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Bible Commentaries
John 15

International Critical Commentary NTInternational Critical

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Verses 1-99

The Vine and the Branches (vv. 1-8)

15:1. The comparison of Jesus to a Tree, and of His disciples to the branches which derive their life from the life of the Tree, is similar in some respects to an illustration used by Paul to explain the relation of the individual Israelite to his forefathers, Abraham and the rest. “If the root is holy, so are the branches” (Romans 11:16). Israel is compared to an olive tree, the roots being the patriarchs and the branches their descendants. But the illustration of Jesus conveys a deeper lesson, as we shall see.

The question presents itself: Why is the vine selected as the tree best fitted to bring out the lesson which it was the purpose of Jesus to teach? A vine has none of the dignity of the olive, with its fine trunk and spreading branches. Vines, indeed, in the East generally trail on the ground, although they are sometimes supported on stakes (cf. Ezekiel 17:6f.), or entwine themselves round a greater tree (as in the parable in Hermas, Sim. ii.). The olive was regarded in an older parable as fit to be the king of trees (Judges 9:8). It is the most important of the fruit trees of Palestine, and was a familiar object in Jerusalem, as the name “the Mount of Olives” indicates. Vines were also plentiful, especially in Judæa (cf. Genesis 49:11), but for strength and stateliness they are much inferior to the olive, as to many other trees.

The reason generally assigned by exegetes for the employment here of the figure of a vine is that it is frequently used in the O.T. as a type of Israel. But it is always thus used of degenerate Israel. “What is the vine tree more than any other tree?” Ezekiel asks (15:2), and he declares that as vine branches are only fit for burning, the vine of Jerusalem must be devoured by fire. So again (Ezekiel 19:10), Israel was once a fruitful vine, but she was plucked up and destroyed. The choicest vine was planted in the vineyard of Yahweh, but it only brought forth wild grapes (Isaiah 5:1). Israel was planted as a noble vine, but it became degenerate (Jeremiah 2:21). Israel is a luxuriant vine, but judgment comes on her (Hosea 10:1). The vine from Egypt of God’s planting spread far and wide, but the fences of its vineyard were broken, and it was ravaged by wild beasts (Psalms 80:8-13). God had chosen “of all the trees … one vine,” as He had chosen one people, but it came to dishonour (2 Esd. 5:23). Always in the O.T., where Israel is compared to a vine, the comparison introduces a lament over her degeneracy, or a prophecy of her speedy destruction. See also Revelation 14:19, where the vintage of the earth is cast into the winepress of the wrath of God. None the less, the vine was the national emblem, and on the coins of the Maccabees Israel is represented by a vine. And it has been thought that when Jesus said “I am the True Vine,” the comparison in view was that between the degenerate vine of Israel and the Ideal Vine represented by Himself. That is to say, the True Vine is now brought before the disciples as the new ideal of the spiritual Israel.

This, however, involves a comparison of the Church of Christ with the True Vine (cf. Justin, Tryph. 110), rather than an identification of Christ Himself with it. No doubt, by describing His disciples as the branches, Jesus connected them as well as Himself with the mystic vine of His similitude; but the emphasis in the sentence ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἄμπελος ἡ�

ἡ ἄμπελος ἡ�James 3:12, James 3:14:18, 19, and Mark 14:25 (and parls.), where Jesus said that He would not drink again of τὸ γένημα τῆς�


καὶ ὁ πατήρ μου (see on 2:16) ὁ γεωργός ἐστιν. γεωργός occurs again only at 2 Timothy 2:6, James 5:7, and in the parable of the wicked husbandmen (Mark 12:1 and parallels). Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9 θεοῦ γεώργιον … ἐστέ.

2. πᾶν κλῆμα κτλ Note the pendent nominative, as at 6:39, 17:2. κλῆμα is a word which does not appear again in the N.T.; but it is habitually used in the LXX for the “shoot” of a vine (e.g. Numbers 13:24, Ezekiel 17:6), as distinct from the “branch” (κλάδος) of other trees.

ἐν ἐμοὶ μὴ φέρον καρπόν. Note that a κλῆμα or branch may be truly in Christ, and yet may not bear fruit. μή expresses a hypothetical possibility. This severe warning, coming so soon after the beginning of the allegory, was probably an allusion to the failure and doom of Judas, who had gone forth to his treachery just before, in the arrangement of chapters here adopted.

αἴρει αὐτό. “He takes it away.” So, too, the κλάδοι of the olive which represented Israel in Paul’s illustration, were of the true stock, but some of them were broken off by God (Romans 11:16, Romans 11:17). The action of the Great Husbandman in this is like that of every earthly γεωργός: inutilesque falce ramos amputans (Horace, Epod. ii. 13). Cf. Matthew 3:10, Luke 3:9.

καὶ πᾶν τὸ καρπὸν φέρον, καθαίρει αὐτό The play on the words αἴρειν, καθαίρειν (suavis rhythmus, as Bengel says), cannot be reproduced in English.

καθαίρειν, to cleanse, occurs in the N.T. again only at Hebrews 10:2 (of religious cleansing), and is rare in the LXX. It is used here in the sense of “to cleanse by pruning,” as it is in Philo (de somn. ii. 9, cited by Cremer): “As superfluous shoots grow on plants, which are a great injury to the genuine shoots (τῶν γνησίων), and which the husbandmen (γεωργοῦντες) cleanse and prune (καθαίρουσι καὶ�

In the verse before us, however, the Great Husbandman does “cleanse” the fruitful branches by pruning off useless shoots, so that they may bear fruit more abundantly. It is not as if the branches were foul; on the contrary, they are already clean by virtue of their share in the life of the Vine (v. 3). But pruning may be good for them, none the less. Such pruning, according to Justin (Tryph. 110), illustrates God’s painful discipline for His true servants. The vine is a tree which specially needs attention, and it is essential to its fruitfulness that the already fruitful branches should be pruned regularly. Perhaps this is a warning anticipatory of the more explicit warning of vv. 20, 21.

