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Bible Commentaries
John 21

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

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Verses 1-14



John 21:0.



John 21:1-14.

1     After these things Jesus1 shewed [he manifested] himself again to the disciples at the sea [lake] of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself [and he manifested himself in this manner]. 2There were together Simon’ Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other 3[others] of his disciples. Simon Peter saith unto them, I go [ὑπάγω] a fishing. They say unto him, We also go [come, ἐρχόμεθα] with thee. They went forth, and entered into a [the, τό] ship immediately [omit immediately]2; and [in] that night they caught nothing. 4But when the morning was now come [when the morning was already coming on, πρωΐας δὲ ἤδη γενομένης3 Jesus stood on4 the shore; but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. 5Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat [any fish, or, anything to eat, προσφάγιον]? They answered him, No. 6And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall [will] find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of [the, τῶν] fishes. 7Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, [girded on his outer garment], (for he was naked,) and did cast [threw] himself into the sea [lake]. 8And the other disciples came in a little ship [in the boat, τῷ πλοιαρίω], (for they were not far from land, but as it were 9 [only about] two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with [the] fishes. As soon then as they were come to land [or, went on shore], they saw [see, βλέπουσιν] a fire of coals there, and fish laid [lying, ἐπικείμενον] thereon, and bread. 10Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. 11Simon Peter went up [on board], and drew the net to land5 full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken [the net was not broken, or, rent].

12Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine [breakfast, ἀρισήσατε]6 And7 none of 13 the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then cometh, and taketh [the] bread, and giveth them, and [the] fish likewise. 14This is now the third time that Jesus shewed [manifested] himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.


On the genuineness of Chap, 21., see the Introduction, p. 31. Along with the genuineness, we maintain the organic appertinency of the chapter to the entire Gospel, in antithesis to the view which debases it to an appendix. See the Introduction, p. 46; Leben Jesu, 3, p. 752. In respect to the discussions on the subject, see Lücke II., p. 805; Meyer [p. 662 ff.];8 Tholuck, p. 445 and others.

[The last chapter is generally regarded as a mere Appendix. Dr. Lange views it as the Epilogue which corresponds to the Prologue, (John 1:1-18), and presents, in typical outline, the post-resurrection history of Christ, His perpetual, spiritual presence in, and guidance of, the Church; as the Prologue presents His history before the Incarnation, and the body of the Gospel, His earthly history. Lange’s exegetical and doctrinal commentary of this plain, unassuming, yet most significant chapter, is exceedingly rich and ingenious, and leaves but little room for additions. Dr. V. W. Krummacher, the prince of German pulpit orators, told me in Elberfeld, on Easter Monday, 1844, after delivering a magnificent discourse on John 21:1-14, that he had prepared no less than fifteen different sermons on this section, and had found it inexhaustible in homiletical wealth. The other sections are equally rich. Ch. 20. is the Gospel for Easter Sunday. Ch. 21 the Gospel for the Easter-Week, as irradiated by the Sun of the Resurrection. It is a picture of Christian life, and the life of the Church, with its contrasts and changes,—festive joy and hard work, poverty and abundance, failure and success, humility and loftiness, activity and rest, losing and finding the Lord, longing for Him and rejoicing in His presence.

On the genuineness of this chapter, I add the testimonies of an English and an American scholar. Canon Westcott (in his excellent Introduction to the Study of the Gospels, Boston ed., p. 258,) says: “This last chapter (21) of his Gospel is in every way a most remarkable testimony to the influence of St. John’s person and writings. Differences of language, no less than the abruptness of its introduction and its substance, seem to mark it clearly as an addition to the original narrative; and the universal concurrence of all outward evidence, no less certainly establishes its claim to a place in the canonical book. It is a ratification of the Gospel, and yet from the lips of him who wrote it; it allows time for the circulation of a wide-spread error, and yet corrects the error by the authoritative explanation of its origin. The testimony, though upon the extreme verge of the Apostolic period, yet falls within it, and the Apostle, in the consciousness (as it seems) of approaching death, confirms again his earlier record, and corrects the mistaken notion, which might have cast doubt upon the words of the Lord.” Ezra Abbott, in his and Hackett’s ed. of Smith’s Bibl. Dict., vol. II, p. 1430, note b., maintains, with the best German commentators, that the 21st ch. contains almost all the peculiarities of John’s style, and that the points of difference are insignificant, compared with the striking agreement. He adds: “On the supposition, however, that the Gospel is not genuine, this Appendix presents a problem which seems to admit of no reasonable solution. What motive could there have been for adding such a supplement to a spurious work after the middle of the second century? Was it needful, fifty years or more after the Apostle’s death, to correct a false report, that it was promised him that he should not die? Or what dogmatic purpose could this addition serve? And how is its minuteness of detail, and its extraordinary agreement in style with the rest of the Gospel to be explained? It may be said that it was designed to give credit to the forged Gospel, by a pretended attestation. But was the whole chapter needed for this? And what credit could a fictitious work of that period derive from an anonymous testimony? Had such been the object, moreover, how strange that the Apostle John should not be named as the author! The only plausible explanation, then, of John 21:24-25, seems to be, that they are an attestation of the trustworthiness of the Gospel, by those who first put it into general circulation—companions and friends of the author, and well known to those to whom it was communicated; and the only plausible account of the first 23 verses of the chapter is, that they are a supplementary addition [?], which proceeded directly from the pen, or substantially from the dictation of the author of the rest of the Gospel.” The Johannean origin of John 21:0 is denied or doubted by Grotius, Clericus, Hammond, Semler, Paulus, Lücke, De Wette, Credner, Bleek, Baur, Keim, Scholten, etc; defended by Wetstein, Lampe, Eichhorn, Kuinoel, Hug, Guericke, Tholuck, Schleiermacher, Olshausen, Luthardt, Ebrard, Hengstenberg, Godet, Alford, Westcott, Wordsworth, (who, in a long note, p. 362, maintains a view somewhat similar to that of Dr. Lange). The latest hypothesis brought, out by Prof. Cassel, (1871), is that John wrote the 21st chapter, and endorsed the rest, which was originally written by his brother James. The first is true, the last is a worthless fancy.]

[The only argument worth mentioning against the Johannean origin of chap. 21, is derived from a few rare and unimportant expressions, as ἔρχεσθαι σύν (John 21:3) for the usual Johannean ἀκολουθεῖν; πρωΐας γενομένης (4) for πρωΐ and ἐξατάζειν (12); φέρειν (18) for ἄγειν. But these peculiarties are natural and easily explained from the context, and are more than counterbalanced by the number of Johannean words and phrases, as μετά ταῦτα (John 21:1), ἡ θάλασσα τῆς Τιβεριάδος (1), ὀψάριον (9, 10, 13),παιδια. (5), μέντοι. (4), the double ἀμήν (18). Ναθαναήλ, (2) for Bartholomew, the form Θωμᾶς ὁ λεγόμενος Δίδυμος (2), Σίμων Πέτρος (2, 3, 7, 11, 15), ὁ μαθητὴς ὅν ἠγάπα ὁ Ἰησου•ς (7), as well as by the unanimous testimony of the manuscripts and ancient versions, which contain the whole chapter as an integral part of the Gospel. The only-question is as to John 21:24-25, whether they are likewise from John, or an attestation by the hand of his surviving pupils and friends. Lange regards also these last two verses as Johannean with the exception of the phrase: “And we know that his testimony is true.” They conclude the Epilogue, and correspond to the conclusion of the Prologue, John 1:18, and the conclusion of the main body of the Gospel, John 20:30; John 20:30.—P. S.]

John 21:1. After these things—[Μετὰ ταῦτα],—I.e., which, in Jerusalem, had already secured the confirmation of the disciples in the faith. [Several days must have elapsed since the last meeting, (John 20:26), for the disciples had in the meantime, according to the Lord’s direction, returned to Galilee. (Matthew 28:7; Matthew 28:10; Matthew 28:16; 1 Corinthians 15:6) Afterwards they again proceeded to Jerusalem, to witness the ascension from Mount Olivet, (Luke 24:50 ff.; Acts 1:1-12), and to be filled with the promised Spirit (Acts 2:0).—P. S.]

Jesus manifested Himself [ἐφανέρωσενἑαυτόν].—Is an indication of His higher manner of appearing intended? De Wette finds in the expression the indication of a ghostly existence;—Luthardt that of a moving in a sphere of the invisible; this, Meyer impugns. The ghostliness, of course, cannot exclude His bodiliness, nor can His invisibility exclude His power of appearing. Nevertheless, we believe that something is meant here, other than the higher manner of appearing. In accordance with John’s method of using πάλιν, the word seems indicative, not of His third manifestation after the resurrection, but of a second new, higher manifestation of His glory at the Lake of Gennesareth, in contradistinction to that first manifestation of His glory at the same Lake, of which we have an account in chap. 6.

At the Lake of Tiberias [ἐπὶῆςθαλάσσης τῆς Τιβεριάδος]—The demonstrations of the Risen One still connect themselves with the old life-order of the disciples, especially the disciples in the wider sense. Agreeably to this order of life, from the Easter-feast [Passover] in Jerusalem they returned to Galilee, preparing themselves shortly afterwards for attendance upon the Feast of Pentecost. This old order of life, observed by the disciples, was, however, oh the point of being dissolved, inasmuch as they brought their festal journeys into harmony with the new interest. Accordingly, after the Paschal Feast, they remained yet a Sunday in Jerusalem, and returned thither a long while before the Pentecostal Feast. But for the intervening time, Jesus had appointed His principal meeting with the circle of disciples, in the broader sense of that term, in Galilee, and His promise was fulfilled according to Matthew 28:0; comp. 1 Corinthians 15:0. That meeting, however, was doubtless preceded by Jesus’ first manifestation in Galilee, at the lake, seven disciples being present. We find those busied again with their domestic trade; this circumstance points to the earliest period subsequent to their return home. They were, temporarily, without further occupation and instruction; they must wait for the Lord. The direction to tarry in Jerusalem (Luke 24:49) applies to the period following the ascension.

Now He manifested Himself on this wise [ἐφανέρωσενδὲ οὔτως],—In the following, stress is laid, not particularly upon Christ’s issuing forth from invisibility, but upon the miraculous manner in which He made Himself known to the Apostles, and communed with them.

John 21:2. There were together [ἧσας ὁμοῦ κ.τ. λ.. The witnesses of the Resurrection, the recipients of the Holy Ghost, returned to their humble work in Galilee, fishing together, probably for the last time! So festive joys and hard work alternate in the life of the Christian.—P. S.]—It is noteworthy that Thomas is here mentioned after Simon Peter, as the second disciple. Further we find Nathanael, or Bartholomew, and the two sons of Zebedee (John and James); together with these, two others of His disciples are enumerated without special designation. Our first inference would be, that these were Andrew, the brother of Peter, and Philip, the friend of Nathanael. From the circumstance that the disciples are not named, Meyer thinks fit to infer that they were disciples in the broader sense; John 21:1 seems to contradict this. John may have omitted the names of the two disciples for two reasons: 1. Because he would otherwise have been obliged to mention the sons of Zebedee by name, also; 2. Because, it was his desire, by speaking, at the close, of two disciples, to induce his readers to make the computation of the seven. Or is their anonymousness to serve the symbolical purpose of the Epilogue? Or was he unwilling, by naming the two, to give prominence to the four remaining ones, who had no part in this feast.? Something enigmatical still attaches to this anonymousness. Contemplative natures, such as John’s, are undoubtedly dreamily forgetful in certain moments and relations; it is, therefore, not necessary to infer the two nameless ones to have been disciples in the wider sense. Here only does he mention the sons of Zebedee together.

John 21:3. Simon Peter: I go a fishing [ὑπάγω ἁλιεύειν].—Peter is foremost in outside enterprises also. And thoroughly decided in his own mind, without asking others; I go.—We also go (come) with thee [ἐρχόμεθα καὶ ἡμεῖς σὺν σοί].—The expression of their cordial, friendly cleaving to him.

And in that night they caught nothing [καὶ ἐν ἐκείνη τῇ νυκτὶ ἐπίασαν οὐδέν].—The night season is the most favorable time for catching fish, Luke 5:5. Yet there were unsuccessful nights; such an one was this. [A symbol of the utter failure of the fishers of men without Christ, as John 21:6 illustrates their abundant success with Christ.—P. S.]

John 21:4. But when the morning had already dawned.—[According to the other reading, was about dawning. See Text. Note.—P. S.] It was the time of the dawning.—Jesus stood on the shore [ἔστη Ἰησ. εἰς τὸν αἰγιαλόν]—He had taken His station on the shore (εἰς). They saw the form standing on the shore without recognizing it. Comp. John 20:14; Luke 24:16.

John 21:5. Children.—Παιδία does not stand for the Johannean τεκνία (see John 13:33), not even in the sense of 1 John 2:13. Jesus, wishing in His character of the Unknown One to address the fishermen first as a stranger, speaks to them in the universal, familiar language of seafaring men, with the dignity, we may conjecture, of a superior: Young men! Boys! 2Ma 8:20; Nonnus, Euthym. Zigabenus; see Leben Jesu 2., p. 1712; Tholuck.

Have ye any relish? or, have ye anything to eat? [μή τι προσφάγιον ἔχετε].—Properly speaking, anything to eat with bread, προσφάγιον, [but especially fish, like the Attic ὄψον], namely, with their morning-bread, or breakfast.9 By the sea, fish were their usual προσφάγιον with their bread. According to Tholuck, [ they regard the questioner as some one wishing to purchase fish for his own breakfast. The j same is the opinion of Meyer; Jesus, on the other hand, takes for granted, as His last words I show us, that they have caught nothing, and intimates that if the contrary were the case He would not need to interpose. It is manifest, however, that the question is primarily intended i merely as an expression of human interest, and; for the introduction of what follows.

John 21:6. Cast the net on the right side of the ship [βάλετε εἰς τὰ δεξιὰ μέρη τοῦ πλοίου τὸ δίκτυον, καὶ εὑρήδετε].——Comp. Luke 5:4. There- the Lord commands! the disciples to launch out into the deep, here to cast the net on the right side of the ship, whence we might conclude that they had drawn the net after them on the other side, or, discouraged, had drawn it up out of the water with the intention of steering towards the shore.

No longer able to draw it up [οὐκέτι αὐτὸ ἑλκύσαι ἴσχυον].—To draw the net up over the water, or to themselves (ἑλκύειν)—a feat naturally more difficult than to drag it, closed, after them in the water itself (σύειν).

John 21:7. It is the Lord [Ὁ Κύριός ἐστιν]. John first recognizes Him, with the mind’s eye, by His manner of acting, and then, with the bodily ear, by His speech, as also, with the bodily glance, by His specific appearance.

Simon Peter then hearing that it was the Lord.—Again the characteristic picture of the two disciples, as in John 20:4 ff. Each disciple is in advance of the other; John with the swift drawing of love, the eagle-glance of recognition, Peter with the spirited, decided act.—For he was naked [ἧν γὰρ γυμνός].—This assertion does not operate to the exclusion of the loin-cloth, or a fisherman’s shirt, even. Reverence, however, commands him to put on the upper garment, ἐπενδύτης (מְעִיל), fisher’s frock; this was without sleeves; it extended to the knees and was worn over the χιτών. He girded the garment on account of his swimming, for it was in this manner he reached the land; Grotius and others make him walk upon the water as aforetime.

John 21:8. As it were two hundred cubits, or 300 feet=½ stadium.

John 21:9. They saw a fire of coals laid.—[Βλέπουσιν�].—The coal-fire was laid, broiling fish were spread thereon as a relish (ὀψάριον), and moreover they saw bread. For καὶ ἅρτον, we doubt not, is to be referred simply to βλέπουσιν. Mysterious preparation. Interpretations:

1. Brought forth out of nothing: Chrysostom, Theophylact, Grotius, Calov and others.
2. Prepared by the ministry of angels: Nice-phorus, Luthardt, etc.

3. Jesus either conveyed the meal thither Himself, or procured others to place it there: Meyer. Against this view, Tholuck: “Peter cannot have conveyed it thither, but neither can Jesus have procured it by means of others, if we must regard the perception of the Risen One not as an external, common, sensuous perception, but as conditioned by the inner sense” (?). Lücke: “A lack of clearness invests the miracle with an air of wild adventure.” But had not Jesus friends every where along the lake? Could He not appear to them, and, in a mysterious manner, arrange something similar to the making ready of the she-ass in Bethphage and of the furnished room in Jerusalem? To this day Christ often, through the medium of wonderful providences, cares thus for the maintenance of His people by operating influentially upon foreboding souls. Here, therefore, as the Master and Father of the house, He has provided a breakfast for them (and that not merely in a vision). Comp. Luke 24:30.

John 21:10. Bring of the fish.—[Ἐνέγκατε�].—Irrespective of the question whether the prepared repast is sufficient or not, they are commanded to add to it some of their own fish (which, however, they have caught in pursuance of His directions alone). Euthymius: In order to preserve the miraculous draught from all appearance of a φαντασὶα; Meyer: In order to the exigent completion of the meal. We think that it was likewise in order to the revelation of a new order of things. Here, as everywhere, the symbolical transparency of the story comes to light.

