Partner with as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

International Critical Commentary NT

John 11

Verses 1-99

The Sickness of Lazarus, and the Discussion of It by Jesus and His Disciples (11:1-16)

11:1. ἦν δέ τις�Luk_16. Bethany, which is about 2 miles from Jerusalem, is now called El˒Azariyeh, from the tradition of the miracle narrated here.

Lazarus is described as�Luke 10:38) in Galilee. But Lk. does not always arrange the incidents he narrates in such strict order that we can be sure either of the locality or the time at which a given incident is to be placed. It can hardly be doubted (cf. 12:1) that Lazarus, Mary, and Martha lived at Bethany together. The attempt to distinguish between�

Mary is mentioned before Martha, while elsewhere (John 11:19, Luke 10:38) Martha, as the mistress of their house, is named before Mary. At the time the Fourth Gospel was written, Mary was the more prominent of the two in Christian tradition, as is recorded in Mk. (14:9): “Wheresoever the gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, that also which this woman hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.”

2. This verse seems to be an explanatory gloss added by an editor. There are two non-Johannine touches of style. The phrase τὸν κύριον (see on 4:1) appears instead of Jn.’s usual τὸν Ἰησοῦν. And, secondly, the characteristically Johannine ἦν�

The story by which Mary is identified is that of her anointing Jesus, and wiping His feet with her hair, which Jn. tells in the next chapter. But this story is also told of the sinful woman of Luke 7:38. Christian readers of the next generation would not be helped by an explanatory note which might equally be applied to two distinct women; and the conclusion is inevitable that Jn. (or his editor) regarded Mary of Bethany as the same person who is described by Lk. as ἁμαρτωλός.1 The easiest way to identify her for the reader is to recall the singular gesture by which she was best known, and which she had enacted not once only, but twice. She was the best-known member of her family, and the note recalls that it was her brother, Lazarus, who was sick.

It is worth observing, in view of the discrepancy between Mark 14:3 and John 12:3, as to whether it was the head or the feet of Jesus that Mary anointed, that this note evades the difficulty by saying simply “anointed the Lord.”�Luke 7:38 and John 12:3; and the reference is probably to both incidents. ἐκμάσσειν is only found again in N.T. at 13:5, and there, as in Luk_7, Joh_12, of wiping feet.

Μαριάμ, rather than Μαρία, seems to be the best-attested spelling of Mary’s name throughout Jn., although here אADLWΘ have Μαρία, B 33 alone supporting Μαριάμ.2 This provides another reason for suspecting v. 2 to be non- Johannine. Cf., however, v. 20, 12:3; and see 19:25.


The constr. πρὸς θάνατον is unusual, occurring again in the N.T. only at 1 John 5:16 ἁμαρτία πρὸς θάνατον, and in the LXX at 4 Macc. 14:4, 17:1, while εἰς θάνατον is common (cf. 2 Kings 20:1, where it is said of Hezekiah that he was sick εἰς θάνατον). If a distinction is to be drawn between the two constructions, perhaps “this sickness is not πρὸς θάνατον” is more reassuring than “this sickness is not εἰς θάνατον.” The latter would mean that the sickness would not have death as its final issue; the former ought to mean that the sick person is not in danger at all, that his sickness is not “dangerous,” as we would put it. Consequently the meaning that the disciples inevitably took from the words of Jesus was that Lazarus was not dead at the time of speaking, and further that Jesus was convinced he would recover. No doubt, the evangelist means his readers to understand that this was not the real meaning of Jesus’ words (see v. 11). But it is strange that he should translate them by using πρός instead of εἰς; for, in fact, Lazarus’ sickness was πρὸς θάνατον, although it might plausibly be argued that it was not εἰς θάνατον, as death was not the final issue.

Jesus adds that this illness had come upon Lazarus ὑπὲρ τῆς δόξης τοῦ θεοῦ, “on behalf of God’s glory,” i.e. in order that the glory and power of God might be revealed. The attempt to give ὑπέρ a semi-sacrificial sense here, as if the sickness were a voluntary offering by Lazarus, is fanciful ὑπέρ is used exactly as in 1:30, 10:11, “on behalf of.” The issue of the sickness and death of Lazarus was the revelation of the glory of God, as exhibited in his miraculous resuscitation. The miracle was more than a “wonder”; it was a “sign” of ἡ δόξα τοῦ θεοῦ. And so Martha was reminded, when it was over, that she had been told that she would see this glory (v. 40).

The glory of God was exhibited through the person and works of Jesus; this sickness, with its issue, had for its purpose ἵνα δοξασθῇ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, that He might be honoured by this revelation of His Father (cf. 8:54 ἔστιν ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ δοξάζων με). We have seen (on 7:39) that the supreme “glorification” of Jesus is identified by Jn. with the Passion and its sequel, and it has been thought by some that this too is the reference in the present passage. If so, ἵνα δοξασθῇ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ would mean here that the final cause of Lazarus’ sickness was that it might lead up to the Passion by making public the power of Jesus and thereby bringing the hostility of his enemies to a crisis (Westcott). But this is over subtle. The true parallel to 11:4b is 8:54. This revelation of “the glory of God” was that the Son might be honoured or “glorified” by so signal a mark of His Father’s favour as the power to raise a dead man would exhibit. As in the O.T., “the glory of God” is the visible manifestation of His presence. See also on 9:3, 10:25, 14:13; and cf. 17:1.

For the title “the Son of God,” see on 1:34 and 5:25. Only here and at 5:25, 10:36 is Jesus said to have used this title as descriptive of Himself.

5. Moffatt transposes this verse, placing it after the parenthetical v. 2; and this is the most natural position for it, as it then explains in proper sequence why it was that the sisters sent to Jesus the news that Lazarus was ill. Jesus was their friend, and they hoped that He would come and heal their sick brother. In the traditional position of v. 5, it seems to suggest as the reason why Jesus did not immediately leave Peræa and start for the sick man’s house, that because He loved the household at Bethany, He stayed for two days longer where He was. That is, no doubt, a possible explanation of His action or delay, sc. that because He loved them, He wished to exhibit in their case the greatness of His power and the reach of His compassion. But, if that were so, He was content to leave the sisters in the agony of grief for three or four days, in order that the “glory of God” might be more signally vindicated in the end.

There is no textual authority for Moffatt’s transposition of the text, and I have left v. 5 in its traditional position. It is possible, however, that v. 5 is an explanatory gloss added by an editor which has got into the wrong place (see 4:44 for a like case of displacement). Two small points suggest that v. 5 is not from the pen of the author of vv. 1, 3. In v. 1 we have Mary and her sister Martha, while in v. 5 we have the more usual order, Martha and her sister,1 a sudden change (but cf. v. 19). Again, the verb twice used in this chapter for the affection which Jesus had for Lazarus is φιλεῖν (vv. 3, 36), while in v. 5 it is�

ἄγωμεν. This intransitive form occurs again 11:15, 16 and 14:31 (so Mark 14:42, Matthew 26:46): “let us go.” So in Homer we have ἄγε used intransitively “go.”

εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν πάλιν, “back to Judæa,” whence they had come to avoid the danger caused by the hostility of the Jews (10:39, 40).

8. Ῥαββεί. So the disciples called Him. See on 1:38 for the use of this title in Jn.

νῦν κτλ., sc. “quite recently (10:31, 39), the Jews (see on 1:19) were seeking to stone Thee”: cf. 7:1, 8:59.

καὶ πάλιν ὑπάγεις ἐκεῖ; “and are you going back there?” For the Johannine use of ὑπάγειν, see on 7:33. Probably their apprehension of danger was on their own account, as well as on that of their Master.


10. ἐὰν δέ τις περιπατῇ ἐν τῇ νυκτί κτλ. In this second clause it is the mystical and not the literal sense which is most clearly expressed. For we should expect v. 10 to run, “If any one walk in the night, he stumbles because he has no light,” or, as it is expressed at 12:35 (a parallel passage), “He that walketh in the darkness knoweth not whither he goeth” (cf. 1 John 2:11). But instead we have ὅτι τὸ φῶς οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν αὐτῷ (not ἐν αὐτῇ, which D reads in an attempt to simplify the passage). This departs from the literal application of the illustration of a guiding light, and directs the thought of the reader to the idea of spiritual enlightenment. Cf. 8:12 and Matthew 6:23. With the picture of one stumbling in the darkness, cf. Jeremiah 13:16.

11. ταῦτα εἶπεν, i.e. vv. 9, 10, which but for this explicit statement might be treated as a comment of the evangelist (see on 3:16) rather than as words spoken by Jesus on this occasion.

καὶ μετὰ τοῦτο. Some interval between vv. 8-10 and v. 11 is implied; see on v. 7 above.

Λάζαρος ὁ φίλος ἡμῶν. Lazarus was the friend of the disciples, as well as of the Master; and it is implied that if Jesus ventured into Judæa to visit him, they also ought to be ready to do so. Lazarus was within the circle of those whom Jesus called His “friends” (see 15:14, Luke 12:4; and cf. v. 3 above).

