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Bible Commentaries
John 21

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Verses 1-99


The Fourth Gospel was plainly intended to end with 20:31. Anything following this is of the nature of an anticlimax. No copy, however, of the Gospel, so far as we know, was ever issued without the addition of c. 21, which is quoted by Tertullian (Scorp. 15) and is treated by Origen in his Commentary as on a par with cc. 1-20. It is probable that the Appendix was added as an afterthought, before the Gospel was published, and various opinions have been held as to its authorship, purpose, and source.

We have first to ask if c. 21 is by the same hand as cc. 1-20. The only evidence by which such a question can be determined is the evidence of vocabulary and style; and it is hardly possible within the brief compass of twenty-five verses to collect sufficient data. δίκτυον (v. 6) does not occur in cc. 1-20, nor does πιάζειν (v. 3) in the sense of catching fish; but then there is no fishing anecdote in the body of the Gospel. Similarly no stress can be laid on unusual words such as προσφάγιον (v. 5), or ἐπενδύτης (v. 7). τολμᾶν and ἐξετάζειν (v. 12) do not appear elsewhere in Jn., and this must be noted, for they might very naturally have been used. So too in v. 4 we find πρωΐα, while πρωΐ is the form adopted in 18:28, 20:1. In 1:42 we have Σίμων ὁ υἱὸς Ἰωάνου, while at 21:15 we have the shorter Σίμων Ἰωάνου. But against these differences may be set remarkable agreements in style between cc. 1-20 and c. 21. The use of�

The correspondence between 21:1-13 and Luke 5:10-11 are so close that they demand investigation; and it is necessary also to take account of the Synoptic parallels to the Lucan passage. The story of the Call of Peter and Andrew, and also of James and John (Mark 1:16f., Matthew 4:18f., Luke 5:1f.) is not given by Jn., who reports instead an earlier incident, when these four disciples were attracted to Jesus for the first time (1:35f.). The Lucan narrative differs from that of Mk., Mt. in significant particulars:

(a) Lk. does not tell explicitly of any call of the fishermen, as Mk., Mt. do; while he ends his story by saying that the four left all and followed Jesus (Luke 5:11), sc. that James and John followed as well as Peter and Andrew. Cf. John 21:19, John 21:20 where John (who has not been invited to do so) follows as well as Peter, to whom alone the call “Follow me” is addressed.

(b) In Mk., Mt. the promise, “I will make you fishers of men,” is explicitly given to Peter and Andrew, while the story suggests that it was intended for James and John as well. But in Lk. it is confined to Peter alone: “Fear not, from henceforth thou shalt catch men.” This is in remarkable correspondence with the giving of the commission, Pasce oues meas, to Peter alone, in John 21:17.

(c) Lk. interpolates the incident, which Mk., Mt. do not report, of Peter’s allegiance having been stimulated by a great catch of fish which he regarded as due to supernatural knowledge on the part of Jesus. So too in Joh_21 it is Peter who is specially moved by the great success of the fishing due, again, to the direction of Jesus, and he alone plunges into the water to greet Jesus before the others (cf. at this point the story, peculiar to Matthew 14:28-31, of Peter walking on the waters).

(d) That the vocabulary of Joh_21 should recall that of Luk_5 is not in itself remarkable, for in stories relating to successful catches by fishermen the same words would naturally occur; e.g. ἐμβαίνειν “to embark” (Luke 5:3, John 21:3),�Luke 5:2, John 21:9), δίκτυον (Luke 5:4, John 21:6). But the correspondence is not only one of vocabulary. In Luke 5:5 the fishermen say δἰ ὅλης νυκτὸς κοπιάσαντες οὐδὲν ἐλάβομεν: cf. John 21:3 ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ νυκτὶ ἐπίασαν οὐδέν. In both cases, it is by the direction of Jesus that they cast the net into deeper water (Luke 5:4, John 21:6, where see note); and in both cases they make a great catch. In Luke 5:6 the nets were beginning to break (διερήσσετο), but they did not actually break, for the fishermen managed to secure them full of fish; so in John 21:11 it is noted that the nets were not broken. That this should be mentioned shows that there was danger of them breaking, as in Luke 5:6.

These correspondences between the stories in Luk_5 and Joh_21 of a great draught of fishes are so close that they cannot reasonably be accounted for on the hypothesis that they represent distinct traditions of two distinct incidents. Accordingly, two alternative explanations offer themselves.

(1) The author of Joh_21 may have taken his story directly from Luk_5, putting it in a different context (Wellhausen, Pfleiderer). Pfleiderer1 regards Luke 5:4-11 as itself only an “allegorical” narrative, and if this were the aspect under which it was viewed by Jn., his transference of the Lucan passage from one point to another would hardly call for comment. But that Lk. intended his story of the miraculous draught of fishes to be taken as an account of an incident that actually happened is not doubtful; nor is there any reason for thinking that Jn. understood it differently. Jn., however, corrects Synoptic narratives sometimes;2 and it is conceivable that he has deliberately retold this Lucan story, and ascribed it, not to the early days of our Lord’s ministry, but to the period after His Resurrection.

(2) A more probable explanation, however, is that Luke 5:1-11 and Joh_21 are derived, in part, from the same source, viz., a Galilæan tradition (see on 20:1) about the Lord’s appearance to Peter after His Resurrection, and the restoration of Peter to his apostolic office.

(a) First, as to Luk_5. We have seen that Mk. (followed by Mt.) tells that when Peter, Andrew, James, and John abandoned their fishing and followed Jesus, He promised two of them (if not all four) that He would make them “fishers of men.” Lk. seems to have confused this promise with the commission afterwards given to Peter to feed the sheep of Christ; and accordingly in his account of the call of the disciples he has interpolated the tradition of a miraculous draught of fishes followed by a special charge to Peter. In Lk., the promise “henceforth thou shalt catch men” is for Peter alone.

Further, the words which Lk. ascribes to Peter, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man,” (Luke 5:8) are not adequately explained by saying that Peter was moved to confess his sinfulness because of an extraordinary take of fish. But if such words were spoken when he met his Master for the first time after he had denied Him, they are very appropriate. This sentence in Lk.’s narrative suggests of itself that the narrative belongs to the period after Jesus had risen.