ἵνα καρπὸν πλείονα φέρῃ. Cf. Matthew 13:12. The order καρπὸν πλείονα is that of אBL latt.

3. ἤδη ὑμεῖς καθαροί ἐστε. So Jesus had said before (13:10), the primary reference then being to bodily cleanness, although with an allusion to spiritual purity as well (see note in loc.). Here, the thought is carried on from v. 2, which spoke of the cleansing of the branches by the Great Husbandman (καθαίρειν). The disciples were not useless branches, presently to be cut off; they were in the way of bearing fruit, and already they had been “cleansed” διὰ τὸν λόγον ὃν λελάληκα ὑμῖν, “by the word which I have spoken to you.”

We have seen (on 6:57) that διά followed by an acc. is to be distinguished from διά with a gen. The text here is not διὰ τοῦ λόγου, which would suggest that the Word of Jesus is the instrument of cleansing; but διὰ τὸν λόγον signifies rather that it is because of the Word abiding in them (v. 7) that they are kept pure. The λόγος which had thus, in some measure, been assimilated by them (cf. 5:38, 8:43) was the whole message that Jesus had delivered during His training of the Twelve. In so far as this continued to “abide” in them (v. 7), in that degree were they “clean.” As it abides in them, so do they abide in the True Vine (1 John 2:24).

The cleansing τοῦ ὕδατος ἐν ῥήματι of Ephesians 5:26 does not constitute a true parallel to the thought here.

4. μείνατε ἐν ἐμοί, κἀγὼ ἐν ὑμῖν. This is an imperative sentence (for the aor. imper. see on 2:5). No doubt, the practical precept which was the issue of all the teaching of Jesus was just this; but we must not join the words to the preceding διὰ τὸν λόγον ὃν λελάληκα ὑμῖν, as if the precept itself were the λόγος. The words ἐν ἐμοὶ μένει, κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτῷ had been used before (6:56), but the promise of that passage has not heretofore been turned into an explicit precept (cf. 14:20). For λόγος as signifying not a single sentence, but the whole purport of the Divine revelation given by Christ, see on 5:38.

καθὼς τὸ κλῆμα κτλ. Even the fruitful branch does not bear fruit of itself (cf. for�

ἐβλήθη ἔξω. The branch that does not bear grapes is cast out (apparently, out of the vineyard). The aorists ἐβλήθη, ἐξηράνθη, seem to look forward to the future Judgment of mankind, and treat it as already past, so certain and inevitable is it. Abbott (Diat. 2445) compares Isaiah 40:7, Isaiah 40:8 ἐξηράνθη ὁ χόρτος καὶ τὸ ἄνθος ἐξέπεσεν, τὸ δὲ ῥῆμα τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν μένει, where the aorists are used in the same way. But a Greek aorist may be used without reference to any special moment of time.

ἐξηράνθη (it does not occur again in Jn.) is the word used, Mark 4:6, of the withering of the seed that had no root, as here of the vine shoot that is no longer “in” the vine.

καὶ συνάγουσιν αὐτό. So אDLΔ fam. 13; the rec. has αὐτά with ABΓΘ. “They” (sc. the servants of the Lord of the Vineyard, the subject being understood. but not expressed) “collect” the useless branches.

καὶ εἰς τὸ πῦρ βάλλουσιν κτλ., “and fling them into the fire.” Cf. Ezekiel 15:4, where the prophet says of the vine branch, “it is cast into the fire for fuel.” The vivid picture of the labourers burning at the harvest all that is worthless, appears also in Matthew 13:40 as an illustration of the Last Judgment.

7. The figure of the tree and its branches is left aside for the moment; and the consequence of abiding in Christ is declared to be not only the capacity for “bearing fruit,” but the acquisition of the power of efficacious prayer. This is the secret of the saints.

ἐὰν μείνητε ἐν ἐμοὶ (cf. v. 4 and 8:31) καὶ τὰ ῥήματά μου (sc. the “sayings” which make up the λόγος of v. 3) ἐν ὑμῖν μείνῃ κτλ. The man of whom this is true is a master of prayer, and his petitions will be answered. In the Synoptists faith is the prerequisite for efficacious prayer: πάντα ὅσα προσεύχεσθε καὶ αἰτεῖσθε, πιστεύετε ὅτι ἐλάβετε καὶ ἔσται ὑμῖν (Mark 11:24); “if you had faith you would say to this tree, Be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it would obey you” (Luke 17:6; cf. Matthew 17:20). πάντα δυνατὰ τῷ πιστεύοντι (Mark 9:23) is true of the life of prayer. But in Jn. faith in Christ is more than belief in His message, or fitful attraction to His Person; it is a continual abiding “in Him.” See further on v. 16 below; and cf. 6:29.

ὃ ἐὰν θέλητε αἰτήσασθε. For ὃ ἐάν (ADLΘ), B has ὃ ἄν, and א has ὅσα ἐάν. ABDL support the imperative αἰτήσασθε, while אΘ have αἰτήσεσθε.

ὃ ἐὰν θέλητε κτλ., “whatever you will, etc.”; petitions prompted by the indwelling words of Jesus cannot fail to be in harmony with the Divine Will. A petitioner who “abides in Christ” asks habitually “in His Name”; i.e. he asks as Christ would ask, and so his satisfaction is sure. See 14:13 and the note there; cf. also v. 16 below, and 16:23.

γενήσεται ὑμῖν, “it shall come to pass for you,” not as a boon granted arbitrarily, but as the inevitable sequence of the prayer.

8. ἐν τούτῳ, sc. in the fact that His followers abide in Christ (v. 7), the reference being retrospective: “in this is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit.” The γεωργός (v. 1) is always glorified if the trees of his planting are fruitful; and so in Isaiah 61:3 the purpose of the mission of Yahweh’s servant was “that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.” The perfection of human character is the glory of God: all good works are ad maiorem Dei gloriam (cf. Matthew 5:16). So Jesus spoke of His signs as exhibiting the glory of God (11:40).

