Bible Commentaries
John 20

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-10


The finished victory of Christ over the world and the kingdom of darkness, and His manifestation in the circle of His disciples. Christ demonstrates His victory by banishing the last remnants of darkness, grief and unbelief from His Church and making it sure of His resurrection

John 20:0


John 20:1-10

(Matthew 28:1-15; Mark 16:1-11; Luke 24:1-12.)

1[And, or, But on] The first day of the week [sabbath week] cometh Mary [the ἡ] Magdalene early, when [while] it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre [to the tomb], and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre [out of the tomb]. 2Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved [as a friend, ἐφίλει]1, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord2 out of the sepulchre [tomb], and we know not where they have laid him. 3Peter therefore went forth [ἐξῆλθεν], and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre [and were going toward the tomb, καὶ ἤρχοντο εἰς τὸ μνημεῖον]. 4So they ran [And they were running, ἔτρεχον δέ] both together: and the other disciple did outrun [προέδραμε Peter, and came [ἦλθε] first to the sepulchre. 5And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. [And stooping down, 6he seeth (παρακύψας3 βλέπει) the linen clothes lying; yet he did not go in]. Then cometh [also]4 Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, [tomb] and seeth the linen clothes lie [and beholdeth the linen clothes lying, κ. θεωρεῖ5 τὰ ὀθόνια κείμενα, comp. John 20:11]. 7And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with 8the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then [Then therefore, τότε οὖν] went in also that [the, ὁ] other disciple, which [who] came first to the sepulchre [tomb], and he saw, and believed. 9For as yet they knew not [or, For not even yet did they know, οὐδέπω γὰρ ᾔδεισαν] the Scripture, that he must rise 10again from the dead. Then [So] the disciples went away again unto their own [omit own] home.


On the various presentations of the resurrection-history see Comm. on Matthew [p. 541, Am. Ed. The literature, p. 542]. In particular also Doedes, De Jesu in vitam redittu, 1841; Tholuck, Glaubwürdigkeit der evang. Gesch., 5. Abschnitt. Ebrard, p. 575; the author’s Leben Jesu, II. 3, p. 1669.

[On the chronology of the events of the Resurrection Meyer says (p. 643 note): “It is impossible to harmonize the differences between John and the Synoptists, and those between the latter, but the grand fact itself and the principal features of the history stand out all the more sure.” So also Alford in loc., who sees in the very failure of harmonistic attempts a strong corroboration of the truth of the evangelical narratives. “It is quite impossible that so astounding an event, coming upon various portions of the body of disciples from various quarters and in various forms, should not have been related, by four independent witnesses, in the scattered and fragmentary way in which we now find it. In the depth beneath this varied surface of narration rests the great central fact of the resurrection itself, unmoved and immovable. As it was this above all other things to which the Apostle bore their testimony, so in their testimony to this we have the most remarkable proof of each having faithfully elaborated into narrative those particular facts which came under his own eye or were repeated to himself by those concerned. Hence the great diversity in this portion of the narrative:—and hence I believe much that is now dark might be explained, were the facts themselves, in their order of occurrence, before us. Till that is the case (and I am willing to believe that it will be one of our delightful employments hereafter, to trace the true harmony of the Holy Gospels, under His teaching of whom they are the record), we must be content to walk by faith, and not by sight. We must also remember in this case, that our Evangelist is selecting his points of narrative with a special purpose,—to show us how the belief of the disciples was brought out and completed after the unbelief of Israel; comp. John 20:30-31.”—P. S.]

John 20:1. The first day of the Sabbath-week [τῇδὲμιᾷτῶ νσ αββάτων].—On the μία [=πρώτη, see Mark 16:9] τῶνσαββάτων [σάββατα=week], see Comm. on Matthew, Matthew 28:1 [p. 544]. [The first day of the week is now properly called, on account, of the Lord’s Resurrection, the Lord’s Day, ἡ κυριακὴ ἡμέρα (Revelation 1:10). It has taken the place of the Jewish Sabbath: the substance remained (weekly day of holy rest), the form changed (from the seventh to the first day of the week) with reference to the great fact of the Resurrection whereby our redemption or the new creation was completed. On that day the Lord appeared to His disciples with His peace-greeting, and on that day He sent His Holy Spirit, and founded the Christian Church. The Christian Sabbath blends the memories of creative and redemptive love, is the connecting link between paradise lost and paradise regained, the continuation of Pentecost, and the preparation and pledge of the eternal Sabbath-feast (σαββατισμός, Hebrews 4:9) in heaven.—P. S.]

Cometh Mary the Magdalene.—See Comm. on Matthew, chap. 28. [540 ff.], particularly Matthew 27:61 [534, 537]. [On Magdalene see my notes on John 11:2, pp. 340, 341. Also the beautiful Easter hymn, “Pone luctum, Magdalena!” “Mary! put thy grief away,” or, “Still thy sorrow, Magdalena,” in Daniel’s Thes. hymnol., II. 365, and my Christ in Song, Lond. ed. p. 200 ff.—P.S]. The exclusive mention of the Magdalene finds its explanation not simply in the fact that John received the following report from her lips (Tholuck), but also in the desire of the Evangelist to make her peculiar experiences illustrative, in concrete form, of a chief manifestation of the Risen One; a similar motive induces his detailed description of the experience of Thomas. That she, moreover, did not go alone to the grave, is demonstrated by the οἴδαμεν John 20:2; though, according to Meyer, Brückner and Ebrard [Alford], this expression sprang from the fellow-feeling of those nearest to Jesus. Tholuck rightly rejects this interpretation of the plural, since she is speaking to disciples who are as yet ignorant of the grand fact which she announces—viz. the absence of the Lord’s body from the sepulchre. Meyer groundlessly makes a counter-poise of the οὐκ οἶδα John 20:13. [In John 20:13 Mary Magdalene speaks in her own name].

Early, it being yet dark [πρωΐ, σκοτίας ἔτι οὔσης].—From this touch, compared with the account of Mark, John 16:2, “at the rising of the sun,” it is clearly proved that she, in the impatience of her longing, must have hastened in advance of the other women, Mary the mother of James, and Salome. [So also Luthardt and Ewald]. See Comm. on Mark [p. 156 Am. Ed.]

The stone lifted away (moved away) out of the tomb [βλέπει τὸν λίθον ἠρμένον ἐκ τοῦ μνημείου—the stone had been fitted into the mouth of the tomb which was hewn in a rocky elevation, see Mark 15:3-4.—P. S.].—The stone now lies sideways by the opening of the tomb, which is conceived of as a perpendicular excavation. See Comm. on Mark [p. 156 Am. Ed.]

John 20:2. And cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple.—A characteristic historical trait. So soon as she perceives the opening of the sepulchre, like lightning comes the thought—the body is stolen;—so deep is her conception of the unfathomable iniquity and treachery of the foe. Women usually seek counsel and help from men. We need not (with Bengel) infer from the repetition of the καὶ πρός, that the two disciples were not together. Mary was in want not only of the one, but also of the other.

Whom Jesus loved [as a friend, ο͂ν ἐφίλειὁ ’Ιησοῦς].—Whom He honored with His particular friendship. The other disciple: See John 1:35-40; John 18:15; John 20:8. Whom Jesus loved: John 13:23; John 19:26; John 21:7; John 20:20.

They have taken away the Lord [ἧραν τὸν κύριον ἐκ τοῦ μνημείου].—A fore judgment of fear in the love not yet perfect; an error, starting up and vanishing on the way to truth.

John 20:4. So they both were running together [ἔτρεχον δὲ οἱ δύο ὁμοῦ. Mark the change of the aorists and the descriptive imperfects in John 20:3-4; comp. John 4:30. The characteristic details, John 20:4-8, the liveliness, circumstantiality, and inner truth of this narrative betray unmistakably an eye-witness. Such things cannot be invented.—P. S.] A lively picture of their excitement. The going turns to running, the moderate running to a running with all their might, in which John takes the lead of Peter. The characteristicalness of these facts, presented in accordance with the lively recollection of John, is uninventibly striking and significant. We cannot, however, infer that Peter, as the elder, possessed less of general physical strength (Tholuck). Elasticity in running is a quality peculiar to youth. According to Lampe and Luthardt, Peter’s consciousness of guilt helped to make him slower. This assumption, truly, is not vindicated by John 20:6. And yet at that moment, at sight of the empty sepulchre, the pressure on heart and conscience which weighed him down, perchance, at first, might be lifted.

John 20:5. Yet he did not go in [οὐ μέντοι εἰσῆλθεν].—On the way to the tomb, John’s pace was more winged than that of Peter. On reaching the grave, however, he seems to be fettered first by the fear of a sad discovery, then by awe, and his astonishment at the orderly disposed linen clothes, i.e. the sign of the foreboding of another issue than that conjectured by Mary Magdalene. According to Ammon, his entrance was prevented by a fear of defilement; according to Meyer, by natural dread. The former view is contradicted by his stooping down; the latter by his narrow observation of the signs in the sepulchre. The contemplative disciple stands still, lost in meditation upon the new signs. Now, therefore, Peter steps forward, as the one endowed with more practical decision, and goes before him into the sepulchre. Precisely similar is the trait presented John 21:7, where John is the first to recognize the Lord, Peter the first to hasten to him by swimming. Hence, it would seem, Peter alone is mentioned Luke 24:12. (By Strauss and Baur this trait is explained as originating in tendencies in favor of John.)—Aorist, Imperfect, and Present forms alternate right significantly in this lively narrative.—And he beholdeth, θεωρεῖ, in contradistinction to the βλέπει of John—the three signs in the sepulchre giving proof of a thoroughly tranquil occurrence, in contrast to a tumultuous ravishment: 1. The grave-clothes are not carried away as they naturally would have been if the body had been stolen. 2. The linen-clothes and the napkin, which latter enwrapped the head (see John 11:44; Luke 19:20), are separated and laid away in an orderly manner. 3. The napkin is even lying, wrapped together, in a place by itself.

John 20:8. Then went in, therefore, the other disciple also [τότε οὗν εἰσῆλθε καὶ ὁ ἄλλος μαθητὴς ὁ ἐλθὼν πρῶτος εἱς τὸ μνημεῖον].—The precedence of Peter puts an end to John’s fear, or rather, as we think, to his contemplative standing still. Hitherto he seems to have been disturbed by not seeing the head-cloth from his station on the outside of the sepulchre, because of its being laid in a separate place.

And he saw and believed [καὶ εἶδε καὶ ἐπίστευσεν].—These signs were sufficient to make him believe in the resurrection of Jesus. He believed, differently construed: 1. What Magdalene reported (Augustine, Theophylact, Erasmus, Luther, Bengel and others). 2. The resurrection signs (Chrysostom, Euthymius, Lücke and others).

John 20:9. For not even yet did they understand the scripture [οὐδέπω γὰρ ᾕδεισαν τὴν γραφὴν ὅτι δεῖ αὐτὸν ἐκ νεκρῶν�—comp. Psalms 16:10; Psalms 110:0; Isaiah 53:8; Isaiah 53:10; Zechariah 6:12-13; Acts 2:24 ff; Acts 8:32-33].—The declarations of Jesus concerning His resurrection could not have become absolutely doubtful to them, except in reference to their literal meaning. A figurative interpretation so readily suggested itself to their little faith, recollecting, as they did, the figurative phraseology in which Jesus was wont to express Himself. Therefore we need not suppose, with Meyer, that His declarations were not so distinct as reported by the Synoptists. The Johannean ones see John 2:21; John 8:28; John 10:18; John 12:24; John 12:32; the farewell-discourses. Their understanding of the Old Testament was not sufficiently advanced to induce them, on the strength of its predictions, to expect a literal resurrection of the Messiah. Yet but these signs, here given, were needed to give John the resurrection faith,and henceforth the meaning of the Scripture might become entirely clear to them. See Luke 24:26 ff., Luke 24:46; Acts 1:3. Tholuck: “Whilst this their πιστεύειν, though a religious one, did nevertheless rest on the sensuous substratum of appearance [ocular evidence], that upon the foundation of Scripture was the higher, for it mediated a consciousness of what the idea of a crucified Messiah demanded.”

John 20:10. So the disciples went away again unto their home [ἀπῆλθον οὐν πάλιν πρὸς αὐτοὺς οἱ μαθηταί].—Anxiously they awaited the further issue; John tranquillized at bottom. It is not stated that Peter also believed already. Probably the special appearance of Jesus, vouchsafed him on that Easter-day (Luke 24:34; comp. John 20:12; 1 Corinthians 15:5), served not only for his personal tranquillization in respect of his fault, but also for the confirmation of his faith.


1. The diversities, like the intertwinings, of the single features of the resurrection history in the accounts of the four Evangelists, are the highest proof of the truth and the infinitely powerful effect of the fact: a portrait of the highest stirring of soul and spirit in humanity. A real Easter-motet. Thus do different combatants report concerning the culmination of the battle and the form of the victory.

