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Bible Commentaries
John 5

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Verses 1-99

Jesus Goes Up to Jerusalem for the Passover (5:1)

5:1. The conclusion of Part I.1 tells of the continued faithfulness of the Twelve (6:67, 68); and it can hardly be doubted that they went up to Jerusalem for the Passover as well as Jesus on this occasion. Hence, behind the story of the cure of the impotent man (5:2-9) there may have been the original testimony of some who were present. And inasmuch as in the Fourth Gospel μετὰ ταῦτα is the phrase which seems to mark the beginning of a new set of reminiscences dictated by John the son of Zebedee to the future evangelist,2 it is quite possible that the witness of John is behind Son_5 and 7:15-24, allowing for evangelical commentary and expansion in 5:20-30.3

ἑορτὴ τῶν Ἰουδαίων, i.e. the Passover, which has already been mentioned in 6:4 as near at hand. This was probably the Passover of the year 28.4

אCLD read ἡ ἑορτή, but the article is rightly omitted by ABDNWΘ. Its insertion is readily explained by the preceding ἦν. If ἡ ἑορτή were the true reading, the reference ought to be to the Feast of Tabernacles, which was pre-eminently the feast of the Jews. One minor uncial (Λ) for τῶν Ἰουδαίων reads τῶν�

ἐπὶ τῇ προβατικῇ is the best attested reading (BCΔNW), and it would mean that the pool was “by the sheep gate” or “by the sheep market,” the adj. προβατικῇ requiring a substantive to be supplied. In Nehemiah 3:1, Nehemiah 12:39 mention is made of the building of ἡ πύλη ἡ προβατική, which is believed to have been north-east of the Temple, and close to the present St. Stephen’s Gate, by which flocks from the country enter Jerusalem.

אcADLΘ have the aberrant reading ἐν τῇ προβατικῇ which some Latin vss. perversely render in inferiorem partem. The Western reading προβατικὴ κολυμβήθρα, “a sheep pool,” is supported by א* 61, Eusebius, and others.

It appears, then, that ἐπὶ τῇ προβατικῇ κολυμβήθρα must be adopted. But it has been suggested1 that behind προβατική lies the Aramaic פְּרוֹבָטַיָא, which means a bath; and then the original text would have been, “There is a pool at the Bath, which is called in Hebrew Bethzatha (House of the Olive?).”

The situation of this pool is as uncertain as its exact name. There are twin pools north of the Temple area, near the fortress of Antonia, which Schick identified with the κολυμβήθρα of the text, but it is doubtful if these existed before the destruction of the Temple. Others have identified the “Pool of Bethzatha” with the “Pool of Siloam” (9:7); but they seem to be specially distinguished by the evangelist. Many writers are inclined to find the Pool of Bethzatha in the Virgin’s Well, anciently called Gihon, i.e. “the Gusher,” which is periodically subject to a bubbling of its waters caused by a natural spring. This is south of the Temple, in the Valley of Kidron, and we believe it to be the most probable site of “Bethzatha.”

ἡ ἐπιλεγομένη Ἑβραϊστὶ Βηθζαθά. Ἑβραϊστί occurs only in John 5:2, John 5:19:13, John 5:17, John 5:20, John 5:20:16 and Revelation 9:11, Revelation 9:16:16; it signifies not the classical Hebrew of the O.T., but the Aramaic in common use. See on 1:38 for instances of Jn.’s habit of giving the Hebrew name of a person or place, along with a Greek equivalent. Here and at 19:13, 17 he describes the place first in Greek, and then adds its Aramaic designation: he is not interpreting the Aramaic name (see on 4:25).

For ἡ ἐπιλεγομένη, א*D fam. 1 have τὸ λεγόμενον.

πέντε στοὰς ἔχουσα. These would have been cloisters or arched spaces round the pool similar to those which are found in India near tanks. Schick claimed that such were to be seen at the twin pools which he discovered; but this has not been generally admitted.1 Those who interpret the narrative symbolically, find the Five Books of Moses in the “five porches.” We have already considered this method of interpreting Joh_2 While symbolic meanings may easily be read into the narrative once written, there is no probability that it was originally constructed in so artificial a fashion.

3. The picture of the sick people lying under the covered arcades (it would have been too cold at the Passover season to lie out in the open air) waiting for the bubbling up of the intermittent spring, which was supposed to have healing properties, is most natural and vivid.

ἐν ταύταις, sc. in the στοαί or arches.

κατέκειτο. The verb does not appear again in Jn. The rec. text inserts πολύ after πλῆθος,, but om. אBCDLW.

τυφλῶν, χωλῶν, ξηρῶν, “blind, halt, withered.” ξηροί were those who had atrophied limbs (cf. Matthew 12:10, Luke 6:8). The Western text (D a b) adds παραλυτικῶν, but this is only a gloss explanatory of ξηρῶν: om. אA*BC*LWΘ.

After ξηρῶν, παραλυτικῶν, the rec. adds ἐκδεχομένων τῆν τοῦ ὓδατος κίνησιν. This, again, is a Western (and Syrian) amplification; it is omitted by אA*BC*L, although supported by DWΓΔΘ syrr. It was suggested by the mention in v. 7 of the disturbance of the healing waters.

4. Verse 4, like the words ἐκδεχομένων … κίνησιν, is no part of the original text of Jn., but is a later gloss. The best attested text of the gloss is thus given by Hort: ἄγγελος δὲ (v. γὰρ) κυρίου (κατὰ καιρὸν) κατέβαινεν (v. ἐλούετο) ἐν τῇ κολυμβήθρᾳ καὶ ἐταράσσετο (v. ἐτάρασσε) τὸ ὕδωρ· ὁ οὖν πρῶτος ἐμβὰς [μετὰ τὴν ταραχὴν τοῦ ὕδατος] ὑγιὴς ἐγίνετο οἵῳ (v. ᾧ) δήποτʼ οὖν (v. δήποτε) κατείχετο νοσήματι.

The verse is wholly omitted by אBC*DW 33, the Old Syriac, the early Coptic versions (including Q), and the true text of the Latin Vulgate. In the Latin MSS. in which it is found, it appears in three distinct forms, the diversity of which provides an additional argument against its genuineness. The earliest patristic authority for it is Tertullian (de bapt. 5), the earliest Greek writer who shows knowledge of it being Chrysostom; his comment on the passage is: “An angel came down and troubled the water, and endued it with healing power, that the Jews might learn that much more could the Lord of angels heal the diseases of the soul.” It is a marginal gloss which crept into some Western and Syrian texts, the chief uncials which contain it being ALΓΔΘ.

Linguistic evidence also marks the verse as not original. Thus the words ἐκδέχομαι, κίνησις (here only in N.T.), κατὰ καιρόν (cf. Romans 5:6, Numbers 9:13), ἐμβαίνω (of going into the water; cf. 6:17), ταραχή (here only in the N.T.), κατέχομαι, and νόσημα (here only in N.T.) are non-Johannine.

The healing virtues of the intermittent spring were explained by the Jewish doctrine of the ministry of angels, and the explanation first found a place in the margin and, later, in the text. Cf. Revelation 16:5 for “the angel of the waters,” i.e. the angel who was believed to preside over the mysterious powers of water.

5. The constr. τριάκοντα καὶ ὀκτὼ ἔτη ἔχων appears again in v. 6 πολύν χρόνον ἔχει. Cf. also 8:57, 9:21, 11:17 for an acc. of the length of time, governed by ἔχειν.

καί before ὀκτώ is om. by BΓΔΘ, but ins. אACDLW; αὐτοῦ after�

The man had been infirm for thirty-eight years; it is not said that he had been waiting all that time by the pool. That his paralysis had lasted thirty-eight years is mentioned to show that it was no temporary ailment from which he was suffering, just as it is told of the woman in Luke 13:11 that she had been infirm eighteen years, or of the lame man whom Peter cured that “he was more than forty years old” (Acts 4:22). There is no more reason for finding an esoteric significance in the number 38 than in the Num_18 or 40. Or, again, in Acts 9:33, Æneas, whom Peter cured of paralysis, is described as ἐξ ἐτῶν ὀκτὼ κατακείμενον ἐπὶ κραβάττου. These eight years are not supposed to be significant as regards their number; and there is no more reason for supposing the thirty-eight years of the text to symbolise anything.

