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Bible Commentaries
John 12

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Verses 1-99

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

There are three evangelical traditions of the anointing of Jesus at an entertainment in a private house: that of Mark 14:3-9 (followed by Matthew 26:6-13), that of John 12:1-8, and that of Luke 7:36-50. From the second century to our own time the comparison of these narratives has been attempted by critical readers, and various answers have been given to the questions which arise. Were there three anointings or only two? Or did one incident furnish the material for all three stories?

Few modern expositors hesitate to identify the incident described in Mar_14 with that of Joh_12. The place is the same, viz. the κώμη or village of Bethany near Jerusalem; and in both traditions the scene is laid in the week before the Crucifixion, Jn. putting it on the Sabbath before the Passover, while Mk. suggests (although he does not say it explicitly) that it is to be dated two days only before that feast (cf. Mark 14:1, Mark 14:3). Mk. does not name the woman who anointed Jesus, but Jn. says that it was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. In Mk. the host is “Simon the Leper,”1 but Jn. says that Martha waited on the company, which might mean that she was the mistress of the house; Lazarus, in any case, is included among those at table. In the Marcan story the woman anoints the head of Jesus (a frequent mark of honour to a distinguished guest; cf. Luke 7:46), no mention being made of His feet, or of the use of her hair as a towel. Jn., however, says nothing either of anointing the head of Jesus or of washing His feet; but he relates that Mary anointed His feet, and then wiped them with her hair. This is, prima facie, a strange statement. Anointing the feet of a guest might follow the washing of them, but why should the ointment be wiped off? And it is improbable that a suitable towel (see 13:4) would not be at Mary’s disposal in a house where the acting hostess was her sister. That she should have used her hair for the purpose of wiping the feet of Jesus on this occasion, either after washing or anointing them, is an extraordinary circumstance, to which we shall return presently.

It is not doubtful, however, despite the superficial differences between the Marcan and Johannine stories, that they refer to the same incident, and that Jn. is conscious of the fact and familiar with the earlier narrative. Like Mk., Jn. mentions the criticism made about the waste of the precious ointment (a criticism which he ascribes to Judas); and like Mk., he recalls the Lord’s rebuke, “The poor ye have always with you, but me ye have not always.” Again, Mk.’s προέλαβεν μυρίσαι τὸ σῶμά μου εἰς τὸν ἐνταφιασμόν is reflected in Jn.’s ἵνα εἰς τὴν ἡμέραν τοῦ ἐνταφιασμοῦ μου τηρήσῃ αὐτό. And Jn.’s νάρδου πιστικῆς πολυτίμου is a reproduction of Mk.’s νάρδου πιστικῆς πολυτελοῦς. We may say with confidence that the Marcan and Johannine narratives are versions of the same story, Jn. having corrected Mk. where he thought it necessary to do so.2

The narrative of Luke 7:36f. is markedly different from both Jn. and Mk. The place where the incident happened is not named, but the context suggests that it was somewhere in Galilee, and that it occurred during the period of John the Baptist’s imprisonment. But Lk. does not always observe strict chronological sequence, and the story may have been inserted at this point in connexion with the accusation that Jesus was “a friend of publicans and sinners” (v. 34). The host, on this occasion, was a Pharisee named Simon, and the woman who is the central figure was “a sinner” (ἁμαρτωλός). The story tells of her coming into the house—uninvited, as was possible in a country where meals were often semi-public— and standing behind Jesus, as He reclined at table. As she wept, her tears dropped on His feet, and she wiped them off with her long flowing hair. Then she kissed them, and anointed them with ointment which she had brought with her, probably with the hope of being allowed to anoint His head. This would have been an ordinary act of courtesy, but anointing of the feet is not mentioned again (except John 12:3) in Scripture, and was evidently unusual.1 Simon the Pharisee was shocked that a guest who had been entertained as a possible prophet should submit to the ministrations of a sinful woman; but Jesus rebuked him with the parable of the Two Debtors, and the story ends with the benediction given to her who had been forgiven much and who had therefore loved much.

The moral of this narrative is wholly unlike anything in the narratives of Mar_14 and Joh_12; nor does there seem to be any connexion with the narrative of Mar_14. The name of the host, indeed, both in Lk. and Mk. was Simon, but Simon the Pharisee is not necessarily to be identified with Simon the Leper, for Simon was the commonest of Jewish names. Nor can we suppose that a leading Pharisee would have entertained Jesus at his house during the week before His Passion, when He was already the subject of orthodox suspicion. The unnamed woman may be the same in both narratives, nevertheless, although Mk. does not note that she was or had been a sinner; but that Mk. and Lk. deal with quite different incidents is plain.

The resemblances, however, of the Lucan story to that in Joh_12 are striking. In both, it is the feet (not the head, as in Mk.) which are anointed, and the language used is similar in both cases. Thus Luke 7:38 has τοῖς δάκρυσιν ἤρξατο βρέχειν τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ καὶ ταῖς θριξὶν τῆς κεφαλῆς αὐτῆς ἐξέμασσεν … καὶ ἤλειφεν τῷ μύρῳ, while John 12:3 has ἤλειψεν τοὺς πόδας τοῦ Ἰησοῦ καὶ ἐξέμαξεν ταῖς θριξὶν αὐτῆς τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ.

It will be observed that there is no formal washing of Jesus’ feet in either story, and that the falling of the woman’s tears upon them, which is so touching a feature of Lk.’s account, has no place in Jn. But the linguistic similarities between the two verses just cited show conclusively that Jn. intended to tell a story similar to that told by Lk.; while, on the other hand, his version is as puzzling as Lk.’s is lucid. Why should Mary of Bethany appear with dishevelled hair, and use this instead of a towel? Why should she anoint the feet of Jesus at all? The woman of Luk_7 did so from penitent humility, but does this apply to Mary of Bethany? And why should Mary wipe off the unguent once it was applied? The ἁμαρτωλός only wiped off her falling tears.

We shall approach these difficulties presently, but at this point we seem called to recognise the fact that Jn. is writing in terms of the Lucan story. He is not necessarily describing the same incident as Lk., but he is describing an incident so similar in some exceptional features, that we must believe him to be writing of the same woman that Lk. has depicted. This involves the conclusion that Jn. regarded Mary of Bethany as the sinful woman of whom Lk. tells. Lk. does not make this identification. He mentions Mary afterwards as being at the house of Martha her sister, the situation of which is not indicated (10:38), and records how Mary was praised by Jesus as having “chosen the good part,” in comparison with the housewifely activities of her sister. This is not inconsistent with the conclusion that Mary had formerly been of loose behaviour, but it does not suggest it directly.

The relations between the various evangelical narratives of the anointing of Jesus have been discussed at length, both in ancient and modern times, and we cannot stay here to examine the opinions of individual Fathers or critics.1 Clement of Alexandria (Pæd. ii. 61) identifies the anointings of Luk_7 and of Joh_12, Mar_14; so does Tertullian (de pudic. xi.). Origen is not consistent with himself, at one time speaking of three (Comm. in Mt. 77) or two anointings (Hom. in Song of Solomon 1:12), at another time of only one (Fragm. in Joann. 112, ed. Brooke, ii. 287). Ephraim Syrus (Hom. i. “On our Lord”) has a lengthy commentary on the sinful woman, whom he explicitly distinguishes from Mary of Bethany. Tatian treats the story of Luk_7 in like manner as distinct from the story of Joh_12, Mar_14. But, since the time of Gregory the Great, the Roman Church has been accustomed to identify Mary of Bethany, Mary Magdalene, and the ἁμαρτωλός of Luk_7. The Breviary office for the Feast of St. Mary Magdalen (July 22) draws out this identification, and treats the story of Mary as that of one who, once a great sinner, became a great saint.

This identification has been accepted in the present commentary. Of Mary Magdalene, i.e. Mary of Magdala (a village some 3 miles from Capernaum, now called Mejdel), Lk. tells that “seven devils had gone out of her” (Luke 8:2), a statement that is made immediately after the story of the ἁμαρτωλός. She is named along with other women who had been “healed of evil spirits and infirmities”; and Lk.’s statement about her is repeated in the Marcan Appendix: “He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven devils” (Mark 16:9). This description would not necessarily point to special vice, for it might only refer to madness; but it remains, for all that, a very apt description of a woman who had been rescued as the ἁμαρτωλός was, and would be a convenient euphemism. Further, the identification of Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany enables us to interpret the otherwise difficult words of John 12:7, “Suffer her to keep it against the day of my burying” (cf. Mark 14:8, Matthew 26:12). No evangelist speaks expressly of Mary of Bethany as going to the tomb to anoint the Lord’s body on the day of the Resurrection; but all four name Mary Magdalene as taking part. The equation of Mary Magdalene to Mary of Bethany explains quite simply the Lord’s words about the latter at the Supper at Bethany (John 12:7, where see note)—words which are otherwise left without fulfilment.

We hold, then, that a comparison of Joh_12 with Luk_7 makes it necessary to identify the woman that was a sinner with Mary Magdalene and also with Mary of Bethany, or at any rate to recognise that Jn. identified them.

There is another significant bit of evidence for the latter conclusion. At John 11:2 is a parenthetical explanation (whether by Jn. or by a later editor need not now be discussed; see note in loc.), that Mary of Bethany is ἡ�Luk_7 from the woman of Joh_12, this singular gesture may be attributed to two women, and thus the note of 11:2 would be useless for its purpose of identification. It is plain that the Fourth Gospel regards the ἁμαρτωλός of Luk_7 as the sister of Lazarus and Martha.

It is to be observed, however, that while Jn. uses the same words of Mary’s action that Lk. does of the action of the ἁμαρτωλός, he does not necessarily imply that the narratives of John 12:3 and Luke 7:38 refer to the same incident. Mary may have, in the days of His public ministry, anointed the feet of Jesus in penitence (Luke 7:38); and then, having repented and returned to her family, when Jesus came to her home the day before His entry to Jerusalem, have repeated an act so full of memories for her (John 12:3). No emphasis is laid in Lk. on the costliness of the�Luk_7; and this is what we find in Joh_12 Thus, while we do not identify the incident recorded in Luk_7 with that recorded in Joh_12 and Mar_14, we may regard Luk_7 as telling of the first occasion on which Mary anointed Jesus, the second being that narrated in John 12:1 and (with less exactness) in Mar_14, Mk. missing the point that it was the feet (not the head) of Jesus that were anointed at the house in Bethany shortly before His Passion.

The Supper at Bethany (12:1-8)

12:1. ὁ οὖν Ἰησοῦς. οὖν is not causal: it does not carry us back to 11:57, where it is said that the priests were planning to arrest Him. His motive in going to Bethany was not to seek a place of safety, but it was on His way to Jerusalem, whither He was proceeding for the feast. οὖν is only copulative, “and so” (see on 1:22). He knew, indeed, of the enmity of the priestly party; but that did not move Him from His purpose. Indeed, Jn. lays special emphasis on the continual consciousness on the part of Jesus of what was impending (cf. 18:4).

According to the Synoptists (Mark 11:11, Matthew 21:17, Luke 21:37), He lodged at Bethany during the nights that remained before the end.