2. The resurrection of Christ had not only to burst through the bonds of death, the closed gate of the sepulchre, and the seal and the guard of the world, but also the grief and little faith of the disciples. (See my book: Der Herr ist wahrhaftig auferstanden: die Losung der christlichen Gemeinde unserer Zeit. Zürich, 1852.) The belief in the resurrection, far from issuing, as a mythicized idea, from an enthusiastic hope of the disciples, as Strauss has affirmed, was obliged to force its passage through something entirely opposite, namely the disconsolateness of the disciples. Of a truth, supreme salvation is nigh unto extreme hopelessness, if the latter do not precipitately rush upon the sword but wait patiently for the Lord,—then, however, salvation comes to hopelessness always from above, as a gift of deliverance; hopelessness may prophesy of salvation, may prepare a worthy place for salvation, but it cannot be the parent of it. In face of the resurrection, however, unbelief concentrates and consummates itself, in seeking here to reduce the highest fact of the highest energy of life to a bare idea and symbolism of life; in seeking in this passage, where the union betwixt personal and actual life and the idea of life celebrates its consummation, to perpetuate the Adamitic conflict between idea and fact. See 1 Corinthians 15:0.

3. The grand subjective revolution, prepared on the first Easter-day in the soul-life of the hopeless band of disciples, and upon which the establishment of the Christian Church rests, presupposes the grand objective revolution of things in the life of the Lord: the resurrection. And this individual revolution in the life of the Lord is at the same time, in respect of its dynamical working as well as its ideal value, the universal revolution of things in the life of humanity, Ephesians 1:19 ff. Christ’s resurrection our resurrection. Ullmann: Was setzt die Stiftung der Kirche Christi durch einen Gekreuzigten voraus? Stud. u. Krit. 1832, III. 579.

4. The resurrection attested and glorified itself as a divine fact, most of all by the thorough change which it effected in the view of the cross-death and sufferings of Jesus, and, indirectly, in the view of the cross and death in general. By it the cross of the curse is become the cross of reconciliation,—the sign of the deepest disgrace, the sign of highest honor.

5. The portrait of the Magdalene in her transition from deepest desolation to supreme joy. She was fitted, in her loving grief for the Lord and His body, to become the first Easter messenger.

6. The hasting of the Magdalene to Peter and John, and the cleaving together of these two gives us an impression of the gentle, placable spirit which the suffering of Christ had developed in the hearts of the disciples. Peter is not shunned now by a Magdalene’s and a John’s enthusiasm for the Lord, although he has denied Him,—for he is a repentant Peter. In a similar manner the whole band of disciples bear with the doubting Thomas until he has arrived at the full resurrection faith.
7. The perplexed, excited, hurrying, running disciples are first composed by the order in the empty sepulchre of Jesus. They feel that there a calm spirit has ruled. And here is presented to us in concrete touches the whole contrast of the calm, mysterious resurrection of Jesus and the immeasurable commotion confronting it in the circle of disciples; primarily a commotion full of anguish,—stormy; then growing calmer, yet still fluttering. The life of the Risen One is infinitely calm and tranquil in its self-certitude, blissfully moving within itself, like God Himself. As Christ held it no robbery to be equal with God, neither did He think it robbery to be risen. His heart is become celestially tranquil and firm, the spiritual fixed star of the spirit-realm; hence the fixed point that, with mighty shock, moves and transforms the whole human world.
8. The characteristics of Peter and John (see Exeg. Note to John 20:5) on the way of their glorification.

9. The first sign of the resurrection is the stone rolled away; the annihilation of the wicked counsel of the world, the frustration of the league of the powers of this world, the annulment of all the old authorities that rise in rebellion against the truth and the faith. (Psalms 2:0; Acts 4:25 ff.; Ephesians 1:21.) The second sign of the resurrection is the empty sepulchre. The grave kept not the body of Christ; that body is ravished from it along with His spirit. The personal principle is not swallowed up by matter; it elevates and preserves matter by its dynamic power, making it its heavenly organ. The third sign of the resurrection are the fairly disposed and ordered grave-clothes, as a sign of the ruling of the highest, clearest presence of mind amid the horrors of the night-dark sepulchre. The spark of faith of both Apostles kindles at this sign.

10. As the Scripture (of the Old Testament) prophetically points forward to the facts of the life of Jesus, so the life of Jesus points back to the Scripture concerning the future resurrection. The life of Jesus the key to the Old Testament. Special consideration must be directed to Scripture sayings such as Psalms 2:0; Psalms 16:0; Psalms 110:0; Isaiah 53:11; Daniel 9:25. To types such as Genesis 22:0. Jonah. Sayings in regard to death, such as Isaiah 25:8; Hosea 13:14; comp. Acts 2:25-34; John 8:32-33; John 13:33; John 13:35.

11. Then the disciples went home again. The walk from the tomb of the Risen One a going home in a higher sense.


See the Synoptists, Matthew, Mark, Luke. The Doct. Notes.

The portrait of the Magdalene in the light of the resurrection. The mourning Magdalene, John 20:1-11. The Magdalene rejoicing (as though heaven were already won), John 20:11-18. Magdalene at first the messenger of dismal alarms,—at last the messenger of heavenly joy.—Jerusalem’s messenger of joy, comp. Isaiah 40:1; Isaiah 40:9.—The mistakes of a soul stirred with love must themselves become guiding stars to truth: 1. The mistakes of the disconsolate Magdalene, John 20:2; John 20:13; John 20:15. John 20:2. The mistakes of the enraptured Magdalene (thinking herself to have already attained the supreme, the heavenly goal) John 20:17.—Magdalene and Thomas, or the saddest of the sad changed to the happiest of the happy: 1. Immeasurable grief takes the one out of the circle of female disciples, the other out of the circle of male disciples. 2. “Rabboni;” “My Lord and my God.”—Magdalene and John in their conduct toward the fallen Peter, or how as mourners they are become tender-hearted, Matthew 5:0—How the disciples of Jesus go to His sepulchre: 1. How differently (Magdalene otherwise than the two men; Peter otherwise than John). 2. How unanimously (disciples, both male and female, and the women even in advance. Fallen ones and less guilty ones).—How the love of Christ hath made the first breach through the old fear of His people: 1. The fear of the world, the foes (guard). 2. The fear of the night, of the terrors of the grave. 3. The fear of spirits and of the other world itself.—The resurrection signs preceding the appearance of the Risen One (Doct. Note 9): 1. As signs of the weakness of the disciples (of their need of this leading from faith to sight). 2. As signs of the wisdom of God (sight is not to bring about faith, but faith sight).—The first sign of the life of the Risen One, heavenly repose and presence of mind, John 6:17 ff.—The linen clothes laid aside, or the signs of a change of apparel in the sleeping-chamber of the grave.—The investigating disciples (Peter in the sepulchre, Thomas about the body of the Lord).—The budding faith of the disciples: 1. Experimental faith, 2. Scriptural faith, 3. Spiritual faith.—Then the disciples went home again: 1. Tranquillized in regard to the mistake of Magdalene (her statement that the body was stolen). 2. Awaiting further disclosures. 3. Blessed and prepared at bottom to go home, by their budding faith.

Starke: The plural σαββάτων is probably used here in reference to the seven weeks that were to be reckoned to Pentecost and that began to be reckoned from this day in particular: for these were peculiarly denominated weeks, and hence Pentecost was called the Feast of Weeks; it appears, therefore, from the above, that this day was at once the day subsequent to the great Paschal Sabbath, the beginning of the significant heptality of weeks,—which lasted until Pentecost, and represented the whole new economy and spiritual harvest,—and the third day after the death of Jesus.—True Christians find no time unseasonable for seeking Jesus; when the whole world is securely sleeping, they wake unto the Lord.—Zeisius: What a despondent, unbelieving thing the human heart is! many a time that which should bring comfort and joy, is productive but of terror and harm, Luke 2:9.—Believers have fellowship one with another in joy and sadness.—Love demands that we should follow our friends to the grave, and it is edifying so to do; we must not remain there, however, but must wait on our calling, until we ourselves are carried to the grave, Sirach 38.

Gerlach: Each one was initiated into this wondrous mystery in a peculiar manner: Magdalene, after a scrupulous trial by the angels and then by means of the first personal manifestation of Jesus; Peter and John, who should have been the first to believe, by the sight of the sepulchre; the weaker women only by the angels (?); the disciples on the way to Emmaus, with anxious, comfort-seeking, burning hearts, by the circumstance of Jesus’ opening the Scripture to them; then all the still unbelieving disciples by Christ’s appearance in their assembly. In each of these dispensations there lies a peculiar, tender regard for the persons whom it concerns.

Braune: Our Sunday is the Lord’s Resurrection Day, the first day of the creation, when light came into being. The New Testament exhibits distinct tokens of its observation; on it the Corinthian Church was commanded to lay up savings as collections for the church at Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:2); on that day Paul journeyed not, but preached (Acts 20:7, on a Sabbath—the first day of the week. [Luther’s version has the word Sabbath in these two instances.])

Gossner: But the stone that had troubled her before, when it lay in front of the sepulchre, troubles her again, now that it is moved away.

Heubner: Mary Magdalene, one of the last to leave the grave, is the first to visit it again.—In great distress, seek counsel and help of upright brethren.—Love gave wings.

[Craven: From Gregory: John 20:3. Peter and John ran before the others, for they loved most.—From Theophylact: John 20:4-8. Peter is practical and prompt, John contemplative and intelligent, and learned in divine things. Now the contemplative man is generally beforehand in knowledge and intelligence; but the practical, by his fervor and activity, gets the advance of the other’s perception, and sees first into the divine mystery.

[From Burkitt: John 20:1. Though her heart did burn with an ardent zeal and affection to her crucified Lord, yet the commanded duties of the Sabbath were not omitted by her; she kept close, and silently spent that holy day in a mixture of grief and hope.—What magnanimity and courage is found in this weak woman; she followed Christ courageously, when His disciples left Him cowardly; she accompanied Him to His cross, she followed His hearse to the grave, when His disciples durst not appear; and now very early in the morning she goes to visit His sepulchre, fearing neither the darkness of the night, nor the presence of the watchmen. Learn thence, That courage is the special gift of God, and if He gives it to the feebler sex, even to timorous and fearful women, it is not in the power of man to make them afraid.

John 20:2. But why had not the Virgin Mary, His disconsolate mother, this privilege conferred on her, rather than Mary Magdalene, who had been a grievous sinner? Doubtless this was for the comfort of all true penitents, and administers great consolation to them.

John 20:5-7. When Christ arose from the grave, He left His grave-clothes behind Him; whereas, when Lazarus arose, he came forth with his grave-clothes about him; this teaches us, that Christ arose never to die more, but to live and reign forever; therefore He left His grave-clothes in the grave, as never to make use of them more.

[From M. Henry: John 20:1. Love to Christ, if it be cordial, will be constant.—Mary’s love to Christ was strong as death, the death of the cross, for it stood by that; cruel [fast-holding] as the grave, for it made a visit to that, and was not deterred by its terrors.—We must study to do honor to Christ in those things wherein yet we cannot be profitable to Him.—Love to Christ will take off the terror of death and the grave. If we cannot come to Christ but through that darksome valley, even in that, if we love Him, we will fear no evil.—Early; They that love Christ will take the first opportunity of testifying their respect to Him.—Those who would seek Christ so as to find Him, must seek Him early; 1. Solicitously, with such a care as even breaks the sleep; 2. Industriously, we must deny ourselves and our own repose in pursuit of Christ; 3. Betimes, early in our days, early every day; My voice shalt thou hear in the morning.—They that diligently inquire after Christ while it is yet dark, shall have such light given them concerning Him as shall shine more and more.—Surprising comforts are the frequent encouragements of early seekers.—They that are most constant in their adherence to Christ, and most diligent in their inquiries after Him, have commonly the first and sweetest notices of the divine grace.—God ordinarily gives Himself and His comforts to us by degrees; to raise our expectations and quicken our inquiries.

John 20:2. One would expect that the first thought that offered itself should have been, Surely the Lord is risen. When we come to reflect upon our own conduct in a cloudy and dark day, we shall stand amazed at our dullness and forgetfulness, that we could miss of such thoughts as afterward appear obvious.—Weak believers often make that the matter of their complaint, which is really just ground of hope, and matter of joy.—The communication of sorrows is one good improvement of the communion of saints.—Peter, though he had denied his Master, had not deserted his Master’s friends; by this appears the sincerity of his repentance, that he associated with the disciple whom Jesus loved. And the disciples keeping up their intimacy with him as formerly, notwithstanding his fall, teaches us to restore those with a spirit of meekness, that have been faulty.

John 20:3. It is well when those that are more honored than others with the privileges of disciples, are more active than others in the duty of disciples.—Do others tell us of the comfort and benefit of ordinances? Let us be engaged thereby to make trial of them.

