life without a recommencement of natural life (Luthardt, comp. Hofmann); nor: “How comes it that a Jew must be born anew like a proselyte?” (Knapp, Neander, comp. Wetstein; for the Rabbins liken proselytes to new-born babes, Jevamoth , f. 62. 1; 92. 1); nor again: “This requirement is as impossible in the case of a man already old as for one to enter again, etc.” (Schweizer, B. Crusius, Tholuck, comp. Baumgarten and Hengstenberg). These meanings are not in the words, they are simply imported into them. But the opinion that Nicodemus here wished to “ entangle Jesus in His words ” (Luther), or that, under excited feelings, he intentionally took the requirement in a literal sense in order to reduce it ad absurdum (Riggenbach), or “by a stroke of Rabbinical cleverness in argumentation” to declare it to be too strongly put (Lange, Life of Jesus p. 495), is opposed to the honourable bearing of this straightforward man. According to the text, what Nicodemus really asks is something preposterous . And this is of such a nature, that it is only reconcilable with the even scanty culture of a Jewish theologian (John 3:10 ), who could not, however, be ignorant of the O. T. ideas of circumcision of heart (Deuteronomy 30:6 ; Jeremiah 4:4 ), of a new heart and a new spirit (Ezekiel 11:19-20 ; Ezekiel 36:26-27 ; Psalms 51:12 ; Psalms 86:4 ff.), as well as of the outpouring of the Spirit in the time of the Messiah (Joel 2:0 ; Jeremiah 31:0 ), upon the assumption that, being a somewhat narrow-minded man, and somewhat entangled by his faith in the miracles, he was taken aback, confused and really perplexed , partly by the powerful impression which Jesus produced upon him generally, partly by the feeling of surprise at seeing his thoughts known to Him, partly by the unexpected and incomprehensible ἄνωθεν γεννηθῆναι , in which, however, he has an anticipation that something miraculous is contained. In this his perplexity , and not “in an ironical humour ” (as Godet thinks, although out of keeping with the entire manifestation), he asks this foolish question, as if Jesus had spoken of a corporeal birth and not of a birth of one’s moral personality. Still less can there be any suspicion of this question being an invention , as if John merely wished to represent Nicodemus as a very foolish man (Strauss; comp. De Wette and Reuss), a notion which, even on the supposition of a desire to spin out the conversation by misapprehensions on the part of the hearers, would be too clumsy to be entertained.

γέρων ὤν ] when he is an old man; Nicodemus added this to represent the impossibility with reference to himself in a stronger light.

δεύτερον ] with reference to being for a time in the mother’s womb before birth . He did not take the ἄνωθεν to mean δεύτερον , he simply did not understand it at all .

Verse 5

John 3:5 . Jesus now explains more fully the ἄνωθεν γεννηθῆναι onwards to John 3:8 .

ἐξ ὕδατος κ . πνεύματος ] water , inasmuch as the man is baptized therewith (1 John 5:7-8 ; Ephesians 5:26 ) for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:33 ; Acts 22:16 ; 2 Corinthians 6:11 ), and spirit , inasmuch as the Holy Ghost is given to the person baptized in order to his spiritual renewal and sanctification; both together [152] the former as causa medians , the latter as causa efficiens constitute the objective and causative element, out of which (comp. John 1:13 ) the birth from above is produced ( ἐκ ), and therefore baptism is the ΛΟΥΤΡῸΝ ΠΑΛΙΓΓΕΝΕΣΊΑς (Titus 3:5 ; comp. Tertullian c. Marc . i. 28). But that Christian baptism (John 3:22 ; John 4:2 ), and not that of John (B. Crusius; Hofmann, Schriftbeweis , II. 2. 12; Lange, who, however, generalizes ideally; and earlier comm.), is to be thought of in ὕδατος , is clear from the Κ . ΠΝΕΎΜΑΤΟς joined with it, and from the fact that He who had already appeared as Messiah could no longer make the baptism of His forerunner the condition, not even the preparatory condition, of His Messianic grace; for in that case He must have said ΟὐΚ ἘΞ ὝΔΑΤΟς ΜΌΝΟΝ , ἈΛΛᾺ ΚΑΊ . If Nicodemus was not yet able to understand ὝΔΑΤΟς as having this definite reference, but simply took the word in general as a symbolical designation of Messianic expiation of sin and of purification, according to O. T. allusions (Ezekiel 36:25 ; Isaiah 1:16 ; Malachi 3:3 ; Zechariah 13:1 ; Jeremiah 33:8 ), and to what he knew of John’s baptism, still it remained for him to look to the immediate future for more definite knowledge, when the true explanation could not escape him (John 4:2 , John 3:22 ). We are not therefore to conclude from this reference to baptism, that the narrative is “ a proleptic fiction ” (Strauss, Bruno Bauer), and, besides Matthew 18:3 , to suppose in Justin and the Clementines uncanonical developments (Hilgenfeld and others; see Introduction, § 2). Neither must we explain it as if Jesus were referring Nicodemus not to baptism as such, but only by way of allusion to the symbolic import of the water in baptism (Lücke; Neander, p. 910). This latter view does not satisfy the definite γεννηθῇ ἐξ , upon which, on the other side, Theodore of Mopsuestia and others, in modern times Olshausen in particular, lay undue stress, taking the water to be the female principle in regeneration (the Spirit as the male ) water being, according to Olshausen, “the element of the soul purified by true repentance.” All explanations, moreover, must be rejected which, in order to do away with the reference to baptism, [153] adopt the principle of an ἓν διὰ δυοῖν , for water and Spirit are two quite separate conceptions. This is especially in answer to Calvin, who says: “of water, which is the Spirit ,” and Grotius: “ spiritus aqueus , i.e. aquae instar emundans .” It is further to be observed, (1) that both the words being without the article, they must be taken generically , so far as the water of baptism and the Holy Spirit are included in the general categories of water and Spirit; not till we reach John 3:6 is the concrete term used; (2) that ὕδατος is put first, because the gift of the Spirit as a rule (Acts 2:38 ) followed upon baptism (Acts 10:47 is an exceptional case); (3) that believing in Jesus as the Messiah is presupposed as the condition of baptism (Mark 16:16 ); (4) that the necessity of baptism in order to participation in the Messianic kingdom (a doctrine against which Calvin in particular, and other expositors of the Reformed Church, contend) has certainly its basis in this passage, but with reference to the convert to Christianity, and not extending in the same way to the children of Christians, for these by virtue of their Christian parentage are already ἅγιοι (see on 1 Corinthians 7:14 ). Attempts to explain away this necessity e.g . by the comparative rendering: “ not only by water, but also by the Spirit” (B. Crusius; comp. Schweizer, who refers to the baptism of proselytes, and Ewald) are meanings imported into the words.

[152] Weisse, who does not regard the rite of baptism by water as having originated in the institution of Christ, but considers that it arose from a misapplication of His words concerning the baptism of the Spirit, greatly errs when he declares that to make regeneration depend upon baptism by water “ is little better than blasphemy ” ( Evangelienfrage , p. 194).

[153] Krummacher, recently, in the Stud. u. Krit . 1859, p. 509, understands by the water the working of the Holy Spirit. How untenable! for the Spirit is named as a distinct factor side by side with water .

Verse 6

John 3:6 . A more minute antithetic definition of this birth, in order further to elucidate it.

We have not in what follows two originally different classes of persons designated (Hilgenfeld), for the new birth is needed by all (see John 3:7 ; comp. also Weiss, Lehrbegriff , p. 128), but two different and successive epochs of life .

τὸ γεγεννημ .] neuter , though designating persons, to give prominence to the statement as general and categorical . See Winer, p. 167 [E. T. p. 222].

ἐκ τῆς σαρκός ] The σάρξ is that human nature , consisting of body and soul, which is alien and hostile to the divine, influenced morally by impulses springing from the power of sin, whose seat it is, living and operating with the principle of sensible life, the ψυχή . See on Romans 4:1 . “ What is born of human nature thus sinfully constituted (and, therefore, not in the way of spiritual birth from God ) , is a being of the same sinfully conditioned nature , [154] without the higher spiritual moral life which springs only from the working of the divine Spirit. Comp. John 1:12-13 . Destitute of this divine working, man is merely σαρκικός , ψυχικός (1 Corinthians 2:14 ), πεπραμένος ὑπὸ τὴν ἁμαρτίαν (Romans 7:14 ), and, despite his natural moral consciousness and will in the νοῦς , is wholly under the sway of the sinful power that is in the σάρξ (Romans 7:14-25 ). The σάρξ , as the moral antithesis of the πνεῦμα , stands in the same relation to the human πνεῦμα with the νοῦς , as the prevailingly sinful and morally powerless life of our lower nature does to the higher moral principle of life (Matthew 26:41 ) with the will converted to God; while it stands in the same relation to the divine πνεῦμα , as that which is determinately opposed to God stands to that which determines the new life in obedience to God (Romans 8:1-3 ). In both relations, σάρξ and πνεῦμα are antitheses to each other, Matthew 26:41 ; Galatians 5:17 ff.; accordingly in the unregenerate we have the lucta carnis et MENTIS (Romans 7:14 ff.), in the regenerate we have the lucta carnis et SPIRITUS (Galatians 5:17 ).

ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος ] that which is born of the Spirit, i.e . that whose moral nature and life have proceeded from the operation of the Holy Spirit, [155] is a being of a spiritual nature , free from the dominion of the σάρξ , and entirely filled and governed by a spiritual principle, namely by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:2 ff.), walking ἐν καινότητι πνεύματος (Romans 7:6 ).

The general nature of the statement forbids its limitation to the Jews as descendants of Abraham according to the flesh (Kuinoel and others), but they are of course included in the general declaration; comp. John 3:7 , ὑμᾶς .

