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Bible Commentaries
John 3

Bengel's Gnomon of the New TestamentBengel's Gnomon

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Verse 1

John 3:1 . Ἦν δέ , Now there was ) Eleven conversations of Jesus are recounted in full detail by John: the first of these now begins. ἄνθρωπος , a man ) one of those, concerning whom see ch. 2, towards the close: but one considerably better than many.

Verse 2

John 3:2 . Νυκτός , by night ) There is never a time that Christ does not receive comers to Him. οἴδασμεν , we know ) I, and those like me: the rulers rather than the Pharisees , ch. John 12:42 . To this plural answers the plural, John 3:7 , “ Ye must be born again.” The Antecedent is put by Nicodemus as the consequent: For this reason I wished to confer with Thee. He wished to hear as to heavenly things and as to sublime things, John 3:12 [ but Jesus brings him up to first principles . V. g.] [49] σημεῖα , signs ) ch. John 2:23 , “At the passover, on the feast day, many believed on Him when they saw the miracles which He did.”

[49] διδάσκαλος , master , [teacher]) That indeed is true; but it by no means carries with it every point [that is needed for salvation]; ver. 14, 16, “As Moses lifted up the serpent, etc., so must the Son of Man be lifted up, etc.: for God so loved the world, that He gave His Only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish,” etc. V. g.

Verse 3

John 3:3 . Ἐὰν μὴ τίς , Unless one [Except a man]) The expression is indefinite: Nicodemus, however, rightly applies it to himself. Comp. John 3:7 , ye . The sense here is: That opinion of thine, Nicodemus, as to Jesus is not sufficient: it is needful that you absolutely believe , and submit yourself to the heavenly ordinance, even baptism . Comp. Mark 16:16 , “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” This was the doctrine necessary for Nicodemus. Accordingly Jesus began from this point, as Nicodemus indeed had furnished the handle. γεννηθῇ , be born ) This is put forward first under a figure, in hard language, in order to convince [convict] Nicodemus of ignorance; it is afterwards, when he was humbled, shown in plain [literal] words, John 3:15 , “That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish,” etc., etc. [ Comp. 1 John 5:1 , Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God .] The same truth is expressed in this passage, as Matthew 3:0 expresses by the word μετανοίας , repentance . For this word does not occur in the whole Gospel according to John. [50] [ Beware of thinking that the work of faith is accomplished without any trouble: for it is (nothing short of) a generation from above. Beware again, on the other hand, of regarding regeneration as more difficult than it really is: it is simply, to wit, accomplished by faith ( i.e. in the act of believing). V. g.] ἄνωθεν ) Comp. John 3:2 ; John 3:7 ; John 3:11 , “We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen,” etc.; 31, “He that cometh from above is above all.” ἄνωθεν signifies from above , whence the Son of man hath come down. οὐ δύναται , cannot ) Nicodemus had not himself sufficiently known [the full significancy of] what (John 3:2 , Thou art a Teacher come from God ) he had said. ἰδεῖν , to see ) even now, and after this life: to see , with [real] enjoyment. τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ Θεοῦ , the kingdom of God ) [ Nicodemus was aspiring after this; yet being ignorant of how great consequence in this respect faith in Jesus was . V. g.] He who sees Christ, sees this. Whence the new birth [cometh], thence [also cometh] acquaintance with Him.

[50] Both Evangelists open the Gospel with the same initiatory truth , though the difference of the word in one from that of the other proves the coincidence undesigned. E. and T.

Verse 4

John 3:4 . Πῶς ) This how and why are often obstacles to faith: John 3:9 , “How can these things be?” ch. John 6:52 , [The Jews object] “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” Nicodemus ‘marvels,’ as Joh 3:7 implies. It is well that he simply asks the question. [51] ΓΕΝΝΗΘῆΝΑΙ , be born ) Nicodemus ought to have taken into account the ἄνωθεν , from above : that he passes by: therefore he says δεύτερον , a second time . γέρων ) an old man , not merely a grown-up man . Nicodemus therefore being an old man, asks the question on his own account; [52] and had come to Jesus, who was much his junior. ΜῊ ΔΎΝΑΤΑΙ ; can he [ num potest; requiring a negative answer: Surely he cannot?]) Nicodemus objects rather vehemently, [ and in such a way, that his words appear not far removed from derision. Hence it is that Jesus frames His succeeding answer as well a little more distinct, as also somewhat more paradoxical and severe . V. g.]