John 20:4. What haste we should make in a good work, and when we are going on a good errand: Peter and John consulted neither their ease nor their gravity, but ran to the sepulchre.—He that got foremost in this race, was the disciple whom Jesus loved in a special manner, and who therefore in a special manner loved Jesus. Sense of Christ’s love to us, kindling love in us to Him again, will make us to excel in virtue.—He that was cast behind was Peter, who had denied his Master, and was in sorrow and shame for it, and this clogged him as a weight.

John 20:5. The warmest affections are not always accompanied with the boldest resolutions; many are swift to run religion’s race that are not stout to fight her battles.

John 20:6. Though John out-ran him, Peter did not therefore turn back, or stand still, but made after him as fast as he could; and while John was with a deal of caution looking in, he came, and with a deal of courage went into the sepulchre.—Observe how God dispenses His gifts variously. John could out-run Peter, but Peter could out-dare John; some disciples are quick, and they are useful to quicken them that are slow; others are bold and they are useful to hearten them that are timorous.

John 20:6-7. When we rise from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, we must leave our grave-clothes behind us, must put off all our corruptions.

John 20:8. It is good to be emboldened in a good work by the boldness of others.—John got the start of Peter in believing; Peter saw and wondered (Luke 24:12), but John saw and believed: a mind disposed to contemplation may perhaps sooner receive the evidence of divine truth than a mind disposed to action.

John 20:9. What was the reason of their slowness to believe? Because as yet they knew not the scripture.

John 20:10. Where were the angels when Peter and John were at the sepulchre? This favor was showed to those who were early and constant in their inquiries after Christ, and was the reward of them that came first, and staid last, but denied to them that made a transient visit.

[From Scott: John 20:2. Under a large proportion of preaching, by men called Christian ministers, we are ready to say, “They have taken away the Lord and we know net where they have laid Him;” but the broken-hearted disciple cannot be thus contented, though others be filled with admiration of the preacher’s eloquence, genius, or learning.—From A Plain Commentary (Oxford): John 20:1. “Good proof gave she of that love; she was last at His cross, and first at His grave: staid longest there, was soonest here; could not rest till she were up to seek Him: sought Him while it was yet dark, before she had light to seek Him by.” (Bishop Andrewes.)—From Owen: John 20:5. John’s remaining without, may in part be attributed to the precedence, which, as the older and leading disciple, he modestly yielded to Peter.

John 20:9. That He MUST rise again from the dead; the necessity was founded upon the immutable word and promise of God (Psalms 16:10), upon the principle of life inherent in Jesus as the Eternal Son of God, and upon the redemptive economy, by which Christ was to rise from the dead and become the first-fruits of them that are held in the power of the grave (1 Corinthians 15:20).)]


John 20:2; John 20:2.—[Loved as a friend, ἐφίλει, comp. John 11:3. Otherwise ὃν ἠγάπα, John 19:26; John 21:7; John 21:20.—P. S.]

John 20:2; John 20:2.—[τὸν κύριον is the usual reading. Some Greek MSS., as Augustine observes (Tract in Joa. cxx. 6), insert μου, dominum meum,—P. S.]

John 20:5; John 20:5.—[παρακύπτειν is to stoop down or to bend forward, in order to look at any thing more closely. The intention the E. V. has expressed here (and John 20:11) by adding in italics and looking in.—P. S.]

John 20:6; John 20:6.—[The first καί is omitted in the text. rec. with A., but is supported by א.3a B. L. X. and the 11 century supplement of Cod. D. (see Alford).—P. S.]

John 20:6; John 20:6.—[The E. V. obliterates the difference between βλέπει (sieht), the cursory glance of John, John 20:5, and the stronger θεωρεῖ (beschaut), the intense gaze of Peter, John 20:6. See Tittman, Synon. p. 3 sq. 120 sq. The more minute distinction between κείμενα τὰ ὀθόνια, John 20:5, and τὰ ὀθόνια κείμενα, John 20:6, cannot be rendered in English and does not affect the sense. The position of ὀθόνια in John 20:6 corresponds to τὸ σουδάριον, John 20:7.—P. S.]

Verses 11-18


John 20:11-18

(Matthew 28:1-15; Mark 16:1-11; Luke 24:1-12)

11     But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping [But Mary was standing (εἱστήκει) without by the tomb weeping]6 : and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre [she stooped down into the tomb, παρέκυψεν εἰς τὸ μνημεῖον], 12And seeth [beholdeth, θεωρεῖ, not βλέπει, see John 20:5-6] two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had Lamentations 1:0; Lamentations 1:03And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid14 him. And7 when she had thus said [Having said this, ταῦτα εἰποῦσα], she turned herself back, and saw [beholdeth, θεωρεῖ] Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. 15Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener [that it was the gardener, ὅτι ὁ κηπουρός ἐστισ], saith unto him, Sir, if thou have [hast] borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. 16Jesus saith unto her, Mary. [!] She turned herself, and saith unto him [in Hebrew] 8 Rabboni; which is to say, Master [Rabboni! (which is to say, Teacher!)] 17Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not ;9 for I am [have] not yet ascended to my10 [the] Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, [omit (,)] and your Father; [,] and to [omit to] my God, [omit (,)] and your God. 18Mary [the] Magdalene came [cometh, ἔρχεται] and told the disciples [bringing tidings, ὰγγέλουσα, to the disciples] that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken [said] these things unto her.


Continuation of the history of the Magdalene. First manifestation of the Risen One.

John 20:11. But Mary was standing by the tomb. [Μαριὰμ δὲ εἱστήκει (al. ἱστήκει)πρὸς τῷ μνημείῳ ἔξω κλαίουσα]—Εἱστήκει: she was standing as if rooted to the spot. The Evangelist has omitted to mention that she immediately followed the two disciples. Whether she met them at the grave, the narrative says not. She comes, and again finds the empty tomb. She now stations herself in front of it, as though, all too late, she would become its guardian. It is the plastic expression of her thought, her grief.

Now as she wept [ὡς οὖν ἔκλαιεν].—Her weeping is in reference to her idea that the body of Jesus has been stolen; hence she glances ever and anon down toward the empty place where He has lain.

John 20:12. And she beholdeth two angels. [καὶ θεωρεῖ δύο�].—The angelic appearances in the resurrection history, a sign of the thoroughly new, wonderful epoch of this event. The truth and objectivity of her vision are supported by the slender impression which these appearances seem to make upon her in her present mood; the internal, subjective conditions, by the circumstance that the two apostles saw no angel, and the other women only one.

[Alford adopts the rather fanciful remark of Luthardt: The angels were in white because from the world of light; they sit, as not defending, but peacefully watching the Body; at the head and the feet, for the Body of the Lord was from head to foot in the charge of His Father and of His servants—P. S.]

John 20:14. She turned back. [ἐστράφη εἰς τἀ ὀπίσω], i. e., to look towards the garden, and to see if some one would not appear and give her information.

And knew not that it was Jesus. [οὐκ ἤδει ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἐστίν.—There is foundation on both sides for her non-recognition. On the one hand, Jesus has altered: He is the Risen, the Transformed One. The external feature which, in addition to the one already mentioned, some assume, is less certain. “She thinks the gardener (John 19:41) of Joseph of Arimathea is before her, and that he has assigned the body another place. The circumstance that the Risen One was clothed with the subligaculum, or loin-strip, which crucified persons wore, and the same also that field and garden laborers were in, the habit of wearing, might incline her the more to this opinion.” Tholuck (following Hug). Kuinoel, Paulus, and others have even clothed Him in the dress of the gardener. On the other hand, Magdalene’s faculties were concentrated within; she was in a visionary mood rather than in one favorable to acute observation; irrespective of the fact that her mind was not in the slightest degree predisposed to expect the appearance of the Lord. In a similar manner, the eyes of the disciples journeying to Emmaus were holden. Meyer denies the holdenness of the eyes in the present case (Grotius); perhaps because he imagines it to be the fruit of some magical working. [Dräseke assigns as a reason because her tears wove a veil, and because the seeking after the dead prevents us from seeing the living. She was wholly absorbed in the thought of the absent Lord.—P. S.]

John 20:15. If thou hast borne Him hence [εἰ σὺ ἐβάστασας αὐτόν].—She does no name Him. She takes it for granted that every one is thinking of Him only. Of course if the supposed gardener had carried away the Lord, he would understand her saying (Meyer); otherwise it were necessarily unintelligible to him She will go, she will bring the body. Her as suming a posture with a view to hurrying away in a certain direction, is evident from the following: “she turned herself.” We cannot infer from these words that she turned directly to the grave again. She gives herself credit for sufficient strength to enable her to carry the corpse and deposit it in the tomb again. For at this very time it should be receiving anointment at the hands of the women.

John 20:16. Mary [Μαριάμ].—His voice had the same unique sound as before (see Luke 24:35; comp. 30, 31); especially the call by name (Isaiah 43:1). Since the voice of every human being in a healthy condition is the expression of the man within him, we can infer the impressiveness of Jesus’ voice without having a more definite conception of it. Recollections of things that address themselves to the ear are the most enduring, observes Strauss11 in his Glockentöne. The manifestation of God begins with the hearing-wonder, and dies away in it. The expression of the voice is concentrated in the naming of a beloved name.

Rabboni [Ῥαββουνεί].—With the infinite expression of the salutation—Mary—with which Christ makes Himself known to her, the word of recognition corresponds—Rabboni, my Teacher. The Evangelist cannot help reproducing the original Hebrew word in its sonorousness; therefore the interpretation. The solemnity of the passage is not contained in the explanatory supplement, but in the Rabboni. We can infer from that which follows that she meantime has fallen at His feet and embraced them, “like those women in Matthew 28:9, and the woman that was a sinner, Luke 7:39.” I. e., her own self at the time.

John 20:17. Hold (Touch) Me not [Μή μου ἅπτου.12 Noli me tangere.—In explaining this, reference should be had to John 20:22, where Thomas is directed by the Lord: φέρε τὴν χεῖρά σου καὶ βάλε εἰς τὴν πλευράν μου, and Luke 24:39, where He calls upon the disciples: ψηλαφήσατέ με. It is therefore not the act of touching, as such, which the Lord reproves, but the animus or motive of Mary. The scene has often been represented in pictures called Noli me tangere.—P. S.] Interpretations of the enigmatical μή μου ἅπτου:

1. “Handle (Touch) Me not” [in the literal sense]:

a. Strictly supernaturalistic: Jesus demands a greater reverence for His body now that it has become divine (Chrysostom, Erasmus and many others). Unseasonable devoutness and insufficient explanation of γάρ (“for I have not yet ascended”).

b. Decidedly natural, in various apprehensions. Ammon: Jesus desired to spare her the touching of One levitically unclean; Paulus: His wounds still pained Him, therefore touching Him would have hurt Him!

c. Spiritualistic: Weisse: He was still bodiless, a mere spiritual apparition (a ghost).

d. Gnostic: Hilgenfeld: He as yet appeared only as a mere Man, being not yet reunited to the Logos, and therefore adoration was unseasonable. [Yet immediately afterwards He allows Himself to be called by Thomas: “My Lord and My God;” comp. also Matthew 28:9.—P. S.]

e. Physiological. Because the new, glorified corporeality of Jesus was still so tender as to shun every vigorous grasp (Schleiermacher [and Olshausen, edd. 1 and 3]).

f. Psychological: Handle Me not for the purpose of examining whether it be really Myself in the body, or My glorified spirit. Meyer (following J. Fred. von Meyer13), Lücke. [In this case the following words οὔπω γὰρ�, κ. τ. λ., express the assurance of the Lord that He is still corporeally present with her, having not yet been translated to the Father in heaven.—P. S.]

2. “Hold Me not fast.”

a. Supernaturalistic: Seek not thy comfort in My present appearance by terrestrial contact, but by spiritual communion (Aret., Grot., Neand. and others).

[Also Augustine (Tract, cxxi. c. 3). “ ‘Noli Me tangere:’ id est, Noli in Me sic credere, quemadmodum adhuc sapis; noli tuum sensum huc usque pertendere quod pro te factus sum, nec transire ad illud per quod facta es. Quomodo enim non carnaliter adhuc in eum credebat, quem sicut hominem flebat?” Leo the Great, Serm. 74 (al. 72), c. John 4:0 : “Nolo ut ad Me corporaliter venias, net ut me sensu carnis agnoscas: ad sublimiora te differo, majora tibi præparo: cum ad Patrem ascendero, tunc Me perfectius veriusgue palpabis, apprehensura quod non tangis, et creditura quod non cernis.” Calvin, Melancthon, De Wette, Tholuck, Luthardt, Hengstenberg, Godet hold substantially this same view. Alford: “She believed she had now gotten Him again, never to be parted from Him. This gesture He reproves as unsuited to the time, and the nature of His present appearance. ‘Do not thus—for I am not yet restored fully to you in body—I have yet to ascend to the Father.’ This implies in the background another and truer touching when He should have ascended to the Father.” Wordsworth (who has a long note here): “Cleave not to Me in My bodily appearance; do not touch Me carnally, but learn to touch Me spiritually. When the power of the bodily touch ends, then the spiritual touch begins, and that touch most honors Christ and profits us.” Wordsworth then applies the passage to Christ’s presence in the eucharist which is spiritual, not carnal.—Hengstenberg (III. p. 303) conjectures that Mary, in the mistaken notion that the partition wall between Christ and her had now fallen, desired to embrace Him; this the Lord withstood, because the process of glorification was not yet completed, and the separation still continued in part. Godet: “ἅπτεσθαι is to touch in order to enjoy, to attach one’s self to some one: This is not the moment to attach yourself to Me as I am before you in My human individuality.” Comp. below sub d.—P. S.]

b. Historical: Tarry not with Me, but make haste and discharge the message; time enough later for handling, greeting, holding (Beza, Calovius, Bengel).

c. Spiritualistic-mythical: Jesus was on the point of ascending, and did not desire to be detained by Mary (Baur, Kinkel: One of the numerous ascensions occurring in the period of the forty days was about to be performed).

d. Christologico-psychological: Hold Me not as though we were in the perfection of the existence of that world beyond us, for I am not yet ascended, etc., to say nothing of thyself. (Leben Jesu II., 1661; III., 74414 Hofmann, Luthardt, Tholuck. As regards the sense, similarly Luther and others at an earlier period.)15 [Similar to explanation 2 a, above.—P. S.].