John 21:11. An hundred and fifty and three [ἑκατὸν πεντήκοντα τριῶν].—The Evangelist’s primary intention in reporting the number of the whole mass of great fishes was, manifestly, to render prominent the miraculousness of the fact that the net was nevertheless untorn. The trait that the number (153), as a number, is not symbolical, speaks very decidedly in favor of the historic truthfulness of the narrative in opposition to the assumption of its being a tradition (Strauss), or the work of an apocryphal narrator. The attempt has indeed been made to construe the number materially as a symbolical one. Ammonius: The number 100=the Gentiles, 50=the Jews, 3=the Trinity.10Jerome and Köstlin: Oppian counted 153 species offish, ergo the universality of species=the universality of the nations entering the net of the Gospel. “Which statement, as far as Oppian is concerned rests upon a mistake.” Recently, some one has even, conceived it to be his duty to work out the name: of Simon [son of] Jonas, by means of numerical allegory (Theol. Jahrb. 1854, p. 135). We do not consider the number as symbolical, but the numbering does appear to us in that light. The elect, who form the main element of the Church, are’ great and numbered fishes. And great and numerous as the elect of the congregated mass may be, they are not the ones who break the net Of the Church. It is the maxim of all the elect: first Christ, then the Church. John is moreover always fond of stating numbers; for instance, the 200 cubits, John 21:8; John 6:10, etc.

John 21:12. (But) none of the disciples durst ask Him [οὐδεὶς (δὲ) ἐτόλμα τῶν μαθητῶν ἐξετάσαι αὐτὸν Σὺ τίς εἶ; εἰδότες ὄτι ὁ Κύριός ἐστιν].—The ἐτόλμα is not pleonastic (Kuinoel), not expressive of velle (Lampe), or of a fear of doubt (Augustine and others), but of reverence, in connection with a quiet, blissful assurance in regard to the presence of Jesus (εἰδότες, etc.). [Comp. John 4:27.—P. S.]. What was so particularly new to them at this manifestation of the Risen One was the feature of His partaking of a meal with them once more, like a house-father, after having miraculously prepared it for them.

John 21:13. Jesus Cometh therefore [ἔρχεται Ιησοῦς].—As the disciples have been standing on this side of the coal fire, and have been called to approach by the Lord (δεῦτε, John 21:12), so the Lord has stood on the other side,—probably with that expression of reserve suitable t o the unknown person in whose character He wished first to meet them,—and now He advances nearer and more familiarly to them.

And taketh the bread [καὶ λαμβάνελ τὸν ἄρτον]—Why is the customary thanksgiving not mentioned? 1. Jesus wished to omit τὰ� (Euthymius). 2. Luthardt; The table-communion of Jesus with His people is a silent one in this æon. 3. Meyer: The Evangelist is not describing a regular repast, such as is spoken of, Luke 24:30, but a breakfast, that was partaken of standing. As it appears, it is also, however, the intention of Christ not to make Himself positively known as yet by the expression of the prayer of thanksgiving. And probably there is a symbolical reason for this. Peter who has denied Him, declaring that he knew Him not, must be made to recognize Him again, as the Anonymous One, by His conduct. At all events, the reserve of Jesus seems designed, by means of a continually increasing solemnity, to prepare the minds of the disciples for the ensuing act. Yet the manifestation has a purpose which touches the disciples in general; hence there follows a sort of conclusion, in order to the distinction of the general disciples meal from the conference with Peter, and that concerning Peter and John.

John 21:14. This third time now Jesus manifested himself [Τοῦτο ἤδη τρίτον ἐφανερώθη Ἰησ. τοῖς μαθηταῖς ἐγερθεὶς ἐκ νεκρῶν].—With these words John ranks the present manifestation of Jesus—as a more general one, allotted to the circle of disciples (incomplete though that was in numbers)—with the two manifestations recorded in chap. 20. Luthardt very properly remarks: “The appearings therein reported by John are by Paul summed up in εἶτα τοῖς δὠδεκα, 1 Corinthians 15:5;’.’ and only the well-known fear of harmonizing induces Meyer to maintain the existence of a difference which he decides in John’s favor. Manifestly, Paul has no interest in citing repeatedly those appearances of Jesus of which, the same persons were repeatedly spectators, intending, as he does, not to count the appearings of the Risen One, but to mention the witnesses as witnesses.

[Alford’s remarks on this section are in the line of Lange’s thoughts, and worthy of attention: “Without agreeing with all the allegorical interpretations of the Fathers, I cannot but see much depth and richness of meaning in this whole narrative. The Lord appears to His disciples busied about their occupation for their daily bread; speaks and acts in a manner wonderfully similar to His words and actions on a former memorable occasion, when we know that by their toiling long and taking nothing, but at His word enclosing a multitude of fishes, was set forth what should befall them as fishers of men. Can we miss that application at this far more important epoch of their apostolic mission? Besides, He graciously provides for their present wants, and invites them to be His guests: why but to show them that in their work hereafter they should never want but He would provide? And as connected with the parable, Matthew 13:47 ff., has the net enclosing a great multitude and yet not broken, no meaning? Has the ‘taking the bread and giving to them and the fish likewise,’ no meaning, which so closely binds together the miraculous feeding, and the institution of the Lord’s Supper with their future meetings in His name and round His Table? Any one who recognizes the teaching character of the acts of the Lord, can hardly cast all such applications from him;—and those who do not, have yet the first rudiments of the Gospels to learn.”—P. S.]


1. The significant manner in which John, seemingly by way of supplement, relates this single and unique meeting of the Risen One with the seven disciples by the Galilean Sea, culling it out of all the later showings of Jesus after His resurrection and emphasizing the individual, momentous items of the event, induces us to suppose that from the first he designed it to form the conclusion of his Gospel. That he at the same time, however, intended this conclusion as an Epilogue to the Gospel, is proved by the precursive close of the resurrection-history and the Gospel in its narrower sense, John 20:31. If we now take into consideration how symbolically transparent the individual facts of this Epilogue are from beginning to end (especially the miraculous draught of fishes, the institution of Peter, the destination of John), we shall not hesitate to bring the Epilogue into an antithetic relation to the Prologue of the Gospel, John 1:1-18. And if John has there sketched Christ’s pre-temporal rule in the world, finally represented, as it was, by John the Baptist, the recognition is obvious that he has designed to sketch here, in a speaking, evangelic fact, Christ’s post-temporal rule in the world, represented by the heptade of the Apostles, particularly by the destination of Peter and John in respect of their typical import for the Church. See Leben Jesu 2 p. 1723.

2. The resolve of Peter, to go a fishing. A symbol of the beginning of the apostolic mission. The seven disciples in a round, sacred number, a symbol of the apostolic Church. The Church is subdivided into an external, conspicuous part, and a mysteriously withdrawing, nameless part. Next to Peter are ranged Thomas, the apostolic searcher, and Nathanael, the representative of apostolic sincerity and simplicity. The sons of Zebedee retire into the back-ground; there is intimated, moreover, a nearer fellowship of John which forms the innermost, hidden, vital focus of the Church. Unanimity is the character of this fellowship. They go out together to catch fish. Into the sea. The sea a symbol of the world, of the life of the nations.

3. The unsuccessful night. A symbol of the times of waiting, of the apparently fruitless struggling and hoping, whereby the laborers of God are tried in their work. These trials are connected with the fact that the disciples must first be freed from their self-consciousness and brought to the point of fully renouncing their work and relinquishing all expectation of shining results. These humiliations, however, are connected with the necessity for distinguishing between an activity based upon human authority (Peter) and one drawing its inspiration from the word of Christ. A human and legal running produces no abiding fruit.

4. The unknown Man on the shore. Christ is always near His apostolic Church on this side of eternity. From the shore of the other world—the beyond—His eye is leveled upon their actions. And they are conscious of this fact in its general sense, but they do not immediately recognize the Lord in the new, concrete forms of life in which He approaches them, wishing to prepare them an apostolic blessing.

5. Children, have ye nothing to eat? Whenever the spirit of a new life-form of Christ discourses with the Church concerning her poverty, want of success, unavailing labor and fatigue, the moment of a new bestowal of blessing is being prepared.

6. Cast the net. It is always the old net that Christ tells His people to cast in a new way, in a new direction. This, Christ’s instruction, alone indicates the true treasure of blessing, and obedience to Christ’s instruction obtains the miraculous draught.

7. Christ has first unknown operated upon the Church by need and opportunity. His instruction has become of weight to her in the form of a pious, religious exhortation, or as a friendly counsel, and she has accorded it her confidence. In the result of miraculous blessing, however, the Lord is known as the author of that blessing, The Johannean eagle-glance first recognizes the i Lord, Petrine fiery courage rushes through the flood to meet Him; the Church hastes to meet the Lord. But the true Petrine spirits in the Church are those who hurry on in advance of the Ship of the Church with their works and deeds. The one kind of spirits haste before it with the glance of recognition, the other by act; both, however, abide in. full connection with the Ship.
8. The ship not far from land. Not far from the throne of the Lord and His coming.

9. The coal-fire and repast on the shore. There are continually recurring festive moments in the Church—moments when Christ holds a feast with His people, as though upon the heights of the new world. The goal is momentarily reached in a grand triumph, a grand manifestation of Christ. We would call to mind the time of Christ’s resurrection itself, the year 70 (destruction of Jerusalem), 312; the years 1517, 1700, 1813 (the time of the liberation of Germany [eclipsed for Germany by 1870 and 1871]) and similar periods. In a wonderful way the Lord has ever prepared a refreshing repast for His weary ones.

10. Bring of the fish. The Lord prepares refreshment for His Church from a synthesis of His gift of blessing (for the preparation of which He has always ministering spirits) and their labor of blessing [blessed labor].

11. Simon Peter drew the net to land. Be of use! forward! to Christ! is the watchword of the Biblical Peter. It is not his intention to seize the net for himself, but to place it at the disposal of Christ. The net was full of great fishes. The word of the Church first catches the elect, those in a special degree receptive of salvation. The number 153. On the different interpretations see Exeg. Note in loc. We, as was previously stated, consider as symbolical, not the number, but the numbering. The elect are counted, man for man. See Jeremiah 7:6; Revelation 7:4. Thus also are the Einherier, the heroes of Odin in Valhalla, counted, according to German Mythology. (‘ “Five hundred doors and forty more methinks are in Valhalla.—Eight hundred heroes through each door shall issue forth against the wok to combat.’ ” Therefore 800 X 540. Grimnismal). The Church is continually edified by the number of true subjective converts and believers who have received a new name, not by her unnumbered masses.—Nevertheless the net brake not. The truly faithful do not break the net. The great fishes swim lustily along in the draught of the net. The fishing net is broken by sea-reptiles, crabs, dead fish that weigh upon one point. Vet the true spiritual net of the eternal Church has never yet been broken.

12. Come and partake of the repast. Times of refreshing in the kingdom of God. Christ the Master of the House, who giveth the invitation to the feast. Reverential sense of His presence. Full sufficiency. It is a breakfast, however, in order to further labor. Blissful stillness of the Church in the Lord’s nearness and in the assurance of His presence.

13. The third time, or the “lanifestations of the glorified Christ ever more glorious.

14. The present section shows us the Apostles Peter and John in the characters peculiar to them; the following sketches their destiny and lot in the Church.


See the Doct. Notes. Christ’s first meeting again with His disciples by the Sea of Galilee.—The old life in the new light of the resurrection: 1. The old persons (Peter, etc.); 2. the old occupation (going a fishing); 3. the old surroundings (the Sea of Galilee); 4. the old vicissitudes and the old need (caught nothing); 5. the old connection (Christ); 6. the old miracles (the draught of fishes); 7. the old feasts (the repast). Everything in a new light of life, peace and hope.—Christ at the sea of Galilee, formerly and now: 1. The sea formerly the scene of His first miracles, acts and sufferings; 2. now the mirror of His glory.

The two Easter-feasts in Galilee. 1. The Apostles’ feast by the sea; 2. the Church’s feast on the mountain (Matthew 28:0.).—Christ manifests Himself to the Apostles by the sea; for they must plunge into the sea of nations; to the Church, in the wider sense, on the mountain, for it is to be the firm city, stablished upon the mountain of the Lord.—The disciples, as sons of the resurrection, in their true unanimity: 1. How harmonious in their differences (all gladly following the foot of Peter, the glance of John). They all confess their need unanimously: “No;” but without complaint, John 21:5. There is no braggart among them and none who is disheartened. They are obedient in unison. Their faces are all set toward the Lord in one love; they are all filled and made happy with the one thought of His presence. 2. How rich in life and manifold in their unanimity (Peter, John: the disciples in the ship).—The Kisen One in the gradualness of His glorious manifestation : 1. The strange form in the morning twilight on the shore; 2. the sympathizing question; 3. the confident direction; 4. the mysterious preparation of a fire; 5. the condescending community of goods (bring hither of the fish); 6. the glorious invitation; 7. the complete manifestation in its familiarity and sublimity.—Christ considered in respect to the riches of His life amongst His people: 1. Mysterious, and familiar; 2. Master and Servant; 3. Host and Guest; 4. a heavenly Apparition and a festive Companion.—Transformation of the old form of life into the new in the kingdom of the Kisen One: 1. The old calling becomes a new symbol of life; 2. the old home a new vestibule of heaven; 3. the old need a new divine blessing; 4. the old labor a new religious service; 5. the old partnership a new fellowship in Christ; 6. the old discipleship a new apostolate.—The heavenly refreshment of the disciples, the preparation for a solemn conversation and revelation.

Starke: Osiander: Handicrafts are well-pleasing to God; and godly craftsmen should assist one another in love and harmony, Psalms 128:1-2; Romans 16:1-2.—Cramer: A work goes on well and speedily when we set about it with united hands and hearts. Concord nourishes men, discord consumes them, Galatians 5:15.—Temptation faileth not to be present in the assemblies of believers, Sir 2:1.—It seemeth often unto godly Christians as if their diligence and labor were utterly in vain, and yet such seasons are but meant by God for the trial of their faith, Isaiah 65:23.—Osiander: God knoweth the right time.—Zeisius: Although Jesus is still so near to His people, His presence is not always recognized by them, nor the secret grace heeded.—God’s children are oft-times at a loss for food, but their Heavenly Father remedieth their case and nourisheth them, Matthew 6:26-27.—But He whose name is called Counsellor (Isaiah 9:6), gave them good counsel as to how they should do.—Behold how Jesus can by His blessing in an instant repay His people for the painful toil that they have deemed lost.—Zeisius: When we faithfully wait on our calling, the Lord careth for our preservation meanwhile; and when no more means are in our possession, He can quickly provide them.—Hedinger: How friendly and gracious are the ways of the Lord! even temporal blessings must speak of His love, Psalms 25:10.—Zeisius: The wonder-doing hand of the Lord knoweth neither measure nor limit, Psalms 106:28.—Ibid.: Unto our bodies, after toil and labor endured, the Lord doth grant needful refreshment; and after the brief toilsomeness of this time, He will in heaven eternally regale our souls.—Hedinger: Open, dear soul! the Lord would sup with thee, Revelation 3:20,—Zeisius: So many appearances of the risen Jesus; so many seals of our perfect redemption and reconciliation with God, Romans 4:24.

Gerlach: The time was still when they, the Holy Ghost not yet being poured out upon them, must become sensible of the impotence of their own strength; Jesus still stood, like One partially unknown to them, beside their own efforts.—Braune: “But how the Redeemer hath hallowed all things into symbols of the universal activity incumbent upon us all in His kingdom! The prince and his vicegerents, the mighty and armed warrior, the calculating merchant, the intelligent husbandman, the careful housefather, I the tender mother, the faithful servant, the son, acquainted with his father’s will, the hospitable ouseholder, the peaceful gardener,—everything is drawn into this holy circle of refreshing pictures” (Schleiermacher).—In every calling Christ and His Spirit may be obtained, just in that calling; men need not fly to woods, vales, cloisters. The odor of sanctity can diffuse itself about every man’s profession as it did over the occupation of the disciples at the sea of Gennesaret.—At that draught [Luke 5:4 ff.] Peter said: “Lord, depart from me, I am a sinful man;” he said this in the weakness of his faith and of his knowledge, and in the confusion of his mind, as though the nearness of the Holy One brought danger to him. This feeling he had surmounted; though conscious still of being a sinful man, he was more strongly convinced that the proximity of Jesus is always and everywhere salutary.—Of what value was the intimation of the calm John: “It is the Lord!” To note and point out the divine in life is a signal service of love.—Yea, the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want (Psalms 23:1). Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest; bless what Thou hast bestowed!11

Gossner: The right side is that of the elect. When the net is cast on that side, the fish enter into the net of themselves. The blessing that God puts in the mouth of the preacher along with His word, is really the source of all the fruit he produces.—It is the Lord! said the disciple whom Jesus loved,—he knew His Master first. A friend knows his friend by his walk, his step; so John knew the Lord by the fortunate draught of fishes. Ah, thought lie, the Lord hath played us this loving trick; I know Him, that is His way.—Peter forgot and deserted the net with the multitude of fishes—for all the trouble he had had with, it—so soon as he saw his Lord again and knew Him.—Whoso cleaveth so to the Lord and feeleth himself to be so attracted by Him that he can leave all for the Lord’s sake, he it is that loveth Him, John 21:7.—There is the table already spread. This was to paint His tender Providence vividly before their eyes, and to strengthen them in the faith, preparatory to their future calling, so that they might never feel afraid of lacking what was needful.—The net of the Church breaketh not—though never so many great fishes be in it—when it is drawn at the command of Jesus and by apostolic hands. But when men arbitrarily pull at, the net, and one pulleth right and another left, it breaketh. And now, alas! what men usually call the net of the Lord is sorely broken. But the Lord hath His net, the which is not broken. The Lord knoweth His own.—Jesus here manifests Himself as the Host, the House-father of His little Church.

Heubner: Peter tarrieth not; he showeth his ardent love. Peter’s natural disposition now became sanctified by love to Jesus. Thus shall all nature be sanctified through grace.

[Craven: From Augustine: John 21:3. The Apostles were not forbidden by their apostle-ship from earning their livelihood by a lawful craft, provided they had no other means of livelihood.