[51] As an inquirer, not a doubter. E. and T.

[52] And so puts it in that form which applied to his own case. E. and T.

Verse 5

John 3:5 . Ἐξ ὕδατος καὶ Πνεύματος , of water and the Spirit ) Jesus renders His speech the more difficult, in order to try [discipline] Nicodemus, and at the same time declares the difference between birth from above, and birth from a mother: and He defines birth from above by communion with [the partaking of] Himself and with [of] the Spirit (for He speaks concerning Himself and concerning the Spirit also at John 3:11 , “ we speak that we do know”). Comp. 1 Corinthians 6:11 , “Ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” No one can enjoy God without the Son and His Spirit. Water denotes the baptism of John into [preparing for] Christ Jesus, John 3:22-23 [Jesus tarried in the land of Judæa with His disciples, and baptized: “John was also baptizing in Ænon,” etc.]; which baptism the colleagues of Nicodemus, by omitting, John 3:1 , despised the counsel of God: Luke 7:30 , “The Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of John ;” when nevertheless the Jews were accustomed to baptisms: Hebrews 9:10 , “divers washings.” And Nicodemus himself appears to have entertained not sufficiently exalted views of John and his baptism, as being one who had wrought no miracle. Comp. John 3:2 [where he emphasises the ‘miracles’ of Jesus; thus forming a contrast to John]. Nor is communion needful with Christ only, but also with His Spirit : Acts 2:38 , “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” And because the same Spirit glorifies Christ, for this reason, the mention of water being presently after omitted, mention is made of the Spirit alone, of whom we are to be born again: nor does He say at John 3:6 , that which is born of water is water . Therefore the necessity of regeneration primarily, and of baptism secondarily, is here confirmed (comp. a similar καί , and , ch. John 6:40 , every one which seeth the Son and believeth on Him ): otherwise there would be but little hope of infants dying without baptism. Comp. as to water and the Spirit , Titus 3:5 , “Not by works which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” εἰσελθεῖν , enter ) Answering to the word enter [a second time into his mother’s womb] of the previous verse. The severity of His expression increases: comp. see , John 3:3 . He cannot even enter , much less see . He must enter a house, whoever wishes to see thoroughly its internal structure. That which is not born, uses neither eyes nor feet .

Verse 6

John 3:6 . Σάρξ ) True flesh : but also mere flesh, void of spirit, opposed to spirit, of an old generation. τὸ γεγεννημένον , what is born ) This being in the neuter, sounds more general, and denotes the very first stamina [groundwork] of new life: comp. Luke 1:35 , “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore that holy thing, τὸ γεννώμενον ,” etc.: or even the whole body of those born again: comp. John 6:37 ; John 6:39 , “All that πᾶν ὅ the Father giveth Me, shall come to Me,” etc.: “This is the Father’s will, etc., that of all which πᾶν ὅ He hath given Me, I should lose nothing ἐξ αὐτοῦ but should raise it αὐτό up again at the last day.” Afterwards it is expressed in the masculine, ὁ γεγεννημένος , who is born , John 3:8 ; which signifies matured birth. πνεῦμα , spirit ) That which is born of the Spirit is spirit: he who is born of the Spirit is spiritual.

Verse 7

John 3:7 . Ὑμᾶς , ye ) Thee, and those in whose name thou hast spoken (John 3:2 , “ We know,” etc.): Ye , Jesus says; not, we .

Verse 8

John 3:8 . Τὸ πνεῦμα ) The Spirit , in the proper sense; for it is He, not the wind (concerning which, however, comp. Ecc 11:5 ), that has a will [ θέλει ] and voice [ φωνήν ]: and it is of Him we are born , and he who is born of Him is such as He is. It is not the person born again who would be immediately compared with the wind, but the Spirit Himself. ὅπου ) where, whence , and whither : above the flesh, earth, and nature. The things opposed are, flesh and spirit ; earth and heaven; nature and grace. πνεῖ ) [ bloweth , Engl. Vers.: rather, as of the Spirit] breathes , in the word and sound of the Gospel; 1 John 5:6 , “And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.” ἀκούεις , thou hearest ) even now also, whilst thou art hearing Me, thou hearest, on earth , the voice of the Spirit. Comp. the “ earthly things,” John 3:12 . πόθεν , whence ) from heaven, from above [ ἄνωθεν , Joh 3:3 ]. ποῦ , whither ) [‘quorsum,’ in what direction] to heaven . Comp. the “ heavenly things,” John 3:12 . οὓτως ) So , as the Spirit Himself, whom thou hearest, and yet knowest not. For what the Spirit doeth according to Himself [“ secundum se ;” in His own person and character], that He doeth also in him who is born of the Spirit. The Spirit quickens a man. The man in whom the Spirit breathes, in his turn breathes of the Spirit, and gives forth abroad [propagat] the voice of the Spirit, his will being set free through the Spirit. [53]