Those who seek for hidden meanings in the Johannine numbers point here to the thirty-eight years of wandering mentioned in Deuteronomy 2:14. But if Jn. had wished to indicate that the years of the paralytic’s infirmity were like the years of Israel in the wilderness, it would have been more natural for him to have said forty, not thirty-eight; for it was forty years before the Promised Land was reached. Cf. 2:20, 21:11; and see Introd., p. lxxxvii.

6. Jesus came, unknown by sight to the sick who were assembled at the pool. καὶ γνοὺς ὅτι πολὺν ἤδη χρόνον ἔχει, “and when He knew that the man had been infirm for a long time,” He addressed him. It is neither stated nor implied that this knowledge of the man’s sad condition was supernatural. It may have been the common talk of the crowd at the Pool. See on 2:24 for the insight of Jesus into the character of men, and cf. 4:18.

Θέλεις ὑγιὴς γενέσθαι; sc., as we would say, “Would you like to be well?” There is no need to press the force of θέλεις, as if Jesus meant that the man’s own conscious effort of will must co-operate in the work of healing. That may be true in such cases, but θέλεις here only conveys the simple question, “Would you like to be healed?”

We do not know why Jesus chose this man out from the crowd of sufferers at the pool. Perhaps attention was specially directed to his pathetic case by the onlookers. There is no suggestion that the man had any faith, nor did he display gratitude for his healing. He must have known that to point out Jesus as the agent of his cure (v. 15) would bring his benefactor into danger.

Abbott (Diat. x. iii. 268 f.) suggests that we must take the act of Jesus in connexion with His own comment. He did not select the object of His pity by arbitrary caprice, but “the Son can do nothing Himself, except what He sees the Father doing” (see on v. 19 below). He “saw” this particular act of healing performed by the Father in heaven, and therefore appointed to be performed by the Son on earth. But not only is such an explanation too subtle; it really explains nothing, for why should this particular sick man have been selected by the Father any more than by the Son?

The healing is perhaps, but not certainly, regarded by Jn. as supernatural (see 7:21), although he does not call it a “sign.” But it is not represented as having any relation to the faith of the man that was cured. In this it is like the Synoptic story of the healing of a paralytic (Mar_2, Mat_9, Luk_5), where it is the faith of those who brought the man to Jesus rather than the faith of the man himself that is commended. It is unlike the Synoptic story, in that the cure in the Johannine narrative does not seem to have impressed the onlookers at all. There is nothing here corresponding to “they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion” (Mark 2:12). In Jn.’s story, everything turns on the fact that it was on the Sabbath that the man was cured, and it was this, and not the wonder of the healing, that attracted attention. See Introd., p. clxxviii.

7. κύριε, ἄνθρωπον οὐκ ἔχω κτλ. The sick man explains that it is not his will that is deficient, but that he is unable, because of his infirmity, to get quickly enough down to the water when it becomes “troubled,” because he has no one to assist him. (The paralytic of Mark 2:3 was helped by four friends to get access to Jesus.)

ὅταν ταραχθῇ τὸ ὕδωρ κτλ. Apparently the popular belief was that, when the water began to bubble at a particular spot, the person who first bathed at that point received relief, but that the spring did not benefit more than one. He who came second had to wait for cure until another overflow.

ἴνα … βάλῃ με εἰς τὴν κολυμβήθραν. βάλλειν, “to cast,” implies rapidity of movement, which would be impossible for an invalid without assistance.

βάλῃ. So אABC2DLWΘ: the rec. has βάλλῃ.

ἐν ᾧ δὲ ἔρχομαι ἐγώ κτλ. “But while I (ἐγώ being emphatic) am coming, another steps down before me.”

8. ἔγειρε ἆρον κτλ. Jesus ignores the belief of the sick man about the healing waters of the pool, to which He makes no reference. Nor does He, as in the case of the Synoptic paralytic, give him a word of spiritual consolation (Mark 2:5) before He heals him. Nothing is said to the man, except the sharp command, ἔγειρε ἆρον τὸν κράβαττόν σου καὶ περιπάτει, “Get up, take your pallet and walk.” The words are almost, identical with those of Mark 2:11, but there the evangelistic comment is that they were effectively spoken in order to show the wondering bystanders that He who spoke them had really the spiritual authority to forgive sins. Here is nothing similar. As has been said (v. 6), there is no clear proof that Jn. regarded the healing of the man at Bethesda as miraculous, nor need we do so. The patient obeyed a sudden, authoritative order to stand up and walk, and when he tried he found that he could do it. That may be the whole of the matter. However, no disciple is expressly said to have been present on the occasion; and the story, which may have come to the evangelist at second or third hand, is told in barest outline.

ἔγειρε (אABCDWΘ) is to be preferred to the rec. ἔγειραι.

κράβαττος (grabatus), a pallet or mattress, such as was used by the poor, is said to be a late word of Macedonian origin, and is not approved by Phrynichus. It occurs in the N.T. again only in Mark 2:2-12, Mark 6:55, Acts 5:15, Acts 9:33, and always stands for the bed of a sick person.

περιπάτει So in Luke 5:23; but at Mark 2:11, Matthew 9:6, we have ὕπαγε εἰς τὸν οἷκόν σου.

9. καὶ εὐθέως ἐγένετο ὑγιὴς ὁ ἄνθρωπος, καὶ ἦρεν τὸν κράβαττον αὐτοῦ καὶ περιεπάτει. In the parallel, Mark 2:12, we have ἠγέρθη καὶ εὐθὺς ἄρας τὸν κράβαττον ἐξῆλθεν ἔμπροσθεν πάντων. In both cases εὐθέως or εὐθύς carries the sense of immediate consecutiveness (Luke 5:25 has παραχρῆμα). The word is not common in Jn. (6:21, 13:30, 32, 18:27, 19:34), and he always uses it thus, whereas it is often used in Mk. only as a conjunctive (see on 1:22).

That the cure was not merely for the moment is shown by the man’s walking away, as is also indicated in the Synoptic story.

The language of John 5:8, John 5:9 closely resembles that of Mark 2:11, Mark 2:12, although the stories are quite distinct. Jn. may have availed himself of the words of the earlier evangelist to describe a somewhat similar scene at which he was not present, and of which he could not give the exact report of an eye-witness. See Introd., p. xcvii.

ἦν δὲ σάββατον ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ. This is the point of the story for Jn., as also at 9:14 where Jesus healed the blind man. The healing on the Sabbath was the beginning of His controversies at Jerusalem; this was the first occasion on which He had openly violated the law at the metropolis; but cf. Mark 2:23 for His earlier claim in Galilee to be Lord of the Sabbath, which had already attracted the attention of the Pharisees.

The Jews Object to Sabbath Healings, and Jesus Replies by the Analogy of God’s Working (Vv. 10-19)

10. For οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι, see on 1:19. This is the designation throughout the Gospel of the leading opponents of Jesus, i.e. the strict Pharisees, as distinct from the simple folk whether in town or country (ὄχλος). Cf. vv. 13, 15, 16.

τῷ τεθεραπευμένῳ. θεραπεύειν is found only here in Jn., while it is common in the Synoptists. Cf. v. 13 below.

σάββατόν ἐστιν, καὶ οὐκ ἔξεστίν σοι ἆραι τὸν κράβαττον. The bearing of burdens on the Sabbath was forbidden (Nehemiah 13:19, Jeremiah 17:21). The Rabbinical law was, “If any one carries anything from a public place to a private house on the Sabbath … intentionally, he is punished by cutting off (i.e. death) and stoning” (Shabb. 6a, quoted by Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr.).

After κράβαττον, אC*DLNWΘ add σου (as at vv. 8, 9), but om. ABC3ΓΔ.