John 21:11. In the first draught [Luke 5:6] the net was broken, to signify schisms; but here, to show that in that perfect peace of the blessed there would be no schisms, the Evangelist continues, And for all they were so great, yet was not the net broken.——From Chrysostom: John 21:7. The recognition of Jesus brings out Peter and John in their different tempers of mind; the one fervid, the other sublime; the one ready, the other penetrating.——From Gregory: John 21:3, The craft which was exercised without sin before conversion, was no sin after it; wherefore after his conversion Peter returned to fishing; but Matthew sat not down again at the receipt of custom.—They caught nothing; the fishing was made to be very unlucky, in order to raise their astonishment at the miracle after.

John 21:4. The disciples, inasmuch as they were still upon the waves of this mortal life, were laboring on the sea; but the Redeemer, having by His resurrection thrown off the corruption of the flesh, stood upon the shore.——From Theophylact: John 21:3. In the night-time, before the presence of the Sun, Christ, the Prophets took nothing; for though they endeavored to correct the people, yet these often fell into idolatry.

[From Burkitt: John 21:1. Jerusalem now becomes a forsaken place, a people abandoned to destruction: such places wherein Christ is most welcome to preach, shall be most honored with His presence.

John 21:2-3. All human labors and endeavors are in vain, unless Christ, by His presence and blessing, crown them with success.

John 21:4. Christ is not always discerned by us when He is present with us; it is a double mercy to enjoy His company, and to know indeed that it is He.

John 21:6. When Christ is about to do great things for His people, yet will He have them exert all possible endeavors of their own; and the want of former success must not discourage from future endeavors.

John 21:7. Cast himself into the sea; It is not a sea of water, no, nor seas of blood, that can keep a zealous soul at a distance from Christ.

John 21:12-14. Christ is still bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh; He has taken possession of heaven in our nature, sitting there in our glorified humanity, clothed with that body which hung in its blood upon the cross.

[From M. Henry: John 21:1-14. Christ has many ways of making Himself known to His people; usually in His ordinances, but sometimes by His Spirit; He visits them when they are employed in common business.,

John 21:2. It is good for the disciples of Christ to be much together; not only in solemn religious assemblies, but in common conversation, and about common business; thus they both testify and increase their affection to, and delight in each other, and edify one another both by discourse and example.—Thomas; It is well, if losses by our neglects make us more careful afterward not to slip opportunities.

John 21:3. It was commendable in them to go a-fishing; for they did it 1. To redeem time, and not be idle; 2. That they might help to maintain themselves, and not be burthen-some to any,—They caught nothing; Even good men may come short of desired success in their honest undertakings: we may be in the way of our duty, and yet not prosper.

John 21:4. Jesus stood on the shore; Christ’s time of making Himself known to His people is when they are most at a loss: When they think they have lost themselves, He will let them know that they have not lost Him.—It is a comfort to us, when our passage is rough and stormy, that our Master is at shore, and we are hastening to Him.—The disciples knew not that it was Jesus; Christ is often nearer us than we think lie is, and so we shall find afterward, to our comfort.

John 21:5. Christ takes cognizance of the temporal wants of His people, and has promised them not only grace sufficient, but food convenient.—Christ looks into the cottages of the poor, and asks, Children, have ye any meat? —He has herein set us an example of compassionate concern for our brethren; there are many poor householders disabled for labor, or disappointed in it, that are reduced to straits, whom the rich should inquire after thus, Have ye any meat? For the most necessitous are commonly the least clamorous.

John 21:6. The right side; Divine Providence extends itself to things most minute and contingent.—Those that are humble, diligent, and patient, though their labors may be crossed, shall be crowned; they sometimes live to see their affairs take a happy turn after many struggles and fruitless attempts.—There is nothing lost by observing Christ’s orders.—Those are likely to speed well that follow the rule of the Word, the guidance of the Spirit, and the intimations of Providence; for that is casting the net on the right side of the ship.—When we are most at a loss, Jehovah-Jireh—the Lord will provide.—This miracle could not but put Peter in mind of a former one, Luke 5:4, etc.; later favors are designed to bring to mind former favors.—An encouragement to Christ’s ministers to continue their diligence in their work; one happy draught, at length, may be sufficient to repay many years’ toil at the Gospel net.

John 21:7. They that have been with Jesus will be willing to swim through a stormy sea, a sea of blood, to come to Him.

John 21:7-13. God dispenses His gifts variously: some excel, as Peter and John; others are but ordinary disciples;—yet both the eminent and the obscure shall sit down together with Christ in glory; nay, and perhaps, the last shall be first;—of those that do excel, some, like John, are eminently contemplative; others, like Peter, eminently active and courageous; some are useful as the Church’s eyes, others as the Church’s hands, and all for the good of the body.—If all the disciples had done as Peter did, what had become of their fish and their nets? And yet if Peter had done as they did, we had wanted this instance of holy zeal. Christ was well pleased with both, and so must we be.—There are several ways of bringing Christ’s disciples to shore to Him from off the sea of this world; some are I brought to Him by a violent death, as the martyrs, who threw themselves into the sea, in their zeal for Christ; others are brought to Him by a natural death, dragging the net, which is less terrible [but also less speedy]; but both meet at length on the safe and quiet shore with Christ.

John 21:10. Christ would hereby teach us to use what we have; the benefits He bestows upon us are not to be buried and laid up, but to be used and laid out.—Ministers, who are fishers of men, must bring all they catch to their Master.

John 21:11. The net of the Gospel has enclosed multitudes, three thousand in one day, and yet is not broken; it is still as mighty as ever to bring souls to God.

John 21:12. Groundless doubts must be stifled, and not started.

John 21:14. It is good to keep account of Christ’s gracious visits; for He keeps account of them, and they will be remembered against ns, if we walk unworthily of them. This is now the third; have we made a due improvement of the first and second? See 2 Corinthians 12:14. This is the third, perhaps it may be the last.

[From Scott: John 21:1-14. Christ often permits His (ministerial) servants to labor for a time without visible success, to prove their faith and patience, to render them more observant of His directions, or more simply dependent on His assistance; and that their usefulness, when vouchsafed, may more evidently appear to be His work.——From A Plain Commentary (Oxford): John 21:2. Never more will it be said that “Thomas, one of the Twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came!”—“Wisdom” (that is Christ), is about to “build her House:” wherefore “she hath hewn out her seven pillars.” Proverbs 9:1; comp. Galatians 2:9.

John 21:3. Verily, the discovery that their Lord and their God could suffer the men He loved to remain in such a low state and precarious condition, should teach Christians for evermore to submit cheerfully to poverty, as well as to behold with a feeling akin to reverence, the brother of low degree.—They caught nothing; The “ministers and stewards of His mysteries,” in particular, are hereby taught that “except the Lord build the House, their labor is but lost that build it.”

John 21:4. When the morning was now come,—Jesus stood on the shore; It was a symbol of the Eternal Morning, when Jesus (who is “the hope of them that remain in the broad sea!” Psalms 65:5) will at last appear: for the Church as yet waiteth, “until the day break and the shadows flee away.” No longer in the ship with His disciples,—He is seen standing on the fixed immovable shore! Thither “they shall go to Him, but thence He shall not return to them.”—Knew not that it was Jesus; The eyes of all “were holden that they should not know Him.” So enveloped was His risen Body with something that was Divine, something which He brought from the grave,—that it allowed not of human affection, but Divine Love to discern it. And it was done to accustom them to walk by faith, and not by sight. For thus it was that our Saviour was recognized by St. John now. The miracle was to be the evidence that it was He.

John 21:6. The season for fishing prescribed by Nature, had already expired: it was now the season appointed by Grace. In truth, man’s extremity is ever found to be God’s opportunity. In the meantime, take notice that the necessity of human exertion is not to be superseded by the promise of Divine help. Paul must plant, and Apollos water, though God must give all the increase.—Not only when God commands, but as God directs, must the net be thrown, if we would, secure the prize we long for.—In things to all appearance indifferent, a Divine command overcomes all other considerations, and must be implicitly obeyed, if we would inherit a blessing.

John 21:7. “It is St. John whose instinct of love penetrates the disguise, and tells Peter that it is the Lord. It might strike the recollection of both, how a few short years before, the same Lord had, in His mortal days, given a similar direction,—a like miraculous draught following: though then, they drew the net; but now they could not: then, the net brake; but now, for all the greater multitude of fishes, when it was drawn to land, the net was unbroken: then, the ship began to sink, and Simon Peter, affrighted, besought the Lord to depart from him, a sinful man; whereas now, as soon as ha heard that it was the Lord, and believed it was so, he plunged into the water to go to Him. These circumstances, symbolizing the greater power of the risen Lord, or rather, the greater power He obtained for the fishers of men when the mysteries of His Redemption were accomplished,—were not lost on St. John; who, ever calmer than St. Peter, while his emotions were the deepest, tranquilly remained with the rest in the vessel, -till it was brought to shore.” (Dr. W. H. Mill).

John 21:8. Two hundred cubits; “So near are we, even in this troublous world, to the land of Everlasting Rest,” and to Him who there abideth.

John 21:12. What did this meal signify but that heavenly banquet, of which it is promised that the redeemed shall partake hereafter, when they shall “sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven?”

John 21:13. The disciples do not help themselves to food. It is still Christ that taketh,—Christ that giveth! All the spiritual refreshment of heaven will still be His gift! The very bliss of the Saints will be altogether from Him!…. And yet, besides the fish miraculously provided for the refreshment of the disciples, we find that, they were fed with some of the fish which they had themselves recently caught (John 21:10). O mystery of Divine Love, in reserve for those who have faithfully fed the flock of Christ committed to their care; if, throughout the ages, they shall be conscious of an augmentation of bliss from the souls of those to whom in life it was their privilege to minister!

[From Barnes: John 21:2-3. God has made employment indispensable to man, and if the field of labor is not open in one way, ministers should seek it in another.——From Jacobus: John 21:3. As fishers of men they would toil all night, and without Christ they could do nothing.

John 21:6. Christian ministers, as fishers of men, must follow His positive directions as to when and where and how, without first demanding the why and wherefore.

John 21:17. Love does always make the sweetest discoveries of Christ; Zeal plunges even into the sea to reach (through fire and through water) the Master.

John 21:10. Thus it is that His grace goes before, and our works follow. Happy day! when Christ’s ministers may bring to heaven of the multitudes whom they have caught by His grace.

John 21:11. So is it with the multitudes which we may catch as fishers of men. The “hundred and forty and four thousand” will all be brought safe to heaven.—From Owen: John 21:3. Immediately; They were prompt and energetic men, who would not let the hours of the night—the most advantageous time for fishing—pass away unimproved, when once they had made up their mind to spend it in the manner here spoken of. [They were also persevering men. E. R. C. ]

John 21:7. Girt his fisher’s coat unto him; Note “the reverence which observes, even at such a moment of excited feeling, the petty proprieties of clothing.” (Stier with Draeseke.)

John 21:9-12. This twofold miracle of the draught of fishes, and the broiled fish and bread made ready for their repast when their labors were ended, symbolize the fidelity, zeal, and reliance upon Christ for success, with which the apostles and all who succeed them in the ministry of the word, were to labor in the work of saving souls, and the watchful providence with which He in whose service they are engaged, will supply all their temporal and spiritual wants.—“A type of that nearness and fellowship, to which the Lord would in future times condescend in His invisible relations with His people.” (Stier.)—“The great and glorious ingathering from the sea of nations, which in the latter day shall be made to the Lord Jesus Christ, the end of which will be a feast of most gracious fellowship with Him, an antitype of the Lord’s Supper, an early meal of the great resurrection morning which will be followed by a permanent day of eternal joy.” (Stier.)]


John 21:1; John 21:1.—[’Ιησοῦς is retained by Tischend., Treg., Westc, in accordance with B. C, text. roc.; ὁ ’Ιησοῦς by Lachm., in accordance with N. A. L. X., etc. Alford omits it with D. M. There is no good reason for its omission, but there is for its insertion in a reading lesson beginning with ἐφανέρωσε—P. S.]

John 21:3; John 21:3.—Εὐθύς [A. C.3 P. text, rec is to lie omitted in accordance with [N.] B. C* D. L. X. A., etc.

John 21:4; John 21:4.—The reading γινομένης instead of γενομένης, in accordance with C.* E. L. (Tischendorf), is probably exegetical. The dawn may already have come, without its being yet day or morning. [Lachmann and Alford road γε νομένης, (cum mane factum esset), which is supported by Cod. Sin., but Tregelles, Tischendorf, Exodus 8:0., and Westcott and Hort γινομένης (cum mane esset futurum), which is supported by A. B. C*. E. L. (γειν A. B.). See Tischend — P. S.]

John 21:4; John 21:4.—The preposition είς is supported by B. C. B., etc., Tischendorf; ἐπί by A. D. L., etc., Lachmann, Sin. Meyer: “ἐπί would more readily than εἰς be added as a gloss.”

John 21:11; John 21:11.—γῆν in accordance with A. C. L. P. X. A., Lachmann, Tischendorf. This may be a correction of the Recepta ἐπὶ τὴς γὴς γὴς E. G. K. M, etc.,

John 21:12; John 21:12.—[Lange: esset das Morgenhrot, eat the morning meal, ἀριστάω is to take an early meal (ἀ̓ριστον, prandium, breakfast or lunch), before the δεῖπνον or chief meal (corresponding to our dinner), which was taken late in the afternoon or early in the evening, after the heat of the day was over, as is the custom now in largo cities, as Paris, London, New York.— P. S.]

John 21:12; John 21:12.—[The text, rec, with א. A. D. L, inserts δέ after οὐδείς, and Tischendorf (Exodus 8:0., not before) retains it. Alford and Westcott reject it in accordance with B. C—P. S.]

[8][Meyer regards the whole of John 21:0 as genuine, with the exception of John 21:25, (on which see below), and ably refutes the objections which, since Grotius, have been raised against the Johannean authorship.—P.S.]

[9][No single English word adequately translates the Greek προσφάγιον and its German equivalent Zukost. The idea is that of some article of food added to what is regarded as the substantial part of the meal. The term relish, in one of its significations, more nearly expresses it than any other English word.—P. S.].

[10][Other mystical explanations of the number in Wordsworth in loc, who makes 153 expressive of the jubilee of the true Israel of beatified saints in heaven. Comp. also Meyer, p. 673. Calvin cuts off all such, calculations by the sober remark: Quantum ad piscium numerum spectat, non est aliquod in eo quærendvim mystenium—P.S.]

[11] A German blessing invoked before meals:

Komm’, Herr Jcsu, sei unser Gast,

Und segne was Du uns bescheret hast.

Verses 15-19



John 21:15-19

15So when they had dined [breakfasted, or, taken their morning meal, ὴρίστησαν], Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas [John, Ἰωἀννου],12 lovest [ὰγαπᾶς] thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love [dearly love, φιλῶ]13 thee. He saith unto him, Feed [βὐσκε] my lambs [τὰ ἄρνία μου]. 16He saith to him again the [a] second time [δεύτερον], Simon, son of Jonas [John], lovest [ἀγαπᾶς] thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I [dearly] love [φιλῶ] thee. He saith unto him, Feed [keep, tend, ποίμαινε]14 my sheep [τὰ πρόβατἀ μου].15 17He saith unto him the third time [τὸ τρίτον], Simon, son of Jonas [John], lovest thou me [dearly, φιλεῖς με]? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? [dearly, φιλεῖς με;] And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee [dearly, φιλῶ σε]. Jesus saith unto him, Feed [βόσκε] my sheep [my little sheep, sheeplings, τὰ προβάτιά μου].16 18Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst [didst gird] thyself, and walkedst [and didst walk] whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. 19 This spake he signifying by what [kind or manner of] death he should [was to] glorify God. And when he had spoken this [And having spoken this,] he saith unto him, Follow me.


general remarks

The following transaction manifestly has reference to the three-fold denial of Peter, and takes the form of an apostolico-ethical trial, its object being the re-institution of that disciple.
[It is well to read the questions of our Lord, the answers of Peter, and the commands of Christ in parallel columns:





Ἀ γαπᾶ̣ς με πλεῖον τούτων;

Ναί, Κύριε, σὺ οἶδας ὃτι φιλῶ σε.


̓ Αγαπᾶ̣ς με;

Ναί, Κύριε, σὺ οἶδαζό́τι φιλῶ σε.


Φιλεῖς με;

Κύριε, πάντασὺ οἶδας, σὺ γινώσκειζό́τι φιλῶ σε.





















The first consideration of significance is the three-fold inquiry of jesus together with the three replies of peter,—the counterpart of the three-fold temptation and denial. [This allusion (comp. John 13:38) is acknowledged by Augustine (“redditur negationi trinæ trina confessio, ne minus amori lingua serviat quam timori”), Wetstein (“ut illi occasionem præberet, triplicis abnegationis maculam triplici professione eluendi”), Bengel (who, in his brief, pointed way, remarks to τὸ τρίτον, John 21:17 : “numerus decretorius”), Meyer, Alford, Godet, and others. It is vainly denied by Hengstonberg, who strangely says (iii. 342), that there is, in this whole section, not the least reference to Peter’s denial, as this was completely done away with long before! This shows the disqualification of this harsh and angular, though learned and orthodox, divine to appreciate the nice and delicately fibred constitution of this Gospel.—P. S.]

Then the three-fold address, “simon, son of Jonas [John, see Text. Note.—P. S.]. Assuredly this is not simply an expression of solemnity and deeply stirred love (Meyer),—it is intended as a reminder of’ the natural descent and weakness of Peter which were productive of his fall; this meaning, results surely from the antithesis, Matthew 16:17-18 : Simon, son of Jonas [John], and Peter, (see Comm. on Matthew, chap. 10 and chap. 16).

Farther the Shadings of the thrie-repeated Question:

(1) First, “lovest thou Me more than these love Me,”—with reference to the vow of Peter: “Though all should be offended in Thee,” etc., then the simple: “Lovest thou Me?” for the second and the third time.