(b) Next, in Joh_21 there are indications that the story was originally current as a tradition, not of the third appearance of the risen Jesus to the disciples, but of His first manifestation of Himself after His Resurrection.

It is difficult to understand how disciples who already had twice conversed with the Risen Christ (20:19, 26) should fail to recognise Him when He presented Himself by the lake-side (but see note on 21:4). That they should have gone back to their fishing after the extraordinary communication to them recorded in 20:22, 23 is strange enough (Chrysostom can only suggest that they had gone back to Galilee through fear of the Jews); but it would be stranger still if they were not sensitive, after such an experience, to every slightest indication of the presence of Jesus.

Again, the story, as narrated, suggests that this was the first occasion on which Peter met and conversed with Jesus since the night when he denied Him. Vv. 15-19 relate how he was questioned by his Master, and finally reinstated, with a new and great charge, in his apostolic office. Is it likely that the person who first wrote down this story believed that Peter had seen the Risen Lord at least twice before, and had, along with his companions, been already granted the gift of the Holy Spirit and a commission to forgive sins? The inference that 21:15-19 must not be taken as posterior to 20:23 is difficult to evade.

It must not be overlooked, in this connexion, that the genuineness of πάλιν in 21:1 is doubtful. Different MSS. place πάλιν at different points in this verse (see note in loc.), and one uncial, at least, omits it altogether. It is probable that the adverb πάλιν in v. 1 and the whole of v. 14 (τοῦτο ἤδη τρίτον ἐφανερώθη κτλ.) have been added by Jn. to his source to bring the tradition of an appearance in Galilee into harmony with those which he has already described at Jerusalem. V. 14 is obviously a parenthesis, for the narrative runs smoothly and consecutively from v. 13 to v. 15.

These considerations lead to the conclusion that Luke 5:1-11 and Joh_21 both go back to a current story that the first manifestation of the Risen Jesus to Peter (at any rate) was by the Sea of Galilee. According to Mark 16:7 (followed by Matthew 28:7), the disciples had been told that Jesus would meet them in Galilee, and Matthew 28:16 states that He actually did so (see on 20:1, 21:1). Another instance of the survival of such a tradition is provided by the Gospel of Peter (second century), the extant fragment ending as follows: “It was the last day of unleavened bread, and many went forth, returning to their homes, as the feast was ended. But we, the Twelve (see on 20:24) disciples of the Lord, wept and were grieved; and each one, grieving for that which was come to pass, departed to his home. But I, Simon Peter, and Andrew my brother, took our nets and went away to the sea, and there was with us Levi the son of Alphæus, whom the Lord ..” That is to say, Pseudo-Peter makes the apostles remain at Jerusalem until the Passover Feast was over, but makes no mention of any appearances of the Risen Lord to them there. Instead, he represents them as returning to their homes, the Galilæan fishermen going back to the Sea of Galilee. When the fragment ends, it seems as if an incident like that of John 21:1-14 was being led up to.

Harnack holds1 that this tradition, the source of John 21:1-13 as of Luke 5:1-11, was narrated in the Lost Conclusion of Mark. It may be so—the evidence is insufficient for certainty; but it seems more probable that Matthew 28:16f. gives us part of what was in the original Marcan narrative.

However that may be, we have reached the conclusion that Joh_21 and Luk_5 point back to a common source, viz. a Galilæan tradition about the Risen Lord. The question then arises, why did Jn. add c. 21 to the already completed Gospel?

(1) It has been suggested that c. 21 was added as a kind of postscript, because it was thought important that the rehabilitation of Peter should be placed on record. Of this there is no account in the Synoptists or in Jn. cc. 1-20. His denial is narrated in detail by all the evangelists, but his forgiveness and restoration to apostolic leadership is assumed without any explanation. That at some moment after the Resurrection he regained his old position of leader is manifest from the narrative of Acts. How were the other apostles reassured as to his stability? The beautiful story of 21:15-19 is the only explanation that has been preserved, whatever be its source; and it is easy to realise that the Church at the end of the first century would be anxious to have it placed on record, more especially after Peter’s career had been ended by a martyr’s death. The statement in v. 24 that the story was certified by the Beloved Disciple, i.e. in our view by John the son of Zebedee, who at the time of its being added to the Fourth Gospel was the only living person who could bear witness to its truth, is in no way improbable. How Peter came to be restored to his apostolic office would not seem to the first generation of Christians to be a question of sufficient importance for inclusion in a Gospel, but when the second generation began to look back it was recognised as of peculiar interest.

(2) But the principal motive for the addition of c. 21 was, no doubt, that misapprehensions as to the meaning of some words of Jesus might be removed.

The enigmatical promise (Mark 9:1 and parallels) that there were some among the disciples of Jesus who would not die until “the kingdom of God came with power” must have made a profound impression (see on 1:51). Maran Atha was the watchword of apostolic Christianity (1 Corinthians 16:22), and at first it was expected that the Parousia (cf. 14:3 and 1 John 2:28) would come soon. Paul at one time thought that some of his contemporaries would live to see it (1 Thessalonians 4:15, 1 Corinthians 15:51). By the time that the Fourth Gospel was written, the hope of the speedy return of Christ was dying out; but it was still believed by some that the Lord had promised (either in the words preserved in 21:22, or in similar words such as Mark 9:1) that it would come to pass before all the apostles died. Accordingly, when the last survivor, John the son of Zebedee, was manifestly approaching the end of his course, there must have been some at least who were disconcerted. It was probably to reassure them that the story of the promise made by Jesus to John was added to the Gospel which was based on his reminiscences, and attention directed to its exact phrasing. Vv. 21-23 may have been written down after the death of John; but it seems more probable that the true account of this incident was gathered from his lips during the last days of his long life.

