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Monday, June 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
John 8

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-59

John 8:1 . Jesus went to the mount of Olives, where it is probable he slept in some booth in the gardens; and returned early to the temple, to preach to the people, before the commencement of public worship.

John 8:3 . The scribes and pharisees brought to him a woman taken in adultery. Papias, a father who conversed with the apostles, records here, that this woman was accused of many crimes before the Lord, which are related in the gospel according to the Hebrews. This gospel was in high repute among the Hebrew christians, as it would seem, from being quoted here. Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 50, 1. c. 39. Yet the numerous gospels not canonized are rarely cited by the fathers. Chrysostom, in his sixteenth homily, justly remarks, that the question, whether it were lawful to give tribute to Cæsar, and the question of stoning the adulteress, were both intended to degrade the Saviour in the estimation of the public. But the issue in both cases turned to the shame of the adversaries.

John 8:5 . Moses commanded that such should be stoned. That all who are guilty of adultery should be stoned, we find not in the law of Moses; but that they should “die the death;” which phrase, say the talmudists, generally signifies strangling. This punishment of stoning belongs particularly to those that are taken in the fact, as here this woman was: John 8:4. Philo says of such, All men have counted them worthy of many deaths; and so of stoning, which was a high degree of severity. Solon also, in one of his laws, enacts, If any man take an adulterer in the fact, he may use him how he pleases; and in the twelve tables, He that takes him may kill him lawfully and securely. ( Idem.) If she who was taken in adultery was a married woman, the law required that she should be put to death. Leviticus 20:10. Deuteronomy 22:22. That is, say all the jews, she should be strangled. But if she were only a damsel espoused, the law saith she shall be stoned. Deuteronomy 22:23-24. Interpreters hence conclude, that this adulteress was only espoused.

John 8:7 . He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. Christ speaks here, not to the magistrate, who must do this office, though he himself should not be innocent, but to the accusers of this woman before him, to whom it belonged not to pass sentence upon her. Moreover the jews say, The woman was not to be accused of her husband, nor to be tried by the waters of jealousy, if the husband was guilty of the same crime. Christ might therefore speak thus in the first place to the husband, Let him who is to accuse her begin the execution, if he be free from the like sin, and let him “cast the first stone at her.” Nor is it to be wondered that all her accusers, having heard this, should depart from her, “being convicted by their own conscience” of the like guilt, seeing that was “an adulterous generation.” Matthew 12:39. The jews themselves acknowledge that adulterers multiplied under the second temple; and St. Paul speaks thus, even to the jewish doctors: “Thou that sayest, a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery?” Romans 2:22. And lastly, Justin Martyr says that Trypho and other jews complied with the sentiments of their rabbins, who permitted them to have every one four or five wives, and said they sinned not, if, after the example of the patriarchs, seeing a beautiful woman, they desired her; and so taught them to commit adultery.

John 8:9 . Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst of the people, the apostles being then with their Lord. Now as to the truth of this history, which some critics suspect, it appears from the testimony of St. Jerome, that it was found in many Greek and Latin copies of the gospel of St. John, and was wanting only in a few of them. The Apostolical Constitutions acknowledge it, lib. 2. cap. 24. The Greek code, cited by Cotelerius, says these words are not to be found in some manuscripts, nor in Apolinaries; but they are entire in the ancient manuscripts, and all the apostles made mention of them in the constitutions they set forth for the edification of the church. St. Athanasius speaks plainly of it, saying, hither we must refer what is spoken of the woman accused of adultery. St. Ambrose also says, the question and absolution of the woman, which in the gospel of St. John was brought to Christ, was always famous in the church. St. Austin speaks often of it, and says that they are enemies to the faith, who take these words out of the books, perhaps fearing lest it give impunity to the women. And Prosper owns it. Moreover, all the versions in the Polyglot recognise this history. It was found in the sixteen manuscripts of Stephanus, and in the seventeen manuscripts of Beza, save one. Nor is it to be doubted, says Selden, that it was received from primitive antiquity in the copies of the East; as appears from the Harmonies of Tatian and Ammonius of Alexandria, and the cantons thence made. Tatian flourished A.D. 160, sixty years after the death of St. John, and made his Harmonies of the gospels out of the copies then in use. Ammonius flourished about the year 230, and did the same. And Eusebius of Cæsarea, who flourished about the year 320, made his Ten Cantons out of those Harmonies. Hence it may easily be discerned, what is contained in all the gospels, what in three, what in two, and what in one only. Now the number eighty six in the Canton belonging to St. John, contains this history: whence we may certainly conclude, that it was in his copy. See Father Simon’s Crit. Hist. The scruples of some Greek fathers was not so much about the authenticity of the history, which is found also in the gospel of the Nazarenes, as about the moral operation, lest the escape of this offender should embolden others to sin; against which the caution of Christ, “sin no more,” is specially directed.