(2) The change ἀγαπᾶ̣ς με; ἀγαπᾶ̣ς με; φιλεῖς με, i.e. “Lovest thou Me (ethically)?” “Art thou attached to Me as a friend (personally)?” The last question a searching entering into the twice-repeated assurance of Peter: φιλῶ σε.

Still farther the answers of Peter. After the first question, he avoids the danger of setting himself above his fellow-disciples, by evading the comparative in Jesus’ question; on the other hand he specializes the ἀγαπᾶ̣ς by replying: φιλῶ σε. It is a modification, in which he expresses himself partly with more humility, partly with more fervor, as if he meant to say: though I should be wanting in the divine measure of love that belongeth to Thee, I nevertheless am personally attched to Thee from the bottom of my heart. He answers the second question in the same manner. At the third question of Jesus, he is grieved that Jesus asks him for the third time: φιλεῖς με; and strengthens his former declarations, “Lord, Thou knowest it!” by the word: “Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee.

Of a very special significance, however, are the three Deliverances of the Lord in reply to the three answers of Peter: 1. βόσκε τὰἀρνία μου, 2. ποίμαινε τὰ πρόβατά μου, 3. βόσκε τὰ προβάτιά μου. The nice, and yet important gradations in the distinction between ἀρνία, lambs, and πρόβατα, full-grown sheep, and προβάτια [see the Text. Notes], full-grown sheep which are, nevertheless, to be treated tenderly like lambs; and the distinction between βόσκειν, to lead to pasture, to provide with food, and ποιμαίνειν, to guide and govern as a shepherd. The first and most necessary thing (intellectually it is also the easiest, though it presents peculiar difficulties to an imperious, high-soaring mind) is this: to provide for the lambs, i.e., those of tender age in the faith, with spiritual sustenance, to lead them to the spiritual pasture (the office of a catechist). It is more difficult to guard and guide the full-grown sheep,—mature Christians,—to make them seek the right pasture, find the true spiritual food; most difficult of all: to offer to these fullaged members appropriate spiritual food.

The Romish Peter has made a κατακυριεύειν17 of the βόσκειν and ποιμαίνειν; he has treated the προβάτια as ἀρνία, and has so thoroughly forgotten the instruction to provide spiritual nourishment for the πρόβατα, even as βόσκων, as to have, on the contrary, continually withdrawn such nourishment from them more and more, and forbidden it under various penalties.

John 21:15. Simon, son of John [Σίμων Ἰωάννου. Lange reads Jonas; but see my Text. Notes and Comm. on Matthew 16:17, p. 295, footnote.—P. S.] The objections of Meyer and even Tholuck: “Yet not as though the apostolic name were refused him (De Wette, Stier),” are without proof. According to them, the thrice-repeated address: “Simon, son of Jonas,” [John], is merely expressive of solemnity. Solemnity, however, is always given with the momentous thought. [Godet agrees with Lange, who is right, that the address Simon, son of John, is intended to recall his natural character as distinct from that implied in his new and official name Simon Peter. So also Alford: “Σίμων ̓ Ιωάννου a reminiscence probably of his own name and parentage, as distinguished from his apostolic name of honor, Cephas, or Peter, see John 1:43. Thus we have Σ. Βαριωνᾶ, Matthew 16:17, connected with the mention of his natural state of flesh and blood, which had not revealed to him the great truth just confessed—and Luke 22:31, ‘Simon, Simon,’ when he is reminded of his natural weakness. See also Mark 14:37, and Matthew 17:25, where the significance is not so plain.”—P. S.]

Lovest thou Me more than these [ἀγαπᾶ̣ς με πλέον τούτων].—Strange interpretation: than these things, namely those appertaining to a fisher’s life, τούτων construed as neuter, Bolten. The reference of the expression to Peter’s setting up of himself above his fellow-Apostles, Matthew 26:33, is groundlessly denied by Meyer. [Bengel: Antea Petrus se plus his prætiturum dixerat (Matthew 26:33), nunc autem simpliciter dicit ‘amo te;’ non addit, ‘plus his.’ ” So also Godet.—P. S.]

Thou knowest that I love Thee [Ναὶ Κύριε, σὺ οἶδας ό́τι Φιλῶ σε].—Φιλῶσε—threefold expression of humility: 1. No making of comparisons. 2. Appeal to the knowledge of Christ. 3. Choice of the term of personal attachment.

[Observe that the Lord twice asks ἀγαπᾶ̣ς με, and once φιλεῖς με, while Peter three times assures the Lord φιλῶ σε. On the difference of the two terms, see the Text. Notes, and Dr. Lange’s preceding general remarks, to which I will add those of a few other commentators. Meyer: “Peter in his answer puts in the place of the ἀγαπᾶ̣ς (diligis) of the question, the expression of the personal heart-motion φιλῶ (amo, comp. John 11:3; John 11:5; John 20:2), injustice to his inmost feeling.” Alford: “The distinction between ἀγαπᾶν and φιλειν must not here be lost sight of, nor must we superficially say with Grotius, ‘Promiscuie hic usurpavit Johannes ἀγαπᾶν, et φιλειν ut mox βόσκειν et ποιμαίνειν (see below.). Neque hic quærendas sunt sublititates.” If so, why do the Lord’s two first questions contain ἀγαπᾶ̣ς while Peter’s answers have φιλῶ—whereas the third time the question and answer both have φιλεῖν? This does not look like accident. The distinction seems to be that ἀγαπᾶν is more used of that reverential love, grounded on high graces of character, which is borne towards God and man by the child of God;—whereas φιλεῖν expresses more the personal love of human affection. Peter therefore uses a less exalted word, and one implying a consciousness of his own weakness, but a persuasion and deep feeling of personal love. (Hence it will be seen that in the sublimest relations, where, all perfections existing, love can only be personal, φιλεῖν only can be used, see John 5:20). Then in the third question the Lord adopts the word of Peter’s answer, the closer to press the meaning of it home to him.” Godet: “Le terme ἀγαπᾶν indique l’ amour complet, profond, éternel, le mot φιλεῖν designe le simple attachement personnel, l’inclination affectueuse. Ce dernier sentiment, il (Pierre) se l’attribue sans hesiter.” Wordsworth: “Formerly Peter had professed ἀγαπᾶν, but it proved to be only a shortlived φιλεῖν. Now he only professes φιλεῖν, but Christ knows that it will be a long-lived ἀγαπᾶν, an ἀγἀπη in old age (John 21:18), an ἀγάπη stronger than death.”—P. S.]

Feed My little lambs. [Or lambkins (ἀρνἶον dimint. of ἀρήν), Βόσκε τὰ� Pasce agnos meos. Christ speaks thus as the Arch-Shepherd (ἀρχιποιμήν (1 Peter 5:4). Comp. here John 21:16 : ΙΙοίμανε (a more comprehensive term which includes βόσκειν) τὰ πρόβοτά μου, Custodi oves meas, Tend My sheep; and John 21:17 : Βόσκε τὰ προβάτιά μου, Pasce oviculas meas, Feed My sheeplings. See Text. Note. How Peter understood the Lord’s trust, he shows himself, 1 Peter 5:2-3.—P. S.]—Love to Jesus, therefore, is the condition of the pastoral office to which he is now re-appointed. We may not, with Tholuck, obliterate the distinction of βόσκειν and ποιμαίνειν. ΙΙοιμαίνειν is undoubtedly akin to regere (Bellarmine and Corn a Lapide), but in an evangelical sense.—Τὰ�, Revelation 5:6; not synonymous with τὰ πρόβατα, as Tholuck is inclined to suppose. The distinctions of Bellarmine and other Roman Catholic exegetes, according to whom the lambs denote the laity, the sheep the clergy, must undoubtedly be rejected; that distinctions do exist, however, is proved even by Isaiah 40:11, and the distinction between immature and mature believers is obvious (Euthym. Zig., Wetstein and others); it suffers no diminution by the reading τὰ προβάτια in the third injunction, but only still further modification. Luthardt’s interpretation: The tending of individuals, care of the whole flock, training up of individuals for the whole flock, is etymologically unfounded.

[Alford likewise insists on the nice shadings of meaning in the terms here used (on which see Text. Note): “We can hardly with any deep insight into the text hold βόσκειν and ποιμαίνειν to be synonymous (Grot. above, Lücke, De Wette, Trench), or ἀρνία, πρόβατα, and προβάτια. The sayings of the Lord have not surely been so carelessly reported as this would assume. Every thing here speaks for a gradation of meaning. The variety of reading certainly makes it difficult to point out exactly the steps of that gradation, and unnecessary to follow the various interpreters in their assignment of them: but that there is such, may be seen from Isaiah 40:11 : 1 John 2:12-13. Perhaps the feeding of the lambs was the furnishing the apostolic testimony of the resurrection and facts of the Lord’s life on earth to the first converts; The shepherding or ruling the sheep, the subsequent government of the Church as shown forth in the early part of the Acts; The feeding of the πορβάτια, the choicest, the loved of the flock, the furnishing the now maturer Church of Christ with the wholesome food of the doctrine contained in his Epistles. But those must strangely miss the whole sense, who dream of an exclusive primatial power here granted or confirmed to him. A sufficient refutation of this silly idea, if it needed any other than the ἐλυπήθη of this passage, is found in the συμπρεσβὐτεροι of 1 Peter 5:1, where he refers apparently to this very charge: see note on Matthew 16:17 ff.” Wordsworth: “The command βόσκε, pasce, is repeated: it stands first and last (John 21:15; John 21:17) with ποίμαινε between, John 21:16. To provide wholesome food for Christ’s sheep and lambs is the first and last thing: the love of the shepherd who tends, and leads, and guards, and lays down his life for the flock, is the central spring of all, which shows itself in outward acts.” Godet rightly refers βόσκειν to the feeding of the flock, ποιμαίνειν to the general direction. The diminutives ἀρνία, lambkins, and προβάτια, sheeplings, are expressive of the tender affection of the Arch-Shepherd for His flock; comp. the term τεκνία, John 13:33. See also Bengel on John 21:15-16, who refers ἀρνία, προβάτια and πρόβατα to the different stages in Peter’s public life, and in the history of the Church.—P. S.]

John 21:17. Lovest thou Me (dearly)?—Φιλεῖς με; The change of expression in the third question, Tholuck [like Grotius] groundlessly makes a matter of indifference, considering the variation of ἀγαπᾶν and φιλεῖν as unintentional. [See the remarks above.—P. S.]

Lord, Thou knowest all things [Κύριε, πάντα σὺ οὶδας, σὺ γινώσκεις ό́τι φιλῶ σε].—Comp. John 16:30; Acts 1:24.

John 21:18. Verily, verily I say unto thee.—Upon the solemn re-institution of Peter, follows the revelation of Jesus concerning the manner of his life, and his exode. The words of Jesus give the prophecy of Peter’s future in a simple life-picture of the contrast between youth and old age. Peter is a vigorous man, in the middle years of life, occupying, therefore, a position betwixt youth and old age. The prophecy attaches itself to this fact, just as the contrast of youth and old age is frequently made a symbol in the Old Testament also (Isaiah 40:30-31; Ezekiel 16:0; Hosea 11:1). The Lord employs the homeliest figure for the most mysterious disclosure. Yet allegorical traits mingle in the figure itself. That the young man girds himself, is agreeable to nature; it is likewise in accordance with nature that “a perfectly decrepid old man”18 stretches out his hands for help and lets himself be girded and led by another. But the traits: Thou didst walk, as a young man, whither thou wouldest, as an old man thou shalt be led whither thou wouldest not, in themselves point to the prophetic meaning.

John gives the interpretation of the saying in John 21:19; he refers it to the martyrdom of Peter. This is the centre of the dark, significant saying; a meaning, however, that was not fully disclosed until Peter’s martyrdom took place. It was, however, intended that this saying should primarily furnish Peter himself with a leading thought, and this thought is undoubtedly a word concerning the development and future of Peter’s spiritual man—presented under the figure of the natural life—connected with the intimation of a fate big with suffering. Tholuck justly remarks that if the simile be intended to refer solely to the martyrdom of Peter, the protasis, the clause treating of his youth, seems really idle; and also incongruous, inasmuch as it indicates a whole period of his life, while the apodosis touches upon a moment only. But if, finally, in accordance with our conception, the Epilogue present a more general life-picture of the Church of Christ in the contrast of the Petrine and the Johannean type, then the saying will have a further application to the Petrine form of the Church.

When thou wast younger [ό́τε ἦς νεώτερος]—Meyer adds: “than now.” The words however simply denote, doubtless, the younger man, characterizing him with the collateral idea of one youthfully strong, enterprising, self-willed. According to Meyer, the middle state of Peter is left uncharaeterized. Its character, however, is that of transition, of gradual transformation from youth to old age. If, indeed, we here find only the martyrdom predicted, neither does the figure of the younger man constitute a trait of character. It undoubtedly denotes, however, the youthful conduct of Peter in his discipleship; not his state before he came to Christ (Gerh., Luthardt); nor does it include his present time of life. He girded himself in the acts of self-will of which the evangelical history testifies; he finally in self-will trod the way of denial.

But when thou hast grown old [ὅταν δὲ γηράσης], literally, gray.—Indicative at once of the last stage of Christian development (1 John 2:13) and of Peter’s life’s evening (2 Peter 1:14).

Thou wilt stretch forth thy hands [ἐκτενεῖς τὰς χεῖράς σου].—An old man stretches out his hands for help foreign to himself. Accordingly, the outstretching of the hands is forthwith a symbol of submission to the power of another. The Christian grown gray in the faith resigns himself utterly to the leading of the Lord. (Acts 20:22.—“When I am weak, then am I strong”). The aged Apostle carried out this submission by a submission to the power of Roman authority, in which God ruled over him. The term ἐκτνεῖς τὰς χεῖράς σου has, by the Church Fathers and some moderns, been referred to the extending of the hands on the cross (Maier, De Wette, Hilgenfeld, and others); similarly, the girding has been considered to mean the binding upon the cross (Tertullian19), or the girding of a cloth about the loins. This view is contradicted by the fact that the leading away does not occur until after the stretching forth of the hands. The effort has been made to meet this objection by the remark (Casaub., Wetst. and others) that cross-bearers, on being led forth, had their hands bound to the two sides of the cross. But this usage was not customary in the provinces. We need but hold fast this truth, namely, that the stretching forth of the hands, as a symbol of submission to another’s power, is once more significantly and plastically reflected in the outstretching of the hands of a crucified martyr. The whole occurrence is, in reality, a single life-picture.

And another [καὶ ἄλλος].—The other unqualified: it is the figure of the objective might of Divine Providence, ruling through human instruments (John 19:11).—Will gird thee [ζώσει σε].—Make thee ready for thy last journey;—in accordance with the figure of binding: he will fetter thee (the symbolical act Acts 21:11 means also, it is probable: the girdle, as the symbol of free will, shall be changed into a fetter, as a symbol of the unfree will of a prisoner).—And will lead thee [καὶ οἵσει].—That objective, earnest guidance which puts an end to self-will; more closely defined, apparently the leading away to martyrdom. Is a leading to the death of the cross distinctly intended? (Calvin, Beza, and others). Meyer finds only a violent death symbolized. However, it was the word of the Master, whose violent death had just consisted in crucifixion, and who had now purposely selected the figure of the outstretching of the hands, in order to express submission to the extremest fate. And death upon the cross was just this (“Even the ἐξεπέτασα τὰς χεῖράς μου, Isaiah 65:2, is referred by Barnabas, Ep. chap. 12; Justin, Dial. c. Tr. C. 97, to the crucifixion of Christ.” Tholuck). Whither thou wouldest not [ό́που οὐ θέλεις], i.e. not as regards thy inner life and new man, which latter has just been active in the stretching forth of the hands, but as regards the old, expiring self-will of the natural life; comp. the legend of Peter’s flight from prisoa at Rome. Calvin: Nunquam enim tam soluto affectu obsequimur deo, quin caro velut funiculis quibusdam in contrarium nos retrahat. Augustine: Hunc invenit exitum ille negator et amator; præsumendo elatus, negando prostratus, flendo purgatus, confitendo probatus, patiendo coronatus.—(The interpretation of the entire passage by Gurlitt and Paulus as a prophecy of actual senile weakness hardly needs mention).

John 21:19. Signifying by what manner of death [σημαίων ποίω̣ θανάτω̣]—A Johannean expression, comp. John 12:33; John 18:32. By what (a) death,—bringing to view not only the kind of death, as martyrdom, namely, but also the distinguished species of that death. According to Tertullian (Scorp. 15, De Præscr. 35, and Euseb. H. E. III.1), Peter was crucified. When John wrote, the crucifixion of Peter (67, or 68 A. D.) must already have been an event in ecclesiastical history well known in the Christian churches. Had Peter still been living, John would not thus have publicly interpreted the dark saying of Christ, even though he were himself perfectly cognizant of its meaning.—He was to glorify God [δοξάσει τὸνθεόν].—Martyrdom has a reflex lustre from the crucial death of Christ; it redounds in a peculiar degree to the glory of God. Hence the expression: δοξάζειν τὸν θεόν was later a customary term for martyrdom (Suicer, Thes. 1. p. 949). [To suffer for Christ is to glorify God; but there is a martyrdom of life as well as of death; by the former John, by the latter Peter and Paul glorified God.—P. S.].