In the apodoses the substantives σάρξ and πνεῦμα represent, though with stronger emphasis (comp. John 6:63 , John 11:25 , Joh 12:50 ; 1 John 4:8 ; Romans 8:10 ), the adjectives σαρκικός and πνευματικός , and are to be taken qualitatively .

[154] The sinful constitution of the σάρξ in itself implies the necessity of a being born of the Spirit (vv. 3, 7); comp. 1 John 2:16 . The above exposition cannot therefore be considered as attributing to John a Pauline view which is strange to him. This is in answer to Weiss, according to whom Jesus here merely says, “as the corporeal birth only produces the corporeal sensual part.” Similarly J. Müller on Sin , vol. I. p. 449, II. 382. See on the other hand, Luthardt, v. freien Willen , p. 393.

[155] The ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος , implying the ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος (after ver. 5), and the meaning of which is clear in itself, is not repeated by Jesus, because His aim now is simply to let the contrast between the σάρξ and the πνεῦμα stand out clearly.

Verses 7-8

John 3:7-8 . To allay still more the astonishment of Nicodemus (John 3:4 ) at the requirement of John 3:3 , Jesus subjoins an analogy drawn from nature , illustrating the operation of the Holy Spirit of which He is speaking. The man is seized by the humanly indefinable Spirit, but knows not whence He cometh to him, and whither He leadeth him.

ὑμᾶς ] individualizing the general statement: “ te et eos, quorum nomine locutus es ,” Bengel. Jesus could not have expressed Himself in the first person.

τὸ πνεῦμα ] This, as is evident from πνεῖ , means the wind (Genesis 8:1 ; Job 30:15 ; Wis 13:2 ; Hebrews 1:7 ; often in the classics), not the Spirit (Steinfass). It is the double sense of the word (comp. רוּחַ ) which gave rise to this very analogy from nature. For a similar comparison, but between the human soul, so far as it participates in the divine nature, and the well-known but inexplicable agency of wind, see, e.g., Xen. Mem. 4. 3. 14. Comp. also Ecclesiastes 11:5 ; Psalms 135:7 . On the expression τὸ πνεῦμα πνεῖ , see Lobeck, Paral. 503.

ὅπου θέλει ] The wind blowing now here, now there, is personified as a free agent, in keeping with the comparison of the personal Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:2 ). [156]

ποῦ ] with a verb of motion. Comp. Hom. Il . 13. 219; Soph. Trach . 40: κεῖνος δʼ ὅπου βέβηκεν , οὐδεὶς οἶδε ; and see Lobeck ad Phryn . 45; Mätzn. ad Antiph . 169, § 8. Expressing by anticipation the state of rest following upon the movement. Often in the N. T. as in John (John 7:35 , John 8:14 , John 12:35 ) and Hebrews 11:8 .

οὕτως ἐστὶ πᾶς , κ . τ . λ .] A popular and concrete mode of expression (Matthew 13:19 , etc.): so is it, i.e . with reference experimentally to the course of his higher birth, with every one who has been born (perfect) of the Spirit . The points of resemblance summed up in the οὕτως are: (1) the free self-determining action of the Holy Spirit ( ὅπου θέλει , comp. 1 Corinthians 12:11 ; John 5:21 ), not merely the greatness of this power, Tholuck; (2) the felt experience of His operations by the subject of them ( τὴν φωνὴν αὐτοῦ ἀκ .); and (3) yet their incomprehensibleness as to their origin and their end ( ἀλλʼ οὐκ οἶδας , κ . τ . λ .), the latter pertaining to the moral sphere and reaching unto eternal life, the former proceeding from God, and requiring, in order to understand it, the previously experienced workings of divine grace, and faith ensuing thereupon. The man feels the working of grace within, coming to him as a birth from above, but he knows not whence it comes; he feels its attraction, but he knows not whither it leads. These several elements in the delineation are so distinctly indicated by Jesus, that we cannot be satisfied with the mere general point of incomprehensibleness in the comparison (Hengstenberg), upon the basis of Ecclesiastes 11:5 .

[156] Concerning the personality of the Holy Spirit as taught in John, see especially 14 16.

Verses 9-10

John 3:9-10 . The entire nature of this birth from above ( ταῦτα ) is still a puzzle to Nicodemus as regarded its possibility (the emphasis being on δύναται ); and we can easily understand how it should be so to a learned Pharisee bound to the mere form and letter. He asks the question in this state of ignorance ( haesitantis est , Grotius), not in pride (Olshausen). Still, as one acquainted with the Scriptures, he might and ought to have recognised the possibility; for the power of the divine Spirit, the need of renewal in heart and mind, and the fact that this renewal is a divine work, are often mentioned in the O. T. Jesus therefore might well ask in wonder: Art thou the teacher , etc.? The article ὁ διδάσκ . and the τοῦ Ἰσρ . following designate the man not merely in an official capacity (Ewald), which would not mark him out individually from others, but as the well-known and acknowledged teacher of the people. See Bernhardy, p. 315; Winer, p. 110 [E. T. p. 143]. Hengstenberg puts it too strongly: “the concrete embodiment of the ideal teacher of Israel;” comp. Godet. But Nicodemus must have held a position of influence as a teacher quite inconsistent with this proved ignorance; there is in the article a touch of irony , as in the question a certain degree of indignation (Nägelsbach on the Iliad , Exodus 3:0 , p. 424).

Verse 11

John 3:11 . Jesus now discloses to the henceforth silent Nicodemus, in growing excitement of feeling, the source of his ignorance, namely, his unbelief in what He testifies, and which yet is derived from His own knowledge and intuition.

The plurals οἴδαμεν , etc., are, as is clear from the singulars immediately following in John 3:12 , simply rhetorical (plurals of category; see Sauppe and Kühner ad Xen. Mem . 1. 2. 46), and refer only to Jesus Himself. Comp. John 4:38 , and its frequent use by St. Paul when he speaks of himself in the plural. To include the disciples (Hengstenberg, Godet), or to explain them as refering to general Christian consciousness as contrasted with the Jewish (Hilgenfeld), would be quite inappropriate to what has been stated (see especially ὃ ἑωράκ . μαρτ .). To understand them as including John the Baptist (Knapp, Hofmann, Luthardt, Weizsäcker, Weiss, Steinfass), or him along with the prophets (Luther, Beza, Calvin, Tholuck), or even God (Chrysostom, Euthymius Zigabenus, Rupertus, Calovius, etc.), or the Holy Ghost (Bengel), is quite arbitrary, and without a trace of support in the text, nay, on account of the ἑωράκ ., opposed to it, for the Baptist especially did not by John 1:34 occupy the same stage of ἑωρακέναι with Christ. It is, moreover, quite against the context when B. Crusius says: “ men generally are the subject of the verbs οἴδαμεν and ἑωράκ .,” so that human things what one sees and knows ( τὰ ἐπίγεια , John 3:12 ) are meant.

Observe the gradual ascent in the parallelism, in which ἑωράκαμεν does not refer to the knowledge attained in this earthly life (Weizsäcker), but to the vision of God enjoyed by Christ in His pre-existent state. Comp. John 3:32 ; John 1:18 ; John 6:46 ; John 8:38 ; John 17:5 .

οὐ λαμβάνετε ] ye Jews: comp. τοῦ Ἰσραήλ , John 3:10 ; and for the fact itself, John 1:11-12 . The reproach, like the οὐ πιστεύετε of John 3:12 , refers to the nation as a whole, with a reference also to Nicodemus himself. To render this as a question (Ewald) only weakens the tragic relation of the second half of the verse to the first.

Verse 12

John 3:12 . How grievous the prospect which your unbelief regarding the instructions I have already given opens up as to the future!

τὰ ἐπίγεια ] what is on earth , things which take place on earth (not in heaven). We must strictly adhere to this meaning of the word in this as in all other passages (1 Corinthians 15:40 ; 2 Corinthians 5:1 ; Philippians 2:10 ; Philippians 3:19 ; James 3:15 . Comp. Wis 9:16 , and Grimm, Handbuch , p. 189). To the category of these earthly things belonged also the birth from above (against Baeumlein), because, though brought about by a power from heaven, it is accomplished on earth; and because, proceeding in repentance and faith, it is a change taking place on earth within the earthly realm of our moral life; and because it is historically certain that Christ everywhere began His work with this very preaching of μετάνοια . The Lord has in His mind not only the doctrine of regeneration just declared to Nicodemus, but, as the plural shows, all which thus far He had taught the Jews ( εἶπον ὑμῖν ); and this had been hitherto only ἐπίγεια , and not ἐπουράνια , of which He still designs to speak. [157] It is therefore wrong to refer the expression to the comparison of the wind (Beza) or of corporeal birth (Grotius), as prefiguring higher doctrine; for the relation to the faith spoken of did not lie in these symbols, but in the truths they symbolized. The meaning of the words is quite altered, moreover, if we change the word ἐπίγεια into “ human and moral ” (B. Crusius), or take it as meaning only what is stated in the immediate context (Lücke), or, with De Wette, make the point of difference to be nothing more than the antithesis between man’s susceptibility of regeneration as a work within him and his susceptibility of merely believing .