The aor. ἐδοξάσθη is used proleptically. The issue is so sure that it is spoken of as already a fact. See, for a similar usage, v. 6 and 12:23, 13:1, 31.

For the phrase ὁ πατήρ μου, see on 2:16.

γενήσεσθε. So אA: γένησθε is read by BDLΘ. If γένησθε is read, the rendering is “that ye bear much fruit and become my disciples.” But γενήσεσθε is better: “that ye bear much fruit: so shall you become my disciples,” or literally “disciples to me,” ἐμοί (cf. 13:35.) expressing the relationship more affectionately than μου (which is read by D*). Cf. 8:31, “if ye abide in my word, ye are truly my disciples.”

It is to have gone a long way in the Christian course to be able to appropriate the promise of v. 7; but the final cause of such progress is that “fruit” may appear, not in service only but in the development of character, to the glory of God. And the highest aspiration of all is to become “a disciple.” “True discipleship is hardly begun until the earthly life is near its end and the fruit hangs thick and ripe upon the branches of the Vine”1 Cf. the saying of Ignatius, when on his way to martyrdom, νῦν ἅρχομαι μαθητὴς εἶναι (Rom_5).

The Love of Jesus for His Disciples (vv. 9-11)

9. καθὼς ἠγάπησέν με ὁ πατήρ (cf. 5:20, 17:24), κἀγὼ ὑμᾶς ἠγάπησα (13:34), “As the Father loved me, so also I loved you.” The words are spoken in retrospect of His association with the apostles, now that the hour of parting has come; but they convey an assurance of the depth and intimacy of His love to all future disciples.

For the constr. καθὼς … κἀγώ in Jn., see on 6:57, 10:15; and cf. also 17:18. For the verb�

μείνατε ἐν τῇ�Jude 1:21 ἑαυτοὺς ἐν�

10. The precept is “abide in my love,” and the way to obey it is to keep His commandments: ἐὰν τὰς ἐντολάς μου τηρήσητε, μενεῖτε ἐν τῇ�

καθὼς ἐγὼ (אD have καθὼς κἀγώ) τοῦ πατρός μου (B. om. μοῦ) τὰς ἐντολὰς τετήρηκα. This is the high example set before the Christian disciple. Jesus had claimed (8:29) ἐγὼ τὰ�2 Timothy 4:7).

καὶ μένω αὐτοῦ ἐν τῇ�

ἵνα ἡ χαρὰ ἡ ἐμή κτλ. Paul afterwards expressed the hope that his joy might be the joy of his disciples (2 Corinthians 2:3; cf. Philippians 2:2); but ἵνα ἡ χαρὰ ἡ ἐμὴ ἐν ὑμῖν ᾖ has a more mystical significance here. Jesus had spoken ταῦτα, i.e. ἐὰν τὰς ἐντολάς μου τηρήσητε, μενεῖτε ἐν τῇ�1 John 1:4 and 2 John 1:12, as also John 3:29, where it is put into the mouth of John the Baptist.

The New Commandment to Love the Brethren (vv. 12-17)

12. αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ ἐντολὴ ἡ ἐμή κτλ. Jesus had spoken of “commandments” to the disciples whom He was so soon to leave, and had promised that if they kept His commandments they would “abide in His love.” But He gives no detailed instructions, no set of precepts for the conduct of their lives. He gives only one commandment, for it will be enough, if fully realised.


καθὼς ἠγάπησα ὑμᾶς. This mutual love is to be no faint affection of goodwill; it must be a love which will pour itself out in sacrifice, if it is to be like the love of Jesus for all of them. This is the commandment which must be fulfilled by the disciple who will claim the promise “Ye shall abide in my love” (v. 10). You can live in the shelter of my love only if you love one another. Cf. Ephesians 5:2.

Abbott (Diat. 2529) calls attention to the frequent use of the present subjunctive in these Last Discourses, “that you may be loving,” etc., the precept extending to all future generations of Christian disciples.

13. μείζονα ταύτης�Romans 5:7, Romans 5:8). But here something less is commended to the imitation of the Christian disciple, for the “new commandment” does not speak of universal brotherhood, but only of the obligations of Christian brethren to each other. The precept is reproduced, 1 John 3:16: ἐν τούτῳ ἐγνώκαμεν τὴν�

ἵνα τις τὴν ψυχήν κτλ. This is in apposition to ταύτης: cf. 4:34 for a similar use of ἵνα. τις is omitted by א*D*Θ and some Latin vss., but אcABD2L have it.

14. ὑμεῖς φίλοι μού ἐστε κτλ. This is another way of expressing what has already been said in v. 10. Those who abide in Christ’s�

ἃ ἐγὼ ἐντέλλομαι ὑμῖν. According to Matthew 28:20, this was also to be the burden of the apostles’ preaching: διδάσκοντες αὐτοὺς τηρεῖν πάντα ὅσα ἐνετειλάμην ὑμῖν.

ἅ. So אDL fam. 13. B has ὅ, and AΓΔΘ have ὅσα.

15. οὐκέτι λέγω ὑμᾶς δούλους κτλ. They were accustomed to call Him Mar as well as Rabbi (see on 1:38, 13:13), and δοῦλος, “slave,” is the correlative of Mar, “Lord.” He had applied the term δοῦλος to them, 13:16; and He had implied that to be His διάκονος was a dignity.

There is nothing derogatory in being described as δοῦλος κυρίου, עֶבֶד יְהוָֹה; on the contrary, it was a title of honour, and as such is used of Joshua (Joshua 24:29), Moses (Deuteronomy 34:5), David (Psalms 89:20 etc.); in the N.T. Simeon uses it of himself (Luke 2:29), the Epistle to Titus begins Παῦλος δοῦλος Θεοῦ, and the Epistle of James has Ἰάκωβος Θεοῦ καὶ Κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ δοῦλος (James 1:1). To this day, Abd-allah is a favourite name in the East. Abraham was singularly honoured by being called the friend of Yahweh (Ἀβραὰμ ὃν ἠγάπησα, Isaiah 41:8; cf. 2 Chronicles 20:7, James 2:23), and still is called by the Arabs, El-Khalil.