Follow me. [Ἀκολούθει μοι. This, in a wider sense, is the sum and substance, the beginning and end of Christian life, as an imitation of the life of Christ in its sinless perfection, its divine-human character, its prophetic, priestly, and kingly office, and in its states of humiliation and exaltation from the cross to the crown.—P. S.] Comp. John 13:36. Different interpretations:

1. Follow me in doctrine and till death (Cyril, Theophylact);
2. In the death of the cross (Euthym.);
3. In a martyr’s death (Meyer);
4. As ecumenical bishop or teacher (Chrysostom);
5. Reference at once to the guidance of the Church and to martyrdom (Ewald);
6. The words are to be taken literally: the Redeemer leads the disciple aside in order to a confidential communication (Kuinoel, Paulus, Thol., and others). Meyer in objection to this view: The words would thereby be stripped of all significance.
The first question to be asked is, what they mean when considered in connection with the context; this done, the immediately subsequent: Peter turned himself about and saw, etc. following [ἐπιστραφεὶς ὁ ΙΙέτρος βλέπει τὸν μαθητὴν ο͂ν ἠγάπα ὁ Ἰησοῦς�, John 21:20] is decisive in favor of the primarily literal sense. It is to be considered, moreover, that Peter could not understand this saying of Jesus as distinctly referring to martyrdom, if he did not understand the previous saying as referring to the same. We suppose, however, the significance of this literal sense to have lain in the fact that Jesus retired to the background of the scene, as if for departure to the invisible world, and hence that the summons to Peter was a trial. The literal expression, therefore, has likewise a symbolical background. He must prepare himself for the possibility of the immediate decision of his fate; i.e. stand a test of absolute submission. (Leben Jesu, ii. pp. 17, 19. Luthardt). This assumption does not exclude the design of a further communication. On the contrary, such a communication was probably intended, since the imminent walk could not be a merely symbolical one. Had the communication, however, as strictly confidential, been designed to exclude John, that disciple would doubtless not have followed too.


1. The re-instatement of Peter in his ministry, a life-picture of the appointment of the ecclesiastical ministry in general, as the first ground-form through which Christ wills to be present in His Church in the world, and by means of which He chooses to rule in the Church.

a. Every calling and institution [ordination] is in reality a re-reception and re-instatement, no man having kept his gift of grace pure, and himself clean from denial.

b. Every calling pre-supposes a previous discipleship, experience of Christ, leading, humiliation, and refreshment.

c. Every calling takes place in an assembled apostolic congregation of believers.

d. No calling ensues without previous trial (Examen rigorosum.)

e. The main question is always the question of Christ: “Lovest thou Me?” with a forbearing recollection of the old nature (“Simon, son of Jonas”), its errors and dangers. Love to Christ is the decisive fundamental condition of the pastoral office.

f. To the ethical love for Christ, resting upon piety (ἀγαπᾶν), there must be added a personal love for Him, resting upon historically grounded knowledge (φιλεῖν).

g. The trial must lead the examinate to earnest self-examination, resulting in his confusion and sorrow; it must make him certain of his love for Christ and of his vocation, occasioning prayerful appeal on his part to Christ’s privity to the condition of his soul.

h. It must be proved from the first that, with all his certainty of his vocation, he renounces all self-upliftment above those who are called along with him (he consequently renounces pride, envy, rivalry, false human emulation). The examiner, however, must know that he is to act by order of, and in the spirit of, the Lord.

Finally, institution [the act of installation or investment] has, above all things, to give prominence to the feeding of the lambs, the catechising of those of tender age, the preliminary condition of which is the missionary halieutics [aptness to fish for men]. Only on this basis does it become an introduction into the real pastorate or presbyterial episcopate, or into the offiec of guiding the sheep, i.e. the adult Church. Neither can it stop at this, however; it finally becomes an installation in the evangelical Doctorate, the providing of the sheep, as adult sheeplings that need the spiritual nourishment of advanced knowledge, with strong meat, 1 Corinthians 3:2; Hebrews 5:12-13. See Ex. Note 1.

2. An ecclesiastical ministry that exalts itself above other ministries (“more than these”); that fails to hold fast the love of Christ as its fundamental condition, that pretends to regard Christ’s sheep (My lambs, My sheep, My sheeplings) as its own, that chooses to know of immature lambs only, not of mature sheep, and that desires but to lead (ποιμαίνειν) the whole flock, or rather to exercise lordship over it from on high (κατακυριεύειν), not to feed it (βόσκειν) in the green meadows of evangelical knowledge, does by these characteristics prove itself a sombre antitype or caricature of the Petrine ecclesiastical ministry.

3. The gradation of evangelical functions indicated by Christ, is not to be a gradation of hierarchical dignities; this is proved by the fact that Peter is forced to evade, as a temptation, the question: ‘Lovest thou Me more than these?’ But if anything ought to establish a hierarchical gradation, it would be the declaration, ‘I love Thee better than others;’ but not: ‘Thou hast granted me prerogatives above others,’ or, ‘The heathen world-city of Rome will give me these prerogatives,’ or, The reminiscence, called up by the ἀρνία of the old prerogatives of the levitic high-priests or the Roman pontifices. But who would dare declare unto the Lord: ‘I love Thee better than all others?’ Moreover, the institution of Peter is a re-instatement, of which, in this solemn form, only he, as the fallen one, had need, in order to a full restitution to the apostolic circle which, in general, had received the new sanction of the old calling on the very first Easter-evening (John 20:21).

Hence this formal explication of the Petrine ministry is likewise an explication of the ministry received by all the Apostles. It applies to all the officially called servants of Christ to the end of time.
4. The announcement of Peter’s destiny, which succeeded the sanction of his calling, was primarily a prophetic revelation, to the effect that he was called to follow Christ in His sufferings, and that he should be trained up by the guidance of God. It further proved to be a more decided announcement of his martyrdom. In accordance with the symbolical character of this Chapter, however, it is at the same time a life-picture of the leading which the Lord bestows upon every individual servant in his vocation; finally, in its most universal application it is also, we doubt not, a prophecy that the official Church will incur judgment previous to the coming of the Lord. See Matthew 24:48; 2 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 12:1; Comp. Chap. 17; John 19:7; Chap, John 13:1. Comp. John 21:11.

5. Follow Me. One of the most mysterious moments in the whole resurrection-history. In a symbolical act, Peter must follow the Lord into the background of the scene, as if he were now to be translated with Him from the visible earth across the boundaries of the spirit-realm. Thus is the unconditional following, the readiness for death, of the servant of Christ, presented in a symbolical act. The type of martyrdom in the Church. See Exeg. Note in loc.


See the Doct. Notes. The ecclesiastical ministry after Christ’s heart.—Apostolic ordination after Christ’s example.—How the Lord hath made Simon (son of) Jonas to be Simon Peter again.—The ministerial vocation in the Church conditioned by a holy examination: 1. By three questions in one. Infinite importance (always: Lovest thou Me?); 2. by one question in three. Perfect distinctness.—Love for Christ the decisive characteristic of His called servant: 1. As the condition of the recognition that His (His sheep) are His; 2. as the condition of true discrimination between lambs and sheep, as likewise of the sheep as sheep and as sheeplings (as adults and yet as having to be led further. Rightly dividing the word; ὀρθοτομεῖν 2 Timothy 2:15); 3. as the condition of true pastoral fidelity (in which a single ποιμαίνειν is accompanied by a twice-repeated βόσκειν).—The right examination of the official spirit must be to it an occasion of self-examination (and so of confusion, prayer, certitude of self).—Peter’s humility, the first token of his ripeness for the ministry,—his love for Jesus, the second,—his knowledge of Christ as the Trier of the heart, the third,—but, however, his love for Jesus, the one and all (as the root of his humility and of his knowledge).—Why no question is made of faith in this transaction. Because it must be present in a developed form: 1. In the form of humility, 2. of love, 3. of knowledge.

Verily, verily: On the ministry in respect of its youthful, and in respect of its matured, character (girding one’s self, choosing one’s own Ways, making great pretensions; denying one’s self, suffering one’s self to be led, submitting to the guidance of the Lord).—Christ the Master of His servants: 1. In the establishment of their vocation; 2. in the foresight of their fate.—How the right conduct of the ministry should approve itself a government in which Christ wills to be present with the Church: 1. Christ in His works; 2. Christ in His suffering.—How the whole business of a servant of Christ is comprehended in the business of following Christ.—How Christ will be present with the Church and the world in the following of His people [in His people’s imitation of Him].

Starke: Hedinger: But what shall a shepherd of the sheep do without love? such [as are without love] are thieves and murderers, who, like the wolves, spare not the flocks.—Osiander: The apostolic office consisteth not in worldly dominion, but in the feeding of the sheep and lambs, which thing, Peter, as well as the other apostles, was obliged to do, so that he consequently was devoid of superiority to them, 1 Peter 5:2-3.—Zeisius: Christ having first recommended the lambs to Peter’s feeding, it results that Christian teachers should consider youth and simplicity as specially recommended to their care.—O how Jesus loves the souls of men, inasmuch as He will commit them to the feeding of none but those who first sincerely love Him.—Preachers should distinguish between lambs and sheep, i, e. children, youths and old persons, communicating to each his food: to the lambs, milk, to the adult in Christianity, strong meat, Hebrews 5:12 ff.—He that hath sinned much, ought often to examine his heart, as to whether it sincerely loves its God, or whether its repentance is nought but hypocrisy.—Zeisius: Jesus is the Searcher of the hearts and reins—comfort thyself therewith in every cross, temptation, and persecution: but beware lest thou follow sin in thy thoughts, words and works, for there is nothing hid before Him, nor doth ought remain unpunished, Revelation 2:23.—Lange: The Lord Jesus, by connecting the question concerning love toward Him with the announcement of Peter’s imminent sufferings, indicates that by the willing assumption of sufferings inflicted for His name’s sake, the sincerity and faithfulness of love, and, consequently, also the steadfastness of faith, are to be proved.—Zeisius: To die for Christ’s sake, disgraceful as it may appear in the eyes of the world, is equally honorable and precious in the sight of God and all the faithful, for there by is God praised, Psalms 116:15.—And sure, how can there be a death more glorious than one that is suffered for God’s and Christ’s sake, the King of all kings!—The cross which believers bear for love of their Saviour, hath a right fair name,—it is called the laud and praise, of God, Philippians 1:20.

Gerlach: It was easier for a man like Peter to act, dare, sacrifice, than to wait, suffer, passively stand still. Jesus therefore promises him a high place in His Church, in doing and suffering; but in a doing in which he had shown himself so unskilful by his denial, and in a suffering which was in the extreme repugnant to his nature.—Lisco: In youth, in the fulness of intellectual power, zealous (but also in many respects self-willed) activity for the Lord is shown; in old age, however, manifold hindrances (but also purifications) are at work, and the highest pitch of self-denial is death for Christ.

Braune: Living love to Christ impels to the most earnest participation in His work, and all the knowledge of the human heart, without love to Christ, leads to craftiness and makes a man a rogue. The Apostles are qualified only by their love for the Saviour.—Feed My lambsfeed My sheep, tender youth and vigorous age.—This, too, the Lord says three times with emphasis. Love makes the shepherd; Peter was to be a shepherd, like his Lord; the Lord elevates him to that office by this examination and humiliation.—When he was an old man, he wrote to the elders of his church (1 Peter 5:2-3): Feed the flock of Christ, etc.—Peter bears this intimation in mind in his second epistle (John 1:14).—This kept Peter’s enthusiasm for the Risen One young till he himself was old, for he exclaims, 1 Peter 1:3-4 : Blessed be God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, etc.—He knew that he should follow the Lord through shame to glory; to him the cross became a token of honor.—Vigorous souls are not terrified by a future full of dangers. beyond the stormy night, they see the glorious morning of eternity.—His life accords with his word, 1 Peter 4:12; 1 Peter 4:19.

Gossner: This question is easily answered with “yes;” but if we think again, many a consideration will present itself.—Just so much as we lack in simple love, we fail of in daily bliss.—If thou wouldst be a true pastor and shepherd, love for Me must bring the thing about—else is it impossible. For a large measure of love is needed to serve the bodies and souls of men, and often to incur, in so doing, much danger, and to experience the grossest ingratitude.—Hence it is the extreme of temerity to take upon one’s self, or to seek, the office and ministry of a shepherd in the Church of Christ, without feeling love toward Jesus and solicitude for His flock.—When a man is still young, God hath no very high opinion of his abilities; but when one hath been longer acquainted with Him, He maketh one a larger sharer in His sufferings.—What a doctrine! What a religion! The Lord prophesieth to His disciples torture and death, and inviteth them to follow Him, and they do follow Him! They prefer to lay down their lives rather than leave Him.

Heubner: The practice of Christ was entirely different from the subsequently invented church-penance, according to the canons of which, as Zinzendorf says, Peter would have been forced to kneel outside of the church-door for at least fifteen years.—The main thing is personal love, true, real love for the Person of Jesus. It is this very thing that many are horrified at; they cannot relish it at all; they scent directly I know not what manner of pietistic and mystical rubbish, and seek to dilute it and beat it down and circum-interpret it into a mere cold esteem, or keeping of His commandments.—The schoolmen apprehended the thrice-repeated feeding as feeding by doctrine, by example, by hospitality. The generality of men are concerned only about the unimportant worldly examination, but the passing of a heart-examination before Jesus does not enter into their heads.—How utterly distinct a character a man bears so long as he is bent upon being his own master; he follows his own self-will, the natural will; how different the man when his will has been taken away by grace and he belongs to God. Then the self-will of the flesh is entirely captive to the will of the Spirit.

[Craven: From Augustine: “John 21:15. Our Lord asked this, knowing it: He knew that Peter not only loved Him, but loved Him more than all the rest [?]. While our Lord was being condemned to death, Peter feared, and denied Him. But by His resurrection Christ implanted love in his heart, and drove away fear. Peter denied, because he feared to die: but when our Lord was risen from the dead, and by His death destroyed death, what should he fear?—Feed My lambs; As if there were no way of Peter’s showing his love for Him, but by being a faithful shepherd, under the Chief Shepherd.

John 21:17. Jesus saith unto him, Feed My sheep; As if to say, Be it the office of love to feed the Lord’s flock, as it was the resolution of fear to deny the Shepherd.—They who feed Christ’s sheep as if they were their own, not Christ’s, show plainly that they love themselves, not Christ; that they are moved by lust of glory, power, gain, not by the love of obeying, ministering, pleasing God. Let us love therefore, not ourselves, but Him, and in feeding His sheep, seek not our own, but the things that are His.—If we call our sheep ours, as they [sectarists] call them theirs, Christ hath lost His sheep.

John 21:18-19. Whatever be the pain of death, it ought to be conquered by the strength of love for Him, who being our Life, voluntarily also underwent death for us.—If there is no pain in death, or very little, the glory of martyrdom would not be great.—He who denied and loved, died in perfect love for Him, for whom he had promised to die with wrong haste.—It was necessary that Christ should first die for Peter’s salvation, and then Peter die for Christ’s Gospel.

[From Chrysostom: John 21:15-17. If thou lovest Me, have rule over thy brethren [?], show forth that love which thou hast evidenced throughout, and that life which thou saidst thou wouldst lay down for Me, lay down for the sheep.

John 21:18. Christ reminds Peter of his former life, because whereas in worldly matters a young man has powers, an old man none; in spiritual things, on the contrary, virtue is brighter, manliness stronger, in old age; age is no hindrance to grace.—He says, Whither thou wouldest not, with reference to the natural reluctance of the soul to be separated from the body; an instinct implanted by God to prevent men putting an end to themselves.——From Alcuin: John 21:15-17. To feed the sheep is to support the believers in Christ from falling from the faith, to provide earthly sustenance for those under us, to preach and exemplify withal our preaching by our lives to resist adversaries, to correct wanderers.

[From Burkitt: John 21:15-17. Christ puts Peter upon a threefold profession of his love unto Him, answerable to his threefold denial of Him True repentance ought to be, and will be, as eminent, in the fruit and effects of it, as the saint’s fall hath been.—Ministers who are called to take charge of Christ’s flock, have need of much love to Jesus Christ.—The best evidence of a minister’s love to Jesus Christ, is his conscientious care to feed, i.e., teach, instruct and govern the whole flock of Christ; lambs and sheep, weak and strong; the feeblest in the fold were purchased by the great Shepherd.—Such as would be faithful in their ministerial charge, ought to look upon their people as committed to them by Christ Himself, as loved of Him, and committed to their care by Him.

John 21:15. Note the great modesty of Peter in his reply: once he vaunted Though all men, forsake Thee, yet will not I; but now his fall had taught him humility.—It is blessed thing, when we can and dare appeal to God’s knowledge.

John 21:18. The ministers of Jesus Christ, when they undertake the charge of His flock, must prepare for suffering work.—Whither thou wouldest not; Human nature in Christ’s ministers, as well as in other men, reluctates sufferings, has an antipathy against a violent death.—When thou shalt be old; he timing of the saints’ sufferings is in Christ hands.

John 21:19. The sufferings of the saints in general, and of the ministers of Christ in particular, do redound much to the glory of God.

[From M. Henry: John 21:15-17. Herein Christ has given us an encouraging instance of His tenderness towards penitents, and has taught us, in like manner, to restore such as are fallen with a spirit of meekness.—We must not reckon it an affront to have our sincerity questioned, when we ourselves have done that which makes it questionable.—Peter was now upon his probation as penitent; but the question is not, “Simon, how much hast thou wept? How often hast thou fasted and afflicted thy soul?” but, “Dost thou love Me? Much is forgiven her, not because she wept much, but because she loved much.—Nothing but the love of Christ will constrain ministers to go cheerfully through the difficulties and discouragements they meet with in their work, 2 Corinthians 5:13-14.