11. The rec. text omits ὃς δέ before�

ἐξένευσεν ὄχλου ὄντος ἐν τῷ τόπῳ, “He (had) turned aside (cf. 4:44 for this use of the aor.), a crowd being in the place.”ἐκνεύειν (אD* have the simple ἔνευσεν) does not appear again in the N.T., but it is found in the LXX (Judges 18:26, 2 Kings 2:24, 2 Kings 2:23:16, 2 Kings 2:3 Macc. 3:22), being a variant for ἐκκλίνειν at Judges 4:18. ἐξένευσεν here expresses that Jesus had quietly moved away; cf. 8:59, 10:39, 12:36.

For τόπῳ, א* has the variant μέσῳ.

14. μετὰ ταῦτα, i.e. subsequently, not immediately afterwards. See Introd., p. cviii.

εὑρίσκει αὐτὸν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ. Apparently, Jesus sought out the man, as He sought for the blind man whom He cured on a later occasion (9:35; cf. 1:43). It has been conjectured that the man had gone to the Temple to offer thanks for his recovery, but there is no evidence for this. The ἱερόν, or sacred precinct, was a common place of resort; and Jesus, finding him there, gave him a word of grave counsel.

ἴδε (a favourite word with Jn.; see on 1:29) ὑγιὴς γέγονας· μηκέτι ἁμάρτανε κτλ. For μηκέτι�Psalms 38:5, 107:17, 1 Corinthians 11:30), and a Talmudic saying asserts that “the sick ariseth not from his sickness until his sins be forgiven.” But the moral of the Book of Job is that sickness is not always to be regarded as punishment for sin, and this seems to have been suggested by Jesus, when the case of the man born blind was put to Him (see on 9:3). In the absence of knowledge as to the antecedents of the impotent man of the text, “Sin no more, lest a worse thing befall thee” is not susceptible of complete explanation.

Cyprian (Test. iii. 27) quotes “jam noli peccare, ne quid tibi deterius fiat,” to illustrate the danger of sin after baptism, by which a man has been “made whole”—a characteristic comment.

J. H. Moulton1 has called attention to the curious fact that the Greek words here fall naturally into anapæsts:

ὑγιὴς γέγονας· μηκέθʼ ἁμάρτανε,

ἵνα μὴ χεῖρόν σοί τι γένηται

—a tolerable, if not perfect, couplet. This is, of course, a mere accident. Cf. 4:35.

15. καὶ εἶπεν τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις κτλ. εἶπεν is read by אCL, but�

16. καὶ διὰ τοῦτο ἐδίωκον κτλ., “And for this cause the Jews began to persecute Jesus, because, etc.” The force of the imperfects, ἐδίωκον, ἐποίει, ἐζήτουν (v. 18), must not be overlooked. This was the first open declaration of hostility to Jesus by the Pharisees of Jerusalem, and its immediate cause was His first open violation of the Sabbatical law. ἐδίωκον, “they began to persecute Him”; ὅτι ταῦτα ἐποίει ἐν σαββάτῳ, “because He began to do these things on the Sabbath.” Cf. Mark 3:6, where a similar cause is assigned for the first exhibition of enmity to Him in Galilee.

διὰ τοῦτο, “for this cause,” referring to what follows (not, as more commonly, to what precedes, e.g. 6:65), is a favourite opening phrase with Jn. Cf. v. 18, 8:47, 10:17, 12:18, 39, 1 John 3:1, and Isaiah 24:6 διὰ τοῦτο�

After τὸν Ἰησοῦν the rec. with AΓΔΘ inserts καὶ ἐξζήτουν αὐτὸν�

17.�Mark 14:61, Matthew 27:12, Luke 23:9). See also 12:23, 13:38, 18:34.

The defence of His technical breach of the Sabbath which Jn. here ascribes to Jesus is different from most of the sayings on the subject of which the Synoptists tell. Thus in Mark 3:4, Luke 6:9, Jesus confounds His critics by the simple question, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good?” when they objected to His cure of the man with the withered hand. In Matthew 12:11, Luke 13:15, He puts the case that no one will scruple to pull a sheep out of a pit or to water his cattle on the Sabbath (cf. 7:23, where appeal is made to a similar principle). In Mark 2:25, Luke 6:3, Matthew 12:3, He appeals to O.T. precedent to show that necessity may override strict law, and in Matthew 12:8 He appeals to the saying that God prefers mercy to sacrifice (Hosea 6:6). But in Mark 2:28, Matthew 12:8, Luke 6:5, He lays down the principle that “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath”1 This principle contains in germ the argument which Jn. puts forward here, in a different form.

ὁ πατήρ μου ἕως ἄρτι ἐργάζεται, κἀγὼ ἐργάζομαι. Here is claimed by Jesus the same freedom with regard to the Sabbath that belongs to God Himself. God instituted the Sabbath for man, but the law of its observance does not bind Him who gave the law.

Philo points out that God, the Author of nature, does not observe the Sabbath: “Having ceased from the creation of mortal creatures on the seventh day, He begins with other more divine beings (διατυπώσεων). For God never ceases making (παύεται γὰρ οὐδέποτε ποιῶν ὁ θεός) but as it is the property of fire to burn and of snow to chill, so it is the property of God to make (οὕτως καὶ θεοῦ τὸ ποιεῖν)” (Leg. All. i. 2, 3). And, again, Ποιῶν ὁ θεὸς οὐ παύεται (l.c. i. 7).2

Justin Martyr quotes a saying from the old man to whom he owed his conversion, to the effect that the heavenly bodies do not keep the Sabbath, ὁρᾶτε ὅτι τὰ στοιχεῖα οὐκ�

Such thoughts were prevalent in Jewish circles, and it is to the idea that God Himself does not share the Sabbath rest of man, that appeal is made in this saying which Jn. ascribes to Jesus. Thus Origen rightly says that Jesus shows in John 5:17 that God does not rest on earthly Sabbaths from His providential ordering of the world, the true Sabbath of God being the future rest when He shall be all in all.1 And the Syriac commentator Isho’dad, who wrote in the ninth century, but whose interpretations preserve much older material, in like manner represents Christ as saying here: “Do I allow the circuit of the sun … the flowing of the rivers … the birth and growth of men together and the energies of all living beings about everything? These are things which are accomplished by means of angels, according to His will, and these things are done in the feasts and on the Sabbaths and at every hour.”2

Thus the ancient interpretation of ὁ πατήρ μου ἕως ἄρτι ἐργάζεται is clear. The words express the idea (obvious when it is expressed) that God does not keep the Sabbath ἕως ἄρτι, that is, hitherto (see 2:10, 16:24, 1 John 2:9). God’s working has not been intermitted since the Creation. He works, goes on working uninterruptedly, until now. The rest of God is for the future, as Origen points out.

κἀγὼ ἐργάζομαι, “And I also work,” sc. in the same way. That is, Jesus claims not only that He may call God ὁ πατήρ μου (“my Father,” in a unique sense; see on 2:16), but that His relation to the Sabbath law is not different from that of God Himself. This is the Johannine form of the Synoptic saying, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath,” expressed in mystical and uncompromising fashion.

18. This declaration provoked the Jews to indignation. διὰ τοῦτο (see on v. 16) οὖν (om. אD, but ins. ABCL) μᾶλλον ἐζήτουν αὐτὸν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι�

οὐ μόνον ἔλυεν τὸ σάββατον. For λύειν in the sense of “break,” “set at naught,” as in Matthew 5:19, cf. 7:23, 10:35, Moulton-Milligan’s Vocab. (p. 384) cites from papyri of the third century b.c. ἐὰν δέ τις τούτων τι λύηι, κατάρατος ἔστω, and also λύειν τὰ πένθη, “to break the period of mourning,” i.e. to go out of mourning.

That Jesus was setting Sabbatical rules at naught was the primary cause of the Jews’ hostility to Him; but it was a much graver offence that He claimed to have Divine prerogatives. This they treated as blasphemy (cf. 8:59, 10:36, Mark 2:7, Matthew 26:65).

It need not be doubted that the breaches of the Sabbath which Jesus countenanced provoked the first suspicions of His opponents at Jerusalem (as in Galilee, Mark 3:2), and that the incident of the healing of the impotent man on the Sabbath is historical. Jn. is here true to fact, but he is not interested so much in Jewish Sabbatical doctrines as in the Divine Personality of Jesus,1 and so he dwells at great length on the doctrine of Jesus as the Son of God which is implied in His claim to be Lord of the Sabbath.