On the fact that the term ἅπτεσθαι does not barely mean to touch, to handle, but that it also particularly denotes a hanging upon, a holding fast, see Tholuck, p. 434 [Krauth’s transl. p. 411]. Tholuck divides the interpretations into two classes, one of which discovers the reason for the repulse in the not yet glorified condition of Christ; while the other maintains that it lies in the glorified state of the Lord. According to the distribution into ἄπτεσθαι to lay hold of, and to hold fast, the former is by preference interpreted as signifying the catching hold of the knees, worshipping. Yet not exclusively. The design of Jesus’ speech was undoubtedly to limit the exuberance of Magdalene’s rapture, to deprive her of the new illusion which is persuading her that every difficulty and danger of her life is laid behind her, that external intercourse with Jesus is now to continue and that it is the supreme thing,—and so to guide her feeling into a practical channel. Hence the commission.

To my brethren [πορεύου δὲ πρὸς τοὺς�.]—So He calls the disciples by a new name of familiar co-ordination. Meyer: He means her to gather from this that His appearance is not as yet a super-terrestrial and glorified one. Glorification, however, does not put an end to the brotherly feeling. Bengel: The word is designed to speak peace to the disciples concerning their flight. Right, but too narrow. Christ breathes in the paradisaic peace of the new reconciliation. God is become the Father of the disciples; He greets them in the dignity of their new life—in which He will soon make them glad through the Spirit of adoption, as co-brothers in the new kingdom that is now founded, and as co-heirs. The relation of humanity to God is changed, the new Paradise is opened, together with the new Man there are born into the world His brethren in spe, He nevertheless remaining the Lord and King of them. Tholuck. It is the intimation of the relationship of reconciliation (Apollinaris, Luther, Bucer).

I ascend [Ἀναβαίνω].—The imminent ascension spoken of as already present, since He even now finds Himself in the new heavenly state, or transition state, which is the condition of ascension. To My Father and your Father [πρὸς τὸν πατέρα μου καὶ πατέρα ὐμῶν].—He does not say to our (as also elsewhere your Father, My Father, Matthew 6:9 : after this manner pray ye: Our Father), for the relation in which He stands to the Father is, in its character of an eternal, immediate, principial relation, specifically different from their mediate relation to the Father. Still this positive assurance is herein contained: My Father is also your Father now; ye shall be glorified along with Me.—To my God [θεόν μου καὶ θεὸν ὑμῶν].—There; is the same contrast again on both sides in His generalizations. His consciousness of God is specifically unique and the source of theirs (Ephesians 1:3). But as in the resurrection, the Father has demonstrated Himself to be His almighty God, so in future, in their course of life and victory, He will prove Himself to be their God also.—Thus is Magdalene made the first Evangelist of the resurrection to the apostolic circle itself, the Lord having also first appeared to her.

John 20:18. Magdalene cometh [Ἔρχεται Μαριὰμ ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ�].—She is obedient to the commission. She first announces her joy that she has seen Him, then discharges His commission. According to Meyer, there is a difference between this commission and the passage Matthew 28:10. Progress, however, from the most general disclosure to a more special one never constitutes a difference. Otherwise, the announcement of His imminent ascension would also present a difference from the directly following revelations of Jesus in the circle of disciples, as recorded by John himself.


1. Mary Magdalene, the first guardian of the Holy Sepulchre. The later and present guardians of it.

2. The angelic apparitions at the Birth, Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of the Lord mark these moments as the great epochs in the life of Jesus. For the angelic world does, in general, emerge into view in the grand epochs of the Kingdom of God. Therefore particularly in the life of Abraham and in that of Moses; at the founding of the covenant-religion, and at the establishment of the Old Testament theocracy. For this reason, after the establishment of the New Covenant in the life of Jesus, there is a withdrawal of angelic apparitions in all the period through which the Church’s history extends; their return, however, is promised for the end of the world. The psychological reason is contained in the fact that in all those moments the human world is brought into closest proximity to the spirit-world; that the whole form of the visible world vanishes, to a greater or less degree, from the deeply moved elect on this side the gulf, and in the deep twilight of this world there uncloses within them a ghostly vision for the spirit-world See the author’s Positive Dogmatik, p. 578 ff.

3. That the perception of the angels in their objective manifestation was still conditioned by the liberation of a visionary faculty on the part of those who beheld them, results from the history of the resurrection. Peter and John see no angel here, the other-women see but one angel, Magdalene sees two angels. Similar relative degrees of visionary perception are announced John 12:28-29; likewise Acts 9:7; Acts 22:9. Comp. Daniel 10:7.

4. Christ’s superiority to the angels a doctrine taught by Scripture, Matthew 4:0; Matthew 26:63; Ephesians 1:21; Philippians 2:10; Hebrews 2:5 ff., Mary Magdalene, who was scarcely dogmatically instructed therein, here scenically sets forth, in accordance with the instinct of Christian vital feeling.

5. The fact of Mary’s recognizing the Lord by her ear rather than by her eye is entirely in agreement with the laws of manifestation; according to these laws, wonders which address themselves to the hearing are of earlier and more frequent occurrence and of later with drawal than such as appeal to the sight. Here, however, it is at the same time a testimony to the spiritual and divine character of Magdalene’s attachment to the Lord. She knows Him by the tone in which Christ calls her name. Through the human call she becomes aware of the divine call, the perception of which constitutes the most blissful experience of the elect. See Isaiah 43:1.

6. A dialogue most brief and yet most pregnant: Mary; Rabboni.

7. Hold me not. In no moment of blissful ecstasy may we forget that we are still on earth and still have a mission here. Even Mary must attain to a consciousness of the situation. The fact that Mary had not yet arrived at the goal was gently expressed by the Lord in the saying that He Himself had not yet reached it. At the same time there is here intimated the truth that spiritual communion with the Lord constitutes the essential part of a beatifying communion with Him, and is the condition of the bliss of beholding Him [face to face].

8. The message entrusted to Mary. It is addressed to the brethren. It is a message concerning the imminent perfecting of Christ. He does not speak of His resurrection; He speaks of His imminent ascension. His eye glances forward to the supreme goal. He designates His glorification as an ascension to His Father, in His character as the Son of God; to His God, in His character as the glorified Son of Man. This His ascension is, however, to redound to the advantage of His brethren as well as His own good. Hence the saying runs: “and to your Father,” etc. It is to be observed that Christ connects His relation to God with that of His brethren, and also makes a distinction between the two.

9. The first Easter-message addressed by Christ to the apostolic circle itself, was discharged by a woman, a female disciple, who, without doubt, was formerly the great sinner. The first manifestation of Christ was apportioned to Magdalene, as was the first manifestation of the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament to the Egyptian maid Hagar—doubtless for the reason that both, being in a condition most sorely needing consolation, first had need of the manifestation, and were moreover mentally disposed to receive it. [Hagar the bondmaid of Sarah, Magdalene once the bondmaid of sin.] “Wenn wir in höchsten Nöthen sein.”16 (“When in the hour of utmost need.”) At such a time is evolved the ability of perceiving the most wonderful help.


See the Doct. Notes.

Mary Magdalene at the sepulchre of the Lord: 1. How disconsolate: a. she standeth chained to the spot, as the guardian of the sepulchre; b. she weepeth; c. she stoopeth down. 2. How comforted: a. she seeth the angels; b. she seeth the Lord; c. she is made a messenger of joy to the flock of disciples.—The spiritual unity in the great change experienced by Mary: 1. In all her desolation, love for the Lord remained the light of her life (her faith and her hope). 2. In all her bliss there remained the painful pressure of her longing after the consummation.—How the Lord crowneth love for Him: 1. She sought the Body of the Lord to anoint it and received the anointing of the Spirit from the Living One. 2. In her grief for the Body, she hoped in the Living One, and became a messenger of life to the whole Church of Christ in all ages.—The blessing of true mourning at the grave.—The saying, “Blessed are they that mourn”—most conspicuously fulfilled.—The angels at the feet and head of the dead and risen Lord.—While pious men weep, there is already prepared for them supreme consolation.—The threefold conversation of Mary indicative of three degrees of her Easter-joy: 1. With the angels, 2. with the Lord, 3. with the disciples.—The great school of the Spirit of Christ: 1. At first she thought it impossible to part from the body of Christ; 2. and soon she learns to let the Risen One Himself externally go home.—The mood of Mary when desirous of detaining the Lord, compared with the mood of Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration.—The message of the Risen One to His disciples: 1. Addressed to His brethren, 2. a message concerning His ascension on their behalf also, 3. the preparation for His appearing in the midst of them.—The first sermon about the Risen One: 1. Delivered by a soul that was nigh unto despair; 2. by a woman; 3. by a pardoned sinner.—How she discharges the message: 1. She speaks of her blessedness (I have seen the Lord). Then 2. she faithfully delivers the saying. Application: Thus in the true preaching of Christ, the testimony of experience and the commanded word must accompany each other.—The Christian life, until the consummation, an eternal alternation of beholding and renouncing (or of receiving and sacrificing; making holiday and working).—The mission to the brethren ever the precious heavenly fruit of the beholding of Christ’s glory.

Starke: Even pious souls do often err when they yield too much to those emotions which are good in themselves, Luke 24:17 f.—O how many peek and pine without cause!—Hall: Holy desires always prosper, Proverbs 8:17.—To speak comfortably to the afflicted is praiseworthy, and in accordance with the custom of the angels, yea, of the great God Himself, Luke 7:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:14.—I bid.: Many a tender and humbled soul mourns over the loss of its Saviour and yet He, the while, is beside it, Song of Solomon 3:1-4.—Hedinger: The greater and more intense the misery of a distressed soul, the nearer Christ is; but He is not immediately recognized in the darkness.—Canstein: It stands to reason that believers, Jesus being risen, should not weep nor be sorrowful, but put in practice the words of St. Paul: “Rejoice in the Lord away,” etc., Philippians 4:4.—Hall: Jesus knoweth His sheep by name, John 10:3. Whoso is a true sheep of Jesus, knoweth also the voice of his Shepherd, John 10:4.—Canstein: Christ’s voice still presses upon our ears and pierces into our hearts when He calls us by name.—Hedinger: Unto faithful hearts there suddenly ariseth a light of joy, Psalms 97:11; yet must they moderate their longing and be satisfied with the brief glimpse granted them. The Lord will not have them hang upon His gifts and friendliness, but upon Himself and His love.—Zeisius: Eve, the first woman, brought transgression into the world; Mary, on the other hand, was the first preacher of restored, eternal righteousness.—Bibl. Wirt.: Through Christ’s resurrection we are become His brethren and God’s children. Now if we be children of God, we are also His heirs and joint-heirs with Christ, our Brother, to eternal blessedness, Romans 8:17.—Cramer: As woman was the first to serve the devil, so she must be the first to serve Christ, 1 Timothy 2:14.—Hall: Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness, from the Gracious, Compassionate and Righteous One, Psa 112:4. 17—Gerlach: The inquiry of the angels concerning a thing which they know, is to be understood similarly with Christ’s question to the blind men: what will ye that I should do unto you? Grief when uttered makes a man susceptible of consolation.—Before this speech of Jesus one manuscript inserts the words: “And she ran toward Him to lay hold of Him,” which, even if John did not write it, we of course are to supply mentally.—Father has particular reference to His divinity, God to His humanity. Here, for the first time, He significantly calls them brethren (comp. Matthew 28:10).