πρὸ ἓξ ἡμερῶν τοῦ πάσχα, a transposition of πρό, the phrase meaning “six days before the Passover.” Meyer cites Amos 11 πρὸ δυὸ ἐτῶν τοῦ σεισμοῦ for the same construction. Jn. is prone to record dates (see Introd., p. cii); and he notes that the day of the arrival of Jesus at Bethany was the Sabbath before the Passover, i.e., in our reckoning, the Saturday preceding Palm Sunday. He may have arrived just as the Sabbath was beginning, i.e. on the Friday evening; or He may have only come from a short distance, and so have refrained from exceeding the limit of a Sabbath day’s journey.

From Mark 14:1, Matthew 26:1, we might infer that the supper at Bethany was held later in the week, “two days before the Passover,” but neither statement is quite definite as to the date. What Jn. tells here is more probably accurate.

ὅπου ἦν Λάζαρος. On this account, Bethany was a place of special danger. It was no place to come for one who feared the vindictiveness of the priests which had been excited by the raising of Lazarus.

For the constr. ὅπου ἦν, see on 1:28.

ὁ τεθνηκώς is added after Λάζαρος by ADΓΔΘ, with support from the vss., including the Coptic Q, but om. אBLW

ὃν ἤγειρεν ἐκ νεκρῶν Ἰησοῦς. The rec. text omits Ἰησοῦς, which indeed is unnecessary to the sentence, but א*BW insert it. Perhaps all the words after Λάζαρος, sc. [ὁ τεθνηκώς] ὃν ἤγειρεν ἐκ νεκρῶν Ἰησοῦς, are a gloss that has crept in from v. 9, where ὃν ἤγειρεν ἐκ νεκρῶν is quite in place and apposite; here it is superfluous. Cf. v. 17.

Syr. sin. gives here: “came Jesus to the village Beth Ania unto Lazar, him that was dead and lived. And he made for Him a supper there, and Lazar was one of the guests that sat down to meat with Him, but Martha was occupied in serving.”

2. ἐποίησαν οὖν αὐτῷ δεῖπνον ἐκεῖ. The subject of ἐποίησαν is undefined. Probably we should understand that the villagers of Bethany prepared a supper for Jesus, having still in vivid recollection the fame of His recent miracle. Mk. says that the entertainment was in “the house of Simon the Leper,” and this may be an accurate report, although of Simon we know nothing (see p. 410). From the way in which the presence of Lazarus as one of the company is mentioned by Jn., it would seem probable that at any rate the supper was not in his house. On the other hand, ἐποίησαν οὖν αὐτῷ δεῖπνον might mean that it was the well-known household of Bethany, Martha and Mary and Lazarus, who gave the feast, and the Sinai Syriac (quoted on v. 1) understands the text thus. Lazarus would in any case be a figure to attract attention and curiosity, which may account for the words ὁ δὲ Λάζαρος εἷς ἦν ἐκ τῶν�Luke 10:40, where it is said of her περιεσπᾶτο περὶ πολλὴν διακονίαν.

The rec. text omits ἐκ before τῶν�

λαβοῦσα λίτραν μύρου. λίτρα (libra) occurs again in N.T. only at 19:39. Mk. says of the woman (whom he does not name) ἔχουσα�Psalms 23:5) was an act of Eastern courtesy and respect, but Jn. treats the incident differently, and tells that Mary anointed Jesus’ feet. The Lat. fuldensis tries to combine the two, and its text here gives “habens alabastrum … et fracto effudit super caput ihesu recumbentis et unxit pedes.” Syr. sin. has a similar conflate text.

This marked difference between the narratives of Mk. and Jn., which clearly refer to the same incident, is considered above (p. 410).

νάρδου πιστικῆς πολυτίμου. This is almost identical with Mk.’s νάρδου πιστικῆς πολυτελοῦς. A special point is made in both narratives (not in the earlier story, Luke 7:38) of the costliness of the ointment provided (cf. “the chief ointments” of Amos 6:6). The adj. πιστικός (only here and at Mark 14:3 in the Greek Bible) is of uncertain meaning. It may be derived from πίστις, and it is applied, as Abbott (Diat. 1736d) has pointed out, to a “faithful” wife. Thus it might mean here genuine, as indicating the quality of the spikenard. The vg., however, at Mark 14:3 (but not here), renders it spicati, and Wetstein called attention to the word σπίκατον, which means a luxurious unguent. It is possible that, as Abbott suggests, some form of σπίκατον originally stood in the Gospel texts, and that it was altered to πιστικός by an attempt at allegorical interpretation. Swete quotes Jerome as playing on the word thus: “ideo uos uocati estis pistici.” Another, less likely, derivation of πιστικός is from πίνω, so that it would mean “potable,” as some perfumes were; but this would be quite out of place in the present context. Yet another explanation is quoted by Dods (in loc.) from the Classical Review (July 1890), sc. that we should read not πιστικῆς, but πιστακῆς, the latter word referring to the Pistacia terebinthus, which grows in Palestine “and yields a turpentine in such inconsiderable quantities as to be very costly.” Whatever the precise derivation of the word may be, the combination νάρδου πιστικῆς (νάρδου, like πιστικῆς, occurring again in the N.T. only at Mark 14:3) is so unusual, that we must suppose Jn. to have followed here either the actual text of Mk., or a familiar tradition embodying these words.

With this costly unguent, Jn. tells that Mary anointed the feet of Jesus. He insists upon the word feet, repeating τοὺς πόδας twice, that there may be no misunderstanding, and to show that he is deliberately correcting Mk.’s account. He adds, in words that reproduce Lk.’s story of the sinful woman (Luke 7:38), that Mary wiped the Lord’s feet with her hair (καὶ ἐξέμαξεν ταῖς θριξὶν αὐτῆς τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ). Attention has already (p. 411) been directed to the fact that a perfumed anointing of feet (as distinct from the washing of them, of which there is no mention here) is a custom not mentioned in Scripture elsewhere than here and Luke 7:38. It is further to be observed that for a woman to have her hair unbound was counted immodest by the Jews,1 and that Mary should unloose her hair at an entertainment where men were present requires some special explanation. A towel would be readily accessible (cf. 13:5) whether this supper was in the house of Martha and Mary, or not; and it would be more seemly and convenient to use it. But for what purpose were the Lord’s feet wiped after the unguent had been applied? In the story of Luke 7:38 the woman wiped His feet with her unbound hair, because her tears had fallen on them by inadvertence, but she did not wipe off the ointment. These considerations seem to prove that when Jn. reproduces as nearly as possible the words of the earlier narrative (Luke 7:38) he does so, not by any inadvertence or mistaken recollection, but because the act of Mary recorded here did actually reproduce her former gesture, then dictated by a sudden impulse of penitence, now inspired by adoring homage of her Master. The moment of her “conversion,” to use the modern word, was the moment to which she looked back as the most memorable in her life; and when she learnt that Jesus was to honour a supper in Bethany by His presence, she decided that she would once again anoint His feet, and present herself in the guise of a penitent and grateful disciple, the significance of whose strange gesture would be well understood by all her friends, as well as by Jesus.

This, at least, is what Jn. seems to indicate. If he did not regard Mary as identical with the unnamed sinner of the earlier incident, he has told the story of the anointing at Bethany in a way which is unintelligible.

ἡ δὲ οἰκία ἐπληρώθη ἐκ τῆς ὀσμῆς τοῦ μύρου. For this use of ἐκ as indicating “with,” cf. Revelation 8:5, Matthew 23:25.

This detail is peculiar to Jn., and suggests that the narrative is due to the recollection of some one who was present on the occasion. It seems to have been known to Ignatius, who interprets the savour of the ointment pervading the whole house as typifying the fragrance of incorruptibility diffused throughout the Church from the Person of Christ (Eph. 17). Cf. also Clem. Alex. Pœd. ii. 8 (P 205) for a similar spiritualising of the incident.

Wetstein quotes from Midr. Koheleth, vii. 1: “A good unguent spreads from the bedroom to the dining-hall; so does a good name from one end of the world to the other.” The latter clause recalls Mark 14:9, “Wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she hath done shall be told for a memorial of her,” a saying which Jn. does not record. It is possible, but improbable, that the circumstance told by Jn., that the house was filled with the odour of the ointment, gave rise, by an allegorical interpretation, to the saying of Mark 14:9. But the idea that Jn. meant it to be taken allegorically is devoid of evidence and may be confidently rejected.

4. The description of Judas is almost identical with that given in 6:71 (where see note).

We must read δέ (אBW) for the rec. οὖν.

Apparently we should omit ἐκ before τῶν μαθητῶν (with BLW 33 249), although it is inserted, in accordance with Jn.’s general habit (see on 1:40), by אADΘ. ἐκ is also omitted in similar sentences at 18:22, 19:34.

אBLW, fam. 1, and most vss. read here Ἰούδας ὁ Ἰσκαριώτης (cf. 14:22 for ὁ Ἰσκ.); but AΓΔΘ have Ἰούδας Σίμωνος Ἰσκαριώτης, introducing the name of his father (as at 6:71, 13:2).

The rec. text, following ADΘ, places the sentence εἷς [ἐκ] τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ before Ἰούδας; but אBLW place it after Ἰσκαριώτης.

For ὁ μέλλων, D has ὃς ἤμελλεν (perhaps a reminiscence of 6:71). μέλλων may convey the idea that Judas was predestined to betray Jesus (see on 3:14 and 6:71).

According to the Synoptists (Mark 14:4, Matthew 26:8), the uneasy feeling that the ointment was wasted was shared by several of the onlookers, but Jn. specifically mentions Judas as the one who remonstrated. Perhaps he first suggested to the others the extravagance of what had been done by Mary in purchasing exceptionally rare and costly ointment.

5. This verse reproduces Mark 14:5 ἠδύνατο γὰρ τοῦτο τὸ μύρον πραθῆναι ἐπάνω δηναρίων τριακοσίων καὶ δοθῆναι τοῖς πτωχοῖς. 300 denarii would be about ten guineas, a large sum. To suppose, as Schmiedel does (E.B. 1797), that 300 is a symbolical number indicating “the symmetrical body of humanity,” is fantastic. The Gospel of St. Mark, at any rate, does not deal in allegories of this cryptic kind.

Jn. here follows Mk.,1 just as he does at 6:7 when he recalls 200 denarii as the estimated cost of bread for the multitude.

6. εἶπεν δὲ τοῦτο κτλ. This is the evangelist’s comment (cf. 7:22; and see Introd., p. xxxiv). It has been thought by some that he is unfair to Judas, and that he is so possessed with the conviction of the baseness of his treachery, that he imputes the lowest of motives to him (see on 6:70, 18:5). The criticism that the money spent on the costly ointment might have been better spent is very natural on the lips of the disciple who, as keeper of the common purse, was responsible for the moneys spent by the Twelve, amounting in all, we may be sure, to no large sum. But Jn. roundly says that he was a thief. Judas was not above a bribe, for he took the thirty pieces of silver; but he was not therefore dishonest, although the value which he attached to money may have made ill-gotten gains a strong temptation. “Temptation commonly comes through that for which we are naturally fitted” (Westcott), i.e. in this case the handling of money. And it may have been found out, after the secession of Judas, that, as Jn. says, he had been guilty of small peculations, for which he had full opportunity. However ever that may be, the bitterness of the words about Judas in this verse is easily explained if they go back to one who was a former comrade in the inner circle of the Twelve, who had had no suspicions even at the end (see on 13:28, 29), and whose indignation, when disillusioned, was all the more severe.

