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Bible Commentaries

International Critical Commentary NT

John 6

Verses 1-99

The Feeding of the Five Thousand (6:1-13)

6:1 ff. The incident of the Feeding of the Five Thousand is the only one in the public ministry of Jesus before the last visit to Jerusalem which is found in all four Gospels; Mk., Mt., and Jn. (but not Luke) adding an account of the Storm on the Lake. The Synoptists (Mark 6:31f., Matthew 14:13f., Luke 9:10f.) agree in placing the miraculous feeding after the return of the Twelve from their mission, and after the beheading of John the Baptist. The labours which the apostles had undertaken made a period of rest desirable (Mark 6:31); and also it was but prudent to go into retirement for a time, as Herod’s suspicions had been aroused, and he was desirous of seeing Jesus (Luke 9:9). The setting of the miracle in Jn. is not inconsistent with these somewhat vague indications of the period in the ministry of Jesus at which it was wrought.


Reasons have been given already for the conclusion (see Introd., p. xvii) that Son_5 and 6 have been transposed, so that in the original draft of Jn., c. 6 followed directly after c. 4. At the end of c. 4 Jesus and His disciples are at Cana, and we now find them crossing the Sea of Galilee to its north-eastern side. They probably followed the road familiar to them (2:12), and went down from Cana to Capernaum, where they had their heavy1 fishing-boat (τὸ πλοῖον, Mark 6:32). Mk. (followed by Mt.) says that the place to which they went by boat was “a desert place,” as Jesus wished to retire for a time from public view, but that the crowd followed them by road, evidently being able to observe the course the boat was taking, and arrived before them (Mark 6:32, Mark 6:33). Jn. rather implies that Jesus and His disciples arrived first (6:3). Lk. (9:10) gives the name of the place as Bethsaida, by which he must mean Bethsaida Julias (et Tell) at the extreme north end of the lake, on the eastern side, for no other Bethsaida is known.2 These data are all fairly consistent with each other, if we suppose that the place was the little plain on the north-eastern shore (about a mile south of Bethsaida Julias) which is now called el-Batîhah. This was grazing ground, and there would be abundance of grass there at the Passover season (cf. 6:4, 10, Mark 6:39).3 A hill (6:3) rises up behind it. This plain is about 4 miles by boat from Tell Hûm (the most probable site of Capernaum; see on 2:12), and perhaps 9 miles from it by following the path along the western shore and crossing the fords of Jordan, where it flows into the lake from the north. It was the latter route that the crowds took who followed Jesus. See further 6:15f.


1. μετὰ ταῦτα. For this phrase, see Introd., p. cviii.

ἡ θάλασσα τῆς Γαλιλαίας is the name given in Mt. and Mk. to the lake called in the O.T. the “Sea of Chinnereth” (Numbers 34:11, etc.). It is called ἡ λίμνη Γεννησαρέτ in Luke 5:1, and ἡ θάλασσα τῆς Τιβεριάδος John 21:1. Tiberias was a town on the western shore, founded a.d. 22 by Herod Antipas, and named after Tiberius, which shows that the designation “the Sea of Tiberias” could hardly have been current during our Lord’s ministry.1 Accordingly the double designation found here, τῆς θαλάσσης τῆς Γαλιλαίας τῆς Τιβεριάδος, shows the use of the contemporary name “the Sea of Galilee,” followed by the explanatory gloss “that is, of Tiberias,” added to identify the lake for Greek readers at the end of the first century. If we ascribe τῆς θαλάσσης τῆς Γαλιλαίας to the aged apostle, John the son of Zebedee, when telling his reminiscences, the addition τῆς Τιβεριάδος would naturally be made by the evangelist, whom we call Jn. Cf. v. 23 for the town of Tiberias.


2. ἠκολούθει δέ. So אBDLNW. But the rec. καὶ ἠκολούθει (AΓΔΘ) is quite in Jn.’s manner, who often uses καὶ for δέ (see below, v. 21).

“A great crowd was following Him” (cf. Matthew 14:13, Luke 9:11; and see Mark 6:33), i.e. not only did they follow Him now, when He wished to be in retirement, but they had been following Him about before He crossed the lake; ἠκολούθει is the impft. of continued action. Their reason was “because they were noticing the signs that He was doing on the sick.” ἐθεώρουν (BDLNΘ) is the better reading, as preserving the idea that they had been continually observing His powers of healing (for θεωρεῖν in a like context, Cf. 2:23), but אΓΔ have ἑώρων. W has θεωροῦντες.

As Jn. represents the matter, it was previous works of healing that had attracted the attention of the crowds; e.g., presumably, the cure of the nobleman’s son, which has just been narrated (4:46ff.). Cf. also the works of healing narrated in Mark 1:29, Mark 1:32, Mark 1:40, Mark 1:2:1, Mark 1:3:1, Mark 1:6:5, but not described by Jn. Matthew 14:14 and Luke 9:11, however, record that Jesus began the day on this occasion by healing the sick. This is not mentioned by Mk. On the other hand, Mark 6:34 (followed by Luke 9:11, but not by Mt.) says that the earlier part of the day was spent in teaching the people; but neither for this nor for works of healing is there room in the Johannine narrative (see below on v. 5). Jn. seems to know the Marcan story (see on v. 7), but he corrects it as he proceeds. See Introd., p. xcvii.


3.�

It was the habit of Jesus to sit when He taught, as the Rabbis were accustomed to do (cf. Mark 4:1, Mark 9:35, Matthew 26:55, Luke 4:20, Luke 5:3 [Jn.] 8:2); and He was wont to go up to the hills, whether for teaching (Matthew 5:1, Matthew 24:3) or for prayer (Mark 6:46, Luke 6:12, Luke 9:28).

The verb�Galatians 1:18; and give א*D give�

This narrative represents Jesus and His disciples as having arrived at the eastern side of the lake before the crowd, who according to Mk. (6:33) had arrived there first. According to Mark 6:30, Luke 9:10, the disciples who were with Jesus were the “apostles”; and this is implied in Jn.’s narrative, though not explicitly stated, for the twelve baskets of fragments of v. 13 indicate that the number of disciples present was twelve. See on 2:2.


4. It has been pointed out2 that, although τὸ πάσχα is read here by all MSS. and vss., yet there are patristic comments on the verse which suggest that some early writers did not treat “the feast” of 6:4 as a Passover, and that therefore the texts before them did not include the words τὸ πάσχα at this point. Thus Irenæus (Hær. II. xxii. 3) is silent as to this Passover, although it would have been apposite to his argument to use it.3 If τὸ πάσχα were omitted here, it would be natural to identify the feast of this verse with the Feast of Tabernacles noted in 7:2. Having regard to the importance of the σκηνοπηγία, it might properly be described as pre-eminently ἡ ἑορτὴ τῶν Ἰουδαίων (see on 7:2). But it would be precarious to omit words so fully attested as τὸ πάσχα,1 and on the hypothesis, which has been adopted in this Commentary, that c. 5 comes after c. 6 (see Introd., p. xviii), all is clear. The Passover mentioned here as “near” is the feast whose celebration is narrated in 5:1; i.e. it was the second Passover of the public ministry of Jesus (that mentioned in 2:13 being the first), and was probably the Passover of the year 28 a.d.

For the phrase “feast of the Jews,” see on 2:13; and cf. 2:6, 19:21, 42.

It has been suggested that this note about the approaching Passover was introduced into the narrative to explain the large concourse of persons who were present on the occasion of the miracle, and who are supposed to have been thronging the roads on the way to Jerusalem for the observance of the feast. But the north-eastern corner of the lake is hardly a point at which we should expect to find thousands of such travellers. Jn. is fond of introducing notes of time into his narrative (see p. cii), and he has similar notes about approaching festivals at 2:13, 7:2, 11:55. ἐγγύς is a favourite word with him, both in relation to time and to distance.

5. ἐπάρας οὖν τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ὁ Ἰη. For this phrase, see on 4:35, where, as here, it is followed by the verb θεᾶσθαι. It is used again of Jesus at 17:1; cf. also 11:41 and Luke 6:20. For θεᾶσθαι see on 1:14.


πολὺς ὄχλος, i.e. apparently the ὄχλος πολύς of v. 2 (see on 12:9), who had followed Jesus and His disciples round the head of the lake. But, no doubt, once it was known where He was, people would flock to the place from the neighbouring villages to see and hear Him. According to the Synoptists (see on v. 2), the crowd came upon Jesus early in the morning, and the day was spent teaching or healing their sick. Then, towards evening, the disciples suggest that the people should be sent away that they might buy food for themselves. Jn. tells nothing of teaching or healing on this occasion, and he represents Jesus as having foreseen, as soon as the crowd began to gather, the difficulty that would arise about food. When He saw the great multitude coming, He asked Philip, “Whence are we to buy loaves?”

It is to be observed that in the narratives of the Feeding of the Four Thousand (Mark 8:4, Matthew 15:33), although not in the parallel narratives of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, the disciples put this question (πόθεν) to Jesus. The question is the same as that which Moses puts to Yahweh (Numbers 11:13), πόθεν μοι κρέα δοῦναι παντὶ τῷ λαῷ τούτῳ; and the misgivings of Moses, when he reflects that he had 600,000 footmen to feed, are expressed in terms not unlike those which Philip uses here, πᾶν τὸ ὄψος τῆς θαλάσσης συναχθήσεται αὐτοῖς καὶ�Numbers 11:22).

Another O.T. parallel may be found in 2 Kings 4:42f., where Elisha’s servant exclaims at the impossibility of feeding a hundred men with twenty barley loaves and ears of corn “in his sack” (εἴκοσι ἄρτους κριθίνους καὶ παλάθας, i.e. cakes). The narrative relates that Elisha said, Δὸς τῷ λαῷ καὶ ἐσθιέτωσαν, declaring that Yahweh had told him there would be enough and to spare. And so it was: ἔφαγον καὶ κατέλιπον. This is a story which bears a likeness to the Feedings of the Multitudes in the Gospels, in detail much more striking than the story of the miraculous increase of meal and oil by Elijah’s intervention (1 Kings 17:16). See Introd., p. clxxxi.


However, in Jn.’s narrative the question (πόθεν) is a question put by Jesus Himself to Philip. Philip was of Bethsaida (1:44), and presumably he knew the neighbourhood; he was thus the natural person of whom to ask where bread could be bought. This is one of those reminiscences which suggest the testimony of an eye-witness. The Synoptists, in their accounts of the wonderful Feedings of the Multitudes, do not name individual disciples; but Jn. names both Philip and Andrew, and their figures emerge from his narrative as those of real persons, each with his own characteristics. See below on v. 8.

λέγει πρὸς Φίλ. For this constr., see on 2:3.

For�

Jn. does not write thus of Jesus elsewhere. On His way to the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus asks where it is (11:34). When He saw the fishing-boat on the lake, He asked them if they had caught any fish (2:15, where, however, He may be represented as knowing that nothing had been caught). It is by a like mistaken idea of reverence that the later Synoptists often omit questions which Mk. represents Jesus as asking, e.g.: “Who touched my garments?” (Mark 5:30, Luke 8:45, omitted by Mt.). “Seest thou aught?” addressed to the blind man who was healed by stages, is found only in Mark 8:23. “How long time is it since this hath come to him?” asked of the epileptic boy’s father (Mark 9:21, is omitted by Mt. and Lk.


The simple question, “Where can bread be bought?” asked by Jesus of a disciple who was familiar with the locality, needs not to be explained or explained away.

πειράζειν does not occur again in Jn., but that by itself does not prove the verse to be a later gloss, although it raises the question if it may not have been added after Jn. had completed his work.

7. διακοσίων δηναρίων ἄρτοι οὐκ�Mark 6:37 makes the disciples say�

A denarius was the ordinary day’s wage of a labourer (cf. Matthew 20:2). Even if the disciples had as much as two hundred denarii in their common purse (13:29), which is improbable, Philip points out that they would not purchase enough bread to feed five thousand people, nor would it be easy to find so much bread in the vicinity without notice.


There is a reminiscence of the phrase ἵνα ἕκαστος βραχύ τι λάβῃ in a passage quoted below (v. 11) from the second-century Acts of John.

8. εἷς ἐκ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ. This description of an apostle is not found in the Synoptists (except at Mark 13:1, without ἐκ); but Jn. has it again at 12:4, 13:23; cf. 18:17, 25. For the constr. εἷς ἐκ followed by a gen. plur., see on 1:40.

For the designation of Andrew as “Simon Peter’s brother,” see on 1:40. His first impulse of discipleship was to find Peter and bring him to Jesus (1:41). He appears here as a resourceful person who tries to find a practical answer to the question put to Philip by Jesus, although he does not think that he has been successful in gathering a sufficient supply of food. In 12:20-22 Philip and Andrew are again associated in somewhat similar fashion, Philip not knowing what to do until he has consulted Andrew. These notices in Jn. supply the only indications of Andrew’s character that we have, and it is interesting to observe their consistency with each other. The only distinctive mention of Andrew in the Synoptists is at Mark 13:3, where he appears as associated with the inner circle of the Twelve—Peter, James, and John.


A second-century notice of Andrew and Philip shows that they were held to be among the leaders of the Twelve. When Papias collected traditions from the elders of his day, he used to ask them, “What did Andrew and what did Peter say? Or what did Philip? Or what Thomas or James or John or Matthew?” (Eus. H.E. iii. 39. 4), placing them respectively first and third of the apostles whom he names.

In the Muratorian Fragment on the Canon, Andrew is specially associated with the writing of the Fourth Gospel: “eadem nocte revelatum Andreae ex apostolis ut, recognoscentibus cunctis, Johannes suo nomine cuncta describeret”; and it is possible that his intimacy with John the son of Zebedee was handed down by tradition, although it cannot be held that he lived until the Gospel was published (see Introd., p. lvi).