Gossner: Angels ministered unto the Lord after His temptation: they likewise ministered unto Him in His death and at His resurrection, as well as at His birth and His ascension. They were present everywhere—upon every occasion—And behold, as Mary turneth away from every creature, even from the angels, she findeth and seeth Jesus standing!—We might at times become disconcerted at the greatness of the Lord and at our own amazing littleness and distance from Him, the while He is desiring to draw so near unto us and behaveth Himself so brotherly toward us. For the prevention of such feeling on our part there was no better means than His own positive declaration: I am your Brother, I am one of you, and I go, as such, unto our Father; for, I have one God and Father with you; My Father is your Father; My God is your God; I indeed claim the pre-eminence, yet do pretend, not with standing, to be one of you.—Our Brother is the Supreme Good; the Supreme Good is our Brother!

Heubner: How brief is the season of tears; even whilst we weep, the Author of joy is at our side, ready to wipe away our tears.—Love hides itself in order that it may, on discovering itself, occasion us the more surprise and joy. What is this whole life of trial and misery—exile?—A hiding of the heavenly Father’s love.—The measure of affliction the measure of joy.—He who tendeth the heavenly plants of His Father, was in a certain sense the Gardener.—Strive that Jesus may one day call thy name too, that thou mayest not belong to those spoken of in Psalms 16:4.—Mary and Rabboni,—just two words constitute the entire heart-conversation, but they are words full of power.—(Justinus:) Moderate now thy craving for Me, for in heaven only shall our intimate, perfect connection begin,—earth is not the place of perfect union. Yonder alone shall the soul’s longing for Jesus be satisfied. Do not now accompany Me, do not now follow Me as if the old intercourse still lasted.—“St. Peter and St. John have no more than Mary Magdalene and I and thou! Take them all in a lump,—they are all brethren together.” (Luther.)—As yet we ascend not, but we shall one day ascend. Comp. Reinhard’s Himmelfahrtspred., 1809 and Theremin, Pred., 1819, III., 110–18—Hüter, Zeugnisse christlicher Wahrheit, Bielefeld, 1858; Mary Magdalene’s Easter-celebration: 1. The Easter-sorrow of Mary Magdalene; 2. her Easter-joy.—Ibid.: That none can rob us of the true Easter-joy: 1. The character or nature of Easter-joy; 2. the subject of Easter-joy, or the good whereat we rejoice on the Easter-feast.

[Craven: From Augustine: John 20:13. And I know not where they have placed Him; it was a still greater grief, that she did not know where to go to console her grief.—From Gregory: John 20:11. To have looked once is not enough for love.

John 20:12. She sought the body and found it not; she persevered in seeking; and so it came to pass that she found. For holy longings ever gain strength by delay; did they not, they would not be longings.

John 20:13. The very declarations of Scripture which excite our tears of love, wipe away those very tears, by promising us the sight of our Redeemer again.

John 20:15. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? He asks the cause of her grief, to set her longing still more. For the mere mentioning His name Whom she sought would inflame her love for Him.—Perhaps, however, the woman was right in believing Jesus to be the gardener; was not He the spiritual Gardener, who by the power of His love had sown strong seeds of virtue in her heart?—But how is it that, as soon as she sees the gardener, as she supposes Him to be, she says without having told Him who it was she was seeking, Sir, if thou hast borne Him hence? It arises from her love; when one loves a person, one never thinks that any one else can be ignorant of him.

John 20:18. So the sin of mankind is buried in the very place whence it came forth. For whereas in Paradise the woman gave the man the deadly fruit, a woman from the sepulchre announced life to men; a woman delivers the message of Him who raises us from the dead, as a woman had delivered the words of the serpent who slew us.—From Bede: John 20:18. In that Mary Magdalene announced Christ’s resurrection to the disciples, all, especially those to whom the office of preaching is committed, are admonished to be zealous in setting forth to others whatever is revealed from above.

[From Burkitt: John 20:11. Note Mary’s carriage and behaviour towards her Saviour; this is discovered by her patient attendance; She stood without at the sepulcher; by her passionate mourning, weeping; by her unwearied diligence, she stooped down and looked into the sepulcher.—Learn 1. True love to Christ suffers not itself to be stinted or limited, no, not by the greatest examples; the weakest woman that truly loves Christ, may piously strive with the greatest apostle in this point; 2. Strong love is valiant and undaunted, it will grapple and encounter with the strongest opposition; Mary fears nothing in seeking of her Lord, neither the darkness of the night, nor the terror of the soldiers, nor the malice of the Jews: Love is strong as death, and the flames thereof are vehement.

John 20:12. Such as sincerely seek the Lord, shall certainly find, if not the very thing which they seek, yet that which is much better for them; Mary did not find Christ’s dead body, but she finds two angels to testify that He was risen.—It is matter of comfort to the members of Christ, that angels do not wait upon the head only, but upon the feet also; and it ought to be matter of imitation also.

John 20:13. The best company in the world will not satisfy or content such as are seeking for Jesus Christ, when they find not Him whom their souls seek; Mary now enjoyed the presence and company of two angels, but this did not satisfy her in the absence of Christ Himself,

John 20:14. Christ may be present with, and very near unto, His people, and yet not be presently discerned by them; Jesus stood by Mary, but she knew not that it was Jesus; her not expecting a living Christ, was one cause why she did not discern Him.

John 20:15. The soul of a sincere believer, 1. Is full of earnest and longing desires after Jesus Christ; 2. Is yet sometimes at a loss for Christ, and cannot tell where to find Him; 3. Whilst it is at a loss for Christ, its desires are often quicker and more stirring after Him.

John 20:17. Our love to Jesus Christ is best shown, not by our human passionate affection to His bodily presence, but by our spiritual communion with Him by faith here on earth, in order to an immediate communion with Him face to face in heaven.—Christ calls His disciples brethren, after His exaltation and resurrection; thereby showing that the change of His condition had wrought no change in His affection.—God for Christ’s sake has dignified believers with that near and dear relation of His being a Father to them in and through His Son.

[From M. Henry: John 20:11. Where there is a true love to Christ, there will be a constant adherence to Him, and a resolution with purpose of heart to cleave to Him.—Where there is a true desire of acquaintance with Christ, there will be a constant attendance on the means of knowledge.—They that seek Christ must seek Him sorrowing (Luke 2:48), must weep, not for Him, but for themselves.—Weeping must not hinder seeking; though she wept, she stooped down, and looked in.—Those are likely to seek and find, that seek with affection and in tears.

John 20:14. The Lord is nigh to them that are of a broken heart (Psalms 34:18), nearer than they are aware. They that seek Christ, though they do not see Him, may yet be sure He is not far from them.—Those that diligently seek the Lord, will turn every way in their inquiry after Him; Mary turned herself back, in hopes of some discoveries.

John 20:15. Whom seekest Thou? When Christ knows that His people are seeking Him, yet He will know it from themselves; they must tell Him whom they seek.—She, supposing Him to be the gardener, saith, etc.; Troubled spirits, in a cloudy and dark day, are apt to misrepresent Christ to themselves, and to put wrong constructions upon the methods of His providence and grace.

John 20:16. Mary; When those whom God knew by name in the counsels of His love (Exodus 33:12), are called by name in the efficacy of His grace, then He reveals His Son in them, as in Paul (Galatians 1:16).—Rabboni; Notwithstanding the freedom of communion which Christ is pleased to admit us to with Himself, we must remember that He is our Master, and to be approached with a godly fear.—Mary turned herself from the angels whom she had in her eye, to look unto Jesus; we must take off our regards from all creatures, even the brightest and best, to fix them upon Christ.—The soul that hears Christ’s voice, and is turned to Him, calls Him, with joy and triumph, My Master.

John 20:17. Mary must not stay to talk with her Master, but must carry His message; for it was a day of good tidings, which she must not engross the comfort of, but hand it to others.—My brethren; Though Christ be high, yet He is not haughty; notwithstanding His elevation, He disdains not to own His poor relations.—My Father, and your Father; My God, and your God; There are such an advancement of Christians and such a condescension of Christ, as bring them very near together.

John 20:18. When God comforts us, it is with this design, that we may comfort others.

[From A Plain Commentary (Oxford): John 20:12. Christ’s resting-place is therefore between two Angels, like the mercy-seat, of old. Even in His death, He is found to have dwelt, as in ancient days, “between the Cherubim.”

John 20:13. Woman, why weepest thou? “This case of Mary Magdalene is our case oftentimes: in the error of our conceit, to weep where we have no cause; to joy, where we have as little. Where we have cause to joy, we weep; and whereto weep, we joy. False joys and false sorrows, false hopes and false fears, this life of ours is full of.” (Bishop Andrewes.)

John 20:15. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? “Now, seeing Christ asks it again a second time, we will think there is something in it, and stay a little at it. The rather, for that it is the very opening of His mouth; the very first words that ever came from Him, and that He spoke first of all, after His rising again from death.…Thus say the Fathers; that Mary Magdalene standing by the grave’s side, and there weeping, is thus brought in to represent unto us the slate of all mankind before this Day, the Day of Christ’s rising again; weeping over the dead as do the heathens, who have no hope. But Christ comes and asks ‘Why weepest thou?’ as much as to say, ‘Weep not! There is no cause of weeping now.’ Henceforth, none shall need to stand by the grave to weep there any more.… So that this, ‘Why weepest thou?’ of Christ’s, (a question very proper for the day of the Resurrection,) wipes away tears from all eyes; puts off our mourning weeds, girds us with gladness, and robes us all in ‘white,’ with the Angels.” (Bishop Andrewes.)

John 20:17. Take notice that our Lord makes mention of ascending, twice; of rising, not at all. And it is to teach us that Resurrection is nothing, nor is any account to be made of it, if Ascension go not with it.…“Never take cave for Resurrection! That will come of itself, without any thought-taking of thine. Take thought for Ascension! set your minds there! Better lie still in our graves, better never rise, than rise, and, rising, not ascend.” (Bishop Andrewes.)

[From Barnes: John 20:17. Nothing was better fitted to afford them consolation than this assurance, that His God was theirs.—From Jacobus: John 20:13; John 20:15. Why weepest thou? How different are these words as spoken by Jesus from the same words spoken even by His Angels. Friends often ask the same thing, in our moments of anguish; but they can give no relief, and no arguments of theirs can cure the inward wound. But our blessed Lord reveals Himself in words of grace that go to the heart’s wound, and wonderfully heal.

John 20:15. Whom seekest thou? Thus the adorable Saviour would draw her out to tell what she wants and whom she seeks for. So pleased is He to hear any poor sinner say, I seek Jesus.—Your Beloved is near you, though you have thought Him afar off. Who ever sought and did not find? But oh! instead of finding Him a corpse, you shall find Him a risen, living, glorious Redeemer.

John 20:17. Go to My brethren; “This was a far greater honor than that which was denied her.” The gracious Saviour denies us nothing but for our greater advantage.

[From Owen: John 20:15. I will take him away; She takes all the responsibility upon herself. If no one else will share her pious duty, she is ready to discharge it independent and alone. Noble woman! The Church to the end of time shall embalm thy memory, and point to thee as the most loving and faithful of that devoted band, who

“—While Apostles shrunk, could dangers brave,
Last at His cross, and earliest at His grave.”—

John 20:17. “Do not stay here to embrace Me now, either to pay thy homage to Me, or to confirm thy faith, both which thou wilt have other opportunities of doing; for I am not yet withdrawn from your world, and ascended to the heavenly court of My Father, as you imagine I shall presently do, but I shall yet continue for a little while on earth, and give you further opportunities of seeing Me again; let nothing therefore detain thee any longer, but go immediately to My dear brethren and say unto them,” etc.—“Thou shalt possess Me again, but not as before, it shall be from this time and forever in the Spirit. The time of exalted and divine relationship is come.” (Stier.)]


John 20:11; John 20:11.—The position of the words ἔξω κλαίουσα is in accordance with B. D. O. X., etc., Tischendorf [The rec. reads κλαίουσα before ἔξω. εἱστήκει with B.* D. etc. Tisch. Treg. Alf. ἱστήκει: א. A. B.,3 etc., Westcott. πρὸς τῷ μνη. μείῳ: A. B. D. Tisch. Alf. Westc. πρὸς τὸ μνημεῖον: text rec. ἐν τῷ μνημείῳ: א (See Tischendorf, Alford).—P. S.]

John 20:14; John 20:14.—Καί before ταῦτα [E. text, rec] should be omitted in accordance with א. A. B. D., etc. and the critical editions].

John 20:16; John 20:16.—The addition Ἑβραϊστί, in accordance with B. D. L. O. X. Δ. Sin., is received by Tischendorf [Tregelles, Alford, Westcott. Most MSS. read Ῥαββουνί (so Tischend. Alf. Treg.); some Ῥαββουνεί (so Westcott), some Ῥαββωνεί, some Ῥαβουνί.—P. S.]

John 20:17; John 20:17.—[Μή μου ἅπτου is the usual reading of the MSS. and Iren., Orig., etc., but Cod. B. and Tert. put μου after ἅπτου, and Westcott inserts this on the margin.—P. S.]

John 20:17; John 20:17.—The first μου is wanting in B. D. X., Itala, Tischendorf. It was probably supplemented in imitation of the subsequent μου. [Treg. Alf. Westcott likewise read πρὸς τὸν πατέρα. without μου.—P. S.]