κεκοίμηται, “has fallen asleep.” The natural interpretation of this verb would be that put upon it by the disciples, sc. that the sick man had fallen into a refreshing slumber. In ordinary Greek, as throughout the LXX, κοιμᾶσθαι is generally used in this, its primary, meaning. But in poetry it is sometimes used of the sleep of death, e.g. in Homer, Il. xi. 241; in Job 3:13, Job 3:14:12, Job 3:21:13, Job 3:26, Ezekiel 32:19, Ezekiel 32:20, Ezekiel 32:27, as well as in the oft-repeated phrase, “he slept with his fathers.” Cf. also 2 Macc. 12:45. In the N.T. this euphemistic use is found 13 times, as against 3 occurrences of the verb in the sense of ordinary sleep (Matthew 28:13, Luke 22:45, Acts 12:6). Although this use was not original to Christianity, or even to Judaism, κοιμᾶσθαι (and κοιμητήριον; see Moulton-Milligan, s.v.) came to be more frequently applied to the sleep of death after the Christian era than before.

The verb does not occur again in Jn.; but its interpretation by the disciples here as indicating physical sleep was no stupid misunderstanding but natural, and almost inevitable, having regard to the circumstances.

ἀλλὰ πορεύομαι ἵνα ἐξυπνίσω αὐτόν, “but I am going to wake him up.” ἐξυπνίζω is a Hellenistic word, not occurring again in the N.T. We find it in the LXX (1 Kings 3:15), and may especially note Job 14:12, where, as here, it is associated with κοίμᾶσθαι, used of the sleep of death: ἄνθρωπος δὲ κοιμηθεὶς … οὐκ ἐξυπνισθήσονται ἐξ ὕπνου αὐτῶν.

12. εἶπαν οὖν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτῷ. So BC*Θ against the rec. οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ: אDW have αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταί.

κύριε. For this mode of address, see on 1:28 and 13:13.

εἰ κεκοίμηται, σωθήσεται, “if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” They understood Jesus to mean that the sick man had fallen into a natural sleep—not the sleep of death. This was a favourable symptom, and suggested that Lazarus would get well. It puzzled them to think that Jesus would wish to wake him from health-giving sleep. No doubt, they were glad of another argument by which they might dissuade their Master from facing the dangers of Judæa. The journey would be to no good purpose.

σωθήσεται, “he will get well.” For this use of σώζειν, see on 3:17.

13. εἰρήκει δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς κτλ., “But Jesus had been speaking about his death.” This is one of those parenthetical comments which are so frequent in the Fourth Gospel (see Introd., p. xxxiv), the writer calling attention to a misunderstanding by the disciples of the words of Jesus. They thought that Jesus was using the word κοιμᾶσθαι of natural sleep, whereas he was really using it of death.

ἐκεῖνοι δὲ ἔδοξαν κτλ., “but they thought, etc.,” ἐκεῖνος being employed to mark distinctly the subject of the verb. It is often used by Jn. to make his point, just as an English writer may resort to italics for the sake of clearness (see on 1:8).

κοίμησις does not occur again in the N.T. It is used euphemistically at Ecclus. 46:19, 48:13 of the sleep of death, but not elsewhere in the LXX in any sense.

14. τότε οὖν κτλ. “At this point, Jesus said plainly, Lazarus died”; He no longer spoke enigmatically to the disciples. For παρρησίᾳ, see on 7:4.

15. καὶ χαίρω διʼ ὑμᾶς, ἵνα πιστεύσητε, ὅτι οὐκ ἤμην ἐκεῖ, “And I rejoice for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe.” The implication is that the recovery of Lazarus from death would be a more remarkable “sign” than his recovery from a sick-bed would have been. The disciples were already “believers,” or they would not have been “disciples”; but faith is always growing, if it be alive, and the Twelve knew that theirs was susceptible of increase (cf. Luke 17:5). Although His friend has died and the sisters are in grief, Jesus rejoices because of His confidence not only that Lazarus will be called back to life, but because this sign of power will increase the faith of His disciples, and promote the glory of God (v. 4).

Abbott (Diat. 2099) translates, “I am glad on account of you, that ye may believe, because I was not there,” which is, indeed, a possible rendering, but unnecessarily subtle.

ἵνα πιστεύσητε is, as it were, in parenthesis, explaining why Jesus was glad that He was not present when Lazarus was still alive. For πιστεύειν used absolutely, as here, the object of belief being left unexpressed, see on 1:7.

Bengel notes that no one is said to have died in the presence of Jesus, and suggests that perhaps death was impossible where He was: “Cum decoro divino pulchre congruit, quod praesente uitae duce nemo unquam legitur mortuus.” But we cannot infer from the narrative that Jn. means to hint at this.

χαίρω is not elsewhere placed in the lips of Jesus, but He speaks of His joy (ἡ χαρὰ ἡ ἐμή) at 15:11, 17:13; and at 4:36 we have ἵνα ὁ σπείρων ὁμοῦ χαίρῃ καὶ ὁ θερίζων, where He refers to Himself as the Sower. In all these passages, it will be noticed that His rejoicing is connected with the fulfilment of His mission. So also at Luke 10:21 it is said of Him ἠγαλλιάσατο τῷ Πνεύματι τῷ Ἁγίῳ, because of the acceptance of His message by the Seventy, and of their success. And the rejoicing of the shepherd, when the lost sheep is found (Matthew 18:13, Luke 15:6), is, in like manner, drawn out by the happy issue of his labours.

ἀλλὰ ἄγωμεν πρὸς αὐτόν, “but, anyway, let us go to him,” as He had said before ἄγωμεν εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν (v. 7, where see note on ἄγωμεν). The repetition of this invitation, even though Lazarus was now dead and a visit to his bedside for the purpose of healing him was now impossible, seems to have convinced the hesitating disciples that Jesus had some great purpose in view when He proposed to return to a place where He and they would be in danger. At all events, no further objection is raised, and the loyal outburst of Thomas, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him,” is acted on by all.

16. Θωμᾶς ὁ λεγόμενος Δίδυμος. תְּאֹם is a “twin” (found only in Genesis 25:24, Genesis 38:27, Song of Solomon 4:5, Song of Solomon 7:3, always in the plural, and always rendered by δίδυμα or δίδυμοι), and of this Θωμᾶς is a transliteration. Three times in Jn. (cf. 20:24, 21:2) to this name the note is added ὁ λεγόμενος Δίδυμος, an appellation which is not found in the Synoptists. This suggests (see on 4:25) that the apostle was called “Didymus” in Greek circles; if Jn. only meant to interpret Thomas, he would probably have written ὃ ἑρμηνεύεται Δίδυμος (as at 1:42).1

The personal name of the apostle is given as Judas in the Acta Thomœ and elsewhere; and the attribution of this name to him led afterwards to the attempted identification of Thomas with “Judas of James” and “Judas the Lord’s brother.”

The character of Thomas comes out as clearly in the Fourth Gospel as does that of Nicodemus (see on 3:1). The notices of him here, at 14:5 and 20:24f., are remarkably consistent, one with the other, and reveal a man whose temper of mind we can thoroughly understand. Thomas always looks at the dark side of things, and is a pessimist by disposition, while entirely loyal to his convictions and ready to act on them at all cost. He is a man of independent mind who says what he thinks, and does not wait for the promptings of others. Here Thomas foresaw only too clearly that Jesus was going to His death, and he realised that to enter Judæa as His disciple was to risk the same fate. But Jesus was his Master, and he would not draw back when he found that Jesus was resolved to go back to Judæa. εἶπεν οὖν Θωμᾶς κτλ., “Thomas thereupon said, Let us also go (for ἄγωμεν, see on v. 7) that we may die with Him.”

This challenge was addressed to his “fellow-disciples.” συνμαθηταί does not occur again in the N.T., but as used here it suggests the Twelve, of whom Thomas was one, rather than any outer circle of μαθηταί (see on 2:2). It is not implied that all of the Twelve were present during the retreat to Peræa or at Bethany when Lazarus was recovered from the tomb; but συνμαθηταῖς suggests that the disciples who were with Jesus on this occasion were of the inner circle.

It is probable that Peter was not among them. He is not mentioned once in Part II. of the Gospel, and there is no indication in Mk. (which is thought to depend on Peter’s information) that Peter knew anything about this Jerusalem ministry. Probably the Galilæan disciples were often at their homes when Jesus was in Judæa or in Peræa. If Peter had been present, we might have expected that he would take the lead2 in assuring Jesus that His disciples would not abandon Him, just as he was foremost when the danger was even nearer (13:37). From the Synoptists we should not have gathered that Thomas was one of the leaders of the apostolic company; but the notices of him in Jn. (see above; and also 21:2, where he is named immediately after Peter) indicate that he was prominent among them, so that the statement that he acted as spokesman for the rest on this occasion is not surprising.