John 21:15Lovest thou Me more than thou lovest these, more than thou lovest these persons?” Those do not love Christ aright, that do not love Him better than the best friend they have in the world. Or, “more than thou lovest these things, these boats and nets;” those only love Christ indeed, that love Him better than all the delights of sense and all the profits of this world.—“Lovest thou Me more than thou lovest these occupations thou art now employed in? If so, leave them, to employ thyself wholly in feeding My flock.” (Whitby).—“Lovest thou Me more than these love Me, more than any of the rest of the disciples love Me?” We should all study to excel in our lore to Christ; it is no breach of the peace to strive which shall love Christ best; nor any breach of good manners, to go before others in this love.—Peter does not pretend to love Christ more than the rest of the disciples did.—Though we must aim to be better than others, yet we must, in lowliness of mind, esteem others better than ourselves; for we know more evil of ourselves than we do of any of our brethren.—Those who can truly say, through grace, that they love Jesus Christ, may take the comfort of their interest in Him, notwithstanding their daily infirmities.

John 21:17. It is a terror to a hypocrite, to think that Christ knows all things; but it is a comfort to a sincere Christian, that he has that to appeal to; My witness is in heaven, my record is on high. Christ knows us better than we know ourselves, though we know not our own uprightness, He does.—Peter was grieved, when Christ asked Him the third time, Lovest thou Me? Because it put him 1. In mind of his threefold denial of Christ; 2. In fear, lest his Master foresaw some further miscarriage of his.

John 21:15-17. The Church of Christ is His flock: in this flock some are lambs, young and tender and weak, others are sheep, grown to some strength and maturity; the shepherd here takes care of both, and of the lambs first.—It is the duty of all Christ’s ministers, to feed His lambs and sheep 1. Teach them; for the doctrine of the Gospel is spiritual food; 2. Lead them to the green pastures, presiding in their religious assemblies, and ministering all the ordinances to them; 3. By personal application to their respective state and case; not only lay meat before them, but feed them with it, that are wilful and will not, or weak and cannot, feed themselves.—When Christ ascended on high, He gave pastors; left His flock with them that loved Him, and would take care of them for His sake.—Simon Peter; a commission given to one convicted of a crime is supposed to amount to a pardon.

John 21:18. When trouble comes, we are apt to aggravate it with this, that it has been otherwise; and to fret the more at the grievances of restraint, sickness and poverty, because we have known the sweets of liberty, health, and plenty. But we may turn it the other way, and reason thus with ourselves: “How many years of prosperity have I enjoyed more than I deserved and improved!”

John 21:19. There is one way into the world, but many ways out, and God has determined which way we shall go.—It is the great concern of every good man, whatever death he dies, to glorify God in it.—When we die patiently, submitting to the will of God; cheerfully, rejoicing in hope of the glory of God; and usefully, witnessing to the truth and goodness of religion, and encouraging others, we glorify God in dying.—Follow Me; Expect to be treated as I have been, and to tread the same bloody path that I have trod before thee; for the disciple is not greater than his Lord.—They that faithfully follow Christ in grace shall certainly follow Him to glory.

[From Scott: John 21:15-17. Our Lord will readily pardon the sins of His believing servants: but He will rebuke them, in one way or other; that they may be more sensible how greatly He abhors their offences, notwithstanding His mercy to their souls.—Those who “love the Lord Jesus in sincerity,” have a consciousness of it, notwithstanding all their defects.—Those who have been greatly tempted, and have had humiliating experience of their frailty and sinfulness, and who have had much forgiven them, generally prove the most tender and attentive pastors, and the best guides of young converts.—The Lord often leaves those whom He loves to pass through painful conflicts, as well as much experience of His compassion, in order to render them more gentle to their weak brethren, and the lambs of His flock.

[From A Plain Commentary (Oxford): John 21:15. Ἀγαπᾶς με; Lovest thou Me? “At this moment, when all the pulses in the heart of the now penitent Apostle are beating with an earnest affection toward his Lord, this word on that Lord’s lips sounds too cold. Besides the question itself, which grieves and hurts Peter, there is an additional pang in the form which the question takes, sounding as though it were intended to put him at a comparative distance from his Lord, and to keep him there; or at least, as not permitting him to approach so near to Him as he fain would. He therefore in His answer substitutes for it the word of a more personal love,—‘Thou knowest that I love Thee dearly.’ When Christ repeats the question in the same words as at the first, Peter in his reply again substitutes his ‘Hove Thee dearly’ for the ‘lovest thou’ of his Lord. And now at length he has conquered: for when his Master puts the question to him for the third time, He does it with the word which Peter feels will alone express all that is in his heart; and instead of the twice repeated ‘Lovest thou Me?’ His word is, ‘Dost thou love Me dearly?’ The question, grievous in itself to Peter, as seeming to imply a doubt in his love, is not any longer made more grievous still, by the peculiar shape which it assumes.” (Trench.)—Feed My lambs; The lambs are to be fed. Their daily portion of food (all that is needed for the soul’s health and strength, all that is included in that petition “Give us this day our daily bread,” is here especially spoken of.—Those “lambs,” saith “the great Shepherd of the sheep,” are “Mine.” O salutary thought for the pastor of souls, that the “sheep” and the “lambs” are not his but Christ’s! Not his;—therefore, like Jacob with the flock of Laban, he should be prepared to give account for all. Not his;—therefore must there be One above him, to whom they are a care as well as to himself; even “the Chief Shepherd,” who careth alike for him and for them.—“Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock?” (Ezekiel 34:2).

John 21:16. Before, it was “Peed;” now, it is “Tend” or “Shepherd,” i.e. “Perform all a shepherd’s duties” by them; “Feed the flock, like a shepherd;” do all that should be done by a “shepherd of the sheep.” Call thine own sheep by name, and lead them out; and when thou puttest forth thine own sheep, go before them, that the sheep (knowing thy voice) may follow thee. Consider St. John 10:3-4.

John 21:17. The Divine Speaker “seems to say that, in a Pastor, the first, the second, the third requisite, is love of Christ.” (Williams)—Feed My sheep; It is no longer “Tend,” or “Shepherd,” My sheep,—as in John 21:16; but “Feed” them,—the same word which was used above, in John 21:15, which was used above, in John 21:15, with reference to the little lambs. The same catechetical training, therefore,—the same careful attention to the soul’s natural cravings and acquired needs, which was enjoined on behalf of the “lambs” of the fold,—is here enjoined on behalf of the “sheep” also.—“Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” (1 Peter 5:1-4.)

[From Barnes: John 21:15. Thou knowest that I love Thee; The expression of a humbled soul, a soul made sensible of its weakness and need of strength, yet with evidence of true attachment to the Saviour. It is not the most confident pretensions that constitute the highest proof of love to Christ.—Feed My lambs; It is not merely, therefore, the privilege,—it is the solemn duty of ministers of the gospel to countenance and patronize Sunday-schools.——From Jacobus: John 21:15-17. The test of ministerial love to Christ is a faithful care of the flock.—Thou knowest all things; The Divine Omniscience ought not to be a terror to the true Christian, but a comfort; for His all-searching eye can trace His own likeness wherever it is to be found, in the deepest depths of the soul.——From Owen: John 21:15-17. “There was no formal rebuke uttered, for the matter was already forgiven; this asking about his love was at farthest a most gentle and affectionate reproof.” (Stier.)—The gradation “1. Feed My lambs, i.e. help the weak; 2. Guide and guard My sheep, i.e. counsel the strong; 3. Feed My sheep, i.e. help the strong, for they too need feeding with the divine food of the word.” (Crosby.)—A descending gradation, the lambs, a term of endearment, being given first, and then in the repetition of the charge, the less emphatic term, sheep.” (Webster and Wilkinson.)—“Ministers ought to look upon Christ’s people as very seriously recommended to them, and therefore should very seriously mind their work about them; for there ore is this charge thrice laid on Peter, that he may mind it much.” (Hutcheson.)

John 21:18. The phrase thou wouldest not, refers to the shrinking back of weak humanity from a violent death, but not to the unwillingness of Peter to die for Jesus.]


John 21:15; John 21:15.—On the reading Ἰωάνα instead of Ἰωνᾶ, John 21:15-17, see John 1:42. [p. 91, Text. Note 7. Lachm., Tischend., Treg., Alf., Westc. and H., read Ἰωάννον or Ἰωάνον here and John 21:16-17, in accordance with א.a B. C.1 D. L. Vulg. (ioharnis), Jerome, Ambrose, etc. Ἰωνᾶ is from Matthew 15:17. Lange adopts the latter, and translates Simon Jonas.—P. S.]

John 21:15; John 21:15.—[The significant difference between ἀγαπᾶν and φιλεῖν which runs through this section, cannot well be rendered in English, unless we translate φιλῶ σε: I dearly love Thee. Lange translates ἀγαπᾶν lieben, φιλεῖν lieb haben. ἀγαπᾶν, diligere, is used of the higher, reverential, constant, unwavering love, such as we ought to have to God as welt as to man, and such as Christ had to John (John 21:20) and His church; φιλεῖν, amare, means personal, emotional love and friendship. The Vulgate renders the former always by diligere, the latter by amare and osculari. In the Hebrew and Syriac there are not the same shades of difference, but the Lord may have expressed it by an additional word or emphasis; at all events we have to account for the difference in the Greek of John. See more in the Exeg. Notes.—P. S.]

John 21:16; John 21:16.—[The difference between βόσκω (to feed, to pasture) and ποιμαίνω (from ποιμήν, to pasture, to tend, to provide for, to rule, a flock or herd), is obliterated in the E. V. βόσκω occurs nine times in the N. T., and is always translated to feed in the E. V., except Matthew 8:33 (kept). ποιμαίνω occurs eleven times and is rendered to rule, or to feed. βόσκειν, βοσκή, βόσκημα, victus, has reference mainly to the feeding, nourishing care (“die erniährende Hütethätigkeit,” Meyer, p. 675), and applies therefore specially to the lambs, while ποιμαίνειν is more general, and covers the providing and governing activity (“die fursorglich regierende Thätigkeit,” Meyer); comp. Matthew 2:6; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2; Revelation 2:27; Revelation 7:17; Revelation 12:5; Revelation 19:15. See. the Exeg. Notes.—P. S.]

John 21:16; John 21:16.—[ΙΙρόβατα, oves, sheep, is sustained in this verse by Codd. א. A. D . X. Γ. Δ. Π, and adopted by Lachmann, Tregelles, eyer and Lange. προβάτια, oviculae, little sheep, sheeplings, Schäflein, (which is the proper reading in John 21:17, see note 5) has the authority of B. C., and is adopted by Tischendorf, Alford and Westcott; the last, however, gives πρόβατα in the margin. The difference between ἀρνία, πρόβατα, προβάτια is significant; see the Exeg. Notes.—P. S.]

John 21:17; John 21:17.—ΙΙροβάτια, Tischendorf, in accordance with Codd. A. C. Lachmann reads πρόβατα, with א. D. X. text, rec, but Tischendorf, Tregelles, Alford and Westcott adopt πρόβάτια with A. B. C, Syr.; comp. Ambrose (quoted by Tisch): pasce agniculos meos,pasce agnos meos, pasce oviculas meas). If πρόβάτια were better sustained in John 21:16, and πρόβατα in John 21:17, there would be a beautiful rising climax; little lambs, sheeplings, sheep.—P. S.]

[17][In the face of the expression of Peter to presbyters and bishops, not to lord it over God’s heritage, but to feed the flock and to be ensamples to it (1 Peter 5:2-3).—P. S.]

[18](Meyer makes a note of interrogation at this expression, as if those who were not perfectly decrepid did also suffer themselves to be dressed and girded by others.)

[19][Scorp. John 15:0 : “Tunc Pelrus ab altera vincitur, cum cruci adstringitur.” Comp. the traditionary account of Peter’s Martyrdom in Euseb. II. 25; III. 1, and the notes of Heinichen.—P. S.]

Verses 20-23

The Continuing Rule of Christ in his Church, Represented by The Ministry, Spiritual Life and Patriarchal Age of John; or the Destiny of the Church in Respect of her Predominantly Internal Character and Immortal Spiritual Life


John 21:20-23

(John 21:20-24, pericope for the third day after Christmas or for St. John the Evangelist’s day.)

20 Then [omit Then] 20 Peter, turning about [turning round], seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which [who] also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, 21 Lord, which [who] is he that betrayeth thee? Peter [therefore] 21 seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do [or, But how will it be with him? οὗτος δὲτί] ? 22Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? 22 follow [Follow] thou me. 23 23Then went this saying [This report therefore went] abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die [dieth not, was not to die, οὐκ�]: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die [dieth not]; but, If t will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?


John 21:20. Following (also) [ἀκολουθοῦντα].—The following of John is to be explained as the result of the involuntary drawing of love. It Proves however, that John did not understand the Lord as wishing to make Peter the recipient of an exclusively confidential communication.

Who also leaned on His breast at the supper [ο͂ς καὶ�].—Wherefore this addition? Interpretations:

1. It is intended to bring to mind the incident John 13:23 ff., when John inquired of the Lord on Peter’s behalf, and to demonstrate the fact that Peter has now grown far bolder, insomuch that he himself questions Christ, and that in behalf of John (Chrysostom and others).

2. It is designed as an intimation to this effect; namely that, peradventure, a lot so full of sufferings as Peter’s might not be intended for the disciple so pre-eminently loved by Jesus (Meyer). As if Jesus in partiality protected His particular friends from sufferings!
3. It is intended to assign the motive for John’s following. 24 John, in referring to the fact that he was the confidant of Jesus at the Last Supper, doubtless means to intimate that it was allowable for him now, as the confidant of Jesus, freely to join Him. Peter himself had possibly understood the summons of Jesus as prefacing an instantaneous being “girded” by “another” for an entrance into the other world; John understood it as the prelude to a love-test to be administered at Christ’s withdrawal into concealment.

John 21:21. But how will it be with this (man)? 25 οὖτος δὲ τί; [sc.ἔσται]

Meaning op the question:

1. In accordance with the interpretation of the following as accomplished by martyrdom: How shall it be with this my fellow-combatant (Euthymius)?

2. In accordance with the literal interpretation of the following: Is he to be with us now? (Paulus).

3. What sort of a fate shall this man have in his calling? (Tholuck, Luthardt).
4. If Peter saw in the mysterious walk a test of joyful following, his first thought would be: John, without being called, exposes himself to a moment of difficulty. The question: Shall this man go too? had at the same time, then, the background: What shall become of this man?

Motive of the question:

1. Special love for John (Chrysostom, Erasmus, Luthardt).
2. A question prompted by curiosity and a certain jealousy (Lücke, Meyer).
3. Disapprobation of a supposed unauthorized accompanying (Paulus and others).
4. Curiosity and interest as to John’s fate. “A want of concentration, an excess of natural vivacity, was certainly involved in Peter’s ability to turn away his eyes so quickly from himself and his own destiny, and fasten them upon another.” Tholuck.

The self-consciousness with which Peter receives the disclosure and summons of the Lord, turns to compassion for John whose present and future task Jesus apparently fails to appoint. Between Jesus and John everything is understood of itself, tacitly, as it were, while between Jesus and Peter everything has to be expressed, discussed, in a degree stipulated. Now thinks Peter,—in all noble-mindedness, we may say,—the same course must be pursued with John, else will he come short in somewhat: he, therefore, must receive his instructions for now and for the future. Hence Christ, in His reproof, appeals to His will, not to a distinct instruction; while, indeed, indicating the substance of His will. [The words τί πρὸς δέ in the next verse imply a gentle rebuke (Bengel: hoc Petri curiositatem in ordinem redigit), and remind Peter of the distinctness of each man’s position and calling. Hence “Do thou follow Me,” instead of inquiring after him. See Meyer and Alford.—P. S.]

John 21:22. If I will that he remain [Ἐὰν αὐτὸν θέλω μένειν ἕως ἕρχομαι, τί πρός σέ;]—As we do not read that Jesus sent John back, or that He returned with Peter and John from the mysterious walk, we must (contrary to our first edition) admit that Tholuck is right in here rejecting the literal interpretation: “If I choose to leave him behind until I return from My walk with thee (Mark, Exerc. exeg. Similarly Paulus).”

In these words, however, Christ enwraps the prophecy concerning John. That he remain—tarry,—μένειν “the opposite of ἀκολουθεῖν which was to be accomplished through martyrdom; therefore: to be preserved alive. Comp. Php 1:25; 1 Corinthians 15:6.” Meyer.

Till I come [ἐως ἔρχομαι].

1. To lead him out of Galilee to apostolic activity (Theophyl).
2. In the destruction of Jerusalem (Wetstein and others) 26

3. Reference to the near Parousia of Christ (Lücke, [De Wette], Meyer).
4. In the destruction of Jerusalem as the beginning of the Parousia of Christ (Luthardt). [So also Bengel, Stier and Alford: “After the destruction of Jerusalem began that mighty series of events of which the Apocalypse is the prophetic record, and which is in the complex known as the coming of the Lord, ending, as it shall, with His glorious and personal Advent.” Bengel: “Joannes turn, quum Apocalypsin scripsit, Dominum, venire scripsit.”—P. S.]

5. Legendary interpretation: As expnessive of the mysterious surviving of the disciple until the end of the world. (Vulg.: Sic cum volo manere) see the Introduction [p. 12].

6. Hypothetical: Until the last coming (Revelation 22:20). Tholuck: “The sentence hypothetically declares that not even the longest extension of the life-term of Peter’s fellow-disciple ought to be the occasion of jealousy.” [So also Trench, Miracles, p. 466, as quoted by Alford.—P. S.] Supposing the saying to be hypothetical, however, its prophetic meaning would be weakened.