The counterpart of the ἐπίγεια are the ἐπουράνια , of which Jesus intends to speak to them in future, things which are in heaven (so in all places, Mat 18:35 ; 1 Corinthians 15:40 ; 1 Corinthians 15:48-49 ; Ephesians 1:3 ; Philippians 2:10 , etc.). To this category belong especially the Messianic mysteries, i.e . the divine decrees for man’s redemption and final blessedness . These are ἐπουράνια , because they have their foundation ( Wis 9:16-17 ) in the divine will , though their realization commences in the present αἰών , through the entire work, and in particular through the death of Jesus and the faith of mankind; but while still unaccomplished, belongs to the divine counsel, and shall be first consummated and fully revealed in the kingdom of the Messiah by the exalted Christ, when the ζωὴ αἰώνιος will reveal itself at the goal of perfection (Colossians 3:4 ), and “it will appear what we shall be.” To the ἐπουρανίοις , therefore, does not first belong what is to be said of His exaltation, Matthew 26:64 (Steinfass); but that very statement, and indeed as the first and main thing, which Jesus immediately after delivers in John 3:14 ff., where the heavenly element, i.e. what is in the counsels of God (John 3:15-16 ), is clearly contained. According to the connection, it is to be inferred that what is heavenly is difficult to be understood; but this difficulty has nothing to do with the word itself , as Lücke holds.

[157] εἶπον is dixi , not dixerunt , as Ewald thinks, who regards the ancients in the O. T. as the subject, and upon too feeble evidence reads ἐπιστεύσατε instead of πιστεύετε . This new subject must have been expressed, and an ἐγώ should have stood over against it in the apodosis. Comp. Matthew 5:21-22 . The earthly might be appropriate to the law (following Colossians 2:17 ; Hebrews 9:5 ; Hebrews 10:1 ), but not to the prophets.

Verse 13

John 3:13 . “And no other than I can reveal to you heavenly things.” This is what Jesus means, if we rightly take His words, not an assertion of His divinity as the first of the heavenly things (Hengstenberg), which would make the negative form of expression quite inexplicable. Comp. John 1:18 , John 6:46 .

The καὶ is simply continuative in its force, not antithetic (Knapp, Olshausen), nor furnishing a basis , or explanatory of the motive (Beza, Tholuck; Lücke, Lange).

οὐδεὶς ἀναβέβηκεν , κ . τ . λ .] which, on account of the perfect tense, obviously cannot refer to the actual ascension of Christ [158] (against Augustine, Beda, Theophylact, Rupertus, Calovius, Bengel, etc.); nor does it give any support to the unscriptural raptus in coelum of the Socinians (see Oeder ad Catech. Racov . p. 348 ff.); nor is it to be explained by the unio hypostatica of Christ’s human nature with the divine , by virtue of which the former may be said to have entered into heaven (Calovius, Maldonatus, Steinfass, and others). It is usually understood in a figurative sense, as meaning a spiritual elevation of the soul to God in order to knowledge of divine things, a coming to the perception of divine mysteries, which thus were brought down, as it were, by Christ from heaven (see of late especially Beyschlag); to support which, reference is made to Deuteronomy 30:12 , Proverbs 30:4 , Bar 3:29 , Romans 10:6-7 . But this is incorrect, because Christ brought along with Him out of His pre-existent state His immediate knowledge of divine things (John 3:11 ; John 1:18 ; John 8:26 , al .), and possesses it in uninterrupted fellowship with the Father; consequently the figurative method of representation, that during His earthly life He brought down this knowledge through having been raised up into heaven, would be inappropriate and strange. Ὁ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρ . καταβ . also must be taken literally, of an actual descent; and there is therefore nothing in the context to warrant our taking ἀναβ . εἰς τ . οὐρ . symbolically . Hengstenberg rightly renders the words literally, but at the end of the verse he would complete the sense by adding, “ who will ascend up into heaven .” This in itself is arbitrary, and not at all what we should look for in John; it is not in keeping with the connection, and would certainly not have been understood as a matter of course by a person like Nicodemus, though it were the point of the declaration: consequently it could not fitly be suppressed, and least of all as a saying concerning the future . Godet does not get beyond the explanation of essential communion with God on the part of Jesus from the time of His birth . The only rendering true to the words is simply this: Instead of saying, “No one has been in heaven except,” etc., Jesus says, as this could only have happened to any other by his ascending thither, “No one has ascended into heaven except,” etc.; and thus the εἰ μή refers to an actual existence in heaven, which is implied in the ἀναβέβηκεν . And thus Jansenius rightly renders: Nullus hominum in coelo fuit, quod ascendendo fieri solet, ut ibi coelestia contemplaretur, nisi, etc.; and of late Fritzsche the elder in his Novis opusc . p. 230; and now also Tholuck, and likewise Holtzmann in Hilgenfield’s Zeitschr . 1865, p. 222.

ὁ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρ . καταβάς ] which took place by means of the incarnation . These words, like ὁ ὢν ἐν τ . οὐρ ., are argumentative , for they necessarily imply the fact of existence in heaven; but ὁ ὢν , which must be taken as an attributive definition of ὁ υἱὸς τ . ἀνθρ ., and not as belonging to καταβάς , and therefore taking the article, cannot be equivalent to ὃς ἦν (Luthardt; Hofmman, I. 134; Weiss, etc.), as if ποτε , τὸ πρότερον or the like were there, but is equivalent to ὅς ἐστι , whose existence is in heaven , who has there His proper abode, His home. [159]

ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρ .] Messianic designation which Christ applies to Himself, in harmony with the fulfilment of the prophetic representation in Daniel 7:13 , which began with the καταβάς (comp. on John 1:51 ). Nicodemus could understand this only by means of a fuller development of faith and knowledge.

[158] So also Weizsäcker, who assumes that we have here an experience belonging to the apostolic age, carried back and placed in the mouth of Christ. An anachronism which would amount to literary carelessness.

[159] Nonnus: ἀστερόεντι μελάθρῳ πάτριον οὖδας ἔχων . John 9:25 is similar: τυφλὸς ὤν : blind from one’s birth. Schleie macher refers the coming down from heaven to the conception of His mission , and the being in heaven to the continuity of His God-consciousness . See e.g . his Leben Jesu , p. 287 ff.

Note .

According to Beyschlag, p. 99 ff., this verse is utterly opposed to the derivation of Christ’s higher knowledge from the recollection of a pre-existent life in heaven. But we must bear in mind, (1) that the notion of an ascent to God to attain a knowledge of His mysteries (which Beyschlag considers the only right explanation) never occurs in the N. T. with reference to Jesus a circumstance which would surprise us, especially in John, if it had been declared by Jesus Himself. But it was not declared by Him, because He has it not, but knows His knowledge to be the gift of His Father which accompanied Him in His mission (John 10:36 ). (2) He could not have claimed such an ascent to heaven for Himself alone , for a like ascent, though not in equal degree, must belong to other men of God. He must, therefore, at least have expressed Himself comparatively: οὐδεὶς οὓτως ἀναβέβηκεν ἐ . τ . οὐρ . ὡς ὁ , κ . τ . λ . Even the church now sings:

“Rise, rise, my soul, and stretch Thy wings

Towards heaven, Thy native place.”

But something distinct and more than this was the case with Christ, viz. as to the past, that He had His existence in heaven, and had come down therefrom; and as to His earthly presence, that He is in heaven.

Verses 14-15

John 3:14-15 . Jesus, having in John 3:13 stated the ground of faith in Him, now proceeds to show the blessedness of the believer which was the design of His redemptive work in order the more to incite those whom He is addressing to fulfil the fundamental condition, contained in faith, of participating in His kingdom. That this is the logical advance in the discourse, is clear from the fact that in what follows it is the blessedness of faith which is dwelt upon; see John 3:15-16 ; John 3:18 . We have not here a transition from the possibility to the necessity of communicating heavenly things, John 3:13 (Lücke); nor from the ideal unveilings of divine things to the chief mystery of the doctrine of salvation which was manifested in historical reality (De Wette, comp. Tholuck and Brückner); nor from the first of divine things, Christ’s divinity , to the second, the atonement which He was to establish (Hengstenberg, comp. Godet); nor from the Word to His manifestation (Olshausen); nor from the work of enlightenment to that of blessing (Scholl); nor from the present want of faith to its future rise (Jacobi: “faith will first begin to spring up when my ὕψωσις is begun”); nor from Christ’s work to His person (B. Crusius); nor from His person to His work (Lange).

The event recorded in Numbers 21:8 is made use of by Jesus as a type of the divinely appointed manner and efficacy of His coming death, [160] to confirm a prophecy still enigmatical to Nicodemus, by attaching it to a well-known historical illustration. The points of comparison are: (1) the being lifted up (the well-known brazen sepent on the pole, and Jesus on the cross); (2) the being saved (restored to health by looking at the serpent, to eternal ζωή by believing on the crucified One). Comp. Wis 16:6 , and, in the earliest Christian literature, Epist. of Barnabas , c. 12; Ignatius ad Smyrn . 2, interpol.; Justin, Apol . 1. 60, Dial. c. Tr . 94. Any further drawing out of the illustration is arbitrary, as, for instance, that of Bengel: “ut serpens ille fuit serpens sine veneno contra serpentes venenatos, sic Christus homo sine peccato contra serpentem antiquum,” comp. Luther and others, approved by Lechler in the Stud. u. Krit . 1854, p. 826. Lange goes furthest in this direction; comp. Ebrard on Olshausen, p. 104. There is, further, no typical element in the fact that the brazen serpent of Moses was a dead representative (“as the sign of its conquering through the healing power of the Lord,” Hengstenberg). For, apart from the fact that Christ was lifted up alive upon the cross, the circumstance of the brazen serpent being a lifeless thing is not made prominent either in Numbers 21:0 or here.