Jesus Goes to Bethany: His Conversation with Martha (vv. 17-27)

17. ἐλθὼν οὖν κτλ., “Jesus, then, having come, etc.” οὖν is resumptive, not causal.

εὗρεν αὐτὸν τέσσαρας ἤδη ἡμέρας ἔχοντα κτλ. He found Lazarus had been already four days in the tomb. For the constr. ἡμέρας ἔχειν, see on 5:5. ἤδη is om. by A*D, and its position varies in other MSS., but the weight of authority is in favour of its retention.

For the “four days,” see on v. 6 above; and cf. v. 39. The burial would have taken place as soon as possible after death (cf. Acts 5:6).

Augustine (in loc.) finds allegory in the “four days”: one day of death for original sin, one for violation of natural law, one for breaking the law of Moses, and one for transgressing the Gospel. This is no more, and no less, fantastic than the efforts of modern expositors to find allegory in Jn.’s narrative.

18. Moffatt places vv. 18, 19, between v. 30 and v. 31, where they would fit very well. But there is no insuperable difficulty in their traditional position, and I do not venture to alter it.

ἦν δὲ Βηθανία κτλ. Jn. alone of the evangelists uses ἦν in this way (cf. 18:1, 19:41, and perhaps 6:10); Meyer suggested that it is employed by him thus instead of the present ἐστί because he is writing after the devastation of Jerusalem and its suburbs. But if (as we hold) his narrative reproduces the reminiscences of the aged apostle John, looking back on many years, ἦν is more natural than ἐστί, without assuming any allusion to the fall of Jerusalem. See on 5:2.

The rec. inserts ἡ before Βηθανία, with אcACDLWΘ; but א*B om. ἡ, as in v. 1.

For the form τῶν Ἱεροσολύμων, see on 1:19.

ὡς�Revelation 14:20, and see Hermas, Vis. iv. 1, οὕτω γὰρ ἦν�

19. πολλοὶ δέ. So אBCDLWΘ, as against the rec. καὶ πολλοί (AΓΔ)

ἐκ τῶν Ἰουδαίων, i.e. of the citizens of Jerusalem. οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι often represents in Jn. the Jews who were hostile to Jesus (see on 1:19, 5:10); but here that suggestion is not present.

Jerusalem being so near (v. 18), it was natural that many friends from the city should come to condole with Martha and Mary on the death of their brother. Lightfoot gives (Hor. Hebr., in loc.) curious details about the ceremonial which was customary at these mournful gatherings. The first three days after death were kept with severity, the next four days with less strictness, the period of observance lasting for thirty days altogether. Cf. for the “seven days of mourning for the dead” (Ecclus. 22:12). 1 Samuel 31:13, Job 2:13, Judith 16:24; and for the visits of neighbours to console, 2 Ezra 10:2.

παραμυθεῖσθαι, “to comfort,” is found in the Greek Bible only here, v. 31, 1 Thessalonians 2:11, 1 Thessalonians 5:14, and 2 Macc. 15:9.

πρὸς τὴν Μάρθαν καὶ Μαριάμ is the best-attested reading (אBC*L), but the article should be prefixed to both or to neither of the names. D has πρὸς Μάρθαν καὶ Μαριάμ. Syr. sin. seems, on the other hand, to presuppose the article in both places, and reads “went forth to Bethany that they might comfort Martha and Mary,” omitting “concerning their brother.” See on v. 24 for Jn.’s consistent use of ἡ Μάρθα, ἡ Μαριάμ.

The rec. text, with AC3ΓΔΘ, has ἐληλύθεισαν πρὸς τὰς περὶ Μάρθαν καὶ Μαριάμ, which ought to mean “came to the women of the household of Martha and Mary”; but it can hardly be genuine. Perhaps τὰς περί came in from [αὐ]τὰς περί in the next line. After�

20. The congruity of the characters of Martha and Mary, as suggested by what we read of them in Luke 10:38f., with what Jn. tells in this chapter about their demeanour is remarkable.1 Martha is the busy housewife who, as the mistress of the house, is the first to be told of the approach of Jesus (v. 20). She goes to meet Him, and expresses at once her own conviction and that of Mary (vv. 21, 32), that if He had been present, Lazarus would not have died. She is puzzled by the enigmatical words of hope which Jesus addresses to her (v. 23), and supposes that He is giving the usual orthodox consolation (v. 24). She does not understand what He then says (vv. 25, 26); but her faith in Him as the Messiah is strong, and of this she assures Him (v. 27), although she does not expect that He can do anything now to restore her brother. Then she goes to tell her sister that Jesus has arrived and is asking for her.

Before Martha told her, Mary had not heard of the arrival of Jesus (v. 29): she was seated inside the house (v. 20) as a mourner, and it had been to her that the condolences of the friends who had come from Jerusalem were specially addressed (v. 45). But as soon as she learnt that Jesus had come, she got up hastily and left the house without acquainting the mourners of her purpose in going out (v. 29). Her friends thought that she was going to wail at the tomb (v. 30). When she met Jesus, she fell at His feet (unlike her more staid sister), greeting him with the same assurance that Martha had given (v. 32), but wailing unrestrainedly (v. 33). Her cries of grief seem to have affected the human heart of Jesus as the grave sorrow of Martha did not do (v. 33). But, as they proceed to the tomb, Martha is with them, and, practical woman as she is, demurs to its being opened (v. 39). Throughout, her figure is in sharp contrast with that of her more emotional sister. See further, Introd., p. clxxxv.

ἡ οὖν Μάρθα ὡς ἤκουσεν ὅτι κτλ. She is the first to be told, as the mistress of the house. ὅτι is recitantis: what was said to her was Ἰησοῦς ἔρχεται.

The rec. has ὁ Ἰης. but om. ὁ אABCDW. See on 1:29.

ὑπήντησεν αὐτῷ, “met Him,” but without any display of emotion such as Mary exhibited. She met Jesus before He entered the village (see v. 30).

ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ ἐκαθέζετο, “she was seated in the house”; see on 4:6 for ἐκαθέζετο. It was customary for mourners to be seated when receiving the condolences of their friends; see Job 2:8, Job 2:13, and cf. Ezekiel 8:14. Sitting down was also a common posture for mourners among the Romans. It was adopted, e.g., by Cato after Pharsalia, and Varro after Cannæ (Plutarch, Cato, 56).

Μαρία is attested by most authorities, but Θ 33 give Μαριάμ (see also 12:3), in accordance with the general usage of Jn. (see on v. 2).

21. εἶπεν οὖν (οὖν being resumptive) ἡ Μάρθα πρὸς Ἰησοῦν. Cf. 2:3 for the constr. λέγειν πρός τινα. The rec., with AC2DLWΘ, inserts τόν before Ἰησοῦν, but om. אBC* See on 1:29.

κύριε. See on v. 3.

εἰ ἦς ὧδε κτλ., “if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” Mary greets Jesus with the same words (v. 32). No doubt, Martha and Mary had said this to each other many times during the last four days. The greeting may imply a reproach, suggesting that if Jesus had started immediately after He heard of Lazarus’ illness, He would have kept him from death (see on v. 6). On the other hand, the sisters do not say “if thou hadst come here,” but “if thou hadst been here,” which may only imply wistful regret.

ἀπέθανεν. So אBC*DLW, but AC3ΓΔ have ἐτεθνήκει Θ has τεθνήκει.

22. The rec. inserts�

ὅσα ἂν αἰτήσῃ τὸν θεόν. Martha used, however, a verb to describe the prayers of Jesus which (according to Jn.) Jesus never used of them. αἰτεῖν is often used in the Gospels of men’s prayers to God, and Jesus uses it thus at John 14:13, John 15:16, John 16:23, but the word that He uses of His own prayers is ἐρωτᾶν. In Jn. (and in Jn. only) ἐρωτᾶν is used of prayer to God; and in the Gospel it is not generally used of the prayers of men, but of the prayers of Jesus (14:16, 16:26, 17:9, 15, 20). Too much, however, must not be made of this usage, for the distinction between αἰτεῖν and ἐρωτᾶν had almost disappeared in later Greek (cf. Acts 3:2, Acts 3:3), and at 1 John 5:16 ἐρωτᾶν is used of the prayer of Christians. See further on 16:23. It is remarkable that the words προσεύχεσθαι, παρακαλεῖν, and δεῖσθαι, which are all used elsewhere of prayer, do not occur in Jn.

But Martha, although she uses a word about the prayers of Jesus which He never applies to them, is right in substance; and her confession is a true, if imperfect, statement of what Jesus says Himself at v. 41.


So ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ�Colossians 3:1).

Neither Jn. nor Paul discuss or contemplate the future life of those who are not “in Christ.” The assurance of life, here and hereafter, in the Fourth Gospel, is for all “believers”; and in this passage no others are in view.