πάτερα ἴδιον ἔλεγεν, “He was calling God His own Father,” in a special sense, as indeed the words ὁ πατήρ μου of v. 17 implied. Cf. Romans 8:32 ὁ ἴδιος υἱός.

ἴσον ἑαυτὸν ποιῶν τῷ θεῷ. This was the form in which His Jewish enemies defined the meaning of His words (cf. 10:33, 19:7), and there is a sense in which their complaint might be justified. But the actual phrase ἴσος θεῷ is not part of the claim of Jesus for Himself (see on 14:28 ὁ πατὴρ μείζων μού ἐστι), and Paul’s phrase is ἴσα θεῷ, which refers to the attributes rather than to the person of Christ (see Lightfoot on Philippians 2:6). It is not taught anywhere by Jn. that Christ is ἴσος θεῷ, for that would seem to divide the Godhead (cf. θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος, 1:1).

19. For�

οὐ δύναται ὁ υἱός ποιεῖν�Numbers 16:28), and it is true of every man that “he can do nothing of himself,” but only what God empowers him to do. Here, however, the thought is deeper. It is that the relation between the Father and the Son is so intimate, that even the Son of God can do “nothing of Himself.” His works are the works of the Father (cf. v. 17) who sent Him (see on 3:17). He has ἐξουσία (see on 10:18), but it is always a delegated authority. It is a moral impossibility that He should do anything “of Himself,” ἂν μή τι βλέπῃ τὸν πατέρα ποιοῦντα, “unless He be seeing the Father doing something.” Thus the Incarnate Son is represented as continually seeing on earth what the Father is doing in heaven, and as Himself doing the same thing.2 The action of the Father and the Son is, sc to say, coextensive; cf. 14:10.

ἃ γὰρ ἂν ἐκεῖνος ποιῇ κτλ., “for what He, the Father, does (see on 1:8 for ἐκεῖνος in Jn.), the Son does likewise.”

This mystical doctrine that the Son cannot do anything except what He sees the Father doing has verbal affinity with the teaching of Philo. He speaks of the πρεσβύτατος υἱός, or πρωτόγονος, as one “who imitated the ways of the Father and, seeing His archetypal patterns, formed certain species” (μιμούμενος τὰς τοῦ πατρὸς ὁδούς, πρὸς παραδείγματα�

Ignatius (Magn. 7) has the words ὥσπερ οὖν ὁ κύριος ἄνευ τοῦ πατρὸς οὐδέν ἐποίησεν, ἡνωμένος ὤν (cf. John 10:30), οὔτε δἰ ἑαυτοῦ οὔδὲν διὰ τῶν�

Discourse on the Relation of the Son to the Father (Vv. 20-29)

20. Vv. 20-29 form a section by themselves. They deal with the secrets of the Divine Life, and unfold in some degree the relation of the Son to the Father, thus providing an explanation of, or commentary on, the mystic words of v. 17, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work,” and of v. 19, “The Son can do nothing of Himself.” As at other points in the Gospel (see on 3:16), it is impracticable to distinguish precisely the evangelist’s own commentary from the words which he ascribes to Jesus. The formula “Verily, verily, I say unto you,” which precedes vv. 19, 24, 25, always introduces words of Jesus Himself, and this must be the intention here. And vv. 28, 29, seem also to be placed in His mouth. But the use of ὥσπερ γάρ at the beginning of v. 21 and again at v. 26 (ὥσπερ does not appear again in Jn.) suggests that vv. 21-23 and vv. 26, 27, may be comments of the evangelist on the sayings of Jesus introduced by�

ὁ γὰρ πατὴρ φιλεῖ τὸν υἱόν. D reads�Mark 13:32; the statement is that the Son has complete cognizance of all that the Father does in the present.

καὶ μείζονα τούτων δείξει αὐτῷ ἔργα, “and greater works than these (sc. healing miracles such as the cure of the impotent man, which had disquieted the Jews so much) shall He show Him.” In the following verses, these “greater works” are specified, viz. that of raising the dead, and that of judging mankind.

The miracles of Christ are described in Matthew 11:2 as His ἔργα, and Jn. applies this description to them frequently (5:36, 7:3, 21, 10:25, 32, 38, 14:12, 15:24), as he does to the “works”of God (4:34, 6:28, 9:3, 17:4; cf. Psalms 95:9). For God there is no distinction in kind between “natural” and “supernatural” works. And the works of Christ are actually the works of God: ὁ πατὴρ ἐν ἐμοὶ μένων ποιεῖ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ (14:10). See on 7:21.

ἵνα ὑμεῖς θαυμάζητε. ὐμεῖς is emphatic, “you, incredulous Jews.” The healing miracles did not so much arouse their wonder, as their jealous indignation (there is no hint that the cure of the impotent man caused any wonder); but the “greater works” of raising the dead, and of judgment, could not fail to make them marvel. Such astonishment may pass into admiration, and thence into faith (cf. Acts 4:13).

Later on, it is promised to the faithful disciple that, in the power of Christ’s Risen Life, he too should do “greater things” than those which had attended the Lord’s public ministry: μείζονα τούτων ποιήσει. But this is not in contemplation here. See note on 14:12.

21. The first of the “greater works” specified is that of the “quickening” power of Christ, in raising the dead. The power of death and life is a Divine prerogative (Wisd. 16:13), “Yahweh kills and makes alive” (Deuteronomy 32:39, 1 Samuel 2:6 θανατοῖ καὶ ζωογονεῖ, 2 Kings 5:7 θανατῶσαι καὶ ζωοποιῆσαι). Several times in the daily prayer of the Jews, the Shemoneh Esreh, which in substance goes back to a period before the first century,1 is God invoked as One who “quickens the dead.” Cf. θεοῦ τοῦ ζωοποιοῦντος τοὺς νεκρούς (Romans 4:17), and also Romans 8:11 ὁ ἐγείρας ἐκ νεκρῶν Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν ζωοποιήσει καὶ τὰ θνητὰ σώματα ὑμῶν. So here we have ὁ πατὴρ ἐγείρει τοὺς νεκροὺς καὶ ζωοποιεῖ, ἐγείρειν being used of God’s “raising” of the dead, as it is at Mark 12:26.

This Divine prerogative also appertains to the Son: οὕτως καὶ ὁ υἱὸς οὓς θέλει ζωοποιεῖ. Paul has the same doctrine of Christ, as πνεῦμα ζωοποιοῦν (1 Corinthians 15:45; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:22), revivifying the dead. ζωοποιεῖν is not used here in a spiritual sense only (as at 6:63; cf. Ephesians 2:5), although that is included in its meaning; the significance of the verse as specifying one of Christ’s “greater works” is that He is declared to be one who has power over the death of the body, so that it is His to “quicken” whom He will. He is the Resurrection as well as the Life (11:25).

οὓς θέλει. His will is final as to who are to be “quickened,” just as there is no appeal from God’s will (Romans 9:18).

22, 23. The second of the “greater works” of Christ is that of judgment, a prerogative which has been already implied in οὓς θέλει of the preceding verse, for all judgment or separation between the evil and the good is a selective process.

Judgment is the prerogative of God (cf. Deuteronomy 1:17), for to be perfectly administered it demands omniscience. But this tremendous office has been “given” (see on 3:35) by the Father to the Son. ὁ πατὴρ κρίνει οὐδένα,�

The Jews were dishonouring Jesus (cf. 8:49) in accusing Him of blasphemy (v. 18), but worship is His due, for the honour due to the Father is His. With the thought that they who dishonour Him dishonour the Father, cf. 15:23, 1 John 2:23, and Luke 10:16.

τιμᾶν is found in Jn. again at 8:49, 12:26, and is generally used by him of the honour due to Christ or to His Father.

τὸν πέμψαντα αὐτόν: see on 3:17.