τὸ γλωσσόκομον: cf. 13:29. A γλωσσοκομεῖον originally meant a case to hold the reeds or tongues (γλῶσσαι) of musical instruments, and hence any kind of box, e.g. it is used for a coffin (by Aquila, Genesis 50:26). The word became accepted by Aramaic speakers, and appears as גלוסקמא in the Talmud. It stands for a coffer into which money is cast, at 2 Chronicles 24:8, 2 Chronicles 24:10 ἐνέβαλλον εἰς τὸ γλωσσόκομον, and this is the sense in which the word is used here. The γλωσσόκομον or money-box of the disciples was kept by Judas (it was not necessarily carried about with him habitually: τὸ γλωσσόκομον ἔχων is the phrase), and into it well-wishers (cf. Luke 8:3) were wont to throw (βάλλειν) small coins to provide for the needs of Jesus and His followers. In this it was like the begging-bowl of an Eastern holy man. To translate it “purse” is misleading; and the Latin vss. rightly render it by loculi, i.e. a box or coffer with several compartments. See Field, in loc., on γλωσσόκομον and βαστάζειν.

For ἔχων (אBDLWΘ) the rec. has εἶχεν καί (AΓΔ).

τὰ βαλλόμενα, sc. the moneys cast into the box by well-wishers and friends; cf. 2 Chronicles 24:10 quoted above.

ἐβάσταζεν. The verb βαστάζειν is used (10:31, 16:12, 19:17) of carrying or bearing something heavy; but here and at 20:15 it is equivalent to the vulgar English “to lift,” i.e. to carry off furtively or unscrupulously, and so “to steal.” Field gives a convincing illustration of this usage from Diog. Laert. iv. 59 μαθόντα δὲ ταῦτα τὰ θεραπόντια … ὅσα ἐβούλετο ἐβάσταζεν, “When therefore the servants found this out, they used to steal whatever they pleased.” Deissmann (Bible Studies, Eng. Tr., p. 257) cites some further instances from the papyri of this use of βαστάζειν.1

Hence we must translate, “he was a thief, and having the money-box used to steal what was cast into it.” To render ἐβάσταζεν here as if it only meant that Judas, as the treasurer, used to “carry about” what was put into it, would give a tame and superfluous ending to the sentence.

7. With vv. 7, 8, cf. Mark 14:6-9.

The rec. text, with AΓΔ, omits ἵνα and reads τετήρηκεν, while אBDLWΘ support ἵνα … τηρήσῃ.

We must render “let her alone, in order that she may keep it (sc. the remainder of the spikenard) against the day of my burying.” In Mk.’s narrative (here being corrected silently by Joh_1) the flask of ointment was broken and its entire contents poured upon the head of Jesus; but Jn. says nothing of the flask being broken, and it is not to be supposed that all the ointment was used for His feet. ἐνταφιασμός (cf. 19:40) is “preparation for burial,” and might or might not include the anointing of the whole body. The words of Jesus tell of His impending death and burial to any of the company who had sufficient insight; the rest of the spikenard will soon be needed, and will not be wasted.

We have above (p. 412) identified Mary of Bethany with Mary Magdalene; and thus she who began His ἐνταφιασμός by anointing the Lord’s feet in Bethany, was among the women who finished the anointing of His body eight days later (cf. 20:1, Mark 16:1).

For ἄφες αὐτήν, cf. Mark 14:6, Matthew 15:14, 2 Samuel 16:11, 2 Kings 4:27. We might translate (with R.V.mg) “Let her alone; (it was) that she might keep it,” or (with R.V.txt) “Suffer her to keep it,” but we prefer to render “Let her alone, in order that, etc.”

8. This verse is identical with Matthew 26:11, and both Jn. and Mt. reproduce exactly the words of Mark 14:7, both of them omitting Mk.’s καὶ ὅταν θέλητε, δύνασθε αὐτοὺς εὖ ποιῆσαι. But that Jn. is using Mk. rather than Mt. all through the story is not doubtful.2

D and Syr. sin. omit the whole verse here for some unknown reason, perhaps because ἐμὲ δὲ οὐ πάντοτε ἔχετε was (mistakenly) deemed to be at variance with Matthew 28:20. But cf. 17:11 οὐκέτι εἰμὶ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ.

With πτωχοὺς πάντοτε ἔχετε μεθʼ ἑαυτῶν, cf. Deuteronomy 15:11.

The People’s Curiosity About Lazarus, and the Hostility of the Priests (vv. 9-11)

9. ὁ ὄχλος πολύς is read by אB*L, and at v. 12 by BLΘ, but in both places many authorities omit ὁ. If we omit ὁ and read ὄχλος πολύς, “a great multitude,” then no difficulty presents itself. We had ὄχλος πολύς before at 6:2, and πολὺς ὄχλος at 6:5: cf. Mark 5:21, Mark 5:24, Mark 5:6:34, Mark 5:9:14, Acts 6:7, Revelation 7:9.

But ὁ πολὺς ὄχλος is undoubtedly the right reading at Mark 12:37, and it means there the mob, the mass of the people, or, as the E.V. has it, “the common people heard Him gladly”; and of this use of ὁ πολὺς ὄχλος Field (in Mark 12:37) gives some classical instances. This, too, would suit the context well in the present passage, for crowds are generally composed of “the common people” and include “riff-raff.” But, as Abbott points out (Diat. 1739-1740), the variant of Jn. gives here and at v. 12, not ὁ πολὺς ὄχλος (as at Mark 12:37), but ὁ ὄχλος πολύς, which is bad Greek. Westcott suggests that ὄχλος πολύς here must be treated as “a compound noun,” but why Jn. should adopt such a usage is not explained.

Having regard to the grammatical difficulty presented by ὁ ὄχλος πολύς, and to the fact that both Latin and Syriac versions give “a great crowd” as the rendering, the balance of evidence seems to be against ὁ, and we therefore read ὄχλος πολύς both here and at v. 12.

ἔγνω οὖν. The rumour of the supper at Bethany spread quickly, and the people generally were much excited by the expectation of seeing not only Jesus, but Lazarus whom He raised from the dead (for ὃν ἤγειρεν ἐκ νεκρῶν, cf. vv. 1, 17).

ὄχλος πολὺς ἐκ τῶν Ἰουδαίων, “a great crowd of the Jews,” sc. of the people of Judæa, who were generally hostile to Jesus. But “the Jews” does not specially indicate here, as at 5:10, 6:41, etc., the party of opposition to Him; it includes those who favoured (v. 11) as well as those who did not favour His claims (see on 1:19). A “great crowd” of them came to Bethany, apparently on the evening of the Sabbath, to see the man who had come back from the dead, as well as to see Jesus who raised him. To see one returned from the dead would indeed be a great experience (cf. Luke 16:31).

10. ἐβουλεύσαντο δὲ οἱ�

12. The Synoptic accounts of the entry to Jerusalem are found at Mark 11:7-10, Matthew 21:4-9, Luke 19:35-38. As has been pointed out above (on v. 1), Mk. (followed by Mt.) places the supper at Bethany later in the week of the Passion, but Jn., putting it on Saturday, Nisan 9, halts Jesus and the disciples at Bethany for that night, the entry taking place on Sunday, Nisan 10. Christian tradition has followed Jn. in putting the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday.

τῇ ἐπαύριον, sc. on the Sunday. Jn. is fond of these notes of time (see Introd., p. cii).

ὄχλος πολύς (see on v. 9) κτλ., “a great crowd that had come up to the feast,” sc. those that came from the country parts to the metropolis, including doubtless many Galilæans (see 4:45).

ἀκούσαντες, “having heard,” sc. from those who had come by way of Bethany. ὅτι is recitantis. The words they heard were: ἔρχεται Ἰησοῦς εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα. BΘ prefix ὁ to Ἰησοῦς, while אADLW omit; it is usually B that omits the def. art. (see on 1:29).

The entry of Jesus would naturally provoke curiosity and enthusiasm, coming (as Jn. represents it to have done) not long after the raising of Lazarus (11:55, 56). The most conspicuous discrepancy between Mk. and Jn. is at this point, Mk. not mentioning Lazarus at all, but describing none the less the triumphal entry, while the enthusiasm with which Jesus was received is expressly connected by Jn. with the miracle at Bethany (see Introd., p. clxxxiii).

13. ἔλαβον τὰ βαΐα τῶν φοινίκων. βαΐον, a “palm branch,” occurs again in the Greek Bible only at 1 Macc. 13:51, in the account of Simon’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, μετὰ αἰνέσεως καὶ βαΐων κτλ. (cf. 2 Macc. 10:7). To carry palms was a mark of triumphant homage to a victor or a king (cf. Revelation 7:9). Either βαΐα or φοίνικες, separately, would mean “palms,” so that Jn.’s τὰ βαΐα τῶν φοινίκων is superfluously precise (see Abbott, Diat. 2047), “the palm branches of the palm trees,” perhaps trees which grew on the slopes of Olivet. The Synoptists do not mention the bearing of palms: Mk. has στιβάδας, i.e. “litter” of leaves, etc., which were strewn in the road; Mt. says ἔκοπτον κλάδους�Mark 11:9, and cf. v. 18 below.

καὶ ἐκραύγαζον κτλ., “they kept crying out Hosanna.” ἐκραύγαζον is read by אB3DLW, as against ἔκραζον of the rec. text (AΓΔΘ) For κραυγάζειν applied to the shouting of crowds, cf. Ezra 3:13; and see note on 11:43 above.

Before Ὡσαννά, the rec., with אADW, ins. λέγοντες: om. BLΓΔΘ

The words from the Psalter with which (according to the Synoptists as well as Jn.) the acclaiming crowds greeted Jesus as He rode into the city, were the words with which in the original use of the Psalm the priests blessed the procession entering the Temple. “Hosanna: Blessed in the Name of Yahweh is he that cometh” (Psalms 118:25, Psalms 118:26). The sense is missed if ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου is connected with ὁ ἐρχόμενος. The Hebrew priests were chosen “to bless in the name of Yahweh” (Deuteronomy 21:5); and so also it is written of David εὐλόγησεν τὸν λαὸν ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου (2 Samuel 6:18). Cf. also 1 Kings 22:16, 2 Kings 2:24; and see note on 16:23.

The quotation of Psalms 118:25, Psalms 118:26 by the crowds who hailed Jesus on His entry to Jerusalem was something more than a mere blessing of welcome, as of One who had done wonderful things (cf. Psalms 129:8). It recognised in Him ὁ ἐρχόμενος, “the Coming One,” even as Martha had said to Him σὺ εἶ … ὁ εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἐρχόμενος (11:27; cf. Matthew 11:3).

The cry of Hosanna (in Aramaic הוֹשַׁעְנָא, rendered σῶσον δή in the LXX of Psalms 118:25) was the refrain sung by the people in the processional recitation of Psa_118 at the Feast of Tabernacles. When v. 25 was reached, the palm branches which were carried by the worshippers were waved; and hence these sprigs of palm with myrtle and willow (lulab was the technical name) came themselves to be called hosannas.