καὶ ἡ ζωή. This second clause in the great pronouncement of Jesus is omitted by Syr. sin., and also by Cyprian (de Mortal. 21), who quotes these verses in the form: “Ego sum Resurrectio. Qui credit in me, licet moriatur, uiuet; et omnis qui uiuit et credit in me non morietur in aeternum.” Cyprian appears to have missed the distinction between the two clauses 25b and 26, and he may have omitted et uita, not perceiving that the words are essential, if what follows is to be understood. But this does not explain the omission in Syr. sin. All other authorities have the words καὶ ἡ ζωή, which are indispensable for the argument.

Jesus is not only the Resurrection, and thus the pledge and the source of the believer’s revival after death; but He is the Life, for this revival is unending. In the two sentences which follow, the twofold presentation of Jesus as the Resurrection and as the Life is expanded and explained. He is the Resurrection, and therefore the believer in Him, though he die, yet shall live again. He is the Life, and therefore the believer in Him, who has been “raised from the dead” and is spiritually alive, shall never die. See further on v. 26.

That Jesus is the Life is, in one sense, the main theme of the Fourth Gospel. Cf. 1:4, 6:57, 14:6, 20:31; and see Introd., p. clxi.

ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμέ κτλ., “he who believes in me” (see on 1:12 for the constr. πιστεύειν εἰς, and cf. 9:35) “even if he die (sc. physically), yet shall he live” (sc. spiritually, in the spiritual body, as Paul has it). So it has been said already (3:36).

Westcott compares Philo’s saying that “the wise man who appears to have died in respect of this corruptible life, lives in respect of the incorruptible life” (quod det. pot. 15). But the distinctive feature of the Johannine teaching is that the privilege of the immortal, spiritual life is for him who “believes in Christ,” and so has touched the life of God.

26. καὶ πᾶς ὁ ζῶν κτλ. The verse is susceptible of two meanings. (1) If πᾶς ὁ ζῶν is understood as meaning “every living man,” sc. living in this earthly life (cf. ἐνώπιον παντὸς ζῶντος, Tob. 13:4), then v. 26 is but the repetition in other words of what has already been said in v. 25, “no living man who believes in me shall ever die.” Such repetition is quite in the Johannine style (see 3:3, 5), and it gives a good sense here. (2) But inasmuch as ζήσεται in v. 25 refers to spiritual life, the life of the believer after the death of the body, it is preferable to take ζῶν in v. 26 as having the same reference, and to treat v. 26 as continuing the topic of v. 25, but not repeating it. “Every one who is living (sc. in the heavenly life) and a believer in me shall never die.” Verse 25 gives only the promise of life after physical death; v. 26 gives the assurance of that future life being immortal. For this use of ζῶν as indicating one who is living, not on earth, but in the spiritual world, cf. the saying of Jesus to the Sadducees, that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living (ζώντων, Mark 12:27 and parallels).

For this use of εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, “shall never die,” cf. 4:14, and esp. 8:51.

It should be observed that vv. 25, 26, do not suggest to Martha that Lazarus will live again on earth. They are general pronouncements applying to every believer in Jesus, and the emphasis is laid on the words ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμέ. It is this essential condition of life in its deepest sense that is proclaimed to Martha. She is asked if she believes it, and she says “Yes”; but her answer does not indicate that she understood what was involved.

27. Martha’s reply is a confession of Jesus as the Messiah. It hardly goes farther; although, in terms, it embraces all that Jn. hopes his readers will reach, sc. that full faith which leads to life (20:31). She hastens to summon Mary, who may be expected to understand the mysterious sayings of Jesus better than she (cf. Luke 10:39).

Ναί. Cf. 21:15, 16 and Mark 7:28. She acquiesces in the truth of what Jesus had said, because she believed Him to be the Christ.

κύριε. See on v. 3.

ἐγὼ πεπίστευκα. With the perfect tense cf. 6:69 and 1 John 4:16; ἐγώ is emphatic. Certainly Martha accepts the word of Jesus as true, for she has believed for some time past in His Messiahship. ὃτι σὺ εἶ ὁ χριστός For the form of the confession σὺ εἶ, cf. 1:49, 6:69, Mark 8:29, Matthew 16:16.

ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ—a recognised title of Messiah. See on 1:34 for its usage and significance. Cf. the note on 6:69 for the confession of Jesus as the Christ by Peter; and see further on v. 40. Note that the exact terms, ὁ χριστός, ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, appear together again at 20:31, where Jn. defines the faith which he aims to inspire in his readers.

ὁ εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἐρχόμενος. This is the way in which the coming Prophet was described in popular discourse (see 6:14, Matthew 11:3). Jesus used the expression of Himself more than once (9:39, 16:28, 18:37).

Mary, Being Informed of Jesus’ Presence, Hastens to Speak to Him (vv. 28-32)

28. τοῦτο εἰποῦσα. This is the true reading, with אBCLW, rather than ταῦτα of ADΓΔΘ. Martha said one thing only in response to Jesus’ words of mystery; she did not make a speech.

She called (ἐφώνησεν) “Mary.” Μαριάμ does not take the article here, suggesting that the actual name was called out by Martha.

λάθρᾳ, “secretly,” presumably because she wished Mary to see Jesus privately, without the crowd of mourning friends being present. However, this did not succeed, for they followed Mary out of the house (v. 31). λάθρᾳ occurs elsewhere in N.T. at Matthew 1:19, Matthew 2:7, Acts 16:37. D reads σιωπῇ, which gives the same sense.

ὁ διδάσκαλος. So they called Jesus among themselves, although they addressed Him as κύριε. See on 1:38, 13:13; and cf. 20:16.

καὶ φωνεῖ σε. No mention has been made hitherto of the desire of Jesus to see Mary.

29. ἐκείνη δέ. δέ should be retained with אBC*LW. ἐκείνη designates the person who has just been mentioned (see on 1:8).

ἠγέρθη ταχὺ καὶ ἤρχετο πρὸς αὐτόν. With her natural impulsiveness (see Introductory Note on 12:1-8), Mary rose up quickly from the seat of mourning (see on v. 20), and went to meet Jesus, as she had been bidden to do. The rec. (with AΘ) has ἐγείρεται … ἔρχεται, but the aorist and imperfect tenses are significant.

30. οὔπω δέ κτλ. It is useless to make guesses as to why Jesus had not yet come into the village. He may have been resting at the spot where Martha met Him first.

ἔτι is om. by ADLΓΔ, but ins. אBCW. Θ has ἐπὶ τῷ τόπῳ.

At this point Moffatt places vv. 18, 19. See on v. 18 above.

31. The friends who had come out from Jerusalem to mourn with the sisters (see v. 19), when they saw Mary rise up (see on v. 20) and leave the house suddenly without giving any explanation, supposed that she had gone to wail at the tomb, a common habit of mourners.

κλαίειν does not indicate silent weeping (cf. v. 35), but the unrestrained wailing of Orientals. It is used elsewhere, as here, of wailing for the dead; cf. Mark 5:38 (of the wailing for Jairus’ daughter), Luke 7:13 (for the widow of Nain’s son), Acts 9:39 (for Dorcas), Matthew 2:18 (Rachel wailing for her children). See on 16:20.

It is noteworthy, in view of the identity of Mary the sister of Martha with Mary Magdalene,1 that Mary Magdalene is represented (20:11, 13, 15) as wailing (κλαίουσα) at the tomb of Jesus.

δόξαντες. So אBC*DLW; the rec., with AC2ΓΔΘ, has λέγοντες.

32. When Mary met Jesus, she fell at His feet, impulsive and demonstrative creature as she was, and said, as Martha had said, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (see on v. 21). She is described by Lk. (10:39) as sitting at His feet for instruction, and later she anointed His feet (12:3), probably for the second time (see Introductory Note on 12:1-8).

πρὸς τοὺς πόδας. So אBC*DLW, but AC3ΓΔΘ give εἰς τοὺς πόδας. πρός is the preposition used by Mk. (5:22, 7:25) when telling of Jairus and the Syrophœnician woman falling at the feet of Jesus. So, too, is it used in Revelation 1:17 and (in the LXX) at Esther 8:3. But εἰς τοὺς πόδας in a context like this would be curious Greek. Lk. prefers to use παρά (8:41, 17:16; but cf. Acts 5:10)

Jesus Weeps, and, Being Directed by the Mourners, Goes to the Tomb (vv. 33-38)

33. Ἰησοῦς οὖν ὡς εἶδεν αὐτὴν κλαίουσαν κτλ., “Jesus, then, when He saw her wailing and the Jews which came with her also wailing.”

ἐνεβριμήσατο τῷ πνεύματι. Cf. v. 38 ἐμβριμώμενος ἐν ἑαυτῷ, this being the only other occurrence of the verb in Jn. In its primary sense, ἐμβριμᾶσθαι is “to snort” like a horse (cf. Æsch. Septem c. Theb. 461); while in the LXX it means “to show indignation” (Daniel 11:30), ἐμβρίμημα being used of the anger of Yahweh at Lamentations 2:6. A similar use of the cognate words occurs Psalms 7:12 (Aq.), Isaiah 17:13 (Symm.), and Ezekiel 21:31. In Mark 14:5 ἐνεβριμῶντο αὐτῇ carries the idea of indignation: “they roared against her,” sc. in their indignation at the waste of the ointment. But in Mark 1:43, Matthew 9:30, ἐμβριμησάμενος αὐτῷ and ἐνεβριμήσατο αὐτοῖς can hardly mean that Jesus was angry with the leper or the blind men whom He had cured: “strictly charged them” is the rendering of the R.V., but it is doubtful if this adequately represents ἐμβριμᾶσθαι, or if any Greek parallel can be cited for such a meaning.