ὑψωθῆναι ] not glorified , acknowledged in His exaltation (Paulus), which, following ὕψωσε , would be opposed to the context, but (comp. John 8:28 , John 12:32-33 ) shall be lifted up , that is, on the cross , [161] answering to the Aramaean זְקַף (comp. the Heb. זָקַף , Psalms 145:14 ; Psalms 146:8 ), a word used of the hanging up of the malefactor upon the beam. See Ezra 6:11 ; Gesenius, Thes . I. 428; Heydenreich in Hüffell’s Zeitschr . II. 1, p. 72 ff.; Brückner, 68, 69. Comp. Test. XII. patr. p. 739: κύριος ὑβρισθήσεται καὶ ἐπὶ ξύλου ὑψωθήσεται . The express comparison with the raising up of the brazen serpent, a story which must have been well known to Nicodemus, does not allow of our explaining ὑψωθήσ ., as = רוּם , of the exaltation of Jesus to glory (Bleek, Beitr . 231), or as including this, so that the cross is the stepping-stone to glory (Lechler, Godet); or of referring it to the near coming of the kingdom , by which God will show Him in His greatness (Weizsäcker); or of our abiding simply by the idea of an exhibition (Hofmann, Weissag. u. Erf . II. 143), which Christ underwent in His public sufferings and death; or of leaving wholly out of account the form of the exaltation (which was certainly accomplished on the cross and then in heaven), (Luthardt), and conceiving of an exaltation for the purpose of being visible to all men (Holtzmann), as Schleiermacher also held (Leben Jesu, 345); or of assuming, as the meaning which was intelligible for Nicodemus, only that of removing , where Jesus, moreover, was conscious of His being lifted up on the cross and up to God (Hofmann, Schriftbew . II. 1, 301).

δεῖ ] according to the divine decree, Matthew 16:21 , Luke 24:26 , does not refer to the type, but only to the antitype (against Olshausen), especially as between the person of Christ and the brazen serpent as such no typical relation could exist.

Lastly, that Jesus should thus early make, though at the time an enigmatic, allusion to His death by crucifixion, is conceivable both on the ground of the doctrinal peculiarity of the event, and of the extraordinary importance of His death as the fact of redemption. See on John 2:19 . And in the case of Nicodemus, the enigmatic germ then sown bore fruit, John 19:39 .

Adopting the reading ἐν αὐτῷ (see Critical Notes), we cannot refer it to πιστεύων , but, as μὴ ἀπόληται , ἀλλʼ is spurious (see Critical Notes), to ἔχῃ : “every believer shall in Him ( i.e. resting upon Him as the cause) have eternal life.” Comp. John 20:31 , John 5:39 , John 16:33 , John 13:31 .

ζωὴν αἰώνιον ] eternal Messianic life , which, however, the believer already has ( ἜΧῌ ) as an internal possession in ΑἸῺΝ ΟὟΤΟς , viz. the present self-conscious development of the only true moral and blissful ΖΩΉ , which is independent of death, and whose consummation and full glory begin with the second advent. (Comp. John 6:40 ; John 6:44-45 ; John 6:54 ; John 6:58 , John 14:3 , John 17:24 ; 1Jn 3:14 ; 1 John 4:9 .)

[160] Which, consequently, He had clearly foreseen not for the first time in John 6:51 (Weizsäcker); comp. on John 2:19 .

[161] The higher significance imparted to Christ’s person and work by His death (Baur, Neutest. Theol . 379) is not implied in the word ὑψωθῆναι , but in the comparison with the serpent , and in the sentence following, which expresses the object of the lifting up. This passage (comp. John 1:29 ) should have prevented Baur from asserting (p. 400) that the Pauline doctrine concerning such a significance in Christ’s death is wholly wanting in St. John’s doctrinal view. See also John 6:51 ; John 6:53-54 .

Verse 16

John 3:16 . Continuation of the address of Jesus to Nicodemus , onwards to John 3:21 , [162] not, as Erasmus, Rosenmüller, Kuinoel, Paulus, Neander, Tholuck, Olshausen, Maier think (see also Bäumlein), an explanatory meditation of the evangelist’s own; an assumption justified neither by anything in the text nor by the word ΜΟΝΟΓΕΝΉς , a word which must have been transferred from the language of John to the mouth of Jesus (not vice versa , as Hengstenberg thinks), for it is never elsewhere used by Christ, often as He speaks of His divine sonship. See on John 1:14 . The reflective character of the following discourse is so fully compatible with the design of Christ to instruct, and the preterites ἠγάπησαν and ἮΝ so little require to be explained from the standing-point of a later time, that there does not seem any sufficient basis for the intermediate view (of Lücke, De Wette, Brückner), that in this continued account of the discourse of Jesus, John 3:16 ff., John inserts more explanations and reflections of his own than in the preceding part, how little soever such a supposition would (as Kling and Hengstenberg think) militate against the trustworthiness of John, who, in recording the longer discourses, has exactly in his own living recollection the abundant guarantee of substantial certainty .

οὕτω ] so much ; see on Galatians 3:3 .

γάρ ] reason of the purpose stated in John 3:15 .

ἨΓΆΠΗΣΕΝ ] loved , with reference to the time of the ἔδωκεν .

τὸν κόσμον ] i.e. mankind at large , [163] comp. πᾶς , John 3:15 ; Joh 17:2 ; 1 John 2:2 .

ΤῸΝ ΜΟΝΟΓ . ] to make the proof of His love the stronger , 1 John 4:9 ; Hebrews 11:17 ; Romans 8:32 .

ἔδωκεν ] He did not reserve Him for Himself, but gave Him, i.e. to the world . The word means more than ἀπέστειλεν (John 3:17 ), which expresses [164] the manner of the ἔδωκεν , though it does not specially denote the giving up to death , but the state of humiliation as a whole, upon which God caused His Son to enter when He left His pre-existent glory (John 17:5 ), and the final act of which was to be His death (1 John 4:10 ). The Indicative following, ὥστε , describes the act objectively as something actually done. See on Galatians 2:13 ; and Klotz ad Devar . 772.

μὴ ἀπόληται , κ . τ . λ .] Concerning the subjunctive, representing an object as present, see Winer, 271 [E. T. p. 377]. The change from the Aorist to the Present is to be noted, whereby the being utterly ruined (by banishment to hell in the Messianic judgment) is spoken of as an act in process of accomplishment; while the possession of the Messianic ζωή is described as now already existing (commencing with regeneration), and as abiding for ever. Comp. on John 3:15 .

[162] Luther rightly praised “the majesty, simplicity, clearness, expressiveness, truth, charm” of this discourse. He “exceedingly and beyond measure loved” this text.

[163] This declaration is the rock upon which the absolute predestination doctrine goes to pieces, and the supposed (by Baur and Hilgenfeld) metaphysical dualism of the anthropology of St. John. Calovius well unfolds our text thus: (1) salutis principium ( ἠγάπ .); (2) dilectionis objectum (the κόσμος , not the electi ) ; (3) donum amplissimum (His only-begotten Son); (4) pactum gratiosissimum (faith, not works); (5) finem missionis Christi saluberrimum .

[164] Weizsäcker in the Zeitschr. f. Deutsche Theol . 1857, p. 176, erroneously finds wanting in John an intimation on the part of Christ that He is the Logos who came voluntarily to the world. He is, however, the Logos sent of God, who undertook this mission in the feeling of obedience. Thus the matter is presented throughout the N. T., and the thought that Christ came αὐτοθελής is quite foreign thereto.

Verse 17

John 3:17 . Confirmation of John 3:16 , in which ἀπέστειλεν answers to the ἔδωκεν , κρίνῃ to the ἀπόληται , and σωθῇ to the ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον of John 3:16 . Considering this exact correspondence, it is very arbitrary with modern critics (even Lücke, B. Crusius) to understand the second τὸν κόσμον differently from the first, and from the τ . κόσμον of John 3:16 , as denoting in the narrow Jewish sense the Gentile world, for whose judgment, i.e. condemnation, the Messiah, according to the Jewish doctrine, was to come (see Bertholdt, Christol . pp. 203, 223). Throughout the whole context it is to be uniformly understood of the world of mankind as a whole . Of it Jesus says, that He was not sent to judge it, a judgment which, as all have sinned, must have been a judgment of condemnation , but to procure for it by His work of redemption the Messianic σωτηρία . “Deus saepe ultor describitur in veteri pagina; itaque conscii peccatorum merito expectare poterant, nlium venire ad poenas patris nomine exigendas,” Grotius. It is to be remembered that He speaks of His coming in the state of humiliation, in which He was not to accomplish judgment, but was to be the medium of obtaining the σώζεσθαι through His work and His death. Judgment upon the finally unbelieving was reserved to Him upon His Second Advent (comp. John 5:22 ; John 5:27 ), but the κρῖμα which was to accompany His works upon earth is different from this (see on John 9:39 ).

The thrice-repeated κόσμος has a tone of solemnity about it. Comp. John 1:10 , John 15:19 .

Verse 18

John 3:18 . More exact explanation of the negative part of John 3:17 . Mankind are either believing , and are thus delivered from condemnation (comp. John 5:24 ), because if the Messiah had come to judge the world, He would only have had to condemn sin; but sin is forgiven to the believer, and he already has everlasting ζωή ; or they are unbelieving , so that condemnation has already been passed upon them in idea (as an internal fact), [165] because they reject the Only-begotten of God, and there is no need of a special act of judgment to be passed on them on the part of the Messiah; their own unbelief has already passed upon them the sentence of condemnation. “He who does not believe, already has hell on his neck,” Luther; he is αὐτοκατάκριτος , 1 John 3:18; 1 John 3:181 John 3:18 does not speak of the last judgment which shall be the solemn and ultimate completion of this temporal judgment, [166] but it does not call it in question , in opposition to the Jewish Messianic belief (Hilgenfeld). See on John 5:28-30 , John 12:31 . Well says Euthymius Zigabenus: ἡ ἀπιστία κατέκρινε πρὸ τῆς κατακρίσεως . Comp. John 3:36 .