The practice, however, of bearing palm sprigs and crying Hosanna was not confined to the Feast of Tabernacles, although it originated in the Temple services at that festival; and we have already cited from 1 Macc. 13:51 an instance of palm branches being borne on the occasion of a popular welcome to a hero at another time of the year. There is thus no historical improbability in Jn.’s statement that palms and hosannas were accompaniments of the entry of Jesus to the city.1

καὶ ὁ βασιλεὺς τοῦ Ἰσραήλ. Mk. has instead of this εὐλογημένη ἡ ἐρχομένη βασιλεία τοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν Δαυείδ, which conveys the same idea, sc. that the crowds were acclaiming Jesus as the Messianic king. Lk. has ὁ ἐρχόμενος ὁ βασιλεύς, but Mt. puts it differently, reporting the cry as Ὡσαννὰ τῷ υἱῷ Δαυείδ (a different use of hosanna, perhaps derived from some liturgical refrain). Jn. has already (1:49) attributed the confession σὺ βασιλεὺς εἶ τοῦ Ἰσραήλ to Nathanael. It was this public acclamation of Jesus as King of Israel or King of the Jews which was the foundation of the charge made against Him before Pilate (18:33). He had refused earlier in His ministry to allow the eager people to “make Him king” (6:15); but now He did not disclaim the title (cf. Luke 19:38-40). Pseudo-Peter represents the inscription on the cross as being in the form οὗτος ἐστιν ὁ βασιλεὺς τοῦ Ἰσραήλ (see on 19:19).

14. εὑρὼν δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὀνάριον κτλ. This is not verbally consistent with the Synoptists, who tell that it was the disciples who had found the ass, in accordance with the directions given them by Jesus (Mark 11:2-6). Chrysostom is at unnecessary pains to reconcile the various statements; see v. 16 below.

ἐκάθισεν ἐπʼ αὐτό So Mark 11:7; Luke 19:35 says ἐπεβίβασαν τὸν Ἰησοῦν.

καθώς ἐστιν γεγραμμένον. See on 2:17 for this formula of citation.

15. The quotation is from Zechariah 9:9, in an abbreviated form. The LXX has πῶλον νέον, whereas Jn. has πῶλον ὄνου, a more literal rendering of the Hebrew; for the opening words, “Exult greatly,” he gives μὴ φοβοῦ. Mk. and Lk., while narrating the entry into Jerusalem, do not quote the prophecy. Mt. (21:5) gives it in the form Εἴπατε τῇ θυγατρὶ Σιών, Ἰδού, ὁ βασιλεύς σου ἔρχεταί σοι πραῢς καὶ ἐπιβεβηκὼς ἐπὶ ὄνον καὶ ἐπὶ πῶλον υἱὸν ὑποζυγίου. Jn. notes (v. 16) that the application of this prophecy of Zechariah to the entry of Jesus was not thought of until a later time; but Mt. introduces his account with the formula ἵνα πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος … (see Introd., p. cliv).

The full quotation, as given by Mt., is misleading. The story, as told by the other evangelists, is simply that an ass’s colt was found and that Jesus rode on it. But Mt., misunderstanding the Hebrew repetition in Zechariah 9:9,

“… upon an ass,

and upon a colt, the foal of a she-ass,”

where only one animal is indicated, tells us that two animals were fetched,1 and garments put on them that they might be ridden. Jn., on the contrary, gives only that part of the prophecy which is relevant, sc. “sitting on an ass’s colt.”

It is not to be thought that there is any suggestion of humility in riding upon an ass. On the contrary, the ass and the mule were the animals used in peace by great persons for their progresses, as the horse was used in war. The sons of the judges rode upon asses (Judges 10:4, Judges 12:14); so did Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:23); so did Mephibosheth, Saul’s son, when he went to Jerusalem to meet David (2 Samuel 19:26); cf. Judges 5:10. Indeed Zechariah 9:10 shows plainly that the prophecy was specially of One coming in peace.

The LXX translators did not understand this. They have πώλους only in Judges 10:4, Judges 12:14, probably because they thought of an ass as a beast of burden exclusively; thus in Zechariah 9:9 they have not noticed that אָתוֹן is the regular word for she-ass (Genesis 32:15), which may be either used for riding or for carrying loads.

The king, then, in the vision of Zechariah, rode upon an ass to signify that he came in peace, not to destroy but to save; and the entry of Jesus to Jerusalem on an ass was understood by the populace, in like manner, as the entry of the Prince of Peace.

16. A similar reminiscence of the evangelist is set down at 2:22, where see note. The saying of Jesus about restoration, after the Cleansing of the Temple, was not understood by the disciples until after His Resurrection. So, too, they did not perceive the significance in connexion with prophecy of His entry into Jerusalem, riding upon an ass, until He was “glorified,” and they began to reflect upon the events of His ministry.

For ἐδοξάσθη, see on 7:39, 12:23. Cf. also 13:31.

אBLWΘ omit δέ after the first ταῦτα, which the rec. inserts. αὐτοῦ οἱ μαθηταί (אBΘ) is the true order of words.

The rec. (with DWΘ) inserts ὁ before Ἰησοῦς, which is omitted in אABL. This omission of the article is not in accordance with Jn.’s general usage (see on 1:29), and it is possible that the whole verse is an explanatory gloss added by an editor other than the evangelist himself. The threefold repetition of ταῦτα is somewhat clumsy, and can hardly be intentional. Again, the phrase ἐπʼ αὐτῷ γεγραμμένα is unlike Jn. (cf. Revelation 10:11, Revelation 22:16): it must mean that the Scriptures quoted were, as it were, “based on Him.” D substitutes περὶ αὐτοῦ for ἐπʼ αὐτῷ, recognising the difficulty. And, finally, the last clause of the verse, which says that the disciples afterwards remembered “that they had done these things to Him,” invites the question, “What things?” Evidently, the answer is that the reference is to the search for the ass, in accordance with the instructions of Jesus, of which the Synoptists tell. But, as we have seen, Jn. tells nothing of this incident. He says only (v. 14) that “Jesus having found the ass, sat thereon,” but he does not mention the co-operation of the disciples in this, or that they took any part in the entry to the city. It seems likely that the comment preserved in the last clause of this verse is due to some one who was thinking of the Synoptic narrative.

17. The interpretation of this verse depends mainly upon whether ὅτε (rec. with אABWΓΔΘ) or ὅτι (DL) is adopted as the true reading before τὸν Λάζαρον. If ὅτι be approved (with Tischendorf), we translate, “So the crowd that was with Him was testifying that He called Lazarus from the tomb, and raised him from the dead, ” ὅτι introducing the actual words used by the crowd when acclaiming the entry of Jesus. Cf. Luke 19:37: “the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works which they had seen.” According to this rendering, the shouts of the crowd made special reference to the raising of Lazarus. This is entirely consistent with the view which Jn. gives his readers of the extraordinary effect which that miracle had on the public mind (vv. 9, 18). But, attractive as this rendering is, ὅτε must be preferred to ὅτι on the MS. evidence; and we translate: “So the crowd that was with Him when He called Lazarus from the tomb, and raised him from the dead,” i.e. the onlookers at the scene described 11:33-44, “bore their testimony.” The true authors of the ovation were the people who had been spectators of the miracle, who no doubt inspired all their acquaintances with their wondering enthusiasm. They “bore their witness.” See for the idea of μαρτυρία in Jn., the note on 1:7; and cf. Introd., p. xc.

18. διὰ τοῦτο (see on 5:16 for this opening) καὶ ὑπήντησεν αὐτῷ ὁ ὄχλος, “for this reason the crowd also met Him,” sc. the multitude mentioned v. 13, as distinct from the crowd accompanying Him from Bethany, where they had seen the raising of Lazarus. There were two streams of people: one escorting Jesus, the other meeting Him (see on v. 13), “because they heard (ἤκουσαν is preferable to the rec. ἤκουσε) that He had done this sign.”

For the σημεῖα of Jesus, see on 2:11.

19. οἱ οὖν φαρισαῖοι. The Pharisees formed the party who were most deeply opposed to the teaching of Jesus (see on 1:24), and who initiated the movement for His arrest, which was ultimately carried out by the authority of the�

For the use of ὀπίσω, cf. 2 Samuel 15:13 ἐγενήθη ἡ καρδία�

The Greek Inquirers (vv. 20-22)

20. The episode of the Greek inquirers is introduced immediately after the complaint made by the Pharisees, “the world is gone after Him.” Among those who were excited and moved by the reports about Jesus and Lazarus were some Greek pilgrims; it was not only Jews and Galilæans who were attracted by what they had heard of the wonderful things that had happened at Bethany, but Greeks as well. And Jn., alone among the evangelists, notes that some of them told Philip of their desire to see Jesus, and that Jesus was informed of it. This incident is naturally recalled in a Gospel written primarily for Greek readers. It is, however, not explicitly said that the request of the Greeks for an interview with Jesus was granted, or that they were present while the sayings of vv. 23-28 were being pronounced.

But, although there is no positive statement to this effect in the text, it has been generally held since the days of Tatian that v. 20 begins a new section of the Gospel, and that vv. 20-22 are to be read in connexion with what follows. On this supposition, it is natural to seek in the words of Jesus here some message which may be taken as specially appropriate to Greeks. It has been suggested, e.g. by Lange, that the tremendous paradox of v. 25, “he that loveth his life loseth it, and he that hateth his life shall keep it,” has a peculiar applicability, if regarded as the judgment of Christ on Greek ideals of life. For the Greek, the ideal of manhood was to reach the fulness of personal life; a man should develop his own personality; the larger and richer his life, the more nearly he approached his highest. There is something of this in Christianity as well as in Greek paganism, for Christianity holds up the Perfect Man as exemplar. But the Christian ideal involves sacrifice, and this was foreign to the philosophy of Greece. Jn. may mean us to understand v. 25 as implying the condemnation by Jesus of Greek ideals of life. Again, v. 32, “I will draw all men to myself,” is a universal promise, including not only Jews but Gentiles like the Greek inquirers. And some have found in the exhortation, “Believe in the light, that ye may become sons of light” (v. 36), an allusion to the prophecy, “The glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. … Nations (ἔθνη) shall come to thy light, and kings to thy brightness” (Isaiah 60:1, Isaiah 60:3).

Yet it must be owned that if vv. 23-28 are to be interpreted as addressed in particular to the Greeks whom Jesus now saw for the first time, the use of the Jewish title “Son of Man” (see Introd., p. cxxxii) is puzzling (v. 23); and it is even more difficult to suppose that Jesus revealed to these strangers the anguish of His soul in words like those of v. 27. It is possible that vv. 20-22 should be treated as linked closely with v. 19, but as having no special relation with vv. 23 ff., a new paragraph beginning at v. 23 (where see note).

ἦσαν δὲ Ἕλληνές τινες (this is the reading of אBDLW, as against τινες Ἕλληνες of the rec. text) ἐκ τῶν�1 Kings 8:41). These men were not Ἑλληνισταί, i.e. Greek-speaking Jews (see on 7:35), but Ἕλληνες, Greeks who had become proselytes of the gate, and accordingly attended the Jewish festivals (see Acts 17:4 for “devout Greeks” at Thessalonica; and cf. Acts 8:27 for the Ethiopian eunuch who came up to Jerusalem to worship). To such proselytes the Court of the Gentiles in the Temple precincts was appropriated. It was from this court (see on 2:14) that the moneychangers and the cattle were expelled by Jesus on the occasion when He cleansed the Temple; and if this episode is rightly placed by the Synoptists in the last week of Jesus’ ministry (but see on 2:13f.), the Greek inquirers may have been moved to seek speech with Him by the impression which His strong action had made on them, as well as by the reports of the raising of Lazarus.