24. In vv. 24, 25, the thought is of spiritual life and death, the believer in Christ possessing already eternal life, and the words of eternal life being proclaimed in the ears of the spiritually dead, that they too may hear and live. In vv. 28, 29, the reference is to the future life, the voice of Christ being a voice of power at the Last Judgment, even as it is now. See on v. 28.


ἔχει ζωὴν αἰώνιον. The obedient believer has eternal life, as a present possession. See on 3:15, and cf. 1 John 5:12.

καὶ εἰς κρίσιν οὐκ ἔρχεται. Cf. 3:18 ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν οὐ κρίνεται. The believer “comes not to judgment”; that has already been determined.1 None the less, the prayer of humility will always be μὴ εἰσέλθῃς εἰς κρίσιν μετὰ τοῦ δούλου σου (Psalms 143:2).

ἀλλὰ μεταβέβηκεν ἐκ τοῦ θανάτου εἰς τὴν ζωήν. Some Latin versions try to escape the force of the pft. tense by the renderings transit, transiet, and Nonnus in his paraphrase has ἴξεται ἐκ θανατοίο; but this is through misunderstanding. Jn. is quite clear that the believer has “passed from death into life,” into the eternal life which begins here. Cf. οἴδαμεν ὅτι μεταβεβήκαμεν ἐκ τοῦ θανάτου εἰς τὴν ζωήν (1 John 3:14), the reason for such assurance being added, ὅτι�

25. οἱ νεκροὶ�

οἱ νεκροί here are the spiritually dead, as at Ephesians 2:1, Ephesians 2:5, Ephesians 2:5:14. “They shall hear (cf.�

τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ: see on 1:34. It is only in Jn. that this title is put into the mouth of Jesus (10:36, 11:4); while he often employs it when writing in his own person.

B has�

Verse 26 deals with the power of life. To Hebrew thought, no less than to Greek, God is the Living One: “With thee is the fountain of life” (Psalms 36:9). Thus the Father “has life in Himself,” and so He gave “to the Son to have life in Himself,” ἐν ἑαυτῷ being emphatic. (For ὤσπερ, see on v. 20 above.) To “have life in Himself” involves the power to give out life, or to quicken.

This “giving” has been interpreted of the mystical communication of life sub specie œternitatis by the Father to the Son in His pre-incarnate state; and the statement would then point to the Logos doctrine of the Prologue (cf. esp. 1:3, “In Him was Life,” and the note in loc.). This is possible (see on 17:24); but the thought of the Father “giving” to the Incarnate Son is frequent in Jn. (see on 3:35 above). It is better to interpret ἔδωκεν as in the other passages in the Gospel, where it is applied to the Father’s gifts to Christ as manifested in the flesh (see on 17:2). Christ is, in any case, “the Living One” (Revelation 1:18); but the significance of ἔδωκεν here is the same as that suggested by the words, “I live because of the Father” (6:57). The Divine power of life is delegated to Him, as is the Divine prerogative of judgment, which Jn. sets forth in v. 27.

27. The rec., supported by DΓΔΘ and some O.L. texts, has καί before κρίσιν; but om. אcABLW.

ἐξουσίαν ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ: see v. 22. The ἐξουσία is that of 17:2; cf. also Matthew 28:18. The Father “gave to Him authority to pass judgment, because He is the Son of Man,”1 to whom, as we have seen,2 the tremendous office of Judge is assigned in Jewish apocalyptic.

It has been suggested that the absence of the article before υἱὸς�

With μὴ θαυμάζετε, cf. 3:7 and 1 John 3:13.

ἔρχεται ὥρα: see on v. 25 and on 4:23


πάντες οἱ ἐν τοῖς μνημείοις κτλ. This is a plain statement of a general bodily resurrection, both of good and bad, such as is suggested in Apoc. of Baruch 50, 51, 2 Esd. 7:32f. In the N.T. it is explicitly asserted in Matthew 25:46, Acts 24:15, 2 Corinthians 5:10; and it is frequently implied in the Synoptic reports of the words of Jesus (e.g. Matthew 5:29, Matthew 5:30, Matthew 5:10:28. Luke 11:32). That Christ is the Agent of this Resurrection, so far as the righteous are concerned at any rate, has appeared 6:39f. He “makes alive” both in this world and at the Day of Judgment; such is the consistent teaching of Jn.

As at v. 25, the MSS. vary as to�

29. The word�Psalms 6:06tit). The Synoptists have it in the narrative of the questioning Sadducees (Mark 12:18f., Matthew 22:23f., Luke 20:27f.); and, besides, Lk. has the phrase “the resurrection of the just” (14:14). We have�

There are the two resurrections: one of life, the other of judgment. For the former, cf. 2 Macc. 7:14 σοὶ μὲν γὰρ�Daniel 12:2.

For τὰ φαῦλα πράξαντες (πράσσοντες D), see on 3:20.

Life and judgment begin in this world, but the life once secured continues eternally, the future judgment being already anticipated. The evil-doer is to rise after death, for a judgment which, although predetermined, has not yet been fully exhibited or revealed. See on 3:18f.

Jesus Appeals to the Witness to His Claims Provided by God (Vv. 32, 37), By the Baptist (V. 33), By His Own Works (V. 36), And by the O.T. (V. 39)

30. The discourse returns to the first person, from the third; the thought, “I can do nothing of myself,” returning to v. 19, where see note (cf. 8:28�

ἐμαυτός is used by Jesus of Himself 16 times in Jn., never in the Synoptists, where it occurs only Matthew 8:9, Luke 7:7, Luke 7:8.

καθὼς�Psalms 7:11 of God, the Righteous judge) is repeated 8:16 in the form ἡ κρίσις ἡ ἐμὴ�

Thus to seek that God’s will be done, in every decision of life, was perfectly realised only in the Son of Man Himself. But the precept of Rabbi Gamaliel may apply to every man, however imperfectly it may be obeyed: “Do His will as if it were thy will, that He may do thy will as if it were His will.”1

The rec. adds πατρός after τοῦ πέμψαντός με (cf. 6:40), but om. אABDLNW

31. The argument in vv. 31-37 is that the proclamation by Jesus of His own claims and authority did not depend, as the Pharisees naturally urged, upon His individual testimony. He admits that if the witness which He bore to Himself was merely that of one man, it would not be sufficient. “If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true,” i.e. it need not be taken as true, for (of course) a single witness may speak truth even in his own case. But He urges that, apart from the “witness” to Him which was given by John the Baptist to the Pharisees when they made inquiry (v. 33), upon which He does not rely (v. 34), there is the “witness” of Another, greater immeasurably than John (vv. 32, 34). The “witness” of the “works” which He did is really the “witness” of God (v. 36), without whom they could not have been done, and in whose Name and by whose authority they were done. The argument in 8:14-17 is different. He does, indeed, appeal there, as He does here, to the fact that the “witness” of the Father corroborates His own, and that therefore the requisite “two witnesses” are present in His case (8:17); but He goes on to claim that His consciousness of Divine origin (v. 14) and the intimacy of His union with the Father justify Him in the assertion, paradoxical as it might seem to His opponents, that His self-witness must be true. ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ μαρτυρῶν περὶ ἐμαυτοῦ is the claim and the style of Deity (8:18).

Here, however, He is represented only as saying that His individual witness is confirmed by the witness of God.

ἐὰν ἐγὼ μαρτυρῶ περὶ ἐμαυτοῦ, ἡ μαρτυρία μου οὐκ ἔστιν�

The Jewish maxims as to evidence were rigidly and pedantically observed in the subtle disputations of the Rabbinical schools. One was that two witnesses at least were always necessary for the establishment of any matter of fact (Deuteronomy 19:15). To this maxim allusion is made 2 Corinthians 13:1, 1 Timothy 5:19; and Jesus quotes it as a rule at Matthew 18:16. Another, not less weighty, rule was that a man’s evidence about himself was suspect. Wetstein quotes the Mishna (Ketuboth ii. 9), “homo non est fide dignus de se ipso.” That, indeed, is a common maxim of law everywhere; cf. Demosthenes, 2 contra Steph. § 9 μαρτυρεῖν γὰρ οἱ νόμοι οὐκ ἐῶσιν αὐτὸν ἑαυτῷ. Now when Jesus enunciated lofty claims for Himself and for His mission, He was challenged to substantiate them, and all arguments conducted with the Rabbis had perforce to fall in with their doctrine as to what constituted valid evidence. The arguments here (vv. 31-39) and at 8:12-19 seem to a modem reader pedantic and unattractive in form, precisely because they reproduce modes of thought and speech which are foreign to our Western culture. They are not like the arguments of Greek disputants; but their Rabbinical flavour is an indication that they have been faithfully reported by one who was himself a Jew, and to whom Jewish scholasticism was not strange or unfamiliar. In arguing with the Rabbis, Jesus did not shrink from arguing on their principles, and had He refused to do this, He could not have gained a hearing at Jerusalem at all. See Introd., p. lxxxii.