7. The coming [of Jesus] to take [John to heaven] through the medium of an easy [natural] death (adventus gratiosus in artioulo mortis. Rupert, Grotius, Olshausen and others). [So also Lampe, Ewald, Wordsworth.] In opposition to this view Tholuck remarks: The characteristic καὶ παραλήψομαι is wanting. Nevertheless this interpretation alone forms a real antithesis; if ἀκολουθεῖν here mean: to follow the home-returning Jesus through the medium of martyrdom, and μένειν, on the other hand signify: to remain alive,—then to remain alive until I come, means also, until I come to take him. The destruction of Jerusalem, for instance, forms no contrast to martyrdom; neither does the Parousia itself. Such a contrast is presented, however, by a natural death. Natural death is the individual type, continuing throughout New Testament times, of the Parousia for the individual Christian (Matthew 24:44; John 14:3, etc.); and this Parousia of Christ in the death of believers, is a warranty to them of their participation in the general Parousia (1 Corinthians 15:51; 1 Thessalonians 4:15). Simultaneously with John’s remaining until the coming of Christ in the hour of his natural death, there is indicated, however, the remaining of the Johanneau type until the Parousia of Christ.

John 21:23. This saying therefore went abroad [Ἐξῆλθεν οὖν οὖτος ὁλόγος εἰς τοὺς�].—The above mentioned tradition, which not even the Gospel has been able utterly to do away with. See the Introduction. According to Baur, that tradition grew out of the Revelation; the statement is entirely without foundation. The tradition to the effect that John did but slumber in the grave and moved the earth with his breath, was a synthesis of the fact of his death and the precipitate apodictic interpretation of Christ’s word.

Yet Jesus said not unto him [οὐκ εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷὁ ̓ Ιησοῦς].—This defense of Christ’s word against a precipitate interpretation is of the highest importance. It warrants the sure conclusion that John was still living when this was written; that consequently, it must have been written by him. Had John been dead, another author would have expressed himself positively against the interpretation of the brethren, giving, very probably, a different interpretation at the same time. The disciple, however, would not anticipate the mysterious purport of Christ’s saying which was as yet unfulfilled.

[“So also Alford, whose note may be added: The following words are to me a proof that this chapter was written during John’s life-time. If written by another person after John’s death, we should certainly, in the refutation of this error, have read, ἀπἐθανεν γὰρ, καὶ ἐτάφη, as in Acts 2:29.” This notion of John’s not having died, was prevalent in the ancient Church,—so that Augustine himself seems almost to credit the story of the earth of John’s tomb heaving with his breath. Tract 124:2. “The English sect of the ‘Seekers’ under Cromwell expected the reappearance of the Apostle as the forerunner of the coming of Christ.” Tholuck. See Trench on the Miracles, Exodus 2:0, p. 467, note. The simple recapitulation of the words of the Lord shows that their sense remained dark to the writer, who ventured on no explanation of them; merely setting his own side of the apostolic duty over against that of Peter, who probably had already by following his Master through the Cross, glorified God, whereas the beloved disciple was, whatever that meant, to tarry till He came.” Wordsworth makes the following practical remark on John 21:23 : “The Holy Spirit, by commenting here on a fulfilled prophecy, that concerning Peter, teaches us to attend to the fulfilment of prophecy in our own times. And by only correcting an error with regard to an unfulfilled prophecy,—that concerning St. John, He teaches us not to speculate curiously on unfulfilled prophecies; but to wait patiently, till Christ comes to us in the events of history, and interprets His own prophecies by fulfilling them.”—P. S.]


1. The foregoing section should, above all, be valued as an eloquent token of the authenticity of this Gospel. Every later writer would, in one way or another, have labored after additional emphasis. See the last Exeg. Note.

2. The word of Jesus concerning John has been fulfilled, in a literal sense, in the circumstance of his dying a natural death at an advanced age. And it is in accordance with this fact, therefore, that we have to apply the saying in respect of its primary signification. That it, however, as well as the saying concerning Peter, was at the same time intended to designate John as a type of the post-temporal presence of Christ in the Church, is proved by the very fact that men gave vent to the feeling of the lofty significance of the saying, whose ideal sense they came short of, in mythical allegations touching the continuous on-living of John. See Exeg. Note to John 21:22. Further communications on this subject, as also concerning the dark counterpart of this tradition, the tradition of the Wandering Jew, see in Heubner, Joh. p. 542.

3. The higher sense of the saying, then, is expressive of a Johannean form of Christianity, just as the previous saying is significant of a Petrine form of the same. The words mean, therefore:

(1) There shall always be friends of God, friends of Christ, inward—subjective,—intuitive Christians, in accordance with the characteristic of John, representative of the innermost presence of Christ in the Church.
(2) In this form, the Christian spiritual life shall remain until Christ returns.

(3) The more the Petrine characteristic of the Church recedes, the more prominent will her Johannean characteristic become. The Church shall attain to maturity. She shall be a bride adorned with her ornaments, Revelation 19:7-8.

4. Pauline Christianity may be regarded as a form of transition from the Petrine type to the Johannean. And so far as this, the schellingean distinction of the three Christian ages is correct. Only we must not identify Petrinism with Roman Catholicism, Paulinism with Protestantism (though in Protestantism, Paulinism has found its triumphant expression), and least of all must we make a synthesis of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, affirming said synthesis to represent Johannean Christianity.

The Petrine characteristic is the trait of the Church as influenced by law; as the confessing Church; the Pauline is the trait of the Church as influenced by the freedom of faith; as the witnessing Church; the Johannean, the trait of the Church as filled with the ideality of faith, working and keeping joyful holiday, the Church of the light, love and life of Christ, i.e. the Adorned Bride. These three degrees of development, however, denote but the one unitous post-temporal presence of the Spirit of Christ in the Church, in accordance with the ground-forms of that presence. Now the two primitively distinct ground-forms are Peter and John. See the discussions on this subject: Apostolisches Zeitalter, II., p. 649, and the concluding section of Schaff’s History of the Apostolic Church.

5. John’s free joining in the following which Christ commanded Peter is likewise a characteristic of the Johannean essence. It is the involuntary drawing of love’s impulse and friendship’s right; the perfect humanity of the life of faith. The expression of this ripe spiritual fellowship with the glorified Lord makes so ghostly and yet so human an impression upon the world, that John passes, almost untouched, through its persecutions. He is exiled, but not killed. His keenest sufferings, however, are prepared him by the misconceptions of external circles of [religious] fellowship themselves, these latter stamping the Petrine as the statutory essence. He too, in his own way, is nailed to the cross like Peter, but not with heathen nails—ah no! with Christian or Judo-Christian; and, insomuch as this is true, with silver nails.
6. Here, then, belongs also the entire import of all Christian mysticism and speculation, in respect of their pure, ideal form.


The solemnization of the resurrection of Jesus: A call to follow Him.—The following of Jesus not simply a following of the Crucified One, but also of the Risen One.—The disciples’ following of the Lord: 1. In its unity, 2. in its diversity.—How Peter, as he follows the Lord, hears the rustle of John’s foot behind him.—The question of Peter: Lord, but what shall this man do? 1. In the mouth of Peter himself: well-meant and yet not wholly warranted; 2. in the mouth of those who boast of Peter: ill-meant and unwarrantable.—How the most zealous servants of Christ frequently fail to understand His most intimate friends.—John, the friend of Jesus, the patriarch of all the friends of God and of Christ.—Christ’s presence in the world and Church through the medium of the love of His friends.—Friendship with Christ on earth an undying spring, enduring until the summer-time at the end of the world.—If I will that he tarry: Christ’s will the fate of His people (if we live, we live unto the Lord, etc.)—How the Lord has appointed such different careers to His people, yet deciding for all aright.—Christ can insure the longest life.—“What is that to thee?” In what sense we should concern ourselves about our Christian colleague, and in what sense we should avoid so doing: 1. As to his spiritual welfare, but not as to the external form thereof; 2. as to the will of God concerning his way, not as to a human regulation of his way; 3. in divine sympathy, not in human comparison or in human rivalry.—Christ’s conference with Peter in regard to the destiny of John: 1. The question of Peter; 2. the answer of Christ; 3. the proud interpretation of the disciples; 4. the modest correction of John.—The remaining of John until Christ’s coming again: 1. In its historical sense; 2. in its symbolical import.

Starke: Lange: It becomes evident from this, that when Christ said to Peter, Follow Me, He advanced a few paces from him, desiring, in a prophetic manner, in conformity to which a secret matter was sometimes presented in outward gestures, to lead Peter, while claiming from him a bodily following for a short distance only, to a spiritual following, and, in particular, to a following to the death of the cross.—Zeisius: We all have, alas, an innate propensity to concern ourselves unnecessarily about others, rather than about ourselves. Therefore flee curiosity, Sir 3:22. It is one of the infirmities of believers to discover a kind of jealousy when they perceive others to possess gifts of grace, either physical or spiritual, in a greater degree than themselves, Jonah 4:1 f.—Bibl. Wirt.: Let every man wait on his vocation, not troubling himself as to what God will do or decree with others.—Lampe: Moreover, we perceive from these words 1. The humility of John, in not being willing to have so great honor ascribed to him; 2. his solicitude for the brethren, whom he sought to free from error.

Geriach: John worked inward in the Church rather than outward.—Braune: Inscrutable and mysterious are the ways by which God leads us, until we are come to the end of them. Therefore abide by the testimony of Scripture, and attend every man to his own affairs.—Gossner: Why is it only to me that such things are said? That man gets off more easily. Before one can turn round, people are ready with questions like this: What shall this one and that one do?

Johannes Mueller, Lebensgeschichte 1806, p. 34, writes: “The opinion now starting up again that the disciple whom Jesus loved, did not die, is found, if I mistake not, in Sulpitius Severus, also Hist. S., Lib. II. I have frequently met with it in Greek legends, monologues, and chronicles, with this addition, viz., that the dust upon his grave is moved by the breath of his mouth.” P. John 106: “In a work of the Patriarch Ephraim, of Antioch (p. 545, Photius, num. 229, p. 418 of the Augsburg Edition 1604) it is positively affirmed that John is still living; that he has vanished, and that in his grave nought was found but a delicious odor and a precious spring of healing balm. George of Alexandria informs us (Photius num. 96, p. 139) that to the monk Hesychius, a Syrian, there appeared St. Peter and St. John, and that the latter delivered a book to the young monk, who was afterwards called Chrysostom. Of the tradition’s having come into our parts also, thou wilt find a proof in Hübner’s Salzburg, Part. I., p. 317.”—He who has promised to follow the Saviour can do nothing else than await His orders, composing himself to rest and be active as His Lord wills, and more than once to labor till he is weary.

Heubner: The question as to ourselves should concern us so entirely to the exclusion of all else, as to keep us quiet when hundreds are threatening to get precedence of us. We, perhaps, think ourselves ripe (to go home), but there are reasons why God decrees otherwise with us.

John 21:23 : It results from this verse that the apostles could not have been of the decided opinion that they would live to see the coming of Christ; otherwise they could not have ascribed such a destiny to John as a special prerogative.—The spirit of John shall never perish; it shall ever renew itself—never shall there be wanting loving and beloved Johannean souls.

[Craven: From Augustine: John 21:22. Let action be perfected by following the example of My Passion, but let contemplation wait inchoate till at My coming it be completed.—From Chrysostom: John 21:22. Attend to the work committed to thee, and do it: if I will that he abide here, what is that to thee?

[From Burkitt: John 21:20-22. There are two great vanities in man with reference to knowledge,—the one a neglect to know what it is our duty to know; the other, a curiosity to know what it doth not belong to us to know.

John 21:23. How much the wisdom of God ought to be admired, in giving us a written word, and tying us to it, when we see erroneous traditions so soon on foot in the world, and our Saviour’s own speeches so much mistaken, and that by wise and holy men themselves in the purest times.—How great is the vanity and uncertainty of oral tradition!

[From M. Henry: John 21:21. Peter seems more concerned for another than for himself: so apt are we to be busy in other men’s matters, but negligent in the concerns of our own souls.—He seems more concerned about event than about duty.

John 21:22. Though Christ calls out some of His disciples to resist unto blood, yet not all. Though the crown of martyrdom is bright and glorious, yet the beloved disciple comes short of it.—It is the will of Christ, that His disciples should mind their own present duty, and not be curious in their inquiries about future events, concerning either themselves or others.—If we will closely attend to the duty of following Christ, we shall find neither heart nor time to meddle with that which does not belong to us.

John 21:23. Hence learn, The aptness of men to misinterpret the sayings of Christ. The grossest errors have sometimes shrouded themselves under the umbrage of incontestable truths; and the Scriptures themselves have been wrested by the unlearned and unstable.

[From Scott: John 21:22 : Follow thou Me; If we attend to this voice, even “death itself will be gain to us,” and we shall be ready for His coming.—[From Keble: John 21:21-22.

“Lord, and what shall this man do?
Ask’st thou, Christian, for thy friend?
If his love for Christ be true,
Christ hath told thee of his end:
This is he whom God approves,
This is he whom Jesus loves.
Ask not of him more than this,
Leave it in his Saviour’s breast,
Whether, early called to bliss,
He in youth shall find his rest,
Or armed in his station wait

Till his Lord be at the gate.”
[From A Plain Commentary (Oxford): John 21:22. Our Lord’s words to Peter are made up of rebuke and counsel. What is that to thee?—which of us has not deserved the rebuke? Follow thou Me! which of us does not require the counsel? The heart and eye are thus called away from the problem which perplexes, the prospect which discourages, the thoughts which distract and paralyze; and a plain duty is proposed instead. Not speculation, is enjoined, but practice; not knowledge, but goodness; not another man’s matters, but our own.—“This was a transient stumbling in one who, but lately recovered of a great disease, did not walk firmly. But it is the common track of most, to wear out their days with impertinent inquiries. There is a natural desire in men to know the things of others, and to neglect their own; and to be more concerned about things to come, than about things present.” (Leighton.)

[From Barnes: John 21:22. Hence we learn that 1. Our main business is to follow, and imitate the Lord Jesus Christ; 2. There are many subjects of religion on which a vain and impertinent curiosity is exercised; 3. Jesus will take care of all His beloved disciples, and we should not be unduly solicitous about them; 4. We should go forward to whatever He calls us, not envying the lot of any other man, and anxious only to do the will of God.

[From Jacobus: John 21:22. The intimation was that “John was to wait patiently, to linger on year after year in loneliness and weariness of spirit, to abide persecution, oppression and wrong (Revelation 1:9), to endure the enmity of the wicked (1 John 3:13), and the sight of heresies abounding in the Church (1 John 2:18-26), as if to exemplify in himself all classes of the faithful, and the various modes of drinking the cup of Christ.”—Thou (emphatic); “They, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” 2 Corinthians 10:12.—Each must do his own duty, which is not another’s, and whether another shall do his own duty or not.—Christian liberality is cramped with many by the constant asking of this question, “What shall this man do?” when the question should be, “What shall I do?”

John 21:23. Let us fall back upon God’s word—study its precise terms—and bring out its very language more and more to the public understanding: and thus will many an error be stripped of its disguises, many a perversion of God’s will be exposed, and the Church shall “grow up in all things unto Him who is the Head.”

[From Owen: John 21:23. “John was earlier than the other disciples prepared for the death of martyrdom, as the most perfect sacrifice of obedience to God, and of love to God and man; but that was the very reason why he was not to taste the martyr’s death. John consummated in his life and natural death what the martyrs sealed in their final sacrifice, namely, the victorious manifestation of the love of God and man.” (Stier.)]


John 21:20; John 21:20.—[The text. rec. inserts δἐ after ἐπιστραφεὶς, with א. D., so also Lange; but A. B. C. Vulg. omit it, so also Lachm., Tischond., Alf., Westc—P. S.]

John 21:21; John 21:21.—[The text. rec. omits οὑν after τοῦτον, which is well supported by Orig., א B. C. D. Vulg. Syr., and adopted by the critical edd.—P. S.]

John 21:22; John 21:22.—[Noyes: “If it be my will (θέλω) that he remain till I come, what is it to thee?”]

John 21:22; John 21:22.—[Alford, to bring out the emphatic position of σύ and μοι more fully, translates: “Do thou follow Me.”—P. S.]

[24][So also Alford, who sees in this description of the beloved disciple a strong token of John’s hand having written this chapter. See chap, John 13:23.—P. S.]

[25][Lange: Was soil aber dieser?]

[26][Next to this might be ranked the unfounded view or Hengstenberg: the time of the decisive struggle between Christ and Rome, which commenced under Domitian.—P. S.]

Verses 24-25

IV. The Testimony of John and the Testimony of the Church. Infinitude of the Evangelical History

John 21:24-25

24This is the disciple which [who] testifieth [ὁ μαρτυρῶν] of these things, and wrote [who wrote, ὁ γράφας] 27 these things: and we know that his testimony is true. 28 29 25And there are also many other things which 30 Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain 31 the books that should be written. Amen, [omit Amen.] 32


John 21:24. This is the disciple [Οὐτός ἐστιν ὁ μαθητής].—Self-designation of John, as in John 19:26. [A conclusion corresponding to the one John 20:31, and traced to John also by Meyer anti Alford.—P. S.]

Of these things [ὁ μαρτυρῶν περὶ τούτων].—Referring to the contents of the 21st chapter.—And who wrote these things [καὶ ὁ γράψας ταῦτα].—Particularly, also, to the setting of the Christians right in regard to the tradition which had commenced to gather form. [Mark the difference of the tenses: μαρτυρῶν—the testimony continues, γράψας—the writing is an accomplished act.—P. S.]

We know that his testimony [καὶοἴδαμεν ὄτι�—Different interpretations:

1. Οἶδα [I know] μέν (Chrysostom, Theophylact). An exegetical conjecture (similarly Beza’s οἶδεν).

2. An indication of the ungenuineness of the conclusion or of the whole chapter (modern criticism).

3. John made himself one with his readers (Meyer). [So also Alford; comp. John 1:14; 1 John 4:14; 1 John 4:16; 1 John 5:18.]