21. οὗτοι οὖν προσῆλθον φιλίππῳ τῷ�

The request may well have embarrassed Philip. The Twelve had been forbidden to preach to Gentiles (Matthew 10:5, Matthew 10:6); and although the Jews at Jerusalem had wondered whether one of the mysterious sayings of Jesus could mean that He proposed “to teach the Greeks” (7:35), it is a question how far Jesus had explained to the apostles the full scope of His mission. This has been considered above (see on 10:16); but we must mark here that although in the Fourth Gospel the Gentiles are more explicitly than in the Synoptists brought within the range of Jesus’ mission, it is in that Gospel that we can most clearly trace a hesitation on the part of one of the Twelve to admit that Jesus has a message for Greeks as well as for Jews. As has been said above (on v. 20), we are not told whether Jesus gave an interview to these inquirers or whether He refused it.

22. ἔρχεται ὁ φίλιππος καὶ λέγει τῷ Ἀνδρέᾳ. For the close association between Philip and Andrew, and for the vivid characterisation of each which is apparent in Jn., see on 6:8. Philip is cautious, perhaps a little dull; Andrew is the practical man to whom others appeal in a difficulty. Andrew is one of the inner circle of the Twelve (Mark 13:3), and perhaps might venture to proffer an unusual request to Jesus, where Philip would hesitate.

For the second ἔρχεται the rec. text has καὶ πάλιν, omitting καί before λέγουσι. But the best-attested reading is ἔρχεται Ἀνδρέας καὶ φίλιππος καὶ λέγουσιν τῷ Ἰησοῦ. The singular ἔρχεται followed by the plur. λέγουσιν is quite a classical usage in a sentence like this.

Jesus Announces His Impending Passion (V. 23); Here is the Supreme Exemplification of the Law of Life Through Death (vv. 24-26)


ἐλήλυθεν ἡ ὥρα. The time of the Passion had come. Cf. 13:1 ἦλθεν αὐτοῦ ἡ ὥρα and 17:1 ἐλήλυθεν ἡ ὥρα. The phrase occurs in the Synoptists only in the account of the words of Jesus at Gethsemane immediately before the Betrayal, ἦλθεν ἡ ὥρα, Mark 14:41, Matthew 26:45 (cf. ὁ καιρός μου ἐγγύς ἐστιν, Matthew 26:18, which was said at an earlier stage, before the preparation of the Last Supper).

The Fourth Gospel is written throughout, as Jesus Himself spoke, sub specie æternitatis. He is represented as knowing from the beginning the time and manner and sequel of the end of His public ministry in the flesh. Twice in this Gospel He is made to say “my time (καιρός) is not yet come” (7:6, 8); and twice Jn. comments “His hour (ὥρα) was not yet come” (7:30, 8:20; see on 2:4).

It will be noticed that, with the possible exception of this passage (12:23), the phrase “the hour has come” is always (13:1, 17:1, Mark 14:41) applied to the hour immediately before the Betrayal. It is not used loosely, as if it only meant “the time is near,” and in every case the verb ἐλήλυθεν (ἦλθεν) comes first, the phrase ἐλήλυθεν ἡ ὤρα being strikingly and austerely impressive and final. Its presence suggests that what is about to be narrated relates to the last scenes, and we shall see (on v. 27) that there are some indications that in what follows Jn. is giving us his version of the prayers of Jesus at Gethsemane.

ἐλήλυθεν ἡ ὥρα ἵνα δοξασθῇ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ�

24.�1 Corinthians 15:36). It has, perhaps, a special applicability here, in reference to what precedes; for Christ, who is about to be glorified in Death, claimed to be, Himself, the Bread of Life.

Hippolytus (Ref. vi. 16) quotes from the Apophasis of Simon Magus (a work written about a.d. 100) a passage that Schmiedel1 thinks is behind this verse. Simon says that a tree abiding alone and bearing no fruit is destroyed (ἐὰν δὲ μείνῃ δένδρον μόνον, καρπὸν μὴ ποιοῦν, ‹μὴ› ἐξεικονισμένον�Matthew 3:10. There is a verbal similarity with Jn., but the thought is quite different.

25. We now come to the second illustration of the great paradox of the Cross: “He that loveth his life (ψυχή) loseth it �

This great saying may have been repeated by Jesus more than once, representing as it does the central lesson of His teaching and His life. In the Marcan tradition it is placed after the Confession of Peter (Mark 8:35, Matthew 16:25, Luke 9:24), when Jesus began to tell the Twelve that His Mission would issue in death. It is found also in other settings in the Mt.—Lk. tradition (Matthew 10:39, Luke 17:33), where it comes from the source Q. In its most literal meaning it was applicable to the choice between martyrdom and apostasy, which Christians of the first century (as well as later) were sometimes called to make. But selfishness is always the death of the true life of man.

The strong expression “hateth his life” (ὁ μισῶν τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ) is softened down in the Synoptic parallels, but it is found in another context, Luke 14:26.

26. In this verse is the third illustration of the paradox of v. 23, that the Passion of Jesus is His glorification. The life of ministry is a life of honour.

ἐὰν ἐμοί τις διακονῇ κτλ. The doctrine of διακονία, i.e. of the dignity of ministry, occupies a large place in all the Gospels. It is, naturally, an instinct of discipleship to minister to a master; and the ministry of women disciples to Jesus (Mark 1:31, Mark 15:41, Luke 10:40, John 12:2) needs no special comment. A servant is not thankworthy because he thus ministers (Luke 17:9). But the repeated teaching of Jesus goes much beyond this. He taught that the path to pre-eminence in His Kingdom is the path of service, of ministry (Mark 10:43), and that true greatness cannot be otherwise attained (Mark 9:35). Actually, the test by which His professed disciples shall be judged at the Last Judgment is the test of ministry; have they ministered to man, and therefore to Christ? (Matthew 25:44). This is the essentia of discipleship, for ministry was the essential characteristic of the life of Christ, who came not διακονηθῆναι�Mark 10:45); and the issue of His ministry was death, δοῦναι τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ λύτρον�

In the present passage, He suggests that this, too, may be the portion of His faithful disciples. He has laid down the universal law of sacrifice, “he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal” (v. 25). And He warns those to whom He has just foretold His death (v. 23), that His discipleship means following Him, and this may mean a following in the way of death.

ἐὰν ἐμοί τις διακονῇ. This is the true order of words (אABLW), although the rec. has διακονῇ τις. ἐμοί here is emphatic. It is the service of Christ that involves a perilous following.


27. Jn. does not give any account of the Agony in Gethsemane (see on 18:1); but the prayer recorded here corresponds very closely to the prayer in the garden recorded by the Synoptists (Mark 14:35, Mark 14:36, Matthew 26:39, Luke 22:42); and it may be that he intends vv. 27-29 to be his version of that tremendous spiritual crisis (see on v. 23). Thus ἡ ψυχή μου τετάρακται corresponds with Mark 14:34 περιλυπός ἐστιν ἡ ψυχή μου ἕως θανάτου : σῶσόν με ἐκ τῆς ὥρας ταύτης corresponds to Mark 14:35 προσηύχετο ἵνα εἰ δυνατόν ἐστι παρέλθῃ�Mark 14:36 (cf. Luke 22:42). Indeed, no passage in Jn. illustrates so powerfully as this the words of Mark 14:38 τὸ μὲν πνεῦμα πρόθυμον, ἡ δὲ σὰρξ�Luke 22:43). Is this another version of John 12:29 ἄλλοι ἔλεγον, ἄγγελος αὐτῷ λελάληκεν?

It is noteworthy that while Mk., followed by Mt., asserts that John the son of Zebedee was present with Peter and James when the Agony of spirit began (Mark 14:33), Lk. does not mention the names of any disciples as specially witnesses of the scene in the garden. The tradition of Mk. is different from the tradition of Lk.; and it would seem that the tradition of Jn. as to the Agony is different from both of his predecessors. Such a crisis of spiritual decision may, indeed, have recurred, Jn. mentioning the earlier occasion, while the Synoptists tell only of the later. But even this does not give a complete solution of the questions raised by the divergences of the evangelists in regard to the Agony; for Jn. at 18:11 puts the saying, “The cup which the Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (cf. Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42), into the mouth of Jesus at Gethsemane (although after His arrest) and not in connexion with the narrative of c. 12.

Nor, again, is it a sufficient explanation to say that Jn. does not narrate the Agony in the garden because he wishes to bring out the Divine self-surrender exhibited in the last scenes; for Jn. all through his Gospel lays special stress on the human emotions which Jesus felt. Jn. knew of the Agony in the garden, but we cannot tell why he chooses to reproduce some of the words then spoken by Jesus at the point in the narrative which we have now reached, rather than in what is (apparently) the proper place, viz. c. 18.

νῦν, “now, at last”: the hour had come; cf. v. 23.

ἡ ψυχή μου τετάρακται. Cf. 13:21 and 11:33, where see the note. As is there shown, we cannot in such phrases distinguish ψυχή from πνεῦμα. His “soul” was troubled. See the note on 4:6 for the emphasis laid by Jn. on the complete humanity of Jesus; and cf. Psalms 42:7 πρὸς ἐμαυτὸν ἡ ψυχή μου ἐταράχθη (cf. also Psalms 6:4). This troubling of spirit was truly human (Hebrews 5:7).

καὶ τί εἴπω; “and what shall I say?” εἴπω, the deliberative subjunctive (see Abbott, Diat. 2512), being used to express a genuine, if momentary, indecision.

πάτερ, σῶσόν με ἐκ τῆς ὥρας ταύτης. This is the natural, human prayer of One face to face with a cruel death.

For σώζειν see on 3:17.

πάτερ. So Jesus was accustomed to begin His prayers; see on 11:41. For the aor. imper. σῶσον, see on 2:5.

ἐκ τῆς ὥρας ταύτης: the hour had come (v. 23), and He wished to be saved from its horrors. No distinction can be drawn between ἐκ and�

28. πάτερ, δόξασόν σου τὸ ὄνομα, “Father (see on preceding verse), make Thy Name glorious,” sc. in the fulfilment of the mission of Redemption, which was the Passion of Christ. As “save me from this hour” is the prayer of the σάρξ, so this is the prayer of the πνεῦμα, willing to suffer all, if thereby the Name of God may be glorified. For “the Name” of God, as expressing His character revealed in and by the Son, see on 1:12, 5:43, 17:11. The “glory” of His Name is His glory as exhibited in the world (cf. Isaiah 63:14, Isaiah 66:5); and that the Father was “glorified” in the Death of Jesus is said again at 13:31, where see note.