This distinction between God’s “slave” and His “friend” appears in Philo. He says that while we speak of God as the δεσπότης or κύριος of the external world, in reference to the spiritual world (τὸ νοητὸν�Genesis 18:17 in the form “Shall I hide it from Abraham my friend?” According to the Book of Wisdom (7:27), to be God’s friend (φίλος) is a privilege of holy men in every generation.

Thus the difference drawn out in the text between the δοῦλοι and the φίλοι of Jesus corresponds to the difference, familiar to the Jews, between the δοῦλοι and the φίλοι of God, and conveys an additional suggestion of the Divinity of Jesus, which is behind the teaching of the Fourth Gospel from beginning to end.

The chief officials of an Eastern monarch were called his “friends” (1 Macc. 2:18, 3:38, 10:65 etc.), and Swete suggests that there is here an allusion to this nomenclature. “He has lifted them out of the condition of menial service, and raised them gradually into that of the friends of the Messianic king.” But this does not seem to be in harmony with vv. 14, 15b, where the duties and privileges of “friends” as distinct from “slaves” are explained.

To be a δοῦλος of Jesus was the first stage in the progress of a Christian disciple; and the early Christian leaders, speaking of themselves, claim to be His δοῦλοι (Acts 4:29, Romans 1:1, Galatians 1:10, etc.), while they do not venture to claim the further honour of His φιλία, which was given to the Eleven on the eve of the Lord’s Passion. The difference appears in this, that a slave obeys his lord, without claiming to know the reason for his lord’s actions, while a friend shares his knowledge and is admitted to his secrets. ὁ δοῦλος οὐκ οἶδεν κτλ. Thus the apostles did not know the significance of the action of Jesus in washing their feet (13:7, 12).

ὑμᾶς δὲ εἴρηκα φίλους. So Luke records (Luke 12:4), at an earlier stage of their training, that Jesus addressed His disciples as “my friends.” And He had implied many times that they were His friends, because He had expounded to them more freely than to others the mysteries of the kingdom of God (Mark 4:11).

ὅτι πάντα ἃ ἤκουσα παρὰ τοῦ π. κτλ. Always His message was of the things which He had “heard” from His Father (cf. 8:26, 40); but He did not disclose everything to the multitudes. It was only to His chosen friends that He had made known the ὄνομα of the Father (17:26); but from them He had hidden nothing that they were able to bear (cf. 16:12).

γνωρίζειν, “to make known,” occurs in Jn. again only at 17:26.

16. The apostles were henceforth His chosen friends, and herein was encouragement for them, who were so soon to take up their mission, in the absence of their Master. It would be a mission of difficulty, but their Call was their Power.

οὐχ ὑμεῖς με ἐξελέξασθε,�Acts 9:15), and had been chosen by Jesus after a night of prayer (Luke 6:13). It is constantly taught in the Fourth Gospel that God’s love precedes the movement of man’s soul to Him (see on 3:16).

καὶ ἔθηκα ὑμᾶς,1 “and appointed you,” sc. to your special work; cf. for τίθημι used thus, Acts 20:28, 1 Timothy 1:12.

ἵνα ὑμεῖς ὐπάγητε. ὑπάγειν is used at Luke 10:3 of the “going forth” of the Seventy on their mission. For ὑπάγειν in Jn., see on 7:33.

καὶ καρπὸν φέρητε, primarily the fruit of success in their apostolic labours, but also indicating the perfecting of personal character (cf. v. 4).

καὶ ὁ καρπὸς ὑμῶν μέῃ, “and your fruit may abide.” Jesus had said to a group of disciples on a former occasion, ὁ θερίζων … συνάγει καρπὸν εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον (4:36), and the thought is the same in this passage. Cf. Revelation 14:13 and 1 Corinthians 15:58.

ἵνα ὅ τι ἂν αἰτήσητε (so אADNΘ, but BL have αἰτῆτε) τὸν πατέρα ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου δῷ ὑμῖν (cf. v. 7). This great promise occurs six times (with slight variations) in the Last Discourses (cf. 16:23, 24, 26, 14:13, 14); and in these passages the philosophy, so to speak, of Christian prayer is unfolded, as nowhere else in the N.T.

In the Sermon on the Mount we have the simple words αἰτεῖτε καὶ δοθήσεται ὑμῖν (Matthew 7:7). But, when the Lord’s Prayer is prescribed for use, it is made plain that there are conditions which must be fulfilled, if prayer is to be acceptably offered, and one of these is Thy Will be done. Prayer that is not submissive to that condition has no promise of answer. Another condition is suggested Matthew 18:19: “If two of you shall agree as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them by my Father.” Prayer may be selfish, so that the granting of one man’s petition may be the refusal of another’s. But if men agree, that barrier is removed. If all men agreed in asking the Eternal for the same thing, the prayer could be offered with entire confidence. And Jn. tells that Jesus expressed the supreme condition of Christian prayer by saying that it must be offered ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου, “in my Name.” For Christ embraces all men. He is the Man. A petition which is one that He could offer is one the fulfilment of which could hurt none and would benefit all (cf. 11:22). So, in Johannine language, the prayer which is of certain efficacy must be ἐν τῷ ὁνόματι αὐτοῦ, and that is enough. Jn. doe not speak of importunity in prayer, as Lk. does (Luke 11:8); but it is reiterated in the Fourth Gospel that the will of the man who prays must be in harmony with Christ’s will (cf. 1 John 5:14). The man must be ἐν ἐμοί, a phrase used several times in these Last Discourses (14:20, 15:4, 7, 16:33; cf. 6:56, 1 John 5:20), with which Paul’s ἐν Χριστῷ should be compared (Romans 12:5, Romans 12:16:7, 1 Corinthians 15:18, 2 Corinthians 5:17).1 This condition has been already expressed in different words at v. 7: “If ye abide in me, and my sayings abide in you, ask (αἰτήσασθε) what you will, and it shall be done to you.” To pray “in the Name” of Christ is not any magical invocation of the Name, nor is it enough to add per Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum, but it is to pray as one who is “in Christ.” Such are the prayers of the saints.