[53] The Engl. Vers. listeth sound applies to the wind ; whereas Beng. applies these words to the Spirit. E. and T.

Verse 10

John 3:10 . Ὁ διδάσκαλος , a master ) a teacher of very many hearers, a veteran, and one somewhat better than the rest, who are altogether corrupt: ch. John 10:8 , “All that ever came before Me were thieves and robbers,” notes. The article is emphatic. Nicodemus was the only one of all the teachers of Israel who had come to Jesus Christ, and who thus would be able to teach Israel the knowledge of Him; and indeed he afterwards acted the part of a teacher of Israel, defending the Just One , both by his opinion, ch. John 7:50 , [at the consultation of the Pharisees against Jesus, Nicodemus said] “Doth our law judge any man before it hear him?” and by his act, ch. John 19:39 , [he brought for the body of Jesus] “a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight:” in which two passages the Evangelist repeats the mention of this interview by night. ταῦτα ) these things , which make Israel [truly] divine.

Verse 11

John 3:11 . Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι , verily, verily, I say unto thee ) Three times this expression is used to Nicodemus. οἴδαμεν , we know ) Jesus does not associate with Himself John or any other man: ch. John 1:18 , John 6:46 , “No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, etc., He hath declared Him: not that any man hath seen the Father, save He which is of God, He hath seen the Father.” He speaks of Himself and of the Spirit. Comp. as to the Son, John 3:32 , “What He hath seen and heard, that He testifieth:” as to the Holy Spirit, John 3:8 ; John 3:34 , “He whom God hath sent, speaketh the words of God; for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him;” ch. John 16:13 , “The Spirit of truth shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak;” [ also ch. John 5:30 , I can of mine own self do nothing; as I hear, I judge.] λαλοῦμεν ) That only is what we speak . οὐ λαμβάνετε , ye do not receive ) [ in faith, to wit . V. g.] The plural, as in John 3:2 , [Nicodemus said] we know .

Verse 12

John 3:12 . Τὰ ἐπίγεια , earthly things ) To the heavenly sense of Jesus Christ there are earthly things , ἐπίγεια , which, having to be accomplished on the regions of earth by us who creep on the ground, appear in the highest degree heavenly. The whole style of Scripture is full of συγκατάβασις [condescension]. Regeneration is from heaven, not however in heaven: it is indeed [a process] on the margin of heaven. πῶς , how ) The cause why Scripture is silent about many things. τὰ ἐπούρανια ) heavenly things , the inner principles of the kingdom of God, John 3:3 ; Wis 9:16 , μόλις εἰκάζομεν τὰ ἐπὶ γῆς τὰ δὲ ἐν οὐρανοῖς τίς ἐξιχνίασε ; He does not, at John 3:13 , so much speak out, as hint at. πιστεύσετε , will ye believe ) The less anything seems credible to reason, often the more heavenly it is.