The Appendix, then, embodies a tradition that was current as to an appearance of the Risen Christ in Galilee, which is also used (but misplaced) by Lk. In c. 21, it appears in a version for some deatils of which the authority of the Beloved Disciple is expressly claimed (v. 24); but it would seem that it has been edited (vv. 1, 14) by Jn. so as to bring it into harmony with c. 20. The Gospel proper contained only such incidents and sayings of Jesus as would serve the special purpose of the writer (20:30, 31); but before it was issued to the Christian community it was thought desirable to add an Appendix embodying traditions about Peter and John of which incorrect versions were current.

For vv. 24, 25, see notes in loc.

An Appearance of the Risen Christ by the Sea of Galilee (21:1-14)

21.1. μετὰ ταῦτα. This introductory phrase does not connote strict sequence.1 It is used by Jn. to introduce a fresh section of his narrative, and hardly means more than “another time.”

ἐφανέρωσεν ἑαυτόν. For φανερόω (cf. v. 14) and its use in Jn., see on 1:31. It is the verb used in the Appendix to Mk. (16:12, 14) of the manifestations of the Risen Jesus to the two at Emmaus, and to the Eleven. He was not visible continuously between His Resurrection and final Departure.

ὁ Ἰησοῦς. BC om. ὁ, but ins. אACNΓΔ (see on 1:29, 50).

τοῖς μαθηταῖς. Not to the Eleven, but to some of them only. οἱ μαθηταί might stand for “disciples” in the wider sense (see on 2:2), but that is not probable at this point, as we shall see.

ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης τῆς Τιβεριάδος, “by the Sea of Tiberias.” For this description of the Sea of Galilee, see on 6:1. According to the Marcan tradition (Mark 16:7, Matthew 28:7), Jesus was to manifest Himself in Galilee (cf. Matthew 28:16). Of any appearances there, the Gospels of Lk. and Jn. tell nothing, but in this Appendix to the Fourth Gospel one such manifestation is described in detail, implying (as the story is told by Jn.) that, after the three appearances at Jerusalem described in c. 20, some of the Eleven (at least) returned to Galilee, where Jesus met them. But see note above, p. 656.

πάλιν (a favourite Johannine word, cf. 1:35) is placed before ἑαυτόν by א* and before ἐφανέρωσεν by D. It is omitted by some cursives.

ἐφανέρωσεν δὲ οὕτως. This brusque constr. does not appear again in exactly this form in Jn.; but cf. 4:6, ἐκαθέζετο οὕτως ἐπὶ τῇ πηγῇ.

2. According to Pseudo-Peter (see p. 691 above), the disciples remained in Jerusalem until the end of the Passover Feast, when some returned to their homes in Galilee. This falls in with c. 21.

Peter and the sons of Zebedee were fishermen, who took up their work in partnership, as they had been accustomed to do (Mark 1:16). ἦσαν ὁμοῦ, “they were together, ” and with them were Nathanael and also Thomas. The words ἄλλοι ἐκ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ δύο suggest that all seven who were present were of the Twelve, for οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ generally represents the Twelve in the Fourth Gospel. οἱ μαθηταί (without αὐτοῦ) in vv. 4, 12 stands for the seven who have been already mentioned. See for this usage on 2:2.

Nonnus, in his paraphrase of Jn., like Pseudo-Peter, says that Andrew was present on this occasion, and he may have been one of the two innominati; it would be natural that he would, as formerly, accompany Peter in his fishing. Pseudo-Peter represents “Levi the son of Alphæus” as one of the company, and it is possible that this is a true tradition and that he was the second unnamed disciple, although we should hardly expect that a former tax-gatherer (Mark 2:14) would be of use in a fishing-boat. If we had to guess at the second innominatus, the name of Philip would naturally suggest itself. He was of Bethsaida, as were Peter and Andrew (1:44); and in the lists of the apostles he always appears among the first five, with Peter, Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee (Mark 3:18, Matthew 10:2, Luke 6:14, Acts 1:13). He is also associated with Peter, Andrew, and John, and with Nathanael in 1:37-46. The seven disciples present on the occasion now to be described would then be the seven most prominent in the Fourth Gospel and the seven who are named first in Acts 1:13. But the evidence as to the two innominati is not sufficient for certainty.

Σίμων Πέτρος. See on 18:15 for the full name being used at the beginning of a new section, as is the habit of Jn.

Θῶμας ὁ λεγόμενος Δίδυμος. So he is described 11:16, where see note; cf. 20:24.

καὶ Ναθαναὴλ ὁ�

οἱ τοῦ Ζεβεδαίου. Zebedee’s name is not mentioned elsewhere in the Fourth Gospel. “The sons of Zebedee,” their names not being stated, is a phrase occurring Matthew 20:20, Matthew 26:37, Matthew 27:56.

3. λέγει αὐτοῖς Σίμων Πέτρος. He characteristically takes the lead, saying, “I am off to fish.” For ὑπάγω, see on 7:33. The verb ἁλιεύειν occurs in the Greek Bible only once elsewhere, at Jeremiah 16:16.

To repeat the full name Σίμων Πέτρος is not in accordance with Jn.’s habit (see on 18:15); cf. vv. 7, 11, 15.

καὶ ἡμεῖς σὺν σοί. σύν is not a favourite Johannine word, occurring only twice in Jn. (see on 12:2, 18:1).

ἐξῆλθον, “they went out,” not necessarily from the same house, but from the place where they were all gathered.

ἐνέβησαν εἰς τὸ πλοῖον. For this phrase, see on 6:17. The rec. has�

ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ νυκτὶ ἐπίασαν οὐδέν. This recalls Luke 5:5; the night is the best time for fishing, and yet they caught nothing. πιάζειν is used several times by Jn. (see on 7:30) of “arresting” or “taking” Jesus; but to use it of the catching of fish, as here and at v. 10, is curious. Cf. Song of Solomon 2:15, Revelation 19:20.

4. πρωΐας δὲ ἤδη γινομένης, “when dawn was now breaking,” and the light not yet good. Jn. never has πρωΐα in the body of the Gospel, while πρωΐ occurs 18:28, 20:1 (see also on 1:41). Mt. has πρωΐα (Matthew 27:1).

For γινομένης (ABC*LΘ), the rec. has γενομένης (אDNWΓΔΘ).