All three occasions on which this rare word is applied to Jesus (Mark 1:43, Matthew 9:30, John 11:33, John 11:38) were occasions, as we must suppose, of intense emotion. The cure of a leper, the restoring of sight to the blind, the preparation of Himself for so stupendous a task as the raising of Lazarus from the tomb, must have involved the output of spiritual energy in a degree which we cannot measure. The narrative of vv. 33-43 reveals, as no other passage in the N.T. does, that the working of “miracles” (however we try to explain them) was not achieved without spiritual effort or without the agitation of the human spirit of Jesus. “He shuddered” (ἐτάραξεν ἑαυτόν): “He shed tears” (ἐδάκρυσεν). And the verb ἐμβριμᾶσθαι may well express the physical effect of powerful emotion upon His voice. It represents the inarticulate sounds which escape men when they are physically overwhelmed by a great wave of emotion. And Jesus, the Perfect Man, experienced this as He experienced all else that is human and not sinful. As He charged the leper and the blind whom He had relieved to tell nothing of what had been done for them, He stumbled over the words, the loud and harsh tone of His voice indicating His agitation. “He roared at them” would not exactly convey the sense, for that would suggest violence of speech or of command. But it is nearer the primary meaning of ἐνεβριμήσατο than “strictly charged them.” So in the present passage “He groaned in spirit” is probably the best rendering; but, if not explained, it might suggest the groaning of one in sorrow, and this ἐνεβριμήσατο cannot mean. But the groaning, like the tears and the shuddering, were the outward and bodily indications of a tremendous spiritual agitation and effort.1 ἐμβριμώμενος ἐν ἑαυτῷ, He arrived at the tomb, not “indignant” at anything nor “groaning” with loud outbursts of sorrow, but making those inarticulate sounds which are the expression of mental agitation and strain.

D has the variant ἐταράχθη τῷ πνεύματι ὡς ἐνβρειμούμενος, which d renders “conturbatus est spiritu sicut ira plenus.” But, as has been said, anger is not primarily suggested by the verb ἐμβριμᾶσθαι, nor does the idea of Jesus being angry enter into the story of the Raising of Lazarus.2

ἐνεβριμήσατο τῷ πνεύματι καὶ ἐτάραξεν ἑαυτόν. Cf. 12:27 ἡ ψυχή μου τετάρακται and 13:21 ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐταράχθη τῷ πνεύματι. Putting these passages side by side, it is not easy to make a distinction between the use of ψυχή and πνεῦμα. In each case the “soul” of Jesus, as we would say, was troubled. So again Jn. tells of His death in the words παρέδωκεν τὸ πνεῦμα (19:30; see note in loc.); but he makes Jesus speak of His death in 10:17 in the words ἐγὼ τίθημι τὴν ψυχήν μου. We have not now to do with the psychological doctrine of Paul; we are only concerned with the Johannine use of the two words πνεῦμα and ψυχή; and while recognising that πνεῦμα suggests what is Divine (4:24), and that ψυχή suggests the bodily life (12:25) in Jn. as in other writers, it is not legitimate to differentiate them sharply in a verse like that before us. The Lucan parallelism (Luke 1:47):

μεγαλύνει ἡ ψυχή μου τὸν κύριον,

καὶ ἠγαλλίασεν τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐπὶ τῷ θεῷ …

shows that the words may be used synonymously; and the Johannine usage agrees with this. See on 12:25.

34. καὶ εἶπεν Ποῦ τεθείκατε αὐτόν; “Where have you laid him?” This is a simple request for information. See on 6:6 for other examples of questions asked by Jesus.

λέγουσιν αὐτῷ, sc. (apparently) Martha and Mary, who preface their reply with the κύριε of respect (see on v. 3).

ἔρχου καὶ ἴδε. Cf. 1:39.

35. ἐδάκρυσεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς. אDΘ prefix καί to ἐδάκρυσεν, but it is quite in the style of Jn. to begin the sentence without any conjunction. δακρύειν does not occur again in the N.T. It means “to shed tears,” but not to “wail.” The word in Luke 19:41, where Jesus “wept” over Jerusalem, is ἔκλαυσεν: cf. Hebrews 5:7, of Gethsemane, μετὰ κραυγῆς ἰσχυρᾶς καὶ δακρύων.

It is not said in the Gospels that Jesus “laughed,” while it is told here, and suggested elsewhere, that He “wept.” But to draw the inference that He never laughed would be misleading. To be incapable of laughter would be to fall short of the perfection of manhood. This was perceived by the compilers of the apocryphal gospels: cf. Gospel of Thomas, A 8, ἔγελασε τὸ παιδίον μέγα, and Pseudo-Matth. 31, “.Jesus laeto vultu subridens.”

The ethics of Jesus were not those of the Stoics, and Jn. brings out, perhaps more clearly than the Synoptists, that He did not aim at the Stoic�

A reference here to the Galilæan miracles of raising from the dead (Mark 5:35f., Luke 7:11f.) could hardly have been resisted by a writer who was inventing the story of the raising of Lazarus. But these citizens of Jerusalem may not have heard of any Galilæan miracles.

38. That the article ὁ is omitted before Ἰησοῦς in all the MSS. except Θ and 33 (which, however, preserves some good readings in this chapter; cf. v. 20) is contrary to the general usage of Jn. (see on 1:29).

Again (πάλιν) the agitation of Jesus was noticeable (ἐμβριμώμενος ἐν ἑαυτῷ, see on v. 33), as He was approaching the tomb of Lazarus. It was a cave, such as was often used as a burial-place (cf. Genesis 23:19, Isaiah 22:16, 2 Chronicles 16:14), the cavern being sometimes natural, sometimes artificial. The body was either let down through a horizontal opening, as is the European practice, or placed in a tomb cut in the face of the rock. In either case the opening was closed by a stone, which had to be a heavy one to keep wild animals out. Cf. 20:1, Mark 15:46, Matthew 27:60, Luke 24:2. If the cave were a subterranean one, then λίθος ἐπέκειτο ἐπʼ αὐτῷ must be rendered “a stone lay upon it”; if it were cut in the face of the rock, then the stone lay against the opening.

The Raising of Lazarus (vv. 39-44)

39. ἄρατε. The aorist imperative is the command of authority; see on 2:5. The same verb is used of the removal of the stone at the tomb of Jesus (cf. 20:1).

ἡ�Mark 9:48). The rec. substitutes the more usual τεθνηκότος.

Martha, although she had joined the party which was visiting the tomb, had no thought of the resuscitation of her brother, and, with her strong sense of decorum (Luke 10:40), was horrified to think of the exposure of the corpse, it being now the fourth day after death. She was sure that putrefaction had begun, which shows that the body had not been embalmed, but had only been bound with swathes (v. 44), spices being probably used, after the Jewish custom (cf. 19:40). It is not alleged by Jn. that Martha was stating a fact when she said ὄζει, “he stinketh.” That was merely what she thought must be the case.

ὄζειν is only used again in the Greek Bible at Exodus 8:14, where it is used of the dead frogs.

τεταρταῖος does not occur again in the Greek Bible (except by mistake for τέταρτος in the A text of 2 Samuel 3:4); but in Herod. ii. 89 τεταρταῖος γενέσθαι is “to be four days dead,” as here. Lightfoot (Hor. Hebr. in loc.) cites a Jewish tradition to the effect that “for three days (after death) the spirit wanders about the sepulchre, expecting if it may return into the body. But when it sees that the form or aspect of the face is changed, then it hovers no more, but leaves the body to itself” (Beresh. Rabba, fol. 114. 3). The same tradition is found in The Rest of the Words of Baruch, § 9 (ed. Harris, p. 62).

For the three days of weeping, followed by four days of lamentation, see on v. 19; and cf. v. 17 for τεταρταῖος.

40. Jesus rebukes Martha, although gently, for her lack of understanding: “Said I not to thee, that if thou believedst, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” Some commentators suppose the allusion to be to what Jesus had said about the sickness of Lazarus being for “the glory of God” (v. 4, where see note). But this was said to the disciples in Peræa, not to Martha, and there is no hint that it was reported to her. Nor is there anything in v. 4 about belief being a condition precedent to the vision of the Divine glory. It is more probable that the reference is to Martha’s previous conversation with Jesus (vv. 25-27), where she declared her belief in Him as the Christ. Such confessions of faith are elsewhere (see on 1:51) answered by a benediction from Jesus, in which He promises to the faithful as a reward a vision of the Advent of the Son of Man in glory; and it may be that some such promise, although not recorded, was given by Jesus to Martha1 (see on 6:36, 10:25).