Verse 13

John 3:13 . Καί ) And ; you will see this is properly set down, if you change the interrogation at John 3:12 , with some little time’s reflection, into an absolute [categorical] form of expression. In the preceding and present verse we are marked [characterized] as of ourselves aliens to heaven. Without reposing faith in My words and in Myself, saith Jesus, ye cannot understand or attain to heavenly things. The antecedent is put for the consequent. Similarly καί , and , is used ch. John 12:35 , “Lest darkness come upon you; for he that walketh,” etc. [ καὶ ὁ περιπατῶν . The conjunction for the relative, in which darkness he who walketh ]. οὐδείς ) no man sprung on the earth. Angels evidently are not excluded: ch. John 1:51 . Believers do not ascend, but are drawn by the Ascending [Saviour] after Himself, whom they have put on in their baptism. [ Hence appears the indispensable need of faith . V. g.] εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν , to heaven ) He most especially speaks of the heaven of the Divine majesty. εἰ μή , unless ) Here, having changed the past time of the verb ἀναβέβηκεν , hath ascended , into the future, understand ἀναβήσεται , shall ascend : comp. ch. John 6:62 , “What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before?” Nowhere before His passion has the Lord spoken more clearly concerning His ascension, than in this passage, and in its parallel, ch. John 6:62 ; where similarly He adduces His ascension, as something much more difficult to be believed than those things were, which were then seeming so incredible to His hearers. On the whole, the two discourses, ch. 3 and 6, have a great similarity to one another; and the one treats of the rise, the other of the nourishment of the new life, [each alike] breathing altogether of heavenly things. The objection made to the Saviour is as to the how , τὸ πῶς . He [on the other hand] insists on the whence , and the whither [quorsum, whitherwards the new birth tends]. ὁ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καταβάς , He who descends from heaven ) The Son of man, having assumed human nature, whereas He had previously been in heaven as the Son of God, began to be on earth. Therefore That One, saith Jesus of Himself, can of Himself ascend, and will ascend to heaven. Proverbs 30:4 , “Who hath ascended up to heaven, or descended? What is His name, and what is His Son’s name?” ὁ ὤν ) who was in heaven, and, before the creation of the heavens, [was] with God : ch. John 1:1 , notes. Thus, we may see, He both descended and will ascend. Comp. evidently ἦν , was , ch. John 6:62 , “Where He was before:” so ὤν , who was [in the bosom of the Father: not which is , Engl. Vers.], ch. John 1:18 . Frequently ὤν is used of the imperfect time: ch. John 9:25 , “Whereas I was blind,” τυφλὸς ὤν , John 19:38 , “Being a disciple” [ i.e. who was a disciple]; Luke 24:44 , “I spake whilst I was yet with you,” ἔτι ὤν ; 2 Corinthians 8:9 , “Though He was rich, He became,” etc., πλούσιος ὤν . So ὤν in this passage is interpreted by Raphelius in his Appendix annot. from Herodotus, p. 682. Nor is he alone in this interpretation.

Verse 14

John 3:14 . Καί , and ) Often Christ, after mention of His glorification, made mention of His passion. Μωσῆς , Moses ) This is the first mention of Moses , which is read as made by our Lord. τὸν ὄφιν , the serpent ) As that serpent was a serpent without poison, to counteract the poisonous serpents: so the man Christ [was] a man without sin, to counteract the old serpent. ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ , in the wilderness ) where there was no other medicine [remedy]. ὑψωθῆναι , be lifted up ) on a cross towards heaven: ch. John 12:32 , “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me,” etc. [ Not as yet did Jesus speak at this early time more distinctly as to His suffering on the cross : see John 3:16 . V. g.] δεῖ , must ) For it was for this purpose He descended from heaven.

Verse 15

John 3:15 . Ἵνα , that ) The goodness to us of the Son in John 3:15 , and of the Father in John 3:16 , is described in the same words. [ The grace of the Son is what is most frequently noted, and the love of the Father (2 Corinthians 13:14 , the benediction). V. g.] Comp. ch. John 6:37 , “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me: and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out;” notes, ch. John 10:28-29 , “Neither shall any pluck them out of My hand: none is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand: ὁ πιστεύων , who believeth ) Now Jesus begins a plainer style of speech. Faith , in the case of those needing to be saved, is what looking to the uplifted serpent was in the case of those needing to be healed. εἰς αὐτόν , in Him ) as lifted up. The cross [is] the ladder to heaven. μὴ ἀπόληται , should not perish ) by the poison of sin. ζωὴν αἰώνιον , eternal life ) by regeneration and faith. This mention of eternal life is made at the earliest time in each instance, in the discourses of the Saviour, and occurs in this passage first. He takes it for granted as very well known from the Old Testament: ch. John 5:39 , “Search the Scriptures: for in them ye think ye have eternal life.” See Daniel 12:2 , “Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life,” etc.; Luke 10:25 , [The lawyer’s question] “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