9. In the Synoptists the five loaves and two fishes are the provision which the disciples had for their own use. In Jn., Andrew reports that a lad was present who had this food with him, possibly having brought it from a neighbouring village, for Jesus and the Twelve.

παιδάριον. There is no mention of this lad in the Synoptists; see above. The word παιδάριον does not occur elsewhere in the N.T., but it is frequent in the LXX; and it must be noted that it is the word used of Elisha’s servant (2 Kings 4:38, 2 Kings 4:43) in the passage immediately preceding the story of Elisha’s multiplication of the loaves (see above on v. 5).

The rec. has παιδάριον ἕν (AΓΔΘ); אBDLNW om. ἕν. The Synoptists sometimes use εἷς or ἕν, as a kind of indefinite article, for τις or τι (cf. Matthew 8:19, Matthew 26:69); but this is not the style of Jn. (cf., however, 11:49, 19:34).

κριθίνους. It is only Jn. who tells that the loaves were of barley. Barley bread, being cheaper than wheaten, was the common food of the poor; cf. Judges 7:13 and Ezekiel 13:19. Reference has already been made to ἄρτους κριθίνους in the Elisha story (2 Kings 4:42).


δύο ὀψάρια. The Synoptists say δύο ἰχθύας; and Mt. and Mk. in the parallel narrative of the Feeding of the Four Thousand say ὀλίγα ἰχθύδια.

The word ὀψάριον (only found here and at 21:9, 10, 13 in the Greek Bible) is a dim. of ὄψον, which originally meant “cooked food,” and thence came to be used of any relish taken with food; e.g. in Pap. Fay. 119:31 εἰς τὰ γενέσια Γεμέλλης πέμψις ὠψάρια,1 the ὀψάρια were delicacies for a birthday feast. Thus ὀψάρια in the present passage stands for dried or pickled fish. The curing of fish was an important industry on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and is alluded to as such by Strabo.2 Neither in Jn. nor in the Synoptic narrative is there any mention of lighting a fire and cooking fish on the occasion of the miracle; and it is not to be supposed that the meal was of raw, fresh fish and bread. See, however, on 21:10.

10. ποιήσατε (for the aor. imper., see on 2:5) τοὺς�Matthew 14:21, Matthew 15:38). Jn. returns to the word ἄνθρωποι at v. 14.


ἀναπίπτειν is “to lie back” or “recline,” whether on the sloping hillside (as here) or on a couch (as at the Last Supper, 13:12, 21:20). Mk. uses�

It is remarkable, and probably significant, that Jn., alone of the evangelists, does not say that the loaves were broken by Jesus, as well as blessed. In all the narratives descriptive of the Feedings of the Multitudes, except this, we have ἄρτους ἔκλασεν or κατέκλασεν τοὺς ἄρτους, or the like. Jn. never uses the verb κλάω or κατακλάω. Now, in all the accounts of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, that Jesus “brake the Bread” is explicitly mentioned, ἔκλασεν ἄρτον, only one loaf being used. The rite itself is called in Acts 2:42 ἡ κλάσις τοῦ ἄρτου (cf. Acts 20:7, and perhaps Acts 27:35), so essential a feature was the breaking of the one loaf deemed to be. Thus, in this particular, the Johannine narrative of the Feeding of the Five Thousand is less suggestive of the action of Jesus at the Last Supper than are the Synoptic narratives of the same miracle. By the omission of ἄρτους ἔκλασεν Jn. has deviated from the Synoptic tradition in a fashion which suggests that he did not regard the miraculous meal, which he describes, as anticipatory of the sacrament with which he was familiar, although he does not tell of its institution. The discourse which follows (cf. esp. vv. 52-56) cannot be interpreted without including a sacramental reference; but it would seem, nevertheless, that Jn. wishes to avoid suggesting that the miraculous feeding was a sacramental meal.


It is just possible, although unlikely, that Jn. omits all mention of the breaking of the bread, not because he did not regard the meal as sacramental, but because he lays stress on the circumstance (19:33) that the Body of Christ was not broken on the Cross.

We must also note that Jn. omits the words,�

The rec. text inserts after διέδωκεν the words τοῖς μαθηταῖς, οἱ δὲ μαθηταί (so אcDΓΔΘ), but this is a harmonising gloss introduced from Matthew 14:19. The intercalated words are not found in א*ABLNW or in most vss.

We must now examine the word εὐχαριστήσας, “having given thanks.” εὐλογεῖν is the verb used in the Synoptic parallels (Mark 6:41, Matthew 14:19, Luke 9:16); but Mk. (8:6) and Mt. (15:36) have εὐχαριστεῖν in a similar context in their narratives of the Feeding of the Four Thousand. In the accounts of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Lk. (22:19) and Paul (1 Corinthians 11:24) use εὐχαριστεῖν of the Blessing of the Bread, while Mt. (26:27), Mk. (14:23), and Lk. (22:17) use it of the Blessing of the Cup, the Cup being called by Paul τὸ ποτήριον τῆς εὐλογίας ὃ εὐλογοῦμεν (1 Corinthians 10:16). In these passages it is not possible to distinguish in meaning between εὐχαριστεῖν and εὐλογεῖν,1 although εὐχαριστεῖν and εὐχαριστία soon came to be used in a special sense in connexion with the Holy Communion (cf. Ignat. Philad. 4 σπουδάσατε οὖν μιᾷ εὐχαριστίᾳ, and see Justin, Apol. i. 66, and Iren. Hær. iv. 18. 5).

But the verb εὐλογεῖν is never used in Jn. (except once in a quotation, 12:13); and he uses εὐχαριστεῖν elsewhere (11:41, Πάτερ εὐχαριστῶ σοι) where no sacramental reference is possible. In this general sense, “giving of thanks,” εὐχαριστεῖν occurs a few times in the later books of the LXX (Judith 8:25, 2 Macc. 12:31) and in Philo, as well as frequently in the N.T., e.g. Luke 17:16, Luke 18:11, and very often in Paul.

It may be that the “giving of thanks” or “blessing” which all the evangelists mention in their narratives of the miraculous Feedings of the Multitudes was the grace before meat which the Lord used, and which was the usual habit of piety before a meal (cf. Deuteronomy 8:10). The form of Jewish “grace” which has come down to us is, “Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, king of the world, who bringeth forth bread from the earth.” But if this is the allusion in εὐχαριστήσας or εὐλογήσας in the evangelical narratives of the Miraculous Feedings, it is curious that no such phrase occurs in connexion with the other meals described in the Gospels at which Jesus presided or was the principal Guest (Luke 24:30 is sacramental). Jn. does not hint that “a blessing” was asked or pronounced at the Marriage Feast in Cana (2:1, or at the supper in Bethany (12:2), or at the meal by the lake-side (21:13). Cf. Mark 14:3, Luke 5:29, Luke 7:37. In Acts 27:35 it is said, indeed, of Paul λαβὼν ἄρτον εὐχαρίστησεν τῷ θεῷ ἐνώπιον πάντων καὶ κλάσας ἤρξατο ἐσθίειν; but it is not clear that this was an ordinary meal preceded by a “grace.” Knowling and Blass regard it as a sacramental celebration.

Whatever be the reason, it would seem that the evangelical traditions handed down the incident of Jesus “blessing” the loaves at the Miraculous Feedings as an incident of special significance. The similarity to this verse of John 21:13, λαμβάνει τὸν ἄρτον καὶ δίδωσιν αὐτοῖς καὶ τὸ ὀψάριον ὁμοίως, brings out the more clearly the omission of any such word as εὐχαριστήσας or εὐλογήσας in the latter passage.


The stress that was laid in early times on the blessing of the loaves, in connexion with their multiplication, is apparent in a legend preserved in the second-century Acts of John (§ 93):“If at any time He were bidden by one of the Pharisees and went to the bidding, we accompanied Him; and before each was set one loaf by him that had bidden us, He also receiving one loaf. And, blessing His own loaf, He would divide it among us; and from that little each was filled (ἐκ τοῦ βραχέος ἕκαστος ἐχορτάζετο: see v. 7 above), and our own loaves were saved whole, so that they who bade Him were amazed.” The act of blessing is a preliminary condition of the miracle, according to this writer. See on 6:23 below.

ὅσον ἤθελον. All the evangelists agree in the statement that the multitudes “were filled,” i.e. that they had a substantial meal, and not merely a scrap of food; but Jn. is even more explicit, saying that of the fish as well as of the loaves they had as much as they wished for.

12. ἐνεπλήσθησαν. The Synoptists have ἐχορτάσθησαν, as Jn. has at v. 26. The phrase μετὰ τὸ ἐμπλησθῆναι used of the Eucharist in the Didache (10:1) probably comes from this passage.

τὰ περισσεύσαντα κλάσματα. Mk. (6:43) has the curious expression κλάσματα δώδεκα κοφίνων πληρώματα, but Mt. (14:20) has τὸ περισσεῦον τῶν κλασμάτων, and Lk. (9:17) has τὸ περισσεῦσαν αὐτοῖς κλασμάτων. Jn. uses περισσεύειν only here and in v. 13 (he has περισσόν at 10:10); and it has been suggested that he is here dependent either on Lk. or Mt., rather than Mk. But he was quite capable of correcting Mk.’s πληρώματα, just as Lk. and Mt. have done, and the verb περισσεύειν is the natural one to use. Jn. uses the word πλήρωμα only of the “fulness” of Christ (1:16), and avoids it in all other contexts, perhaps because of its misleading employment in Gnostic systems.

κλάσμα is a word used in the N.T. only in the Gospel accounts of the miraculous feedings. It is rare in LXX, but we find κλάσματα ἄρτων in Ezekiel 13:19 and κλάσματι ἄρτου in Judges 19:5 (A text). It is used of the Bread of the Eucharist in the Didache (ix. 3).

Lightfoot1 recalls a Jewish custom at meals of leaving something over for those who served: this was called פאה, peah. This possibly is behind the incident recorded here. The apostles had each his travelling-basket or κόφινος (cf. Judges 6:19), and having ministered to the people they went round and collected what was left over. Juvenal mentions the κόφινος as a basket characteristic of Jews: “quorum cophinus foenumque supellex” (Sat. iii. 14). All four evangelists have the word κόφινος, while in the parallel narrative of the Feeding of the Four Thousand the word is σπυρίς or σφυρίς, which was a hamper large enough to hold a man (Acts 9:25).


It is Jn. alone who tells that it was at the bidding of Jesus that the fragments were gathered up, and he alone adds a reason, viz. ἵνα μή τι�

There is no suggestion that the bread, miraculously provided, was like the manna of ancient days, which could not be kept over from one day to another (Exodus 16:19); and the objection of the people recorded at v. 31 shows that they did not consider the supply of bread that they had witnessed as at all comparable with the manna from heaven which their fathers had enjoyed.


13. δώδεκα. This suggests that all the original apostles were present

ἐκ τῶν πέντε ἄρτων κτλ. Mk. (6:43) speaks of fragments of the fishes being gathered up along with the fragments of the loaves, but Jn. (as also Mt., Lk.) speaks only of the fragments of bread.

βεβρωκόσιν. The verb does not occur again in the N.T.

Jesus Acclaimed as the Messianic King (Vv. 14, 15)

14. ὁ προφήτης ὁ ἐρχόμενος εἰς τὸν κόσμον. The people had already been attracted because of the “signs” of healing which Jesus did (v. 2); now this greater “sign” led them to think of him as “the prophet that cometh into the world.” The woman of Samaria had been convinced that He was “a prophet” (4:19), as the blind man whom He healed said of Him afterwards (9:17); but the miracle of the loaves and fishes inclined the eye-witnesses to go further, and to identify Jesus with the prophet of popular belief whom Israel expected (see on 1:21) as the fulfilment of the prophecy of Deuteronomy 18:15. “They began to say” (ἔλεγον), “This is truly the prophet that is coming into the world” (see on 11:27). Cf. v. 31.


ἀληθῶς is a favourite adverb with Jn.; cf. οὗτός ἐστιν�

Mk. and Mt. tell nothing of the fanatical excitement of the crowds, or of their being so much impressed by the miracle as to think of Jesus as Messiah;1 the only hint the Synoptists give of this being supplied by Lk., who follows up the narrative of the Feeding by the story of the various answers to the question, “Who do the multitudes say that I am?” (Luke 9:18) which Mk. and Mt. put in another context.

Indeed, Mk. and Mt. give as the reason of Jesus’ retirement to the hill, that it was to pray, which is perhaps here suggested by μόνος. That was His habit, and such a motive for His retirement is not inconsistent with His other motive, viz. to be freed from the embarrassing attentions of the crowds. Mk. and Mt. tell that He dismissed the crowds (Mark 6:45, Matthew 14:23), while Jn. suggests rather that He escaped from them. Probably He tried to disperse them, but some, more obstinate and excited than the rest, would not leave. It is these latter who come before us in v. 22 as having remained until the next morning. Again, Jn. does not mention that the return of the disciples was ordered by Jesus, as Mk. and Mt. do; but it is evident that they would not have left Him had they not been told to do so. He may have wished to remove them from the atmosphere of political excitement which had been generated. Apparently Jesus had not told His disciples exactly where and when they would meet Him again.


The Storm on the Lake (Vv. 16-21)

16. ὀψία may indicate any time in the late afternoon (cf. 20:19 and Matthew 14:15, Matthew 14:23). The sun set after the disciples had started, and it became dark (σκοτία, v. 17) while they were on the lake. Mark 6:48 notes that Jesus met them “about the fourth watch of the night,” i.e. about 3 a.m.