ἔστη Ἰησοῦς ἐπὶ τὸν αἰγιαλόν. ἐπί is read by אADLΘ (cf. Matthew 13:2, Matthew 13:48, Acts 21:5 ἐπὶ τὸν αἰγιαλόν); but BCNW have εἰς (cf. Acts 27:40 εἰς τὸν αἰγιαλόν “towards the beach”). Perhaps εἰς has come in here through assimilation to ἔστη εἰς τὸ μέσον (20:19, 26, where see note).

μέντοι is a Johannine word; see on 12:42.

For ᾔδεισαν followed by the historic present ἐστίν, see on 1:39. That disciples, who had so recently seen the Risen Lord twice, according to the Johannine tradition (20:19, 26), should not recognise Him, even after He had spoken to them, might, perhaps, be accounted for by their distance from the shore and the dimness of the early morning light. Again, the failure of the two disciples at Emmaus to identify Him at first (Luke 24:31); and the failure of Mary Magdalene to recognise Him when she saw Him (20:14 οὐκ ᾔδει ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἐστίν, words identical with those used here) may be taken as showing that the Risen Lord was not recognisable, unless He chose “to manifest Himself.” The latter may be the true explanation.1 But the present instance of the disciples’ failure to recognise Him is perplexing, for (according to Jn.) they had already seen Him; even if we do not lay stress on the Marcan tradition according to which they had been told that they might expect to see Him in Galilee.

5. λέγει … Ἰησοῦς. The rec. inserts ὁ before Ἰης. with A2CDLNΘ, but om. אB.

παιδία is not put into the mouth of Jesus in any other Gospel passage, when He is addressing His disciples. It is a colloquial form of address, as we might say “My boys,” or “lads,” if calling to a knot of strangers of a lower social class. παιδίον is thus used in Aristophanes (Nub. 137, Ran. 33). The use of παιδία in 1 John 2:13, 1 John 2:18 is different.

Jesus says τεκνία to the disciples at 13:33, but to have employed a tender term of this kind would at once have betrayed His identity by the lake-side.

μή τι προσφάγιον ἔχετε; i.e. “have you caught any fish?” Wetstein (approved by Field) quotes a scholium on Aristoph. Clouds, 731, viz. ἔχεις τι; schol. χαριέντως τὸ · ἔχεις τι τῇ τῶν�

εις τα δεξια μερη τοῦ πλοιου is a cumbrous phrase for which no linguistic parallel seems to be forthcoming. In Luke 5:4 the advice of Jesus was similar, although expressed differently, viz. to let down the nets in deeper water. As the story is told, it would seem that Peter jumped into the water on the side of the boat nearest the land, being unimpeded by the net which now was on the other (the right) side, farther from the shore.2

δίκτυον does not occur again in Jn., and is the word used Luke 5:2, Luke 5:4, Luke 5:5; but nothing can be inferred from this, as it is the common word for a fishing-net.

After εὑρήσετε, אca and several Latin texts mostly of the Irish school (e.g., ardmach, dim., stowe, corp., and Rawl. 1673) interpolate Luke 5:5, “but they said, Master, we toiled all night and took nothing; but at Thy word we will let down the net.” This interpolation shows that the similarity between the two narratives of a great draught of fishes in Lk. and Jn. had been observed long before the dawn of modern criticism.

καὶ οὐκέτι αὐτὸ ἑλκύσαι ἴσχυον. The rec. has ἴσχυσαν but the more vivid ἴσχυον is read by אBCDLN. For the verb ἑλκύειν see on 6:44. ἰσχύειν is not found in the body of the Gospel.

ἀπὸ τοῦ πλήθους τῶν ἰχθύων. For the same constr cf. 2 Chronicles 5:6 of the animals that “could not be numbered for multitude,” οἳ οὐ λογισθήσονται�Luke 5:6).

The Sea of Galilee still swarms with fish;1 and it is noteworthy that this great catch is not described as a σημεῖον, nor is it suggested that it was miraculous.

7. We have identified the Beloved Disciple with John the son of Zebedee (see on 13:23, and Introd., pp. xxxv ff.). This identification agrees well with the statement of v. 2 that the sons of Zebedee were present on this occasion; although v. 2 does not by itself prove this, for the Beloved Disciple might be one of the two innominati.

The Beloved Disciple is the first to recognise Jesus, while Peter is the first to act on the knowledge that the stranger on the beach is He. This is entirely congruous with all that the Gospels tell of the two men, the one a spiritual genius, the other an eager, impulsive, warm-hearted leader.

ὁ κύριός ἐστιν. See on 4:1.

Σίμων οὖν Πέτρος. See on v. 3.

Peter, while working the boat and the nets, was γύμνος, i.e. he was naked except for a waist-cloth; but before leaping into the water, he threw on his upper garment, and fastened it with a belt. ἐπενδύτης is not found elsewhere in the N.T., but cf. 1 Samuel 18:4 where Jonathan presents David with his ἐπενδύτης as a personal gift. Meyer says that the Talmud takes over the word in the form אפונדתא, using it to describe a labourer’s frock.

The verb διεζώσατο signifies that Peter tucked the garment up into his girdle before he waded ashore in the shallow water (cf. 13:4).

Syr. sin. adds, after the words “he cast himself into the sea,” the gloss “and came swimming.” The paraphrase of Nonnus also speaks of Peter swimming; and this may be intended by the Greek, but in fact the ἐπενδύτης or long garment which Peter put on would only have been an impediment if he had to swim ashore.1

Nothing is said of any conversation between Peter and the Risen Jesus at this point of the story (cf. contra, Luke 5:8).

8. The other disciples wished to get to shore as soon as they could, and to bring their catch with them; but the big fishing boat (τὸ πλοῖον, v. 3) could not come closer in the shallow water, so they came (there were only six of them) in the dinghy (τὸ πλοιάριον, cf. 6:22 and the note there), the distance being only about 100 yards.

ἀπὸ πηχῶν διακοσίων, “200 cubits off.” For this constr. of�Ezekiel 40:7, Ezekiel 41:21, Revelation 21:17, etc.