πεπίστευκεν ] has become a believer (and remains so); the subjective negation in the causal clause (contrary to the older classical usage), as often in Lucian, etc., denoting the relation as one presupposed in the view of the speaker. See Herm. ad Viger . p. 806; Winer, p. 442 [E. T. p. 602]. Otherwise in 1 John 5:10 .

τοῦ μονογ . υἱοῦ τ . θεοῦ ] very impressively throwing light upon the ἤδη κέκριται , because bringing clearly into view the greatness of the guilt .

[165] Hence it is clear that the signification of κρίνειν as meaning condemnatory judgment is correct, and not the explanation of Weiss, Lehrbegriff , p. 184, according to whom the “judgment” here means in general only a decision either for life or death. In that case, not οὐ κρίνεται , but ἤδη κέκριται , must apply also to the believer . But this very distinction, the οὐ κρίνεται used of the believer and the ἤδη κέκριται of the unbeliever, places the explanation of a condemnatory κρίνειν beyond doubt. This is also against Godet, who with reference to the believer hits upon the expedient of supposing that the Lord here anticipates the judgment (viz. the “constater l’état moral”). But according to the words of Jesus, this suggestion would apply rather to the case of the unbeliever .

[166] This temporal judgment of the world is the world’s history, the conclusion of which is the last judgment (John 5:27 ), which, however, must not (as Schleier-macher, L. J. 355) be dissipated by means of this text into a merely natural issue of the mission of Jesus. See on John 5:28 . See also Groos in the Stud. u. Krit . 1868, p. 251.

Verse 19

John 3:19 . The ἤδη κέκριται is now more minutely set forth, and this as to its moral character, as rejection of the light, i.e. of God’s saving truth, the possessor and bringer in of which was Christ, who had come into the world, and as love of darkness. “ But herein consists the condemnation (as an inner moral fact which, according to John 3:18 , had already occurred), that ,” etc. ἡ κρίσις is the judgment in question, to be understood here also, agreeably to the whole connection, of condemnatory judgment. But in αὕτη … ὅτι (comp. 1 John 5:11 ) we have not the reason (Chrysostom and his followers), but the characteristic nature of the judgment stated.

ὅτι τὸ φῶς , etc., καὶ ἠγάπησαν ] The first clause is not expressed in the dependent form ( ὅτι ὅτε τὸ φῶς , etc., or with Gen. abs.), but as an independent statement, in order to give emphatic prominence to the contrast setting forth the guilt. See Kühner, II. 416; Winer, p. 585 [E. T. pp. 785 6].

ἠγάπησαν ] after it had come. Jesus could now thus speak already from experience regarding His relations to mankind as a whole ; the Aor . does not presuppose the consciousness of a later time. See John 2:23-24 . For the rest, ἠγάπ . is put first with tragic emphasis, which object is also served by the simple καί (not and yet ). The expression itself: they loved the darkness rather ( potius , not magis , comp. John 12:43 ; 2 Timothy 3:4 ) than the light ,

μᾶλλον belonging not to the verb, but to the noun, and ἤ comparing the two conceptions (Ellendt, Lex. Soph . II. p. 51; Bäuml. Partik . p. 136), is a mournful meiosis ; for they did not love the light at all, but hated it, John 3:20 . The ground of this hatred, however, does not lie (comp. John 3:6 ; John 1:12 ) in a metaphysical opposition of principles (Baur, Hilgenfeld, Colani), but in the light-shunning demoralization into which men had sunk through their own free act (for they might also have done ἀλήθεια , John 3:21 ). The source of unbelief is immorality.

ἦν γὰρ αὐτῶν , κ . τ . λ .] The reason why “they loved the darkness rather,” etc. (see on John 1:5 ), was their immoral manner of life , in consequence of which they must shun the light, nay, even hate it (John 3:20 ). We may observe the growing emphasis from αὐτῶν onwards to πονηρά , for the works which they (in opposition to the individual lovers of the light) did were evil ; which πονηρά does not in popular usage denote a higher degree of evil than φαῦλα , John 3:20 (Bengel), but answers to this as evil does to bad ( worthless ); Fritzsche ad Rom . p. 297. Comp. John 5:29 ; Rom 9:11 ; 2 Corinthians 5:10 ; James 3:16 ; φαῦλα ἔργα in Plat. Crat . p. 429 A.; 3Ma 3:22 .

Verse 20

John 3:20 . Γάρ ] If by the previous γάρ the historical basis for the statement ἠγάπησαν οἱ ἄνθρωποι , κ . τ . λ ., was laid , then this second γάρ is related to the same statement as explanatory thereof (see on Matthew 6:32 ; Matthew 18:11 ; Romans 8:6 ), introducing a general elucidation, and this from the psychological and perfectly natural relation of evil-doers to the light which was manifested (in Christ) ( το ͂ φῶς not different from John 3:19 ), which they hated as the principle opposed to them, and to which they would not come, because they wished to avoid the ἔλεγχος which they must experience from it. This “ coming to the light” is the believing adherence to Jesus, which, however, would have to be brought about through the μετάνοια . [167]

ἵνα μὴ ἐλεγχθῇ ] Intention. This ἔλεγχος is the chastening censure , which they shunned both on account of their being put to shame before the world, and because of the threatening feeling of repentance and sorrow in their self-consciousness. Comp. Luke 3:19 ; John 8:8 ; Ephesians 5:11 ; Ephesians 5:13 . “Gravis malae conscientiae lux est,” Senec. ep . 122. 14. This dread is both moral pride and moral effeminacy. According to Luthardt (comp. B. Crusius), the ἐλέγχεσθαι refers only to the psychological fact of an inner condemnation. But against this is the parallel φανερωθῇ , John 3:21 .

Observe, on the one hand, the participle present (for the πράξας might turn to the light), and, on the other, the distinction between πράσσων (he who presses on, agit , pursues as the goal of his activity) and ποιῶν , John 3:21 (he who does, facit , realizes as a fact). Comp. Xen. Mem . iii. 9. 4 : ἐπισταμένος μὲν ἃ δεῖ πράττειν , ποιοῦντες δὲ τἀναντία , also John 4:5 . John 4:4 , al.; Romans 1:31 ; Romans 2:3 ; Romans 7:15 ; Romans 13:4 . See generally, Franke, ad Dem. Ol . iii. 15.

[167] In opposition to Colani, who finds a circle in the reasoning of vv. 19, 20. See Godet.

Verse 21

John 3:21 . Ὁ δὲ ποιῶν τὴν ἀλήθ .] The opposite of ὁ φαῦλα πράσσων , John 3:20 , and therefore ἀλήθεια is to be taken in the ethical sense: he who does what is morally true , so that his conduct is in harmony with the divine moral standard. Comp. Isaiah 26:10 ; Psalms 119:30 ; Nehemiah 9:33 ; Job 4:6 ; Job 13:6 ; 1Jn 1:6 ; 1 Corinthians 5:8 ; Ephesians 5:9 ; Philippians 4:8 . Moral truth was revealed before Christ, not only in the law (Weiss), but also (see Matthew 5:17 ) in the prophets, and, outside Scripture, in creation and in conscience (Romans 1:19 ff; Romans 2:14 ff.). Comp. Groos, p. 255.

ἵνα φανερ . αὐτοῦ τὰ ἔργα ] φανερ . is the opposite of the μὴ ἐλεγχθῇ John 3:20 . While the wicked wishes his actions not to be reproved, but to remain in darkness, the good man wishes his actions to come to the light and to be made manifest , and he therefore ἔρχεται πρὸς τὸ φῶς ; for Christ, as the personally manifested Light , the bearer of divine truth, cannot fail through His working to make these good deeds be recognised in this their true nature. The manifestation of true morality through Christ must necessarily throw the true light on the moral conduct of those who come to Him, and make it manifest and show it forth in its true nature and form. The purpose ἵνα φανερ ., κ . τ . λ ., does not spring from self-seeking, but arises from the requirements, originating in a moral necessity, of moral satisfaction in itself, and of the triumph of good over the world.

αὐτοῦ ] thus put before, for emphasis’ sake, in opposition to the evil-doer, who has altogether a different design with reference to his acts.

ὅτι ἐν θεῷ , κ . τ . λ .] the reason of the before-named purpose. How should he not cherish this purpose, and desire the φανέρωσις , seeing that his works are wrought in God! Thus, so far from shunning , he has really to strive after the manifestation of them, as the revelation of all that is divine. We must take this ἐν θεῷ , like the frequent ἐν Χριστῷ , as denoting the element in which the ἐργάζεσθαι moves; not without and apart from God, but living and moving in Him, has the good man acted. Thus the κατὰ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ , 1 John 5:14 , and the κατὰ θεόν , Rom 8:27 , 2 Corinthians 7:10 , also the εἰς θεόν , Luke 12:21 , constitute the necessary character of the ἐν θεῷ , but are not the ἐν θεῷ itself .

ἔργα εἰργασμένα ] as in John 6:28 , John 9:4 , Matthew 26:10 , et al ., and often in the classics.

Observe from John 3:21 , that Christ, who here expresses Himself generally, yet conformably to experience, encountered, at the time of His entering upon His ministry of enlightenment, not only the φαῦλα πράσσοντες , but also those who practised what is right, and who were living in God. To this class belonged a Nathanael, and the disciples generally, certainly also many who repented at the preaching of the Baptist, together with other O. T. saints, and perhaps Nicodemus himself. They were drawn by the Father to come to Christ, and were given to Him (John 6:37 ); they were of God, and had ears to hear His word (John 8:47 , comp. John 18:37 ); they were desirous to do the Father’s will (John 7:17 ); they were His (John 17:6 ). But according to John 3:19 , these were exceptions only amid the multitude of the opposite kind, and even their piety needed purifying and transfiguring into true δικαιοσύνη , which could be attained only by fellowship with Christ; and hence even in their case the way of Christian penitence, by the φανέρωσις of their works wrought in God, brought about by the light of Christ, was not excluded, but was exhibited, and its commencement brought about, because, in view of this complete and highest light, the sincere Old Testament saint must first rightly feel the need of that repentance, and of the lack of moral satisfaction. Consequently the statement of John 3:3 ; John 3:5 , still holds true.