κατέβησαν, “they descended,” sc. from the slopes of the hill.

16 ff. The incident is described with vividness. It was late in the evening when the boat started on the return journey to Capernaum (v. 17; see on v. 1). The wind had risen, and the lake was stormy. Mk. does not say that the destination of the boat was Capernaum, although that is what we should have expected: his words are ἠνάγκασεν τοὺς μαθητὰς … προάγειν εἰς τὸ πέραν πρὸς Βηθσαϊδάν (Mark 6:45), and he goes on to tell that, driven by the storm, they landed ultimately at Gennesaret, which is a little to the south of Capernaum. That is to say, according to Mk., they made for Bethsaida in the first instance; whether because they wished to take Jesus on board there, or to land one of the party (it was the home of some of them; see on 1:44), or because they wished to keep under the lee of the land, in view of the impending storm, we cannot tell. In any case the storm caught them, and when they had rowed 25 or 30 furlongs, that is, about 3 or 4 miles, they see Jesus περιπατοῦντα ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης, and coming near the boat. Now by this time, having rowed nearly 4 miles, they must have been close to the western shore of the lake, and so Jn. says: εὐθέως τὸ πλοῖον ἐγένετο ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς εἰς ἣν ὑπῆγον.

If we had only Jn.’s account of this incident, we should have no reason to suppose that he intended to record any “miracle.” The phrase ἐπὶ τὴς θαλάσσης (v. 19) is used by Jn. again at 21:1, where it undoubtedly means “by the sea shore”; and it is probable that he means here that when the boat got into the shallow water near the western shore, the disciples saw Jesus in the uncertain light walking by the lake, and were frightened, not being sure what they saw. Jn. does not say, as Mk. does, that Jesus was received into the boat; he only says that they were desirous to have Him with them, when they found that the voyage was already over (v. 21). Nor does Jn. say anything about a miraculous stilling of the storm (cf. Mark 6:51). Nor does he say (as Mark 6:49, Matthew 14:26) that the disciples thought they had seen a phantasm (φάντασμα). So far from it being true that we always find in Jn. an enhancement of the miraculous, in this particular case, while the story as narrated by Mk. (followed by Mt.) is miraculous, in Jn. there is no miracle whatever. Nor does Jn. call the incident a “sign,” as he is accustomed to speak of the miracles which he records (cf. v. 14). In short, this story, as told by Jn., is exactly the kind of story that we might expect from John the son of Zebedee, a fisherman with experience of the lake in all its moods, well accustomed to its sudden storms, and knowing the distance from one point to another (v. 19). See Introd., p. clxxvi.


17. ἐμβάντες εἰς πλοῖον. The same phrase occurs for embarking 21:3 and 1 Macc. 15:37. ADΓΘW insert τό before πλοῖον, which no doubt gives the sense, it being probably their own boat that they took for their return voyage; but אBLΔ Omit τό.

ἤρχοντο, “they were going,” the impft. being used for an incompleted action.

For καὶ σκοτία ἤδη ἐγεγόνει, אD read κατέλαβεν δὲ αὐτοὺς ἡ σκοτία, “but darkness overtook them” (cf. 12:35 and 1:5, where see note). This, again, gives the sense, but we follow ABLΓΔNΘW with the rec. text, although κατέλαβεν αὐτοὺς ἡ σκοτία is a thoroughly Johannine phrase.

οὐκ is read for οὔπω by AΓΔΘ, but οὔπω is better attested (אBDLNW) and gives the better sense. Jesus had “not yet” come to them. They had expected to meet Him at Bethsaida Julias (see on 6:16 above), or at some other point, but their course had been embarrassed by the storm. They were probably keeping close to the shore on the look out for Him, before the storm broke.

18. The sea was rising because of the squall. We have the same expression ἡ θάλασσα … ἐξηγείρετο, Jonah 1:13.

19. ἐληλακότες. Cf. βασανιζομένους ἐν τῷ ἐλαύνειν (Mark 6:48). ἐλαύνειν occurs again in N.T. only at Luke 8:29, James 3:4, 2 Peter 2:17.

They had rowed about 25 or 30 stades, i.e., as a stade was 600 feet, nearly 4 miles, and therefore, as has been shown above (v. 16), they were close to the western shore. Mk. says they were ἐν μέσῳ τῆς θαλάσσης (Mark 6:47), which need not mean more than that the water was all round them. Mt. adds to Mk.’s sentence, according to the text of BΘ (although the other uncials do not confirm this), σταδίους πολλοὺς (Θ has ἱκανούς)�

In some texts of Matthew 14:25 we have ἐπὶ τὴν θάλασσαν for the ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης of Mark 6:48 and John 6:19. The latter does not necessarily mean more than “by the sea shore”: to read ἐπὶ τὴν θάλασσαν would indicate beyond question that Jesus literally “walked on the sea.” Job says of the Creator that He “walks upon the high places of the sea,” περιπάτων ὡς ἐπʼ ἐδάφους ἐπὶ θαλάσσης (Job 9:8); and Wisdom declares (Ecclus. 24:5), ἐν βάθει�


θεωροῦσιν, “they notice”; see on 2:23 for θεωρεῖν.

ἐγγὺς τοῦ πλοίου γινόμενον, sc. “getting near the boat,” a use of γίγνομαι for ἔρχομαι which we have again in v. 25; cf. Acts 20:16, Acts 21:17, Acts 25:15.


ἐφοβήθησαν, “they were afraid,” and so Jesus says—

20. ἐγώ εἰμι, μὴ φοβεῖσθε. These comforting words are reported in identical phrase in the Marcan and Johannine narratives (cf. Mark 6:50, Matthew 14:27, both of which prefix θαρσεῖτε). They probably mean simply “It is I: be not afraid,” the Marcan account suggesting that the reason of the disciples’ alarm was that they thought Jesus was a spirit (φάντασμα). Another explanation has been offered of ἐγώ εἰμι, viz. that it stands for the self-designation of Yahweh in the prophets, אֲנִי־הוּא, I (am) He; cf. 8:58, 13:19. But this explanation is not necessary here,1 and such a mystical use of words would be foreign to the style of Mk., although there are parallels in Jn.

21. ἤθελον οὖν λαβεῖν αὐτὸν εἰς τὸ πλ., “they were wishing to receive Him into the boat, and straightway the boat was at the land.” ἤθελον is used here as at 7:44, 16:19, the wish not being translated into action. Here Jn. is at variance with Mk. (6:51), who says, as also Mt. does (with an amplification about Peter’s going to Jesus on the water, Matthew 14:28-32), that Jesus climbed into the boat. The narrative of Jn. is simpler.


It has been objected to this view that we should expect�

A πλοιάριον, “little boat,” is mentioned in N.T. only at Mark 3:9, John 21:8 (where it is the skiff or dinghy belonging to the πλοῖον of 21:3, 6), and in this passage. τὸ πλοῖον was the big fishing-boat, able to carry Jesus and the Twelve, which has been mentioned already (vv. 17, 19, 21); there had been no other πλοιάριον on the beach the previous evening (perhaps Jn. means no other πλοιάριον besides the dinghy belonging to the πλοῖον, which had gone with it). But several small boats (πλοιάρια) had been driven in from Tiberias (see for Tiberias on v. 1 above) by the squall during the night, and these were available.

23. This parenthetical verse appears to be a later gloss. It is, indeed, necessary to the narrative, which tells that the disappointed watchers by the lake crossed over to Capernaum, and hitherto there has been no mention of any boats that they could have used. But (1) the town of Tiberias (see on v. 1) is not mentioned elsewhere in the N.T., and had only recently been founded. (2) More significant is the description of the scene of the miracle τοῦ τόπου ὅπου ἔφαγον τὸν ἄρτον εὐχαριστήσαντος τοῦ κυρίου. Nowhere else are the five loaves of the story called ὁ ἄρτος in the singular, that being the way, on the contrary, in which the Eucharistic bread is always spoken of (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:16, 1 Corinthians 10:17, 1 Corinthians 10:11:27). (3) εὐχαριστήσαντος τοῦ κυρίου suggests that this was the central fact which would at once identify the occurrence, whereas we expect an expression like “where He fed the multitudes.” (4) The meaning of εὐχαριστεῖν has been examined above (v. 11), but here it seems to bear its later sacramental significance, the writer giving a sacramental turn to the miracle, which Jn. studiously avoids in his narrative. (5) Specially noteworthy is it that D 69* a e Syr. sin. and Syr. cur (a strong combination) omit the words εὐχαριστήσαντος τοῦ κυρίου here; and several of the Latin vg. texts avoid them by the mistaken rendering gratias agentes domino, “agentes” replacing “agente.” (6) As we have seen above (on 4:1), ὁ κύριος is not Johannine in narrative (except after the Resurrection). Jn. would have used ὁ Ἰησοῦς. Verse 23 must be regarded as a non-Johannine gloss (see Introd., p. xxxiii).


24. There is no art. before Ἰησοῦς, contrary to the general usage of Jn. (see on 1:29). But the reason is the same as at 4:1, 47, viz. that ὅτι is here recitantis. What the people actually said to each other was, “Jesus is not there, nor His disciples.”

25. εὐρόντες αὐτόν. Jesus had reached Capernaum with His disciples (cf. vv. 17, 59), and the crowds found Him there πέραν τῆς θαλάσσης, that is, now on the western side of the lake, the side opposite to that from which they started.

For “Rabbi,” the title by which these excited followers addressed Him, see on 1:38.

πότε ὧδε γέγονας; “When did you get here?” See on v. 19. Jesus gives no answer to their question, but rebukes them for their lack of understanding (v. 26).

Discourse: Jesus the Bread of Life, Which is Given by the Father (Vv. 26-40)

26. Jn. states (v. 59) that the long discourse which follows, interrupted at several points by questions, was delivered in the synagogue at Capernaum; and it is represented as marking a turning-point in the ministry of Jesus, many, even of His former disciples (v. 66), being repelled by the strange and lofty mysticism which it teaches. There is no reason to question the statement that a discourse about the Bread of Life followed the Miracle of the Loaves, in correction of the failure to appreciate its significance by some of those who had been fed. But it can hardly be doubted that the whole discourse, as we have it, has been arranged by Jn. so as to bring out special (and often repeated) teachings of Jesus about His own person, and to illustrate the growing opposition of “the Jews” (v. 41).

The plan of the discourse in all its parts is similar to that in the discourses with Nicodemus and with the Samaritan woman.1 It falls into three sections (vv. 26-40, 41-51a, 51b-58), but cf. note on v. 51, and Introd., p. clxvii.

ἀπεκρ. αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰη. καὶ εἶπεν. See on 1:50.

ἀμὴν�

27. ἐργάζεσθε μὴ τὴν βρῶσιν τὴν�Exodus 16:20), but for the spiritual food which endures. The exhortation recalls the rebuke of Isaiah 55:2, “Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not?” Cf. Ignatius (Rom_7) οὐχ ἥδομαι τροφῇ φθορᾶς, words, perhaps, suggested by the present passage.


For βρῶσις, βρῶμα, see on 4:32. א om. τὴν βρῶσιν before τὴν μένουσαν, but the sense is not affected.

τὴν μένουσαν. It is the abiding and permanent property of the spiritual food upon which stress is laid throughout the discourse; cf. vv. 35, 50, 54, 58.

εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον. For this phrase, see on 4:14 and cf. 3:15.

ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ�

ἐσφράγισεν occurs in Jn. elsewhere only at 3:33, where it is used of an attestation by man, its usual meaning. The idea of a “sealing” by God is rare in the N.T., occurring again only in 2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13, Ephesians 1:4:30; and in each of these places there is an allusion, direct or implied, to the baptism of Christian converts. Here the aorist marks a Divine act at a particular moment of time, and the reference seems to be to the Baptism of Jesus and the Descent of the Spirit upon Him, which was interpreted by the Baptist as the Divine attestation of His mission (1:32f.). But cf. 5:37.


The description of baptism as a seal became common in Christian literature at an early date; cf. Hermas, Sim. ix. 16, and 2 Clem. 8. In the Odes of Solomon the “sealing” by God is explicitly mentioned: “On their faces I set my seal” (Ode viii. 16; cf. also 4:8).

28. εἶπον οὖν πρὸς αὐτόν. For the constr. here and at v. 34, see on 2:3.

ποιῶμεν (אABLNTΓΔ) is the true reading, not ποιοῦμεν of the rec. text. ΘW fam. 13 have ποιήσωμεν.

τί ποιῶμεν ; “What shall we do?” The question is not mere carping. They understand that they must please God, if they are to have the food which endures unto eternal life; and they ask quite naturally, “What then are we to do? What does God require of us?” (cf. Luke 3:10).

ἵνα έργαζώμεθα τὰ ἔργα τοῦ θεοῦ, i.e. the works which God desires of men (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:58). Cf. τὰ ἔργα Κυρίου (Jeremiah 31:10, LXX). The phrase in Numbers 8:11 ἐργάζεσθαι τὰ ἔργα Κυρίου is no true parallel; and the ἔργα τοῦ θεοῦ of John 9:3 denote the works which God Himself does.


To their question, Jesus replies that works are the issue of the life of faith, that faith in Him is the condition of doing τὰ ἔργα τοῦ θεοῦ.

29. The answer of Jesus contains, in small compass, the gist of the Pauline teaching about faith.

Jesus will not allow the Jewish inquirers to begin by speakng of working the works of God. They must get away from the legalism which counted up good works as meriting from God the recompense of eternal life. There is one ἔργον τοῦ θεοῦ which must precede all others, because it alone places the man in his true relation with God, viz. faith in Christ.