John 8:11 . Neither do I condemn thee. “Though Christ abhorred the sin, yet he did not condemn the sinner. He did not excuse the woman, or connive at her offence; but only declined the office of a civil judge, which was to pass sentence on criminals. He therefore does not say, no man ought to condemn thee, but “hath no man condemned thee?” He does not execute the office of a magistrate in judging her to death; but of a minister, in calling her to repentance and reformation. Neither does he only say, Go and commit adultery no more; but “Go and sin no more.” It is not a partial repentance, or a turning away from this or that particular sin, which will denominate us true penitents, or entitle us to the pardoning mercy of God; but the leaving off all sin, of what kind soever.” Burkitt.

John 8:12 . I am the light of the world; the glory of Israel, the light of the gentiles, and salvation to the ends of the earth. Isaiah 49:6. By his doctrine, Christ is the light of the glory of God, shining on the minds of men, and opening the mystery hid in ages past. By his footsteps he leads us in the way of peace, by excellence of temper he is the model of every virtue, and by faith he unfolds the glory yet to come. This is to his followers the light of life, and the earnest of eternal joy.

John 8:13 . The pharisees, that is, the priests, said, thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true. Why may not a man speak the truth of himself, and write a correct account of his own affairs? Such in effect is our Lord’s reply. Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true. But there was another witness, even the miracles that testified of the Son of God.

John 8:15 . Ye judge after the flesh. I judge no man. The Saviour suspended his judgment, according to the injunction, “judge nothing before the time.” The time is not yet come to judge and destroy those who reject the gospel: but be not hardened by the delay, for that day will surely come.

John 8:23 . Ye are from beneath. I am from above. How proper that Christ should speak with dignity like himself. He kept his enemies outside of the pale; they were not admitted to the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. Yet though they were the enemies of truth, they were addressed with fairness and justice. Though the Redeemer, ever speaking with modesty, did not perfectly uplift the curtains of his divinity; yet he so far disclosed the glory of his hypostasis, or person, as to leave them without excuse.

John 8:25 . Even the same that I said to you from the beginning. Την αρχην ο , τι και λαλω υμιν . The Vulgate reads, Principium, qui et loquor vobis; which the Mons testament copies almost literally. Je suis dés le commencement, et c’ est ce que je vous dis. I am from the beginning, and this is what I said to you: John 5:18. In other words, I am the Messiah, the Saviour of men. The Lord had said that he came from the Father, that what the Father did the Son did likewise. The time was not come to say more. The Greek word, for beginning, is in the accusative case; but Erasmus and Hammond expound it adverbially, as in Revelation 1:17; Revelation 2:8; Revelation 22:13. “I am the first and the last.” The criticisms of antiquity seem to be all comprised in the paraphrase of Chrysostom. “Truly you are unworthy to hear my words, which you might understand. Wicked and rebellious, you ever tempt me to speak of myself; and yet you hear me not, though in nothing can you reproach me. For this cause I have many things yet to say, and to judge of you.”

John 8:31-32 . If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed. The watchman foresaw the gathering storm, and warned the tender minds to hold fast the truths which had gained their hearts, and which by gracious influences would be followed by continuing grace. Christian perseverance is best attained by regularity in prayer, by delight in holy ordinances, and all the habitudes of piety. And by persevering, you shall know the truth by the study of the holy scriptures, and by daily tasting of the good word of God. The truth then shall make you free from the domination of Satan, who by the law of carnal concupiscence reigns in the hearts of men, and makes them slaves of sin.