Verses 22-23

John 3:22-23 . After this i nterview with Nicodemus [168] ( μετὰ ταῦτα ) Jesus betook Himself with His disciples from the capital into the country of Judea, in a north-easterly direction towards Jordan. Ἰουδαίαν is, as in Mark 1:5 , Acts 16:1 , 1Ma 2:23 ; 1Ma 14:33 ; 1Ma 14:37 , 2Ma 5:23 ; 2Ma 5:3 Esr. John 5:47 , Anthol . vii. 645, an adjective .

ἐβάπτιζεν ] during His stay there ( Imperf .), not Himself, however, but through His disciples, John 4:2 . Baur, indeed, thinks that the writer had a definite purpose in view in this mode of expression; that he wished to bring Jesus and the Baptist as closely as possible together in the same work. But if so, the remark of John 4:2 would be strangely illogical; see also Schweizer, p. 194. The baptism of Jesus, besides, was certainly a continuation of that of John, and did not yet possess the new characteristic of Matthew 28:19 (for see John 7:39 ); but that it already included that higher element, which John’s baptism did not possess (comp. Acts 19:2-3 ), namely, the operation of the Spirit, of which Christ was the bearer (John 3:34 ), for the accomplishment of the birth from above, is manifest from John 3:5 , a statement which cannot be a prolepsis or a prophecy merely.

ἦν δὲ καὶ Ἰωάνν ., κ . τ . λ .] but John was also employed in baptizing , namely in Aenon , etc. This name, usually taken as the intensive or adjectival form of עַיִן , is rather = עין יון , dove spring; the place itself is otherwise unknown, as is also the situation of Salim, though placed by Eusebius and Jerome eight Roman miles south of Scythopolis. This is all the more uncertain, because Aenon, according to the mention of it here (comp. John 4:3 ), must have been in Judaea, and not in Samaria, and could not therefore have been the Ainun discovered by Robinson ( Later Explorations , p. 400). Ewald thinks of the two places שׁלחים ועין in Joshua 15:32 . So also Wieseler, p. 247. In no case could the towns have been situated on the Jordan, for in that case the statement ὍΤΙ ὝΔΑΤΑ ΠΟΛΛᾺ would have been quite out of place. Comp. Hengstenberg, who likewise refers to Joshua 15:32 , while Pressel (in Herzog’s Encykl . XIII. 326) prefers the statement of Eusebius and Jerome. For the rest, the narrative of the temptation, which Hengstenberg places in the period after John 3:22 , has nothing to do with the locality in this verse; it does not belong to this at all.

The question why John, after the public appearance of Jesus, still continued to baptize , without baptizing in His name , is answered simply by the fact (against Bretschneider, Weisse, Baur) that Jesus had not yet come forth as John expected that the Messiah would, and that consequently the Baptist could not have supposed that his work in preparing the way for the Messiah’s kingdom by his baptism of repentance was already accomplished, but had to await for that the divine decision. This perseverance of John, therefore, in his vocation to baptize, was by no means in conflict with his divinely received certainty of the Messiahship of Jesus (as Weizsäcker, p. 320, thinks), and the ministry of both of them side by side must not be looked upon as improbable, as “in itself a splitting in sunder of the Messianic movement” (Keim).

[168] To interpose a longer interval, e.g. a return to and sojourn in Galilee, is quite gratuitous. Not before John 4:3 does Jesus return to Galilee.

Verse 24

corrects, in passing, the synoptic tradition, [169] which John knew as being widely spread, and the discrepancy in which is not to be explained either by placing the imprisonment between John 4:2-3 , and by taking the journey of Jesus to Galilee there related as the same with that mentioned in Matt

[169] It is supposed, indeed, that John simply wishes to intimate that what he records, vv. 22 36, must be placed before Matthew 4:12 (Hengstenberg). But in the connection of Matthew, there is no place for it before John 4:12 .

John 3:24 corrects, in passing, the synoptic tradition, [170] which John knew as being widely spread, and the discrepancy in which is not to be explained either by placing the imprisonment between John 4:2-3 , and by taking the journey of Jesus to Galilee there related as the same with that mentioned in Matthew 4:12 (Lücke, Tholuck, Olshausen, B. Crusius, Ebrard, Hengstenberg, and many others), or by making the journey of Matthew 4:12 to coincide with that named in John 6:1 (Wieseler). See on Matthew 4:12 . Apart from that purpose of correction, which is specially apparent if we compare Matthew 4:17 (subtleties to the contrary in Ebrard), the remark, which was quite intelligible of itself, would be, to say the least, superfluous, unnecessary even to gain space for bringing Jesus and the Baptist again alongside each other (Keim), even if we were to venture to propose the suggestion, of which the text says nothing, that Jesus felt himself obliged, as the time of the Baptist was not yet expired, to bring the kingdom of God near, in keeping with the form which the Baptist had adopted (Luthardt, p. 79).

[170] It is supposed, indeed, that John simply wishes to intimate that what he records, vv. 22 36, must be placed before Matthew 4:12 (Hengstenberg). But in the connection of Matthew, there is no place for it before John 4:12 .

Verses 25-26

John 3:25-26 . Οὖν ] in consequence of the narration of John 3:23 (John 3:24 being a parenthetical remark). Nothing is known more particularly as to this question ( ζήτησις ) which arose among John’s disciples ( ἐγένετο ἐκ τῶν μαθ . Ἰωάνν , comp. Lucian. Alex . 40; Herod. v. 21). The theme of it was “ concerning purification ” ( περὶ καθαρισμοῦ ), and, according to the context, it did not refer to the usual prescriptions and customs in general (Weizsäcker), but had a closer reference to the baptism of John and of Jesus, and was discussed with a Jew , who probably placed the baptism of Jesus, as being of higher and greater efficacy with regard to the power of purifying (from the guilt of sin), above that of John. Comp. John 3:26 . Possibly the prophetic idea of a consecration by purification preceding the Messiah’s kingdom (Ezekiel 36:25 ; Zechariah 13:1 ; Hofm. Weissag. u. Erf . II. 87) was spoken of. Who the Ἰουδαῖος was (Hofmann, Tholuck, a Pharisee) cannot be determined. A Jewish Christian (Chrysostom, Euthymius Zigabenus, and others; also Ewald) would have been more exactly designated. According to Luthardt, it was an unfriendly Jew who declared that the baptism of John might now at length be dispensed with, and who wished thus to beguile the Baptist to become unfaithful to his calling, by which means he hoped the better to work against Jesus. An artificial combination unsupported by the text, or even by ᾧ σὺ μεμαρτύρηκας , John 3:26 . For that this indicated a perplexity on the part of the disciples as to the calling of their master finds no support in the words of the Baptist which follow. There is rather expressed in that ᾧ σὺ μεμαρτ ., and in all that John’s disciples advance, who therefore do not name Jesus, but only indicate Him, a jealous irritation on the point, that a man, who himself had just gone forth from the fellowship of the Baptist, and who owed his standing to the testimony borne by the latter in his favour ( ᾧ ), should have opened such a competition with him as to throw him into the shade. Through the statements of the Jew, with whom they had been discussing the question of purification, there was awakened in them a certain feeling of envy that Jesus, the former pupil (as they thought), the receiver of a testimony at the hand of their master, should now presume to put himself forward as his superior rival. They saw in this a usurpation, which they could not reconcile with the previous position of Jesus in relation to the Baptist. But he, on the contrary, vindicates Jesus, John 3:27 , and in John 3:28 brings into view His far higher position, which excluded all jealousy.

ὃς ἦν μετὰ σοῦ , κ . τ . λ .] John 1:28-29 .

ἴδε and οὗτος have the emphasis of something unexpected; namely, that this very individual should (according to their view) interfere with their master in his vocation, and with such results!

καὶ πάντες , an exaggeration of excited feeling. Comp. John 12:19 . Not: “all who submit to be baptized by Him” (Hengstenberg).

Verses 27-28

John 3:27-28 . The Baptist at first answers them, putting his reply in the form of a general truth, that the greater activity and success of Jesus was given Him of God , and next reminds them of the subordinate position which he held in relation to Jesus. The reference of the general affirmation to the Baptist himself , who would mean by it: “non possum mihi arrogare et rapere, quae Deus non dedit,” Wetstein (so Cyril, Rupertus, Beza, Clarius, Jansen, Bengel, Lücke, Maier, Hengstenberg, Godet, and others), is not in keeping with the context; for the petty, jealous complaint of the disciples, John 3:26 , has merely prepared the way for a vindication of Jesus on the part of the Baptist; and as in what follows with this intent, the comparison between the two, as they, in John 3:27-28 , according to our interpretation, stand face to face with each other, is thoroughly carried out; see John 3:29-31 ; so that Jesus is always first characterized, and then John. We must not therefore take John 3:27 as referring to both (Kuinoel, Tholuck, Lange, Brückner, Ewald, Luthardt [171] ).

Οὐ ΔΎΝΑΤΑΙ ] relatively, i.e . according to divine ordination.

ἄνθρωπος ] quite general, a man , any one; not as Hengstenberg, referring it to John, renders it: “ because I am merely a man .”

λαμβάνειν ] not arrogate to himself ( ἑαυτῷ λαμβ ., Hebrews 5:4 ), but simply to receive , answering to be given .

αὐτοὶ ὑμεῖς ] though you are so irritated about him.