For the significance of “the Name,” see on 1:12; and for ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου in other contexts, cf. Luke 10:17, John 14:26, John 20:31, Ephesians 5:20.

The repeated ἵνα … ἵνα challenges attention. The final cause of the choice of the apostles was that they should “go forth and bear fruit,” in their own lives as well as in their missionary labours, so that at last they should become masters of effectual prayer.

17. ταῦτα ἐντέλλομαι ὑμῖν (cf. v. 14), ἵνα�

18. εἰ ὁ κόσμος ὑμᾶς μισεῖ κτλ. The disciples are not to expect that the world will love them (cf. 1 John 3:13), and of its future hostility they are now warned explicitly (see on 16:4 below). Jesus had told His “brethren” that the world could not hate them (7:7), but that was because they were on the world’s side, and not on His, as all His disciples must be.

γινώσκετε ὅτο ἐμὲ πρῶτον ὑμῶν μεμίσηκεν, “know (scitote) that it has hated me first.” γινώσκετε is imperative, like μνημονεύετε in v. 20. Despite His words on a former occasion (7:7), the disciples had not yet realised the measure of the “world’s” hatred for Jesus, the world being here represented by the hostile Jews.

ὑμῶν is omitted by אD a b c e ff2, but is found in אcABLNΘ f g l vg. etc. and the Syriac vss. If it be omitted, the constr. is easy; but if it be retained, πρῶτον ὑμῶν presents the same difficulties as πρῶτός μου in 1:15. Abbott (Diat. 1901) would translate here “that it hath hated me, your Chief, ” which might be defended by the vg. priorem uobis. But this seems unsatisfactory, and it is best to take πρῶτον ὑμῶν as if it were πρότερον ὑμῶν (see on 1:15).

19. εἰ ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου ἦτε. Those who are “of the world” (cf. 1 John 4:5) are sharply contrasted by Jn. with the Christian disciples, whose “otherworldliness” he always speaks of with emphasis. See, particularly, 17:14, 16. One of the characteristics of the writings of Jn. is that he always paints in black and white, without allowing for intermediate shades of colour. He will have no compromise with evil. For him the Church and the world are set over against each other, and he does not contemplate their reconcilement.1

ὁ κόσμος ἂν τὸ ἴδιον ἐφίλει, “the world would have loved its own,” that which is in harmony with worldly ideals. The apostles, on the other hand, are not “of the world.” Out of it they had been chosen (see v. 16, and cf. 13:18), and so the world hated them. διὰ τοῦτο refers to what has gone before, as at 6:65. Thus vv. 16-20 taught the apostles that if to abide in Christ is the secret of fruitful lives and of effectiveness in prayer, it also provokes the world’s hostility. But this hostility carries with it a promise and a benediction (cf. 1 Peter 4:14, Matthew 5:11).

With the Johannine teaching as to the hatred of the Church by the world (7:7, 17:14, 1 John 3:13), cf. the fine saying of Ignatius: “Christianity (χριστιανισμός) is not talk, but power, when it is hated by the world” (Rom_3).

20. μνημονεύετε τοῦ λόγου οὗ ἐγὼ εἶπον ὐμῖν, “Be mindful of the saying which I said to you.” μνημονεύειν occurs again in Jn. only at 16:4, 21. א reads here τὸν λόγον ὃν ἐγὼ ἐλάλησα ὑμῖν.

We have already had the saying οὐκ ἔστιν δοῦλος μείζων τοῦ κυρίου αὐτοῦ at 13:16 (where see note), but Jesus probably repeated it more than once, the reference here perhaps being to the occasion when He gave a charge to the newly chosen apostles (Matthew 10:24; cf. Luke 6:40). They had been warned then that they would not be exempt from persecution (cf. Matthew 10:17-23); it was even more necessary that they should bear this in mind in the days that were coming. He had told them that He counted them as friends rather than servants (v. 15), but for all that the saying “The servant is not greater than his lord” would be applicable to their situation in a hostile world. The moral He had drawn from this saying at the Last Supper, earlier in the evening, was different (13:16).

εἰ ἐμὲ ἐδίωξαν, “If they persecuted me,” the subject being ὁ κόσμος, taken as a noun of multitude, from v. 19. Jn. has already spoken of the persecution (ἐδίωκον) of Jesus by the Jews, because of the freedom with which He treated the rules of the Sabbath (5:16).

καὶ ὑμᾶς διώξουσιν, “they will persecute you also,” a warning repeated in other language at 16:33. Lk. records a similar warning (Luke 21:12), and Mark 10:30 notes that Jesus accompanied a promise of temporal blessings to the faithful with the significant addition of μετὰ διωγμῶν. There is no reason to doubt that Jesus did thus predict that persecution would be the lot of His disciples; and it is unnecessary to accumulate proofs that the prediction came true (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:12, 2 Corinthians 4:9, Galatians 4:29, 2 Timothy 3:12).

εἰ τὸν λόγον μου ἐτήρησαν, καὶ τὸν ὑμέτερον τηρήσουσιν, “if they kept my word, they will keep yours also.” For the phrase τὸν λόγον τηρεῖν, a favourite phrase in Jn., see on 8:51, 14:15. In Ezekiel 3:7 Yahweh is represented as saying to the prophet, “They will not hearken unto thee, because they will not hearken unto me”; and this would apply to the apostles of Jesus. But the saying recorded here by Jn. goes farther. Those who observe the word of Jesus will also observe the word of His apostles, it being implied of course that the apostles will utter no “word” for which they have not the authority of their Master. A world which “observed” the teaching of Jesus would inevitably “observe” the teaching of those who could rightly claim His commission. The difficulty of drawing inferences from this great assurance, once Christendom was divided, is illustrated by the whole course of Christian history. Jesus, however, goes on to insist that it is the other alternative which the apostles must prepare to face; not acquiescence, but opposition, will be the portion of those who proclaim His gospel.