Verse 16

John 3:16 . Ἠγάπησεν , loved ) The Son knows the Father, and the love of the Father: and alone [though but one] bears the best witness [of Him]: comp. John 3:35 , “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand.” τὸν κόσμον , the world ) [all] the men under heaven, even those who were about to perish (comp. δέ , [ autem ] moreover for indeed , John 3:19 , “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light”): as being those with whom He was otherwise [ i.e. but for the atonement through His Son] angry: John 3:36 , “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: but he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” Were it not for this, their unbelief would not properly be a fault [guilt] fatal to unbelievers; [but as it is] they ought to have believed that the Son of God was given even for the sake of them also; therefore He was given for their sake. Comp. by all means ch. John 12:47 , “If any man hear My words and believe not, I judge him not; for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” Mich. Beckius, “ I heard an interpretation ( as truly as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who knows I lie not, loves me ) at an inn in Strasburg, in the year 1681, from a possessed woman, through whom Satan in the Latin tongue, in answer to that saying [ of Scripture ], which I brought against Satan to prove the universal love of God, even extending to that wretched woman still living in the world [according to the then prevalent superstition], whose name was Salome replied in turn, with a horrible groan, in these words, The believing are the world ” [meant]. Disquis. hermen., p. 5. ἔδωκεν ) gave [ to be crucified . V. g.], in truth, and in earnest [in act and in purpose]: Romans 8:32 , “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how” etc. And Christ gave Himself, Galatians 2:20 , “The Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me,” in truth and in earnest. εἰς αὐτόν , in Him ) as having been [so] lovingly given by God.

Verse 17

John 3:17 . Ἵνα κρίνῃ , that He may judge [“to condemn,” Engl. Vers.]) Although men accuse God of this. To judge , is by judgment to cast away into deserved destruction.

Verse 18

John 3:18 . Κέκριται , is judged [condemned]) This word is employed κατʼ ἄνθρωπον , in condescension to human notions . He who does not believe, already has that [judgment, condemnation], which he falsely supposes the Son of God brings upon [into] the world.

Verse 19

John 3:19 . Ἡ κρίσις , the judgment [condemnation]) i.e. the cause of judgment. τὸ φῶς , the Light ) After the mention of life, the mention of light follows, as in ch. 1. The Light, Christ. See what follows. In John 3:19 , the hypostatical [personal] Light [Jesus Christ, its embodiment] is praised: afterwards, in the latter part of John 3:19 , in antithesis to darkness, of which there is no hypostasis [personality], and in John 3:20-21 , the discourse treats of Light indefinitely in the thesis, but so as that, in the hypothesis, it answers chiefly to the hypostatical [personal] Light. ἠγάπησαν , loved ) They did not pay back love for the love on God’s part, John 3:16 . μᾶλλον , rather than ) The comparison is by no means inappropriate. The loveliness of the light struck them with admiration; but they were held fast in the love of darkness. Comp. John 5:35 , “He was a burning and a shining light; and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.” A similar comparison occurs, ch. John 12:43 , “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” πονηρά , evil [maligna, evil-disposed ]) This is indeed worse than φαῦλα , vile [worthless, wrong], John 3:20 .

Verse 20

John 3:20 . Πράσσων ) ποιῶν , John 3:21 . [54] Evil is restless: it is a something more given to working than truth is. Hence they are marked by different words, as ch. John 5:29 . [55] ἐλεγχθῇ ) should be reproved , should be convicted of being such as they actually are: against the will of the evil-doer himself. The opposite to this is φανερωθῇ , may be made manifest , John 3:21 : ἐλέγχω , a word suited to this passage, from ἓλη and ἔγχω [I bring to the sun-light]: for ὁ ἔλεγχος εἰς φῶς ἄγει τὰ πράγματα . [56] τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ ) Appositely, it is first said, the works of him [ αὐτοῦ being put last], in the case of the man who flees from the light; then in John 3:21 , αὐτοῦ τὰ ἔργα [the αὐτοῦ first], his works in the case of him who knows that he will not be put to shame.

[54] The former implies the continuous state of the evil-disposed, they practise evil; ποιῶν , the particular act or acts . Germ. thun and machen : Lat. agere and facere . E. and T.

[55] And shall come forth, they that have done good, οἱ τὰ ἀγαθὰ ποιήσαντες , to the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, etc., οἱ τὰ φαῦλα πράξαντες , they that have practised evil. E. and T.