In Psalms 79:9 we have βοήθησον ἡμῖν, ὁ θεὸς ὁ σωτὴρ ἡμῶν, ἕνεκα τῆς δόξης τοῦ ὀνόματός σου, but the Psalmist`s prayer was that the people might be delivered, and that in this deliverance the glory of the Name might be exhibited. Here the prayer is not for deliverance; it is a prayer of submission to what was impending, because through the Passion God`s Name would be glorified. This is the most complete and perfect example of the prayer enjoined upon every disciple,�Matthew 6:9). In the Lord`s Prayer this comes first, before any petition; it is the condition to be accepted before the petition “deliver us from evil” can be offered. But in the case of Jesus it involved the surrender of all thought of such deliverance. “Glorify Thy Name” carries with it the “Thy will be done” of resignation.

There is a variant reading (L 1, 13, 33), δόξασόν σου τὸν υἱόν, which may (as Abbott suggests, Diat. 2769) have arisen by the misreading of a scribe, τοονομα being written τουνομα, and then τουν at the end of a line being read as τουν, “the Son.” But it is more likely that δόξασόν σου τὸν υἱόν has been imported here from 17:1; and the fact that D adds ἐν τῇ δόξῃ ᾗ εἶχον παρὰ σοὶ πρὸ τοῦ τὸν κόσμον γένεσθαι from 17:5 makes this probable. In any case, “glorify Thy Son” has a wholly different meaning (see note on 17:1) from “glorify Thy Name,” which is undoubtedly the true reading in the present passage.

It must be observed that πάτερ, δόξασόν σου τὸ ὄνομα is not a prayer that God`s Name may be glorified by Jesus or by the world (for which idea, cf. Psalms 86:12, Isaiah 42:10, Malachi 1:11), but that God may Himself make it glorious. This is to be, indeed, through the voluntary Death of Jesus; but the ministry of Jesus is treated throughout the Gospel as fulfilled in the Name of the Father, His words and works being, as it were, words and works of the Father (see on 5:43, 10:25, 17:11).

ἦλθεν οὖν φωνὴ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, “there came then,” sc. in answer to the prayer, “a Voice from heaven.” This expression first appears Daniel 4:31, where a voice from heaven warns Nebuchadnezzar. The phrase became common in later Judaism. In the O.T. there are many indications of the belief that God may speak to men with audible and articulate voice (e.g. 1 Samuel 3:4, 1 Kings 19:13, Job 4:16). The Rabbis, however, hesitated to use so anthropomorphic a form of speech as “God said,” and they preferred to speak of a “voice from heaven.” For examples, see Enoch lxv. 4, Jubilees xvii. 15, 2, 2 Esd. 6:13. 17, and the first-century Apocalypse of Baruch xxii. 1, which has “The heavens were opened, and … a voice was heard from on high, and it said, Baruch, why art thou troubled?” Cf. also a remarkable parallel to the passage before us in Test. of XII. Patr. (Levi, 18:6): “The heavens shall be opened, and from the temple of glory shall come upon him sanctification, with the Father’s voice as from Abraham to Isaac, and the glory of the Most High shall be uttered over him.”

In Rabbinical literature the heavenly voice is often mentioned under the name of bath-qôl, בת קול, i.e. “the daughter of a voice.” The days of the prophets being over, the bath-qôl was regarded as the only medium of Divine revelation, and was generally counted as miraculous.1 Two points only can be noted here: (1) the revelations of the bath-qôl were often expressed in Scripture phrases,2 and (2) there are instances of the bath-qôl taking the form of an echo of words spoken on earth.3

In the N.T. voices from heaven are spoken of in Acts 11:7, Revelation 10:4, and besides in three passages of the Gospels, sc. the Synoptic narratives of the Baptism (Mark 1:11) and the Transfiguration (Mark 9:7) of Jesus, and the present verse. In both the Synoptic passages, sc. of the Baptism and Transfiguration, the bath-qôl or heavenly Voice speaks in almost the same words. It combines Psalms 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1: “Thou art My Son … My chosen in whom My soul delighteth”; that is, it was expressed in Scripture phrases. Jn. does not tell of the Transfiguration, and he says nothing about the voice from heaven at the Baptism (cf. 1:32, 33). But he mentions here a bath-qôl of which, on the other hand, the Synoptists say nothing. Even if we are right in regarding vv. 28-30 as the Johannine version of the agonised prayer at Gethsemane, there is nothing in any of the Synoptic accounts of Gethsemane which corresponds with this comforting voice, although Lk. (22:43) tells of angelic ministration.

That is, according to the Gospel narratives, heavenly voices were heard by Jesus at three great moments of crisis and consecration in His ministry: after His Baptism, at His Transfiguration, and just before His Passion. In no case is it said that others understood or interpreted these “voices”; and if we put this into our modern ways of speech, we should say that their messages were subjective in the sense that they conveyed a meaning to none but Him to whom they were addressed, while objective in the sense that He was not deluded or deceived, for they were truly messages from God.

In v. 28 the Voice is an answer to the prayer δόξασον τὸ ὄνομα, and according to Jn. it said to Jesus καὶ ἐδόξασα καὶ πάλιν δοξάσω, i.e. “I did glorify My Name, and will glorify it again.” This is not a quotation from the O.T., as the bath-qôl often was, although there are O.T. passages verbally like it. The pregnant saying of 1 Samuel 2:30 τοὺς δοξάζοντάς με δοξάσω, and the promise of Divine deliverance in Psalms 91:15, which ends ἐξελοῦμαι καὶ δοζάσω αὐτόν, both speak of God “glorifying” His pious servants; but the thought here is of God glorifying His own Name, which is quite different. The bath-qôl, if it may be so called, in this passage is of the nature of an echo, the word “glorify” in the prayer being twice repeated in answer. It is just possible, as Abbott suggests (Diat. 782 f.), that we should illustrate this by the one or two instances of an echoing bath-qôl that appear in the Talmud. But, whether this be so or not, it is plain that Jn. means us to understand that a sound was heard after Jesus had prayed, which conveyed an assurance to Him that His prayer was answered, while at the same time it impressed the bystanders with the sense that, at all events, something unusual was taking place.

ἐδόξασα, as, e.g., at the raising of Lazarus, where the spectators saw τὴν δόξαν τοῦ θεοῦ (11:40). All the ἔργα of Jesus during His earthly ministry were ad maiorem Dei gloriam.

πάλιν δοξάσω, sc. in the approaching Passion of Jesus, when ὁ θεὸς ἐδοξάσθη ἐν αὐτῷ (13:31). Nor need the promise πάλιν δοξάσω be thus restricted, for in every fresh triumph of the Christian spirit may be seen its fulfilment.

Aphrahat (Sel. Dem. xxi. 17) attributes the words “I have glorified and will glorify” to Jesus Himself—a curious slip of memory, unless it is a deliberate attempt to evade the difficulty of the passage.

29. ὁ οὖν ὄχλος ὁ ἑστὼς (ADWΘ have ἑστήκως; cf. 3:29) καὶ�Exodus 9:28, 2 Samuel 22:14, Psalms 29:3, Job 37:5, Jeremiah 10:13); and when the crowd said that it had thundered, they meant that the thunder was a Divine response to what Jesus had said, although they did not catch any articulate words. This is the only place in the N.T. where mention is made of a thunderclap.

ἄλλοι ἔλεγον, ἄγγελος αὐτῷ λελάληκεν, “others,” that is, a few of the crowd, discerned that Jesus had received a definite message of comfort, and that something more than a clap of thunder had been heard. But none of the bystanders heard any articulate words; and this Jn. is careful to make clear. In this particular, the narrative is like that of the Voice from heaven at the conversion of Paul, where his companions heard a sound �Acts 9:7) but did not distinguish the words (τὴν φωνὴν οὐκ ἤκουσαν τοῦ λαλοῦντός μοι, Acts 22:9; see note above on 3:8).

Wetstein illustrates the passage by the prayer of Anchises, which has some verbal similarities (Virg. Æn. ii. 692):

“Da deinde augurium, pater, atque haec omina firma Vix ea fatus erat senior, subitoque fragore Intonuit laeuum.”


The phrase ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου appears again 14:30, 16:11, but nowhere else in the N.T. (cf., however, ὁ θεὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου 2 Corinthians 4:4 and Ephesians 2:2, Ephesians 6:12). The title “the ruler of this world” is applied to Beliar in the earlier part of the Ascension of Isaiah (1:3, 2:4, 10:29), which is probably contemporary with the Fourth Gospel; and Ignatius has ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου several times, e.g. Eph. xvii., xix. According to Lightfoot (Hor. Hebr. in loc.) שַׂר הָעוֹלָם was a well-known Jewish title for Satan1 (or for Sammael, the Angel of Death), and it may be that the Johannine ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου goes back to this.

“The prince of this world has been already judged” (16:11); but here is in view the issue of the judgment, when he shall be finally cast out (ἐκβληθήσεται ἔξω) of the world over which he claims dominion (cf. 1 John 4:4). For ἐκβάλλειν ἐκ, see on 6:37.

32. ἐὰν ὑψωθῶ ἐκ τῆς γῆς, sc. on the Cross. See the note on 3:14; and cf. 8:28. ἐκ τῆς γῆς is “from the earth” and not “out of the earth” as R.V. marg. has it, and as Westcott interprets because he finds the Ascension indicated here by ὑψωθῶ.

πάντας ἑλκύσω πρὸς ἐμαυτόν. For the verb ἑλκύειν, see on 6:44. For ἐμαυτός in Jn., see on 5:30.

It has often been suggested (the criticism goes back to Celsus; see Origen, c. Cels. ii.13) that the predictions of His Passion which the evangelists place in the mouth of Jesus are vaticinia ex eventu, and that in particular these predictions, as recorded by Jn., are so precise that they cannot be regarded as historical. It is not, indeed, impossible that in some instances the evangelists, and especially Jn. and Mt., ascribed language to Jesus which was coloured by their knowledge of the sequel of His ministry. But that He foresaw the end is certain. He knew, and apparently was conscious from a very early stage in His ministry, what its issue would be. And wonderful as a prophecy like δεῖ ὑψωθῆναι τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ�John 12:32 a genuine saying of Christ or a saying which Jn. thought would be appropriate to Him, it is a saying of remarkable prescience. The Word of the Cross (1 Corinthians 1:18) has always been a word of power; and the Appeal of the Cross has been the most effective that the world has known. It draws “all men,” πάντας, to the Crucified.

There is a variant reading πάντα (א*D) which, if genuine, would embrace the whole creation within the circle of the attraction of Christ. But πάντας is better authenticated.

33. τοῦτο δὲ ἔλεγεν, introducing a comment of the evangelist, as at 2:21, 6:6, “this He was saying, etc.” (For the impft. ἔλεγεν, cf. 5:18, 6:71, 8:31.) This explanatory comment is repeated 18:32, and it shows the interpretation which Jn. gives to ὑψωθῶ. In the Fourth Gospel ὑψοῦν always has reference to the lifting up of the Son of Man on the Cross. See note on 3:14.

σημαίνων ποίῳ θανάτῳ κτλ. Cf. 21:19.

ἤμελλεν. So ABDW. א has ἔμελλεν. Perhaps ἤμελλεν�

ἡμεῖς ἠκούσαμεν ἐκ τοῦ νόμου ὅτι ὁ Χριστὸς μένει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα. “The Law” (see on 10:34) often includes more than the Pentateuch, and the reference is somewhat vague. Ezekiel 37:25 has “David my servant shall be their prince for ever”; Psalms 89:4, Psalms 110:4 are apposite, as also Isaiah 9:7. Cf. Orac. Sibyll. iii. 767, and Psalms of Solomon, xvii. 4.