The βρῶμα, or spiritual food, of the Incarnate Christ Himself was to do God’s will and accomplish His work (4:34, where see note); but man cannot do this without sharing in the humanity of Christ which He imparts to those who have faith in Him (v. 51). Here is the βρῶσις which He gives, and which endures εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον (v. 47). This mystical doctrine of union with Christ is the core of the Fourth Gospel; see, for earlier statements of it, 3:15, 36 and the notes there.

The question and its answer are like the question of the jailor at Philippi and the answer of Paul and Silas: τί με δεῖ ποιεῖν ἵνα σωθῶ; … πίστευσον ἐπί τὸν Κύριον Ἰησοῦν καὶ σωθήσῃ (Acts 16:30, Acts 16:31).


πιστεύητε (אABLNTΘ) is the true reading; the rec. textwith DW has πιστεύσητε, but this does not convey the teaching of Jn. about faith. ἵνα πιστεύσητε points to a definite act of faith at a particular moment (cf. 13:19); but this does not suffice. τὸ ἔργον τοῦ θεοῦ is ἵνα πιστεύητε, “that you may have faith continually,” that you may live the life of faith. An act of faith in Christ at a definite crisis is a good thing, but a better (and a harder) thing is to keep in perpetual contact with Christ, and nothing less than this is what is needed εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον (see above on 3:36, and cf. 15:7).

ὃν�

30. τί οὖν ποιεῖς σὺ σημεῖον; A similar demand made by the Pharisees for a “sign from heaven” is placed in Mark 8:11 (so Matthew 16:1; cf. Matthew 12:38) as following on the Feeding of the Four Thousand. There, as here, Jesus is represented as having declined (and with indignation) the request. Lk. does not tell the story of this second miraculous feeding, and he puts the request for a sign in a different context (11:16; cf. also 23:8).

Like the Pharisees in Mark 8:11, the interlocutors in the Johannine story were not convinced that by the miraculous feeding Jesus had established His claim to be a messenger from God. Some, at least, of those who had seen it said that He was the expected prophet, and were for making Him a king (vv. 14, 15). But by the next day all were not so fully persuaded. If Jesus were really a Divine messenger, they expected something more. They were not satisfied as to the character of the action which had been acclaimed by them as a σημεῖον (v. 14). So, like the Jews in 2:18, who had asked τί σημεῖον δεικνύεις ἡμῖν; they now ask τί ποιεῖς σὺ σημεῖον; the emphatic word here being σύ, “What sign do you show?”


ἵνα ἴδωμεν καὶ πιστεύσωμέν σοι. They did not understand what He had meant by “believing in Him” (v. 29), for they take up the words in the altered form “believe thee.” They imply that if they saw a really convincing sign, something greater than anything they had witnessed yet (vv. 2, 14, 26), they would believe Him, that is, believe His words (cf. 8:31). But this is not what Jesus claimed of them. To believe His words would be, no doubt, the beginning of discipleship, and of faith in His Person (see on v. 29); but it would not be enough εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον.

τί ἐργάζῃ; They think that Jesus has been referring to manna, and they ask Him to provide it (see Introd., p. cxi). ἐργάζῃ refers back to vv. 28, 29.

31. To appreciate the significance of this allusion to the manna, it must be borne in mind that there was a general belief, more or less explicit, that Messiah when He came would outdo Moses, the great national hero of Israel, in the wonders which he would accomplish. Thus there was a Rabbinical saying: “The former redeemer caused manna to descend for them; in like manner shall our latter redeemer cause manna to come down, as it is written, ‘There shall be a handful of corn in the earth’ (Psalms 72:16).”1 Accordingly the questioners of Jesus are here represented as telling Him that something more wonderful than the miracle of the loaves was expected of one who claimed to be the Messiah (cf. vv. 14, 27). We have here a reminiscence of an objection to Jesus which is historical: “The key to the understanding of the whole situation is an acquaintance with the national expectation of the greater Moses. But this knowledge is not obtruded upon us by the evangelist. It is tacitly assumed. In fact, the meaning is unintelligible, except to one who is brought up among the ideas of his time, or to one who, like a modern critic, has made them his special study.”2


οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν κτλ. As Chrysostom notes, this corresponds to the reference made by the Samaritan woman to “our father Jacob” (4:12; see Introd., p. cxi, for the schematism of the present discourse).

The provision of the manna (Exodus 16:15, Numbers 11:7, Numbers 21:5, Deuteronomy 8:3, Wisd. 16:20, 2 Esd. 1:19) was counted by the Jews as the greatest achievement of Moses. Josephus says of the manna θεῖον ἦν τὸ βρῶμα καὶ παράδοξον (Antt. iii. i. 6).


καθώς ἐστιν γεγραμμένον. This is the usual form of citation in in. (see on 2:17).

ἄρτον ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς φαγεῖν (from Exodus 16:15 freely quoted; but cf. Psalms 78:24, Nehemiah 9:15). Their appeal is: “What Moses gave us was bread from heaven; can you do the same?” The loaves with which the multitudes had been fed were not ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, but the ordinary barley loaves (v. 9) with which all were familiar.


32. Jesus corrects a twofold misapprehension on the part of His questioners. First, it was not Moses who was the giver of the manna, but God, whose instrument he was; and, secondly, the manna, while it was in a sense “bread from heaven,” was not the true Bread of God. This momentous saying is introduced by the solemn ὀμὴν�

33. ὁ γὰρ ἄρτος τοῦ θεοῦ.1 All bread is the gift of God (Matthew 6:11), but the Bread which can be described as peculiarly ὁ ἄρτος τοῦ θεοῦ is not only such as “comes down from heaven,” for that was said of the manna (κατέβαινεν, Numbers 11:9), but such as coming down imparts life and not merely bodily nourishment. Chrysostom notes that the manna supplied τροφή but not ζωή. But the first characteristic of the Bread of God is that it brings life (see on v. 27). And the second is that it is offered to all men, and not only to a particular nation; ζωὴν διδούς, “giving life” (in the present tense, that is, continually giving life) τῷ κόσμῳ. See on 1:29 for κόσμος, which is one of the master words of Jn.; and also on v. 51 below. Cf. 1:4.


ὁ ψὰρ ἄρτ. τ. θε. ἐστιν ὁ καταβαίνων ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, i.e. “the Bread of God is that which is ever descending [not He who descends] from heaven.” It is not until v. 35 that Jesus says that He is the Bread of Life. This expression, “who came down from heaven,” or “which comes down from heaven,” is repeated seven times in this discourse (vv. 33, 38, 41, 42, 50, 51, 58), recurring like a solemn refrain. It was afterwards incorporated in the Nicene Creed. See on 3:13 above.

34. The idea that the manna typified heavenly bread for the soul often appears in the Jewish commentaries. Wetstein quotes several passages in illustration, e.g. “sectio haec de manna est una ex praestantibus sectionibus legis quae non solum res gestas historice narrant, sed et typum continent uitae ac felicitatis hominis ultimae et aeternae.”1 Again, the comment in Bereshith R. lxxxii. 9 on the good man of Proverbs 12:2 is “saturabitur pane saeculi futuri.”


The same conception of heavenly bread for the soul is frequent in Philo. Wisdom offers οὐράνιος τροφή by means of λόγοι and δόγματα (de opif. mundi, § 56). The θεῖος λόγος divides equally among all men the heavenly food of the soul which Moses calls manna (Quis rer. div. hær. § 39). So in an earlier passage (§ 15) Philo speaks of the man who contemplates τὸ μάννα, τὸν θεῖον λόγον, τὴν οὐράνιον ψυχῆς φιλοθεάμονος ἄφθαρτον τροφήν. Again, the θεῖοι λόγοι are the manna, the heavenly food, which nourishes men (de congr. erud. gr. § 30). What nourishes the soul is ῥῆμα θεοῦ καὶ λόγος θεῖος, from which flow all kinds of wisdom (de prof. 25). Cf. also the question and answer in Legg. all. iii. 59 ὁρᾷς τῆς ψυχῆς τροφὴν οἵα ἐστι λόγος θεοῦ συνεχής. See further on v. 35.

More familiar than any of these passages 1 Corinthians 10:3, where Paul, allegorising the story of the manna, describes it as βρῶμα πνευματικόν, “spiritual food.”


The questioners who are represented by Jn. as arguing about the manna were probably acquainted with this idea of it as a type of heavenly food for the soul. So when Jesus says that the true Bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life, they do not cavil at such a thought. Indeed, they welcome it. This was what they were waiting for. Moses had given manna. The Messiah was to give a greater gift (see above on v. 31). So their answer is, “Give us evermore this bread.” Here, again, Jn. faithfully reproduces the theological temper and expectation of the times which he describes. The Jews would not have stumbled at the idea of spiritual food, of heavenly bread, as typified by the manna, and Jn. does not represent them as finding any fault with it. Their objection comes later (v. 41, where see note).

εἶπον οὖν πρὸς αὐτόν. The constr. is the same at v. 28. See on 2:3.

κύριε. They now address Jesus by this title of respect; see on 1:38, and cf. 4:11, 15, 19 for its use by the woman of Samaria, who says δός μοι (4:15), just as the inquirers here say δὸς ἡμῖν. See above on 6:26ff.

πάντοτε δὸς ἡμῖν, “give us always” (πάντοτε occurs again in John 7:6, John 8:29, John 11:42, John 12:8, John 18:20). They asked that they might be guaranteed a perpetual supply of the heavenly bread. More modest is the form of the petition for bread, earthly or heavenly, prescribed in Matthew 6:11 τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον. It is only for to-day’s supply that Jesus teaches men to ask.


τὸν ἄρτον τοῦτον, “this bread,” superior to the manna, of which Jesus had spoken.

35. At this point Jesus passes on to an explicit announcement of His personal claims, and the pronouns “I” and “Me” occur frequently, vv. 37-71. As we have seen, His hearers were prepared for the idea of heavenly bread, but they were quite unprepared for such a mystical saying as “I am the Bread of Life,” or for the tremendous claim which it involved. A pronouncement of this sort did not carry conviction to them; for they were looking for a “sign” comparable to the provision of the manna, but even more wonderful, as would befit the dignity of the Deliverer who was to be greater than Moses.

εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰη. The rec. (with AΔ) adds δέ, while אDΓΘ and fam. 13 add οὖν after εἶπεν. But there is no copula in BLTW, and this is in agreement with Jn.’s partiality to asyndeton construction.

ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ἄρτος τῆς ζωῆς. For the great Similitudes of the Fourth Gospel, of which this is the first, and for the significance of the opening phrase ἐγώ εἰμι, see Introd., p. cxviii.

It has been thought by some critics that this majestic sentence (repeated v. 48) is directly due, as regards its substance, although not as regards its form, to the influence of Philo. In several passages to which reference has been made already (see on v. 34), Philo says that the manna typified heavenly food. This, as we have seen, is not peculiar to Philo; but the Rabbinical writings do not seem to provide a parallel to the comparison of manna to the θεῖος λόγος, which Philo has more than once. That Jn.’s phraseology, here as elsewhere, may have been affected by his acquaintance with the terms of the Philonic philosophy is not impossible. There is, indeed, nothing difficult of credence in Jn.’s report that Jesus taught that He was Himself the Bread of Life, such teaching being not only congruous with the Synoptic representation of His words at the institution of the Eucharist (Mark 14:22, Matthew 26:26, Luke 22:19), but being specially apposite in the context in which Jn. has placed it (see above on v. 26 f.). But, for all that, when reporting the claim of Jesus to be the Bread of Life, Jn. may have had in his mind Philo’s words about the θεῖος λόγος as the heavenly nourishment of the soul (Quis rer. div. hær. § 15). Jn’s conception of the Logos as a Person, Himself God Incarnate, is so widely different from Philo’s conception of the λόγοι as representing Divine forces, and the λόγος as the Divine Reason, that similarities of language between the two writers do not establish dependence of thought, or any borrowing of ideas from Philo on the part of Joh_1


The “Bread of Life” means primarily, the Bread which gives life, as we see from v. 33. But for this phrase is substituted in v. 51 ὁ�

There is the same double sense in the similar phrase “the water of life” (Revelation 21:6, Revelation 22:1), sc. the water which gives life, and is therefore “living water” (see on 4:10). Cf. the expressions the “Light of life” in 8:12, where see the note; the “Tree of life” (Genesis 3:22, Revelation 2:7, etc.); and the “Word of life” (1 John 1:1), i.e. the Word who gives life. Cf. v. 68.

ὁ ἐρχόμενος πρὸς ἐμέ κτλ. “Coming” and “believing” are put side by side here and at 7:37, 38. The “coming” is the initial act of the soul in its approach to Jesus; the “believing” is the continuous resting in His fellowship (see on v. 29). As Jn. has much about “believing,” so he has much about “coming,” and reports many sayings of Jesus about its benediction. Inquirers “come” to Jesus (3:26, 4:30, 10:41); all candid and truthful souls come to the Light (3:21); e.g. Nathanael (1:48), or the two disciples whose call is the first recorded by Jn. (1:39). The first reward of “coming” is vision, ἔρχεσθε καὶ ὄψεσθε (1:39); the second (and ultimate) reward is life (5:40). All are welcome, ἐάν τις διψᾷ, ἐρχέσθω πρός με (7:37). He who comes will not be cast out (6:37). To approach God a man must come to Jesus, οὐδεὶς ἔρχεται πρὸς τὸν πατέρα εἰ μὴ διʼ ἐμοῦ (14:6). This is the Only Way. And yet, free as is this approach, no one can come to Jesus, except the Father draw him (6:44, 65). This teaching is fuller than that of the Synoptic Gospels, but in germ it is all contained in Matthew 11:28 δεῦτε πρός με … κἀγὼ�


οὐ μὴ πεινάσῃ. πεινᾶν does not occur again in Jn.