[11][Late Professor of Practical Theology in the University of Berlin and Court-Chaplain and friend of Frederick IV, of Prussia. The Glockentöne were his first, the Abend Glockentöne his last work.—P. S.]

[12][ἅπτομαι occurs thirty-five times in the New Testament, and is uniformly translated to touch in the E. V. It is used of touching the hand, the garment, the body, food, etc.—P. S,]

[13][Not the better known commentator, but also an eminent Biblical scholar (though a layman. Senator of Frankfort on the Maine) and reviser of Luther’s German Bible.—P. S.]

[14]Tholuck’s classification of J. P. Lange, p. 436, rests upon a mistake.

[15]The conjunctures, in despair of the text, σύ μου ά́πτου (Gersdorf) and μἠ συ πτόου, need merely be mentioned.

[16][Beginning of a German hymn by Paul Eber (1547), see Schaff’s German Hymn Book, No, 336. English translation by Miss C. Winkworth.—P. S.]

[17][The above is a literal rendering of the passage as it stands in Luther’s Version.]

Verses 19-23

How Christ Frees The Circle Of Disciples From The Old Fear, And, By The Breathing Of His Spirit, Raises Them To A Presentiment Of Their Apostolic Calling

John 20:19-23

(Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36 ff.; John 20:19-31, pericope for Quasi modo geniti).

      19Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut [When therefore it was evening on that day, the first of the week, and the doors had been shut, or, the doors being shut, οὔσης οὖν ὀψίας τῇ ήμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ τῇ μιᾷ σαββάτων, καὶ τῶν θυρῶν κεκλεισμένων], where the disciples were assembled [omit assembled] 18 for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 20And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. [And having said this, he showed unto them both19 his hands and his side]. Then were the disciples glad [The disciples therefore were glad], when they saw the Lord. 21Then said Jesus20 [he said] to them again, Peace be unto you: as my [the] Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost 23 [lit., Receive Holy Spirit, Λάβετε πνεῦμα ἅγιον]John 21:0 : Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted [have been remitted, ὰφέωνται]22 unto them; and whosesoever sins [omit sins] ye retain, they are retained [have been retained, κεκράηνται].


The parallel-passage in Mark recounts how Jesus after His entrance into the circle of disciples, rebuked their unbelief; the parallel in Luke makes the entrance of the Emmaus disciples into the circle of apostles precede the Lord’s appearance, and makes Peter and the two journeyers to Emmaus exchange Easter-messages; Luke also hints at the gentle reproof of the disciples’ unbelief,—the feature more powerfully brought out by Mark He likewise reports, more explicitly than John, Jesus’ invitation to the disciples to touch His hands and His feet, His eating before them, and His exposition of the Scripture concerning His sufferings and resurrection. Tholuck justly remarks that Luke 24:44-49 bears a relation to John 20:22-23 in our passage. Individual traits in this section of Luke may belong to a later meeting, or have been amplified later; assuredly, nothing but the section beginning with 20:50 belongs to the last manifestation of Jesus. The most important thing remaining for John, was to supply the facts of Jesus’ appearing to the disciples as they were sitting with shut doors, His announcing to them His return by bestowing upon them His peace-greeting (John 14:27), and His re-ratifying of their apostolic calling (forfeited by their flight), accompanying this act by a breathing upon them, which was preparatory to the outpouring of the Spirit.

John 20:19. When therefore it was evening on that day. [Οὔσης οὖν ὀψίας τῇ ῆμέρᾳ ἔκείνῃ τῇ μιᾷ σαββάτων.]—The evening of that Sunday, the first resurrection day.

And the doors had been shut. [καὶ τῶν θυρῶν κεκλεισμένων ὅπου ἧσαν οἱ μαθηταί].—This circumstance is emphasized, as John 20:26; comp. Acts 12:13.

1. Unfounded softening of the expression. Calvin and others, Baumg.-Crus.: The doors had suddenly opened ad nutum divinæ majestatis ejus. According to Lücke, the statement is even reducible to a mere unexpected, sudden appearing.

2. Unfounded intensification of the expression. He pressed bodily through the closed doors. In the interest of the [Lutheran] ubiquity-doctrine, Quenstädt.

3. A miraculous appearing, unqualified as to its manner, indicative of the higher condition in which He found Himself subsequently to His transformation (Luke 24:31 : ἄφαντος γενέσθαι; John 21:1; Mark 16:12 : φανεροῦσθαι. F. Kühn: Wie ging Christus durch die Grabesthür? 1838. Tholuck). A. Tholuck: The description leads to the conception “of an unconfinedness to the limits of space”—bounds of locality.—Primarily it indicates nothing but a simple power of the glorified life of Christ to move unrestrainedly, to appear and disappear;—His local definedness, which is one with bodily circumscribedness, remaining the while undestroyed. According to Baur, an immaterial constitution was ascribed to Jesus; according to Meyer, the body of Christ was not yet glorified; as according to Lücke, who, in opposition to Olshausen (who distinguishes between the docetic and glorified body), remarks that a something intermediate betwixt the ethereal consistency of angels and material, corporeal solidity is to him inconceivable. Nevertheless, the idea of the body as dynamically transformed into the pure organ of the spirit is everywhere established in the New Testament (see 1 Corinthians 15:49).

Peace unto you [Εἰρήνη ὑμῖν].—The customary greeting is here filled with the weight of the resurrection-message and all that proclamation of salvation therewith connected; at the same time it is a fulfilment of the promise, John 14:27. See Exeg. Notes there. [Ministers are messengers of peace.]

John 20:20. He showed unto them [Ἔδειξεν καὶ τὰς χεῖρας καὶ τὴν πλευρὰν αὐτοῖς].—See Luke 24:40. According to Meyer, a difference is constituted by the mention in that passage of the feet instead of the side.

John 20:21. As the Father hath sent Me [καθὼς�, κἀγὼ πέμπω ὑμᾶς].—Comp. Matthew 10:0; John 13:0; Matthew 16:19; chap. 18. The second εἰρήνη ὑμῖν solemn, more definitely proclamatory of the infinite import of the salutation,—not, however, a farewell-greeting, as Kuinoel and others have interpreted it.—Even so send I you [κἀγὼ πέμπω ὑμᾶς].—Analogy of dynamical authority. The Father now sends Him out of the kingdom of resurrection and reconciliation to them; so likewise the Son sends them out of this kingdom to the world. That therewith their reinstitution into office is simultaneously expressed, in connection with an amplification of that office (henceforth they are witnesses for the Crucified and Risen One), is obvious, in accordance with the stronger analogy of John 21:15 ff. But as at the first bestowal of apostolic dignity, Peter took precedence of the others, so now the general restitution of the whole body precedes a more explicit restitution of Peter. Comp. John 17:18.

John 20:22. He breathed on them [καὶ τοῦτο εἰπὼν ἐνεφύσησεν καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς. The verb ἐμφυσάω occurs in the N. T. only here, but is used in the Sept. to express the act of God in the original infusion of the spirit of life into man (Genesis 2:7 : ἐνεφύσησεν εἰς τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ πνοὴν ζωῆς, καὶ ἐγένετο ὁ ἄνθρωπος εἰς ψυχὴν ζῶσαν). “This act is now by God incarnate repeated, sacramentally, representing the infusion of the new life, of which He is become by His glorified Humanity the source to His members: see Job 33:4; Psalms 33:6; 1 Corinthians 15:45” (Alford).—P. S.] Different interpretations:

1. Simply the prophetico-symbolical heralding of the Holy Ghost (Theod. Mopsueste, Bullinger, Lampe, etc.). This view is contradicted by: a. the act, b. the Aorist Imperative λάβετε, c. the remark that in this case the act were but a repetition of the promise contained in the farewell-discourses.

2. It is the gratia ministerialis, rather than the former gratia sanctificationis, not, however, as yet, the pentecostal communication or gratia χαρισματική (Theophylact, Maldonat and others).

3. It is holy spirit (πνεῦμα ἅ γιον, without the article), but not yet the Holy Spirit, nor yet the Spirit of the new birth, of the world-mighty Jesus (Hofmann and Luthardt [also Gess]; see thereupon Tholuck and Meyer).

4. It is a quantitative, precursive communication of the Spirit, in accordance with Christ’s not yet perfected state of glorification (Origen, Calvin, Neander, Stier, Tholuck. Meyer: A veritable ἀπαρχή of the Holy Ghost). [Similarly Bengel (arrha pentecostes), Brückner, Hengstenberg, Godet, Ewald, Alford. The full communication of the Holy Spirit did not take place before the day of Pentecost, comp. John 7:39; John 16:7; Acts 2:0.—P.S.])

We have to consider on the one hand the afflation, and on the other hand the design of this bestowal of the Spirit. The afflation is an afflatus with the new life of the resurrection, and so the symbol, as the commencement, of the communication of His resurrection-life, i. e. life in His Holy Spirit. The degree of this communication, however, is determined in accordance with their present need; they must even now have power to gather the Resurrection-Church and to distinguish it from the world, in like manner as it, as the substratum of the people’s Church shortly to be established, is to be thoroughly distinguished from the Israelitish Church. In respect of this consideration, this gratia is doubtless specially ministerialis. They have not yet the gift of communicating the Holy Ghost, but they do possess that of discerning the Holy Spirit when already communicated.

John 20:23. Whose sins ye remit [ἄν τινων�].—By proclaiming and promising to them forgiveness while ye receive them into your fellowship.—They are (have been) remitted unto them [ἀφέωνταιαὐτοῖς].—See Text. Notes. Meyer’s antithesis: “They become (will be) remitted (according to the reading ἀφίενται) and they are (have been) retained (κεκράτηνται),23 is to be refuted first by the Codd. which read ἀφέωνται [perf. pass.=ἀφεῖνται.—P. S.], secondly by the exegetical demand that the two terms should form a parallel. Their remitting of sin and. retaining of sin will, as a prophetically ministerial act, rest upon corresponding acts of God, already accomplished in the Spirit,—not, however, have these acts as a result or, still less, effectuate them. They will be influenced in these acts by Christ; they will not influence Him.24 The term, remit sins [ἀφιέναι], is akin to the term, loose [λὐειν], Matthew 16:19; the term, retain [κρατεῖν], or retain together, is akin to the term, bind [δέειν]. See Comm. on Matthew at the passage designated, note (Leben Jesu, II., p. 889). The Lord does here but invert the expression, thereby indicating the now decided, New Testament stand-point, in which redemption [loosing], forgiveness, advances into the foreground. Here, then, as in those other passages, Matthew 16:19; Matthew 18:18, it is the potestas clavium in its broader sense, not merely, in accordance with the Heidelberg Catechism, the preaching of the holy Gospel and Christian penitential discipline (if it were confined to these, the latter branch would have to be considered as having reference also to reception into the Church: open the kingdom of heaven to believers), but in a still more extended sense in accordance with the Artic. Smalc.: Mandatum docendi evangelium, remittendi peccata, administrandi sacramenta, præterea mandatum excommunicandi; in which summing up the second and fourth items should really be regarded as expressed in the third: administrandi sacramenta. In reality the stations of the potestas are these: 1. The preaching of the gospel; 2. establishment of the preliminary conditions of reception; 3. reception into the Church; 4. penitential discipline in the real sense of the term. In a narrower sense it is undoubtedly the potestas of reception through baptism and of reception through repentance and absolution, together with the potestas of the opposite denial of reception, or exclusion. The symbolic prefiguration of the administration of the Church by the administration of the keys of the house of David, Isaiah 22:22, is, in consciously symbolic terms, continued in the Revelation (John 3:7). See Tholuck, p. 441 ff.; Julius Müller, Deutsche Zeitschrift, 1852, p. 55 [on the power of the keys, in an essay on the Divine Institution of the Ministry, reprinted in Müller’s Dogmatische Abhandlungen (1870), p. 496 ff.—P. S.].


1. Christ, the Risen One, first appeared unto individual souls, then to the congregation of the faithful. We find a repetition of this in the history of the Church.

2. The night of Christmas, the darkness of Good Friday, the evening of the Supper, the first Easter evening; glorious hours of the ever brighter shining of the Dayspring from on high (Luke 1:79). At evening time it shall be light, Zechariah 14:7.

3. How Christ, as the Risen One, bursts though, the fear of the company of disciples: (1) the fear of the Jews; (2) the fear of His own ghost-like apparition; (3) the fear of the whole world (John 20:21); (4) the fear of the power of sin and guilt (John 20:23); (5) the fear of the terrors of judgment (“whosoesoever sins ye retain,” etc.).

4. The first Easter Church in its changing forms: a. a Church of secret, fugitive disciples, b. a Church of festive, glad believers, c. a Church of anointed and commissioned apostles.

5. How Christ cometh into the midst of His people: (1) in spite of closed doors: (2) with the salutation of peace; (3) with the firstling gift of the Spirit; (4) with the commission of the apostolic embassy; (5) with the bestowal of apostolic plenipotence.