ἐὰν πιστεύσῃς ὄψῃ τὴν δόξαν τοῦ θεοῦ. Whatever this promised vision was to be, it was a spiritual vision that is meant, for ὄπτομαι is always used in Jn. of seeing spiritual or heavenly realities, as at 1:51 (where see note). Bearing this in mind, it is difficult to suppose that “thou shalt see the glory of God” means “thou shalt see Lazarus restored from the grave,” nor is there any suggestion that Martha understood this to be the meaning. Paul’s phrase that Christ was “raised from the dead, through the glory of the Father” (Romans 6:4), may, however, be thought to supply a parallel; and the “glory of God” which Martha was to “see” with the eye of faith would then be the Divine power which was put forth in the raising of Lazarus. Thus the larger promise of vision, which it may be supposed was given in response to Martha’s confession of faith, was about to receive a special exemplification in the revival of her brother. Even this, however, is not free from difficulty; for it would suggest that the sight of the raising of Lazarus could have been perceived only by those who had faith (ἐὰν πιστεύσῃς), whereas the whole tenor of the story is that all the bystanders, Jews and disciples alike, were witnesses of it. But perhaps what is meant is that only those who had faith could see the inner meaning of this “sign”, and discern in it the exhibition of the Divine glory.

41. ἦραν οὖν τὸν λίθον, as Jesus had bidden them (v. 39). The rec. text adds after λίθον the explanatory gloss οὗ ἦν ὁ τεθνηκὼς κείμενος: om. אBC*LD.

ἦρεν τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ἄνω. This is a natural prelude to prayer or thanksgiving: cf. Psalms 121:1 ἦρα τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς μου εἰς τὰ ὄρη, and Luke 18:13. So, again, did Jesus “lift up His eyes” before His great high-priestly prayer (17:1); and, as the Synoptists tell (Mark 6:41), before the blessing of the loaves, although Jn. omits this detail (see note on 6:11). “To lift the eyes” is used more generally of any careful or deliberate gaze (see on 4:35, 6:5).

καὶ εἶπεν πάτερ. It was thus that Jesus began His own prayers or thanksgivings, even as He taught men to begin with “Our Father.” Other instances in Jn. are 12:27, 17:1; and in the Synoptists, Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42 (cf. Matthew 26:39), Luke 10:21 (Matthew 11:25), and Luke 23:34, Luke 23:46. He does not say “Our Father,” but “My Father” (see on 5:17), or “Father,” simply, as here; for His relation to the Eternal Godhead is different from that of men in general. Bengel’s comment on the simple invocation πάτερ (at 17:1) is suggestive: “nomina dei non sunt cumulanda in oratione.”

εὐχαριστῶ σοι. For εὐχαριστεῖν in Jn., see on 6:11.

ὅτι ἤκουσάς μου, “because Thou didst hear me,” the aor. indicating some definite act of prayer, whether spoken or only mental, perhaps before v. 4. He gives thanks before the visible answer to His prayer, because He is in no doubt as to the issue. His prayers were always directed to the realisation of the Father’s will (5:30), and this cannot be frustrated (see on 12:28).


We examine, first, the rec. reading�1 Kings 18:37), is not a true parallel, for Elijah had not the certainty of his prayer being answered as he wished, that Jesus had. See, however, 12:30, where Jesus is represented as saying that the voice from heaven was not for His sake, but for the sake of the wondering crowd; and cf. 17:13. ἵνα πιστεύσωσιν ὅτι σύ με�

Probably, however, the rec. text is corrupt. In one uncial (Θ) there is a variant reading which we take to represent the original, viz.: διὰ τὸν ὄχλον τὸν παρεστῶτά μοι ποιῶ, ἵνα κτλ.

First, παρεστῶτα is read not only by Θ and the allied cursive 28, but also by 235 and the ninth-century uncial Λ. Further, the Vulgate G has adstantem, not circumstantem (which is the usual rendering of the rec. περιεστῶτα). Again, περιϊστάναι is never used by Jn. elsewhere, and in N.T. only at Acts 25:7 “to surround him” (used transitively), and at 2 Timothy 2:16, Titus 3:9 “to shun”; while Jn. has παρεστηκώς at 18:22 and παρεστῶτα at 19:26. For παρίστημι followed by a dative (as in παρεστῶτά μοι), cf. Acts 1:10, Acts 9:39, Acts 27:23. On all grounds, παρεστῶτά μοι, “standing by me,” is preferable to περιεστῶτα, “standing round,” which would be a unique instance in the N.T. of this intransitive sense.

Secondly, the reading of Θ, μοιποιω, might readily be corrupted into the rec. ειπον; and the verb ποιῶ gives us a meaning as unexceptionable as εἶπον is difficult. At 5:36 Jesus says τὰ ἔργα ἃ ποιῶ μαρτυρεῖ περὶ ἐμοῦ ὅτι ὁ πατήρ με�

The only authority, as it seems, corroborating ποιῶ, the reading of Θ, is the Armenian version, which, for the widely attested “I said it,” gives “I do it.” This appears also in two Armenian MSS. of Ephraem’s Commentary on Tatian’s Diatessaron,1 as well as in a homily on the Raising of Lazarus ascribed to Hippolytus, part of which is extant only in Armenian.2 The text of Θ (whose home is in the neighbour-hood of Armenia) has been thought to show special affinities to the Armenian version;3 and it is possible that “I do it” in John 11:42 has been taken over by an Armenian (or Georgian4) scribe from the version with which he was most familiar, not only in Θ, but in Ephraem’s Commentary and in the Hippolytus homily. If this be so, the reading ποιῶ has its roots in the Armenian version, the sources of which are imperfectly known.

It has been shown5 that the Armenian version of the Gospels rests in part on the Old Syriac. In this instance, however, the Syriac gives no support to ποιῶ, the Armenian deserting the Syriac here as in other instances;6 and it is probable that here some Greek authority is behind the Armenian vulgate.

The attestation of παρεστῶτά μοι ποιῶ is undoubtedly weak, but the phrase could so readily be corrupted into περιεστῶτα εἶπον (which has the non-Johannine περιεστῶτα as well as the disconcerting εἶπον), that παρεστῶτά μοι ποιῶ has been adopted in this edition as probably the original Greek.

43. φωνῇ μεγάλῃ ἐκραύγασεν κτλ. As in the Synoptic accounts of the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:41) and of the widow of Nain’s son (Luke 7:14), the dead person was recalled to life by an authoritative command from Jesus Himself. This is repeated with emphasis at 12:17. It is His voice which, being heard by the dead as addressing them personally, is spoken of as the effective instrument of their resurrection (cf. 5:28, 29).

The verb κραυγάζειν occurs only once in the LXX, and there, as here, is associated with “a loud voice”; ὁ λαὸς ἐκραύγασε φωνῇ μεγάλῃ (Ezra 3:13) describes the joyful shouts of the people. The verb is found in the N.T. (in the best texts) only in Jn., who has it six times (cf. 12:13, 18:40, 19:6, 12, 15), and at Matthew 12:19, where the words of Isaiah 42:1 are rendered “He shall not cry aloud” (οὐδὲ κραυγάσει).1 It is only here that the verb is used of an utterance of Jesus.

Two of the Words from the Cross are said to have been uttered φωνῇ μεγάλῃ (Mark 15:34, Mark 15:37); and in Revelation 1:10 the voice of the glorified Son of Man is described as φωνὴ μεγάλη, as is also (Matthew 24:31) the voice of the Trumpet at the coming in glory of the Son of Man. Cf. Revelation 21:3. Jn. represents the voice of Jesus when He summoned Lazarus from the grave as in like manner “a great voice.”

Λάζαρε (note the personal call), δεῦρο ἔξω, huc foras, “Come out.” δεῦρο occurs only here in Jn.

44. The rec. text, with אAC3WΓΔΘ, prefixes καί to ἐξῆλθεν, but om. BC*L. The absence of a conjunction is quite in Jn.’s manner.

The dead body had been bound as to feet and hands with swathes (cf. 19:40), and the face had been bound with a napkin (cf. 20:7), after the Jewish custom. It is idle to speculate as to how the evangelist means us to understand the emergence from the tomb. The bandages would, seemingly, forbid the free use of the limbs; and they had to be loosened (λύσατε αὐτόν) as soon as Lazarus appeared.

The word κειρία appears elsewhere in the Greek Bible only at Proverbs 7:16, where it stands for part of the covering of a bed. Moulton-Milligan (s.v.) note its occurrence in the form κηρία in a medical papyrus. However, there is no doubt as to its meaning here, sc. “bandage” or “swathe.”

For ὄψις, see on 7:24.

σουδάριον is a Latin word, “a napkin”; it occurs again in N.T. at 20:7, Luke 19:20, Acts 19:12.