[56] Buttmann denies we can trace the affinities of ἐλέγχω : Lidd. and Scott connect it with λέγω . E. and T.

Verse 21

John 3:21 . Ὁ ποιῶν , who does ) Ποιεῖν is often used of continuous zeal; as with the Latins, mercaturam facere , etc. φανερωθῇ , may be made manifest ) Even Nicodemus subsequently acted more openly . ἔργα εἰργασμένα ) Words akin [conjugate]. ἐν Θεῷ , in God ) in the light, by the virtue [the power] and love of Him, from whom cometh all truth .

Verse 22

John 3:22 . Εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν γῆν , into the land of Judæa ) from the metropolis of the Jews. [ He did not however long delay there (comp. concerning the word, διέτριβε , ch. John 11:54 ; Acts 16:12 ; Acts 20:6 , οὗ διετρίψαμεν ἡμέρας ἑπτά ), and that because of the Pharisees, who were even less well-inclined towards Jesus, than towards John , ch. John 4:1 , “When the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John.” Harm ., p. 165.] ἐβάπτιζεν , was baptizing ) ch. John 4:1-2 , “Though Jesus Himself baptized not, but His disciples.” John did not repel those, who came of their own accord, whilst Jesus was baptizing: but still he now in a less degree invited [lie did not to the same extent invite] them.

Verse 23

John 3:23 . Αἰνών , Ænon ) from עין , a fountain. τοῦ ) The article in the masculine gender points to some [57] region. πολλά , many [waters]) So the rite of immersion required.

[57] Particular, well-known . E. and T.

Verse 24

John 3:24 . Οὔτω , not yet ) Here the Evangelist takes for granted, what the others [Matthew, Mark, and Luke] bad written concerning the imprisonment of John the Baptist. γάρ , for ) Therefore John ceased to baptize, when he was cast into prison; not before.

Verse 25

John 3:25 . Οὖν , Accordingly ) There is reference to John 3:22 ; comp. John 3:26 , “They came unto John and said, Rabbi, He that was with thee beyond Jordan,” etc., “the same baptizeth,” etc. ζήτησις ) A question , a temperate one: not a quarrel. ἐκ , on the part of ) The question was mooted by the disciples of John. μετὰ Ἰουδαίων ) with the Jews , those who now no longer resorted to John, but to Jesus; whilst the disciples of John were contending, that purifying ought to be sought from John. καθαρισμοῦ , purifying ) from sins. Mark 1:4 , “John did baptize,” etc., “and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” Comp. Ephesians 5:26 , “That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.” A word of frequent use among the Jews. Comp. Hebrews 9:13-14 , “If the blood of bulls and goats,” etc., “sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ,” etc., “purge your conscience;” 2Ma 1:36 , Νέφθαρ , ὃ διερμηνεύεται Καθαρισμός : John 2:16 , ἄγειν τὸν καθαρισμόν . John nowhere employs the terms, a baptism, a baptizing [baptisma, baptismus], the Baptist ; see John 3:5 , “be born of water” [not, be baptized ]; nay, even to express Levitical baptism he uses the term, purifying , ch. John 2:6 .

Verse 26

John 3:26 . Ἦλθον , came ) The disciples of John were not so constantly with him as the apostles were with Christ, ὅς , who ) They do not name Jesus; they speak of Him as one, who as yet was far less known than was right.

Verse 27

John 3:27 . Οὐ δύναται , cannot ) How can I dare, saith he, to bind men to me? ἄνθρωπος , a man ) I , saith John, who am but a man . λαμβάνειν ) to take to himself. οὐδέν , nothing ) much less the name of Messiah. [58] ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ , from heaven ) i.e. from God. These Metonymes [substitutions of the general for the definite expression] imply modesty [humility].

[58] By very many proofs it was evident that John was not the Christ. For instance, I. John had no forerunner , but himself acted the part of a forerunuer, such as was becoming [to go before] Christ the Lord; wherefore, as well in birth, as in entrance on his ministry, and in his departure, he preceded Christ. II. John wrought no miracle : Christ very many. III. John, as well as his baptism, was restricted to the Jordan; whereas Christ shone as a light [illuminated all things] in Judea, Galilee, and the regions situated beyond Jordan. IV. John, after being for a considerable time detained in bonds , was at length slain in prison: Christ, without imprisonment up to His very death, nay, even being bound, and especially on the very day of His execution, in the sight of the world, did and spake all that became Him. V. John was beheaded : Christ’s body, though piteously afflicted, was yet not mutilated, bat remained preserved in that state which would be suitable to His resurrection about to take place on the third day. Harm. , p. 166, etc.