διὰ τὸ ὄνομά μου, “for my Name’s sake.” Persecution will come, but it will be easier to bear if they remember why it comes, and whose cause it is that they are upholding. This, again, had been said to them before, when they received their apostolic commission: ἔσεσθε μισούμενοι ὑπὸ πάντων διὰ τὸ ὄνομά μου (Matthew 10:22; see above on v. 20). The same warning appears in the Marcan tradition in a different context (Mark 13:13, Matthew 24:9, Luke 21:17), but in identical terms. A few verses before these passages in Mk. and Lk., the apostles had been told that they would be haled before rulers and kings, ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ (Mark 13:9) or ἕνεκεν τοῦ ὀνόματός μου (Luke 21:12); and there is no substantial difference in meaning between these expressions and διὰ τὸ ὄνομά μου.

The Name of God is equivalent in the O.T. to His revealed character (see on 1:12); and in 1 Samuel 12:22, 2 Chronicles 6:32, Jeremiah 14:21, we find διὰ τὸ ὄνομα [τὸ μέγα], “on account of His great Name,” sc. because He is what He is. In the N.T. we have the phrase διὰ τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ, used of the Name of Christ, not only in the passages cited above, but at 1 John 2:12, Revelation 2:3. His “Name” signified His revealed character, His Person; and those who suffered “on account of His Name” suffered because they proclaimed His Name as supreme. Cf. Polycarp, Phil. 8: ἐὰν πάσχωμεν διὰ τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ, δοξάζωμεν αὐτόν. In the persecutions of the early centuries, to confess “the Name” was to court death. Cf. 1 Peter 4:14, Acts 5:41; Ignatius, Eph_3.

ὅτι οὐκ οἴδασιν τὸν πέμψαντά με. Ignorance of the character of God is the cause of failure to recognise the claims of Christ, who came as the Ambassador of the Father. Cf. Luke 23:34, Acts 3:17, for ignorance as the cause of the Jews’ rejection of Christ; and see further on 16:3.

Jesus said before (8:19; cf. 14:9) that to know Him is to know the Father; here He says that to know the Father is to know Him (cf. 8:42). For the conception of Jesus as “sent” by the Father, which so frequently appears in Jn., see on 3:17.

22. That the Jews did not “know” God as revealed in Christ would be the cause of their hatred of Christ and of Christians (v. 21); and this ignorance is now shown to be inexcusable, (a) because the words of Jesus should have found an echo in their minds (v. 22), and (b) because His works should have convinced them of His Divine mission (v. 24).

The constr. εἰ μὴ … ἁμαρτίαν οὐκ εἴχοσαν· νῦν δὲ … is identical in vv. 22, 24; and it is noteworthy that ἄν is omitted, which perhaps makes the sentence more emphatic, “If I had not … assuredly they would have no sin.” In both verses εἴχοσαν (אBLN) is to be preferred to the rec. εἶχον.

εἰ μὴ ἦλθον. This is the Messianic ἔρχεσθαι. He who was to come had come.

καὶ ἐλάλησα αὐτοῖς, “and discoursed to them”; see on 3:11 for λαλεῖν. Cf. 12:48.

ἁμαρτίαν οὐκ εἴχοσαν. For ἁμαρτίαν ἔχειν, cf. 9:41, 19:11, 1 John 1:8. But their failure to accept Jesus, when they had heard Him speak, was a moral failure, and therefore blameworthy. See on the parallel passage 9:41. Involuntary ignorance, on the other hand, is excusable; cf. Acts 17:30.

νῦν δέ, “but now, as things are.”

πρόφασιν οὐκ ἔχουσιν κτλ. πρόφασις does not occur again in Jn.; cf. Psalms 141:4 (LXX).

23. Those who hate Christ, hate God, because in Christ’s words and works God is revealed.

ὁ ἐμὲ μισῶν κτλ Cf. 5:23, 1 John 2:23.

24. εἰ τὰ ἔργα μὴ ἐποίησα κτλ. The Jews were blameworthy because they did not recognise that the “works,” as well as the “words” of Jesus revealed God.

In all the Gospels, the impression made by His works of wonder is noted; e.g. Mark 1:27, Luke 4:36, John 3:2 (where see note) and 7:31. It is not the highest kind of faith that is thus generated (14:11), but nevertheless such faith is, in its measure, worthy and laudable (see on 2:11). And, more than once in the Fourth Gospel, Jesus Himself appeals to the witness of His ἔργα in confirmation of His Divine mission (5:36, 10:32, 37), as He does here. As His words were greater than those of any other (7:46), so were His works such as οὐδεὶς ἄλλος ἐποίησεν (cf. 9:32, Matthew 9:33). If He had not wrought works of this wonderful character among them (ἐν αὐτοῖς), the Jews would not have been counted blameworthy; but as things were, they were left without excuse (Matthew 11:21, Luke 10:13).

ἐποίησεν. So אABDLΘ; the rec. has πεποίηκεν.

νῦν δὲ καί κτλ., “but now they have both seen and hated both me and my Father,” the perfects indicating the persistence of their hostility (cf. Abbott, Diat. 2443). The construction of the sentence, καί being four times repeated, shows that ἑωράκασιν as well as μεμισήκασιν governs τὸν πατέρα μου no less than ἐμέ. Jesus said later on ὁ ἑωρακὼς ἐμὲ ἑώρακεν τὸν πατέρα (14:9); but the original fault of the Jews was, as He had said before (6:36), ἑωράκατέ με καὶ οὐ πιστεύετε (see on 14:7). Neither in His words nor in His works did they discern the Divine mission of Jesus; and, not discerning who had sent Him, they hated Him and therefore implicitly His Father (v. 23).

25. For the ellipse�

The allusion is either to Psalms 35:19 or Psalms 69:4 (most probably from Psa_69, as this was regarded as a Messianic Psalm; see on 2:17), in both of which οἱ μισοῦντές με δωρεάν faithfully reproduces the Hebrew. The hatred of the Jews for Jesus was gratuitous and without cause (δωρεάν; cf. πρόφασιν οὐκ ἔχουσιν of v. 22).