32. ἄλλος ἐστὶν ὁ μαρτυρῶν περὶ ἐμοῦ (cf. 8:18). To interpret ἄλλος of John the Baptist, as is done, e.g., by Chrysostom, makes havoc of the argument which follows. Cyprian (Epist. lxvi. 2) rightly interprets ἄλλος of the Father. Blass1 cites, in illustration of such a use of ἄλλος Æschylus, Suppl. 230, κἀκεῖ δικάζει … Ζεὺς ἄλλος; and Abbott (Diat. 2791) quotes a passage from Epictetus (iii. 13, 13-14), where God is reverentially described as Another (ἄλλος), who guards men’s lives. Cf. 14:16.

The present participle μαρτυρῶν should be noted: “There is Another who is bearing witness concerning me,” this witness being continuous and a present reality at the time of speaking, whereas the witness of John the Baptist is spoken of in the past tense (vv. 34, 35). According to the arrangement of the Gospel text which is followed in this commentary (see on 6:1), John the Baptist was dead at the point in the ministry of Jesus which has now been reached (cf. v. 35).

For οἶδα (אcABLNWΘ), א*D and Syr. sin. have οἴδατε, a reading due to the mistaken interpretation which treats ἄλλος as referring to John the Baptist.

καὶ οἶδα ὅτι ὰληθής ἐστιν ἡ μαρτυρία κτλ., “and I know that the witness which He witnesseth of me is true.” No one could know this as the Speaker knew it; cf. ἐγὼ οἶδα αὐτὸν ὅτι παρʼ αὐτοῦ εἰμι (7:29).

The reference to God the Father as His witness is an illustration of the saying ὁ πατὴρ μείζων μού ἐστι 14:28), and helps to explain it. Philo lays down the principle that “he who bears witness, in so far as he does so, is superior to him of whom witness is borne,” ὁ μαρτυρῦν, παρʼ ὅσο. μαρτυρεὶ, κρείττων ἐστὶν τοῦ ἐκμαρτυρουμένου (de sacr. Abelis et Caini, § 28).

33. ὑμεῖς�

34. But, try as was the witness of the Baptist, it is not that upon which Jesus relies. ἐγώ is in contrast with ὑμεῖς of the preceding. ἐγὼ δὲ οὐ παρὰ�1 John 5:9 εἰ τὴν μαρτυρίαν τῶν�

ἀλλὰ, “nevertheless”; although He did not rely upon the witness of John, He referred to it because it was of it that the Pharisees had made inquiry (1:19), and He would remind them of this. ταῦτα λέγω, “I say these things,” i.e. about the Baptist’s testimony, ἵνα ὑμεῖς σωθῆτε, “in order that you (who made inquiry) may be saved.” It was the final cause of the mission of Jesus, ἵνα σωθῇ ὁ κόσμος (see on 3:17 for σώζειν).

35. ἐκεῖνος (much used by Jn. to mark out the subject of a sentence; see on 1:8) ἦν (the use of the past tense shows that the ministry of John Baptist was over; see on v. 32) ὁ λύχνος ὁ καιόμενος καὶ φαίνων, “the Lamp that burns and shines.” The Baptist, as Jn. has said (1:8), was not the Light (τὸ φῶς), but he was a lamp whose shining illuminated the darkness. “Non Lux iste, sed lucerna,” as the Latin hymn has it. Cf. οἱ λύχνοι καιόμενοι (Luke 12:35), and especially 2 Peter 1:19, where prophecy is compared to λύχνος φαίνων ἐν αὐχμηρῷ τόπῳ, ἕως οὗ ἡμέρα διαυγάσῃ. When the Light comes, the lamp is no longer needed.

A lamp not only burns as it gives light, but it burns away, and so it was with the Baptist, who decreased as His Master increased; but this is not necessarily implied here.

David is called the λύχνος of Israel (2 Samuel 21:17); but the sentence ἡτοίμασα λύχνον τῷ χριστῷ μου (Psalms 132:17) came to be applied by the Fathers to John the Baptist, the metaphor of John as the Lamp being widely adopted. It is said in Ecclus. 48:1 that the word of Elijah was like a burning torch, ὡς λάμπας ἐκαίετο; and, if there were any evidence that Elijah was compared traditionally to a Lamp, we might suppose that the description in the text of John, the new Elijah, as λύχνος carried an allusion to this. But Ecclus. 48:1 does not provide sufficent foundation for such a theory.

ὑμεῖς δὲ ἠθελήσατε�Mark 1:5, Matthew 3:5, Matthew 3:11:7, 21:26; and cf. John 1:19), and of the fickleness of those who had been attracted to him, like moths to a lighted candle.

ἀγαλλιάομαι occurs again 8:56.

36. But Jesus does not rest His claims on the witness of the Baptist (cf. v. 34). ἐγὼ δὲ ἔχω τὴν μαρτυρίαν μείζω (this is the true reading, μείζων of ABW being due to misunderstanding) τοῦ Ἰωάνου, “but I (ἐγώ being emphatic) have witness greater than that of John”; cf. vv. 32, 37, 1 John 5:9. The works which He did were witness that His mission was from God.

For this conception of the ἔργα of Jesus as His “witness,” see 10:25; and cf. Matthew 11:4, Luke 7:22, where He bade John’s disciples report His works of healing to their master as sufficient proof of His Messiahship. Faith which is generated by the witness of such “works” is not faith in its highest form (cf. 10:38, 14:11; and see 2:23), but to reject their witness is sinful (15:24). Cf. also 3:2.

For the ἔργα of the Son, see on v. 20 above. They are described here as “the works which the Father has given me (see on 3:35) to accomplish.” And at 17:4 Jesus is represented as claiming that He had accomplished them, the words used being almost the same as in this verse, τὸ ἔργον τελειώσας ὂ δέδωκάς μοι ἵνα ποιήσω.

For δέδωκεν (אBLΓNW) the rec. with ADΔΘ has ἔδωκεν.

With ἵνα τελειώσω cf. 4:34.

αὐτὰ τὰ ἔργα ἃ ποιῶ μαρτυρεῖ περὶ ἐμοῦ. The repetition of αὐτὰ τὰ ἔργα is conversational. Cf., for similar words, 10:25, 14:11. The thing which is established by these ἔργα is that Jesus had been “sent” by the Father, ὅτι ὁ πατήρ με�

The key to vv. 37, 38, is found in 1 John 5:9, 1 John 5:10 αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ μαρτυρία τοῦ θεοῦ, ὅτι μεμαρτύρηκεν περὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ. ὁ πιστεύων εἰς τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ ἔχει τὴν μαρτυρίαν ἐν ἑαυτῷ. The believer has an internal witness, which is in reality the witness of God. We are not to think of voices from heaven or visible epiphanies as indicated by the μαρτυρία of the Father; such are recorded by the Synoptists at the Baptism and the Transfiguration (cf. also John 12:28). It is the confident assurance of the believer which is here in question.

οὔτε φωνὴν αὐτοῦ πώποτε�

οὔτε εἶδος αὐτοῦ ἑωράκατε, “nor have you seen His form.” So 1:18 θεον οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε, and 1 John 4:12; cf. 6:46. This was admitted by Jew and Greek alike. Peniel, the place of Jacob’s wrestling, is called indeed in the LXX εἶδος θεοῦ (Genesis 32:30), the reason given being ἴδον γὰρ θεὸν πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον. But no Jew regarded that as an ordinary experience, or one that he might expect to be repeated in his own case. Man cannot see with bodily eyes the εἶδος of God; and so God cannot appear as a witness to give legal evidence.