BC*L have ἄφετε αὐτόν. אADΓΔ om. αὐτόν. Θ has ἐάσατε αὐτόν.

For ὑπάγειν, see on 7:33 ἄφετε αὐτὸν ὑπάγειν is equivalent to “let him go home.” This simple and kindly counsel is comparable with that of Mark 5:43; cf. also Luke 7:15.

It is noteworthy how few are the apocryphal legends about Lazarus. A priori, it might have been expected that pious fancy would have delighted in depicting his experiences in the unseen world, and his sayings when he was restored to earth. But there is little of the kind. Epiphanius says that among the traditions with which he was familiar, there was one which gave the age of Lazarus at thirty, and alleged that he lived for thirty years longer after his resuscitation (Hær. lxvi. 34). There is nothing impossible in that. The grim legend (cited by Trench, without giving his authority) that after Lazarus returned from the tomb, he was never known to smile, is probably a mediæval fancy. The Anaphora of Pilate (B 5) says that Lazarus was raised from the dead on a Sabbath day, an idea which is probably due to imperfect recollection of the healings in Son_5 and 9. A Sahidic sermon in F. Robinson’s Coptic Apocryphal Gospels, p. 170 f., represents the miracle as having been wrought by Jesus in order to convince Thomas, who expressed a desire to see a man raised from the grave; and that Jesus told him that His action in calling Lazarus forth was a figure of what would happen at the Resurrection on the Last Day.

The Impression Made on the Bystanders (vv. 45, 46)

45. Many of the spectators became believers in Jesus because of the raising of Lazarus (cf. 12:11), just as many had become believers after former healings (7:31). Some of them reported the story to the Pharisees.

πολλοὶ οὖν ἐκ τῶν Ἰουδαίων, οἱ ἐλθόντες κτλ. must be rendered “many, therefore, of the Jews, sc. those who had come to Mary (vv. 19, 31), and had seen what He did, believed on Him.” The “many” are defined as those who had come to visit Mary.

D for οἱ ἐλθόντες reads τῶν ἐλθόντων, altering the sense, which then would be that many of the Jews who had come to visit the sisters believed on Jesus in consequence of the miracle, but not all of them. Some (v. 46) went off to report it to the Pharisees, the implication being that they were not among those who believed in Him, and that their action was prompted by hostility or malevolence. But ἐλθόντες is undoubtedly the true reading, and it conveys the meaning that the many Jews (the phrase is repeated from v. 19) who had come to condole with the sisters were all convinced by the miracle of the claims of Jesus.

Syr. sin. has a reading unsupported by the uncials, sc. “Many Jews that came unto Jesus, because of Mary, from that hour believed in Jesus.”

θεασάμενοι. θεᾶσθαι is always used in Jn. of physical vision,

of seeing with the eyes of the body (see on 1:14). For the effect of the miracle, cf. 2:23.

ὃ ἐποίησεν. So A2BC*D; but אALWΓΔΘ have ἅ (perhaps from v. 46). Before ἐποίησεν the rec. adds ὁ Ἰησοῦς (from v. 46); but om. ABC*W.

ἐπίστευσαν εἰς αὐτόν. For this phrase, see on 4:39.

46. τινὲς δὲ ἐξ αὐτῶν κτλ. There is nothing to prove that this action of some of the citizens who had come to Bethany and had been convinced of the claims of Jesus by the raising of Lazarus was malevolent. δέ means no more here than “however.”

ἀπῆλθον πρὸς τοὺς φαρισαίους, “went off to the Pharisees,” i.e. to the religious leaders who formed the most zealous and orthodox party in the Sanhedrim (see on 7:32). An event of such religious significance as the miracle at Bethany seemed to be would naturally be brought before them, and those who reported it probably did so without meaning to injure Jesus. See on 5:15 for a similar case.

If the plural ἅ before ἐποίησεν is to be pressed, it means that not only the raising of Lazarus, but other actions of Jesus which they had observed or of which they had heard, were included in their report (cf. πολλὰ σημεῖα, v. 47).

Counsel of Caiaphas to the Sanhedrim, and Their Resolve (vv. 47-53)

47. οἱ�

καὶ ἔλεγον τί ποιοῦμεν; “They were saying (to each other), What are we doing?” sc. Why are we doing nothing? The parallel Acts 4:16 τί ποιήσωμεν; “What are we to do?” has a slightly different tinge of meaning. ποιοῦμεν in the present tense cannot be rendered “What shall we do?”1

ὃτι οὗτος ὁ ἂνθρωπος κτλ., “for this person is doing many signs”; the turn of phrase expressing contempt. For “many signs” in Jerusalem, cf. 2:23; but the reference here is to the report brought by those who had been present at the raising of Lazarus (v. 46).

48. The Jewish leaders were anxious lest the growing fame of Jesus should suggest to those who were being convinced of His claims, that He was the national Deliverer of their expectation (cf. 6:15); and that thus a rebellion should break out, which would call down stern punishment from their Roman rulers. It was, indeed, the charge preferred against Him before Pilate that He claimed to be the “King of the Jews” (cf. 18:33f.).


καὶ ἐλεύσονται οἱ Ῥωμαῖοι. This has a verbal resemblance to the LXX of Daniel 11:30 καὶ ἥξουσι Ῥωμαῖοι, but there is no allusion here to that passage. “Romans” are not mentioned by the Synoptists (cf. 19:20).

καὶ�Matthew 24:15, Acts 6:13, Acts 6:14, Acts 21:28. At 2 Macc. 5:19 the τόπος is the Temple, and the fortunes of the τόπος and the ἔθνος are associated, as they are here.

The apprehension attributed in this verse to the Jewish leaders, of the destruction of the Temple and the nation, might, no doubt, be regarded as a prophecy after the event, for Jerusalem had fallen twenty years or more before the Fourth Gospel was written. But, on the other hand, there is an antecedent probability that such anxieties must always have been present. during the first century, to the minds of the chief priests, who were well aware that any Messianic rebellion would be sternly repressed by their Roman masters.

49. εἷς δέ τις ἐξ αὐτῶν. For ἐκ before a gen. pl. in sentences of this kind, see on 1:40.

καϊάφας,�Matthew 26:57; see further on 18:19f.

The phrase�

λαός is used by Jn. only in this saying of Caiaphas (repeated 18:14); ἔθνος is used by him only 1n this passage and at 18:35. ἔθνος has reference to the Jews as a political unit, organised for civic and social life; λαός is used when their relation to God, as His peculiar people, is in view. But it is as impossible to provide exact and exclusive definitions of these two Greek words as of the English words “nation” and “people.” It is doubtful if in this verse any stress should be laid on the difference between ἔθνος and λαός. ἔθνος is used of the Jewish nation at Luke 7:5, Luke 23:2 and elsewhere; while ἔθνη in the plural is always in sharp contrast to λαός.

51. This is one of those editorial comments of which Jn. gives his readers many (cf. Introd., p. xxxiv). The words of Caiaphas, he notes, were an unconscious prophecy, for it was true in a deeper sense than Caiaphas understood that the Death of Jesus would be expedient for the Jews, as well as for the wider circle of all God’s children.

The Jews ascribed a measure of prophetic faculty to the high priest, when, after being duly vested, he “inquired of Yahweh” (Exodus 28:30, Leviticus 8:8, Numbers 27:21). Josephus has left on record that he, as a priest, claimed to have power to read the future (B.J. III. viii. 3). And Philo says that the true priest is always potentially a prophet (de const. principum, 8). The word ἐπροφήτευσεν is applied to Zacharias the priest (Luke 1:67), just as it is here (its only occurrence in Jn.) to Caiaphas: “He, being high priest that year (see on v. 49), prophesied.”

Caiaphas spoke not “of himself,” but being, as it were, inspired by the Spirit of God, ἐπροφήτευσεν. See on 19:21.

Note that ἐπροφήτευσεν (אBDLΘ) is the true form of the aorist, not προεφήτευσεν, with the rec. text. The augment precedes the preposition, there being no simple verb φητεύω.

ὅτι ἤμελλεν Ἰησοῦς�

52. The Death of Jesus was not only on behalf of Jews. This is the teaching of Jn. Cf. 3:16, 10:16, 12:32, 1 John 2:2, as a few of the passages which make this plain. It is natural that in a Gospel written amid Greek surroundings and primarily for Greek readers, the scope of the Christian message of salvation as extending beyond the borders of Judaism should be explained with special emphasis.

Its larger purpose was “to gather into one the scattered children of God,” ἵνα καὶ τὰ τέκνα τοῦ θεοῦ τὰ διεσκορπισμένα συναγάγῃ εἰς ἕν. The phrase looks onward to the future, when those who are potentially God’s children shall have become τέκνα θεοῦ, begotten of God, through faith in Jesus (see on 1:12, 13 for τέκνα θεοῦ in Jn.); and it looks onward also to the more distant future, when all these children of God shall be gathered into one. It should be observed again at this point (see on 1:12) that the ideas of the universal Fatherhood of God, and of the whole human family as His children, are not explicit in Jn. All who will “believe” may become His children; but this faith is presupposed.