σύροντες τὸ δίκτυον κτλ., “towing the net full of fishes,” i.e. having attached the ropes of the net to the dinghy. σύρειν does not occur again in Jn.; it is used, as here, of dragging towards one a net full of fish by Plutarch, de sollertia animalium c. 26.

9.�Luke 5:2 (cf. Abbott, Diat. 1763).


ὀψάριον. We have had the word ὀψάρια already at 6:9, where it probably means “dried fish” (see note in loc.). But here the ὀψάρια (v. 10) are the fresh fish which had just been caught, and in v. 11 the net is said to have been full “of great fishes.” In fact, despite the derivation of the word, ὀψάριον came to mean “a fish” or “fish” vaguely, whether fresh caught or dried; just as πᾶν τὸ ὄψος τῆς θαλάσσης in Numbers 11:22 means “all the fish of the sea.” See on v. 5.

The ὀψάριον which was cooking on the fire was not one of the fish which had just been caught; for it is only after the disciples see it that the net is drawn ashore. It was provided, along with the bread, by Jesus. Some have thought that the singular forms ὀψάριον, ἄρτον, are significant; and that there is here an allusion to a sacramental meal—one fish, one loaf. But neither ὀψάριον nor ἄρτον necessarily signify one fish or one loaf only; both may be taken generally as “fish,” “bread.” See further, on v. 13.

The story of Luke 24:42, where the disciples give Jesus a piece of broiled fish (ἰχθύος ὀπτοῦ μέρος), presents some likeness to the present passage, but there the Risen Jesus asks for food (cf. 21:5) and eats it. Jn. does not say that He ate anything, but only that He presided at the meal by the lake-side.

10. Ἐνέγκατε�

μεστὸν ἰχθύων μεγάλων κτλ. Cf. Luke 5:6 ἰχθύων πλῆθος πολύ. Unlike the story in Lk., where the net was breaking (διερρήγνυτο τὸ δίκτυον), it is noted here as remarkable, οὐκ ἐσχίσθη τὸ δίκτυον.

The simplest explanation of the number of fish, 153, being recorded, is that (as fishermen are wont to do, because the catch has to be divided into shares) the fish were counted, and their great number remembered as a notable thing. But commentators, both ancient and modern, have not been content tent with this, and have sought for a symbolic meaning in the number 153, which they (in modern times at least) assume was invented in order to suggest something esoteric. See Introd., p. lxxxvii.

12. Jesus calls to the disciples, Δεῦτε�Matthew 22:4, Luke 11:38, Luke 14:12); the verb�Luke 11:37 Nothing is said of the cooking of any of the fish that had been caught, but the command of v. 10 suggests that it was thus that the disciples’ breakfast was provided.

οὐδεὶς ἐτόλμα κτλ. The intimate familiarity of the old days had passed; they knew that it was Jesus who was speaking to them, but they did not dare to question Him as to His identity (cf. 4:27). Chrysostom says that they sat down for the meal in silence and trepidation, which may be implied.

οὐδεὶς … τῶν μαθητῶν. For this constr., without ἐκ before the gen. plural, as usual in Jn. (see on 1:40, 7:19), cf. 13:28. On μαθηταί, see 2:2.

εἰδότες ὅτι ὁ κύριός ἐστιν. It was not as at the Emmaus supper, where He was not recognised until He blessed and broke the bread (Luke 24:30); here He was recognised before the meal began.

τολμᾶν and ἐξετάζειν do not occur in the body of the Gospel. For ἐξετάζειν, “to cross-examine,” cf. Matthew 2:8, Ecclus. 11:7; it is a natural word to use in this context.

13. ἔρχεται has been thought to imply that Jesus was standing at a distance from the lighted fire, and that He came to it only when the disciples were gathered for their breakfast. But ἔρχεται goes with λαμβάνει which follows (cf. ἔρχεται … καὶ λέγει, 12:22), and hardly needs explanation, or a reference to 20:26.

The rec. οὖν (NΘ) after ἔρχεται is om. by אBCDLW.

λαμβάνει τὸν ἄρτον καὶ δίδωσιν αὐτοῖς. Syr. sin. and D insert εὐχαριστήσας before δίδωσιν, this being evidently introduced from 6:11, to the language of which v. 13 is closely similar. No eucharistic meal is implied at 6:11 (see note in loc.), and there is here even less suggestion of such a thing. τὸν ἄρτον and τὸ ὄψάριον do not indicate one loaf and one fish (see on v. 9); indeed the command “bring of the fish which you caught” (v. 10) implies that several fish had been prepared for the disciples` breakfast. That Jesus “took” and “gave” them bread and fish, as before (cf. Mark 6:41, Mark 8:6, Matthew 14:19, Matthew 15:36, Luke 9:16), means only that He presided at the meal, as His custom had always been.

With τὸ ὀψάριον ὁμοίως, cf. ὁμοίως καὶ ἐκ τῶν ὀψαρίων (6:11).

14. With the constr. τοῦτο ἤδη τρίτον, cf. τοῦτο πάλιν δεύτερον σημεῖον (4:54), and see 2:11. In both these passages (2:11, 4:54), Jn. implies a correction of Mk.’s narrative, and it is probable that here too a correction of the Galilæan tradition as to the appearance by the lake-side is intended. Jesus did not first manifest Himself to the apostles in Galilee (Matthew 28:16); He manifested Himself to them twice at Jerusalem (20:19, 26), and not until after that (τρίτον) did He show Himself in Galilee. V. 14 seems to be an addition made by Jn. to his source.

ἐφανερώθη Ἰησοῦς. Cf. v. 1 and see on 1:31.

After μαθηταῖς the rec. has αὐτοῦ, but om. אABCDLWO.

ἐγερθεὶς ἐκ νεκρῶν. Cf. 2:22, 12:9, 17.�

Jesus addresses him by the personal name by which he was generally known, “Simon, son of John,” as He was accustomed to do. See on 1:42 for the designation Peter, which, it is to be observed, Jesus only uses once (Luke 22:34) in addressing the apostle. Cf. Matthew 16:17, Luke 22:31.