πῶς λέγεις σὺ ὅτι δεῖ ὑψωθῆναι τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἄνθρώπου; τίς ἐστιν οὗτος ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ�

On the other hand, if we could suppose that in popular speech the Christ was sometimes called “the Son of Man,” the meaning of the passage would be somewhat different. It would represent the crowd as puzzled that any one should seem to tell them that the Christ was to suffer a dishonourable death. “The Son of Man must be crucified, you say … Who can this Son of Man be? … He cannot be the Christ or the Son of Man of Daniel’s vision (Daniel 7:13), whose dominion is to be everlasting.” Cf. Enoch, lxii. 14, “With that Son of Man will they eat and lie down and rise up for ever.” But if this was what the objectors meant, we should have expected them to say, “the Son of Man abides for ever,” rather than “the Christ abides for ever,” as more apposite to the objection which they are putting forward. We prefer the view that the title “Son of Man” as applied to Messiah was unfamiliar to them.1

There is a passage in Justin (Tryph. 32) which recalls their argument on any interpretation. Justin has quoted Dan_7, and Trypho the Jew objects, “These scriptures indeed compel us to expect that Great and Glorious One who as a son of man receives the eternal kingdom from the Ancient of Days; but this your so-called Christ became dishonoured and inglorious so that he fell under the last curse in the law of God (Deuteronomy 21:23), for he was crucified.” The Jews, with whom Trypho was in accord, did not expect a Suffering Messiah.

35. “Who is this Son of Man?” Jesus does not answer the question, or explain Himself further. But He repeats the austere warning which He gave before (9:4 and 7:33, where see note), that He would not be much longer among them: it would only be μικρὸν χρόνον, “for a little while.” Even this He expresses in mystic words which not all could have understood in their fulness; or, at least, the evangelist represents Him as speaking only indirectly of Himself and His approaching departure, when He said ἔτι μικρὸν χρόνον τὸ φῶς ἐν ὑμῖν ἐστιν. He had claimed to be the Light of the World (8:12), but not many had believed that the Light was really among them, or had grasped what was meant.

ἐν ὑμῖν is the true reading (אBDWΘ and the Latin vss.) rather than the rec. μεθʼ ὑμῶν (A). Cf. for ἐν as equivalent to “among,” Acts 4:34; and note ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν (1:14).

He goes on with an exhortation: “Walk while ye have the light”2 (ὡς τὸ φῶς ἔχετε, not ἕως of the rec. text, is the best attested reading). For περιπατεῖν as used of conduct, cf. 8:12; and see especially 9:4, 11:9, 10.

ἵνα μὴ σκοτία ὑμᾶς καταλάβῃ, “lest darkness overtake you,” and so get the better of you. See on 1:5, the only other place where καταλαμβάνειν is found in Jn. (but cf. [8:4] and note on 6:17); and cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:4, where the “day” is said to “overtake” one engaged in dark pursuits.

The second half of the verse is almost verbally identical with 1 John 2:11 ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ περιπατεῖ καὶ οὐκ οἶδεν ποῦ ὑπάγει. See 11:10.

36. ὡς τὸ φῶς ἔχετε, sc. while Jesus was among them; but the exhortation has a wider application, and is for all time.

πιστεύετε εἰς τὸ φῶς. For the Johannine phrase πιστεύειν εἰς … see on 1:12; τὸ φῶς indicates here the Person who is the Light (1:4). To trust the Light, and walk in confidence that it will not mislead, is necessary for those who would become “sons of light.”

υἱοὶ φωτός. The Oriental “looked upon any very intimate relationship—whether of connexion, origin, or dependence— as a relation of sonship, even in the spiritual sphere”;1 but there is nothing necessarily Hebraic in such a phrase as υἱὸς φωτός, which is not alien to the genius of the Greek language (cf. 17:12). It is equivalent to “an enlightened man,” and first appears in a saying of Jesus recorded in Luke 16:8, that the υἱοὶ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου are sometimes more prudent than the υἱοὶ τοῦ φωτός. The contrast between those who are in darkness and those who are υἱοὶ φωτός, as Paul called his converts, appears in 1 Thessalonians 5:5; and there is a similar exhortation in Ephesians 5:8 ὡς τέκνα φωτὸς περιπατεῖτε. φωτισμός became soon the regular word for the grace of baptism (cf. Hebrews 6:4, Hebrews 10:32); but there is no trace of this usage in Jn.

The Final Rejection by the Jews: The Evangelist’s Comment on Their Unbelief as Foreordained in Prophecy (vv. 36b-43)

36b. It is explained above (on v. 44) that the section vv. 44-50 has been transposed, so as to place v. 44 immediately after v. 36a. Thus the connexion of ideas is unbroken, and we now come to v. 36b.

“These things spake Jesus, and He departed and hid Himself from them.” This is the conclusion of Part II. of the Gospel,1 the climax of the Jerusalem ministry, the rejection of Jesus by the Jews. He had hidden Himself before (8:59), when the Jews sought to stone Him; but He went into seclusion now because He had given His last warning. The time for teaching was over.

In Mk. (13:35, 36) the final word to the Jews is, “Watch, … lest the Master coming suddenly find you sleeping.” But the final word in Jn. is more sombre, and is suggestive in its phrases of the judgment that afterwards came on the Jews: “Walk while ye have the Light, lest darkness overtake you. … While ye have the Light, believe in the Light” (vv. 35, 36). He had reiterated His august claims (vv. 44-50), and then He withdrew. Jn. does not say where He withdrew, but according to Luke 21:37 it seems to have been in Bethany that He passed the last nights.

37. Verses 37-43 contain an explanatory commentary by the evangelist upon the Rejection of Jesus by the Jews, its causes and its extent.2

τοσαῦτα, “so many” (cf. 6:9, 21:11), not “so great.” For the term σημεῖα, see on 2:11, 23. Many had believed in consequence of the “signs” that had been wrought; cf. 2:23, 4:45, 7:31, 11:47, 48, it being clear that Jn. knew of many “signs” other than those which he describes (cf. 20:30). But the nation as a whole did not accept Him (cf. 1:11, 3:11, 32, 5:43, 15:24), although some in high station were among those that believed, while they were afraid to confess it (v. 42). For the constr. ἐπίστευον εἰς αὐτόν, see on 1:12.

38. Jn. does not hesitate to say that the unbelief of the Jews was “in order that” the prophecies of Isaiah should be fulfilled. ἵνα πληρωθῇ must be given its full telic force; see Introd., p. cliv. Paul (Romans 10:16) quotes Isaiah 53:1 to illustrate this unbelief and as a prophecy of it, but he does not say ἵνα πληρ. as Jn. does (cf. 1:29, 19:30).

The quotation is from Isaiah 53:1, Isaiah 53:2, introduced by the opening word κύριε, which is also added in the LXX. Here, probably, Jn. is influenced by the LXX version.

There was a twofold fulfilment: (1) the people did not believe the words of Jesus, and (2) they did not recognise the “arm of the Lord” in His signs. In the O.T. the “arm of God” is often figurative of His power (Deu 5:15, cf. Luke 1:51), especially in Deutero-Isaiah (40:10, 51:9, 52:10, 63:5). One of the theses of Cyprian’s Testimonia (ii. 4) is “Quod Christus idem manus et brachium Dei, ” and he quotes Isaiah 53:1, Isaiah 53:2 as here; but it would be to go beyond the evidence to conclude that this idea is in the thought of Jn.

39. διὰ τοῦτο, i.e. because of the prophetic words of Isaiah which follow: they had to be fulfilled, for they were the expression of Divine foreknowledge.1

διὰ τοῦτο refers to what follows, not to what precedes; see note on 5:16, and cf. 1 John 3:1.

ὅτι πάλιν κτλ., “because again Isaiah said, etc.”

40. This second quotation, from Isaiah 6:10, differs markedly from the LXX. (1) The LXX has altered the Hebrew, which ascribes the hardening of Israel’s heart to God’s agency, and throws the sentence into a passive form: ἐπαχύνθη γὰρ ἡ καρδία τοῦ λαοῦ τούτου κτλ. Jn., however, reproduces the sense (although not the exact phrases) of the Hebrew “He hath hardened their heart.” (2) The LXX has μήποτε ἴδωσιν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς. Now Jn. (and it is one of the notable features of his style) never uses μήποτε. Instead, he has ἵνα μὴ here and elsewhere (see on 3:20), which may represent the Aramaic דְּלָא. Indeed דְּלָא is actually reproduced in the Pesh. rendering of Isaiah 6:10. Burney infers2 that Jn. is here translating direct from the Aramaic.

The passage Isaiah 6:10 is quoted also by Mt. (13:15), who takes it verbally from the LXX. He places it in the mouth of Jesus Himself; it is not in Mt., as in Jn., an illustrative passage quoted by the evangelist. It is quoted also in Acts 28:26 from the LXX, where Paul is represented as applying its words to the Jews at Rome. Probably Isaiah 6:10 was regarded by Christians from the beginning as predictive of the Rejection of Jesus by the Jews (cf. Mark 4:12, Luke 8:10).

The prophets often speak of people who “have eyes and see not, and ears and hear not” (Jeremiah 5:21, Ezekiel 12:2; cf. Isaiah 42:20), and the same thing may be observed in every age and country. The child’s story of “Eyes and no Eyes” has a universal application. But Isaiah 6:10 speaks of a penal blindness, an insensibility which was, as it were, a Divine punishment for sin. So at Isaiah 44:18 we have, “He hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.” And in Deuteronomy 29:4 the comment of Moses when the Israelites did not recognise the meaning of the “signs” in Egypt is, “The Lord hath not given you an heart to know and eyes to see and ears to hear unto this day.” Paul makes this doctrine his own: “God gave them eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear” (Romans 11:8). That sin causes a blindness of the soul, a moral insensibility to spiritual truths, is a law of the natural, that is of the Divine, order.

Jesus rebukes the multitude (Mark 8:18) who did not rightly interpret the miracle of the loaves, by saying, “Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not?” In explaining the Parable of the Sower to His disciples, while He did not explain it to the multitudes, He gave the reason, “Unto them that are without all things are done in parables, that seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand, lest haply they should turn again and it should be forgiven them” (Mark 4:11, Mark 4:12, Luke 8:10). Matthew 13:13 gives the same saying, and represents Jesus as quoting Isaiah 6:9, Isaiah 6:10 in full from the LXX, which does not ascribe the moral blindness of the people to the agency of God.

Jn., however, never shrinks from a direct statement of events as predestined; if things happened, it was because God intended them to happen. He does not attempt here to soften down the tremendous judgment of Isaiah 6:9, Isaiah 6:10.

The verb ἐπώρωσεν has been generally translated “hardened.” But this is a misleading rendering.1 πώρωσις is numbness, rather than hardness; and the prophet’s ἐπώρωσεν αὐτῶν τῆν καρδίαν is strictly parallel to the first half of the verse, τετύφλωκεν αὐτῶν τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς. We should translate:

“He hath blinded their eyes,

and darkened their hearts,”

for πώρωσις τῆς καρδίας is precisely “blindness of heart.” See 9:39 above; and cf. 8:43.