καὶ ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμέ, “he who believes on me” (see on v. 29 and on 1:12 above). This is the ἔργον τοῦ θεοῦ spoken of in v. 29.

οὐ μὴ διψήσει. So אAB*DWΘ; the rec. has διψήσῃ. The promise is the same as that given to the woman of Samaria ὃς δʼ ἂν πίῃ ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος οὗ ἐγὼ δώσω αὐτῷ, οὐ μὴ διψήσει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα (4:14, where see the note and esp. the quotation from Ecclus. 24:21; cf. Revelation 7:16).


πώποτε. See on 1:18.

36. The rec. text, with BDLWΓΔΘ, adds με after ἑωράκατε, but om. אA a b e q, Syr. cu. and Syr. sin. It is probable that με ought to be omitted. The words “I said to you that ye saw and do not believe” then clearly refer back to v. 26, where Jesus had said, “Ye seek me not because ye saw signs, but because ye ate of the loaves, etc.” Seeing is not always believing (cf. 9:37). The kind of faith that is generated by the seeing of signs is not the highest (see on 2:11), but it is not without its value (cf. 14:11). The best kind of all has the benediction, “Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed” (20:29); cf. ὁ πιστεύων ἔχει ζωὴν αἰώνιον (v. 47).

On the other hand, if ἑωράκατέ με is the true reading, we must suppose that Jesus is represented as alluding to some saying of His which has not been recorded by Jn. This is not impossible; see, for other instances, 10:25, 11:40.

37. The questioners of Jesus did not believe or accept Him, but that rejection of theirs does not alter the Divine purpose, which is that all who will shall have eternal life. Upon this Jesus rests, despite incredulity on the part of some who heard Him. “All that the Father gives to me shall come to me”: that is enough, for He came to do the Father’s will, and the Father knows best as to those whom He gives. For the predestinarian doctrine of the Fourth Gospel, see on 2:4, 3:14

For the thought that His disciples are “given” to the Son by the Father, cf. vv. 39, 65, and 10:29, 17:2, 6, 9, 12, 24, 18:9. See note on 3:35.

πᾶν, sc. all men. This collective use of the neut. sing. is not unknown in classical Greek. Jn. has it several times (17:2, 24, 1 John 5:4, as well as at v. 39 and here), and always of the sum of those who have been “begotten of God” and “given” by the Father to the Son. The ideal for those who believe in Christ is ἵνα πάντες ἓν ὦσιν (17:21), “that they all may be one,” and it is possible that this great conception may be behind the use of πᾶν for πάντες here and in 17:2.


ὁ πατήρ. See on 3:17.

τὸν ἐρχόμενον πρός με. See for this phrase on v. 35 above.

τ. ἐρχ. πρός με οὐ μὴ ἐκβάλω ἔξω, “I shall not cast out”; a litotes for “I shall welcome.” The “casting out” indicated is from the kingdom of God, hereafter as well as here; in v. 39, the reference is to the Last Judgment, and this is implied here also. Cf. 12:31, where the judgment on Satan is ἐκβληθήσεται ἔξω, the same phrase as here (cf. 17:12); and see for ἐκβάλλειν in similar contexts Matthew 8:12, Matthew 22:13, Matthew 25:30.

א*D om. ἔξω as redundant, but it is well supported (אcABLWΘ), and the combination ἐκβάλλειν ἔξω or ἐκ occurs again 2:15, 9:34, 35, 12:31; cf. Matthew 21:39, Mark 12:8, Luke 20:15, etc.

οὐ μή expresses a very strong negation, “I will surely not cast out.” This constr. occurs elsewhere in words of Jesus, Mark 14:25, and John 18:11, οὐ μὴ πίω, it being generally taken as interrogative in the latter passage, where see note.

38. καταβέβηκα�Revelation 3:12, Revelation 3:10:1, Revelation 3:13:13, Revelation 3:16:21, Revelation 3:18:1, Revelation 3:20:1, Revelation 3:9, Revelation 3:21:2, Revelation 3:10 and John 1:32; whereas καταβαίνειν�1 Thessalonians 4:16 of the Second Advent. In any case the meaning is the same, for it is an excess of refinement to distinguish in Jn. between the force of�


οὐχ ἵνα ποιῶ τὸ θέλημα τὸ ἐμόν κτλ. This is said also at 5:30, οὐ ζητῶ τὸ θέλημα τὸ ἐμὸν�

πᾶν ὃ δέδωκέν μοι refers to πᾶν ὃ δίδωδσίν μοι of v. 37. That none of them should perish finally is the will of the Father, and they are all therefore in the safe keeping of Christ. This is repeated in somewhat similar words at 10:28, 29; and there is a close parallel at Matthew 18:14 οὐκ ἔστιν θέλημα ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ πατρὸς ὑμῶν … ἵνα�

ἀναστήσω αὐτὸ τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρα. “Hic finis est, ultra quem periculum nullum” (Bengel). This great assurance is repeated four times, in vv. 39, 40, 44, 54, and recurs with the majesty of a solemn refrain (see on 3:16 and on 15:11). The expression ἡ ἐσχάτη ἡμέρα is found in Jn. only. In 7:37 it is used of the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles; but at 11:24, 12:48 it refers, as it does in this chapter, to the Day of Judgment.1 For the Christ, the Son of God, as the Agent of the Resurrection, see on 5:21, 28. It is He that will quicken the dead at last. Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:22.


Here it is only the resurrection of the righteous that is in view, whereas at 5:28 a general resurrection of the dead is spoken of as brought about by the Voice of the Son of God.

40. AΓΔ have τοῦ πέμψαντός με (from v. 39) for τοῦ πατρός μου, which is read by אBCDLTNWΘ. There is, again, as in vv. 39, 54, a variant for ἐν τῇ ἐσχ. ἡμ., ἐν being om. by BCTΓΔΘW, although found in אADLN.

τοῦτο γάρ κτλ., “This, too, is my Father’s will”: v. 40 amplifies and repeats with emphasis what has been already said in v. 39. The rec. has τοῦτο δέ.

For “my Father,” cf. v. 32, and see on 2:16.

πᾶς ὁ θεωρῶν τὸν υἱόν, “who beholdeth the Son,” sc. not with the bodily eyes, but with the eye of faith perceives Him for what He is. Cf. 12:45 ὁ θεωρῶν ἐμὲ θεωρεῖ τὸν πέμψαντά με. See on 2:23 for Jn.’s use of θεωρῶ, and on 3:17 for ὁ υἱός used absolutely. It is the Father’s will that “he who beholdeth the Son and believeth on Him should have eternal life”; cf. 3:15, 36 and the notes thereon. This ζωὴ αἰώνιος

begins in the present world, but its possession continues after death.

ἀναστήσω αὐτὸν ἐγώ κτλ., “I, even I (ἐγώ is emphatic) will raise Him up at the Last Day.” This is repeated in another form at v. 54. Cf. Introd., p. clxvii.

The Second Part of the Discourse (Vv. 41-51a)

41. A new stage in the argument is reached at v. 41, but it is not suggested that new interlocutors have appeared on the scene. The questioners are called (here and at v. 52) οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι, and it has been thought by some that they were officials of the synagogue at Capernaum, where Jn. represents the conversation as taking place (v. 59), or emissaries of the Sanhedrim, who had been sent to inquire into the discourses and the acts of Jesus (cf. Mark 7:1). But the context shows that Jn. thinks of them as Gaiilæans (cf. vv. 24, 42). They were not οἰ ὀυδαῖοι in the sense that they were inhabitants of Judæa, but they were “Jews” by religious conviction and by race in the larger sense of “Israelite.” It was “Jews” like them who were the chief opponents of Jesus, and Jn. nearly always uses the term as connoting a certain hostility to Jesus and unbelief in His claims. See above on 1:19. Hostility, however, is not yet suggested. For this section of the Discourse, see Introd., pp. cxi, clxvii.

ἐγόγγυζον, “they were murmuring,” sc. in critical mood, as at vv. 43, 61 (cf. Exodus 16:7f.); neither at 7:32 nor here does γογγύζειν carry any implication of open hostility. The word does not occur in Mk., but is found Matthew 20:11, Luke 5:30.


The difficulty of the questioners was caused by the claims involved in ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ἄρτος ὁ καταβὰς ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ (cf. vv. 33, 35). The idea of heavenly bread might have been accepted (see above on v. 34); but these words of Jesus seemed to imply that He was not like ordinary men in the manner of His birth, in that He had “come down from heaven” (see on 3:13).

No distinction can be drawn between ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ here (also vv. 51, 58) and�

42. καὶ ἔλεγον κτλ., “And they were saying, Is not this person (οὗτος, perhaps with a slight suggestion of disparagement, as at v. 52, 7:15) Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?” It is plain (see on v. 41) that Jn. conceives of the speakers as natives of Galilee, and acquainted with the household at Nazareth. The Synoptists (Mark 6:3, Matthew 13:55, Luke 4:22) mention a similar criticism (the words in Lk. are οὐχὶ υἱός ἐστιν Ἰωσὴφ οὗτος; ) as having been passed on Jesus in the synagogue at Nazareth at an earlier point in His ministry. The criticism was probably made more than once, and it is natural in the context where Jn. places it. But it is possible that he has taken the episode out of its historical setting; as in 4:44 (where see note) he has introduced the proverb about a prophet being without honour in his own country, which the Synoptists place in sequence to the criticism, “Is not this the son of Mary? Is not this the son of Joseph?”


As at 1:45 (where see note), Jn. does not stay to comment on the mistake which is involved in the question, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” It is unnecessary for him to explain to Christian readers that this was not so. There is nothing in the form of the question to suggest that Joseph was alive, and the probability is that he had died before the public ministry of Jesus began (see on 2:1).

πῶς νῦν λέγει κτλ. For νῦν, the rec. text (with אADLΓΔN) has οὖν, but νῦν is read by BCTWΘ, and has a special force, “How does he say now that, etc.,” sc. to us who have known him from a child. οὗτος is inserted again after λέγει by אAΓΔ, but is redundant. ὅτι, recitantis, the words following being a citation.

ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καταβέβηκα, the order of the words being changed, ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ being placed first for emphasis. This was the incredible thing, that it was from heaven He claimed to have come down.

43. Jesus does not answer the objection as to His parentage being known. As at 3:3, He proceeds to point out a fundamental misunderstanding on the part of His interlocutors. They must be “taught of God” before they can accept His heavenly origin.

For the construction�

ἑλκύσῃ αὐτόν. ἑλκύειν is used in the LXX of Jeremiah 31:3 of the Divine attraction: “With lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” It is used of the attractive power of Christ Crucified in John 12:32, occurring elsewhere in the N.T. only at John 18:10 (of drawing a sword), John 21:6, John 21:11 (of dragging a net ashore), and Acts 16:19 (of dragging Paul and Silas to the magistrates). It seems generally to connote a certain resistance on the part of that which is “dragged” or “drawn,” and this may be involved in its use in the present verse (but cf. Song of Solomon 1:4).


κἀγὼ�

ἔστιν γεγραμμένον (for this formula of citation, see on 2:17) ἐν τοῖς προφήταις, i.e. presumably in the collection of prophetical books regarded as a single whole (cf. Acts 7:42, Acts 13:40, Luke 18:31, Luke 24:44).

καὶ ἔσονται πάντες διδακτοὶ θεοῦ. The rec. text inserts τοῦ before θεοῦ, but om. אABCDΘW. The quotation is freely made from Isaiah 54:13, and does not agree precisely with either the Hebrew or the LXX. Literally, the Hebrew gives, “And all thy sons shall be taught of Yahweh,” which the LXX turns by καὶ θήσω … πάντας τοὺς υἱούς σου διδακτοὺς θεοῦ.

To be διδακτοὶ θεοῦ is to be “drawn” by God; we have θεοδίδακτοι at 1 Thessalonians 4:9 (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:13, Philippians 3:15, for the idea), and Barnabas (xxi. 6) has the precept γένεσθε θεοδίδακτοι.


πᾶς. Cf. πᾶν, vv. 37, 39. AΓΔΘ add οὖν, but om. אBCDLNTW.

ἀκούσας παρὰ τοῦ πατρός. The same phrase occurs again 8:26, 40, 15:15. See for the constr. on 1:40.

καὶ μαθών. It is not sufficient for a man to have heard God’s voice; he must also learn, which is a voluntary act. Predestination, in the Johannine doctrine, does not exclude free will or personal responsibility. But every one who has heard the Divine voice, and has learnt its teachings, “comes” to Christ. See on v. 37 for ἔρχεται πρὸς ἐμέ.

46. This “hearing” of God’s voice is, however, not by way of immediate personal communication; it is not “seeing the Father.” Only One has “seen” God (1:18), although it is true, in another sense, that he who has “seen” Jesus has “seen the Father” (14:9).

οὐχ ὅτι τὸν πατέρα ἑώρακέν τις. So אBCDLNWΘ; the rec. has τις ἑώρακεν. א*D have τὸν θεόν for τόν πατέρα, a reminiscence of 1:18, where see note. Cf. 5:37.

εἰ μὴ ὁ ὢν παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ, sc. not only He who has been sent by God (see on 3:17), as παρὰ θεοῦ means (1:6, 9:16, 33), but He whose origin is from God; cf. παρὰ πατρός (1:14, where see note), παρʼ αὐτοῦ εἰμι (7:29), παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐξῆλθον (16:27), παρὰ σοῦ ἐξῆλθον (17:8).