Verse 28

John 3:28 . Ἔμπροσθεν ἐκείνου , before Him ) Him, concerning whom Joh 3:26 treats. So John 3:30 , “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John did not openly term Jesus the Christ: but however he spake so concerning Him, that He might easily be recognised.

Verse 29

John 3:29 . Ὁ ἔχων ) He who hath , or whom the bride follows. All come to Jesus: hence it is clear, that Jesus is the Bridegroom. See the Song of Solomon. φίλος , the friend ) Dear to the Bridegroom, loving the Bridegroom. The derivation of John accords. [59] It is the part of a friend to rejoice , ὁ ἐστηκώς , who standeth ) as His attendant. ἀκούων ) hearing Him speaking with the bride, John 3:32 ; John 3:34 , “What He hath seen and heard, that He testifieth; He whom God hath sent, speaketh the words of God.” These two participles are part of the subject: the predicate is χαίρει , rejoiceth . φωνήν , the voice ) by which the Bridegroom testifies His presence, John 3:32 . This voice sweetly attracts the bride. ἡ χαρά , joy ) without sadness and envy.

[59] Viz., with this character, as friend of the Bridegroom. John in Hebr. = the favour of God .

Verse 30

John 3:30 . Αὐξάνειν · ἐλαττοῦσθαι , increase: be diminished ) so that all are to come hereafter, not to me, but to Him: Joshua 4:14 , “The Lord magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses.” גִדַּל , ηὔξησς Κύριος τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἐνάντιον παντὸς γένους Ἰσραήλ . Not even death was about to hinder the increase of Christ; for which reason the Evangelists speak concerning His death far otherwise than they speak concerning the death of John.

Verse 31

John 3:31 . Ὁ ἄνωθεν , He who is from above ) These words, and on to the end of the chapter, the Evangelist seems to have appended, as in congruity with the feeling of the Baptist: comp. notes, ch. John 1:7 . Moreover this proposition, He who comes from above is above all , [already] evident by means of those conjugate terms, ἄνωθεν , ἐπάνω , from above, above , is presently made [still more] clear by means of the opposite, he who is of the earth . ἐπάνω πάντων , above all ) in dignity, excellence, and speech. Therefore [He is] also above John. John answers to that expression, all [men come to Him], John 3:26 . ὁ ὢκ ἐκ τῆς γῆς , ἐκ τῆς γῆς ἐστί , who is of the earth is earthly ) There is a Ploce [a word used first literally , then to express an attribute of it]: the former being understood according to natural birth, the latter according to disposition and state; which latter is followed by a corresponding style of speech. The antithetic proposition forthwith corresponds, consisting also of three members. It is not said, He that cometh from the earth : because He was also on the earth; but it is said, He who cometh from above, who cometh from heaven , to wit, to the earth: for previously He was in heaven . ἐκ τῆς γῆς ἐστί , is of the earth ) The antithesis to this is, is above all . ἐκ τῆς γῆς λαλεῖ , speaketh of the earth ) for which reason the inhabitants of the earth the more readily hear him. The spiritual excellence of a teacher is not to be measured by the pleasure of the audience.

Verse 32

John 3:32 . Μαρτυρεῖ , He testifieth ) That is much more weighty than He speaks [ λαλεῖ , Joh 3:31 ]. οὐδείς , no man ) So ardently does John desire that Christ should obtain universal authority, that instead of that, which his [John’s] disciples say, all [men come to Him], John 3:26 , John says, no man [receiveth His testimony]: comp. ch. John 12:38 , “The saying of Esaias fulfilled, Lord who hath believed our report?” etc. λαμβάνει , receiveth ) A form of faith. There must be a receiving , not a mere bodily coming.