ΜΑΡΤΥΡ . ] Indic: ye are yourselves my witnesses , see John 1:19-28 , the substance of which John sums up in the words οὐκ εἰμὶ , etc. They had themselves appealed (John 3:26 ) to his ΜΑΡΤΥΡΊΑ concerning Jesus, but he ΠΕΡΙΤΡΈΠΕΙ ΤΑΎΤΗΝ ΚΑΘʼ ΑὐΤῶΝ , Euthymius Zigabenus.

ἈΛΛʼ ὍΤΙ ] Transition to dependent speech. Winer, p. 539 [E. T. p. 679 f.].

ἙΚΕΊΝΟΥ ] referring not to the appellative ΧΡΙΣΤΌς , but to Jesus as the Χριστός .

[171] Who, in keeping with his view of ver. 26, takes ver. 27 to mean: “The work of both of us is divinely ordained, and therefore I, for my own part, am justified in continuing my work after the appearance of Jesus, so long at least as the self-witness of Jesus is not believed.”

Verses 29-30

John 3:29-30 . Symbolical setting forth of his subordinate relation to Jesus. The bridegroom is Jesus, John is the friend who waits upon Him; the bride is the community of the Messianic kingdom; the wedding is the setting up of that kingdom, now nigh at hand, as represented in the picture which the Baptist draws (comp. Matthew 9:15 ; Matthew 25:1 ff.). The O. T. figure of God’s union with His people as a marriage (Isaiah 54:5 ; Hosea 2:18-19 ; Ephesians 5:32 ; Revelation 19:7 ; Revelation 21:2 ; Revelation 21:9 ) forms the basis of this comparison. It may reasonably be doubted whether Solomon’s Song (especially John 5:1 ; John 5:6 ) was likewise in the Baptist’s thoughts when employing this illustration (Bengel, Luthardt, Hengstenberg); for no quotation is made from that book in the N. T., and therefore any allegorical interpretation of this Song with Messianic references cannot with certainty be presupposed in the N. T. Comp. Luke 13:31 , note.

He to whom the bride (the bride-elect of the marriage feast) belongs is the bridegroom , therefore it is not I.

The friend of the bridegroom ( κατʼ ἐξοχήν : the appointed friend, who serves at the wedding) is the παρανύμφιος , who is also, Sanhedr. f. 27, 2, called אוהב , but usually שושבן . Lightfoot, p. 980; Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. s.v.; Schoettgen, p. 335 ff.; and see on 2 Corinthians 11:2 .

ὁ ἑστηκὼς κ . ἀκούων αὐτοῦ ] who standeth (tanquam apparitor, Bengel) and attentively heareth him, i.e. in order to do his bidding. [172] Contrary to the construction ( καὶ ), and far-fetched, is the rendering of B. Crusius: “who is waiting for him ( ἑστηκ .), and when he hears him , viz. the voice of the approaching bridegroom. (?)” Tholuck also, following Chrysostom, brings in what is not there when he renders: “who standeth, having finished his work as forerunner .” The Baptist had still to work on, and went on working. The ἑστηκ . must be regarded as taking place at the marriage feast, and not before that, during the bridal procession (Ewald, who refers to the frequent stoppages which took place in it); but it does not mean standing at the door of the wedding chamber , nor ἀκ . αὐτοῦ the audible pleasure of the newly married pair . An indelicate sensualizing (still to be found in Kuinoel) unwarranted by the text.

χαρᾷ χαίρει ] he rejoiceth greatly; see Lobeck, Paralip . p. 524; Winer, p. 424 [E. T. p. 584]. Comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:9 , where, in like manner, διά stands instead of the classical ἐπί , ἐν , or the dative.

διὰ τὴν φωνὴν τοῦ νυμφ .] This is not to be understood of his loud caresses and protestations of love (Grotius, Olshausen, Lange), nor of the command of the bridegroom to take away the cloth with the signum virginitatis (thus debasing the beautiful figure, Michaelis, Paulus), nor of the conversing of the bridegroom with the bride (Tholuck and older expositors), all of which are quite out of keeping with the general expression; the reference is merely to the conversation and joy of the bridegroom amid the marriage mirth . Comp. Jeremiah 7:34 ; Jeremiah 16:9 ; Jeremiah 25:10 . The explanation, also, which makes it the voice of the approaching bridegroom who calls the bride to fetch her home , would need to be more precisely indicated (against B. Crusius and Luthardt), and is not in keeping with ὁ ἑστηκώς ; [173] the activity of Jesus, moreover, was already more than a call to the bringing home, which might have symbolized His first appearing. Comp. Matthew 9:15 .

Note, besides, how the ardent expression of joy stands contrasted with the envious feelings of John’s disciples.

αὕτη οὖν ἡ χαρὰ , κ . τ . λ .] ΟὖΝ infers the ΑὝΤΗ from the application of the figure: this joy, therefore, which is mine, viz. at the bridegroom’s voice.

πεπλήρωται ] has been fulfilled completely, so that nothing more is wanting to it. The Baptist, with prophetic anticipation, sees, in the successful activity of Jesus, and in the flocking of the people to Him, the already rising dawn of the Messiah’s kingdom (the beginning of the marriage). On πεπλήρ . comp. John 15:11 , John 16:24 , John 17:13 ; 1 John 1:4 .

ΔΕῖ ] as in John 3:14 . This noble self-renunciation was based upon the clear certainty which he had of the divine purpose .

αὐξάνειν ] in influence and efficiency.

ἘΛΑΤΤΟῦΣΘΑΙ ] the counterpart of increase: to become less , Jeremiah 30:16 ; Symm.; 2 Samuel 3:1 ; Ecclus. 35:23, al.; Thuc. ii. 62. 4; Theophr. H. pl . vi. 8. 5; Josephus, Antt . vii. 1. 5. Comp. Plat. Leg . iii. p. 681 A: αὐξανομένων ἐκ τῶν ἐλαττόνων .

[172] The working of Jesus was so manifest , and now so near to the Baptist, that this feature of the comparison is fully explained by it. Neither in this place nor elsewhere is there any answer to the question, whether and what personal intercourse the Baptist had already had with Him (Hengstenberg thinks “through intermediate persons, especially through the Apostle John”). In particular, the assumption that the interview with Nicodemus became known to the Baptist (through the disciples of Jesus who had previously been the Baptist’s disciples) is quite unnecessary for the understanding of the words which here follow (against Godet).

[173] For the παρανύμφιος does not stand there waiting for the bridegroom, but accompanies him on his way to the bride’s house. The standing and waiting pertain to the female attendants on the bride, Matthew 25:1 ff.

Verses 31-35

John 3:31-32 , down to John 3:35 , is not the comment of the evangelist (so Wetstein, Bengel, Kuinoel, Paulus, Olshausen, Tholuck, Klee, Maier, Bäumlein). John 3:32 , comp. with John 3:29-30 , seems to sanction the notion that it is; but as no intimation to this effect is given in the text, and as the thread of discourse proceeds uninterruptedly, and nothing in the subject-matter is opposed to it, we may regard it as the continued discourse of the Baptist , though elaborated in its whole style and colouring by John, not, however, to such an extent that the evangelist’s record passes almost entirely into a comment of his own (Lücke, De Wette, comp. also Ewald). We perceive how the Baptist, as if with the mind of Jesus Himself, unveils before his disciples, in the narrower circle of whom he speaks, with the growing inspiration of the last prophet, the full majesty of Jesus; and therewith, as if with his swanlike song, completes his testimony before he vanishes from the history. [174] Even the subsequent momentary perplexity (Matthew 11:0 ) is psychologically not irreconcilable with this (see on John 1:29 ), simply because John was ἘΚ Τῆς Γῆς . But the Baptist, notwithstanding his witness concerning Jesus, has not gone over to Him, because the calling of forerunner had been once divinely committed to him, and he felt that he must continue to fulfil it so long as the Messianic kingdom was not yet established. These remarks tell, at the same time, against the use which is made of this passage to prove that the entire scene is unhistorical (Strauss, Weisse, Reuss, Scholten, following Bretschneider).

ὁ ἄνωθεν ἐρχόμ .] He who cometh from, above, i.e . Christ (comp. John 3:13 ; John 8:23 ), whose coming, i.e . whose coming forth from the divine glory in human form as Messiah, is here regarded as still in the course of its actual self-manifestation (cf. John 8:14 ), and consequently as a present phenomenon, and as not ended until it has been consummated in the establishment of the kingdom.

πάντων ] Masc . John means the category as a whole to which Jesus belonged all interpreters of God , as is clear from what follows, John 3:31-32 .

ὁ ὢν ἐκ τῆς γῆς ] i.e . the Baptist, who, as an ordinary man, springs from earth, not heaven.

ἐκ τῆς γῆς ἐστι ] as predicate denotes the nature conditioned by such an origin. He is of no other kind or nature than that of one who springs from earth; though withal his divine mission (John 1:6 ), in common with all prophets, and specially his divinely conferred baptismal vocation (Matthew 21:25-26 ), remain intact.

καὶ ἐκ τ . γῆς λαλεῖ ] and he speaketh of the earth . His speech has not heaven as its point of departure, like that of the Messiah, who declares what He has seen in heaven (see John 3:32 ); but it proceeds from the earth, so that he utters what has come to his knowledge upon earth, and therefore under the limitation of earthly conditions, a limitation, however, which as little excluded the reception of a revelation (John 1:33 ; Luke 3:2 ), as it did in the case of the saints of the O. T., who likewise were of earthly origin, nature, and speech, and afterwards e.g . in that of the Apostle Paul. [175] The contents of the discourse need not therefore relate merely to τὰ ἐπίγεια (John 3:12 ), as Weisse thinks, but may also have reference to ἐπουράνια , the knowledge and promulgation of which, however, do not get beyond the ἐκ μέρους (1 Corinthians 13:9 ff.). The expression ἐκ τῆς γῆς λαλ . must not be confounded with ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου λαλεῖν , 1 John 4:5 .