οὗτος ἑώρακεν τὸν πατέρα. The λόγος was πρὸς τὸν θεόν (1:1); see 8:38 for the things which He has seen παρὰ τῷ πατρί (cf. also 3:32). See on 14:7.

For the repetition (οὗτος) of the subject of the sentence, in the interests of emphasis, cf. 1:2, 7:18, 15:5, and see 10:25.

47.�

For�Psalms 82:7, Deuteronomy 17:6. But this is unnecessary, and�


51a. The first half of this verse repeats what has been said already in v. 50, but in an even more emphatic form. The second half of the verse, as we shall see, introduces a new conception.

ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ἄρτος ὁ ζῶν, “the Living Bread,” which as itself alive can impart life (see on v. 35 above). ὁ ζῶν, “the Living One,” is the claim of Jesus for Himself in Revelation 1:17; so here ὁ ἄρτος ὁ ζῶν is the Bread which is always instinct with Life, which continues to live from age to age. See on 4:10 for the phrase “living water”; and cf. the expressions “living oracles” (Acts 7:38), “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1), “living hope” (1 Peter 1:3), and “living stone” (1 Peter 2:4), which do not, however, present more than verbal resemblances to the phrase “Living Bread” here.


ὁ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καταβάς. See on v. 33 above. Here the aorist participle points to the crisis of the Incarnation.

For ἐκ τούτου τοῦ ἄρτου (BCΓΔLTWΘ), א has ἐκ τοῦ ἐμοῦ ἄρτου, but this is inconsistent with the sense of the passage. The Living Bread is Jesus Himself.

ἐάν τις φάγῃ κτλ., “if any one eat of this Bread, he shall live for ever,” sc. as God does (cf. Revelation 4:9, Revelation 10:6, Revelation 15:7, and Deuteronomy 32:40, Ecclus. 18:1). ζήσει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα is repeated v. 58: the phrase is used of the righteous man, Wisd. 5:15.

There is perhaps an echo of this thought in Barnabas, § 11. Barnabas is speaking of the trees by the river of Ezekiel 47:7, Ezekiel 47:12, and he adds ὃς ἂν φάγῃ ἐξ αὐτῶν ζήσεται εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα. But see Introd., p. lxxi.


The rec. (with BCTΓΔ) has ζήσεται for ζήσει (אDLWΘ 33). There is a similar variant at vv. 57, 58; cf. 5:25, 14:19.

The Third Part of the Discourse: Jesus Will Give the Bread Which is His Flesh for the Life of the World (Vv. 51b-59)

51b. The MSS. vary as to the order of the words in the second part of the verse, but the meaning remains unaltered. BCDLTW have the text which we print, while א m support καὶ ὁ ἄρτος δὲ ὃν ἐγὼ δώσω ὑπὲρ τῆς τοῦ κόσμου ζωῆς ἡ σάρξ μού ἐστιν, a less awkward construction. The rec. text has got rid of the awkwardness by reading καὶ ὁ ἄρτος δὲ ὃν ἐγὼ δώσω ἡ σάρξ μου ἐστίν, ἣν ἐγὼ δώσω ὑπὲρ τῆς τοῦ κόσμου ζωῆς, the insertion of ἣν ἐγὼ δώσω making all clear.

A new idea is introduced at this point.1 Hitherto Jesus has spoken of the Bread of Life as coming down from heaven, and of Himself as that Living Bread, giving life to all who feed upon it and appropriate it. Now He goes on to speak of this Bread as His Flesh, and of the feeding upon Him as eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood. The transition from the one way of speaking to the other is marked by a change in the tense of the “giving.” The Father gives the heavenly bread (v. 32); it gives life to the world (v. 33). But now Jesus says, “The Bread which I shall give (δώσω) is my Flesh, etc.” (but see on v. 27). Moreover, up to this point (except at v. 27), Jesus has spoken of Himself, as the Bread of Life, coming down from heaven, given by the Father. Now, He speaks of the Bread which He Himself will give for the life of the world, namely His Flesh. Difficult as the Jews had found the thought (v. 41) that Jesus was Himself the heavenly bread, divinely given, for which they had asked (v. 34), they find much greater difficulty in the new and strange suggestion that Jesus was to give them His Flesh to eat (v. 52). And, according to the Gospel as we have it, Jesus then proceeds to develop and enlarge this conception (vv. 53-58).2

καὶ ὁ ἄρτος δέ κτλ. For the constr. καί … δέ, “and, further,” cf. 8:16, 15:27, 1 John 1:3. It introduces a new point, hitherto unmentioned.


ὃν ἐγὼ δώσω, “which I will give,” ἐγώ being emphatic.

ἡ σάρξ μού ἐστιν, “is my Flesh.” That Christ came “in the flesh” (cf. 1:14, 1 John 4:2, 2 John 1:7) is the central fact of the Gospel of the Incarnation; that is, He who came down from heaven (v. 50) assumed man’s nature. The gift that is promised is, then, that of His perfect humanity.

This will be given ὑπὲρ τῆς τοῦ κόσμου ζωῆς, “on behalf of the world’s life.” See for the force of ὑπέρ and its prevalence in Jn., on 1:30; and for κόσμος, on 1:9. That Christ’s gift of “His Flesh” is on behalf of the world’s life is a saying closely related in meaning to 1:29, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”; cf. also 3:17, 4:42, 1 John 3:16. But the true parallel 1 Corinthians 11:24 τοῦτό μού ἐστιν τὸ σῶμα τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν. As has been pointed out (Introd., p. clxix), the Syriac vss. give here: “The bread which I will give is my Body, for the life of the world”; a rendering also found in the O.L. m, “hic panis quem ego dabo pro huius mundi uita corpus meum est.”


52. The Jewish interlocutors had murmured (v. 41) before this point had been reached; but now they begin to dispute with each other (μάχεσθαι does not occur again in the Gospels) as to the meaning and trustworthiness of the words of Jesus. They were not of one mind (cf. 7:12, 40, 9:16, 10:19); some probably discerning that a spiritual meaning lay behind this mention of the “Flesh” of Jesus.

πῶς δύναται κτλ.; The question is like that of 3:4, 9 (where see note). For οὗτος, “this person,” see on v. 42 above.

After σάρκα BT (with most vss.) insert αὐτοῦ, to elucidate the sense; but om. אCDLΓΔΘ. In any case, the meaning is, “How can this person give us his flesh to eat?” Their difficulty was a real one, even if they (or some of them) recognised that the σάρξ represented the whole humanity of Jesus, on which they were to “feed”; for that one human being could impart his nature to another, even spiritually, would be hard to understand.

53. The answer of Jesus repeats (see on 3:5) what He has said already, but in even more difficult terms. For while in v. 51 He spoke only of His Flesh, He now goes on to couple the drinking of His Blood with the eating of His Flesh. Such an expression as “to drink blood” would be especially startling to a Jew, for whom the blood of animals was tabu, and was expressly forbidden to be used as food (Genesis 9:4, Deuteronomy 12:16). The prohibition was based on the doctrine that “the blood is the life” (Deuteronomy 12:23), i.e. that the blood was the seat of the “soul” or נפשׁ, the vital principle.


The phrase πίνειν τὸ αἷμα does not occur again in the N.T.

It should be noted, further, that the use of this expression, as distinct from φαγεῖν τὴν σάρκα, indicates that the Flesh and Blood have been separated, and thus it suggests death, even more definitely than φαγεῖν τὴν σάρκα does.

ἀμὴν�

The verb τρώγειν challenges attention. In ordinary Greek, it is used of men eating fruit or vegetables, but no instance has been produced of its use for the eating of flesh (Abbott, Diat. 1710h). It seems to connote eating of delicacies, or eating with enjoyment; and in the only place in the N.T. outside Jn. in which it is found, viz. Matthew 24:38, where the careless ones before the Flood are described as τρώγοντες καὶ πίνοντες, this suggestion is perhaps involved. Besides the present passage, we have it again at 13:18 (where see note) as a quotation from Psalms 41:9, ἐσθίων of the LXX being altered by Jn. to τρώγων. That is, Jn. always uses this verb of “eating” at the Last Supper or the Eucharist (for this is undoubtedly indicated in vv. 51-58 here), although Mk. and Mt. have ἐσθίειν in their narratives of the Last Supper (Mark 14:18, Mark 14:22, Matthew 26:21, Matthew 26:26). The Synoptists use the verb ἐσθίειν 34 times in all, but it never appears in Jn.


τρώγειν is used of spiritual feeding in a remarkable sentence of Irenæus (Hær. iv. xxxviii. 1) which seems to be reminiscent of the present passage. He is speaking of Christ, ὁ ἄρτος ὁ τέλειος τοῦ πατρός, and of His gradual revelation of Himself. First, He offered Himself to us as milk is offered to infants, in order that being thus nourished from the breast of His flesh (ὑπὸ μασθοῦ τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ), “we might become accustomed to eat and drink the Word of God (τρώγειν καὶ πίνειν τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ), and contain within ourselves the Bread of immortality (τὸν τῆς�Rom_7), in like manner, reproduces words of this chapter: ἄρτον θεοῦ θέλω, ὅ ἐστιν σὰρξ τοῦ Χριστοῦ … καὶ πόμα θέλω τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ. So Justin (Apol. i. 66) says that the eucharistic elements are Ἰησοῦ καὶ σάρκα καὶ αἷμα. See Introd., p. clxviii.


54. ὁ τρώγων μου τὴν σάρκα καὶ πίνων μου τὸ αἷμα (the whole phrase is repeated verbatim in v. 56) seems to mean, “he who continually feeds with enjoyment upon my Flesh and continually drinks my Blood,” or “he who is in the habit of feeding, etc.,” for the present participles must be given their force. See above on v. 29.

ἔχει ζωὴν αἰώνιον (sc. in the present), κἀγὼ�

μένειν is a favourite word with Jn., and he uses it much more frequently than the Synoptists do. They have not the phrase “to abide in Christ,” or “in God,” which is thoroughly characteristic of Johannine doctrine. This phrase is used in a general mystical sense in 1 John 2:6, 1 John 2:27, 1 John 2:28, 1 John 2:3:6, 1 John 2:24, 1 John 2:4:12, 1 John 2:16; but in the Fourth Gospel it is found only here and at 15:4-7, both passages having reference to the Eucharist (see on 15:1), the purpose of which is that “we may dwell in Him, and He in us” (cf. 15:4). In Jn. the one “abiding” involves the other, and to this thought reference is made several times (15:5, 1 John 3:24, 1 John 3:4:13, 1 John 3:16; cf. 14:20, and see on 5:38).

The external token of a man’s “abiding” in Christ, is that he keeps His commandments (1 John 3:24); and, as to love God and to love man are the great commandments, he that abides in love abides in God (1 John 4:16)1 More generally, he that abides in Christ ought to walk after His example (1 John 2:6); in other words, he “bears fruit” (15:2). Of one who has perfectly realised this “abiding,” it is said “he sinneth not” (1 John 3:6). Such an one has the secret of efficacious prayer (15:7). He has life (6:57), and naturally will have confidence at the Great Parousia (1 John 2:28).


D adds after αὐτῷ: καθὼς ἐν ἐμοὶ ὁ πατήρ, κἀγὼ ἐν τῷ πατρί (cf. 14:10).�

57. For�1 John 4:9); the aor. marks a definite moment, viz. that of the Incarnation. For the “sending” of Jesus by the Father, see on 3:17.


καθὼς is a favourite conjunction with Jn. The constr. καθὼς … κἀγώ, which we find here, cannot always be interpreted in the same way. Thus at 15:9, 17:18 and 20:21 we must render, “As the Father loved (or sent) me, so I loved (or send) you.” On the other hand, at 17:21 καθὼς … κἀγώ plainly stands for “As Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee.” In the present verse, the sequence of thought requires the latter interpretation, viz. “As the Living Father hath sent me, and I live because of the Father,” then it follows that “he that eateth me shall live because of me.” See further on 10:15.

The form of the principal sentence καθὼς�1 John 2:6, 1 John 4:17, of the comparison between the life of the Incarnate Christ and that of believers. It is not καθὼς . . οὓτως, for the comparison or parallelism can never be exact or complete; it is καθὼς … καί, “As Christ … so (in a sense) even those who are His.” See on 17:18.

ὁ ζῶν πατήρ is a phrase unique in the N.T.; but cf. ὁ πατὴρ ἔχει ζωὴν ἐν ἑαυτῷ (5:26, where see note). “The living God” is a title found both in O.T. and N.T., e.g. Deuteronomy 5:26, Matthew 16:16, Acts 14:15, 2 Corinthians 6:16.


The meaning of this passage is, then, as follows: As the Father, who is the Fount of Life, has sent Christ on earth, and as Christ’s life is derived from and dependent on the Divine Life, so the believer who “eats” Christ, that is, who is in continual communion with Him, assimilates His life and thus lives in dependence on Him. διὰ τοῦ πατρός would mean that the Father was the Agent; but διὰ τὸν πατέρα signifies that He is the spring and source of the Life of the Son.