4. Probably a later addition from the Ephesian church. Not because, as according to Lücke, “John never wrote in the first person, either of the plural or of the singular.” See on the contrary, John 1:14. But the corroboration of his own testimony with the words; We know that his testimony is true, would be too strikingly singular. The expression John 19:35 runs differently. We have therefore bracketed the words “we know,” etc., considering them to be the only later Ephesian addition in the whole chapter.

[Meyer regards only John 21:25 as a later addition; Tholuck, Luthardt, Godet, etc., John 21:24-25; Lücke, Bleek, Ewald, etc., the whole chapter; Lange, Alford and Wordsworth accept the whole as Johannean,—Lange, however, excepting the second clause of John 21:24.—P. S.]

John 21:25. But there are also many other things [Ἐστι δὲ καὶ ἃλλα πολλὰ].—Mayer: “Apocryphal conclusion of the whole Gospel—after the addition of the Johannean supplement John 21:1-24.” The Evangelist thinks it important that he should remind his readers that he has not written as a chronicler, but has selected and arranged things in conformity to an organizing principle, as did also his predecessors, though not in the equal power of a concentrated, unitous, ideal view. 33 That this note of the Gospel has not at all an apocryphal aspect, but would, on the contrary, be qualified, were more attention accorded it, to strip our modern criticism of many apocryphal opinions (particularly, of the continually recurring idea that the Evangelists were chroniclers, that their writings were grounded upon one another, etc.), is evident.

If they should be written every one … one by one [ἄτινα (quippe quæ, utpote guæ, referring to the largo number) ἐὰν γράφηται καθ’ ἕν (piece for piece), οὐδ̓ αὐτὸν οἰμαιτὸν κόσμον (ne ipsum quidem mundum) χωηρ́σειν34 τὰγραφόμενα βιβλία Comp. a somewhat analogous expression Ecclesiastes 12:12 : “Of making many books (or chapters) there is no end.” Different interpretations of χωρεῖν,capere: 1. Locally: Unable to hold (capacitas loci). Restricted by Ebrard: No place in literature. 2. Intellectually: Unable to understand (capacitas intellectus). Jerome, Augustine, Calov, Bengel (“hoc non de capacitate geometrica, sed morali accipiendum est”). 3. Figuratively and hyperbolically: Any number of books would not exhaust the subject. Similarly Godet: “Divin de sa nature, l’objet de l’histoire évangélique est plus grand que le monde et que toutes les narrations que le monde pourrait contenir. L’écrivain exprime, par une image matérielle, le vif sentiment qu’il a de la richesse infinie de cette histoire.”—P. S.] According to the conclusion of the Evangelist, the world itself would be unable to contain the books that would then be written continually (γραφόμενα). Even Tholuck agrees with Meyer (who refers to similar hyperboles in Fabricius ad Cod. Apocryph. I., p. 321) in thinking this proposition1 hyperbolical. The apparent hyperbolism of the expression, however, very clearly illustrates the pure infiniteness in the life-development of the Logos, by a quantitative, local measure. We make use of a hundred similar expressions without their hyperbolism being deemed improper or apocryphal, for instance: “O dass ich tausend Zungen hätte” (“O that I had a thousand tongues”)—“Den aller Weltkreis nie umschloss” (“Whom the whole world did ne’er enclose”) 35—“The whole world lieth in wickedness—in the Evil One,” etc. Weitzel has entered the lists in defence of the propriety of the expression, Studienu. Kritiken 1849, p. 633; comp. my Leben Jesu III., p. 760. L uthardt: “For only an absolute external compass corresponds with the absolute contents of the person and life of Christ;” whereupon Meyer remarks: “Inevident to me!” “Aber, Freunde, im Raum wohnt das Erhabene nicht” (“But, O friends, the sublime dwelleth not in space”), says Schiller elucidatively. The Evangelist, however, in submitting his book to the Church, may well come forward with an unwonted οἶμαι in order, by a strong expression, to dissuade the reader from the chronistic apprehension of the Gospel, and to urge him to the historico-symbolical view which recognizes in the organically articulated selection of ideally transparent facts, the historical life-picture of the infinite fulness of the life of Jesus.36

This symbolical character, presented in pure but speaking facts, is possessed, in a peculiar degree, by the closing chapter, to which the closing words primarily have reference. The interpretation of Jerome, Augustine and others: The world would be spiritually incapable of grasping such books,—would apply even to the four small Gospels, though in sooth a Gospel developed in infinitum would pass the comprehension not only of the present world, but also of Christendom as it here exists. Here, however, emphasis is laid not upon the æonic unfathomableness of the life of Jesus, but upon its ideal infinitude, in the symbolical explicitness of the evangelical history. 37


1. The absolutely dynamical view of the world, as the specifically Christian view of it, is the fundamental feature and the key of the Johannean Gospel, of Johannean theology. The personal principle is the royal life-principle of the world. The personality of God in the personality of Christ, annihilates the power of the anti-personal, Satanic essence, and appoints the impersonal world to the service of life; it is diffused in the personality of the Apostles, in order that it, may lift the whole world out of the abyss into the light of glorification, in which the world, as the old world, vanishes, in order to shine forth again as the eternal House of the Father, the eternal City of God. In conformity to this dynamical view, Christ’s pre-temporal rule in the world is finally summed up in the testimony of John the Baptist; His post-temporal rule, in the ministry of the twelve Apostles; the draught of fishes of the seven; the simple contrast of the following disciple and the tarrying one; finally, in the type of a friendship with Christ which remains until the Lord comes.

With this dynamical character, then, the apostolic presentation of the evangelical history also corresponds. That history is not chronistically, but æonically, executed; not atomistically expanded, but principialiy concentrated; the whole infinitude and fulness of the signs of Jesus must be reflected in a concentric selection of speaking facts, translumined by the idea. Not in outward extension—in transparent concentration, the expression of eternal life is accomplished.
2. The great distance between John’s view of the essence of evangelical historiography and the opinions or prejudices of modern criticism, becomes evident from the foregoing, and from the last Exeg. Note.

3. Even the Christian Gramma may err in the way of profuse book-making. Against this the Christian spirit of a John opposes its final words of warning; the like did the Preacher Solomon in the Old Testament (Ecclesiastes 12:12), and also Plato in Phædrus 60. The Christian spirit-word does not aim at converting the world into a vast library of sacred writings, but into the Divine House of the adorned Bride of Christ and of the marriage of the Bridegroom. To this end, Christian literature, with its testimony concerning Christ, is indeed to work, drawing all literature into His service; but the more it extends itself through the world, the more it should concentrate itself, shaping itself into the transparent life-picture of the glory of God in Christ.


The testimony of the friend of Jesus concerning his Lord and Master.—Together with the faithful testimony concerning Christ, the testifying disciple unconsciously immortalizes himself.—And we know that his testimony is true: 1. We know: a. we believe it, b. we not only believe it, we know it, c. we not only know it (in the sense of the world’s knowledge), we experience it. 2. We know, concerning his testimony, that it is sealed with the water and blood of Christ. 3. That it is true: a. true in spite of all the objections and contradictions of the world, b. true in the might of the Spirit who hath overcome the world.—How it is impossible, and yet possible, to depict the glory of Christ: 1. Impossible by the multitude of words, discourses and writings; 2. possible by the simple word of the Spirit concerning His great signs.—The evangelical life-picture of the Lord: 1. In respect of its finite form; 2. in respect of its infinite contents; 3. in respect of its New Testament, eternally new operation.

Strke: That which by grace we have received from God and done for the honor of God, we may well make known to others, taking care only that all boastfulness on account of our own persons is avoided, 1 Corinthians 11:0.

Braune: “An individual once appeared on earth who, merely by moral omnipotence, conquered remote times and founded an eternity of His own. It is that calm Spirit whom we call Jesus Christ. Only quiet teaching and quiet striving formed the melodies wherewith this higher Orpheus tamed human beasts and converted rocks into sanctuaries of God. And yet out of so divine a life,—as it were, out of a thirty years’ war against a perverse, insensible people,—we are familiar with but a few weeks. What transactions, what words of His may have been swallowed up from our knowledge before He became acquainted with the four writers of His history, those men by nature so dissimilar! If, then, out of so divine a life-book only scattered leaves have fluttered to us, so that perhaps greater deeds and words of that life are forgotten (?) than were detailed, repine not, nor pass judgment over the ship-wreck of little works and men, but recognize in that Christianity which nevertheless blossomed afterwards, the fulness with which the (All) Spirit yearly suffers the perishing blossoms to exceed in number those that thrive, without therefore forfeiting a future spring” (Jean Paul).

Schleiermacher: “For a long time there has been a fable current among men, and even in these days it is (still) frequently heard; unbelief invented it, and little faith receives it. Thus it runs: ‘There shall come a time, and perhaps it is already here, when His right shall befall even this Jesus of Nazareth. Every human memory is fruitful but for a certain period; much doth the human race owe to Him, great things hath God accomplished by Him, yet He was but one of us, and His hour of oblivion, too, must strike. If He was in earnest in desiring to make the world absolutely free, He must likewise have willed to make it free from Himself, that God might be all in all. Then men would not only perceive that they have strength enough in themselves to fulfil the divine will, but in the true understanding of the same, they would be able to exceed His measure, if they did but wish. Yes, only when the Christian name is forgotten, shall a universal kingdom of love and truth arise, in which no germ more of enmity shall lie, such as has been sown from the beginning betwixt those that believe on this Jesus and the rest of the children of men.’ But it shall not be realized,—this fable; since the days of His flesh, the Redeemer’s image has been indelibly stamped on the race of men! Even though the letter might perish, which is holy only because it preserves us the image, the image itself shall last for ever; too deeply is it graven upon men ever to be effaced, and what the disciple said, shall always be truth: ‘Lord, whither shall we go? Thou alone hast words of eternal life!’

Heubner: The pernicious making and reading of books has been greatly prejudicial to the reading of the Book of Life, and to the Christian life. Luther himself on this account often wished his books done away with, Works i. 1938; xiv. 420; xv. Anh., p. 90; xx. 1031; xxii. 85.

Yet doubtless only in a qualified sense. The books of faith should promote life,—hence should be, as living books, strictly articulated organisms of life. Their foundation and aim is the Book of Life. This is above all true of the Holy Scriptures, particularly of the Gospels, most particularly of our Gospel.
[Craven: From Burkitt: John 21:25. The wonderful activity, industry, and diligence of the Lord Jesus Christ; He was never idle, but His whole life was spent in doing good.

[From M. Henry: John 21:25. If it be asked why the gospels are not larger, it may be answered, I. It was not because they had exhausted their subject; II. Bat 1. It was not needful to write more; 2. It was not possible to write all; 3. It was not advisable to write much.

[Schaff: John 21:24-25. Though but little has been written on the life of Christ by the Evangelists, that little is of more accountthan all the literature of the world, and has been more productive of books, as well as thoughts and deeds, than any number of biographies of sages and saints of ancient and modern times. The Gospels, and the Bible generally, rise like Mount Ararat high above the flood of literature; they are the sacred library for all nations, the literary sanctuary for scholars and the common people; they combine word and work, letter and spirit, earth and heaven, time and eternity. The eloquent tribute of an English divine 38 to the influence of the Bible applies especially to the Gospel of John, and may appropriately conclude this Commentary. “This collection of books has been to the world what no other book has ever been to a nation. States have been founded on its principles. Kings rule by a compact based on it. Men hold the Bible in their hands when they prepare to give solemn evidence affecting life, death, or property; the sick man is almost afraid to die unless the Book be within reach of his hands; the battle-ship goes into action with one on board whose office is to expound it; its prayers, its psalms are the language which we use when we speak to God; eighteen centuries have found no holier, no diviner language. If ever there has been a prayer or a hymn enshrined in the heart of a nation, you are sure to find its basis in the Bible. There is no new religious idea given to the world, but it is merely the development of something given in the Bible. The very translation of it has fixed language and settled the idioms of speech. Germany and England speak as they speak because the Bible was translated. It has made the most illiterate peasant more familiar with the history, customs, and geography of ancient Palestine, than with the localities of his own country. Men who know nothing of the Grampians, of Snowdon, or of Skiddaw, are at home in Zion, the lake of Gennesaret, or among the rills of Carmel. People who know little about London know by heart the palaces in Jerusalem, where those blessed feet trod which were nailed to the Cross. Men who know nothing of the architecture of a Christian cathedral, can yet tell you all about the pattern of the Holy Temple. Even this shows us the influence of the Bible. The orator holds a thousand men for half-an-hour breathless—a thousand men as one, listening to his single word. But this Word of God has held a thousand nations for thrice a thousand years spell-bound; held them by an abiding power, even the universality of its truth; and we feel it to be no more a collection of books, but the Book.”—P. S.]


John 21:24; John 21:24.—[The article before γράψας is omitted by א1 A. C. X. Orig., Tischend., inserted by B. D. lat. (et qui scripsit.) Lachm., Treg., Alf., West. Cod. B. inserts καὶ before μαρτυρῶν.—P. S.]

John 21:24; John 21:24.—[Dr. Lange brackets the last clause: καὶ οί́δαμεν ὅτι�, considering it an addition of the elders of Ephesus and friends of John, while he ascribes all the rest, including John 21:25, to John. See Exeg.—P. S.]

John 21:25; John 21:25.—This verse is wanting in Cod. 63 [?],—a circumstance of no importance, however. (On the Sin. see Tischend.) [Lachmann, Tregelles, Alford, and Westcott retain John 21:25, except the concluding ἀμήν, Westcott, however, separates it from the preceding text. Tischendorf alone, ed. VIII., excludes it from the text on the sole authority of the Sinaitic MS. which indeed contains the verse, but, as he asserts, written by another hand, see his note, p. 965. But in the large quasi-fac-simile ed. of the Cod. which I have used all along, there is no perceptible difference. He then also corrects an error with regard to Cod. 63, which was quoted by Mill, Wetstein, Griesbach, Lange (in the preceding remark), etc., in favor of omission, but according to Scrivener, the last page of that Cod. with the 25th verse is lost. Tischendorf here gives too much weight to Cod. Sin. which he had the good fortune to discover. The omission, if such could be proven, has little weight in view of the many instances of carelessness on the part of the copyist, and of the filling up of the lacuna by the first corrector, who, according to Tischendorf, was cotemporary with the copyist. All other known MSS. contain John 21:25, though many state in a note that it was regarded by some as a later addition.—P. S.]

John 21:25; John 21:25.—The reading ἅ in accordance with Codd. א. B. D. * etc., Lachmann [Treg., Alf., West., instead of text rec. ὅσα which is retained by A. C.2 D. and expresses the quantitative relation, quæet quanta, quotquot, what and how many; comp, Revelation 1:2.—P.S.]

John 21:25; John 21:25.—[Lachm., Alfd. χωρῆσαι, with A. B. C.2 D. text. rec.; Treg., Tisch., West. χωρήσειν, with א. B. C *.—P. S.]

John 21:25; John 21:25.—The ἀμήν of the Recepta (Codd. E. G. H. K. M. etc.) is wanting in Codd. [א.] A. B. C. D. etc. [Amen is a liturgical or devotional addition, and justly omitted by Lachm., Treg., Alf., Westc. and H.—P. S.] On the various subscriptions: εὑαγγέλιον κατὰ Ἰωάννην (A. C. E. [אa]); κατὰ Ἰωάννην (B.) etc., comp. Tischendorf. K. M. U. X. [also א Γ.] have no subscription. [Tischendorf states that the subscription in א is not written by the same hand, but by א corr.la On the Latin subscriptions, see Tischend. p. 967.—P. S.]


[So also Alford: “The purpose of this verse seems to be to assert and vindicate the fragmentary character of the
Gospel, considered merely as a historical narrative:—for that the doings of the Lord were so many—His life so rich in matter of record,—that, in a popular hyperbole, we can hardly imagine the world containing them all, if singly written down; thus setting forth the superfluity and cumber-ousness of anything like a perfect detail, in the strongest terms, and in terms which certainly look as if fault had been found with this Gospel for want of completeness, by some objectors.”—P. S.]

[34][Or, according to the other reading infin. aor. χωρῆσαι, which after οἶμαι without ἄν is pure Greek, and expresses more strongly the faith in the certainty of the fact stated than the fut. χωρήσειν.—P. S.]


Vom Himmcl steigend Jesus bracht

Des Evangcliums ewige Schrift,
Den Jungern las Er sie Tag und Nacht;
Ein göttlich Wort, es wirkt und trifft.
Er stieg zurück, nahm’s wicder mit,
Sie aber hatten’s gut gefühlt,
Und Jeder schrieb so Schritt für Schritt,
Wie er’s in seinem Sinn behielt.
Verschieden: Es hat nickts zu bedeuten
Sie hatten nicht gleiche Fähigkiten;
Duck damit kinnen sich dic Christen
Bis zu dem jüngsten Tage fristen.


[36][Wordsworth puts into the first person singular οἶμαι, which John nowhere else uses in the Gospel, the intention of the writer to guard against the inference that John 21:25 was written by a person different from John, who wrote in the plural οί́δαμεν in the preceding verse. But this would have been done more effectually by using the singular in both cases. Godet conjectures that the subject of the οἶμαι is one of the apostles present with John at Ephesus, probably Andrew, who, with John, was the oldest disciple of Christ (John 1:0).—P. S.]

[37][Lines of two celebrated German hymns. To these may be added similar expressions in English hymns, as,

“Oh! for a thousand tongues to sing,” etc.

“Had I a thousand hearts to give,” etc.

“Were the whole realm of nature mine,” etc.

But these and similar expressions are desires poetically expressed, while here we have a statement in prose.—P. S.]

[38][I saw it in a respectable Magazine attributed to the Rev. F. Robertson, the late gifted preacher of Brighton, but I have been unable to verify the quotation and cannot vouch for its accuracy.—P. S.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on John 21". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/john-21.html. 1857-84.
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