John 8:33 . We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man. These words were apparently the voice of some pharisees, who obtruded themselves on the address to the young converts. The Babylonian captivity, and the Roman oppression, they regarded as usurpations. They were little aware that Satan lodged in their hearts, and excited their passions to every evil work, and even to murder the Lord of glory. Truly such men are the servants and slaves of sin.

John 8:36 . If the Son shall make you free, from sin, from Satan, and all servile fear, and adopt you as co-heirs of the grace of life, then ye shall be free indeed. He proves, on the contrary, that they were not Abraham’s children, but the children of the serpent, who instigated Cain to kill his brother. Instead of yielding to the truth, they yielded to their master, and took up stones to kill him who had told them the truth.

John 8:42 . If God were your father, ye would love me; for I proceeded forth and came from God. In the calm of enquiry you would perceive that he is my Father also, that I am the promised Son, and that I came forth, and proceeded from the Father. By this we learn, that a divine knowledge of the person and glory of Christ is the foundation of christian piety; and that the immediate fruit of this knowledge is pure love to him, and to all mankind. Love is the grand evidence that a believer belongs to the heavenly family.

John 8:44 . Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. The rejection of all his words and works of grace, followed by the crucifixion, were proofs of this. The Lord had declared before, that they were neither the children of Abraham, nor the children of God; now he declares whose children they were. All men are included in this censure who give themselves up to the evil influences of their hearts. This strong word is very much used by poets and others to designate the authors, and the perpetrators of all the wars and woes which afflict the human kind. The jews had impiously said that Christ had a demon; but as they could not convict him of any sin, the appellation justly belonged to those that used it.

John 8:47 . He that is of God heareth God’s words, and blessed are the people that know the joyful sound. Heaven is the echo of the prophet’s voice by the abundant effusions of grace. The sheep of Christ, feeding in green pastures, know the taste of the sweet grass: they hear and obey the shepherd’s voice. The gospel is spirit and life to the children of God.

John 8:51 . Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man keep my saying, he shall never see death. He had said the same in the disputation which followed his feeding the multitude, that by eating of the bread that came down from heaven, the tree of life, man lives for ever. Perhaps we have no argument on the immortality of the soul stronger than that which runs through the holy scriptures, that regeneration removes impurity from the heart, draws the sting of death and sin, and makes us partakers of the divine nature. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit; and because Christ lives, we shall live also. Some radiance of this kind might possibly shine on Cicero’s mind when he said, “The souls of all men are indeed immortal, but the souls of the good and illustrious are divine.” Omnium quidem animi immortales sunt, sed fortium bonorumque divini. DE LEGIBUS.

John 8:56 . Abraham rejoiced, ηγγαλλιασατο , earnestly desired to see my day; and he saw it, in the three angels which visited his tent, in Isaac, and in the promises of the day which the Lord had made, and was glad. The holy prophets saw the promises afar off, and embraced them. Isaiah saw the glory of Christ when enthroned in the temple, the King of Israel, living and reigning for ever.

John 8:58 . Before Abraham was, I AM. See on Exodus 3:14. The very pious and learned Dr. Peter Browne, bishop of Cork and Ross, in his answer to Toland, has given us a luminous illustration of this text. “I am clearly convinced,” says he, “by the completion of prophecies, the miracles he wrought, and the agreeableness of his doctrine to the natural sentiments of our minds, that whatever Jesus Christ was, he came from God.” I find him in many places assuming to himself the name and titles, and worship of God. In discoursing with the jews, he useth this form of speech: “Before Abraham was, I AM,” on purpose to signify to them that he was that very divine Being which was revealed to Moses under that name; and some time after he tells them, that as he was the Son of God, so “he and the Father are one.”