διά with the accusative may mean either (1) for the sake of …, or (2) thanks to … For (1) Wetstein quotes διʼ ὑμᾶς μόνους ζῆν ἐθέλω, ” “I wish to live for your sakes,” sc. to do you favours (Dio Cassius, lxxvii. iii. 2); and Abbott (Diat. 2705) adds several examples from Epictetus, e.g. ἔξελθε διὰ τὰ παιδία, “escape for the sake of the children” (Epict. iv. i. 163).This use of διά will not suit the context here. That the Life of Christ was διὰ τὸν πατέρα, “for the Father’s sake,” sc. to do His Will, is true (cf. 4:34), but the argument requires the conception that the Life of Christ is derived from and due to the Life of God. (2) For this sense of διά, Abbott (Diat. 2297b) quotes Plutarch, Vit. Alex. § 8: Alexander said he owed life to his father, but good life to Aristotle διʼ ἐκεῖνον μὲν ζῶν, διὰ τοῦτον δὲ καλῶς ζῶν. This is a close parallel to the use of διά in the present passage. Christ lives, διὰ τὸν πατέρα, “thanks to the Father,” as sharing the Father’s Life;1 and believers live διʼ αὐτόν, “thanks to Him.” The meaning, then, of ἐκεῖνος ζήσει διʼ ἐμέ is, practically, the same as that of the related passage 1 John 4:9 τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ τὸν μονογενῆ�


Godet’s comment brings out the general sense excellently: “As the infinite life of nature can only be appropriated by man so far as it is concentrated in a fruit or a morsel of bread; so the divine life is only put within our reach so far as it is incarnate in the Son of Man. It is thus that He is to us all the

Bread of Life. But as we have to appropriate and assimilate bread to obtain life through it; so also must we incorporate the Person of the Son of Man by an inward act of faith, which is the way of spiritual manducation. By thus feeding on Him who lived by God, we live by God Himself and henceforth actually live as Jesus does.”

καὶ ὁ τρώγων με …, “even so, he who eateth me.” The metaphor of eating Christ’s “Flesh and Blood” is dropped; it is the feeding on Himself, the communion with His Person, that is the essential thing.

For τρώγων, D has λαμβάνων; cf. v. 56.

For ζήσει (אBC2LTNΘ), the rec. has ζήσεται with ΓΔ (cf. v. 51).

κἀκεῖνος ζήσει διʼ ἐμέ. The life promised here is that ζωὴ αἰώνιος which begins in the present; the parallel saying of 14:19 ὅτι ἐγὼ ζῶ καὶ ὑμεῖς ζήσεσθε, has special reference to the future. See on 11:25, and cf. Introd., p. clxi.

58. This verse contains a summary of the whole discourse, and so it goes back to the saying about the heavenly Bread (v. 33), ending with what was said in v. 51, that he who feeds on it shall live for ever. Jn.’s report of the words of Jesus often passes without pause into his own comments (see on 3:16), and it has been suggested (Abbott, Diat. 1957) that v. 58 was intended to be the evangelist’s short statement of what has gone before. But if so, ταῦτα εἶπεν in v. 59 is clumsy. We can hardly separate v. 58 from what precedes, despite some slight changes in the form of expression, which are duly noted below. As has already been said (p. cxvi), Jn. is prone to vary words and the order of words when reiterating something already recorded.

οὗτός ἐστιν κτλ., repeated from v. 50, except that here the aor. participle καταβάς is used (as in v. 51) of the descent from heaven of the mystical Bread. For the rec. ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ (אDLNWΓΔΘ), BCT have ἐξ οὐρανοῦ, and this may be right; but on the six previous occurrences of the phrase “descending from heaven” (vv. 33, 38, 41, 42, 50, 51), τοῦ οὐρανοῦ is the best-supported reading.

οὐ καθὼς ἔφαγον κτλ., repeated, with slight variations, from v. 49. The sentence is a good example of Jn.’s partiality for the constr. called anacoluthon.

For οὐ καθώς, cf. 14:27, 1 John 3:12; the only other occurrence in the N.T. being 2 Corinthians 8:5.


οἱ πατέρες. The rec. with DΔNΘ and Syr. sin. adds ὑμῶν (from v. 49); om. אBCLTW. The expression οἱ

πατέρες occurs again, in the words of Christ, at 7:22, where it refers to the patriarchs. It also is found Acts 13:32, Romans 9:5, Romans 11:28, Romans 15:8, Hebrews 1:1, 2 Peter 3:4, and is used quite vaguely of the Israelites of the olden time. Here it is limited by the context to the generation of the Exodus from Egypt. But no distinction is to be drawn between οἱ πατέρες ὑμῶν of v. 49 and οἱ πατέρες of v. 58 (cf., e.g., Acts 13:32 and Acts 26:6).


Some minor uncials add τὸ μάννα after οἱ πατέρες ὑμῶν, from v. 49.

καὶ�

59. For the site of Capernaum, see on 2:12. The synagogue at Capernaum (built by the centurion, Luke 7:5) was the place where Jesus gave His first public instruction (Mark 1:21; cf. Luke 4:31f.).1 That it was His habit to teach in country synagogues is clear; cf. Mark 1:39, Mark 3:1, Matthew 4:23, Matthew 4:9:35, Matthew 4:12:9, Matthew 4:13:54; and see John 18:20, the only other place where the word συναγώγη occurs in Jn.


ἐν συναγωγῇ, “in synagogue,” as we say “in church.” D prefixes the article τῇ before συν., but incorrectly; cf. 18:20. D also adds σαββάτῳ, and this may possibly be a gloss which has tradition behind it. Sabbath synagogue services were those at which instruction was usually given, although there were services on Mondays and Thursdays as well. On the other hand, the narrative represents a crowd as following Jesus across the lake, which would involve more travelling than was regarded as right on the Sabbath day.

The Disciples are Perplexed by the Words of Jesus (Vv. 60-65)

60. πολλοί … ἐκ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ, including not only the Twelve, but those who were of the outer circle of His disciples (cf. v. 66, and see on 2:2); some of the Twelve may well have been among those who found the teaching of Jesus difficult.

σκληρός is not used again by Jn. It means harsh or hard to accept (not difficult to understand; cf. Genesis 21:11 and Jude 1:15).


ὁ λόγος οὗτος (אBCDLNW) is the true order of words, as against οὗτος ὁ λ. of the rec. text (Θ).

τίς δύναται αὐτοῦ�

62. ἐὰν οὖν θεωρῆτε κτλ. The passage is an aposiopesis, the apodosis being omitted. “If then you should see the Son of Man (see on 1:51) ascending where He was before (will you be offended?).” We should expect τί οὖν ἐὰν θεωρῆτε κτλ., and the omission of τί is awkward. But the meaning is hardly doubtful. Jesus does not imply that those addressed would certainly see the Ascension, but that it was a possibility. According to Lk., the Eleven were witnesses of the Ascension (Luke 24:51, Acts 1:9), and they were among those to whom Jesus was here speaking in reply to doubts (see on v. 60). θεωρεῖν (see on 2:23) is used here of bodily vision; and�Ephesians 4:10, Acts 2:34).

τὸ πρότερον, “before,” is rare in the N.T.; but cf. 9:8 and Galatians 4:13.


ὅπου ἦν τὸ πρότερον. The Personality of the Lord remained unchanged through His Incarnation and subsequent Ascension. Here is suggested the pre-existence of the “Son of Man,” as before at 3:13, where see note.

The meaning of vv. 62, 63 is best brought out if we take them in connexion with v. 58 (cf. v. 51), which had seemed to the hearers of Jesus to be hard of acceptance. He had said two things: (1) that He was the Bread which came down from heaven, and (2) that the man who ate of it should live for ever. There are two distinct points of difficulty, and they are taken separately.

(1) That One moving among men in the flesh had descended from heaven seemed incredible, but is it not still less credible that He should ascend to heaven? Yet the former had happened (in the Incarnation); the latter will happen at the Ascension, and some of those present might be there to see it.

(2) There is a real difficulty in believing that the eating of “bread” or “flesh” (v. 52) can give life for ever (v. 58). “The flesh profiteth nothing.” Flesh cannot transcend its own limitations. But to those who feed on the Flesh of the Son of Man, He will impart eternal life (v. 57), for although He “became flesh” (1:14), His origin and essential being is spiritual, and it is the characteristic of spirit to give life: τὸ πνεῦμά ἐστιν τὸ ζωοποιοῦν. This is the promise to all future believers (see on 7:39). The words which He had spoken to them, and to which they took exception, are Spirit and Life: these are the key words of His teaching about Himself and His salvation.

Some commentators, e.g. Meyer of a former generation, and Abbott (Diat. 2211b), take�

63. τὸ πνεῦμά ἐστιν τὸ ζωοποιοῦν. See for ζωοποιεῖν as applied to the work of Christ, 5:21; and note 1 Corinthians 15:45.

The contrast between flesh and spirit has already been before us in 3:6, where see the note; cf. also Mark 14:38, 1 Peter 3:18, 1 Peter 4:6.


ἡ σὰρξ οὐκ ὠφελεῖ οὐδέν, “flesh avails nothing.” For ὠφελεῖν, cf. 12:19. There is no contradiction with what has been said before (v. 51), for Jesus does not say “my flesh” here. In every case is it true that flesh, without spirit, cannot quicken to eternal life.1

τὰ ῥήματα ἃ ἐγὼ λελάληκα. So אBCDLNWΘ, as against λαλῶ of the rec. text. The “words” in question are the words of the preceding discourse. For τὰ ῥήματα (never in the sing. in Jn.), see on 3:34. The ῥήματα of Christ are words of God (8:47, 17:8), and as such belong to the sphere of spiritual realities, for God is Spirit (4:24), and of essential being, that is, of true life. They are spirit and they are life.

For λαλεῖν, see on 3:11; and cf. 8:20.

64. But although His words were words of life, they were life only to those who believed, and so Jesus adds�

ᾔδει γὰρ ἐξ�Isaiah 40:21, Isaiah 41:26, where it means “from the beginning of things”); but we have seen on v. 38 that�1 John 2:7, 1 John 2:24, 1 John 2:3:11 (but cf. 1 John 1:1) in the same sense as here, viz. “from the time when Jesus first drew disciples round Him.” From the moment when He began to observe their characters, He distinguished unerringly those who were faithful from those who were not (see 2:24). That Jn. means his readers to understand that from the moment of his call, Judas was known by Jesus to be the man who would betray Him is not certain. If that be his meaning, the passage provides a remarkable instance of Jn.’s doctrine of predestination (see on 2:4, and especially on 13:18). But we need not press ἐξ�


τίς ἐστιν ὁ παραδώσων αὐτόν. Abbott notes (Diat. 2510) that ὁ παραδώσων (D has ὁ παραδίδους) is the only instance in Jn. of a future participle with the article.

The meaning of παραδιδόναι is often misunderstood, as Abbott (Paradosis passim) has shown at length. It means at “to deliver up,” but not necessarily “to betray.” Thus it is used of the Jews giving up Jesus to Pilate (18:30, 35, 36, 19:11), and of Pilate giving up Jesus to be crucified (19:16), and also of Jesus “giving up” His spirit, i.e. dying, on the cross (19:30). In none of these passages is treachery connoted or implied; and thus in the passages where παραδιδόναι is applied to the action of Judas (6:71, 12:4, 13:2, 11, 21, 18:2, 5, 21:20) we are not entitled to render it “betray.” προδιδόναι (a verb not found in the Gospels, although Luke 6:16 calls Judas προδότης, as he undoubtedly was) is “to betray,” but παραδιδόναι is simply “to deliver up,” and is a colourless word not conveying any suggestion of blame.


Jn. does not record any early predictions by Jesus that He would be “delivered up” to the Jews, as the Synoptists do (cf. Mar_9:3l, 10:33). In Jn. Jesus Himself does not use the word παραδιδόναι until 13:21.


65. καὶ ἔλεγεν. Jn. occasionally uses ἔλεγεν of the utterances of Jesus (2:21, 22, 5:18, 6:6, 71, 8:27, 31, 12:33), and the force of the impft. tense must not be missed. Here reference is made to the saying of v. 44, a cardinal doctrine in Jn. (cf. v. 37 and 3:27), viz. that the impulse to faith comes in the first instance from God; there were some who did not believe (v. 64), and one who would be a traitor among them, but this did not surprise Jesus. “He was saying” (all the while) that it was a fundamental principle that God must “draw” a man to Christ. See Abbott (Diat. 2467), who, however, holds that in all cases a saying preceded by ἔλεγεν is mysterious and not understood by the hearers. This can hardly be sustained; see, e.g., 6:6.

διὰ τοῦτο εἴρηκα. This was the reason why He had given the warning of v. 44 (where see the note). He wished to anticipate criticism based on the non-success of His teaching with some people. For διὰ τοῦτο, see on 5:16.

ἐκ τοῦ πατρός. The rec. adds μου, but om. אBC*DLTWΘ (see on v. 44).

The Defection of Many Disciples: The Steadfastness of the Twelve, as Indicated in the Confession of Peter (Vv. 66-71)

Verses 66-71 form the conclusion of Part I. of the Gospel. Hitherto the mission of Jesus has been accepted by many disciples, and has appeared to be full of hope (2:23, 4:1, 39, 45, 6:2). But He had not trusted Himself to all these adherents, for “He knew what was in man” (2:25). When the reach and difficulty of His doctrine begin to be realised, there is a falling away of disciples. Only the Twelve remain (and even of these one will be unfaithful). Here, at the end of c. 6, is the note of failure, suggested for the first time at v. 26. Henceforth the record is to be of a growing hate, culminating in rejection (see on 12:36b).1

66. ἐκ τούτου, “thereupon.” The great defection began at this point, and its immediate cause was the nature of the teaching which had been given. Cf. 19:12. ἐκ τούτου in a causal sense is common in the papyri.2

οὖν is added after ἐκ τούτου by אDΘ and fam. 13, but is unnecessary and is om. by BCLTNW. τογτογπολλοι might easily become τογτογπολλοι, and thus οὖν would get into the text (see Tischendorf, in loc.).

πολλοὶ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ. BT insert ἐκ before τῶν μαθ., but om. אCDLWΘ. Cf. v. 60; and see on 1:40, 6:71, 12:4.