τὰ διεσκορπισμένα. These potential children of God are “scattered,” as Jn. writes. They are, to his mind, in every part of the world. The verb διασκορπίζω does not occur again in Jn., but is frequently used in the LXX of the scattering of Israel among the nations, which is a thought foreign to the context here; for the “children of God who are scattered abroad” are not all of Israel. Jn. has σκορπίζω at 10:12, but there the allusion is to the wolf scattering the flock, of which there is no suggestion in the present passage.

There seems to be a reminiscence of this verse in the Didache (ix. 4), where mention is made of the Eucharistic loaf: ὥσπερ ἦν τοῦτο τὸ κλάσμα διεσκορπισμένον ἐπάνω τῶν ὀρέων καὶ συναχθὲν ἐγένετο ἕν, οὕτω συναχθήτω σου ἡ ἐκκλησία�

συναγάγῃ εἰς ἕν. Cf. 10:16, δεῖ με�Ephesians 2:14.


He withdrew “to the country near the desert,” i.e. the hill country to the north-east of Jerusalem, which was thinly populated. The town or village of Ephraim is not mentioned elsewhere in the N.T. “But it is mentioned by Josephus (Bell. Jud. IV. ix. 9), in connexion with the mountain district (ἡ ὀρεινή) north of Jerusalem, as a small fort (πολίχνιον). … Josephus couples it with Bethel, and it is a coincidence that where it occurs in 2 Chronicles 13:19 (τὴν Ἐφρών) Bethel is named with it. The two places were probably not far apart.”1 It is generally identified with El-Tayibeh, 4 miles north-east of Bethel, on the road from Samaria to Jericho, from which it is distant about 15 miles.

Cod. Bezæ after χώραν inserts ςαμφουρειμ (Sapfurim). Harris1 ingeniously suggests that Σαμφουρείμ “is a mere corruption from the Syriac words answering to whose name is Ephraim, ” which were inserted as a gloss, σαμ standing for the Hebrew שֵׁם. Sepphoris in Galilee has been supposed by some to be indicated by Σαμφουρείμ, but this place is too far away to suit the conditions of the narrative.

κἀκεῖ ἔμεινεν. This is the reading of אBLW (cf. 10:40). ADΓΔΘ read διέτριβεν, which occurs at 3:22 ἐκεῖ διέτριβεν μετʼ αὐτῶν. μένειν is a favourite word with Jn. (cf. e.g. 2:12, 4:40), and is used with μέτα, as here, at 1 John 2:19.

The rec. text adds αὐτοῦ after μαθητῶν: om. אBDLW See on 2:2.

55. ἦν δὲ ἐγγὺς τὸ πάσχα τῶν Ἰουδαίων. For this phrase, see on 2:13, as also for the phrase καὶ�

ἵνα ἁγνίσωσιν ἑαυτούς. Ceremonial purity was requisite if a man was to keep the Passover duly (cf. Numbers 9:10, 2 Chronicles 30:17, 2 Chronicles 30:18); and the necessary ritual of purification might last a whole week, or a much shorter time if the pilgrim had not been gravely polluted (see Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr. in loc.). Accordingly many pilgrims had to arrive in Jerusalem some days before the Passover, πρὸ τοῦ πάσχα. See 18:28 for the emphasis that was laid on ritual purity; and cf. Acts 21:24.

ἁγνίζειν is not found in the Synoptists, and is used by Jn. again only at 1 John 3:3 (of spiritual purification).

56. Just as at an earlier Passover (7:11), the pilgrims were curious to see and hear Jesus: ἐζήτουν οὖν τὸν Ἰησοῦν. And the knots of people in the Temple precincts, where they naturally gathered, as well as because it was here that Jesus had been accustomed to teach, were full of eager speculation. “What do you think?” “Surely He isn’t coming to the Feast?” This, they thought, was unlikely, because of the order for His arrest which had been made by the authorities.

D reads τί δοκεῖτε; instead of τί δοκεῖ ὑμῖν; and Syr. sin. puts the two questions into one, “Do ye suppose that perchance He cometh not to the Feast?” The A.V. takes the Greek similarly: “What think ye, that He will not come to the Feast?” But the better reading, and the better rendering of the Greek, give two short ejaculatory questions instead of one (see Abbott, Diat. 2184).

57. δεδώκεισαν δέ. The rec. text, with D, adds καί, the effect of which is to disconnect v. 57 from v. 56. But καί must be omitted with אABLWΔΘ. It spoils the sense, which clearly is that the people thought it improbable that Jesus would come up to Jerusalem, for the Sanhedrim had given orders (δεδώκεισαν δέ) for His arrest.

For οἱ�

ἐντολάς (אBW) seems to be preferable to ἐντολήν of the rec. text (ADLΓΔΘ): they gave “directions,” that if any one knew where Jesus was, he should give information (μηνύσῃ, only here in Jn., but cf. Acts 23:30), in order that they might arrest Him.

ὅπως πιάσωσιν αὐτόν. This is the only place where Jn. has ὅπως, it being used here (as Blass suggests, Gram., p. 211) for variety, as ἵνα has occurred immediately before.

אԠSinaiticus (δ 2). Leningrad. iv.

D Bezæ (δ 5). Cambridge. v-vi. Græco-Latin. Cc. 18:14-20:13 are missing in the Greek text, and the gap has been filled by a ninth-century scribe (Dsupp).

Diat. E. A. Abbott’s Diatessarica, including his Johannine Vocabulary and Johannine Grammar, Parts I.-X. (1900-1915).

1 Cf. Introductory Note on the Anointing at Bethany (12:1-8).

A Alexandrinus (δ 4). British Museum. v. Cc. 6:50-8:52 are missing.

L Regius (ε 56). Paris. viii. Cc. 15:2-20 21:15-25 are missing.

W Freer (ε 014). Washington. iv-vi. Discovered in Egypt in 1906. The Gospels are in the order Mt., Jn., Lk., Mk. Collation in The Washington MS. of the Four Gospels, by H. A. Sanders (1912).

Θ̠Koridethi (ε 050). Tiflis. vii-ix. Discovered at Koridethi, in Russian territory, and edited by Beermann & Gregory (Leipzig, 1913). The text is akin to that of fam. 13, fam. 1, and the cursives 28, 565, 700 See Lake and Blake in Harvard Theol. Review (July 1923) and Streeter, The Four Gospels. Cf. also J.T.S. Oct. 1915, April and July 1925.

B Vaticanus (δ 1). Rome. Cent. iv.

2 See Westcott-Hort, Appendix, 156, for details as to the spelling.

1 This is the true reading, but Θ fam. 13 give in v. 5 τὴν Μαριὰμ καὶ τὴν�

Γ̠(ε 70) Oxford and Leningrad. ix-x. Contains Song of Solomon 1:1-13 8:3-15:24 19:6 to end.

Δ̠Sangallensis (ε 76). St. Gall. ix-x. Græco-Latin.

Moulton-Milligan Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, illustrated from the papyri, by J. H. Moulton and G.Milligan (1914-). This is being completed by Dr. Milligan; it is indispensable.

C Ephræmi (δ 3). Paris. v. Palimpsest. Contains considerable fragments of Jn.

1 The extraordinary statement in the Greek Acta Thomœ (§ 31) that he was the twin brother of Jesus seems to be due to a misunderstanding of the original Syriac.

2 Cf. Introd., p. clxxxiii.

1 See Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, p. 38.

1 Abbott (Diat. 1915) prefers to take καὶ νῦν as at 14:29, 17:5, indicating as it were a last word on the subject; cf. Deuteronomy 10:12, Psalms 39:7.

1 Cf. Introductory Note on 12:1-8.

1 See on 1:14 for Jn.’s emphasis on the true humanity of Jesus.

2 See also, for ἐμβριμάομαι, Abbott, Diat. x. iii. 254 f. I am indebted to Dr. Purser for valuable help in connexion with this word.

1 Cf. Abbott, Diat. 2545.

1 See Garvie, The Beloved Disciple, pp. 19, 198, for a similar explanation.

1 See Dr. J. A. Robinson’s Appendix to Hamlyn Hill’s Earliest Life of Christ, etc., p. 367, to which he has kindly directed me.

2 See Pitra, Analecta Sacra, ii. pp. 226-230, or Achelis’s edition of Hippolytus, Kleinere Schriften, p. 224.

3 See Streeter, The Four Gospels, p. 86 f.

4 See Blake, Harvard Theological Review for July 1923.

5 By J. A. Robinson, Euthaliana, p. 73 f.

6 Streeter, loc. cit. p. 89.

1 Cf. Abbott, Diat. 1752b.

1 Cf. Abbott, Diat. 2493, 2766.

1 1 Cf. Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, p. 29.

1 Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, p. 177; cf. G. A. Smith, Hist. Geogr., p. 352.

1 Rendel Harris, Codex Bezœ, p. 184.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on John 11". International Critical Commentary NT. 1896-1924.