From οὔτε φωνήν to ἑωράκατε is a kind of parenthesis, interpolated to avoid misunderstanding. Then follows the description of the true μαρτυρία of the Father.

38. καὶ τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἔχετε ἐν ὑμῖν μένοντα. καί. (as in v. 40 καὶ οὐ θέλετε) stands for and yet, as often in Jn. (see note on 1:10). The sequence of thought is: The Father has borne witness of me, and yet you have not His word abiding in you, you have not appropriated this Divine word of revelation.

The λόγος of God is used sometimes by Jn. to signify the message or revelation or command which God has given. Thus in 10:35 there is allusion to the λόγος of God which came to men of the olden time with the revelation “Ye are gods … ye are sons of the Most High” (Psalms 82:6). Such a word of God, when it comes to a faithful heart, abides there. To the young men whom Jn. commends, he writes, ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν ὑμῖν μένει (1 John 2:14). And, again, of self-deceivers who claim to be sinless, ὁ λόγος αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν ἡμῖν (1 John 1:10). So, in 17:6, Jesus says of His faithful apostles, τὸν λόγον σου τετήρηκαν. Cf. 15:3.

The metaphor is different at 8:31, where Jesus speaks of the faithful disciples as “abiding in His word” (ἐὰν μείνητε ἐν τῷ λόγῳ τῷ ἐμῷ). Here He speaks of the word of the Father abiding in them, which is really the Father’s “witness.” But, in fact, the two expressions “abiding in His word” and “His word abiding in us” imply each other in Jn. Similarly (see on 6:56), to “abide in Christ” implies that He “abides in us” (cf. also 15:4, 7). The two go together.

ὄτι ὃν�

The failure to appropriate the Father’s witness, the fact that the λόγος of the Father, which surely came to them revealing Jesus as His Son, did not “abide” in them, is traced to the lack of faith, just as in 1 John 5:10 ὁ μὴ πιστεύων τῷ θεῷ ψεύστην πεποίηκεν αὐτόν, ὄτι οὐ πεπίστευκεν εἰς τὴν μαρτυρίαν ἥν μεμαρτύρηκεν ὁ θεὸς περὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ.

This λόγος of the Father in men’s hearts is His sure witness, although it cannot be used for the conviction of unbelievers.

39. The rec. text has ἐρευνᾶτε, but אB*N have ἐραυνᾶτε, which is the better form.

αἱ γραφαί, in the plural, stands for the collected books of the O.T. Canon (so Matthew 21:42, Luke 24:27); but elsewhere in Jn. we find always ἡ γραφή with reference to a particular passage (see on 2:22).

The verb ἐραυνᾶν is found again in Jn. only at 7:52 (where see note), and is not used elsewhere in the N.T. of searching the Scriptures (in Acts 17:11 the word used is�Psalms 119:2 μακρίοι οἱ ἐξεραυνῶντες τὰ μαρτύρια αὐτοῦ.

It has been much debated whether ἐραυνᾶτε in this passage is to be taken as an imperative, or as a present indicative. Origen (c. Celsum, v. 16) and Tertullian (de Præscript. 8) take it as imperative, so that the familiar exhortation “Search the Scriptures” goes back at any rate to the end of the second century. This is the rendering of the older English versions, as also of the Latin Vulgate, and (apparently) of Irenæus (Hær. iv. 10. 1). But, despite this early tradition, it is preferable to follow the R.V. in translating “Ye search the Scriptures, for in them, etc.,” for the argument seems to halt if ἐραυνᾶτε is imperative. Jesus is not exhorting the Jews here; He is arguing with them, and rebuking them for their stubborn rejection of Him. Their fault is οὐ θέλετε ἐλθεῖν πρός με.

It was a Rabbinical saying that “he who has acquired the words of the Law has acquired eternal life“;1 and it is this kind of superstition to which the words “Ye search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life,” refer. ζωὴ αἰώνιος here means “the future life,” as often in Jn. (see on 3:15), and the word δοκεῖτε is significant. In categorical sentences δοκεῖν in Jn. (see 5:45, 11:13, 31, 13:29, 16:2, 20:15) always2 indicates a mistaken or inaccurate opinion: ὑμεῖς δοκεῖτε means “you think, wrongly.”

It is not possible to treat ἐραυνᾶτε as an imperative, and do justice to these considerations. Why should the Jews be bidden to search the Scriptures because they held a wrong opinion about their sanctity? The reading of them in the formal manner of the Rabbis did not carry with it the possession of eternal life. Their true sanctity lay in their pointing onward to the Christ. ἐκεῖναί (these very Scriptures, which you misuse) εἰσιν αἱ μαρτυροῦσαι περὶ ἐμοῦ, which the Jews did not appreciate.

The argument, then, is, “You search the Scriptures because of your mistaken belief that this close scrutiny of words and syllables in the sacred books assures you of the life to come. There you are wrong. The true value of the Scriptures is that they bear witness of me. And you are doubly wrong, for you will not come to me in person, when the opportunity is given.”3

40. οὐ θέλετε ἐλθεῖν πρός με. This is the tragedy of the rejection of Messiah by the Messianic race; cf. Matthew 23:37, with the same sombre conclusion, οὐκ ἠθελήσατε. The use of καἰ (cf. v. 38), meaning “and yet,” before οὐ θέλετε is a feature of Jn.’s style. See on 1:10.

Explanation of the Unbelief of the Jews (Vv. 41-47)

41. Verses 41-47 are an exposure of the source of the Jews’ unbelief. It is this, that they do not love God, and so they do not appreciate Him who came in God’s Name. They are concerned rather with the approval of their fellows, than with God’s approval. Nevertheless, Jesus says that He will not accuse them to God. Moses will be their accuser: he wrote of Messiah, and the Jews did not appreciate what he wrote. It is not to be expected, if they reject the written teaching of Moses, that they should accept the verbal teaching of Jesus.

δόξαν παρὰ�1 Thessalonians 2:6). That the honour (δόξα) which is bestowed by men on their fellows is not to be greatly prized is not a peculiarly Johannine doctrine (5:44, 7:18, 12:43), but appears in Matthew 6:1, Matthew 6:2 and elsewhere. Cf. “The good inclination receiveth not glory or dishonour from men” (Test. of XII. Patriarchs, Benj. vi. 4). For δόξα, see on 1:14.


To primitive Hebrew thought the name had an intimate and mysterious connexion with him whose name it was; and this idea lies behind the widely spread practice of reciting the names of foes for magical purposes. The name was the expression of the personality. Thus “the Name of Yahweh” came to signify the revelation of the Being of God, exhibiting itself in Power and Providence,1 and it is frequently used thus in the O.T. (cf. Psalms 20:1, Proverbs 18:10). This usage is carried into the N.T. (Luke 1:49; and see notes on 1:12, 17:11).

Thus “I am come in the Name of my Father” does not only mean “I am come as His representative, having been sent by Him,” although it includes this (see 7:28, 8:42); but it conveys the idea that the Incarnate Son reveals the Father in His character and power. Cf. 14:26.

καὶ οὐ λαμβάνετέ με, “but you do not receive me,” καί being used as an adversative conjunction, where we would expect�

ἐὰν ἄλλος ἔλθῃ κτλ., “if another shall come in his own name, him you will receive.” Abbott (Diat. 2677) calls attention to the use of ἄλλος rather than ἕτερος: “if another come (professing to be of the same kind as myself), etc.” Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:4 ἄλλον Ἰησοῦν. Such a pseudo-Christ would appear only “in his own name,” i.e. not representing or revealing the name and the nature of God, as Jesus did.