6. The entrance of Jesus whilst the doors were shut, an evidence of His higher, glorified corporeality.

7. The peace-greeting, or the transformation of the every-day formula of salutation into the loveliest, richest Evangel by the mouth of Christ.

8. The mission of the disciples from Christ measured in accordance with the mission of Christ from the Father.

9. The first gift of the Spirit, or how, in the Easter feast of Christ, the last shadows of Good-Friday (fear of the Jews) come in contact with the first light of Pentecost (He breathed on them).

10. The inseparable connection of apostolic plenipotence with the apostolic embassy. See Matthew 16:10; John 18:18.

[11. Forgiveness of sins the fruit of the resurrection (and death of Christ). The triumph over death is also a triumph over sin—the cause of death.—P. S.]


See Commentary on Mark, p. 163 f., Luke, p. 398 f. The Doct. Notes.

Quasi modo geniti: or Christ the First-born from the dead, Colossians 1:18.—The transformation of the apostles’ fear of the Jews into the loftiest feeling of triumph over the whole world (John 20:21).—How all things ensue from the peace of the Risen One: 1. The joy, the mirth of the disciples; 2. spiritual life; 3. the evangelic mission; 4. apostolic spiritual severity and clemency in the administration of the Gospel.—When the doors are shut to the world, then are they (in the highest sense) open to the Lord.—The union of familiarity and majesty in the first manifestation of the Risen One in the Church.—The first great fulfilment of the promise, Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.—The day of Christ’s heavenly birth from the dead, a birthday of all Christian blessings: 1. Of peace and joy in believing; 2. of Sunday and the feast-days (for now, for the first time, do the remaining festivals receive their true signification); 3. of religious worship (cultus), and of rest from labor, in the Spirit; 4. of the apostolic mission, and of preaching; 5. of New Testament discipline and social consecration.—The life-breath of Christ, the true mission to the world.—The judicial sentence of the apostolic Church: 1. In respect of its divine institution; 2. in respect of its historical obscuration; 3. in respect of its eternal import.—Or: 1. As a sacred power; 2. as an accountable right; 3. as a solemn duty.—The great word: Sent from Christ as Christ from the Father.

Starke: The experience of an afflicted and tempted person may be very different in the evening from what it was in the morning.—The lying in wait of the wicked must conduce to the best interests of the godly, in this respect also, viz. that the godly refrain themselves from them, and hence are not led away by intercourse with them, nor condemned with them.—Zeisius: What a precious and unspeakable fruit of the merit and resurrection of Christ, is peace with God in the conscience!—Yea, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost are two particular, precious fruits of the resurrection of Jesus and of His spiritual kingdom.—Hall: When Christ, the Morning Star, riseth upon the soul and discovereth Himself unto it, nothing but joy can spring up.—Zeisius: So soon as Christ rose from the dead, He instituted the office of the ministry: of what exceeding importance then must this office be.—Hall: He who desires that Christ should entrust to him the great embassy of His Gospel must likewise first receive His Spirit.—A testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ, for the Holy Ghost is God, and therefore no one can give that Holy Ghost who is not himself God, John 15:20.—In the evening and at night Jesus did take in hand many momentous things for our sake: He was born in the night, He suffered Himself to be taken prisoner in the night, He instituted the Lord’s Supper in the night, and in the evening, when He was risen from the dead, He instituted the ministry of the New Testament. If we pondered these things every evening, we should make a holier use of the evening hours, and not perform so many works of darkness in the night!

Braune: In so far as we are sinful, Christ is sent unto us from the Father, but in so far as we are redeemed, we are sent, as His witnesses, unto others, that we may be co-laborers, not in our, but in His work. Amid the consciousness of our weakness and frailty, we should hold fast the sense of the loftiness of our calling as redeemed ones, and by the former feeling be but the more impelled to suffer ourselves to be redeemed and reconciled to God, to the end that the latter feeling may become true and strong; whoso but suffereth himself to be redeemed will draw others also into this beatific fellowship.—“He breathes on them;” like a friend’s breath upon the cheek, shall the Holy Spirit of God come unto man’s spirit.—Unto sanctified [consecrated] personalities the Redeemer commits the forgiveness of sins; these commissioned ones are a terror and vexation to the wicked, but friends to the good. That which the Redeemer here says concerning the remitting and retaining of sins may be compared with what He says of loosing and binding for the Kingdom of Heaven, Matthew 16:19; Matthew 18:18.—Sanctified [consecrated] personalities are, as St. Paul says of the Gospel, 2 Corinthians 2:16, unto some a savor of life unto life, unto others a savor of death unto death.

Gossner: He, therefore, who is sent from Christ, who is Christ’s messenger, must needs have received the peace of Christ, which is higher than all reason, must likewise needs have received the Spirit of Christ, and this seal of the Spirit and of peace must give evidence of itself in him by the devolving of peace and anointing from him to others again, by others being filled and anointed therewith. All this is contained in that little word as.—But when ministers make their appearance who have nothing to recommend them save that they are puffed up by the spirit of this world, what will they accomplish? They will puff up others also with the same spirit of the world.

Heubner: In the evening. H. Müller, Herzenssp. p. John 241: The Saviour will visit us in the evening. When the sun of the world hath set in our heart, the Sun of Righteousness ariseth.—Christians have often enough been obliged to assemble in secret; the Waldenses, for example, the Moravians, the Reformed in France, and others.—If Jesus come not into the assembly of Christians, it is cold, heartless, unfruitful.—Christ’s peace-greeting was the spoil of victory—spoil which He won by death and resurrection.—Whoso hath followed Christ unto Golgotha, to him doth He shout His word of peace.—Augustine; Cicatrices tituli gloriarum.—Crucifixion and resurrection are inseparable—one is incomplete without the other. This is the sum of Christianity.—The disciples were glad; Behold the power of the appearing, the peace, of Jesus. From His peace comes joy.—Peace is indispensable to the mission of Jesus. A man must have Jesus’ peace in his own heart if he would be a messenger of peace to others; he must first be redeemed himself, if he would preach redemption to others. Luther, in the postil to Quasimodog. Sunday, XI. 1040, writes this to all true Christians, after applying it to the Apostles and the ministry; they can meet these requisites, not by their own strength, but in Christ’s name, in the might of the Holy Ghost.—Schleiermacher, Pred. iii. p. 563.—Couard, ii. p. 326.—Marheineke, ii. p. 45.

[Craven: From Augustine: John 20:19. If thou comprehendest the mode [of entering] it is no miracle: when reason fails, then is faith edified.

John 20:20. The nails had pierced His hands, the lance had pierced His side. For the healing of doubting hearts, the marks of the wounds were still preserved.——From Chrysostom: John 20:21. He shows the efficacy of the cross, by which He undoes all evil things, and gives all good things; which is peace.—To the women above there was announced joy; for that sex was in sorrow, and had received the curse.——From Gregory: John 20:21. I love you, now that I send you to persecution, with the same love wherewith My Father loved Me, when He sent Me to My sufferings.

John 20:23. The disciples who were called to such works of humility, to what a height of glory are they led! Lo, not only have they salvation for themselves, but are admitted to the powers of the supreme Judgment-seat.——From Bede: John 20:21. A repetition is a confirmation: whether He repeats it because the grace of love is two-fold, or because He it is who made of twain one.

[From Burkitt: John 20:19. It has been no strange thing in the Church, that the best members of it have been put to frequent their assemblies with great fear, and been forced to meet in the night with great caution, because of the fury of the persecutors.—Let Christ’s disciples meet together never so privately, and with never so much hazard and jeopardy, they shall have Christ’s company with them.

John 20:21. The repetition of, Peace be unto you, was not more than needful to signify His firm reconciliation to the disciples, notwithstanding their late cowardice in forsaking Him.—As My Father hath sent Me, so send I you; By the same authority, and for the same ends, in part; namely, to gather, govern, and instruct My Church.

John 20:22. He breathed on them, and said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost; When Christ sends forth any about His work, He will furnish them with endowments answerable to their vast employment; and the best furniture they can have, is the Holy Spirit in His gifts and qualifications suitable to their work.

John 20:23. There is a twofold power of remitting sins; the one magisterial and authoritative; this belongs to Christ alone: the other ministerial and declarative; this belongs to Christ’s ambassadors.—“Christ first conferred the Holy Ghost upon His apostles, and then said, Whose sins ye remit, they are remitted. Thereby intimating that it is not they, but the Holy Ghost by them, that puts away sin; For who can forgive sin, but God only?” (Augustine). The power of forgiving sin, that man hath, is only to declare that if men be truly and really penitent, their sins are forgiven them for the sake of Christ’s satisfaction.

[From M. Henry: John 20:19. The disciples of Christ, even in difficult times, must not forsake the assembling of themselves together, Hebrews 10:25.—It is a comfort to Christ’s disciples, when their solemn assemblies are reduced to privacy, that no doors can shut out Christ’s presence from them.—His speaking peace, makes peace, peace with God, peace in your own consciences, peace with one another; all this peace be with you; not peace with the world, but peace in Christ.

John 20:20. Conquerors glory in the marks of their wounds.—Christ’s wounds were to speak on earth, that it was He Himself, and therefore He rose with them; they were to speak in heaven, in the intercession He must ever live to make, and therefore He ascended with them, and appeared in the midst of the throne, a Lamb as it had been slain, and bleeding afresh, Revelation 5:6. Nay, it should seem, He will come again with His scars, that they may look on Him whom they pierced.—When Christ manifests His love to believers by the comforts of His Spirit, assures them that because He lives, they shall live also, then He shows them His hands and His side.—A sight of Christ will gladden the heart of a disciple at any time; the more we see of Christ, the more we shall rejoice in Him; and our joy will never be perfect till we come there where we shall see Him as He is.

John 20:21. Christ was now sending the disciples to publish peace to the world (Isaiah 52:7); and He here not only confers it upon them for their own satisfaction, but commits it to them as a trust to be by them transmitted to all the sons of peace, Luke 10:5-6.—He sent them authorized with a divine warrant, armed with a divine power; sent them as ambassadors to treat of peace, and as heralds to proclaim it; sent them as servants to bid to the marriage:—hence they were called Apostles—men sent.

John 20:22. What Christ gives, we must receive, must submit ourselves and our whole souls to the quickening, sanctifying influences of the blessed Spirit; receive His motions, and comply with them; receive His powers, and make use of them; and they who thus obey His word as a precept, shall have the benefit of it as a promise; they shall receive the Holy Spirit as the guide of their way, and the earnest of their inheritance.

John 20:23. Two ways the apostles and ministers of Christ remit and retain sin, and both as having authority: 1. By sound doctrine; 2. By a strict discipline, applying the general rule of the gospel to particular persons.

[From A Plain Commentary (Oxford): John 20:19. Peace be unto you! Can we forget that this was the salutation of Shiloh (that is, “Peace”), even “the Prince of Peace” Himself? of Him who is delared to be “our Peace:” who bequeathed His peace to the disciples; and promised that Peace should be their abiding portion; and directed them to salute with “Peace” every house into which they entered. Peace was the subject of the angels’ carol on the night of the Lord’s nativity: behold, Peace is the first word He pronounces in the hearing of His disciples now that He is risen from death.

John 20:22. O most solemn and mysterious incident, as well as most solemn and prevailing words! The action of our Saviour here described may have shown emblematically (as Augustine suggests) that the Holy Ghost proceedeth from the Son. It may further have served to show that this was He by the breath of whose mouth all the hosts of heaven were made; and especially (as Cyril supposes), that Christ was the same who, after creating man in the beginning, “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul.” But more than that is here intended. For it is to be thought that, at the time of man’s creation, “together with his soul, or the principle of his natural life, he received also the grace of the Holy Spirit as a principle of the Divine Life to which he was also designed.” (Bishop Bull). That is, the soul of man received from the very first “the peculiar impress of the Holy Spirit super-added,” as Clement of Alexandria writes. And Basil, expressly comparing the Divine insufflation upon Adam with that of Christ upon the Apostles, tells us that it was the same Son of God “by whom God gave the insufflation: then indeed, together with the soul, but now, into the soul.” Eusebius is even more explicit. “The Lord” (he says), “renews mankind. That grace which man enjoyed at first, because God breathed into his nostrils,—that same grace did Christ restore when He breathed into the face of the Apostles, and said, Receive the Holy Ghost.”—At the first institution of certain mysteries of the Faith, there was not wanting the outward emblem of an inward grace; which grace was afterwards conveyed without any such visible demonstration. Thus, at the Baptism of Christ, “the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him.” And now, at the ordination of His Apostles, our Lord is found to have “breathed into” their faces, when He would convey to them the gift of the same Blessed Spirit.

From Barnes: John 20:19. True Christians will love to meet together for worship; nothing will prevent this.