Peter had thrice denied His Master, and the solemn questioning of him, in the company of his fellow-disciples, as the prelude to his restoration to the Master’s favour and the renewal of His confidence, was fittingly repeated thrice. As Augustine has it, he was questioned “donec trina voce amoris, solueret trinam uocem negationis.”1 The questioning has reference to one thing only, and that is Peter’s love for Jesus. He is not asked to renew his confession of faith (probably that had never quite left him, his Master having prayed that it should not fail, Luke 22:32), nor is he asked if he is sure that he will be more courageous in the future than in the past. The Lord does not remind him in words of his failure when the great test came. If he loves, that is enough. This is the one essential condition of the apostolic office and ministry.

Attention has often been directed to the use of the two verbs�

Of these two words it may be said that φιλεῖν is the more comprehensive, and includes every degree and kind of love or liking, while�2 Samuel 13:4, Song of Solomon 2:5, Song of Solomon 7:6 etc., and by φιλία at Ecclus. 9:8, Proverbs 7:18 (in which latter passage Aquila and Theodotion give�

An analysis of the passages in which φιλεῖν and�

Both verbs are used of God’s love for man:�1 John 4:10, 1 John 4:19, etc., but φιλεῖν at 16:27 (cf. Revelation 3:19).

Both verbs are used of the Father’s love for the Son:�Mark 9:7), but φιλεῖν at 5:20.

Both verbs are used of Jesus’ love for men:�

Both verbs are used of the love of men for other men:�1 John 2:10, 1 John 2:3:10, 1 John 2:14, 1 John 2:23, 1 John 2:4:7, 1 John 2:20, but φιλεῖν at 15:19. The noun�1 John 4:7; but the word that came to be specially appropriated to the brotherly love of Christian for Christian was not�Titus 3:15).

Both verbs are used of the love of men for Jesus:�Matthew 10:37, 1 Corinthians 16:22).

The love of men for God is generally described in the LXX by�Exodus 20:6) or�Proverbs 8:17 we have φιλεῖν (ἐγὼ τοὺς ἐμὲ φιλοῦντας�1 John 2:5, 1 John 2:15, 1 John 2:3:17, and�1 John 4:19, 1 John 4:20, 1 John 4:21, 1 John 4:5:2 (not in the Gospel).

The love of Jesus for the Father is mentioned only once in the N.T., viz. at 14:31 (where see note), and there the verb is�

What is the meaning of πλέον τούτων? It has been generally understood as meaning “more than your companions, the other apostles, love me”; and this yields a good sense. Peter had claimed that his loyalty surpassed that of the rest (Mark 14:29; and cf. 13:37). He had taken precedence of the others, in speech (6:68) and act (18:10), more than once. And the question of Jesus may mean, “Do you really love me more than the others do, as your forwardness in acting as their leader used to suggest?” But (a) if this be the meaning, the construction is elliptical and ambiguous. We should expect the personal pronoun σύ to be introduced before or after�

Does, then,�

The answer of Jesus accepts Peter’s assurance: “Feed my lambs.” The Lord “confides those whom He loves to the man who loves Him” (Luthardt). At the time of his call, the charge to Peter was that he was to be a “fisher” of men (Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17, Luke 5:10); and such was his work as an apostle, during the days of his Master’s visible presence and control. But that would not be sufficient for an apostolic ministry, when Jesus had departed. Henceforth the ministry consists not only of “catching” men, but of guiding and guarding them in their new spiritual environment. And so the image now used at Peter’s second “call” is not that of the fisher, but of the shepherd, whose tender devotion must take as its exemplar the life of the Good Shepherd of 10:11-16.

φιλῶ σε is all that Peter will say. But it is enough.

Βόσκε τὰ�

In vv. 15, 17, the verb is βόσκε; in v. 16 it is ποίμαινε. In the Synoptists βόσκειν is always used of feeding swine; but it is regularly used in the LXX of feeding sheep (e.g. Genesis 29:7, Genesis 37:12), and in Ezekiel 34:2 in a metaphorical sense (as here) of a pastor feeding his flock with spiritual food.

ποιμαίνειν is, etymologically, a verb of wider connotation, covering all duties that pertain to a ποιμήν or shepherd, guiding and guarding, as well as feeding the flock. It occurs again Luke 17:7, 1 Corinthians 9:7, in its literal sense, and in the spiritual sense of “shepherding” Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 5:2, Revelation 2:27, Revelation 7:17 etc. But it is doubtful if ποίμαινε of v. 16 should be understood as different from βόσκε of vv. 15, 17. ποιμαίνειν is used in the LXX of feeding sheep, exactly as βόσκειν is (e.g. Genesis 30:31, Genesis 37:2), and so too in its spiritual significance, e.g. Psalms 23:1 ὁ κύριος ποιμαίνει με, and Ezekiel 34:10 τοῦ μή ποιμαίνειν τά πρόβατα μου.

The Vulgate has in vv. 15, 16, 17, pasce … pasce … pasce, no attempt being made to distinguish the Greek verbs; and it would be rash to assume that different Aramaic words lie behind βόσκε and ποίμαινε respectively in the present passage, more particularly as in the LXX βόσκειν and ποιμαίνειν are used indifferently to translate רָעָה.

We now turn to the various words used to describe the flock who are to be tended, and here we have to do with conflicting readings:

In v. 15,�

There is no explicit reference to Peter’s death in the words which follow. He has been bidden to feed the Lord’s sheep, and he is reminded that, although, when he was young, he was unfettered and able to follow his own wishes, yet when he grew old he would be obliged to yield to the will of others. At this time he was no longer a youth; he had been married for some time (cf. Matthew 8:14), and was approaching middle life. The words ἐζώννυες σεαυτὸν … ἄλλος ζώσει σε may point only to the contrast between the alertness of youth and the helplessness of old age, which cannot always do what it would; and ἐκτενεῖς τὰς χεῖράς σου may refer merely to the old man stretching out his hands that others may help him in putting on his garments, whereas the young man girds himself unassisted, before he sets out to walk (περιπατεῖν).