Verse 33

John 3:33 . Ὁ λαβών , he that hath received ) as John did. ἐσφάγισεν ) hath set his seal to, and as it were subscribes his name to that very fact, he acknowledges for himself and hath avowed to others, that God, in whose word he puts his faith, is truthful; and to Him he assigns the glory: Romans 4:20 , Abraham “staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God:” comp. 1 John 5:10 , “He that believeth on the Son of God, hath the witness in himself; he that believeth not God, hath made Him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son.” See as to sealing , Nehem. John 9:38 , “Because of all this, we make a sure covenant and write it; and our princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it.” It is called ὁμολογία , profession , in the Epistle to the Hebrews [ch. John 3:1 , John 4:14 , Joh 10:23 ]. A metaphor from contracts. ὁ Θεός , God ) whose word is the word of Messiah: see the following verse: ch. John 12:44 , “Jesus cried, He that believeth on Me, believeth not on Me, but on Him that sent Me.”

Verse 34

John 3:34 . Ἀπέστειλεν ) hath sent from Himself. οὐ γὰρ ἐκ μέτρου , for not by measure ) The giving of the Spirit is one, and that, made to Christ; under which we are contained, to whomsoever a measure is imparted, Ephesians 4:7 , “Unto every one of us is given grace, according to the measure of the gift of Christ;” John 1:16 , “Of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.” In order that we might be able to receive a measure, it was befitting that there should be some one, who would take, and in the first instance receive [the fulness of grace] without measure, being about [being thereby qualified] to baptize all the others with the same Spirit: nay, even we shall hereafter have it without measure: 1 Corinthians 13:10 ; 1 Corinthians 13:12 , “When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away; Now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known.” Christopher Cartwright: The Hebrews observe, the Spirit was given to the prophets in measure; Even the Holy Spirit , say they, which rests on the prophets, does not rest save in measure. Even the words of the law, which was given from above, were not given, save in measure . Mellif. Hebr. on this passage. Further, since Christ received the Spirit without measure, he expresses the words of God most perfectly.

Verse 35

John 3:35 . Πάντα , all things ) Sec John 3:29 ; John 3:36 . To Christ belongs both the Bride (John 3:29 , He that hath the bride is the bridegroom), and the Life (John 3:36 , He that believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life). ἐν τῇ χειρί , into His hand ) He, therefore, who does not come into the hand [does not bow under the authority] of the Son, does not either receive through faith from the hand of the Son; he does not experience the grace of the Son. The same expression occurs, ch. John 13:3 , “Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands.” Subsequently [the expression is] under His feet : 1 Corinthians 15:27 , “He hath put all things under His feet.”

Verse 36

John 3:36 . Ἔχει , hath ) The present, the future being included. See on ch. John 5:24 , “He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” οὐκ ὄψεται , shall not see ) Future, in which the present is included. ὀργή , wrath ) For he has no experimental sense of the love with which the Father loves the Son, and those alone who believe in the Son. μένει ) Others read μενεῖ [Fut. So the old Lat. [60] ; Memph [61] and Syr [62] Versions: but [63][64][65][66][67][68] support μένει [69] ]; but see John 3:18 , “He that believeth on Him, is not condemned; but he that believeth not, is condemned already,” etc., ἤδη κέκριται , is already judged ; the wrath of God abideth on him: there is no need that it should at last come [on him].

[60] Veronensis, do.

[61] emph. the Memphitic, or Coptic Version from Egypt: third cent.: publ. by Wilkins at Oxford, 1716.

[62] yr. the Peschito Syriac Version: second cent.: publ. and corrected by Cureton, from MS. of fifth cent.

[63] the Alexandrine MS.: in Brit. Museum: fifth century: publ. by Woide, 1786 1819: O. and N. Test. defective.

[64] the Vatican MS., 1209: in Vat. Iibr., Rome: fourth cent.: O. and N. Test. def.

[65] Bezæ, or Cantabrig.: Univ. libr., Cambridge: fifth cent.: publ. by Kipling, 1793: Gospels, Acts, and some Epp. def.

[66] Vercellensis of the old ‘Itala,’ or Latin Version before Jerome’s, probably made in Africa, in the second century: the Gospels.

[67] Colbertinus, do.

[68] Cantabrigiensis, do.: the Gospels, Acts , , 3 d Ep. John.

[69] Which reading, in the margin of the Larger Ed. being marked with the sign γ , afterwards more decidedly , in Exodus 2:0 , was reckoned among the readings less to be relied on; in which the Obs. Gnomon and Vers. Germ. agree . E. B.

Bibliographical Information
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on John 3". Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jab/john-3.html. 1897.
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