Introductory Note on Παράκλητος (v. 26)

The term παράκλητος does not occur in the Greek Bible outside the Johannine writings. On the other hand, Jn does not use παρακαλεῖν or παράκλησις, the latter word being specially Lucan and Pauline, while the former is common to most of the N.T. writers.

Etymologically, παράκλητος is a passive form, and is equivalent to the Latin aduocatus, signifying one who is “called in” to give help or advice, and being especially used of the counsel for the defence.1 In classical writers this is always the meaning. Demosthenes (de falsa leg. 341) has αἱ τῶν παρακλήτων δεήσεις καὶ σπουδαί, and in Diog. Laert. iv. 50, Bion is made to say, “I will do what is sufficient for you if you will send παράκλητοι (sc. representatives) and don’t come yourself.” The term is used in the same way in Philo. Thus the city of Alexandria is called the παράκλητος by whom the emperor might be propitiated (in Flaccum, 4; cf. also de Josepho, 40). In de opif. mundi, 6, Philo says that God employed no παράκλητος (i.e. helper) in the work of creation. Again, in Vit. Mos. iii. 14, speaking of the high priest, “one consecrated to the Father of the world,” Philo says that it was necessary that he should employ as his παράκλητος, “a son most perfect in virtue.”2 In like manner, Barnabas (§ 20) has πλουσίων παράκλητοι, “advocates of the wealthy”; and in 2 Clem. 6 we have the question, “Who shall be our παράκλητος, i.e. our advocate, if we are not found doing what is right?” So in the Letter of the Churches of Lyons and Vienne (about 177 a.d., Eus. H.E. v. 1), it is said that Vettius Epagathus, confessing that he was a Christian, was taken into the order of martyrs (εἰς τὸν κλῆρον τῶν μαρτυρῶν), being called παράκλητος Χριστιανῶν, having the Paraclete within himself.

It may be added that the word was borrowed from the Greek by the Jews, and appears in Talmudic writings (see Wetstein on John 14:16) as פרקלט in the sense of aduocatus.

Although the verb παρακαλεῖν does not appear in Jn., an examination of its usage throws some additional light on the meaning of παράκλητος.

παρακαλεῖν is to call a person to stand by one (παρά), and hence to help in various ways, e.g.

a. as a witness, to be present when a thing is done. Cf. Demosthenes, c. Phorm. § 29.

b. as an adviser. Cf. Xenophon, Anab. I. vi. 5, Κλεάρχον δὲ καὶ εἴσω παρεκάλεσε σύμβουλον.

c. as an advocate. Cf. Æschines, Fals. Leg., § 184: παρακαλῶ δʼ Εὔβουλον μὲν ἐκ τῶν πολιτικῶν καὶ σωφρόνων ἄνδρα συνήγορον.

The verb is specially applied to the invoking of a god, and calling him in to help: e.g. Thucydides, i. 118 fin., αὐτὸς ἔφη ξυλλήψεσθαι καὶ παρακαλούμενος καὶ ἅκλητος; Epictetus, Diss. III. xxi. 12, τοὺς θεοὺς παρακαλεῖν βοηθούς; Plutarch, Alexander, 33, παρεκάλει τοὺς θεούς.

It appears from these passages that παράκλητος is naturally used for a Divine helper called in, either as a witness (15:26), or as an advocate (16:8), or as an adviser (16:13). παρακαλεῖν is also used in the sense of encourage, e.g. Polybius, III. xix. 4, οἱ περὶ τὸν Δημήτριον συναθροίσαντες σφᾶς αὐτοὺς καὶ παρακαλέσαντες; but παράκλητος, being a passive form, cannot be equivalent to “one who encourages.”

The familiar rendering “Comforter” was introduced into our English versions by Wyclif, who meant by it “confortator,” i.e. strengthener, not consoler (see his rendering of Philippians 4:13). But there is some patristic authority for the translation “consoler.” Origen (de princ. II. vii. 4) says distinctly that while in 1 John 2:1 παράκλητος means intercessor, in the Fourth Gospel it means consoler. So, too, Cyril of Jerusalem says (Cat. xvi. 20) that the Spirit is called παράκλητος from παρακαλεῖν, “to console,” as well as because He “helps our infirmities” and “makes intercession” for us (Romans 8:26). Gregory of Nyssa (c. Eunom. ii. 14) also calls attention to the two meanings of the verb παρακαλεῖν. It is perhaps in consequence of an early interpretation of παράκλητος in Joh_14 as “consoler,” that Aquila and Theodotion render נָחַם in Job 16:2 by παράκλητος, where the LXX has παρακλήτωρ. But the weight of evidence is undoubtedly in favour of “advocate” rather than “comforter” as the rendering of παράκλητος in Jn.; and the notes on 14:16, 26, 16:7 will show also that this rendering is more in accordance with the contexts in which it occurs. At 1 John 2:1 “advocate” is the only possible rendering.

The R. V. margin suggests “Helper” as an alternative, and this is adopted by Moffatt. This might include the idea of consoling as well as of pleading one’s cause; but its vagueness veils the meaning here and at 16:7.

Witness to Christ in the Future Will Be Borne by the Paraclete as Well as by Christian Disciples (vv. 26, 27)

26. ὅταν ἔλθῃ ὁ παράκλ. After ὅταν the rec. inserts δέ, with ADLΓΘ, but om. אBΔ; the omission of a connecting particle is a familiar feature of Jn.’s style.

Verses 26, 27, follow at once upon the rebuke (vv. 21-25) pronounced upon the enemies of Jesus. Their hostility was blameworthy. And in the future they will be proved in the wrong by the witness of the Spirit (v. 26) as well as by the witness of the apostles (v. 27).