τῶν μαθητῶν refers to the outer circle of disciples (see on 2:2), which would include the Twelve, although none of the Twelve failed Jesus at this point. A tradition ascribed to Hippolytus says that Mark and Luke were among the “seventy disciples who were scattered by the offence of the words of Christ,” John 6:53 being quoted loosely.3

ἀπῆλθον εἰς τὰ ὀπίσω, a phrase used again 18:6. They withdrew or retreated from association with Jesus. For εἰς τὰ ὀπίσω in a figurative sense, cf. Psalms 44:18.


οὐκέτι μετʼ αὐτοῦ περιεπάτουν, “they walked no more with Him,” a phrase which vividly suggests the itinerant character of His ministry. Cf. 7:1, 11:54; and for the larger sense of περιπάτειν, see on 8:12.

67. εἶπεν … τοῖς δώδεκα. This is the first time that “the Twelve” are mentioned by Jn. (cf. v. 13). He introduces this familiar designation without having given any account of their being set apart by Jesus, as the Synoptists do (Mark 3:14). So, too, he brings in Pilate (18:29) and Mary Magdalene (19:25), without explaining who they were. This is a feature of his way of writing: he assumes, on the part of his readers, an acquaintance with the story of Christ’s ministry (cf. p. xciv).


Jn. mentions “the Twelve” by this collective designation only 4 times (cf. vv. 70, 71, and 20:24), and in every case there is a suggestion of desertion or unbelief in the context.

μὴ καὶ ὑμεῖς θέλετε ὑπάγειν; “Would you also go away?” The form of the question, μὴ καὶ …, suggests that a negative answer is expected. Cf. 7:47, 52, 9:40, 18:17, 25; and see 21:5, the only other place in the Gospel where an interrogation beginning with μή is put into the mouth of Jesus.

ὑπάγειν, “to go away,” is a favourite word with Jn. It is applied to the disciples here and at 15:16. See on 7:33 and 16:7.

68. The Confession of Peter here recorded is not to be distinguished from the similar confession narrated by the Synoptists (Mark 8:27f., Matthew 16:13f., Luke 9:18f.), although the details are different. The crisis in the Lord’s public ministry which called it forth took place, according to Lk. as well as according to Jn., some time after the Feeding of the Five Thousand (Mk., followed by Mt., places it a little later, after the Feeding of the Four Thousand). Jn. says that the place was Capernaum, while Mk. and Mt. give Cæsarea Philippi, 30 miles to the north; Lk. does not give any indication of place. In all the Synoptists, the Confession of Peter was followed by the first prediction by Jesus of His Passion. There is no indication of this in Jn., who does not assign to any particular crisis the first announcement by Jesus that He was to suffer. Cf. 3:13, 14, 6:53, 8:28, 12:23, 25, 13:31; and see Introd., p. 131. But in Jn., as in the Synoptists, the faithfulness of the apostles, for whom Peter was spokesman, as contrasted with the defection or incredulity of many in the outer circle of the Lord’s followers, is brought out clearly.


Σίμων Πέτρος. This is the only place in Jn. where Peter is represented as speaking on behalf of the rest, although he appears later as foremost to question or to intervene (cf. 13:6, 24, 36, 20:2).

πρὸς τίνα�Luke 5:8), but that was only a hasty word of humility. The question μὴ καὶ ὑμεῖς θέλετε ὑπάγειν; is answered by another question.


Peter’s Confession is twofold in Jn.’s version. (1) “Thou hast words of eternal life”; this is the acceptance of Jesus as Prophet. (2) “Thou art the Holy One of God”; that is the recognition of Him as the Priest of humanity.

ῥήματα ζωῆς αἰωνίου ἔχεις. The immediate reference is to v. 63, and the teaching of v. 58. “Thou hast words (not the words) of eternal life,” i.e. words which give eternal life, or the knowledge of it; see on v. 35 for the phrase “the Bread of Life.” For ῥήματα, see on v. 63; and cf. Acts 5:20 πάντα τὰ π̔ήματα τῆς ζωῆς ταύτης. For ζωὴ αἰώνιος, see on 3:15; and cf. vv. 27, 40. This is a favourite expression of Jn., who puts into his own accustomed phraseology Peter’s confession of trust in Jesus.

69. καὶ ἡμεῖς (emphatic; we, at least, the chosen Twelve) πεπιστεύκαμεν καὶ ἐγνώκαμεν κτλ. The order of verbs is different at 1 John 4:16 ἡμεῖς ἐγνώκαμεν καὶ πεπιστεύκαμεν; cf. 17:8 ἔγνωσαν … καὶ ἐπίστευσαν. But, while Jn. does not lay down formulæ as to the relative precedence of faith and knowledge in regard to the things of the spirit, his teaching is nearer the credo ut intelligam of the saints than the intelligo ut credam of the philosophers. The apostles had “believed” in Jesus, and therefore they “knew” who He was. So, at any rate, Jn. makes Peter say. See on 3:36, and cf. 11:27.


σὺ εἶ. Cf. the Confession of Nathanael, σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ (1:49). The Confession of Peter does not really transcend either this or the announcement of Andrew εὑρήκαμεν τὸν Μεσσίαν (1:41). The Synoptic presentation of a gradual development of spiritual insight on the part of the followers of Jesus, in accordance with which it was only after a time and not all at once that they recognised Him as the Christ, has no place in Jn.’s narrative.1 His purpose in writing the Gospel is to convince men that Jesus is the Christ (20:31), and the stages by which he, or others, reached this supreme conviction he does not stay to record.

ὁ ἅγιος τοῦ θεοῦ. This is, undoubtedly, the true reading (אBC*DLW). The rec. (with NΘ) has ὁ Χριστός, ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ζῶντος, which is the reading of Matthew 16:16, and has naturally crept into the text here, by assimilation. Cf. also the confession of Martha, ἐγὼ πεπίστευκα ὅτι σὺ εἶ ὁ Χριστός, ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ (11:27).

ὁ ἅγιος τοῦ θεοῦ is the designation of Jesus by the unclean spirit of Mark 1:24, Luke 4:34. It is not a Johannine phrase, but may be taken here to mean Him whom God consecrated as the Christ (cf. ὃν ὁ πατὴρ ἡγίασεν, 10:36). Cf. Acts 3:14, Acts 3:4:27, 30. ἅγιος θεοῦ is used of a Nazirite at Judges 13:7, Judges 13:16:17; and cf. ἅγιος κυρίου of Aaron at Psalms 106:16. See 17:11 πάτερ ἅγιε.

The commendation of Peter in response to his Confession, which is recorded by Matthew 16:17, has no place in the other Gospels, and it does not appear here. But perhaps a reminiscence of it has already been recorded at 1:42, where see note.


70. Peter had spoken for the rest of the apostles as well as for himself, and Jesus understands this to be so. “He answered them,”�

οὐκ ἐγὼ ὑμᾶς κτλ., “Was it not I (ἐγώ being emphatic) who chose you, the Twelve?” (for οἱ δώδεκα, see on v. 67). Cf. Luke 6:13 ἐκλεξάμενος�John 13:18 and 15:16 οὐχ ὑμεῖς με ἐξελέξασθε,�


Peter had spoken for the Twelve, and Judas did not dissociate himself from the great Confession of v. 69. None of the others suspected that he was less trustworthy than they. But Jesus, although he does not reveal who the traitor is, warns them that they are not all of one mind. “Of you,” even of you whom I chose, “one is a devil.”

διάβολος is an “accuser” (the word is applied to Haman, the Jews’ enemy, in Esther 7:4, Esther 8:1), but is used by Jn. always for Satan or one inspired by Satan (8:44, 13:2, 1 John 3:8, 1 John 3:10). At 13:2 Jn. says that ὁ διάβολος put the idea of treachery into the heart of Judas, and at 13:27 that “Satan entered into him.” One thus inspired is, himself, a “devil.” Here the process of moral deterioration had only begun, but Jesus detected its beginnings. He observed that Judas was “giving place to the devil” (Ephesians 4:27). See on 12:4.

Some have found here a reminiscence of the rebuke to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan” (Mark 8:33), which followed quickly upon his confession of faith, the idea being that the designation of Peter as Satan in the earlier record is here transferred to Judas, against whom Jn. had a special animus (see on 12:6). But this lacks both evidence and probability.


71. ἔλεγεν δέ κτλ., “but He was speaking of …,” a quite classical use of ἔλεγε. See on v. 65 above.

Ἰούδαν Σίμωνος Ἰσκαριώτου. ΝΓΔ support Ἰσχαριώτην of the rec. text, but אcBCLW give the genitive, “Iscariot” being the appellation of Simon, the father of Judas. For Ἰσκαριώτου, א*Θ and fam. 13 give the interpretative reading�Joshua 15:25, or may be Kerioth in Moab (Jeremiah 48:24); but in any case it was not in Galilee, so that Judas was the only one of the Twelve who was not a Galilæan. This explanation of the surname “Iscariot” is suggested in Jn. only, there being no hint of it in the Synoptists.1


ἔμελλεν (אBCLNWΘ) is to be preferred to the rec. ἤμελλεν.

οὗτος γὰρ ἔμελλεν παραδιδόναι αὐτόν. Cf. 12:4 ὁ μέλλων αὐτὸν παραδιδόναι. μέλλειν may express simple futurity only (4:47), or it may connote intention (6:6, 14:22); but it may also carry with it the idea of predestined inevitableness, the thought of which is often present to Jn. (see on 2:4, 3:14). It would be quite in Jn.’s manner to describe Judas as he who was destined to deliver Jesus up to His enemies. Cf. Matthew 17:22 μέλλει ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ�John 7:35; John 7:39John 7:39; John 11:51John 11:51; John 12:33John 12:33; John 18:32John 18:32, the exact shade of meaning being not always certain.


εἷς ἐκ τῶν δώδεκα. After εἷς, א C2ΓDNWΘ ins. ὤν, but om. BC*DL. The Synoptists apply the phrase “one of the Twelve” to Judas only, and to him only in connexion with the Betrayal. But Jn. applies it also to Thomas (20:24), the description always indicating surprise that one so favoured as to be of the chosen companions of Jesus should be either incredulous or unfaithful (see on v. 67 above).

It has been pointed out on 1:40 that Jn. prefers the form εἷς ἐκ to εἷς only when followed by a gen. plur., whereas the Synoptists generally omit ἐκ. Westcott suggests that ἐκ in the present passage marks “the unity of the body to which the unfaithful member belonged.” But this is too subtle an inference from what is only a habit of style; cf. εἷς τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ (John 12:4).

A. Wright (Synopsis, p. 31) suggests that ὁ εἶς τῶν δώδεκα, applied to Judas (Mark 14:10), means “the chief of the Twelve,” and compares τῇ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων (Mark 16:2). It is difficult to believe that ὁ εἷς; could be written for ὁ πρῶτος; or that an evangelist writing many years after the event, when the name of Judas had been held up to opprobrium for a generation, should call him “the chief of the Twelve,” without adding any qualifying words. See, for the precedence of Judas, on 13:23.










1 As it held thirteen persons, it must have been a large boat.

2 The supposition that there was another Bethsaida on the western shore lacks evidence, and is improbable. Cf. 12:21.

3 It is said that grass is found there at all seasons (W. M. Christie, D.C.G. ii. 589); cf. Rix (Tent and Testament, pp. 265 ff.) for the geographical problem.

1 Josephus (B.J. iii. 3, 5) has τῆς πρὸς Τιβεριάδα λίμνης, which Niese notes as having been altered in inferior MSS. to Τιβεριάδος.

אԠSinaiticus (δ 2). Leningrad. iv.

B Vaticanus (δ 1). Rome. Cent. iv.

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

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

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).

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

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


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

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

1 See Introd., p. xcvi. Streeter, The Four Gospels, p. 413, hazards the guess that the words�

1 Turner (J.T.S., Jan. 1925, p. 148) suggests that it may have been this incident which attracted the attention of Herod (cf. Mark 6:14).


1 Cf. Introd., p. cxx.

1 See Introd., p. cxi.

2 This is the only place, as Wendt points out, where the word σημεῖα is placed in the mouth of Jesus by Jn.

T Borgianus (ε 5). Rome. v. Græco-Sahidic. Contains cc. 6:28-67 7:6-8:31.

1 Midrash Koheleth, p. 73, quoted by Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr., in loc.

2 J. B. Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, p. 152; cf. p. 25.

1 The phrase occurs Ignatius, ad Rom. vii.; cf. vv. 51, 53.

1 Wetstein gives the reference “Isaacus Arama in Akodas Jizhac.”

1 Cf. Introd., pp. xciii, cxl.

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

1 Cf. introd., pp. cix, cixii.

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

1 Cf. Introd., p. clxvii.

2 For the sacramental bearing of vv. 51-58, see Waterland, Doctrine of the Eucharist, c. vi.

1 See Introd., p. clxxiv.

2 Chase traces it to Syriac influence (Syro-Latin Text of the Gospels, p. 21).

1 At 4:34 Christ’s “food” is the doing the Father’s Will. Here the thought is rather that the Son “feeds” on the Father’s Life, assimilating and sharing it.

1 Recent excavations at Tell-Hum have disclosed the remains of a large building which its discoverers identify with this synagogue.

1 For patristic comments on this passage, see Gore, Dissertations, P. 303 f.

2 Cf. Introd., p. 34.

1 Cf. Introd., p. 33.

2 See Moulton-Milligan, Vocab. of N.T., s.v. ἐκ.

3 Fragm. on The Seventy Apostles.

1 Cf. Introd., p. 134.

1 See Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, p. 143; Chase, Syro-Latin Text of the Gospels, p. 102; and the art. “Judas Iscariot” in D.C.G.

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Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on John 6". International Critical Commentary NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/icc/john-6.html. 1896-1924.