“That the jews understood him in this sense I am sure, because they took up stones, at each of these sayings, to stone him as a blasphemer, because he made himself “equal with God.” If these expressions were not to be understood in the sense in which they took them, he would certainly have undeceived them, and made it known that he was not God in the sense they understood him, but that he was only a god by deputation, according to the wild notions of the Socinians. But he spake the truth, and the jews understood him right, that he was the eternal God, equal with the Father, the very same God who was dignified by that sacred name, I AM; and he hath never undeceived either them or us to this day. Instead of this he hath used many expressions to countenance and encourage this notion of him; and therefore, if I act like a reasonable man, I am under a necessity, either of giving my assent to this, or of utterly rejecting him as an impostor. Now, had he been an impostor, God, who showed himself always very jealous of his honour, would never have confirmed this doctrine of his with such repeated testimonies. “If we suppose him to be only a messenger come from God, and a mere man, who spake only by his Spirit and commission, he would never have used such expressions as must naturally be understood, and lead thousands into the gross sin of idolatry, which of all others is most detestable to God. Moses was not suffered to enter into the land of Canaan for a much less suspicious expression, and in the heat of passion too. Numbers 20:10. “Must we fetch you water out of this rock?” This was a vain-glorious insinuation, that he and Aaron wrought that miracle by their own immediate power and efficacy. This comes much short of these expressions of our Saviour’s, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it up and before Abraham was, I AM.” The passage concerning Moses seems to have been put upon record by the special providence of God for this purpose, that it might be a good argument of conviction to the jews of the divinity of the Son, since this inference was very natural and obvious from it; viz. If God was so incensed with Moses for making use of one expression, which seemed to encroach upon his prerogative; then how far would he have been from giving testimony of much more frequent and greater miracles, to a person, who by many plainer expressions, assumed to himself the full power and perfection of the Godhead, if he were not really what he gave himself out to be? For this reason, I say, because I cannot reject him as an impostor, therefore I believe this proposition, and confess the blessed Jesus to be the Son of God, equal with the Father.

“Thus far I proceed in this mystery upon the strictest rules of reason and evidence; and my faith in this proposition is founded upon clear and distinct ideas. For I know clearly whom I mean by Jesus Christ; namely, that person who was born of the virgin Mary, and crucified under Pontius Pilate. I have a clear and distinct idea of what it is for one thing to be equal to another, and I apprehend very well what is signified by the name of God here; namely, that divine Being whose necessary existence I infer from that clear knowledge I have of his creatures, and of whose nature, though I have not the least notion, as it is in itself, yet I form the best idea of him I can, by enlarging all the perfections that are discernible in the creatures. I have also a clear and distinct idea of what it is for one person to be the son of another. Thus I understand the meaning of the words, nor is there any thing in them contradictory to my reason.

“Lastly, I have clear and distinct ideas of those miraculous proofs to the senses of men, and of those completions of prophecies, and the excellency of that doctrine they confirm, the agreeableness of it to the common notions of men, and its natural tendency to make men easy and pleasant, and useful to one another: all which raise such an evidence of knowledge in my mind of the divinity of his mission, who revealed this proposition to me, that I must do violence to my reason, if I do not give my assent to it. And thus far it is not so properly and strictly a mystery. But, when I think of this proposition again, Jesus, the Son of God, is God equal with the Father, I must own, at the same time I give my assent to it, I have no knowledge of that eternal generation, which I form an improper idea of, from the procreation of one man from another. Nor have I any notion of this wonderful union of the human nature with the divinity, nor can I in the least imagine wherein this equality consists.

“These, and all other things relating to the manner of it, are wholly out of the reach of all my capacities, and are totally obscured from me. These are the things which make it a mystery; and in respect to this part of it, the authority or veracity of God is the only ground of my persuasion. And my christian faith of this article consists in thus giving my assent to the existence of things which I have no notion of, when he hath taken care to give me undoubted testimonies of the revelations coming from him. I trust also he will accept of it, because it is no rash inconsiderate assent, but that I use those powers of knowledge I have, as strictly and impartially in this, as I would do in any affair which immediately concerned my life.”

John 8:59 . Then took they up stones to cast at him. He had confessed that God was his Father; and in so doing had confessed his own divinity. Stones are the rewards which follow confessions of the truth. They would plead, like Jezebel in the case of Naboth, the law of the Lord, that the blasphemer should be stoned. Leviticus 24:16; and that the Saviour had now blasphemed by claiming divine descent and equality with the Father. The philosophy of this enlightened age is equally offended with the same words of Christ. The grand shield of faith is to know the truth that Christ is in the Father, and that we are in him; and that by regeneration we are so united to the Lord as to be made perfect in one body with our living head.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on John 8". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/john-8.html. 1835.
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