ἐπώρωσεν. So AB*LWΘ; the rec. has πεπώρωκεν (ΓΔ).

στραφῶσιν is read by אBD*, and is therefore to be preferred to the rec. ἐπιστραφῶσιν. LWΘ have ἐπιστρέψωσιν. Field points out that στραφῶσιν is to be taken in a middle sense, “turn themselves”; cf. a similar usage at 20:14, 16.

41. The true reading is ὅτι (אABLΘ), not ὅτε of the rec. text or ἔπει with W. It was not when Isaiah saw his vision of Yahweh and the seraphim that he announced the blindness of men’s eyes (Isaiah 6:1, Isaiah 6:2, Isaiah 6:10), but it was because the vision was so dazzling that he realised how far men were from being equal to it.

The vision was not with the eye of sense; it was spiritually that Isaiah “saw the Lord,” a statement that the Targum characteristically softens by saying he saw the glory of the Lord. But Jn. goes farther. He declares that in this vision Isaiah saw the glory of Christ, and spake of Him (εἶδεν τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐλάλησεν περὶ αὐτοῦ, αὐτοῦ necessarily referring to the same person in both limbs of the sentence). This illustrates well the freedom, so to speak, with which Jn. treats the O.T. In the vision of Isa_6, the prophet contemplates the awful glory of the invisible God; but the evangelist, in affirming that he spoke of the glory of Christ, identifies Christ with the Yahweh of Israel. It was a later Christian thought that the Logos was the agent of the O.T. theophanies, and it may be that Jn. means to suggest this. In any case, he seems to be aware of the Targum which says that Isaiah saw the glory of Yahweh (see on 1:14).

42. ὅμως μέντοι. The Coptic Q omits both words. Neither of them is used by the Synoptists, ὅμως occurring again in N.T. only 1 Corinthians 14:7, Galatians 3:15. For μέντοι, cf. 4:27, 7:13, 20:5, 21:4.


οὐχ ὡμολόγουν, “they were not confessing Him.” For ὁμολογεῖν used of “confessing” Christ, see 1:20, 9:22, 1 John 2:23, 1 John 2:4:2, 1 John 2:3, 1 John 2:15, Romans 10:9.

ἵνα μή … For this favourite constr. of Jn., see on 3:20.


The section vv. 44-50 can represent only a summary of the teaching of Jesus on the occasion. See below on vv. 36b-43. His final warning recalls the lament over Jerusalem’s unbelief and its rejection of His claims preserved in Matthew 23:37-39, Luke 13:34, Luke 13:35.

44. Ἰησοῦς δὲ ἔκραξεν καὶ εἶπεν. The def. art. is omitted here before Ἰησοῦς, contrary to the general usage of Jn. (see on 1:50). But he often omits it in the phrase�

That he who believes on (or accepts) the Son accepts the Father, is a saying found in the Synoptists: ὁ ἐμὲ δεχόμενος δέχεται τὸν�Matthew 10:40; cf. Luke 9:48). Jn. here substitutes his favourite word πιστεύειν for δέχεσθαι, and also uses πέμπειν for�

Cf. 5:24 πιστεύων τῷ πέρψαντί με, and (for the general sense of the verse) 8:19, 42. In 14:1 the argument is turned round: “Ye believe in God; believe also in me.”

45. ὁ θεωρῶν ἐμέ κτλ. θεωρεῖν is used here (as at 6:40, 14:19) of spiritual vision. Not all those who saw Jesus with bodily eyes “saw the Father.” For θεωρεῖν, see on 2:23; and cf. the saying ὁ ἑωρακὼς ἐμὲ ἑώρακεν τὸν πατέρα (14:9, where see note). So at v. 41 Jn. identifies the δόξα of Christ with the δόξα of God. Cf. 8:19.

τὸν πέμψαντά με. Fam. 13 read�

ἵνα πᾶς (B om. πᾶς per incuriam) ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμέ κτλ., “in order that every one that believeth in me may not remain in darkness” (going back to v. 35), sc. in the darkness which is the normal state of man before the revelation of Christ (cf. 1 John 2:9, 1 John 2:11). The form of the sentence is that of 3:16 ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ�

47. ἐάν τίς μου�

φυλάττειν is used in Mark 10:20 of “keeping” the Ten Commandments; cf. Luke 11:28. In the Sermon on the Mount, the man “who hears these words and does them not” (Matthew 7:26) is compared to one who builds on the sand. Of him Jesus says here ἐγὼ οὐ κρίνω αὐτόν (see note on 8:15); He came not to judge the world, but to save the world (see on 3:17). There is a sense in which “judgment” is inevitably the issue of His Advent (cf. 9:39), but it was not the main purpose of that Advent. See on 1:33.

The clause, “I came not to judge the world, but to save the world,” recalls an addition to the text at Luke 9:55. In that passage Jesus rebuked James and John, the true text, according to אABCL, being στραφεὶς δὲ ἐπετίμησεν αὐτοῖς. But a “Western and Syrian” addition (to use the nomenclature of Westcott-Hort) gives: “and said, Ye know not what spirit ye are of, for the Son of man came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” If this Western text represents a true tradition (whether it be Lucan or not) of words addressed by Jesus to John the son of Zebedee, it is significant that similar words should be ascribed to Jesus in the “Gospel according to St. John.” If, however, the words ὁ γὰρ υἱὸς τοῦ�

48.�Luke 10:16. For the phrase λαμβάνων τὰ ῥήματά μου, cf. 17:8; and see Matthew 13:20.

He who receives not the word of Christ “has one who judges him,” sc. the “word” itself, which shall rise up in judgment against him at the Last Day (cf. Deuteronomy 18:19). The λόγος is the “saying,” or the sum of the ῥήματα, the words spoken. With this passage cf. Matthew 10:32, Luke 12:8, Luke 12:9; and see Introd., p. clix.

For the Johannine use of ἐκεῖνος, see on 1:8; and for the phrase “the Last Day,” peculiar to Jn., see on 6:39.

49. The reason why His word is final and absolute, is that it is not His own merely, but that it is the word of God who sent Him, and thus provides the ultimate test by which men are judged.

ἐγὼ ἐξ ἐμαυτοῦ οὐκ ἐλάλησα. He had said this before (7:17). We cannot distinguish�

αὐτός μοι ἐντολὴν δέδωκεν, “Himself hath given me commandment …,” the pft. tense expressing continuing action (cf. 14:31). The rec. ἔδωκε has only secondary uncial support. See 17:8 τα ῥήματα ἃ ἔδωκάς μοι δέδωκα αὐτοῖς; and cf. 10:18, 14:31, 15:10 for the ἐντολή of the Father to Christ. Of the Prophet to come (Deuteronomy 18:18), Yahweh had said, “I will put my words in His mouth, and He shall speak unto them all that I shall command Him.” Indeed, the formula of all the prophets was, “Thus saith Yahweh.”

τί εἴπω καὶ τί λαλήσω. Perhaps both the substance and the form of His words are suggested by the two verbs; but it seems simpler to treat them as identical in meaning here (see λαλῶ, v. 50), the repetition being in the style of dignity.

Justin (Tryph. 56) recalls this Johannine doctrine of the relation of the Son to the Father: “He never did anything except what God willed Him to do or to speak” (βεβούληται καὶ πρᾶξαι καὶ ὁμιλῆσαι).

50. καὶ οἶδα ὅτι κτλ. Cf. 5:32, 8:55, this form of solemn assurance being used in each case by Jesus, when speaking of His knowledge of the “witness” or “commandment” of God, or of God Himself.

ἡ ἐντολὴ αὐτοῦ ζωὴ αἰώνιός ἐστιν. See for ζωὴ αἰώνιος on 3:15; and cf. 6:68, where Peter confesses to Jesus ῥήματα ζωῆς αἰωνίου ἔχεις. It is instructive to recall the Synoptic story that the answer to the young man who asked τί ποιήσω ἵνα ζωὴν αἰώνιον κληρονομήσω; was to refer him to the Ten Commandments (Mark 10:18). It is not only for Jn., but for the Synoptists too, that the Divine Commandment, when fully realised, is Eternal Life, although in the Synoptists the idea of eternal life as already present is only latent and is not made explicit.

καθὼς εἴρηκέν μοι ὁ πατήρ, οὕτως λαλῶ. This is the secret of the absolute value of the words of Jesus; cf. 8:28 and 14:31.

1 Attempts have been made to treat this Simon as the father, or as the husband, of Martha; but there is no early evidence.

2 See Introd., p. xcvi, for the parallels in full.

1 J. B. Mayor (D.B., iii. 280) cites Aristoph. Vespœ 608, where a daughter is represented as anointing and kissing her father’s feet.

1 A good and convenient summary will be found in J. B. Mayor’s article, “Mary,” in D.B., vol. iii.

1 Salmon held Jn. to believe that Mary had anointed the Lord’s feet twice, but he did not discuss the matter fully (Human Element in the Gospels, p. 484).

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

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).

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.

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.

אԠSinaiticus (δ 2). Leningrad. iv.

B Vaticanus (δ 1). Rome. Cent. iv.

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).

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

1 See Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr. in John 12:3.

E.B. Cheyne’s Encyclopædia Biblica, 4 vols. (1899-1903).

1 See Introd., p. xcvi.

1 See also Moulton-Milligan, Vocab.106.

1 See Introd., p. xcvii.

2 Ibid., p. xcvi.

1 See Dalman, Words of Jesus, p. 220 f.; Cooper, in D.C.G. i. 749; and Cheyne, in E.B. 2117, for the word hosanna.

1 Justin (Dial. 53) follows Mt. in this, and specially dwells upon the choice of two animals.

1 See Sanday, Sacred Sites, p. 95; G. A. Smith, Hist. Geogr. of Holy Land, p. 458; Rix, Tent and Testament, pp. 265 ff.; the last-named work giving a full discussion of the situation of Bethsaida.

1 E.B., 1829, s.v. “Gospels.”

1 For a full and learned account of the doctrine of bath-qôl, see Abbott, Diat. 726 f.; and cf. Dalman, Words of Jesus, p. 204 f.

2 See Box, D.C.G. ii. 810.

3 Abbott, Diat. 783.

1 Cf. also Schlatter, Die Sprache, etc., p. 121.

1 Cf. Introd., p. cxxiii.

1 Cf. Abbott, Diat. 2998 (xxi. b).

2 So R.V. It is possible that we should translate ὡς by “according as.”

1 Cf. Deissmann, Bible Studies, pp. 161 ff., for a full discussion of υἱός with a genitive following.

1 Cf. Introd., p. xxx.

2 Cf. Introd., p. xxxiv.

1 Cf. Introd., p. cliv.

2 Aramaic Origin, p. 100.

1 See, for a full note on πώρωσις, J. A. Robinson, Ephesians, pp. 264 ff.

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

B Vaticanus (δ 1). Rome. Cent. iv.

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.

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.

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).

1 Luke 18:18f. Cf. Garvie, The Beloved Disciple, p. 231.

B Vaticanus (δ 1). Rome. Cent. iv.

אԠSinaiticus (δ 2). Leningrad. iv.

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

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).

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.

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

Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on John 12". International Critical Commentary NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/icc/john-12.html. 1896-1924.
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