Further, ζώννυμι (only again at Acts 12:8 in the N.T.) is always used in the LXX, as in Greek generally, of girding on clothes or armour,1 and no instance is forthcoming of its use in the sense of binding a criminal, which must be supposed to be the meaning of ἄλλος ζώσει σε if the Lord’s words are taken as predictive of Peter’s martyrdom. The order of the clauses in v. 18 is also strange if crucifixion was in the mind of the speaker; for we should expect the extension of the hands to be mentioned last.

On the other hand, this feature of death by crucifixion, that the hands were extended upon the cross, is specially mentioned as its characteristic by other writers. Wetstein quotes Artem. Oniv. i. 76, κακοῦργος δὲ ὢν σταυρωθήσεται διὰ τὸ ὕψος καὶ τὴν τῶν χειρῶν ἔκτασιν, and Arrian, Epict. iii. 26, ἐκτείνας σεαυτὸν ὡς οἱ ἐσταυρωμένοι. Field adds a quotation from Dion. Hal. Ant. vii. 69, οἱ δʼ ἄγοντες τὸν θεράποντα ἐπὶ τὴν τιμωρίαν, τὰς

More significant than these parallels, however, is the fact that several early Christian writers treat ἔκτασις τῶν χειρῶν or a like phrase as a sufficient description by itself of crucifixion. Thus Barnabas (§ 12) finds a τύπος σταυροῦ in the extension of Moses’ hands during the battle with Amalek (Exodus 17:12). Justin has the same idea: Μωυσῆς .. τὰς χεῖρας ἑκατέρως ἐκπετάσας, and again, διὰ τοῦ τύπου τῆς ἐκτάσεως τῶν χεῖρων (Tryph. 90, 91). Irenæus reports the same exegesis as that of one of his predecessors, ὡς ἔφη τις τῶν προβεβηκότων, διὰ τῆς (θείας) ἐκτάσεως τῶν χειρῶν (Hœr. v. 17. 4; cf. Dem. 46).2 Or, again, the words of Isaiah 65:2, “I have spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people,” are regarded as a prophecy of the Crucifixion by Barnabas (§ 12), Justin (Apol. i. 35), Irenæus (Dem. 79), and Cyprian (Test. ii. 20). Cyprian in the same passage quotes also Psalms 88:9 and Psalms 141:2 as predictive of the Cross, although there is nothing in either verse suggestive of it, except that the Psalmist speaks of the “spreading out” or the “lifting up” of his hands in prayer. And, finally, the sign of the Cross in the heavens before the Last Judgment3 is baldly described in the Didache (xvi. 6) as σημεῖον ἐκπετάσεως ἐν οὐρανῷ.

It is, then, intelligible that the writer of the Appendix to Jn. should regard the words ἐκτενεῖς τὰς χεῖράς σου in v. 18 as an unmistakable prediction of martyrdom by the cross. But whatever the meaning of v. 18, the text clearly embodies a genuine reminiscence of words spoken by the Lord. If the author of the Appendix is right in his interpretation of them, “this He said, signifying by what death He should glorify God,” he must be taken as relying on memory or tradition for his report of the words used; for, if he desired to place sentences of his own making in the mouth of Jesus, which should contain a prophecy of Peter’s crucifixion, he would have phrased them with less ambiguity.

It is possible (see on 2:21 and the references there given) that the comment of v. 19 is a mistaken one. But even in that case we have a clear indication that the narrator, at the time of writing, believed that Peter was dead, and that he had died a martyr’s death by crucifixion. This became the tradition of the Church. The earliest appearance of it is in Tertullian (Scorp. 15, about 211 a.d.); and it is noteworthy that he makes reference to the words of John 21:18: “Tunc Petrus ab alterocingitur, cum cruci adstringatur,” interpreting ἄλλος ζώσει σε of the binding of the martyr to the cross. Origen (ap. Eus. H.E. iii. 1, if indeed the report is Origen’s, which is doubtful) is the first to tell that Peter was crucified with his head downward,�John 21:18, John 21:19.

With the comment τοῦτο δὲ εἶπεν κτλ. should be compared 12:33, τοῦτο δὲ ἔλεγεν σημαίνων ποίῳ θανάτῳ ἤμελλεν�

The phrase descriptive of a martyr’s death, by which he was said to “glorify God” in his sufferings, occurs again in 1 Peter 4:16, where a man who is threatened with suffering ὡς Χριστιανός is exhorted thus: δοξαζέτω δὲ τὸν θεὸν ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τούτῳ. The phrase is common in the martyrologies. See on 13:31, where it is pointed out that this thought must be distinguished from the thought that in his death a martyr “is glorified” by God.

Ἀκολούθει μοι. See 1:43 for the invitation to Philip expressed thus, and the Synoptic references there given. It would seem from v. 20 that�Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17, Luke 5:10); and he could hardly have failed to remember a recent occasion when his eager offer to follow Jesus was put aside by the Master (John 13:36). See p. 529 above.

20. With ἐπιστραφεὶς ὁ Πέτρος, cf. 20:14, 16 (see also Mark 5:30). אDNΓΔΘ add δέ after ἐπιστρ., but om. ABCW.

Peter obeyed the summons to follow Jesus, and as they moved away from the others John went after them, not doubting that he was welcome, whenever Jesus called his close friend Peter. See Introd., p. xxxvi f.

The “disciple whom Jesus loved” (v. 7, 13:23) is more closely described by recalling his action, when, at the instigation of Peter, he asked who the traitor was.�

22. Ἐὰν αὐτὸν θέλω κτλ. “If it is My will (θέλω is here the θέλω of masterful authority, cf. 17:24) that he should tarry (μένειν is used of survival, as at 1 Corinthians 15:6) until I come, what is that to thee?”

ἕως ἔρχομαι is literally “while I am coming” (see on 9:4 for ἕως with the pres. indic. in Jn.), but it means here, as at 1 Timothy 4:13, “until I come.”

The emphasis is on ἐὰν θέλω. Jesus is not represented as saying that it is His will that the Beloved Disciple would survive; but if it was His will, that was no concern of Peter’s.