ὁ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρ . ἐρχ ., κ . τ . λ .] A solemn repetition of the first clause, linking on what follows, viz. the antithesis still to be brought out, of the ἐκ τῆς γῆς λαλεῖ .

ὁ ἑώρακε , καὶ ἤκουσε ] i.e . during His pre-existence with God, John 1:15 ; John 1:18 , John 3:11 . From it He possesses immediate knowledge of divine truth, [176] whose witness ( μαρτυρεῖ ) He accordingly is. Note the interchange of tenses (Kühner, II. p. 75).

τοῦτο ] this and nothing else.

Κ . Τ . ΜΑΡΤ . ΑὐΤΟῦ ΟὐΔΕῚς ΛΑΜΒ . ] tragically related to what preceded, and introduced all the more strikingly by the bare ΚΑΊ . Comp. John 1:10 , John 3:11 . The expression ΟὐΔΕῚς ΛΑΜΒ . is the hyperbole of deep sorrow on account of the small number of those small in comparison of the vast multitude of unbelievers who receive His witness, and whose fellowship accordingly constitutes the bride of the marriage. John himself limits the οὐδείς by the following ΛΑΒῺΝ , Κ . Τ . Λ . Comp. John 1:10-12 . The concourse of hearers who came to Jesus (John 3:26 ), and the Baptist’s joy on account of His progress (John 3:29-30 ), could not dim his deep insight into the world’s unbelief. Accordingly, his joy (John 3:29 ) and grief (John 3:32 ) both forming a noble contrast to the jealousy of his disciples (John 3:26 ).

[174] It is self-evident, that all that is said in ver. 31 f. was intended to incite the disciples of John to believe in Jesus, and to scare them from unbelief.

[175] The Fathers rightly perceived the relative character of this self-assertion. Euthymius Zigabenus: πρὸς σύγκρισιν τῶν ὑπερφυῶν λόγων τοῦ Χριστοῦ . Hofmarnn Schriftbew . II. 1, p. 14, misapprehends this, supposing that this ver. 31 has no reference to the Baptist.

[176] Decisive against Beyschlag, p. 96, who understands the words only of a prophetic sight and hearing through the Spirit, is the antithesis with the Baptist (who was yet himself a prophet), running through the whole context, as also the ἐπάνω πάντων ἐστίν , which ranks Jesus above the prophets. Comp. also Hebrews 12:25 .

Verse 33

John 3:33 . Αὐτοῦ ] placed before for emphasis: His witness, correlative with the following ὁ θεός .

ἐσθράγισεν ] has, by this receiving, sealed, i.e. confirmed, ratified as an act. For this figurative usage, see John 6:27 ; Romans 4:11 ; Romans 15:28 ; 1Co 9:2 ; 2 Corinthians 1:22 ; Ephesians 1:13 ; Jacobs, ad Anthol . ix. pp. 22, 144, 172.

ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ἀληθ . ἐστιν ] In the reception of the witness of Jesus there is manifested on man’s part the practical ratification of the truthfulness of God , the human “ yea verily ” in answer to the proposition “God is true,” because Jesus (see John 3:34 ) is the ambassador and interpreter of God. The non-reception of that witness, whereby it is declared untrue, would be a rejection of the divine truthfulness, the “ nay ” to that proposition. Comp. 1 John 5:10 . Reference to O. T. promises (Luthardt) is remote from the context.

Verse 34

John 3:34 . The first γάρ serves to state the reason for the ἐσφράγισεν , ὅτι , etc.; the second, for the τὰ ῥήματα τ . θεοῦ λαλεῖ , so far, that is, as it would be doubtful, if God gave the Spirit ἐκ μέτρου , whether what God’s ambassador spoke was a divine revelation or not; it might in this case be wholly or in part the word of man

ὃν γὰρ ἀπέστ . ὁ θεός ] not a general statement merely, appropriate to every prophet, but, following John 3:31 , to be taken more precisely as a definition of a heavenly ( ἄνωθεν , ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ) mission , and referring strictly to Jesus . This the context demands. But the following οὐ γὰρ ἐκ μέτρου , κ . τ . λ ., must be taken as a general statement , because there is no αὐτῷ . Commentators would quite arbitrarily supply αὐτῷ , [177] so as to render it, not by measure or limitation, but without measure and in complete fulness, God gives the Holy Spirit to Christ . This supplement, unsuitable in itself, should have been excluded by the present δίδωσιν , because we must regard Christ as possessing the Spirit long before . The meaning of this general statement is rather: “ He does not give the Spirit according to measure ” (as if it consequently were out of His power, or He were unwilling to give the Spirit beyond a certain quantitative degree, determined by a definite measure); He proceeds herein independently of any μέτρον , confined and limited by no restricting standard. The way in which this is to be applied to Jesus thus becomes plain, viz. that God must have endowed Him [178] when He sent Him from heaven (John 3:31 ), in keeping with His nature and destination, with the richest spiritual gifts, namely, with the entire fulness of the Spirit ( πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα , Colossians 1:19 ), more richly, therefore, than prophets or any others; which He could not have done had He been fettered by a measure in the giving of the Spirit. [179]

ἐκ μέτρου ] ἘΚ used of the rule . See Bernhardy, p. 230; comp. on 1 Corinthians 12:27 . Finally, the οὐ γὰρ ἐκ μέτρου must not be regarded as presenting a different view to John 3:32 (comp. Weiss, p. 269); for the Spirit was in Christ the principle whereby He communicated (the λαλεῖν ) to men that which He had beheld with God. See on John 6:63-64 ; Acts 1:2 .

[177] The subterfuge of Hengstenberg is no better: “we must supply, in the case before us .” See also Lange.

[178] οὐ γὰρ μέτρα λόγοιο [or rather πνεύματος ] φέρει λόγος . Nonnus.

[179] Hitzig, in Hilgenfeld’s Zeitschr . 1859, p. 152 ff., taking the first half of the verse as a general statement, applicable to every prophet, would read the relative οὗ instead of οὐ , “ according to the measure, that is, in which He gives the Spirit .” Considering the γάρ , this rendering is impossible. Ewald and Brückner come nearest to our interpretation. B. Crusius and Ebrard (on Olshausen) erroneously make ὅν ἀπέστ . κ . τ . λ . the subject of δίδωσιν ( ὁ θιός is spurious, see the critical notes); but this yields a thought neither true in itself, nor in keeping with the context. Godet puts an antithetical but purely imported emphasis upon δίδωσιν : to other messengers of God the Spirit is not given , but only lent by a “visite momentanée;” but when God gives the Spirit, He does so without measure, and this took place on the first occasion at the baptism of Jesus. This is exegetical poetizing.

Verse 35

John 3:35 . A further description of the dignity of Christ. The Father hath given unlimited power to His beloved Son.

ἀγαπ .] the ground of the δέδωκ .

πάντα ] neut. and without limitation. Falsely Kuinoel: omnes doctrinae suae partes (comp. Grotius: “omnia mysteria regni”)! Nothing is exempted from the Messianic ʼξουσία , by virtue of which Christ is κεφαλὴ ὑπὲρ πάντα , Ephesians 1:22 , and πάντων κύριος , Acts 10:36 ; comp. John 13:3 , John 17:2 ; Matthew 11:27 ; 1 Corinthians 15:27 ; Hebrews 2:8 .

ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ ] Result of the directionio of the gift, a well-known constructio praegnans . Winer, p. 385 (E. T. p. 454).

Verse 36

John 3:36 . All the more weighty in their results are faith in the Son and unbelief! Genuine prophetic conclusion to life or death.

ἔχειζ . αἰ .] “he has eternal life,” i.e . the Messianic ζωή , which, in its temporal development, is already a present possession of the believer; see on John 3:15-16 . At the Second Advent it will be completed and glorified; and therefore the antithesis οὐκ ὄψεται ζωήν , referring to the future αἰών , is justified, because it presupposes the οὐκ ἔχει ζ .

ἀπειθῶν ] not: “he who does not believe on the Son” (Luther and the Fathers), but: “he who is disobedient to the Son;” yet, according to the context, so far as the Son requires faith . Comp. Acts 14:2 ; Acts 19:9 ; Romans 11:30 ; Fritzsche, ad Rom . I. p. 17. Contrasted herewith is the ὑπακοὴ πίστεως , Romans 1:5 .

ἡ ὀργή ] not punishment , but wrath , as the necessary emotion of holiness; see on Romans 1:18 ; Ephesians 2:3 ; Matthew 3:7 .

μένει ] because unreconciled, inasmuch as that which appropriates reconciliation, i.e . faith (John 3:16 ), is rejected; comp. John 9:41 . This μένει (it is not termed ἔρχεται ) implies that the person who rejects faith is still in a moral condition which is subject to the divine wrath, a state of subjection to wrath, which, instead of being removed by faith, abides upon him through his unbelief. The wrath, therefore, is not first awakened by the refusal to believe (Ritschl, de ira Dei , pp. 18, 19; Godet), but is already there, and through that refusal remains. [180] Whether or not this wrath rests upon the man from his birth (Augustine; Thomasius, Chr. Pers. u. Werk , I. p. 289), this text gives no information. See on Ephesians 2:3 .

That the Baptist could already speak after this manner, is evident from chap. John 1:29 .

ἐπʼ αὐτόν ] as in John 1:32-33 .

[180] This is also against Hengstenberg. But certainly the μένει must, according to the context, be an eternal abiding, if the ὑπακοὴ πίστεως never occurs.

Bibliographical Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on John 3". Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hmc/john-3.html. 1832.
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