John 20:21. As My Father hath sent Me; As God sent Me to preach, to be persecuted, and to suffer; to make known His will, and to offer pardon to men; so I send you.——From Jacobus: John 20:19. Glad; So He had promised to them (John 16:20), “Your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”]


John 20:19; John 20:19.—Συνηγμένοι [assembled: text. rec. with E.G. K. L. Vulg.] is omitted in accordance with א. A.B.D., etc. Lachmann, Tischendorf. An exegetical addition. [Treg., Alf., Westc. likewise omit it.]

John 20:20; John 20:20.—[The text. rec. omits the καί before τὰς χεῖρας with א. D.; but Lachm., Tischend. (in former edd., not in Exodus 8:0), Treg., Alf., Westc. retain it with A. B. Syr.—P. S.]

John 20:21; John 20:21.—[ὁ ’Ιησῦς is omitted by א. D. L. X., Treg., Tischend.; bracketed by Alford and Westcott; retained by Lachmann and Lange with A. B.—P. S.]

John 20:22; John 20:22—[The absence of the article before πνεῦμα may indicate the partial or preparatory inspiration, as distinct from the pentecostal effusion. See the Exeg.—P. S.]

John 20:23; John 20:23.—The reading ἀφέωνται in accordance with A. D. L. O. X., Lachmann—in opposition to the reading ἀφίενται, B. E. G. K„ etc., Tischendorf. On ἀφέωνται instead of ἀφεῖνται, see Winer, p. 91. [Tischend. ed, 8, Treg., Westc. and H. read ἀφέωνται, Alford ἀφίενται. ἀφιέωνται. is also found Matthew 9:2; Matthew 9:5; Mark 2:5; Luke 5:20; Luke 5:23; Luk 7:47; 1 John 2:12. The old grammarians differ as to this form, some declaring it to be identical with ἀφῶνται. (as Homer has ἀφέη for ἀφῆ, others regarding it as the perf. pass, ἀφεῖνται. Winer adopts the latter view, Gr. p. 77, Exodus 7:0. The bearing of this reading on the sense is important; see the Exeg.—P. S.]

[23][Similarly Bengel: ἀφίενται— κεκράτηνται, remittuntur— retenta sunt: illud, præsens; hoc præterilum. Mundus Est sub peccato.)

[24][An important remark. Ministerial acts are not creative but declarative of the preceding acts of Christ and the Holly Spirit. Dean Alford remarks in loc, that ministers have the power of the keys “not by successive delegation from the Apostles,—of which fiction I find in the New Testament no trace” (—the italics are Alford’s—), “but by their mission from Christ, the Bestower of the Spirit, for their office when orderly and legitimately coferred upon them by the various Churches. Not however to them exclusively,—though for decency and order it is expedient that the outward and formal declaration should be so:—but in proportion as any disciple shall have been filled with the Holy Spirit of wisdom, is the inner discernment, the κρισις, his.”—P. S.]

Verses 30-31

Design Of The Gospels Facts. Testimony Concerning Christ, And Life In His Name

John 20:30-31

30And [moreover]34 many other signs truly35 did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31But these are [have been] written, that ye might [may] believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might [may] have life36 through [in] his name.


According to Lücke, De Wette, Meyer, John here closes his entire book, and chap. 21 is an appendix. In our opinion, he here concludes the history of the Passion and Resurrection, insomuch as that history was designed to perfect the faith of the disciples—just as John 12:37, he evidently closes the history of the public prophetic ministry of Jesus; as John 1:18, He manifestly closes the Prologue, and, similarly, John 21:24 the Epilogue. These different concluding formulas betoken a construction of the Gospel so well organized and thoroughly digested, that in view thereof, the conception which regards the verses under consideration as forming a conclusion to the entire Gospel must appear a too external conception of our Gospel.

[John 20:30. It is a question how the expression: πολλὰ καὶ ἄλλα σημεῖα, etc., should be interpreted. The word has been referred to resurrection signs, signs in attestation of the resurrection, by Chrysost., Theophylact, etc., Kuinoel, Lücke, Olshausen, etc. Against this view it is remarked by Meyer and others: (1) The term σημεῖα is too general to support such an interpretation. The verse, however, does not touch upon the great mass of the σημεῖα, but upon such as were done by Jesus in the presence of His disciples, in the circle of the eleven in particular; τεκμήρια, Acts 1:3. (2) Πολλὰ καὶ ἄλλα is alleged to be contradictory to this interpretation; Christ, according to the Gospel as well as according to 1 Corinthians 15:0., having appeared a few times only. But the words are not spoken of the appearances in themselves, but of the σημεῖα which occurred on the occasion of these appearances. To these σημεῖα, then, there must be reckoned His making of Himself known to Thomas by means of a miracle of knowledge, to Mary through the word of recognition: Mary. But besides these signs, recorded by St. John, yet others must be added to the list, viz.: His making of Himself known to the Emmaus disciples through the breaking of bread; to Peter, as to James, in a mode with which we are unacquainted; to the five hundred brethren in Galilee, by a majesty of sudden appearance which threw many of them upon their knees; to the disciples on the Mount of Olives, by His ascension; to Paul, by His manifestation from heaven. These instances certainly might justify the expression of the Evangelist; (3) however, ἐποίησεν is said to contradict this view. Tholuck remarks that this term cannot be used concerning appearances. It may, however, be applied to manifestations of miraculous knowledge, of celestial might, of divine Providence, which manifestations accompanied every appearance. Then (4) this view is said to be disfavored by the expression: ἐν τῷ βιβλ. τούτῳ, these words being alleged to prove that John has in view the contents of his entire Gospel. Since, however, the Evangelist is speaking of resurrection-signs, he has reference to that part of the book which contains statements relative to the resurrection.

So early a commentator as Euthymius introduced the other explanation of the σημεῖα (see Lücke, 802). He first interprets them correctly, as significant of the resurrection-signs, but then states that the word may also be generally construed, as signifying the whole mass of the wonderful signs of Christ, previous and subsequent to the resurrection. And thus do Jansen, Wolf, Bengel, Lampe, Tholuck, etc. (see Meyer, 661) now interpret the term. [So also Hengstenberg, Godet, Alford: Miracles in the most general sense, by which Jesus proved His Messiahship.—P. S.] This interpretation is contradicted by (1) The circumstance that John has already submitted his resume relative to the earlier signs, John 12:37; (2) the fact that he is here speaking of signs done by the Risen One in the presence of the disciples;—objections irrespective of the necessity involved by this interpretation, for regarding chap. 21 as a foreign addition or clumsily adjusted appendix, and this in the absence of otherwise sufficient grounds.

John 20:31. But these have been written [ταῦτα δὲ γεγραμμένα ἵνα, κ. τ. λ.].—These signs—namely, these manifestations of the δόξα of Christ. According to Tholuck and Meyer, the selections from the miracles performed by Jesus presented throughout the entire Gospel. Against this view, see the preceding Exeg. Note. Be it also observed that this Gospel was not written for the purpose of converting to the faith those who were not yet believers (Hilgenfeld), but with a view to confirming believing Christians in the faith. Hence, also, the expression πιστεύσητε is to be taken emphatically, like the exhortation to believe addressed to Thomas, and the chief emphasis lies upon: καὶ ἵνα πιστεύοντες, etc. They are to be confirmed in their faith in Christ by faith in the resurrection, and in that faith have perfect life. [Alford: “The mere miracle-faith, so often reproved by our Lord, is not that intended here. This is faith in Himself, as the Christ the Son of God; and the Evangelist means that enough is related in this book to be a ground for such a faith, by showing us His glory manifested forth.—P. S.]

The Christ, the Son of God. Both in the fullest meaning of the words, in accordance with the Prologue.

May have life in His name [ζωὴν ἔχητε ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι αὐτοῦ].—Entire, perfect life in the name perfected through the resurrection.

[The ὄνομα, the revealed being of Christ, divine essence in human form, is the object of faith, and the ground of the ζωή. The Gospel of John has indeed a tendency, but not such an one as the Tübingen School ascribes to it. Its tendency is the aim of all sound preaching and theological writing, namely, by the faithful exhibition of truth to produce and to strengthen faith in Christ, and thus to lead men to the possession of the true life which is identical with true happiness. To John, his task as an historian was the same with his task as an apostle—salvation in Christ.—P. S.].


1. Here, as well as John 21:25, the Evangelist has made a distinct deliverance concerning the principle of his evangelical historiography,—particularly of his presentation of the resurrection-history. His great anxiety was not to write down everything that he knew about Jesus; his aim was, rather, in a selection of significant facts to present his view of the glory of Christ, in order to the quickening, revival, and increase of faith in Christian readers, but especially in order to the furtherance of the full vitality and life-certitude of faith in the ideal knowledge (the name) of Christ.

The same is true, although not in the same degree, of the Synoptists. This is the character of religious, particularly of the evangelical, objective-subjective historiography; it is the first task of modern Gospel criticism to rise to an appreciation of this character. The atomistic conception of chroniclers, book-makers, transcribers, supplemented, human-tendency writers does not reach up to the christological idea of the Evangelist.
2. That ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. This they did already believe, and yet they must believe it now more fully than over. A peculiar emphasis, however, rests upon the following: And that, believing [or, as believers], ye may have life in His name. The name of Christ in believers is the full, clear, ideal contemplation of Christ in lively knowledge; therewith the full truth, certainty, vigor, and blessedness of the new life is given.

3. That which John says of his own writings is true of all the Gospels. Their authors, therefore, are indeed tendency writers, but of a divine tendency, entirely opposed to the human, fraudulous, manifoldly egotistic tendencies which the Tubingen critics have dared impute to them, or, what is still worse, to the Holy Ghost who guided them.

4. The remark of John is in the broadest sense characteristic of Holy Scripture in general. It has a religious purpose, and is therefore written from a religious impulse, in a religious spirit, under the guidance of the Spirit of God. All the religious truth of Holy Writ, however, aims at the truth of God in Christ. Christ the marrow and star of Holy Scripture.


The many signs of Jesus in His showings after the resurrection also.—The immeasurable fulness of the life of Jesus.—The simple presentation of the same in speaking signs.—The unity and-diversity of the four evangelic portraits of Jesus.—In particular, of the Risen One.—Portrait of the Risen One by the hand of John.—Purpose of this resurrection-history.—Of this Gospel.—of the four Evangelists.—Of the whole of Sacred Writ,—How one must read the Holy Scriptures in the same spirit in which they are written.—How perseveringly and devoutly? Until faith has become perfect life in a clear knowledge of Christ.—How many sluggishly stand still in the beginnings of faith, without pressing onward to the full vital consciousness of a certain knowledge. We are to have life in Christ’s name.

Starke: The Holy Scriptures are not imperfect, but perfect unto salvation in all things pertaining to faith and life, 2 Timothy 3:16-17.—Zeisius: Learn here whereunto the Holy Scriptures (the’ greatest treasure upon earth) are given us by God,—namely, that from them we may learn to believe and be saved.

[Craven: From Chrysostom: John 20:31. And that believing ye might have life through His name, i.e. through Jesus, who is Life.—From Burkitt: John 20:31. The great point concerning Christ, to be known and believed from the Scriptures, is this, that Jesus, the Son of the Virgin, is the promised Messiah, the Anointed of the Father, He in whom all the types and shadows of the law are accomplished; and that this Jesus is for nature co-essential, for dignity co-equal, and for duration co-eternal with the Father; one in essence, equal in power and glory. Thus believing that Jesus is the Son of God, and accompanying that belief with a holy life, if we believe well, and live well, we shall have life through His name.—From M. Henry: John 20:31. The duty of those that read and hear the Gospel: to believe, to embrace the doctrine of Christ, and that record given concerning Him, 1 John 5:11.—The great gospel-blessedness which we are to hope for—That believing we shall have life through His name.

[From A Plain Commentary (Oxford): John 20:31. “It is the real Incarnation of the Eternal Word,—the actual coming in the flesh of the Son of God, born, dead, and risen for our salvation,—which is the sole basis of our religion. This great fact, and not any particular proposition concerning it, in the totality of its objective character, and in the consequent totality of its applicable virtue and influence; this is the real Article of a standing or falling Church.” (Dr. W. H. Mill.)]

[From Owen: John 20:31. In His name; “Eternal life is obtained by believers in virtue of Him, upon the claim established by Him in whom they believe.” (Webster and Wilkinson.) ]


John 20:30; John 20:30.—[μὲν οὑ̓ν—quidem igitur, yea and, or moreover. Lange, nun auch. The meaning is, to guard against taking this Gospel as a complete account of the signs of Jesus.—P. S.]

John 20:30; John 20:30.—[Truly is intended to give the force of καί after πολλά and before ἁ̔λλα=et quidem alia, and indeed many other signs.—P. S.]

John 20:31; John 20:31.—The addition αἰώνιον after ζωήν in C*D. L. Sin., etc., not satisfactorily established. [A. B. C, X., etc., Vulg. Syr. Cyr., etc., omit αἰώνιον, read ζωήν without αἰώνιον, and so do Tischend., Alf., Treg., Westc. Its insertion from other passages is more easily accounted for than its omission.—P. S.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on John 20". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.