Schmiedel2 finds here (so too Hilgenfeld and Pfleiderer) an allusion to the rising of Barcochba about 134 a.d., which led to the extinction of the Jewish State. On this hypothesis, the Fourth Gospel (for there is no sign that this verse is an interpolation) would be later in date than Barcochba. But the words are quite general in their reference, and are comparable with Mark 13:6, Mark 13:22 (cf. Matthew 24:5, Matthew 24:24): “Many shall come in my Name … there shall arise false Christs and false prophets.” This is one of the few passages in which Jn. reproduces sayings of Jesus comparable with the Synoptic predictions of the last things (see Introd., pp. cxxix, clix). Bousset1 finds an allusion to the coming of Antichrist (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12), but the context does not call for any definite reference to the success of false Messiahs, of whom many have appeared.

44. The cause of the Jews’ unbelief is traced here to the desire for popular applause and favour. “All their works they do for to be seen of men” is a judgment on the Pharisees found in Matthew 23:5. “They loved the glory of men more than the glory of God” is Jn.’s verdict about some who hesitated to acknowledge their belief in Jesus (12:43). But the saying recorded in this verse goes deeper. Faith, Jesus seems to say, is impossible in any vital sense for the man who measures himself only by human standards. He who has that vivid sense of the unseen, which is faith, instinctively seeks in his conversation and conduct to win the approval of God, in comparison with which nothing else seems to be important.

πῶς δύνασθε ὑμεῖς πιστεῦσαι, δόξαν παρὰ�Romans 2:29). Cf. the words of Mordecai’s prayer: “I did this that I might not prefer the glory (δόξα) of man to the glory of God” (Esth. 13:14).

For πιστεύειν used absolutely, the object of faith not being expressed, see on 1:7.

καὶ τὴν δόξαν τὴν παρὰ τοῦ μόνου θεοῦ οὐ ζητεῖτε. BW and (in one place) Origen omit θεοῦ, but it is certainly part of the true text. The archetypes would have had μονουθυου, from which θυ could very readily have been dropped.

The only δόξα worth having is that which comes from “the Only God” (cf. 1:14). For the phrase ὁ μόνος θεός, see 2 Kings 19:15, 2 Kings 19:19, Psalms 86:10, Isaiah 37:20, Isaiah 37:2 Macc. 7:37, 4 Macc. 2:23 (and cf. John 17:3.Romans 16:27, Jude 1:25, Revelation 15:4): the Jews were convinced monotheists. It is not upon the unity of God that Jesus here lays stress, but upon the fact that there is no other worthy Fount of honour. Cf. 8:54.

45. For μὴ δοκεῖτε, δοκῖτε always having reference in Jn. to a mistaken opinion, see on v. 39 above.

μὴ δοκεῖτε ὅτι ἐγὼ κατηγορήσω ὑμῶν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα. It would appear that some of His hearers were beginning to be uneasy. He might be what He claimed to be, and if that happened to be so, would not His accusation of them to God be hard to rebut? So, in answer to these thoughts, expressed or unexpressed, He bids them be sure that His office at the Great Assize will not be that of Prosecutor. It has been said earlier in the chapter (v. 27) that He will be the Judge; but upon that no stress is laid here (cf. 12:47, 48; and see on 3:17).

Their prosecutor, or accuser, will be the person whom they expected to be their advocate, sc. Moses. Their national claim was that they were disciples of Moses (9:28; cf. 7:19), and Moses had given them the law of the Sabbath, the breach of which by Jesus had initiated this controversy (v. 16). Surely, Moses would defend their cause. But, on the contrary, they are told: ἔστιν ὁ κατηγορῶν ὑμῶν, Μωϋσῆς, εἰς ὃν ὑμεῖς ἠλπίκατε (cf. Deuteronomy 31:21).

This verse has all the marks of historicity. No one would think of inventing a denial by Jesus of the suggestion that He was to be the Accuser of the Jews at the Last Judgment. But it is quite natural in the context in which it appears.

εἰς ὃν ὑμεῖς ἠλπίκατε, “on whom you have set your hope,” i.e. in whom you hope, in quo uos speratis, as the Vulgate correctly renders. ἐλπίζειν does not occur again in Jn., but the use here of the perfect tense to indicate that the hope continues in the present and is not merely an emotion of the past, has parallels at 1 Corinthians 15:19, 2 Corinthians 1:10, 1 Timothy 4:10, 1 Timothy 5:5, 1 Timothy 6:17. The aor. ἤλπισα occurs only twice in the N.T., sc. 2 Corinthians 8:5, 1 Peter 1:13, which is remarkable, as in the LXX the perfect ἤλπικα is never used, but always the aorist (e.g. Psalms 7:1, Psalms 16:1 etc.). Again, the constr. ἐλπίζειν εἴς σινα is rare in the LXX (cf. Psalms 119:114, Psalms 145:15, Isaiah 51:5), where the prep. ἐπί is nearly always used. In the N.T., too, we generally have ἐπί, but εἰς in Acts 26:7, 2 Corinthians 1:10, 1 Peter 3:5. Thus the only exact parallel in the Greek Bible to the phrase in this verse is εἰς ὅν ἠλπίκαμεν of 2 Corinthians 1:10, a sound Greek construction.1

46. εἰ γὰρ ἐπιστεύετε Μωϋσεῖ κτλ., “if you believed Moses, you would believe me,” the imperfect tenses indicating a continuing belief.

περὶ γὰρ ἐμοῦ ἐκεῖνος ἔγραψεν, “for it was of me that he wrote” (cf. 12:41). Deuteronomy 18:18, Deuteronomy 18:19 is cited as Messianic in Acts 3:22, and it is regarded by Cyprian (Test. i. 18) as the passage to which reference is specially made here. It was one of the first O.T. testimonia to be claimed by Christians. At 3:14, the brazen serpent is mentioned as a type of Christ; and at 8:56 reference is made to Abraham’s prevision of Christ’s work Cf. Luke 24:27, when no doubt many other types and prophecies were explained. It is probable that Jesus adduced specific passages in support of His statement that Moses had written of Him, but we cannot tell what they were. Only a summary of His argument is before us.

47. εἰ δὲ τοῖς ἐκείνου γράμμασιν κτλ., “but if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” There is a double contrast, between ἐκείνου and ἐμοῖς, and between γοάμμασιν and ῥήμασιν. The argument, If you do not believe Moses, how will you believe Christ? would not have appealed to a Christian of any age; but it was addressed here to Jews, for whom the authority of Moses was the greatest they knew (cf. Luke 16:31), and in such a context was weighty. Here, again, it is plain that Jn. is reproducing with fidelity the kind of argument which Jesus used in Jewish controversy. Upon the contrast between γράμματα, “writings,” and ῥήματα, “sayings,” no special stress is laid, although these γράμματα were reckoned as ἱερὰ γράμματα (2 Timothy 3:15) and as entitled therefore to special reverence. If Jesus were no other than an ordinary Rabbi, it would be obvious that his authority as a teacher would be far inferior to that of the sacred writings, consecrated by a long tradition.

The ῥήματα of Jesus are mentioned again 6:63, 68, 8:20, 12:47, 48, 14:10, 15:7, 17:8 (see on 3:34 above).

The constr. εἰ … οὐ, as an undivided phrase, is noted by Abbott (Diat. 2256) as occurring again in Jn. only at 10:37.

1 For the position of c. 5 in the text, cf. Introd., pp. 17, 30.

2 Introd., p. 108.

3 Introd., p. 116.

4 See Introd., p. 103.

אԠSinaiticus (δ 2). Leningrad. iv.

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

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

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

B Vaticanus (δ 1). Rome. Cent. iv.

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).

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.

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.

1 Cf. Torrey, Harvard Theol. Review, Oct. 1923, p. 334, who presses the force of ἔστιν as representfng an Aramaic original, and holds that the Gospel must have been composed before Jerusalem had been destroyed.

1 See G. A. Smith, Jerusalem, ii. 566, and Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, p. 170; cf. also D.C.G., s.v. “Bethesda.”

1 Cf. Sanday, Sacred Sites of the Gospels, p. 55.

2 Introd., p. lxxxvii.

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

1 Cambridge Biblical Essays (ed. H. B. Swete), p. 483.

1 Diat. 2537; see, for illustrations from the papyri, MoultonMilligan, s.v.�

Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on John 5". International Critical Commentary NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/icc/john-5.html. 1896-1924.
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