That ἕως ἔρχομαι is meant to be interpreted by the Second Coming of Christ is not doubtful (cf. 14:3). To apply it to the coming of Christ at a disciple’s death is a desperate expedient of exegesis; and thus interpreted, the saying is meaningless, for every one “tarries” until Christ comes in that sense.

σύ μοι�

23. ἐξῆλθεν οὖν οὗτος ὁ λόγος κτλ. “So this saying went forth,” etc. Cf. Mark 1:28 for a similar use of ἐξῆλθεν.

εἰς τοὺς�Ephesians 6:23, 1 John 3:14, 1 John 3:16, 3 John 1:3, 3 John 1:5.

ὅτι ὁ μαθητὴς ἐκεῖνος οὐκ�

καὶ ὁ γράψας ταῦτα. Prima facie, this indicates that the Beloved Disciple actually wrote the Gospel with his own hand,1 including the Appendix, and not only that his reminiscences are behind it. But γράφειν is sometimes used when dictation only is intended. E.g. “Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross” (19:19) means that Pilate was responsible for the wording of the titulus, but hardly that he wrote himself on the wooden board. So Paul says, “I write the more boldly to you” (Romans 15:15), while it appears from Romans 16:22 that the scribe of the epistle was one Tertius. Cf. Galatians 6:11, and 1 Peter 5:12. The employment of scribes was very common. Further, in Judges 8:14 the LXX has ἔγραψεν πρὸς αὐτόν (v.l.�

καὶ οἴδαμεν κτλ. Chrysostom (in loc.) seems to have read οἴδα μέν …, and this would give a good sense. “I know,” that is, the writer whom we call Jn. knew, that the testimony of the aged disciple was truthful; but it was not to be taken as a complete account of all that Jesus did, μέν in v. 24 being balanced by δέ in v. 25. Such an attestation, however, by a writer who conceals his name and identity, would not be so impressive as οἴδαμεν (which all the versions follow), the plural representing the concurrence of the presbyters of the Church at Ephesus where the Gospel was produced. For the early traditions to this effect, see Introd., pp. lvi, lix.

Jn. is prone to use οἴδαμεν when he wishes to express the common belief and assurance of the Christian community, e.g. 1 John 3:2, 1 John 3:14, 1 John 3:5:15, 1 John 3:19, 1 John 3:20; see also on 3:11.

ὅτι�3 John 1:12, οἶδας ὅτι ἡ μαρτυρία ἡμῶν�

For the stress laid by Jn. on “truth” and “witness” see on 1:7, 14, and cf. Introd., p. xci.

25. This verse was omitted from his text by Tischendorf, because he had concluded that it was not in the original text of א, but had been added by a corrector. His judgment was challenged by Tregelles, and was finally shown by Gwynn to be untenable.1 There is no documentary authority for omitting the verse; the only MS. which does not now contain it (cursive 63) has lost a page at the end, as Gwynn demonstrated in 1893.

ἔστιν δέ. These words do not appear in the Sinai Syriac, nor does Chrysostom betray knowledge of them.

Wetstein cites several passages from the Talmud couched in hyperbolical language similar to that of v. 25. A remarkable parallel occurs in Philo, de post. Caini, 43, where it is said that if God wished to display the riches of His creation, the whole earth, land, and sea would not contain them (χωρῆσαι). Cf. 1 Macc. 9:22, where, however, the figure is not so exaggerated.

For ἅ (אBC*) the rec. has ὅσα with AC2DWΘ.

ἅτινα ἐάν κτλ., “whatsoever things may be written,” etc. The constr. is irregular, but the meaning is hardly doubtful. Origen, however, interpreted the verse as meaning that the world would not be equal to the record of such great acts as those of Christ, not merely that it could not contain the books which told of them (see Abbott, Diat. 2414).

αὐτὸν οἶμαι is omitted by Syr. sin. οἴεσθαι occurs again in N.T. only at Philippians 1:17, James 1:7; cf. 4 Macc. 1:33 ἐγὼ μὲν οἴμαι “such is my opinion.”

The singular οἶμαι, following the plur. οἴδαμεν of v. 24, has been thought to show that vv. 24 and 25 are separate notes from different hands. But this is not necessary to suppose. The writer associates others with himself in the attestation of v. 24, but in the editorial reflection or colophon of v. 25 he speaks only for himself.

ἀμήν, with which the rec. ends, is not part of the true text.

1 Further arguments may be found in Lightfoot (Biblical Essays, p. 194), who accepts the Johannine authorship of the Appendix, as do Harnack (Chron. i. 676), Sanday (Criticism of Fourth Gospel, p. 81), and W. Bauer in his Handbuch; Pfleiderer (Primitive Christianity, iii. 79), Moffatt (Introd. to N.T., p. 572), and Stanton (The Gospels as Historical Documents, iii. p. 28) take the other side

1 Primitive Christianity, iii. 79.

2 See Introd., p. xcix.

1 Luke the Physician (Eng. Tr.) p. 227.

1 See Introd., p. cviii.

B Vaticanus (δ 1). Rome. Cent. iv.

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

אԠSinaiticus (δ 2). Leningrad. iv.

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

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).

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.

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.

1 On this cf. Sparrow-Simpson, The Resurrection and Modern Thought, p. 86: “Recognition, in some cases, instead of becoming easier, [became] increasingly difficult.”

1 See Abbott, Diat. 2701.

2 Trench, with others, suggests that the “right” side is symbolic of the auspicious side; cf. Ezekiel 4:4, Ezekiel 4:6, etc.

3 Cf. Wordsworth-White in loc., and Berger, La Vulgate, p. 45, for other Latin MSS. with this interpolation.

1 Cf. G. A. Smith, Hist. Geogr., p. 462 n.

1 Abbott (Diat. 2999, xvii. n.) finds a symbolic meaning in τὸν ἐπενδύτην διεζώσατο, understanding the words to suggest that Peter girded himself with the fine linen of repentance.

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

1 Enarr. in Psalms 37:17.

1 See, e.g., Trench, Synonyms of N.T., p. 39 f.

2 These references are given by J.E. Sandys in a careful study of�

Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on John 21". International Critical Commentary NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/icc/john-21.html. 1896-1924.
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