The rendering of ὁ παράκλητος by advocate is here demanded by the context, to which the rendering comforter would be quite foreign. Jesus had explained that the hostility of the Jews to Him was sinful, for they ought to have recognised His Divine mission in His words and works (vv. 22-24). They hated Him, not knowing Him, although they ought to have known Him. But when the Paraclete came, He would bear true testimony to Jesus, being indeed the Spirit of Truth (v. 26). The Paraclete is the Divine aduocatus defending the Righteous One, and pleading His cause against false accusers. He is not, as at 1 John 2:1, represented as pleading the cause of man with God, but rather as pleading the cause of Christ with the world. See further on 16:8; and cf. Introd., p. xxi.

ὃν ἐγὼ πέμψω ὑμῖν κτλ. So also at 16:7, the promise is that Jesus will send the Paraclete; but at 14:16 He is to be given by the Father in response to the prayer of Jesus, and at 14:26 the Father is to send Him in the Name of Jesus. The Lucan doctrine is that Jesus sends the Spirit, “the promise of the Father” (Luke 24:49, Acts 2:33); see further on 14:26.

παρὰ τοῦ πατρός. Cf. 16:27, 17:8 and see on 1:14 for παρά as expressing the relation of the Son to the Father. The Paraclete is to be sent “from the Father’s side.”

τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς�1 John 4:6. In the last passage it is contrasted with τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς πλάνης, as in Testaments of XII. Patriarchs (Judah, xx.), where the spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit both wait upon man, and it is said that “the spirit of truth testifieth all things and accuseth all.” It is probable that this sentence is a Christian interpolation introduced into the text of the Testaments; but see on 1:9, where there is another parallel to their language.

In these Last Discourses, however, τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς�

ὃ παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται. ἐκπορεύεσθαι occurs once elsewhere in Jn., sc. at 5:29, where it is used of the dead “coming forth” out of their graves. Here it is used in the same way of the Spirit “coming forth” from God in His mission of witness (cf. ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ�1 Peter 1:12). To interpret the phrase of what is called “the Eternal Procession” of the Spirit has been a habit of theologians, which has been the cause of the endless disputes between East and West as to the “Procession” of the Spirit from the Son as well as from the Father. As far back as the fourth century, at all events,1 the clause τὸ ἐκ (not παρά) τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον has found a place in the Creed as descriptive of the Holy Spirit, and is taken from the verse before us. But to claim that this interpretation was present to the mind of Jn. would be to import into the Gospel the controversies and doctrines of the fourth century. ὃ παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται does not refer to the mysterious relationships between the Persons of the Holy Trinity, but only to the fact that the Spirit who bears witness of Jesus Christ has come from God (cf. Revelation 22:1, where in like manner the river of the water of life is described as ἐκπορευόμενον ἐκ τοῦ θρόνου τοῦ θεοῦ).

ἐκεῖνος μαρτυρήσει περὶ ἐμοῦ. ἐκεῖνος calls special attention to the Spirit as the subject of the sentence, exactly as at 14:26. It is He, and none less than He, who shall bear august and true witness to the world about Christ. Cf. 1 John 5:6 τὸ πνεῦμά ἐστιν τὸ μαρτυροῦν, ὅτι τὸ πνεῦμά ἐστιν ἡ�

However little modern conceptions of personality and of what it implies were present to the mind of the first century, the repeated application of ἐκεῖνος to the Spirit in these chapters (16:8, 13, 14, 14:26) shows that for Jn. τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς�

καὶ ὑμεῖς δὲ μαρτυρεῖτε, “ye also bear witness” (a statement of fact, not an imperative); cf. Luke 24:48. The twofold witness of the Spirit and of the disciples is indicated Acts 5:32; but Jn. specially dwells on this witness of the first disciples (cf. 3:11, 1 John 1:2, 1 John 1:4:14, 3 John 1:12; and see Introd., p. xci).

The qualification for “witness” is personal intimacy, ὅτι�Luke 1:2, Acts 1:21.

ἀπʼ�1 John 2:7, 1 John 2:24, 1 John 2:3:11, 2 John 1:5, 2 John 1:6) referring to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, as here, but sometimes also to the beginning of all things (e.g. 1 John 1:1, 1 John 1:2:13, 14, 1 John 1:3:8, as always in the Synoptists). See 8:44, 16:4.

ἐστέ, “ye are with me from the beginning.” So Jesus said τοσοῦτον χρόνον μεθʼ ὑμῶν εἰμί (14:9), using the present tense as here. The Twelve had been chosen ἵνα ὦσιν μετʼ αὐτοῦ (Mark 3:14), and they continued to be in close fellowship with Him.

1 See Introd., p. xxi.

2 Ev. da Mepharr., ii. 143, 151.

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.

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.

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).

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

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

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

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.

1 Swete, The Last Discourse, etc., p. 81.

1 Cf. Introd., p. lxvi.

2 St. John, i. p. cxxx.

1 Cf. Introd., p. cxiv.

2 Cf. Introd., p. lxxxix.

1 The words καὶ ἔθηκα ὑμᾶς are omitted (because of homoioteleuton, έξελεξάμην ὑμᾶς immediately preceding) by Δ 13 250, suggesting that the exemplars of these MSS. were written in lines of twelve letters (cf. Introd., p. xxix).

N Purpureus Petropolitanus (ε 19). Dispersed through the libraries of Leningrad, Patmos, Rome, Vienna, and British Museum. vi. Some pages are missing. Edited by H. S. Cronin in Cambridge Texts and Studies (1899).

1 Cf. Introd., p. cxxxvii.

1 See, for this contrast, Hobhouse, The Church and the World; cf. Westcott, Epp. of St. John, p. 250 f., and Gore, Epp. of St. John, p. 154 f.

1 See Lightfoot, Revision of N.T., p. 50 f.

2 This “son” is not the Logos (as has been erroneously stated), but the Cosmos (cf. Drummond, Philo Judœus, ii. 238; Sanday, Criticism of Fourth Gospel, 197; and Bacon, Fourth Gospel, 298). Philo’s use of παράκλητος does not relate the term to his Logos.

1 See Hort, Two Dissertations, p. 86.

Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on John 15". International Critical Commentary NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/icc/john-15.html. 1896-1924.
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